At the recent MUFON Symposium at American University in Washington, DC, a presentation was

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>> At the recent MUFON Symposium at American University in Washington, DC, a presentation was listed in the schedule as "Misinterpretation of Slime Molds as UFO Physical Trace Evidence." At first, I thought it was a joke, but then I remembered that the Delphos Landing Trace, winner of the National Enquirer's $50,000 prize for the best UFO case of 1975, was thought by skeptics to be nothing more than a slime mold which had formed in a ring. This "explanation" has since been exploded by a series of articles in the International UFO Reporter, but SOME "landing rings" are indeed slime molds, as this paper shows. I present it here not only as information for the would-be investigator, but to show that perhaps the need for a team of hyper-critical debunkers to keep Ufology "in line" is not so great as some people think; a good deal of healthy skepticism seems to be coming from within the movement itself. Tom Benson is MUFON's State Director in New Jersey, and is an investigator for the J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies. -------------------------------------------------------------------------- MISINTERPRETATION OF SLIME MOLDS AS UFO PHYSICAL TRACE EVIDENCE Tom Benson Introduction My analysis of physical trace evidence associated with UFO sightings that include circular ground effects, indicates a significant number of the effects are caused by fungus, particularly Physarum Cinerea and other slime molds. For example, a review of Ufologist Ted Phillips' catalogue of PHYS- ICAL TRACES ASSOCIATED WITH UFO SIGHTINGS, 1975, indicates approximately 50 of the reports to possibly have a fungus origin and not an alien one. This presentation will describe a recent alleged UFO landing case that I personally investigated in September, 1986. The presentation in- cludes an observer's 8 minute videotape of the incident. Own Investigation I investigated an alleged UFO landing site on September 26 & 27, 1986 in the backyard of a house on Route #571, West Windsor Township near Princeton Junction, NJ. When I arrived I would describe the site as having a bluish-white powdery substance on the ground that adhered to the blades of grass in a circular ring pattern. The circular ring pattern was 15 feet 8 inches in diameter, the ring band approximately 12 inches in diameter. I contacted by telephone Dr. Eugene Varney, Plant Pathologist at Rutgers Uni- versity, New Brunswick, NJ, on September 29, 1986, who identified the sub- stance I described as a slime mold (Physarum Cinerea), and on October 1, 1986 took a one foot square sample, as requested to Ms. Ann Schnepper, Horticultural Consultant for the Rutgers University Agricultural Extension Service based in Trenton, NJ. Ms. Schnepper confirmed the identity of the substance as Dr. Varney previously established. The mother of the owner of the property where the alleged UFO landing occurred, took a videotape of the physical trace evidence and describes her interpretation of the event. The woman sincerely believes aliens vis- ited her daughter's backyard. Even when I presented the evidence confirm- ing the substance to be a slime mold, she still believes aliens were in- volved. The daughter and friend who live on the property were skeptical of the events that took place. Definition and Occurrence of the Slime Mold Phenomena The Myxomycetes or plasmodial slime molds constitute a natural group of fungus or protozoan-like organisms comprising about 425 known species with a unique life cycle which sets them apart from all others to which the term slime molds has also been applied. (Gray & Alexopoulos, 1968) Physarum, with some seventy-five species is the most numerous genus of Mycetozoa; the little gray sporangia may be spherical or irregular, sessile or stalked. (Copeland, 1951) Most slime molds live in cool, shady, moist places in the woods, on decaying logs, dead leaves, or other organic matter which holds abundant moisture. A few species occur in open spaces, creeping over vegetation, and these are especially conspicuous on the grass of city lawns. Physarum Cinereium, one of the common Myxomycetes, may form colonies several feet in diameter on city lawns. These colonies appear bluish and may be quite conspicuous. The slimy somatic phase of the slime molds, which has no cell walls, is considered the purest form of protoplasm encountered in nature in massive quantities. (Alexopoulos, 1962) Moisture and temperature seem to be the factors most important in gov- erning the distribution and abundance of slime mold. During a rainy season they begin, as a class, to appear in May, in the north temperate region, and continue to fruit through October. However, not all species may be found at all times. Some are more abundant in the spring; some in the middle of the summer, others in early fall. (Alexopoulos, 1962) The slime mold phenomena shown in the video portion of this presentation occurred in early fall. Claimed UFO Physical Trace Landing Cases Having Similar Characteristics to Slime Molds The following case histories have been extracted from Ted Phillips' catalogue of PHYSICAL TRACES ASSOCIATED WITH UFO SIGHTINGS, 1975: Case 056, Page 10, Aug. 18, 1953 US Ashboro, NC: Mr. & Mrs. Ralph Dixon found a perfect 18 ft. circle in their front yard. The circle had a sub- stance that appeared to be some kind of powder and had a burned odor, al- though it did not kill or scorch the grass. (George Fawcett) Case 149, page 26, 1962, CANADA Wooler Ont.: 25 ft. circle was found, formed by an 18 in. ring. No other details. (H. H. McKay) Case 264, 1967, Page 45 US McGregor, IA: Mrs. C. J. Ferguson found a doughnut-shaped mark on her lawn. It was 14 ft. in diameter with a ring 1 ft. in width. Blades of grass had a bubble-like form on each. A small bush near the circle also had the material on it, but only on the side facing the ring. The bubbles were greasy, soot-like. (Ohio Reporter) . . . Conclusions/Recommendations In the future, it is suggested that UFO field investigators or re- searchers of alleged UFO landing sites/reports, should check out the pos- sibility that fungus could be the causal factor creating the unusual phys- ical effects. Perhaps, this analysis should automatically be done, par- ticularly if an unknown object or light is not associated with the case. Regarding slime molds the US Dept. of Agriculture, Home and Garden Bulletin #61 on Lawn Diseases is recommended for reference. (Boyd, JAH, CUFOS, 1986) . . . References 1. Alexopoulos, Constantine, John, INTRODUCTORY MYCOLOGY, (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York: 1962 2. Gray, William D. & Alexopoulos, BIOLOGY OF THE MYXOMYCETES, (The Ronald Press Company, New York: 1968) 3. Copeland, Herbert F., THE CLASSIFICATION OF LOWER ORGANISMS, (Pacific Books, Palo Alto, CA: 1956 4. MacBride, Thomas H., THE NORTH AMERICAN SLIME MOLDS, (New York, 1899 & 1922) 5. Webster, John, INTRODUCTION TO FUNGI, (Cambridge University Press, London: 1970) 6. Phillips, Ted, PHYSICAL TRACES ASSOCIATED WITH UFO SIGHTINGS, (Center for UFO Studies, Evanston, IL: 1975) 7. US Department of Agriculture, Home and Garden Bulletin #61, LAWN DISEASES, HOW TO CONTROL THEM, (USGPO: 1978)


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