Here is some background information on the Rex Heflin photo
case, which was investigated from August 1965 on by the Los
Angeles NICAP Subcommittee (LANS). NICAP was fortunate to have
many meticulous investigators (including Ray Fowler, Walt Webb,
and Fran Ridge) who intensively researched cases of this
The leader of LANS was an unheralded woman, Idabel Epperson, who
was a superb and articulate leader, organizer, recruiter of
high-level scientific and analytical talent, and a shrewd judge
of character. She was thorough, discreet, diplomatic, and as
skilled an investigator as there was.
Over the years she and I stayed in touch, and I have just gone
through a thick file of correspondence with her. What it shows
is that even 10-12 years after 1965, through the demise of NICAP
and the rise of the Mutual UFO Network (we both later became
active in MUFON), the LANS personnel remained in touch with Rex
Heflin and continued to gather pertinent information about the
The record also shows that the first hypothesis to be fully
investigated was the possibility of a suspended model. Further,
there have been previous "re-investigations" of the case
(notably in 1977) ordinarily consisting of someone deciding that
the photos were faked, but offering no real evidence of that and
betraying ignorance of the thorough NICAP investigation which,
to us, removed all doubt about the authenticity of the photos
and the integrity of Rex Heflin.
For the benefit of those currently re-examining the case and
attempting new analysis of the photographs, here are some
excerpts from my Epperson file:
August 1967; LANS report and taped interview transcript of
witnesses to a disc with dome seen in Santa Ana, California,
during the first week of August in 1965 (the exact date could
not be pinned down). While driving along the Santa Ana freeway a
family saw a disc with dome hovering just above electric power
lines. It was night and the object was glowing brightly. It
appeared to be about 40 feet in diameter. As they slowed to a
crawl to observe the object, it moved back and forth above the
power lines for a distance of about 60 feet in the vicinity of
the Broadway Street overpass. Other motorists also were stopped
and looking at the object.
C.E. (Bud) Miller to Idabel Epperson, Nov. 10, 1973; annotated
copy to Richard Hall. Miller reports that his sister hired a
surveyor by the name of Mike Boehm to map out some parcels on
her property. When the subject of UFOs came up in his presence,
Boehm said that "he and his crew of surveyors who were working
on the Santa Ana Freeway that day saw this disc out in a field
and were watching it when it suddenly took off." Regrettably,
Boehm was killed in an automobile accident soon after this
Idabel Epperson annotation on copy to Richard Hall: "Rex told us
in the beginning that there had been a surveyor crew working
near the Santa Ana Freeway - and that he wondered why they had
not seen the UFO - and reported it. He was right - they were
working near the Freeway - not on it. We did not locate them at
the time, but we are going to try very hard (at this late date)
to locate some of them."
In 1976 William Spaulding of Ground Saucer Watch issued a report
based on computer enhancement analysis techniques charging that
the Heflin photographs were fakes, alleging that a line was
discovered about the object. Supposedly the analysis was based
on four different sets of the photographs, but the origins and
generations of the photographs were never determined. This
generated a new round of controversy.
Various LANS and NICAP personnel responded to queries about this
charge. In a letter to David A. Schroth dated July 29, 1976,
John R. Gray (engineer) stated: "It would seem that Mr.
Spaulding has become victim of the same pitfalls encountered by
previous skeptics of this particular sighting - namely,
unfamiliarity (or gross disregard?) with the intrinsic
peculiarities of the images in the photos. =85As one of the
original NICAP field investigators involved in researching this
case, I have only the highest regards for Mr. Heflin. Having the
privilege of becoming acquainted with him in the ensuing years,
I cannot conceive his character as ever permitting the
perpetuation of a hoax."
Idabel Epperson to David A. Schroth, Aug. 10, 1976, reporting on
the analysis by Dr. Robert Nathan at Jet Propulsion Laboratory,
whom she protectively identifies only as Dr. A. "At first he was
extremely reluctant to become involved - he said the pictures
looked like a :straw hat." =85[After discussing the case with him
over a period of several months] finally he agreed to examine
the photographs=85.With the type of equipment that he had to work
with it was only natural that he should discover much detail
that had not been visible to the others.
"He phoned me one day and seemed excited and exclaimed, `This
object is unearthly!' I asked why, and he answered ~There is a
shimmering surrounding it.' Another time when he phoned me he
told me the object had a dome and that the black band around it
was `particulate matter'; in other words, smoke or smog and
particles. I wasn't too surprised when he announced to me a few
days later that he was going to conduct his own investigation of
the Heflin case. I was delighted. Of course he was going over
ground that we had covered but that was all to the good. I had
given him all of John Gray's calculations.
"Dr. A. telephoned Rex and talked with him and called Rex's
supervisor and talked with him to the Chief of Police in
Newport Beach, who had known Rex for many years. Dr. A. told me
that the Chief of Police said, `Rex Heflin is the last man on
this earth who would perpetrate a hoax.' By this time Dr. A was
completely convinced, by scientific examination of the UFO
photos that they were real and not a hoax and that Rex Heflin
was an honest man=85."
At this point Nathan decided to tell Brian O'Brien, a prominent
Air Force advisory board scientist, his convictions about the
Heflin case. Afterwards he told Epperson that he was "shocked
and angry" when "O'Brien was not receptive and extremely
sarcastic." Colorado Project (Condon Committee) personnel began
to take Nathan along on UFO investigations in the area, and
gradually Epperson noticed that his attitude toward UFOs was
changing, and he appeared to lose interest. "He can't be blamed
for putting his career first," she concluded.
Epperson then quotes a number of statements supportive of Heflin
and the photographs made by Capt. Charles F. Reichmuth,
investigating office for the Air Force Systems Command in a
lengthy report based on a 3-1/2 hour interview with Heflin and
on-site investigation. Heflin had reported seeing a rotating
band of light on the underside of the object. Reichmuth (p. 138)
"In photo Nr. 2 there is a faint indication of such a line
running from the center outward at a relative bearing of about
280 degrees. Officials in the G-2 office at El Toro [Marine Air
Station] stated that the line was clearly visible in the
original photo." Reichmuth also quotes positive character
statements about Heflin obtained from his co-workers and based
on his own interview, concluding, "It appeared that he was a
normal, upright and tolerant citizen. From all appearances he is
not attempting to perpetrate a hoax."
Later in her lengthy and cordial letter to Schroth, Epperson
says: "Mr. Schroth, this is a small part of the story=85.one which
we lived with for a long time - and apparently it isn't over
yet. But we can't let something that is so patently false go
unchallenged. This latest attack upon Heflin (eleven years
late), with no attempt to check with the original investigators
seems very curious."
Idabel Epperson to Richard Hall, May 24, 1977, re: the Spaulding
hoax charge and the renewed controversy:
"Well, I could not stand by and watch is [Heflin's] name dragged
through the mud by an individual that doesn't know what he is
talking about at all, and whose motives are certainly
questionable. Dick, I'm not one of those investigators who
become subjective after getting acquainted with the witness.
Even though I felt from the beginning that Heflin was honest,
for several years afterwards I listened carefully to everything
he said for any slip of the tongue that might give something
away - but there was never even the slightest thing.
Incidentally, he is still with the Orange County Road Dept. and
has promotions and has a very important job now."
Idabel Epperson to Richard Hall, Aug. 17, 1977:
(Pop-schlock newsstand UFO magazines with almost non-existent
editorial standards sprung up like mushrooms in the 1970s. One
of them, Argosy, published a 1977 annual including an article by
Hayden Hewes and William Spaulding. ) "As you can guess,"
Epperson said, "Rex Heflin takes a beating. This sentence is
interesting (and infuriating);
`This case became a cause celebre in ufological circles due to
some visits Heflin claimed to have received from alleged Air
Force personnel, and their confiscation of the original prints.'
"The prints were NOT confiscated - and there were no threats of
confiscation - and at no time did Heflin ever say or hint of
such a thing. Heflin gave them free and unhesitatingly when men
appeared with identifications of one of the military branches.
He was bitterly criticized for doing just that and no one knew
why he did it.
"Later when Rex became more acquainted with us he confided in me
and told me the reason for this.=85 Since he did not believe in
flying saucers and felt so certain that he had taken pictures of
one of our own government's experimental craft - and then
suffered pangs of guilt for having taken the pictures and felt
that he had no right to have them - he gave them to members of
the military readily because as he told me in confidence, `I
felt that they had more right to them than I did.'
"Rex explained to me that the government owned all that land
where the El Toro Marine Base was and in fact also included the
land where the UFO appeared. Each side of Myford Road was lined
with tall grass, highly inflammable, and Orange County Road
Dept. had notified the Marine Base several times to clean it up.
Everyone else in the area had cleaned up their dry grass - but
not the government. And it was a hazard.
"Rex was driving slowly down Myford Road feeling quite resentful
and thinking to himself that they thought they were above the
law and refused to obey it even though it was a very bad hazard.
It was in this mood of pique when he saw the object that he
thought belonged to the Marine Base, and in a `split second' he
reacted with the thought that he was `getting back at them' by
taking pictures of their experimental craft. By nature Rex is a
very conscientious person, and also patriotic too. So it was
quite natural that he had second thoughts when he had `cooled
off' and decided that he had done the wrong thing."
In a P.S. to her Aug. 17, 1977 letter, Epperson added: "In the
first part of our investigation of the Heflin case it took us
several weeks to finally convince Rex that UFOs really did
exist. I don't know if you remember or not that during the first
weeks of our investigation that Ed Evers was visiting Rex almost
every night or at least phoning him.
"He lived quite close so it was easy for him to run over and see
Rex for a while. Then Ed phoned me every day to report=85. If you
remember, Dick, at that time I was writing you short notes about
every week to keep you posted of everything that was happening.
That seems like such a long time ago!"
In late summer of 1977 both Jerry Clark and Bruce Maccabee wrote
to Robert J. Kirkpatrick of the Santa Ana Register, who had
covered the story for his newspaper and had cooperated fully
with the NICAP investigators. Both letters were stimulated by
the Spaulding allegations. Phil Klass also got into the act,
offering to pay for a polygraph examination of Heflin. (Letters
and replies on file, from which the following excerpts are
Kirkpatrick to Jerry Clark, Aug. 20, 1977: "As one of several
people in this area intimately familiar with the details of
Heflin's sighting and photos, it distresses me to see this
Johnny-come-lately Spaulding's dictum that the Heflin photos are
a `hoax' go unchallenged.
"I had the good fortune to be working on the news desk at The
Register in Santa Ana when our chief photographer Clay Hiller
printed the blow-ups of the Heflin photos and we broke the news
story of his sighting and the Polaroid pictures he snapped.
During the ensuing `flap' - involving a heated dispute with the
U.S. Air Force - I became more and more interested in the
subsequent developments in the Heflin case and kept thorough
documentation of what occurred.
"Having talked with Heflin myself and having studied the
authoritative testimonials supporting his character and the
legitimacy of his photos, I am compelled to rush to his defense
. I'm submitting here some cogent facts - all documented -
which I feel support the genuineness of the Heflin case.The
Heflin photos were studied by Marine officials at El Toro Marine
Corps Air Station. No suggestion of hoax was made. In fact,
their findings substantiated some of Heflin's sighting
Kirkpatrick to Bruce Maccabee, Sept. 5, 1977: "To be quite blunt
about this belated controversy regarding the legitimacy of the
Heflin UFO photos, I find it most annoying - 12 years after the
photos first appeared - to find detractors, whose professional
credentials and expertise I know nothing about, drawing
conclusions (and publishing them) in such an irresponsible
manner - and using copy photos of undetermined generation."
Following the new accusations and controversy in 1977, Epperson
reported to me in an Oct. 10. 1977 letter that she had re-
established cordial relations with Robert Nathan at JPL, who was
extremely dubious of Spaulding's claims. He decided (in
September of 1977) to conduct a new, complete computer
enhancement study of the Heflin photos using the very latest
equipment. The results again found no evidence of a hoax, and
Nathan said: "The film was clear; there was no scratch
Robert Kirkpatrick to Phil Klass, Oct. 14, 1977, acknowledging
the proposed polygraph test offer: "There is only one difficulty
confronting us: Rex recently [several months previously]
sustained a serious back injury while mountain climbing [in
Colorado where he fell 60 feet down a mountainside], is
suffering excruciating pain and is about to be hospitalized.
However, he has indicated that he is willing to go along with
your proposal after he is discharged from the hospital.
"I wish to point out that Heflin volunteered to take a poly
graph test back in 1965, but arrangements for the test were
dropped when a polygraph expert [a professor at University of
Southern California] insisted that the results of such a test
would be inconclusive. You must recognize that we are dealing
with a very embittered man. While cooperating to the fullest
with military authorities and the various news media back in
1965, he was subjected to intensive interrogation, was
repeatedly maligned, ridiculed and often horribly misquoted.
"Heflin has not made a Roosevelt dime through his famous photos,
yet both his detractors and defenders have used copy prints of
his pictures, and profited thereby, in publishing a plethora of
newspaper and magazine articles as well as books on the subject
of UFOs. It should be understandable that Heflin is embittered
to see, at this late date, [new people] enter the scene to make
irresponsible claims and attack him libelously, while he has no
public forum through which to defend himself.
"But in view of your own stature as a nationally known UFO
skeptic, Heflin is favorably inclined toward a polygraph