The WTC "Mystery Explosion" Video Hoax
(as featured in In Plane Site)

Brian Salter
8 September 2004

[Update, 10 September 2004: I have been informed that the producers of In Plane Site have recently already acknowledged that the "mystery explosion" claim is false. I am glad to hear this, although unfortunately there doesn't seem to be any easily visibly notification of this retraction at their website, I will check into this and update this page again as necessary...]

A recently released documentary about 9/11, In Plane Site, presents a video sequence which appears to show a mysterious explosion at the World Trade Center, after the airliner impacts but before either of the tower collapses. A large expanding cloud of dust is seen rising from the base of the towers, and the narrator Dave von Kleist claims that this video footage was broadcast only once on TV, after which it was supposedly suppressed from the mass media airwaves. The implication is that this footage is long-lost visual evidence backing up well-documented testimonials from eyewitnesses who report that they heard what sounded like bomb blasts in the WTC, events separate from the crashes and collapse.

Unfortunately, the producers of In Plane Site were taken in by a very obvious hoax, which first circulated on the internet not long after 9/11. They aren't the only ones — this video clip has been featured on numerous websites and was also covered in Eric Hufschmid's Painful Questions. I have a version in my archives which I downloaded in mid-2002 (for reference, it is linked at the bottom of this page).

Simply explained, this footage is an apparently manipulated view of the WTC just as the South Tower collapses. The view is facing the North Tower from an angle where the South Tower is hidden behind the North Tower. This angle was an edge-on, diagonal view of the North Tower, but someone has altered the image to make it appear that there are two towers standing, both appearing to be lined up square with the camera. The rooflines have apparently been altered to make one side slightly higher than the other, which creates the illusion of two towers (it may be that this is just an unaltered view of the North Tower from a perfectly diagonal angle, but I have not found any other images which show an irregularity in the roof level that would create this two-building illusion; therefore, I believe this footage has been deliberatlely altered by persons unknown). In any case, speculating about what manipulation may or may not have been used on this footage is not necessary to demonstrate that it simply isn't what is being claimed.

Anyone with a good visual skills who is already familiar with imges of the WTC should be able to spot what is wrong fairly quickly — the would-be dual towers are abnormally tall and narrow. A visual proof of this is shown below. I have superimposed a rectangle with the same proportions as the face of one WTC tower over the fake right-hand tower. The rectangle doesn't fit.

There is a second easy proof of the hoax. The large antenna atop the WTC is visible, but it is in the wrong place. The antenna was mounted right in the middle of the North Tower, so it ought to be right in the middle of the right hand tower in the video. It isn't — instead, it is located exactly over the center line between the two fake towers.

The following is a pre-9/11 photo of the WTC taken from roughly the same angle, albeit a lower elevation. The South Tower is directly behind the North Tower, almost hidden. Note the location of the antenna in the middle, as well as the proper edge-on, diagonal view of the building, as opposed to the erroneous face-on view in the fake footage. This is similar to what should be seen in this video (not counting the smoke and dust cloud, of course).

The roofline of the tower in this and other photos looks quite level and even between the two sides of the building, which supports my suspicion that the roofline was altered in the footage (if I'm wrong in that suspicion and some natural effect created the illusion of two towers from a normal diagonal view of the North Tower, that nevertheless wouldn't change the fact that the "mystery explosion" claim is still a hoax).

There is really no excuse for any serious investigator or documentary producer to fall for this sort of hoax. Making matters worse, von Kleist commits a strangely simple error when he incorrectly identifies the location of the "explosion" as Northwest of the WTC, when in fact it is on the opposite side — East or Southeast. His error is made apparent simply by noting the direction of the sun and shadows, as well as the location of surrounding buildings. This hoax footage is then followed up by a single still photograph, obviously of the dust cloud from one of the collapses, with the implication that this is a photo of the same "mystery explosion" — but with no proof or explanation from von Kleist, only a bit of dramatic soundtrack music!

One might also note that an event of this kind could not possibly have happened without some specific eyewitness reports, not to mention showing up in other sources such as the scores of still camera photos that were taken constantly that morning. The claim falls apart deductively as well as empirically.

Clearly, the decision by the producers of In Plane Site to include this footage in the first place indicates a disturbing degree of sloppiness — at best. Unfortunately, the film has been getting quite a bit of attention and promotion from 9/11 researchers and activists, many of whom seem to feel that it is an ideal vehicle for approaching the general public with alternative views of 9/11.

On the contrary, the promotion of this hoax could easily end up discrediting a discussion about the real anomalies of the WTC attacks, especially because it will muddy the waters concerning numerous testimonials from on-site witnesses who reported hearing extra explosions or bomb blasts in the building, apart from the aircraft strikes and final collapses. In Plane Site sandwiches good evidence and phony evidence together, to the detriment of the good.

Full version of "Mystery explosion" video (animated .gif file, 1.6 MB)


A review of In Plane Site from Jeremy Baker offers numerous other critiques of the film. Except for allegations that the filmmakers deliberately added forged imagery to their video footage, which I disagree with, I think most of his points are well-considered:

The following excerpt is his commentary on the "mystery explosion" footage. My interpretation is different because I suspect the footage may have been deliberately altered (but not by the filmmakers themselves). The basic arguments, however, are otherwise similar:

Both the CNN footage of a huge cloud of white "smoke" rising fast over WTC 7 and the still photo vonKleist shows us at the end of the segment have, I'm afraid, been dealt us from the bottom of the deck.

Network video (and common sense) from that morning clearly shows that the clip in question was taken seconds after the collapse of Tower 2, the rising "smoke" being just the first billowing cloud of white demo-dust (not the black smoke we saw in the other explosions that day). And the vertical shaft of dust to the right of the north tower (singular) indicates where tower 2 had stood burning only seconds before.

But, before he's through, our narrator sets up the still photo mentioned above by asking us: "Is there any other photographic evidence that might show an the north and west of the World Trade Towers before the collapse?" He then inserts a photo, supposedly illustrative of this curiosity. But the photo is illustrative of one thing alone - that it's been pilfered from the tail end of a video clip showing the first collapse.

Look at the picture. The building in the center is a corner view of WTC 1. I have the video that the picture was taken from. It begins with a low angle perspective of the collapse of Tower 2 starting at the top and ending with the scene in the photo. This shameful chicanery (or outrageous incompetence) is yet another suspicious example of this film's dubious pedigree, and certainly one of the most appalling.