On January 14, 1997 a photo attributed to a "mystery astronomer" and purporting to show a "companion object" near Comet Hale-Bopp was posted on the web sites of radio personality Art Bell and author Whitley Strieber. This was the long-awaited photo given to Bell and Strieber by remote viewer Dr. Courtney Brown, first mentioned by Brown and his Farsight Institute employee Prudence Calabrese on Art Bell's nationally syndicated radio program on November 29, 1996 [see CNI News vol 2, no. 18 of Dec 1]. On that show, Brown and Calabrese claimed that remote viewing of Hale-Bopp showed the companion object to be huge and "sentient," possibly a "planet-sized spacecraft." They also said they believed the "mystery astronomer" would come forward within a few weeks to confirm the existence of the companion.
However, just one day after the photo was posted, it was shown to be a hoax, casting grave suspicion on the "mystery astronomer" and on the remote viewing efforts of the Farsight Institute. The fraudulent nature of the photo was demonstrated on James Neff's Enigma web site, www.anc.net/~neff/fake.html.
Neff announced that the fake was a doctored version of a legitimate Hale-Bopp photo taken on September 1, 1995 by astronomer David Tholen using a University of Hawaii telescope. The fraud was actually discovered by Oliver Hainaut of the University Astronomy Lab.
CNI News Editor Michael Lindemann reached Dr. Courtney Brown by telephone on Thursday afternoon, January 16 to get his reaction to these startling developments. Thanks to Courtney Brown for permission to post these excerpts from their conversation:
Michael Lindemann: Courtney, can you tell me your view of what's happened?
Courtney Brown: Sure, I can tell you the whole story. Basically, we were told in advance this would happen. My employees have some very good contacts. When the Shramek picture came out [showing a possible second object near the comet], we called around to see if anybody had heard of such a thing. When we got some indications that there was such a thing, we targeted the thing. The results are on our web site.
Then about a week and a half later, an astrophysicist we had talked to, someone we know, sent us three rolls of film, with pictures we had to develop. He said, "This is just for yourself, for your own internal staff, to help you." He said he appreciated us for having alerted him to this. He had started getting information from other colleagues and offered us some of the photographs. So we gladly accepted, and we encouraged him to come out. And he was very excited about the whole thing, and said he was probably going to come out in a week, after the Art Bell show. Well, he never came out, and he stopped returning my phone calls, but we assumed he was just continuing to work on this, and in fact I really think that's what happened. I think he's very concerned about everything, inluding whether he's been duped, because at least one of the pictures appears to have been doctored and is being called a fraud. We were given the raw film, not a scanned image. We developed the film at a camera shop, and that's what we scanned in -- not a web photo.
ML: Have you looked at the photo that's been posted by Whitley Strieber and Art Bell? Is that the photo you sent them?
CB: Yes, it looks like the photo we sent. We just heard about this last night. We haven't made a star by star comparison. To tell the truth, we've been so thunderstruck... It's upset Prudence so much that she's gone into premature labor and is in the hospital right now. We're talking about someone [the astronomer] she's taken courses with, a confidante and advisor -- and you know, you don't get cheated by someone like that. We know for sure -- we've caught people in the act -- that our phone and fax are bugged. Someone is listening to our phones and found out who we were calling to get corroboration. And academics are pretty naive when it comes to magicians and infiltrators. We're pretty good at analysing data, but we have to assume there are no foul deeds in giving us the data. And he [the astronomer] is just like me, just an academic, you know? And he's gotten data from all over and given us some of it. Now I think they're going to make a big deal on the Art Bell show about whether I personally said that this guy took the photo or was given the photo. At that time, it was a little ambiguous with the guy himself. I might have misspoken that he took it, but the reality is, he was getting information from all different sources.
ML: So you don't know the original source of this photo, correct?
CB: He got a whole package of information from lots of sources, and I don't know the source of any of it, other than the fact that his credibility is absolutely stellar, sterling. He wouldn't be collecting bad information, nor getting it from bad sources. Some of the information he got from his own stuff -- what does that mean, his graduate students, his own observations, his lab? -- but a lot of it came from other sources. What I think happened is, somebody knew we were doing this. Two days ago we were reminded, believe it or not, by one of our contacts, "Get ready, you are in the middle of a disinformation campaign, a really big one." And then we woke up this morning and heard this. Our contacts are really accurate.
ML: So you just heard this this morning?
CB: Yes, Art Bell called me at about 10:30 this morning. So, this is why the UFO field is so messed up, because it's so easy to discredit stuff. Somebody is trying to discredit the remote viewing stuff. They slipped us, I think innocently through that astronomer -- I don't think he meant to do us harm -- and he just passed it to us as something interesting, and then he continued to look at it, probably found some incongruities, and that may be why he hasn't come out. But somebody wanted to discredit us, and they haven't been able to discredit us with regard to the remote viewing, so they'll try to discredit us with regard to a picture that has nothing to do with our remote viewing, but which had a huge stink made out of it in the media. We didn't use that picture for targeting, or for anything, except to say that it was given to us by an astronomer when we asked if he's heard anything about the Hale Bopp thing. Just because someone has created a fraudulent picture doesn't mean the actual thing doesn't exist. But this was done to discredit what we're doing, and it was done very cleverly, hooked in to a very impeccable source. Somebody who had the ability knew what they were doing in doing this. Somebody wants this shut up, and they're willing to do anything, including trying to destroy us. So there will be a big media splash, lots of negative stuff is going to be said about us. But we're not going to collapse. We're going to come through this thing, we know that for a fact, and we will get a lot of positive publicity in the near future. But right now it's a storm. You know it's very easy to get set up in this business. It's been happening from Roswell on. And we're vulnerable to this. We get remote viewing data and then we try to find out some feedback, and it's just natural that someone could feed us bad feedback. That does not invalidate the remote viewing data, but in the public's eyes, it means throw the whole thing out.
ML: Once again, is it correct that the image now posted on the internet which shows four large white objects grouped together is an image that came to you on undeveloped film?
CB: Yes it is, and we had that film developed.
ML: So there were other images on the film too, presumably, which you never did circulate?
CB: There were three rolls of film, and out of those three rolls there were about six really good photos.
ML: And do all of them show images like the one we've now seen?
CB: Yes, similar stuff.
ML: It would be interesting at this stage to know if the other images that you have not circulated could be correlated to other shots that, for example, may have come from the Hawaii observatory that this one seems to have come from.
CB: What's weird is, this was film...
ML: And the mystery astronomer is not returning your phone calls?
CB: Well, he might not be returning our phone calls because he's scared of getting sucked into this thing. He's got such a good reputation, I just can't believe it's what people are thinking. People are thinking either he's a fraud, or we're a fraud. I know we're not fraudulent. And he told us, "Please don't put these out to anyone." So initially, I thought it was a moral and ethical violation of trust for Art Bell and Whitley to have posted the photographs. When they were initially given the photos, they promised not to do it. But I can't reveal that astronomer's name. Either he's been snookered himself -- and he's got to deal with the pain of that, the pain it's causing us -- or he's snookering us, in which case, if I reveal his name, I'm dealing with a libel suit. The only thing he has to say is, "Me? I didn't do that." In which case, we're sued, and we're out of business. However, I can't judge which one is true, although I think he's been taken advantage of. But why he's not talking to us, taking our calls, I don't know. He's a personal friend of Prudence...
ML: So Prudence was the liaison on this?
CB: We're trying to get her out of this. She did not want to go on the Art Bell show to begin with, did not want to talk about the photos. Art Bell asked her to do it, I encouraged her, Whitley encouraged her -- so she finally did it. She is not going on Art Bell again. She's already gone into premature labor over this thing. We're not going to drag her into this any more. They would love to just bury her.
ML: I am already hearing the opinion that she is the culprit.
CB: I'm telling you point blank, that is not the case. Someone did this purposely to us. And they're going after the weakest link. The weakest link is Prudence. She's my employee. She does what I ask her to do.
ML: Did you do a background check on her?
CB: I know all about her.
ML: Did you know her before she came to Farsight?
CB: No, I met her in 1996. She's an outstanding web designer. I know her very well, and her husband. There's no doubt in my mind. I know her as well as most employers know any of their employees. That's not the issue. The issue is, where did this stuff come from.
ML: At what point would you feel it's appropriate to give the astronomer's identity?
CB: Never, because we could be sued. We can't reveal his identity -- nor could you. Something like this, where the person's career is going to be destroyed if his identity is made known by anyone but himself, cannot be done.
ML: At some point, if the man refuses to talk to you...
CB: Why does it matter? If it's a fake photograph, it's a fake photograph...
ML: No, it does matter, because people have to be held accountable, and if this gentleman doesn't want to be held accountable....
CB: He twice told us not to give it [the photo] out, and we made the mistake of giving it out. He has to be held accountable for that?
ML: So he said, "Don't give this to ANYBODY"?
CB: He said, "Don't give this to anybody except your very close inner people, just to look at. I don't want it anywhere outside. I want to look at it myself for awhile." And we gave it to Whitley and Art, and they said they wouldn't show it to anybody. Then it showed up on the web sites two months later, after they reinterpreted the original agreement, from "Don't show it to anybody" to "Wait a reasonable amount of time." There was no "reasonable amount of time" in the beginning. Art's perspective is, well, it's a damn good thing we put it up, because now we know it's a fraud. But there's a double-edged sword to that. You find out it's a fraud, OK. But what good is it? It was never claimed... by the only person who could have claimed its authenticity, it was never claimed to be authentic. He just gave it to us as something to look at, perhaps to help our targeting, and specifically said do not give it out. We made the mistake of giving it out.
ML: What is your next move?
CB: We were told this was going to happen, and we were told to ignore all the bad things that will be said about us.
ML: What kind of sources tell you this?
CB: I can't say. But they've not been wrong once... And then what's going to happen is, the ET's are going to do something. See, this Hale-Bopp thing, it's not us. They were the ones who came, not us. Besides, even if you throw away this picture, you can't throw away all the other pictures -- the Shramek picture, the Japanese observatory picture. This Hale-Bopp thing is here for a reason. And they're showing themselves for a reason. It's just a matter of time before something else happens. The remote viewing will be shown as correct. That much I'm sure of. The thing has nothing to do with Prudence. The whole issue is, is our remote viewing correct? And if this photograph is a fraud, then so what? It doesn't make the remote viewing incorrect. All we have to do is wait and see what that object does next. That's it. [end of transcript]
CNI News will continue to report on this developing story.
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