June 23, 2009

The Morristown UFO Hoax Exposes Problems With Ufology

flares In the process of our research here at RealityUncovered, while investigators are currently centrally focused on the MJ-12 mythology that has permeated through Ufology for so many years – we also come across some truly unusual stories. The Morristown UFO incident is certainly one of the strangest hoaxes to come out of Ufology in a very long time. It’s strange because, this time, it was conducted by two skeptics who believe in the need to expose pseudoscience.

The Morristown, N.J. UFO Hoax

In an odd twist on UFO hoaxes, this one was conducted by skeptics Joe Rudy and Chris Russo who wanted to conduct a typical UFO hoax in order to portray, in a very public way, how easily people are fooled by such things. Reading this story brought to mind a conversation Steve and I had about a year ago in the midst of our own investigations. 

One late night, after reading some of the silly frantic comments about the "Caret Drone" at a particular forum called "Open Minds" (one of many tiny UFO believer-forums that’s always crawling with brainless nimwits ready to believe the next big hoax) – I said to Steve, "Why are hoaxers so stupid about creating these stories – they give themselves away, leaving clues and evidence strewn all about for any decent researcher to discover?"

Steve’s response was a short quip, typical of his personality that combines a matter-of-fact approach with biting British sarcasm. "Because there aren’t any decent researchers in Ufology."

"Do you realize that based on what we know about this scam (MJ-12), and the mistakes they made – we could create a hoax a hundred times more effective and impossible to trace?"

"Yup," he responded.

"Why the hell are the hoaxers so stupid?"

"Because they’re used to dealing with brainless believers who never bother checking anything out," he answered.

And that’s the truth.

balloon_release Using fishing line, helium baloons and flares, Joe and Chris conducted one of the most elaborate UFO hoaxes of the last few years. They produced UFO sightings several times, and each time the media coverage was huge – even the History Channel’s UFO Hunters and Bill Birnes of UFO Magazine covered the "Morristown UFO." Bill Birnes in particular was revealed for his lack of critical thinking in this case. They were never caught – but eventually revealed themselves on an online eSkeptic website.

If You’re Gonna Hoax – You’re Gonna Get Yours Too

There is a reason RU has never taken the tactic of using public hoaxes as a way to expose hoaxes. In one case we turned MJ-12 scammers "anonymous" identity tactics against the hoaxers themselves by using an anonymous online entity named "Tacitus" to smoke out the con artists through their frantic, panicked reactions – but as an organization that stands firmly against hoaxing, creating a hoax directed toward the public would be counterproductive. If you fight hard so that hoaxers are revealed and prosecuted, you’d be shooting yourself in the foot by adding to the list of hoaxes already so prevalent in the field.

Joe and Chris eventually faced disorderly conduct charges by the Morris County prosecutor for presenting a "threat to aviation" with their stunt. Should they face those charges? Everyone has a different opinion. But regardless of how you feel about the actions of these two guys, they did successfully reveal a very important aspect of the UFO phenomenon and public reaction to sightings.

That revelation is that most journalists seem incapable of properly investigating witness claims or thinking critically about UFO sightings at all, and most UFO "investigators" have their heads shoved so far up their own particular belief system that they can’t see the forest for the trees.

What’s your opinion about the Morristown UFO duo – did they ultimately achieve what they set out to prove? Offer your feedback in the comments section below.

Filed under: UFOlogy,UFOs — Tags: , , , — RyanDube @ 2:16 pm


  1. avatar

    Interesting post, and I like the conclusions. I think you are wholly correct here: there really are no good researchers in ufology (well, omitting yourselves… ;)), and I find this a sad state of affairs. Obviously, there is SOMETHING to the UFO phenomenon, no matter what it turns out to truly be. The government(s) obviously did (and still do) feel like there’s something going on here, so its not all just hoaxes (not that you’re saying that, just pointing it out).

    I’m torn about the Morristown issue in particular. On the one hand, it shows how ridiculous UFO Hunters is, which I see as a good thing. On the downside, it takes further credibility from the topic as a whole, which hurts the people wanting to do the real research even more. Tough call I suppose, but I’m gonna say from my opinion this helps us. If anything, it should make UFO Hunters tighten down and check their sources out a bit more. So, hopefully, the most watched UFO program on TV will provide a little better information to their viewers.

    Comment by David Savage — June 23, 2009 @ 8:01 pm

  2. avatar


    Thanks for your great feedback. I feel the same way you do about the Morristown issue (torn, that is), for the same reason you described – the fact that hoaxes like this, regardless of motive, reduce the overall credibility of all ufology research. On the flip side, it does reveal the ugly truth about ufology – so I guess in the end it probably was a positive thing.

    Thanks again for your comments!


    Comment by RyanDube — June 24, 2009 @ 4:26 am

  3. avatar

    Unfortunately, after having watched all of the video evidence Russo and Rudy have presented, I’d have to say they failed miserably at what they said they set out to accomplish. I’m (almost) surprised at the number of interviewees that said they didn’t know what the objects were, with some officials actually speculating that they were flares. The news media involved certainly hyped up the alien angle, and it’s no surprise that the History Channel would sensationalize the issue.

    Also unfortunately, Russo and Rudy’s attempt to legitimize the hoax as an “experiment” falls flat, since they actively lied in their interview with their local news outlet, claiming the objects they saw conducted radical maneuvers. Any investigator would reject the flare explanation in light of their made-up story.

    Personally, it’s my opinion that actively creating hoaxes actually hurts the credibility of the scientific community, as showing that a particular effect can be produced by one method is far from proof that it isn’t produced by another. Also, it’s far more scientific to actually investigate odd claims, especially paranormal ones, to find out what’s actually behind them, rather than to make up an answer beforehand and then fabricate the evidence as Russo and Rudy did here. I have to compliment RU in it’s stance of not perpetrating hoaxes, there’s no need to muddle up a topic that is historically swamped with hoaxes to begin with.

    “Because there aren’t any decent researchers in Ufology”. I have to ask, what criteria would an investigator need to qualify as a “decent” investigator? Aside from dis-believing in alien spacecraft, of course. 😉

    Comment by Patrick Matthews — June 25, 2009 @ 12:31 am

  4. avatar

    Hey Patrick – thanks for your fantastic comment! I understand your points and I like your perspective – I agree that it doesn’t seem to make much sense creating a hoax in order to “disprove” a hoax. As you point out – a phenomenon can have many different causes.

    In answer to your question about what makes a “decent” investigator – that’s easy! Excellent critical thinking skills, and a knee-jerk tendency to verify and double-verify every single claim that a person makes. A decent investigator is one who first traces down the source of information, before applying any weight or credibility to the claim.

    Thanks again for your comment!

    Comment by RyanDube — June 30, 2009 @ 12:16 am

  5. avatar

    If a man puts on a bear suit, walks into the woods, growls a bit, and scares off some campers, it doesn’t suggest that bears don’t exist or that reports of bear sightings are inherently unreliable. The only thing it proves is that in one instance, a man was able to pass himself off as a bear.

    People like James Randi use faulty logic when trying to disprove psychic phenomena. The fact that you can simulate the event with magic tricks doesn’t disprove the event, it only means that the effect can be simulated using magic tricks. In the same light, If I create a silk flower that looks so real it fools people who look at it, it doesn’t mean that flowers don’t exist.

    Comment by Mr. Lucas Brice — September 8, 2009 @ 2:41 am

  6. avatar

    Nice post.

    Regardless of whether the hoax is morally wrong or not, it illustrates the important of really studying the facts of the case when investigating something. There’s so much comments on the hoaxers injecting themselves in the hoax, thus damaging the so-called experiment they conducted. That viewpoint is true. However, why are their comments taken at face value without further investigation? Did anyone investigate their background to determine whether they’re the kind to lie or something? No.

    That’s why I wholeheartedly agree with Steve. Although I am a skeptic, I also know about ‘argument from ignorance’ but let’s face it, the only way to prove to skeptics like me the existence of UFOs is through proper science methodology. Hey, in my country we even have all kinds of ghosts, including a troll-like species that can be commanded to steal but I don’t believe their existence until I see them or proven via a proper methodology.

    Comment by Norwin Shariman — October 9, 2009 @ 3:37 am

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