Monday, August 31, 2009
Hoaxes From Space Part I: Bob Lazar
The Pimp Daddy of Ufology
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the first public appearance of Bob Lazar.
If you're at all interested in UFOs, you've probably seen video clips of Lazar chatting calmly and matter-of-factly about his experiences with extraterrestrial spaceships warehoused in the Nevada desert. In his Dan Dreiberg glasses and cheap shirts, he gives the impression of being an extra on the set of Office Space. But don't be fooled - he's one of the most significant figures in the entire history of ufology. His revelations about a top-secret test site close to Area 51 firmly established Dreamland as ground zero for UFO research, alien conspiracy theories, and profoundly retarded TV shows.
What you may not realize is that there are two Bob Lazars.
The first Bob Lazar was born in Florida in 1959, and was soon adopted by a successful businessman and his wife. He graduated from W. Tresper Clarke High School in Long Island. In the late '70s the Lazar family relocated to Woodland Hills, California. Bob took some electronics courses at Pierce College in Los Angeles and worked at Fairchild Electronics. In 1980 he married the first of three wives, Carol, in Woodland Hills. Two years later the couple moved to Los Alamos, New Mexico, where Lazar established himself as a photo developer. In 1985 the couple invested heavily in a local brothel known as the Honeysuckle Ranch.
The other Bob Lazar was also born in Florida in 1959, adopted, and transplanted to California as a teen. But he somehow managed to gain entrance to MIT and Cal Tech, despite being in the bottom third of his graduating class. He acquired a Masters degree in electronic engineering from MIT while simultaneously living in the Southwest. He then earned a doctorate in physics from Cal Tech without attending a single class. While finishing university, he magically became a senior staff physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, designing components for nuclear weapons systems. Wow. This Bob Lazar has some serious science chops. He could kick the other Bob Lazar's ass.
In 1982 the second Bob Lazar attended a lecture by Edward Teller at Los Alamos and struck up a conversation with him. Six years later, on a whim, he decided to send his resume to Teller. He was fed up with developing photos for a living. Nuclear physicists can do better than that.
Teller put in a good word for Lazar with someone from defense contractor EG&G. Which is rather odd, because they only met briefly that one time in '82. But hey, scientists probably do inexplicable favours for each other all the time.
Lazar can't recall the name of the EG&G employee who phoned him about the job, but that's okay. Physicists have noggins so overstuffed with knowledge that they can't be expected to remember anything so mundane. That's probably why Edward Teller doesn't remember ever meeting Bob Lazar, or recommending him for the most secret scientific project in the history of the world.
Initially, the people who interviewed Lazar told him was overqualified for the job. Later, they contacted him about another position. He began this job in December 1988. Or maybe it was '89. Whatever.
On his first day working for EG&G, Lazar met his immediate supervisor, Dennis Mariani, at McCarran airport. Together they flew to the Nellis Test Range. Both the infamous Area 51 and the mysterious Sector Four (S-4) are located in the northeast corner of Nellis. Area 51 is situated near Groom Lake, S-4 near Papoose Lake. Lazar often says Groom Lake when he means to say Papoose Lake, which is totally understandable. I'm sure Einstein couldn't remember where he worked sometimes.
Near the airstrip Mariani and Lazar boarded a bus with blacked-out windows and took a 20- to 30-minute ride along an unpaved road to S-4. Lazar describes it as a sprawling facility with huge hangars built into the hillside and painted the same colour as the surrounding terrain.
Lazar assumed he would be working on a propulsion system for a new fighter jet. After all, this was the same place where basically all experimental aircraft had been tested: the Stealth fighter, the Vought V-173, the SR-71 Blackbird, the A-12, the U-2, Tacit Blue, the Avro Silverbug. Instead, he was placed in a briefing room and given over 120 documents to read. He was to be part of the Galileo Project, a secret program containing only 22 people. His security clearance was to be Majestic level (38 levels above his previous security clearance, Q, which is civilian Top Secret clearance).
Lazar learned he would be working for Naval Intelligence rather than EG&G. After gaining his security clearance he was put on call for work at S4 and summoned to fly out two to four times a month. Each time, he was driven to the site in a bus with blacked-out windows. His supervisors told him he would be working on an on-call basis until he was "brought up to speed", then he could work more often. He always reported to S-4 in the late afternoon, allowing him to run his Vegas photo lab during the day. (He had moved to Vegas with his second wife, Tracey, in 1986. His first wife had committed suicide there two days after his wedding.)
Lazar was told he was replacing one of several Galileo Project members killed in a freak explosion. More on that later.
Throughout his employment with Naval Intelligence, agents from the Office of Federal Investigation would randomly drop by Bob's house to snoop around. Majestic security clearance required him to waive all Constitutional rights and submit to phone surveillance. He was required to carry a concealed weapon, as there were fears that KGB agents would abduct one of the project members in retaliation for being booted out of the site.
So what was Lazar's job? Essentially, he was charged with the task of reverse engineering the propulsion systems of extraterrestrial craft, at least nine of which were stored at S4. On his second or third visit to the site he was escorted into a hangar where one of the disks was housed. He didn't think it was an alien spaceship at first, just some kind of experimental craft. Gradually, he realized it couldn't possibly be of man-made origin.
He was permitted to examine only one of the saucers at close range, a sleek craft he called "the sport model", and this was one that had been test-flown on several occasions before his arrival. It was also flown on Wednesday nights while Lazar was working at the facility.
The "sport model" was roughly 52 feet in diameter. Lazar witnessed one brief low-performance test conducted inside the hangar, during which the craft ascended thirty feet and hovered in almost complete silence.
The ship was made of some kind of brushed aluminum, seamless. Its hatch was an ingenious collapsible honeycomb made of a light, flexible material. It had a gravity propulsion system with two settings: Delta (for lift-off and space flight) and Omacron (for earth flight, or any flight within a gravity field). It contained three large gravity amplifiers, pipes that emitted gravitational waves. The craft could operate on just one of these amplifiers (Omacron) or all three (Delta). Essentially, the ship created its own gravitational field and propelled as if continually rolling down a hill. This allowed high-speed maneuvering, defiance of inertia, and distortion of time and space. The power source was element 115. There were two levels on the ship, one containing the amplifiers and the other containing the crew seats and a reactor. The seats were tiny and the ceilings very low, a cramped space for the average human. According to stories Lazar heard, the saucer was very difficult to pilot.
He had an ominous feeling inside the craft. He didn't know how the government acquired the saucers or where they originated, but he was told they came from a planet in the Zeta Reticuli star system.
The shapes of the other craft varied considerably (Jell-O mold, top hat, etc.).
In the briefing documents he was shown, Lazar saw a single photo of the head and chest of an alien entity that had been autopsied. It was a "typical Gray", roughly three and a half to four feet tall. On one occasion, he glanced through the window of a door at S-4and glimpsed two technicians glancing down at something. He was later told this was an alien, but he didn't know what to think. His friend John Lear told Jacques Vallee that he knew aliens existed and were working alongside U.S. scientists because Lazar had seen one of them, but Lazar played down the incident, essentially saying he saw nothing at all.
From briefing documents he learned that aliens had been tampering with humankind since we were "simian creatures", and created modern man by genetically altering us at 63 stages of our evolution. Humans and aliens continued to secretly exchange information right up until 1979. In that year, according to information given to Lazar and others, an alien being housed in a government facility tried to prevent security personnel from entering a certain area. They were told that if they entered, the bullets in their guns would explode. A fight ensued, in which two aliens were allegedly killed and most (or all) of the scientists slaughtered. Later in this series, we'll take a look at the sole survivor of this showdown.
Lazar learned that in May 1987, members of the Galileo Project examined a ship reactor by crudely slicing it in half. Later, when they attempted to run it, the reactor exploded and a few of them were killed in the blast. For some reason, it took over two years for these scientists to be replaced. And when Lazar was brought into the project, he wasn't given carte blanche like the other scientists. His access to the saucers was severely restricted, and the only pieces of equipment provided to him were an oscilloscope and a digital voltmeter. In short, his hands were tied. He couldn't do any actual work on the project even though he was officially a senior staff physicist.
Nonetheless, he was subjected to extensive testing at the lab infirmary. The doctor drew a large amount of his blood, had him drink a glassful of yellow liquid that smelled like pine, and hypnotized him several times. He was never given specific reasons why these procedures had to be done.
Lazar was getting annoyed. Since he knew the test flight schedules, he decided to bring some friends close enough to the facility to view one of the flights. On March 22, 1989, Lazar took Vegas real estate appraiser Gene Huff to a spot about 5 miles from the test site to watch the craft in flight. On the following Wednesday night, he took Huff, his wife, and a friend named Jim Tagliani to the same spot. The craft glowed so brilliantly blue during flight that the spectators had to avert their eyes; the only thing brighter is the sun, Huff later wrote. On April 5th they returned to the same spot, but were caught by security. They were given stern warnings not to loiter and not to photograph in the area.
The following day, Lazar was debriefed at Indian Springs Air Force Base, with Dennis Mariani and several armed security guards in attendance. One of the guards held a sidearm to his head when he didn't give satisfying answers to their questions. They also showed him transcripts of phone conversations between his wife and her flight instructor, indicating they were having an affair. This was supposedly a pretext for revoking Lazar's security clearance - emotional instability.
At some later date, Mariani phoned Lazar and demanded he return to the Galileo Project. Lazar refused. Mariani threatened him, but backed off. The demand was not repeated. Instead, Mariani asked for a personal meeting. They arranged to meet at the Union Plaza casino in Vegas. When they spotted each other, however, Mariani simply sat down to play blackjack and completely ignored Lazar.
This is the interesting part. This is the part where Bob #1 and Bob #2 merge. Bob #2, the cool Bob, was forced by the U.S. government to live the life of Bob #1, the somewhat pathetic Bob who developed other people's photos and filed for bankruptcy. You see, sometime after his Majestic security clearance was revoked, government agents meticulously scrubbed Lazar's entire civilian background, turning him overnight into a "nonperson". Not only did they destroy or conceal all his academic records, they also somehow got rid of all his diplomas, enrollment records and receipts, student loans (not listed when he filed for bankruptcy), thesis notes, and university paraphernalia (sweatshirts, pennants, class rings, etc.). Apparently, they even airbrushed him out of all class pictures and yearbook photos and eliminated or silenced every single professor, fellow student, dormmate, roomie, and college bud who had any contact with Lazar at MIT and Cal Tech.
He's still trying to recover the documentation that the government took. In the meantime, he can be forgiven for forgetting certain details about his university years. After all, as he mentioned to Jacques Vallee in 1990, those hypnosis sessions might have interfered with his memory in some way. He even had difficulty recalling if he went to work at S-4 in '88 or '89. He mentioned to ufologist Stanton Friedman that one of his Cal Tech professors was named "Duxler". Friedman located a William Duxler, but he had never taught at Cal Tech. He was a math and physics professor at Pierce College in L.A. Lazar says he was taking some courses there while still attending MIT, which makes perfect sense. Smart people like to learn as much as they possibly can, so they often enroll at rinky-dink community colleges and Ivy League universities on the opposite side of the continent simultaneously. They're smart. They can do that.
Lazar's intellectual modesty can account for the fact that instead of mentioning his advanced degrees from MIT and Cal Tech to Vegas authorities, he mentioned only a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics and Electronic Technology from a long-defunct California diploma mill known as Pacifica University.
After being rendered a nonperson, Lazar naturally feared for his life. Threats had been made against himself and his wife, and his rear tire had been shot out as he drove on the highway, so he carried an Uzi in his car for a while. That's when his friends John Lear and George Knapp convinced him that the best way to safeguard his life was to go public with his information on TV. Knapp recorded an interview with him at Lear's house and aired it on Channel 8 in December 1988. By all accounts, this was the pinnacle of Vegas broadcasting.
But no one knew the name "Bob Lazar" yet. That's because Lazar appeared only in silhouette, using the name "Dennis". I guess Knapp and Lear forget to mention that anonymously revealing his information couldn't make him safer in any way.
A fellow employee was supposed to come forward, but never did. Nor was "Dennis Mariani" ever found.
Knapp checked into Lazar's education and credentials, of course finding that he didn't technically have any. But in June 1982, Terry England of the Los Alamos Monitor ran a story about one of the jet cars Lazar had developed. England referred to him as "a physicist at the Los Alamos Meson Physics Facility". I think that's sufficient evidence that Lazar is a scientist with advanced degrees. So let's move on to the physical evidence that supports Lazar's claims.
Lazar managed to sneak a small amount - about a pound - of element 115 out of S-4 by simply putting it in his pocket and walking away with it. As there were about 500 pounds of the stuff at the site, it wasn't missed.
Unfortunately, after his clearance was revoked, someone broke into his home and reclaimed it. And since element 115 didn't technically exist yet, its properties couldn't be compared to Lazar's descriptions of them. What a shame.
But wait. Russian and U.S. scientists synthesized element 115 at Livermore in 2004. Antigravity cars, here we come! Whooo!
Oh, that's right. Element 115 proved to be highly unstable, decaying in less than a second. This discovery quashed the hopes of scientists like physicist Henry Harris, who in 1997 speculated that UFOs could be powered by 115 (see notes). And even though Lazar thinks it isn't, it's highly radioactive. That it was lying around for anyone to touch or steal, when Lazar was escorted absolutely everywhere (even to the john) by armed guards, is incredible.
Lazar isn't buying any of this. He still says the naturally-occurring element 115 is stable and that the U.S. must have attained its supply from an off-world source. I'm sure he's right. If it didn't exist on Earth in 1988-89, and it wasn't lying around at a top-secret government facility, how else could he have stolen a chunk of it? It's just common sense.
What about other evidence? If he could steal some element 115, Lazar could surely have pulled an Ellsberg and snagged some of those amazing briefing documents. In March of 1990 he told Jacques Vallee there were over 200 of them (80 more than there had been in his earlier accounts), and not one of them was marked with classification information. There was no document control system in place, no hint of the documents' origins. Just text. Even if he was caught, he probably couldn't have been prosecuted for stealing unclassified documents.
Well, I guess Lazar just forgot to grab one of them. Or maybe he didn't have anywhere to conceal it. People wore awfully tight pants in the '80s.
Then there's the Los Alamos phone directory. As reported by George Knapp, a page from the Los Alamos National Lab phone book for 1982 contains Lazar's name. This is concrete evidence that he really worked as a senior staff physicist there, right?
Except, as pointed out by ufologist Stanton Friedman, the directory includes not just employees of Los Alamos, but employees of the Department of Energy and an outside contractor, Kirk-Mayer. The designation "K/M" follows Lazar's name, indicating he worked for Kirk-Mayer, not Los Alamos. Lazar evidently worked at Los Alamos as a repair technician, not as a senior scientist.
According to Gene Huff, Kirk-Mayer and Los Alamos have confirmed that Lazar was issued an employee ID number known as a "Z number". However, he also admits that anyone who works at any of the Los Alamos facilities is given a Z number, presumably even if they're doing contract work. George Knapp learned that Los Alamos has no other record of Lazar's employment there. Nor have any co-workers corroborated his presence, not even friends who worked at Los Alamos at the same time, including Joe Vaninetti and Joe's roomate, a physicist named Melissa Cray or Crey.
But Lazar did produce a W-2 form from the Department of Naval Intelligence, showing that he was paid for work done in '88. Never mind that he was paid less than $1000 for working on the most secret project in the history of the world. Scientists are woefully underpaid, you know.
Never mind, also, that Lazar's Social Security number turned out to belong to a woman in New York. I'm sure there's some reasonable explanation for that, and someday Lazar may even tell us what it is.
Though a polygraph test was inconclusive, a professional hypnotist offered his opinion that Lazar's emotional responses to his remembered S-4 experiences were genuine.
Okay, forget physical evidence. Sincerity and believability should count for something when you're evaluating UFO stories, right? And Lazar does not come across as your average UFO crank. He expresses little excitement about the saucers and their alien pilots, doesn't know much about their origins, and admits that he was not privy to a lot of information. In a 2003 interview with Art Bell, he said he's rather tired of talking about UFOs, because he worked near them for such a short time. He's not dazzled by the potential energy applications of alien technology, either. He thinks antigravity would be an impractical energy source, and suspects the potential weapons applications are of far more interest to the government.
He spends very little time on UFO-related things these days. Since the '70s, he has been developing jet cars that can travel 350 mph, as well as hydrogen power adapters for homes and vehicles. He and third wife Joy have moved to Sandia, New Mexico, and set up a scientific business called United Nuclear. His biggest adventure since the early '90s was a 2003 raid on his home business by agents of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. He was selling chemicals that can be used to make fireworks.
There's also the fact that Lazar sounds like a scientist. He certainly seems to know a decent amount of scientifical-type lingo. At least, his non-scientist friends think so. Fellow physicists are more critical of him. In 1996 Physicist Dr. David L. Morgan wrote, "Mr. Lazar on many occasions demonstrates an obvious lack of understanding of current physical theories. On no occasion does he acknowledge that his scenario violates physical laws as we understand them, and on no occasion does he offer up any hints of new theories which would make his mechanism possible. Mr. Lazar has a propensity for re-defining scientific terms, and using scientific language in a confusing and careless way. For these reasons, I don’t feel that Lazar's pseudo-scientific ramblings are really worthy of any kind of serious consideration."
This is probably just professional jealousy. Maybe Dr. Morgan applied for cool flying saucer jobs and didn't get them. He had to settle for being a plain old physics professor at the New School.
On Coast to Coast AM, John Lear declared he still believes Lazar "110%". Former astronaut Edgar Mitchell has spoken with Lazar and thinks his experience was real, though he believes Lazar probably misinterpreted some of the technical data. It's of little consequence that Mitchell also supports the theories of Hal Puthoff, which are incompatible with the UFO propulsion system Lazar described.
You can't know about physics and top-secret test sites if you don't have some scientific background. It's probably of no significance that Don Merck, the father of Lazar's second wife, was working on explosives at Los Alamos in the early '80s, or that Lazar was friends with Los Alamos physicist Melissa Cray (Crey) and her roommate, also a Los Alamos employee.
Lazar said element 115 was stable, and scientists had speculated that the super-heavy elements (above 110) could be stable. How could he possibly know that? As a research scientist pulling double duty as a business owner, he certainly didn't have time to read about this in the May 1989 issue of Scientific American.
Lazar shouldn't be suspected of hoaxery just because he lived at the epicenter of American UFO research and rumour-mongering at the same time the Bennewitz affair, Area 51, UFO crashes, the underground base at Dulce, cattle mutilations, and alien abductions were coming to the attention of the international UFO community. That's just a coincidence. Guys like Bennewitz may have been suckered by all the UFO talk, but Lazar is too smart for that.
We mustn't forget that Lazar had absolutely no reason to make up his story. He wasn't into UFOs and he didn't flaunt his knowledge of them, except when he got a personalized "MJ-12" license plate for his (repossessed) Corvette, and showed up uninvited at UFO gatherings, and collaborated with John Andrews to design a Testors flying saucer model based on "the sport model", and appeared on Knapp's TV programs, and was a guest on Art Bell's syndicated radio program several times, and when he and Gene Huff produced a video about his experiences, and when he sold the movie rights to his story. Just because he maintains a website chock-full of UFO stuff doesn't mean he has any interest in the subject.
We shouldn't make too much of the fact that in 1990 Lazar was busted for pandering, possibly making him the nation's first physicist pimp. He says he was merely helping out a friendly madam by installing computers, security cameras, and other electronic equipment at the Honeysuckle Ranch. Huff claims the madam fell madly in love with Lazar, and when he didn't reciprocate she fingered him as the operation's pimp out of spite. However, he also admits that Lazar mentioned his work at the brothel on a TV segment produced by George Knapp. It was this comment that piqued the curiosity of local authorities. Lazar was ultimately charged with six felonies and pled guilty to all of them to avoid legal expenses. Remember, physicists are underpaid. And it really doesn't matter that in bankruptcy papers filed in 1986, Lazar failed to report any income from a brothel.
Sure, Lazar can't prove that he has advanced scientific degrees, or that he worked as a senior staff scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratories and S-4, or that he reverse engineered spaceship technology. He hasn't really explained why a nuclear physicist like himself would make his career developing photos for nearly a decade when he could have been teaching or conducting research. Yes, he may have fudged a few facts about his primary source of income for five years. And a few details about his work at S-4 may be slightly inconsistent and completely incomprehensible to anyone with higher brain function.
That doesn't mean he's not telling the truth.
Notes on Sources:
Lazar's friend, Gene Huff, has written a synopsis of Lazar's experiences, first posted at alt.conspiracy.area51 in 1995 (now available here). Huff is a Vegas real estate appraiser who met Lazar in 1985 (Lazar's photo lab processed many local appraisers' property photos).
In 1993, after hearing Lazar speak at The Little A-le-Inn, Los Angeles Times reporter Roy Rivenburg checked into Lazar's credentials and background. He encountered the same lacuna that George Knapp had already found.
In 1994 Tom Mahood compiled a timeline of Lazar's work history and activities. It contains clear inconsistencies that have since been explained away, in part, by Gene Huff's synopsis.
Jacques Vallee's 1990 interview with Lazar is recounted in Vallee's book Revelations (Ballantine, 1991).
Henry Harris's comments on element 115 and UFOs can be found on p. 159 of Captured by Aliens by Joel Achenbach (Citadel, 1999).