Rhodes 1949

– by Don Ecsedy, May 2012

1949 -- Project Grudge

49/03/16

Colonel Hemstreet wrote to Lewis Gust requesting the complete report on the Rhodes photograph, now that Gust had the camera. He also requested responses to two technical questions. This document is the first in the case files that refers to Fugate's report, here an attachment to Hemstreet.

Documents

***

49/03/21

I cannot find Gust's completed report in the Project Blue Book files. We know he responded because we have pages two and three of his reply. These pages only answer the two technical questions Hemstreet asked, with no hint of conclusions contained in the completed report, if any. This missing first page and perhaps others may have been the completed analysis, however, it does not appear anyone in the field collected the additional information that had been requested along with the camera in Gust's preliminary analysis. It appears Mr. Loedding did not, either. The missing page(s) could have been another request for that information. There is no reference to a completed analysis in other documents.

Documents

***

49/04/30

Dr J. Allen Hynek became a consulting investigator to Project Grudge and filed a "Final Report" on this date of his review of the cases inherited by Project Grudge from Project Sign. He highlighted Incident #40, the Rhodes case. The redacted copy is easier reading. I've confirmed the redacted names with the clear copy.

No astronomical explanation seems possible for the unusual object cited in this incident.

This case is especially important because of the photographic evidence and because of the similarity of those photographs to the drawings by Kenneth Arnold (incident #17). The two incidents are separated by slightly more than two weeks, and, of course, they occurred in different localities. It is, however, perhaps more than coincidence that these two best-attested, entirely independent cases should agree concerning the shape of the object and its maeuverability.

The present investigator would like to suggest that this incident, #40, being one of the most crucial in the history of these objects, be reopened for investigation. The actual camera used by Mr. Rhodes should be examined, and the original negatives preserved. Since, from the size of the image on the photograph, we can have an accurate estimate of the angle subtended by the object, this, in connection with what appears to be a fairly reliable estimate of the distance, can give us an estimate of the forces and accelerations involved in the trajectory described by Mr. Rhodes. (It is unfortunate that a competent investigator was not dispatched at once to "reenact the crime" with Mr. Rhodes and to obtain sketches of the trajectory, etc, before details faded from memory). It would be important to know at what altitude and azimuth Mr. Rhodes' camera was pointed at the time of his two exposures and the approximate time interval between exposures. Physical data like these are absolutely essential if we are to get anywhere in any basic physical examination of these incidents.

There remains the strong possibility that the entire incident is spurious, and the invention of an excitable mind. This strenthens the need for reinvestigation; if spurious, this fact should be highlighted and even publicized, to quench enthusiam for the irresponsible reporting of "saucers" and like objects.

Documents

One thing is obvious, Hynek didn't review, or did not have, the file on this incident. He doesn't have or even know of Gust's preliminary or final analysis (if it existed), or Fugate's report or the Beam and Loedding report (both of which "reenact the crime"), he doesn't know the camera had been obtained, and he doesn't know about Lewis Larmore and his photographs. As always, Aldrich's report of July 14, 1947 was available.

Yet Dr Hynek is of the opinion there was strong possibility the case was spurious and Rhodes a hoaxer.

What will become very obvious is that the several men who opine on Rhodes and his photographs, none of them, except Lewis Gust, actually analyzed anything. They responded to what they had been told and their opinions conformed to a predetermined conclusion based on a very selective release of information about the case.

***

49/05/19 -- 49/08/17

Following on Hynek's request, Project Grudge responds. The following materials refer to a request for a report dated May 2, 1949 and signed by Colonel Clingerman. I have not yet found a copy of it...in fact, materials from Project Grudge are often incomplete, undated, unsigned, and unnumbered scraps of paper.

If Colonel Clingerman had discovered Rhodes' information about Larmore was false, this would seem a good time to have mentioned it, however he does not.

Most of the Project Grudge documents are investigations of Rhodes' character and are not about either the sighting or the photographs. It has its place in any discussion of this case, but not here, as I try to keep to the idea of a chronology, rather than an analyses of the sighting reports, the photos, or Rhodes' character. I'll take up those issues in their place.

***

These seem to go together.

Documents

We can reconstruct Clingerman's request from 'Doyle 2'. He provides the investigators with Fugate's Report from 1947, and he requests a background check on Rhodes, specifically on 'Panoramic', in line with the re-investigation recommendation of J. Allen Hynek.

Fugate, now a civilian, is then interviewed. It is Fugate's opinion Rhodes is a "publicity seeker". Fugate also thinks Rhodes has a lot of expensive radio equipment above his station in life. He does however recall that a friend had shown him a letter in a magazine which he thinks is from Rhodes asking for advice on how to get his negatives back. According to Leonard Stringfield, it was not Amazing Stories, but in the Spring 1948 issue Fate magazine -- *See NOTE below. Note that in the letter to the magazine, Rhodes refers to "two Federal agents", and not an FBI agent and an Army agent, and he asks how to get his photos back from the "government", not the military. This brings into question whether or not Brower was any more truthful in his report than was Fugate. Brower had reason to cya himself, as I indicated.

According to the FBI files, the next year Rhodes would request information about his negatives from the FBI Phoenix office and would be told they were handed over to the Air Force. Whatever actually happened between Fugate and Brower, and what Rhodes understood about it, we don’t really know

Fugate says the details of the Rhodes interview “was a bit hazy in his mind”. But that’s ok, because the FBI, unlike Project Saucer, had a reliable institutional memory. And supplies it to the Air Force at their request.

The FBI has gotten the idea Rhodes has requested the return of his film from the Air Force. There’s nothing about that in the PBB files, just Fugate’s friend’s comment about the letter in a magazine, which had nothing to do with the Air Force. If it was published early in 1948, it was probably submitted in approximately December 1947.

We can, however, begin to see that such a request was not anything the Air Force would welcome. That it is a mere possibility, and absent any evidence for it, yet it preys on their minds at Project Grudge, is pretty interesting in itself.

Documents

***

CIC SA Lynn Aldrich returns to do the background check on Rhodes in Phoenix. Colonel Clingerman in his May 2, 1949 request for investigation emphasized Rhodes' letterhead as Panoramic Research Laboratory, de-emphasizing the 'Observatory' part. I think Clingerman knew Rhodes didn't conduct business under that name (as Aldrich would learn, too, from Rhodes' neighbors), but that is the direction he set for the AFOSI agents. Aldrich can find no evidence of it as a business with state, county, or city records. Neither can he find anything against Rhodes with the police, banks, or credit agencies. Aldrich has nothing left to do except interview Rhodes' neighbors -- Rhodes we are informed was not interviewed because he and his entire family were on "an extended vacation out west"...very extended, considering Clingerman's investigation runs from mid-June to mid-August.

The only evidence I have about 'Panoramic' is that Rhodes and his wife published a booklet or pamphlet under its name. I haven't found a copy of it, but I think it is about science clubs in schools. Mrs Rhodes was a schoolteacher. Mr. Rhodes was associated with an organization involved in promoting science through the public school system, organizing science clubs, faires, and contests. In the Air Force documents, the "Observatory" part of the name was dropped. Rhodes was known among his peers for his skills making optics for telescopes, and in consideration of the work he was engaged in at the time, the name he chose to work under is appropriate. However, it appears the staff of Project Grudge, and especially credentialed scientists, took great offense at his presumption.

Project Grudge also had received Brower's report from the FBI. From it they would learn of Rhodes' statements about having been employed at the Naval Ordnance Lab and also at Falcon Field. From the interviews of his neighbors they would hear something about an honorary degree given Rhodes by Columbia University. There is no record in the files that AFOSI ever investigated those statements. They simply disappeared down the same memory hole with Larmore's involvement, and the second negative -- unless they were investigated and substantiated, but not included because they did not conform to the conclusion required -- that Rhodes was an emotionally unstable hoaxer and liar.

Because Aldrich's report is about Rhodes personally, I will review it in a biographical section later. Here is his report.

Docments

***

This may be a good point to introduce an undated document in the file, from an unknown John A. Clinton

Analysis

Preliminary analysis of the negative and prints leads me to doubt the story told by William Albert Rhodes.

Judging from the dimensions, the negative was exposed in a simple camera of the box type, which usually has a fixed focus (about 10 feet), fixed shutter speed (about 1/25 of a second) and a simple lens of the meniscus type. Because of the above mentioned facts, it is unreasonable to assume that sharp outlines such as appear on the negative, could be secured of an object at 2,000 feet, travelling 400-600mph.

Furthermore, according to the story the object (flying craft) was painted grey to blend in with the clouds. But even if the object were painted jet black, under the circumstances described, to obtain a contrast such as appears on the negative is also very doubtful.

On all the prints, excepting the print marked "exhibit a", judging from the outlines, the object has a rotating motion (revolves aroud its center) instead of a forward motion, contradicting the version stated by Mr. Rhodes.

Documents

Where to begin with Clinton's analysis? He has one negative, the same one Gust had. I don't know what it is about the dimensions that indicates it is a box camera. 620/120 film was used in all sorts of cameras incuding high quality ones, and anyway, isn't the negative "cut"? The shutter speed was approximately 1/50 in these cameras, not 1/25. The camera did indeed have a fixed focus lens. The lens had acceptable focus beyond 10 feet from the film plane; anything closer than 10 feet would be out of focus.

By referring to 2000 feet and 400-600mph, as well as the assumption Rhodes developed the film, we know he has information derived from Fugate's report. However, the speed estimate in Fugate does not refer to the lowest approach, but the first moment of the sighting of it at about 5000 feet. Clinton doesn't have Brower's report, which has 1000-2000 feet and 100mph at its lowest approach. Same with it being "painted grey". That is from Fugate, more or less. But in Brower, we learn Rhodes expected the object to be lighter than the background. Clinton should know that the contrast of a print or negative is not necessarily the contrast of the scene recorded. If the object did in fact appear to be grey to Rhodes, that is not necessarily its color. If its surface was reflective, it would reflect the grey of the sky and its actual color suppressed to vision because of that and the distance.

As to whether a print shows the object revolving around its center, I don't know how Clinton could have that opinion since he writes "On all the prints, excepting the print marked "exhibit a"..."? No matter how many prints there were, there were two only negatives from which to make all those prints. Were all the other prints of something besides "exhibit a"? What was Clinton analysing? Add together flipped enlargements from the Arizona Republic, a corrected enlargement by AMC of the first negative and a full frame of the first, plus a full frame of the second negative from somewhere, plus Aldrich's report referring to objects in the plural...I'm surprised Clinton and Langmuir actually persevered with an "analysis".

I'll grant Clinton the "meniscus lens", along with the fixed focus. We do learn something of interest: the negative of the first photograph had sharp outlines.

Another undated document probably fits in here. You'll recall Dr Irving Langmuir's opinion referred to earlier. Here is where it is found.

Documents

Here we have it confirmed that the second negative was not available:

"...one negative and a print of the other, are contained in the project files"

Notice both Dr Langmuir and Clinton rely on details about the sighting in order to express their skepticism of the photographs. They are details from Fugate's report, which we have seen they both misinterpreted, and they weren't given access to Brower's report. A major point against them, and everyone else who opined on the photos, is none of them mentioned the AR enlargements were reversed. Even if they didn't have the second negative, they had a print, they should have seen the cropped enlargement from it was flipped as well. Dr. Langmuir is especially arrogant, which is quite amusing considering his ignorance of the case.

Someone did notice, probably Lewis Gust, and made an enlargement from the negative he had, but in the proper orientation.

Here's what was published in the Arizona Republic:

Rhodes photos as they appeared in the Arizona Republic, 1947

Here is what the Air Force published in its Analysis in 1948 and 1949:

Rhodes photos as they appeared in the Air Force Analysis, 1948 and 1949

As you can see, someone made an enlargement of photo 1 in the correct orientation, but they did not do so with photo 2 and we have no evidence either AMC or Project Sign and Project Grudge had the second negative, although they have a print of the full frame from an unknown source. But, the FBI has it Rhodes delivered negatives. Who had the second one, the uncut one, the one with the useful "image reference points"?

Continuing with Dr. Langmuir's statement...

In subsequent correspondence with the reporter of this incident, the observer refers to himself as Chief of Staff of Panoramic Research Laboratory, the letterhead of which lists photography as one of its specialties. Yet the negative is carelessly cut and faultily developed. It is covered with streaks and over a period of six months has faded very noticeably

Langmuir refers to information in Colonel Clingerman's request for investigation in which he notes the "specialties" on a letterhead. We have Rhode's Panoramic letterhead in the Blue Book files. It is a letter Clingerman saw. There are no specialities enumerated. We also have a number of photocopies of Rhodes' "Panoramic' business card. None of them mention any "specialties" or services. In fact, Panoramic Research Laboratory and Observatory, was not a business. Nor did Rhodes letterhead refer to himself as 'Doctor', nor does his business card, and both Loedding and Beam refer to him as Mr. Rhodes.

***

This is the only clue I've found to Clingerman having received a reply from Lewis Larmore to Clingerman's letter of June 16, 1948. Although I do not have a Larmore letterhead from this time. I do have this:

Documents

Dr. Larmore would later write Introduction to Photographic Principles, published by Prentice-Hall. An earlier publication of his on photography was published in 1938.

There is every likelyhood that Larmore had a letterhead and card for his business, and it very likely listed photography among his specialities.

***

49/09/15

And the Rhodes case ends up pretty much where it started 2 1/2 years earlier, with a report by CIC SA Aldrich with two photos attached

Documents

***

*NOTE: May 12, 2012. Reviewing an original Spring 1948 Fate Magazine, there is no letter from Rhodes (and this being a first issue, a letter was unlikely). There is an article on the Rhodes photographs which I will discuss in a planned section on civilian reports and investigations of this Incident. I will be revising this page.

Next: 1952 -- Project Blue Book

back to top