Some time ago I wrote a post titled Cornerstone UFO Cases. It was what I call a ‘filler piece’, or what other’s might call fluff. Not exactly breaking news or unique among the UFOlogy crowd. It basically recapped or summarised the seven most famous or most important cases in UFOlogical history; from Roswell, to Rendlesham, to Zeta Reticuli.
One of the cases I highlighted was the Belgian Wave Incident. That was a series of some 2000 UFO reports from Belgium in 1989-1990. It is considered by many to be the quintessential triangle UFO case, (mainly because it’s actually the first mass triangle UFO case). The Belgian Wave flap, as some call it, is characterised by a single photograph. That photograph is known as the Petit Rechain photo – so named for the Belgian town in which it was taken, allegedly.
The Petit Rechain photo was taken by an anonymous photographer known to the world only as “Patrick”. It became a worldwide sensation just four months following the height of the Belgian Wave incident, and according to original assessments it shows, in unprecedented clarity, a large craft, triangle in shape, illuminated at its three corners by some type of light source, with a fourth light at its center. The photo is distorted, and seems to show movement blur that at first blush seems consistent with the aerial characteristics of an aircraft. As a result of all this apparent clarity and detail, the photo has been the subject of a great deal of speculation and study over the 24 years since it first came to light, and it is often labelled the best photographic evidence for UFO’s in history.
The Petit Rechain photo has been subjected to photographic analysis, spectral analysis, and an in-depth study of its movement characteristics, and as a result, it has been held out as, not only 100% genuine and real, but it’s been claimed that it shows evidence of high powered electromagnetic energy surrounding the craft.
When it was released in 1990, the photo was analysed by a team at the French National Space Research Center (CNES) and later, former NASA scientist Dr. Richard Haines, and then by physicist Dr. Andre Marion. All of whom agreed that the photo was not only genuine, but that it showed a real craft of unknown origin and with unique characteristics.
Seems like a ringing endorsement, doesn’t it? Well, there are some problems, not the least of which is the fact that the photo is an admitted hoax.
Several months after I posted the Cornerstone UFO Cases piece, I received a comment on the article informing me that the Petit Rechain photo is a hoax; something of which I was unaware. That comment provided a link to an article expounding on this hoax, and which in turn linked to a French language news article from RTL.be (a Belgian online news paper). This article makes an astounding claim; a claim that’s made its way into the Belgian Wave incident as fact – it’s even now referenced in the Wikipedia page for the incident.
The article states that “Patrick” has, after 21 years of complete anonymity, come forward to admit that he hoaxed the photo and the entire sighting (just his, not all 2000, obviously). RTL.be’s article suggests, very matter-of-fact-ly, that “Partick”, at the time of the Belgian Wave Incident, was a pipe fitter at a small shop in Petit Rechain, Belgium. He claims that he and two friends were amused by the furor over the recent UFO hoopla and they decided to prank their coworkers by creating a small UFO out of polystyrene and several unnamed objects, and then taking a picture of it when suspended from the ceiling.
“Patrick” claims that he didn’t intend to fool the entire planet, and that he expected someone to figure out the hoax soon after it broke in the world press, but no one ever did.
That isn’t entirely true though. Skeptics have been attacking the Petit Rechain photo since day one, and more than one person has suggested exactly what RTL.be claims is the truth of the matter. The only thing lacking in the matter was the proverbial smoking gun, which it seems we now have in hand.
It seems that way, but that’s not really the case.
Critical thinking is a two way street. Not only should we be skeptical of wild claims and extraordinary evidence, treating nothing as the truth until it can be confirmed and verified, but we also need to be skeptical of claims made by those who say they’ve solved the mystery! Sometimes common sense is enough, but other times, these situations require a close look at details and scientific interpretation. When that is the case, the solutions also require a close look at the details and scientific interpretation.
Here’s the problem.
RTL.be offers no detail whatsoever. Not only is the author of the article not listed, neither is the researcher involved (though presumably they are one and the same). They also provide zero evidence to corroborate the claims they make in the article. “Patrick”, since day one, has been identified by that single anonymous monker. No other information about who he is, where he comes from, what he did/does, or how he captured the photograph in question exists. He is as much a mystery as the photograph. Yet we’re now asked to believe that the intrepid reporter from RTL.be not only found him, but cracked the case by interviewing this man, reviewing the evidence he has in hand, and printing the results. But…no they didn’t.
“Patrick” is still anonymous. We still have no idea who he is. We still have no idea how he made the photo, aside from his seemingly flippant admission of hoax. And as for that admission, without any of the information I just listed, how can anyone who claims to employ logic and reason believe that this man being referred to in this article is in fact, “Patrick”? Someone please explain to me how we can accept the unsupported assertions of yet another voice in this debate from an article that consists of no more than five paragraphs of writing. How are we supposed to know that the “Patrick” mentioned even exists, and isn’t just this reporter trying to fool everyone himself? Nothing is offered in that article that can be considered solid information. If this situation were reversed, wherein the claim that the photo is genuine were to come in the form of the RTL.be article, the skeptical community would be falling out of their chairs in laughter at the idea that they should take it seriously. So why are we supposed to accept the claim of hoax with so little credibility?
I have doubts about the validity of the Petit Rechain photo, but when I consider the intellectual weight of those who have performed in-depth analysis of it, I can’t help but think that the issue is a slight bit more complicated than the capital ‘S’ Skeptics would have us believe. However, the doubts I have about its validity are massively outweighed by my doubts about this claim of hoax. Yet, as is evidenced by the comment made on my previous article, and by the inclusion of this information in the Wikipedia page on this issue, it seems very few people have really given the issue any thought or attention.
Is the Petit Rechain photo hoax a hoax itself? I think the odds are far better for that possibility than they are for the idea that “Patrick” has come forward after all these years to reveal that we’ve all been duped. Call me skeptic, I dare you.