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January 14, 2005

1996-97 Hale Bopp comet controversy: A Chronology

A Commentary by Pierre Juneau

VICTORIA, B.C. - The 1996-97 Hale-Bopp comet controversy began after Chuck Shramek, an amateur astronomer from Houston, called Art Bell's program on November 14 1996 to report that he had a photograph showing a large object behind the Hale Bopp comet. This led to several radio shows on the issue and included different guests.

Contents 1 Dr. Courtney Brown on Art Bell 1.1 Hale Bopp's companion photos controversy 1.2 Brown's last appearance on Art Bell 1.3 Brown's public statement 2 Ed Dames on Art Bell 2.1 A disinformation campaign? 3 The Heaven's Gate cult suicide 4 External Links

Dr. Courtney Brown on Art Bell

Dr. Courtney Brown, Director of the Farsight Institute, who had previously been on the Art Bell show to discuss spirituality and extraterrestrial life, including the issue of life on Mars, offered remote viewing data on Bell's radio talk show shortly after Chuck Shramek came forward with his photo. Brown spoke about data obtained by his remote viewers that seemed to support photographic evidence obtained by Shramek. He said that the data suggested that it was a large object that could be complex, artificial, and technological in nature and that it was located behind Comet Hale-Bopp. To target the Hale Bopp companion, Brown said that his remote viewers used a verbal cue and did not use any photographs as a target. Brown claimed that the data was highly interesting and suggestive, but he never claimed that the data was 100% accurate.

Hale Bopp's companion photos controversy

Later, when Bell and his co-host Whitley Strieber found out that Brown's web master had received photos showing a companion to the Hale-Bopp comet, they urged them to come on his show to discuss it. The web master claimed to have received them from an astronomer at a major university who wanted to stay anonymous and whom she knew and with whom she spoke on the telephone. Brown and the Institute’s web master spoke about the images on the Art Bell show, and the web master claimed that her source told her that he would have a news conference announcing the images in one to two weeks. The news conference never took place, and Brown and the Institute’s web master appeared discredited in the public’s eye. After notifying Brown on January 14th 1997 and against Brown’s urgings, Bell released Brown's photo on the Internet on January 15, 1997. This further evolved into a major scandal shortly after when Bell was contacted by Oliver Hainut and David J. Tholen, both professors from the University of Hawaii. They said that the posted photo that Brown's web master received was an altered copy of one of their recent comet photos, and they provided a comparison as evidence. There has never been an independent corroboration of this claim, and some postings of a technical nature have appeared on the Internet disputing this claim. Since the original version photos obtained by The Farsight Institute have never been released, this issue has never been resolved.

Brown's last appearance on Art Bell

On January 16th, 1997, Brown went on the Art Bell show for the last time where he said he would not reveal the name of the astronomer who had given his web master the original film. He said the web master had committed herself not to reveal the astronomer's identity and only she knew the astronomer's name. He also said that it’s possible that this professor had good intentions but was tricked by someone else. He did not want to jeopardize the astronomer’s reputation and their agreement of confidentiality. He also raised the possibility of a libel suit if his webmaster disclosed the professor’s name since it would jeopardize that professor’s reputation now that the photos were being disputed as hoaxes. Brown argued that it was a mistake to have talked about something that was not a product of the Institute and his efforts to bring the focus back to remote viewing failed. [edit] Brown's public statement In a January 20, 1997 public statement, Brown suggested that the comet photos sent to him were part of a "wide-scale and highly organized disinformation campaign" with "resources that extend beyond those of any university or professor," and that The Farsight Institute had walked into a trap by talking about the photo. "Disinformation campaigns," says Brown, "are not unusual in the area of extraterrestrial life." This major scandal involving the astronomical photos destroyed any significant public credibility either Brown or The Farsight Institute may have had previously about the Hale Bopp comet controversy. January 16, 1997 was the last time Brown was invited to appear on the Art Bell radio show. The Hale Bopp story continued in full force on the Art Bell show, with the so-called Hale Bopp "Companion" being popularly referenced as "Hail Mary."

Ed Dames on Art Bell

Art Bell invited former top secret military remote viewer Ed Dames on his show more than once between January 1997 and March 1997. Dames talked about his company's remote viewing data that showed that the comet's companion carried a plant pathogen targeting Africa that will kill all plant life. He said that his remote viewing data showed that this was engineered by aliens who wanted to eliminate humans from the earth. He explained that all plants, including all food, will eventually be destroyed. That people will have nothing left to eat as this will cause a massive starvation worldwide.

A disinformation campaign?

On March 30, 1997, an anonymous posting that was later shared over the internet, went up on The Farsight Institute's bulletin board. It claimed to come from a spy who identified himself as "The Watcher" and who worked for an unidentified agency. He wrote that there was a campaign to discredit remote viewing because intelligence officials were not comfortable that it became declassified. This declassification took place in the mid 1990's, shortly before whistleblower Dr. David Morehouse, a former CIA & military remote viewer, published his book that also details a disinformation campaign against his credibility. The Watcher's posting also said: "What Dames does not know, but I am telling him now by writing this, is that several of the people who view for him are feeding him false information purposely. His predictions are nothing but fairy tales." Indeed, Dames' predictions never came true but there was no way of verifying the source of the anonymous posting. [edit] The Heaven's Gate cult suicide On March 27 1997, a secretive cult group called Heaven's Gate chose the appearance of the comet as a signal for their mass cult-suicide in San Diego. They claimed they were leaving their earthly bodies to travel to the space ship following the comet. It was speculated that members of the Heaven's Gate group committed mass suicide based on rumors Bell aired, but others discounted this, noting that the Heaven's Gate website stated that "Whether Hale-Bopp has a 'companion' or not is irrelevant from our perspective."

[1] (http://www.csicop.org/si/9707/art-bell.html) Whitley Strieber, Art Bell's co-host, later went on the Today Show with former astronaut Edgar Mitchell in regards to the cult suicide, to explain how important it is that the subject of extraterrestrial life be addressed by science before deciding what is going on.

External Links    

* November 1996 photo of Chuck Shramek showing Hale-Bopp' companion (http://www.v-j-enterprises.com/hbenig.html)    

* November 15, 1996 - The Farsight Institute remote viewers describe Hale-Bopp comet companion (http://www.v-j-enterprises.com/brown.html)    

* January 16, 1997 - University of Hawaii's Dr. Dave Tholen claims that The Farsight Institute photos are fake (http://www.sc.eso.org/~ohainaut/Hale_Bopp/hb_ufo_tholen.html)    

* January 20, 1997 - Dr. Brown releases a public statement about Hale-Bopp photos (http://www.tmgnow.com/repository/cometary/shechinah/cb.html)    

* January 30, 1997 - Art Bell interviews remote viewer Ed Dames on his show where he introduces his Hale-Bopp warning (http://www.firedocs.com/remoteviewing/transcript_ab970130ed.cfm)    

* March 6, 1997 - Art Bell interviews remote viewer Ed Dames and he mentions Hale-Bopp (http://www.firedocs.com/remoteviewing/transcript_ab970130ed.cfm)    

* March 26, 1997 - CNN reports Heaven's Gate suicide (http://www.cnn.com/US/9703/26/mass.suicide.too/index.html)    

* March 30, 1997 - "The Watcher" comes to the Farsight BBS and claims that there is a disinformation campaign against RV (http://www.firedocs.com/remoteviewing/oooh/politics/censor03.html)    

* April 27, 1997 - Art Bell interviews remote viewer Ed Dames who continues to stand by his company's RV data about Hale Bopp companion on its way to create destruction on Earth (http://www.firedocs.com/remoteviewing/transcript_ab970422ed.cfm)    

* September 1997 - interview with Whitley Strieber about Hale Bopp (http://www.beyondcommunion.com/communionletters/9709tgs.html)    

* November 1999 -Space.com article claiming that Hale-Bopp may have had a satellite (http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/solarsystem/hale_bopp_991123.html)    

* December 14, 1999 - Strieber claims Hale-Bopp may have a companion after all (http://www.unknowncountry.com/news/?id=36)    

* October 6th, 2002 - One of Strieber's most recent statement about Hale-Bopp's companion (http://www.unknowncountry.com/journal/?id=104)    

* Thousands of photos of Hale-Bopp comet
http://www2.jpl.nasa.gov/comet/images.html

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