Saturday, October 31, 2020

“The Phenomenon” unveiled

“The Phenomenon” is an excellent primer for people to get a good understanding of the nature of the UFO mystery.  It utilises a credible overview of the controversy, marshalling an impressive array of historical material, much of it striking, even to long time UFO researchers and historians of the field.  The end result is a compelling testament for the reality of UFOs, or UAPs, to utilise the more recent term for whatever is at the unexplained heart of the controversy. Since December 2017, when the New York Times effectively mainstreamed the debate about UFOs, with its story that focused on the sightings of “tic-tac” like objects observed doing impossible things during manoeuvres of the US Nimitz battle group off the coast of California during 2004, and the existence of a secret Pentagon UFO program – the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP), much of discussion and commentary had focused on these two aspects, largely ignoring the extraordinary history of what had gone before. “The Phenomenon” provides a concise focus on the vast historical basis of the UFO controversy.  Remarkably, it goes beyond the threat imperative, presenting a fascinating historical trajectory targeted towards the premise of alien contact.  

When James Fox, the documentary’s director, allowed me to see the final edit on his new documentary “The Phenomenon” back in March 2020, I told him I was really impressed with what he and his team had achieved.

On my blog and Facebook I posted on 9 March 2020:

“I've had the opportunity to watch James Fox's new documentary "The Phenomenon" which is due out in September… The 1966 Westall school case is featured and in a way is book-ended with the fascinating 1994 Ruwa Zimbabwe case, with its theme of "contact" with some of the children of Ariel School - a potent way of ending the documentary. An extended credits follows, with a number of interspersed cuts of significant video comments. "The Phenomenon" is a strong UFO/UAP documentary, one of the best I think, which not only captures important key aspects of the current renaissance of UFO credibility, but also delivers a powerful summary of some of the classic touchstones of UFO reality. Through clever use of the extraordinary history of the UFO controversy as an empowering trajectory through a complex and troubled enigma - an entertaining, engaging and powerful statement about UFO/UAP reality. Be sure to check out "The Phenomenon" when it lands in a theatre or platform accessible to you.” 

With the impact of Covid, nothing was going to play out in an easy way.  Like almost everything we know and deal with, this UFO documentary release was affected. I held back on an extended review, particularly when there seemed to be distribution difficulties. However, now (October 2020), at last, its out there for all to see.

Here I share some personal takes on the documentary’s development and content, as they resonated with me, given my extended experience with UFO investigation, research and history.  It was clear to me that James Fox and his team worked incredibly hard to achieve an excellent final production.  

Back in early August, 2019, James shared with me his early cut on the 1966 Australian Westall school case, where a very large number of mainly school children, some teachers and locals had seen UFOs at or near the school.  Some also saw them at close range, others saw UFOs on the ground.

I commented: “Hi James, thanks for sharing this. You have done a good job with Westall particularly getting ___ (the science teacher who had witnessed part of the sighting and who was subsequently pressured not to talk about it) and ____ (a Melbourne engineer/business man who had taken an intriguing UFO photo 4 days earlier, that many thought was similar or identical to what was seen at the school) to talk. 

"The only concern I have is that on your commentary (I know you say your voice is temporary, but presumably somebody will be doing commentary narratives) just as you are saying that _____ asked that he not be identified you are floating in on (a newspaper story) centring his picture, his name in bold caption for the picture and his name is in the text of the story directly under the photo caption. Plus, in his own interview he self identifies himself in his voicing of the female student rushing into his class room saying "Mr. ____, Mr. ____". Given (he) still doesn't want to be identified I think the (newspaper story) should not be used like that and his own inadvertent self identification should be "cut out". I suspect … he would not be happy to see that level of identification, particularly when you acknowledge he doesn't want to be identified. Probably "the science teacher" would be enough? Anyway, you've done a great job. Look forward to seeing the end product. Best regards, Bill.”

James Fox interviewing the Westall school science teacher
James advised, “That will be taken care of in post (production). Absolutely will respect that. It’s rough-cut only. Blurry out name and when he says his name too. It will be handled 110% for sure.”
Indeed, it was.  That segment comes across as a powerful moment in the account of the Westall event, when the science teacher states, “It was not a mirage. There was something physical in the sky.  It was silver, it could hover, it could move slowly, it could move very rapidly. Eventually it moved away to the other side of the oval down behind some pine trees.  I was not then, nor ever have been able to use my knowledge of the world, nor my scientific training, to provide a rational explanation.”  He added, “There was a knock on the door one night, two older men, one in uniform, asked for my description of what I had seen. I was then told that I hadn’t seen anything, that I had made it all up, possibly because I was drunk, and that they would have to report that back to the education department and I would lose my job.  After that I was told that I would be prosecuted under the official secrets act, and I was told that there wasn’t anything there, when I knew there was, and that I had to keep quiet about it. Why did I have to keep quiet?” 

Early on, James Fox sent me a brief 23 second edit of myself talking about the 1966 Westall event, he indicated he was including in the documentary. 

James' editing of myself & and a drone view of the Westall Grange area
James Fox & Bill Chalker in Sydney 
on 14 September 2017
during filming for "The Phenomenon"

It had me stating: “A whole complex of events occurred surrounding this school at Westall, and I guess today, it kind of represents one of the more extraordinary cases where you have in excess of a hundred school children, locals in the area, school teachers, and others, reporting that they observed UFO activity at the school.” Ultimately, for the final version of the documentary, my interviews, which included Westall, the 1954 Sea Fury case and the 1959 Reverend William Gill case, did not make it in.  Such edits were sensible, given the limits of time.  In most cases, the witnesses themselves give an excellent account of the events and they didn’t need researchers adding commentary.

(images above and below: from "The Phenomenon")
Terry Peck demonstrating the size of the object 
she saw on the ground (aerial view)
Terry Peck drawing what she saw for "The Phenomenon"

In the case of the Westall event, Terry Peck’s account of encountering the UFO up close on the ground in front of her is striking, and when she stated it rose and turned on its edge, before departing at high speed, it may be an impressive validation of the Melbourne business man’s UFO photo taken a few days earlier at nearby Balwyn. He had captured it on edge. I had discussed his experience with him on a number of occasions. It was great to see him talking about it with James Fox and showing the original Polaroid photo. 

He concluded from the interactions with air force officers interviewing him and showing him other UFO pictures, that what he had seen and photographed back in April 1966, “did not come from Earth.”   

In an added nice touch, spanning generations, in James Fox’s documentary young students from the current Westall student body stood in as extras to recreate the excitement of the events back in 1966, while some of original student witnesses looked on describing what they had seen.  

From my blog in 2014: Westall '66 - UFO or HIBAL? The answer is perhaps not "blowing in the wind"

During November, 2019, one of James Fox’s posts drew from me the following comments: “Congratulations James on the Phenomenon. The shot of you in front of the UFO tower - Dalian China? I have my own shot there… Looking forward to your take on the Phenomenon. Best wishes from OZ, Bill.” 

(I can't find the image that features James at the Dalian "UFO tower" site, 

but here is my photo at the same site taken during my visit in 2005)

He replied, “I’m going to include everyone (names and images) during credit roll that played a key roll in helping make this film a reality. We had to cut over an hour out in the past year.”

“Thanks James… I'm glad its preliminary release will take place this year (2020) - 50 years since 1969 -which for me, and I guess a lot of people, was an incredibly formative year. So much happening - the Condon report tried to bury the subject. Reading it for me was transformative. It was clear to me back then there was a huge disconnection between reality and the report's conclusions - Jack (Nicholson) got it back in 1969 with Easy Rider:

“Easy Rider Talks UFO Cover-up” (even if he was a little chemically assisted)”

“We cover Condon (Dr. Edward Condon).  With Condon himself on camera!”

“Good one.”

“Saunders” (David Saunders, who was removed from the university study staff, when he exposed some of the deep problems with the Colorado University UFO study – he would publish his own dissenting report “UFOs? Yes! Where the Condon Committee went wrong”).

“Even better”

“James McDonald too.”

“Looking forward to it.”

“Jacques Vallee was very involved helping guide us along the way.”

“I've just done a review of his latest forbidden Science calling it Mumurations of the Invisible College”

By 16 December 2019:

“Hi James, I've been asked by New Dawn to do a piece for their upcoming UFO special. They want me to do something on the Chinese scene. I thought this would be an interesting way to also plug your doco as you went there and also attended the China gathering in Chongqing in July 2018 and also interviewed my friend Zhang Jingping as well. Did he elaborate on the 1997 Datong "UFO Crash" story? What can we expect in terms of what cases in China you may be covering? My deadline is only a couple of days, so I would be grateful for any input. Best wishes & keep us posted on release times and availability, Bill”

My friend Zhang Jingping 
with the 1997 Datong "UFO crash" witness
(photo by  Zhang Jingping)
The Phenomenon crew interviewing Zhang Jingping in China

“Bill, it comes with a heavy heart to say (at the 11th hour) we ditched most of China.  There simply wasn’t room. We can include a few broad stroke statements only at the end. It was yet another “kill your darlings” moment. PS typing this from a dark hotel room without glasses.”

“Thanks James for the Update. Sounds like there could be a lot "extras" on the DVD release - …. Do you recollect if Zhang Jingping raised the Datong crash from 1997 in talks with you, or was it lost somewhat in translation? Its sounds like the China/Russian initiative was "still born" with a partial resurrection via Gary Heseltine of UFO Truth magazine. He told me that the Moscow/China thing, fuelled by the Chongqing event of July 2018, failed to deliver, so the non-mainline China parties, including Moon Fong of Hong Kong ufology … have made new alliances. The original initiative, driven by … the earnest Jan Fan & his son - a World ET Contact Coalition, seemed to be mirrored by what I experienced at Jan Fan's World UFO conference in Dalian in 2005… Something may emerge from the new Contact initiative, but egos & pride will be damaged if it preceded without main land connections.”

My New Dawn article emerged as “Lost in Translation or the Devouring Dragon?” covering these and other aspects of the Chinese UFO story.


Some of the edited out material is interspersed amongst the closing credits.  These and the credits are well worth your close attention.  They are full of fascinating details. So watch the documentary to very end.

I further wrote, “Sounds like you were drawing in good stuff ... a difficult edit job.”

James indicated, “Will do a 10-part miniseries with everyone as they all ended up on edit room floor which killed me. Film was too long and we had to make some tough decisions.”

In March, 2020 I wrote to James, “I understand and appreciate its a great moment for you. I really am looking forward to seeing what you and your team have put together. In the last few years I've seen the view of the phenomenon skewed and narrowed via the new "UAP" lens and focused around the Nimitz/AATIP/TTSA "threat" narrative.” 

James responded, “You will NOT be disappointed. Remember Jacques Vallee was intimately involved.”

I replied, “I'm hoping your documentary will expand that currently skewed narrative and restore the worldwide narrative and its rich and complex history. I admired Jacques involvement with “Witness of another world” - a brilliant documentary, but of course that was focused on the individual experience of one man, but beautifully done.”


Given my physical science chemistry background, I was pleased to see James Fox’s documentary cover aspects of the question of whether cases yield physical evidence. Dr. Jacques Vallee and Dr. Garry Nolan are filmed discussing their work on UFO related material samples collected by Vallee, which utilised Stanford University’s (School of Medicine) multi-parameter ion beam imager, which appears to be yielding intriguing results, that focus on what seems to be specific manufactured utilisation of unusual element isotope ratios. Their words were understandably cautious and await peer review and eventual detailed publication. While tantalising, no real information or data was supplied on this sample work, but one can see from some of the sample identification, which includes Council, Bogota, Muestra, Sierra & Gateau, that some intriguing cases are being examined.  

(images from "The Phenomenon" dealing with the Vallee/Nolan material testing)
The best case in this category, covered in the documentary, is described as “the case that changed everything”, namely the 1964 case of police officer Lonnie Zamora at Socorro. Controversy haunts this case, but it deserves attention.  Several aspects get addressed, but unstated in the documentary is the controversy about “material” recovered at the Socorro site. My old friend Ray Stanford addressed some of this in his research, but material went missing, including some that had been made available for analysis. James Fox hints he pursued this angle and its seems that maybe Lonnie Zamora himself may have had some of the material and perhaps some of it it may be made available for further analysis, this time in a more controlled fashion.  Let’s hope so.

Ray Stanford supplied me with 

this striking drawing of the Zamora event 

(drawing by John Lucas & colourised by Ray Stanford)

The Socorro UFO recreated in "The Phenomenon"
Lonnie Zamora at the site of the Socorro event

The powerful nuclear “threat” connection is presented in some detail with due credit given to the outstanding research of Robert Hastings, referencing his book “UFOs and Nukes.”  The “threat” thread is continued with the more recent focus on the Nimitz case.  

The litany of “lost opportunities” for real open and focused serious science gets covered. It is an area I have addressed often, such as recently in UFO Truth, “1969: The Great UFO Daze of Oz”, and expanded on my OZ Files blog:  

Here was a focus on the Condon Report which tried to bury the UFO mystery in 1969. 

“The Phenomenon” addresses this with interviews and commentary by Colonel William Coleman (a former public information officer for the USAF Project Bluebook), a great contemporary interview with Dr. James McDonald, Dr. Jacques Vallee and Colonel Robert Friend (head of Project Bluebook (1958-1962)). The collective impact of their commentary was that the Condon Report was a sham.   

As I pointed out in my opening paragraph, remarkably it is the documentary’s fascinating historical trajectory, targeted towards the premise of alien contact, that will probably leave the biggest impact. Bolstered by the coverage of the 1964 Socorro case and the 1966 Westall school case, the contact trajectory leads us to the “contact enigma”, prefaced briefly with a tilt to the fascinating Rev. Gill sightings at Boianai Papua New Guinea of 1959, then ending with the striking events in Zimbabwe in 1994 at Ariel school.

The Ariel school coverage is powerful and emotive. I recollect Dr. John Mack and his associate Dominque Callimanopulos showing Peter Khoury and me, in Australia, the uncut interview footage they had just secured in Zimbabwe. 

Lisel & John Mack
Lisel's sketch
Lisel in "The Phenomenon"
It was remarkable then, and still is now, with the impressive juxtaposition of then and now, as many of the young students are interviewed again, revealing they are still deeply affected by the 1994 events. It is wonderful to learn that the Randall Nickerson’s long awaited documentary “Ariel School Phenomenon” will soon be emerging.
Dr. John Mack, Peter Khoury, Bill Chalker & Dominque Callimanopulos

“The Phenomenon” is well worth your viewing attention and more importantly it merits your deeper contemplation and confrontation with the well over due fact that UFOs (or UAPs) deserve serious attention.  It is gratifying that the documentary is emerging at a time when that serious attention is gathering significant momentum and traction in the mainstream. 


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