PSICAN - Paranormal Studies and Inquiry Canada

UFO Sightings, Visitations, and Related Experiences

Written by Chris Rutkowski

Article Index



The TST (Tectonic Strain Theory) is a theory with minimal supportive evidence, but with wide appeal for individuals wishing to explain a persistent phenomenon in terms of known mechanisms. While elements of the TST appear to include documented geophysical phenomena, the main thrust of the theory hinges on its unproved relationship with a controversial phenomena, namely UFOs. For a theory of its kind, the TST has received a large amount of publicity and a generally uncontested entrance into published scientific literature. This situation has resulted in an apparent acceptance of the theory's "principles" without proper scientific comment. Although statistics on UFO reports have been kept for nearly forty years (and much earlier, if we include pre-1947 reports), the data are without many redeeming features. Data sources such as UFOCAT and MANUFOCAT contain many reports with poor investigation or insufficient information due to the methods used in obtaining the data.

For example, many entries in UFOCAT are from published articles or newspaper clippings, and not necessarily from an investigator's re- port. Many reports are therefore anecdotal rather than factual (Rutkowski, 1983).

Even in the case of entries copied from investigators' files, the problem of consistency remains. The quality of investigative effort is expected to vary, since essentially anyone could call his- or herself an "investigator", regardless of qualifications, and submit reports for entering into the file.

Although this is not as true today, with efforts for standardization in preparation, the lack of training could easily account for judgement errors in early case files. Admittedly, this was not always so; the files contain many greatly-detailed reports from good investigators (including law enforcement officials) (Hendry, 1979). They may, in fact, have been good reason for lower-standard investigations. Most UFO investigators and researchers are not funded for their efforts, so lack of travelling expenses might preclude many investigations. Some might lack the experience to identify high-flying aircraft and their descriptions. Others might include their own personal bias in their report (e.g. by asking a witness: "How big was the craft?" rather than "What was the angular size of the object?").

Still others might just make a judgement error. All of these problems with UFO data are found in all UFO report listings. It is details such as these which have led one UFO researcher to comment that UFOCAT is not useable for statistical studies of UFO data because of inherent flaws in its design (Hendry, 1979). Yet, the TST uses several UFO data sources for statistical correlative studies, with very vaguely-defined parameters. There is no question that some of the geophysical processes invoked in the TST are sound. Rock undergoing strain can indeed give off EM radiation that can be detected by sensors near the event. Whether this EM emission is scale invariant is an entirely different matter.{8}

There is also no question that earthquake lights exist, and that their mechanism is not fully understood. The TST suggests that UFOs are essentially the same phenomenon, and it has been proposed (in a questionable manner) that the statistical correlation between UFOs and earthquakes is supportive of the theory (Persinger, 1983a, 1983b, 1983c, 1983d). But the existence of UFOs in aseismic areas seems to contradict this correlation. To suggest that the seismic activity exists in these areas with magnitudes less than 2 (or even 1) on the Richter scale is perhaps grasping for straws. Certainly, activity in the range of magnitude 1 can occur frequently in many areas, so that the observation of UFOs should be at a constant value. While it is true that UFO re- ports have a "background" level, this is more the case of reporting rather than the reports themselves as the main contributors. {8} Brady (1973, 1974), has given evidence to show that strain itself may be scale invariant. Whether this might include EM emissions is not clear. - 48 - Also, there are different characteristics of earthquake lights and UFOs that need to be considered. Earthquake lights are reported as generally stationary hemispheres of white light, in contact with the ground. They are 20 to 200 metres in diameter, and follow an earthquake, with a duration of 10 to 100 seconds. They do not occur at an epicenter, but in areas around it at varying radii (10 to 50 km), and frequently on mountaintops (Derr, 1973, 1977; Hedervari, 1982).

UFOs, by definition, are seen in the air, and are observed in areas where no earthquake is felt. They are most often described as spherical, with the next most frequent shapes reported being point sources, discs and cigars. There are two main distributions of sizes: 4 metres. Red, white and orange, in that order, are the most frequently- reported colors of UFOs. The duration of a UFO sighting ranges between a few seconds up to an hour or more (Hendry, 1979; Rutkowski, 1983).

A comparison of the characteristics of the two phenomena shows they do differ significantly and that any attempt to reconcile these differences needs to properly address the dissimilar features. In an early study where a form of the TST was first described, not only were geophysical events correlated with UFOs, but also unusual objects falling from the sky, EM effects, unusual human talents, telekinetic events and ghost sightings. In the early study, it was said that: "Transient and unusual phenomena should occur in areas where tectonic stress is accumulating. Episodes may not necessarily involve areas of well-known seismicity, since these areas may only reflect structural weakness along the stress axis." (Persinger and Lafre- niere, 1977)

It was implied that most unusual phenomena were related to geophysical processes. Interestingly, Devereux (1982), himself a proponent of a form of the TST, asks of Persinger's research: "Why attempt to explain other, possibly more complex and perhaps unrelated mechanisms under the same conceptual umbrella?...This approach to the UFO problem cannot sensibly be conducted over the entire USA in any case - the area is so vast that untenable numbers of UFO events would have to be involved. And how would one cope with the detailed geological data of such a continental area, even if it is available?" (Devereux, 1982) (emphasis in original) He concludes: "...despite all the scientific trappings [the] work displays, the conclusions drawn owe as much to intuition as to the computer..."

This represents perhaps the most succinct published criticism of the TST on record. One of the few other criticisms of the TST, this time directed at Devereux et al. (1983), was by Campbell (1983). He pointed out that "since Britain is criss-crossed with geo- logical faults, it is not surprising that 'many reports of UFO sightings come from areas close' to them."

He cautioned that Devereux "should be as concerned with the UFO data as [he is] with geology," since Persinger's data base was flawed, and that "the geological jargon conceals a poverty of hypotheses." Devereux quickly countered by saying that surface faulting does not cover Britain as Campbell implies, and that he did not think that the UFO/fault relationship was coincidence. He also came to Persinger's defense by calling his work "meticulous", and saying that: "If [UFOs are] all hoaxes or hallucinations, then we had better start wondering why figments of the imagination correlate with faulting."(Devereux, 1983) Of course, the problem is not that UFOs are hoaxes or hallucinations (few are), but that the majority are misidentifications. In the end, the major problem is that of the data itself. We know that seismic activity exists, and that earthquake - 51 - lights exist, and that UFO reports exist. But the data for these phenomena is taken from a variety of sources and covers a variety of disciplines.

The handling of data has always been a problem, and several statisticians have cautioned against its misinterpretation. "When...probabilistic considerations seem to be called for, we now feel more hesitant about postulating simple parametric distributions. We are not now so sure that there is a likelihood function, or a set of sufficient statistics, or an exact test of significance...Thus we view data with greater respect, with greater curiosity about what is there; and we have less confidence that we know just what questions should be answered and in what way." (Anscombe,1982)

While the TST is very appealing in its description of UFO phenomena in terms of "terrestrial", rather than "extraterrestrial" mechanisms, it provides little in the way of supportive evidence that its mechanism actually exists. As a hypothesis, it cannot be discounted; only the evidence in its support can be evaluated as either favorable or not favorable. But using one poorly-understood phenomenon to ex- plain another using an unknown mechanism is perhaps too much to expect at this point (Rutkowski, 1984).{9} __________ {9}

The text of this paper is given in the Appendix.

It is possible that the TST may explain some aspects of the UFO phenomenon, but the theory needs a great deal of refining and rethinking before it can be applied in general to the phenomena it incorporates.




Anscombe, F.J. (1982) "How Much to Look at the Data"

Utilitas Mathematica, 21A, 23-28.


Barry, J. Dale. (1968) "Laboratory Ball Lightning". Journal

of Atmospheric and Terrestrial Physics, 30, 313-317.


Barsukov, O.M. (1979) "A Possible Cause of the Electrical

Precursors of Earthquakes". Izvestiya, Academy of

Sciences of the USSR, Earth Physics, 15(8), 588-591.


Bath, M. (1973) Introduction to Seismology. John Wiley &

Sons, Toronto.


Beal, J.B. (1974) "How Fields Affect Us". Fields Within

Fields Within Fields..., 14, 46-57.


Becker, R.O. (1969) "The Effect of Magnetic Fields Upon the

Central Nervous System". In: Biological Effects of

Magnetic Fields, V.2, M.F. Barnothy, ed., Plenum Press,

NY, 207-214.


Bishop, J.R. (1981) "Piezoelectric Effects in Quartz-Rich

Rocks". Tectonophysics, 77, 297-321.


Brady, B.T. (1974) "Theory of Earthquakes". Pure and

Applied Geophysics, 112, 701-725.


Brady, B.T., Duvall, W.I. and Horino, F.G. (1973) "An

Experimental Determination of the True Uniaxial Stress-

Strain Behavior of Brittle Rock". Rock Mechanics, 5,



Brady, B.T., Rowell, G.A. and Yoder, L.P. (unpub) "Physical

Precursors of Rock Failure: A Laboratory Investigation".

(unpublished manuscript)


Brown, L. and Reilinger, R. (1983) "Crustal Movement".

Reviews of Geophysics and Space Physics, 21(3), 553-559.


Bullen, R.E. (1953) "On Strain Energy and Strength in the

Earth's Upper Mantle". Transactions of the American

Geophysical Union, 34(1), 107-109.


Bullen, K.E. (1955) "On the Size of the Strained Region

Prior to an Extreme Earthquake". Bulletin of the

Seismological Society of America, 45, 43-46.


Bullen, K.E. (1963) Introduction to the Theory of

Seismology. Cambridge University Press, NY.


Buskirk, R.E., Frohlich, C. and Latham, G.V. (1981) "Unusual

Animal Behavior Before Earthquakes: a Review of Possible

Sensory Mechanisms". Reviews of Geophysics and Space

Physics, 19(2), 247-270.


Cahill, D.F. (1983) "A Suggested Limit for Population

Exposure to Radiofrequency Radiation". Health Physics,

45(1), 109-126.


Campbell, S. (1983) "UFO Data". New Scientist, (15

December), 799.


Charman, W.N. (1979) "Ball Lightning". Physics Reports,

54(4), 261-306.


Davies, J.F., Bannatyne, B.B., Barry, G.S. and McCabe, H.R.

(1962) Geology and Mineral Resources of Manitoba.

Manitoba Department of Mines and Natural Resources, Mines

Branch, Winnipeg.


Demin, V.M., Sobolev, G.A., Los', V.F. and Maybuk, Yu.Ya.

(1981) "Nature of Mechanoelectric Radiation From Ore

Bodies". Doklady, Academy of Sciences of the USSR, Earth

Science Section, 260, 9-11.


Derr, J.S. (1973) "Earthquake Lights: a Review of

Observations and Present Theories". Bulletin of the

Seismological Society of America, 63(6), 2177-2187.


Derr, J.S. (1977) "Earthquake Lights". Earthquake

Information Bulletin, 9(3), 18-21.


Devereux, P. (1982) Earth Lights. Turnstone Press,

Wellingborough, England.


Devereux, P. and Forrest, R. (1982) "Straight Lines on an

Ancient Landscape". New Scientist, (23/30 December),



Devereux, P., McCartney, P. and Robins, D. (1983) "Bringing

UFOs Down to Earth". New Scientist, (1 September),



Devereux, P. (1983) "UFOs and Faults". New Scientist, (20

October), 217.


Finkelstein, D. and Powell, J. (1970) "Earthquake

Lightning". Nature, 228, 759-760.


Finkelstein, D., Hill, R.D. and Powell, J.R. (1973) "The

Piezoelectric Theory of Earthquake Lightning". Journal

of Geophysical Research, 78(6), 992-993.


Gendzwill, D.J., Horner, R.B. and Hasegawa, H.S. (1982)

"Induced Earthquakes at a Potash Mine Near Saskatoon,

Canada". Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 19(3),



Gokhberg, M.B., Gufel'd, I.L., Dobrovol'skiy, I.P. and

Nersesov, I.L. (1983) "Preparation Processes, Indicators

and Precursors of Crustal Earthquakes". Izvestiya,

Academy of Sciences of the USSR, Earth Physics (2),



Gohkberg, M.B., Morgunov, V.A. and Aronov, Ye.L. (1980)

"Radiofrequency Radiation During Earthquakes". Doklady,

Academy of Sciences of the USSR, Earth Science Section,

248, 32-35.


Gohkberg, M.B., Morgounov, V.A., Yoshino, T. and Tomizawa,

I. (1982) "Experimental Measurement of Electromagnetic

Emissions Possibly Related to Earthquakes in Japan".

Journal of Geophysical Research, 87(B9), 7824-7828.


Gol'd, R.M., Markov, G.P., Mogila, P.G. and Samokhvalov,

M.A. (1975) "Pulsed Electromagnetic Radiation of Minerals

and Rocks Subjected to Mechanical Loading". Izvestiya,

Academy of Sciences of the USSR, Physics of the Solid

Earth, 11, 468-469.


Haines, R.F. (1980) Observing UFOs. Nelson-Hall, Chicago.


Hedervari, P. (1982) "Luminous Phenomena and Other

Particular Events Before, During and After Earthquakes in

the Carpathian Basin". EOS, 63(51), 1258.


Hendry, A. (1979) The UFO Handbook. Doubleday & Co., Garden

City, NY.


Horner, R.B., and Hasegawa, H.S. (1978) "The Seismotectonics

of Southern Saskatchewan". Canadian Journal of Earth

Sciences, 15, 1341-1355.


Jacobs, D.M. (1976) The UFO Controversy in America. Signet,



Kasahara, K. (1981) Earthquake Mechanics. Cambridge

University Press, NY.


King, Chi-Yu (1983) "Electromagnetic Emissions Before

Earthquakes". Nature, 301, 377.


Klass, P.J. (1966) "Plasma Theory May Explain Many UFOs".

Aviation Week and Space Technology, 85, 45-61.


Kuksenko, V.S., Kil'keyev, R.Sh. and Miroshnichenko, M.I.

(1981) "Interpretation of Electrical Precursors of

Earthquakes". Doklady, Academy of Sciences of the USSR,

Earth Sciences Sections, 260, 19-20.


Lockner, D.A., Johnston, M.J.S. and Byerlee, J.D. (1983) "A

Mechanism to Explain the Generation of Earthquake

Lights". Nature, 302, 28-33.


Manitoba Mineral Resources Division (1979) Geologic Map of

Manitoba, Map 79-2.


Mizutani, H., Ishido, T., Yokokura, T. and Ohnishi, S.

(1976) "Electrokinetic Phenomena Associated With

Earthquakes". Geophysical Research Letters, 3(7),



Nitzan, U. (1977) "Electromagnetic Emission Following

Fracture of Quartz-Bearing Rocks". Geophysical Research

Letters, 4(8), 333-336.


Perel'man, M.E. and Khatiashvili, N.G. (1981) "Radio

Emission Accompanying Brittle Fracture of Dielectrics".

Doklady, Academy of Sciences of the USSR, Earth Sciences

Sections, 256, 13-15.


Persinger, M.A. (1973) "Possible Cardiac Driving by an

External Rotating Magnetic Field". International Journal

of Biometeorology, 17(3), 263-266.


Persinger, M.A. (1975) "Geophysical Models for

Parapsychological Experiences". Pschoenergetic Systems,

1, 63-74.


Persinger, M.A. (1976) "Transient Geophysical Bases for

Ostensible UFO-Related Phenomena and Associated Verbal

Behavior". Perceptual and Motor Skills, 43, 215-221.


Persinger, M.A. (1979a) "Limitations of Human Verbal

Behavior in the Context of UFO-Related Stimuli". In: UFO

Phenomena and the Behavioral Scientist, R.F. Haines, ed.,

Scarecrow Press, Metuchen, N.J., 164-187.


Persinger, M.A. (1979b) "Possible Infrequent Geophysical

Sources of Close UFO Encounters: Expected Physical and

Behavioral-Biological Effects". In: UFO Phenomena and

the Behavioral Scientist, R.F. Haines, ed., Scarecrow

Press, Metuchen, N.J., 396-433.


Persinger, M.A. (1980a) "Earthquake Activity and Antecedent

UFO Report Numbers". Perceptual and Motor Skills, 50,


Persinger, M.A. (1980b) "New Explanation for Some UFO

Sightings". In: Quirks and Quarks (transcript), Canadian

Broadcasting Corporation, Nov. 8, 1980.


Persinger, M.A. (1981) "Geophysical Variables and Behavior:

III. Prediction of UFO Reports by Geomagnetic abd Seismic

Activity". Perceptual and Motor Skills, 53, 115-122.


Persinger, M.A. (1982) "Geophysical Variables and Behavior:

IV. UFO Reports and Fortean Phenomena: Temporal

Correlations in the Central USA". Perceptual and Motor

Skills, 54, 299-302.


Persinger, M.A. (1983a) "Geophysical Variables and Behavior:

VII. Prediction of Recent European UFO Reports by

Nineteenth-Century Luminosity and Solar-Seismic

Measures". Perceptual and Motor Skills, 56, 91-95.


Persinger, M.A. (1983b) "Geophysical Variables and Human

Behavior: VIII. Specific Prediction of UFO Reports Within

the New Madrid States by Solar-Geomagnetic and Seismic

Measures". Perceptual and Motor Skills, 56, 243-249.


Persinger, M.A. (1983c) "Geophysical Variables and Behavior:

IX. Expected Clinical Consequences of Close Proximity to

UFO-Related Luminosities". Perceptual and Motor Skills,

56, 259-265.


Persinger, M.A. (1983d) "Geophysical Variables and Human

Behavior: XV. Tectonic Strain Luminosities (UFO Reports)

As Predictable But Hidden Events Within Pre-1947 Central

U.S.A.". Perceptual and Motor Skills. 57. 1227-1234.


Persinger. M.A. (1983e) "Religious and Mystical Experiences

As Artifacts of Temporal Lobe Function: A General

Hypothesis". Perceptual and Motor Skills, 57, 1255-1262.


Persinger, M.A. (unpubl) "Tectonogenic Luminosities:

Geomagnetic Variables as Possible Enhancer Conditions for

UFO Reports Preceding Earthtremors Within the New Madrid

States". (unpublished manuscript)


Persinger, M.A. (unpub2) "The Tectonic Strain Theory of

Luminosities (UFO Reports): Determining Optimal Temporal,

Spatial and Intensity Parameters". (unpublished



Persinger, M.A. and Lafreniere, G.F. (1977) Space-Time

Transients and Unusual Events. Nelson-Hall, Chicago.


Reagor, B.G., Stover, C.W. and Algermissen, St.T. (1981)

Seismicity Map of the State of North Dakota. U.S.

Geological Survey, Miscellaneous Field Studies, Map



Richter, C.F. (1958) Elementary Seismology. W.H. Freeman &

Co., San Francisco.


Rikitake, T. (1975) "Dilatancy Model and Empirical Formulas

for an Earthquake Area". Pure and Applied Geophysics,

113, 141-147.


Rikitake, T. (1976) Earthquake Prediction. Elsevier, N.Y.


Robins, D. (1982) "The Dragon Project and the Talking

Stones". New Scientist, (21 October), 166-170.


Rocard, Y. (1964) "Actions of a Very Weak Magnetic Gradient:

The Reflex of the Dowser". In: Biological Effects of

Magnetic Fields, V.1, Barnothy , M.F., ed., Plenum Press,

NY, 279-286.


Rutkowski, C. (1983) The UFOROM Datafile: MANUFOCAT.

Ufology Research of Manitoba, Winnipeg.


Rutkowski, C. (1984) "Geophysical Variables and Human

Behavior: Some Criticisms". Perceptual and Motor Skills,

in press.


Sadovskiy, M.A., Sobolev, G.A. and Migunov, N.I. (1979)

"Variations of the Natural Radiowave Emission of the

Earth During a Severe Earthquake in the Carpathians".

Doklady, Academy of Sciences of the USSR, Earth Sciences

Section, 244, 4-6.


Sardarov, S.S. (1981) "Empirical Relationship Between

Anomalies That Are Short-Term Predictors of Impending

Earthquakes and Earthquake Parameters". Doklady, Academy

of Sciences of the USSR, Earth Sciences Section, 258,


Saunders, D.R. (1978) The UFOCAT Codebook. Center for UFO

Studies, Evanston, Illinois.


Sheppard, A.R. and Eisenbud, M. (1977) Biological Effects of

Electric and Magnetic Fields of Extremely Low Frequency.

New York University Press, NY.


Simon, C. (1983) "Looking Out for Luminous Phenomena".

Science News, 124, 412.


Sobolev, G.A., Demin, V.M., Los', V.F. and Maybuk, Yu.Ya.

(1980) "Mechanoelectric Emission by Ore Bodies".

Doklady, Academy of Sciences of the USSR, Earth Science

Section, 252, 34-35.


Stover, C.W., Reagor, B.G. and Algermissen, S.T. (1981)

Seismicity Map of the State of Minnesota. U.S.

Geological Survey, Miscellaneous Field Studies, Map



Volarovich, M.P., Parkhomenko, E.I. and Sobolev, G.A. (1959)

"Field Investigation of the Piezoelectric Effect in

Quartz-Bearing Rock". Doklady, Academy of Sciences of

the USSR, Earth Science Section, 128, 964-966.


Wagner, W., Hulse, R. and McGrath, J. (1978) "'Spook

Lights'. The Vestigia Update". Vestigia Newsletter,

2(3), 1-7.


Wagner, W.S. and Visvanathan, T.R. (1978) "'Earthquake

Lights': A Potential Aid in Earthquake Forecasting".

EOS, 59(4), 329.


Weir, T.R., ed. (1960) Economic Atlas of Manitoba. Manitoba

Department of Industry and Commerce, Winnipeg.


Wiedemann, C.L. (1977) "Results of the N.J. 'Spook Light'

Study". Vestigia Newsletter, 1(2), 1-4.


Wilson, H.D.B. and Brisbin, W.C. (1962) "Tectonics of the

Canadian Shield in Northern Manitoba". Royal Society of

Canada, Special Publications, no.4, 60-75.


Wyss, M. (1983) "Earthquake Prediction". Reviews of

Geophysics and Space Physics, 21(6), 1291-1298.


Yoshikawa, S. and Mogi, K. (1981) "A New Method for

Estimation of the Crustal Stress From Cored Rock Samples:

Laboratory Study in the Case of Uniaxial Compression".

Tectonophysics, 74, 323-339.


Appendix A


Geophysical Variables and Human Behavior: Some Criticisms

Through statistical studies of geophysical phenomena and UFO (Unidentified Flying Object) reports, it has been suggested that some reports of UFOs might reasonably be understood on the basis of natural phenomena produced by a geophysical process involving tectonic strain (Persinger, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1983a, 1983b, 1983c). This theory, hereafter referred to as the TST (Tectonic Strain Theory) of UFOs, suggests that plasma-like luminosities can be naturally created and that these can be reported as UFOs. The TST is laudable in that it attempts to explain the persistent reports of UFOs in terms of "terrestrial" rather than "extraterrestrial" causes. The theory incorporates luminous effects that are a great distance from the source and temporarily displaced. This theory also contends that the luminous effects are related to geophysical variables such as the solar wind and geomagnetism. The geophysical basis for such a theory, however, is not strong and is extremely dependent upon recent reports of luminous effects produced by strain on rock during fracture tests (Demin et al., 1981).3 These effects are highly localized, of short duration and have not been demonstrated to be related to other geophysical phenomena such as the solar wind. Despite this, statistical studies using seismic, solar and UFO data as variables have been performed, and it has been proposed that UFO report numbers vary with the seismic and solar data (Persinger, 1981). These correlations are suggested to be consonant with the TST.

There are several problems with obtaining adequate data to test the theory which are worth noting. The statistical studies which suggest a correlation between UFO report numbers and geophysical phenomena show the best relationships between the variables only when the optimal /\ t and /\ s (increments of time and space) are used. In particular, it has been proposed that the geophysical cause for UFOs in the TST is a strain field which may extend hundreds of kilometers between the locations of the perceived UFOs and earthquake epicenters. Statistical correlations use these UFO report numbers and earthquake numbers to define relationships between the variables, often including a time lag of up to a year. Essentially, an observed UFO at point p may be the result of a strain field and may be related to an earthquake at point q, two hundred kilometers distant and several months previous to the time of observation. This is intuitively unsatisfying, since if two variables can occur at any time within a year of observation and anywhere within a large radius, it would be difficult to determine a time-geography variable in order to arrange a correlation study. Countless other variables may be present or occur within the strain field's perimeter, and these may influence any correlated effects. It should be noted that a rare geophysical phenomenon called earthquake lighting displays some reported UFO characteristics such as luminous bodies of light (Derr, 1973).

However, earthquake lightning appears generally within a short time before or after an earthquake, so it has a more readily-apparent cause. In addition, there exist several theories as to the origin of earthquake lightning, encompassing geological processes familiar to geophysicists (Finkelstein, et al., 1973). More serious problems concern the actual selection of UFO data. The studies make use of UFO report numbers from several sources with varying degrees of credibility (e.g., Fate magazine and UFOCAT). In all cases, there is a great difficulty in trying to establish whether an object is actually unidentified or merely misidentified. The two different categories are often within the same data set in the UFOCAT file, for example. The fact remains that UFOs are often reported by inexperienced observers, and the reports are often investigated by inexperienced investigators. Statistical studies of raw UFO data, including the UFOCAT file, have shown that about 90% are misidentifications of ordinary phenomena (Hendry, 1979; Hynek, 1977). It has been stated that the UFOCAT file cannot be used as a source of data because of inherent flaws in its design (Hendry, 1979). The TST is therefore not supported by the statistical studies involving UFO data. Although geophysical phenomena could account for some UFO reports, a persuasive covariance has not been produced. On a more positive side, while the TST may not predict the presence of plasma-like luminosities, it may say something about the witnesses who report UFOs. In this regard, it has been suggested that geophysical luminosities are related to EM (electromagnetic) radiation, also produced by tectonic strain (Persinger, 1983c).

This EM radiation is thought to be capable of affecting the human brain (in particular, the temporal lobe) and creating a variety of effects, including artificial memories. If the theory can show a relationship between misidentifications of ordinary phenomena and geophysical effects, perhaps there is, after all, some interaction between these phenomena and the human brain, causing individuals to report UFOs. Care should be taken in further studies of UFO data because their nature is subjective and collection involves several problems. Theories such as the TST are quite valuable in their attempt to explain UFOs from a scientific standpoint. The TST probably could explain some UFO reports and elements of the total UFO problem, but the persuasiveness of an empirical scientific argument can be no better than the acceptability of the data upon which it is based.



Demin, V.M., Sobolev, G.A., Los', V.F., and Maybuk, Yu Ya. (1981).

Nature of Mechanoelectric Radiation From Ore Bodies. Doklady

Academy of Sciences of the USSR, Earth Sciences, 260, 9-11.


Derr, J.S. (1973) Earthquake lights: a review of observations and

present theories. Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America

63, 2177-2187.


Finkelstein, D., Hill, R.D., & Powell, J.R. (1973) The

piezeolectric theory of earthquake lightning. Journal of

Geophysical Research, 78, 992-993.


Hendry, A. (1979) The UFO handbook. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday.


Hynek, J.A. (1977) The Hynek UFO report. New York, N.Y.: Dell.


Persinger, M.A. (1979) Possible infrequent geophysical sources of

close UFO encounters: expected physical and behavioral-biological

effects. In R.F. Haines (Ed.), UFO phenomena and the behavioral

scientist. Methuen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, pp. 396-433.


Persinger, M.A. (1980) Earthquake activity and antecedent UFO

report numbers. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 50, 791-797.


Persinger, M.A. (1981) Geophysical variables and behavior: III.

Prediction of UFO reports by geomagnetic and seismic activity.

Perceptual and Motor Skills, 53, 115-122.


Persinger, M.A. (1983a) Geophysical variables and behavior: VII.

Prediction of recent European UFO reports by nineteenth-century

luminosity and solar-seismic variables. Perceptual and Motor

Skills, 56, 91-95.


Persinger, M.A. (1983b) Geophysical variables and human behavior:

VIII. Specific prediction of UFO reports within the New Madrid

states by solar-geomagnetic and seismic measures. Perceptual and

Motor Skills, 56, 243-249.


Persinger, M.A. (1983c) Geophysical variables and behavior: IX.

Expected clinical consequences of close proximity to UFO-related

luminosities. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 56, 259-265.


Chris Rutkowski -

University of Manitoba - Winnipeg, Canada



Our thanks to Chris Rutkowski for allowing us to republish this paper May 2013