by Michael Lindemann
Copyright 1997 by CNI News/2020 Group. All rights reserved in all media.
The name of "Dr." Lee Shargel first came to the attention of CNI News in mid-1996. A few people in the Florida area where he lives began speaking of him in respectful tones. He was said to have NASA credentials, to be a physicist of some sort, to have inside connections regarding UFO and alien phenomena, and to be ready and willing to divulge important secrets.
Then we received a few copies of his four-page (hard-copy) monthly newsletter, the Galactic Observer. We noted that nowhere in this publication did Lee Shargel identify himself by name, nor as a rule did he cite known experts, authorities or agencies in support of his sometimes bizarre claims. It seemed hard to believe that such material could come from a NASA scientist -- unless perhaps it was a joke. But it didn't sound like a joke, either. The Galactic Observer seemed to present a blend of pseudo-scientific fantasy and New-Age philosophy from a disembodied voice of higher knowledge -- apparently the voice of Lee Shargel. After a few issues, we concluded he was more or less harmless, but very likely not a "Dr." of anything.
But some people clearly disagreed, especially those who heard him speak. Apparently, Lee Shargel has fluent command of the English language and can be quite a showman behind a podium. And he offers answers that people want to hear -- a who's who of good and bad aliens, details of life on other worlds, inside dope on NASA secret projects. He claims to know. He slings scientific-sounding jargon with ease. He sheds light on mysteries, and offers reassurance that the weird times ahead will, in the end, come out OK.
Researcher Bill Hamilton told CNI News, "Dr. Lee Shargel was a big hit in Philadelphia when I met him on November 17, 1996. In a lecture on NASA's contacts with ETs from the planet Cholus, 4th planet of the star Vega, and some of the photos he showed, it seemed like this man could make a real contribution."
Of course, there would be nothing at all wrong with such a message, if it were based on credible information. But therein, perhaps, lies the rub.
Shargel certainly isn't shy about his presumed credentials. An announcement for his upcoming lecture in Oakland, California states: "Dr. Lee Shargel is a former NASA scientist who worked for the space program as well as the Department of Defense (Navy). He holds a Doctorate in Material Science. He was the program manager for the Navy's SRBOC missile defense system and a project manager on the Hubble Telescope. His theories on Gravitational Wave Physics are part of the basis for the current LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Observatory) project."
Why does such a man suddenly start talking about UFOs? The promo blurb continues: "For years, Lee felt the whole UFO subject was nothing more than science fiction gone awry. But an event that occurred in 1993 changed his perspective forever..."
What event? Well, that's in the lecture. And his book. (We didn't see it in Galactic Observer.)
On the strength of a last minute recommendation from several impressed listeners, Dr. Lee Shargel was invited to speak at the Sixth Annual International UFO Congress, which ran January 18 through 24 in Laughlin, Nevada. According to people in attendance, this year's Congress has been a major success, with crowds in excess of 500 for the entire weeklong schedule. The speakers' lineup included a fairly dazzling array of U.S. and international UFO authorities, including Whitley Strieber, James Hurtak, Colin Andrews, Michael Hesemann, Stan Deyo, Robert O. Dean, Jaime Mausson, A.J. Gevaerd, Wendelle Stevens, Bill Hamilton and Jorge Martin. Into this lineup came Dr. Lee Shargel.
According to conference organizer Bob Brown, Shargel professed to have almost no experience as a speaker. He said he was nervous, hoped he would do all right. But on Wednesday afternoon (January 22) when he took the stage, he proved to be anything but a novice. In fact, Brown says, he was "slick."
That was the first surprise. The second surprise was less pleasant. According to Brown, Shargel made claims so outrageous, backed by photos and illustrations so patently absurd, that Brown and most of the other conference speakers then in the audience were amazed.
Bill Hamilton described some of the problems he saw in Shargel's Nevada presentation: "...[gun-camera] photos of an airborne craft over Roswell, other UFO photos from New Jersey, the dark side of the moon, in space [that] looked like cheap matte image doctoring... dolphinoid beings from Cholus (an all-water world) which had developed appendages and manufactured technology." Though at first impressed, Hamilton now asks: "Was this man sent in as a disinformation agent now that things are heating up?"
CNI News interviewed Bob Brown by phone on Friday, January 24. The conversation centered on the potential problems posed by Lee Shargel. Following are excerpts from that interview.
Bob Brown: "Because this [conference] is an open forum, it allows a free exchange of information, but it does open us up to people who are sometimes not straight. I'm not saying that Lee Shargel is not straight, but there are some questions.
"In the last couple of days we have verified that he seems to have legitimate NASA credentials. I couldn't say that they're not counterfeited, but they look to be the right badges.
"We have found out that there is a Northeastern University, that is, the university he says he graduated from does exist. However, he says he got his doctorate in -- get this -- Egyptian Quantum Mechanics. That's a quote. He told Dr. [James] Harder this, and Dr. Harder said, 'Excuse me? Did you say Egyptian Quantum Mechanics?' And he said yes. So Harder asked, 'Who was your thesis adviser?' And Shargel said he couldn't remember.
"But then we get down to the evidence that he has presented to everybody, and to me, most of it looks like the most obvious faked photos that you could imagine. They are really bad, not evidence or proof of anything. We are going to present him at some point with a written request to produce some originals of these so that they can be correctly analyzed.
Michael Lindemann: "How would you characterize his presentation, apart from the questionable photos?"
Brown: "Slick! He claimed to be as nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof before going out there, but I tell you, it wasn't five minutes before he settled down, and he was up there like a true, slick pitchman. It's quite obvious that this guy has been up in front of groups before. Maybe not talking about the UFO subject, but he is no stranger to getting up and motivating an audience.
"This is our concern. It's not our job to put an absolute stamp of approval on everyone that we bring to an open forum. However, when somebody is so blatantly questionable as Shargel is at this point, we feel the need to urge people to be cautious and use some discernment."
Lindemann: "I understand that he had a big crowd in the room for his speech."
Brown: "He had a big crowd. I would say there were 500 people in the room."
Lindemann: "And would you say the crowd was enthused by his speech?"
Brown: "Part of the crowd was enthused. It ran the gamut between some people who, at times, he brought to tears, literally -- to some people who stomped out of the room hollering 'charlatan!'"
Lindemann: "I understand there were a number of other speakers in the room, people that you and I would both characterize as reputable researchers, who were concerned by Shargel's material. What would you say?"
Brown: "Very concerned, certainly, and I suppose 'amazed' is a good word too, because they were kind of incredulous at the evidence that this guy put up on the screen. You'd have to see these pictures that he had. They were ludicrous."
Lindemann: "Roger Leir phoned me and described one of Shargel's photos as a purported UFO that appeared to be literally just pasted onto the background."
Brown: "Yes, indeed. And he shows a photo, supposedly, of Hale-Bopp coming in, and then off to one side of it is this little craft or probe that's supposed to be checking it out, or checking out the companion behind it. He characterized it as one of the 'bad guys.' And we have lots of scientists here, lots of Ph.D.s in different disciplines, and they just see problems from lots of directions here."
Lindemann: "I understand that you and your board and several other conference speakers got together last night (Thursday evening, Jan 23) to discuss the Lee Shargel situation. How would you characterize that meeting?"
Brown: "Six of our board members were there, including Donald Ware, Michael Hesemann, A.J. Gevaerd, Wendelle Stevens, Virginia Bennett and myself; and another eight or ten concerned people, many of them Ph.D. scientists, including Dr. Richard Sauder and Dr. James Harder. They were all very concerned about what they were calling the 'hoax' that was being perpetrated by Lee Shargel. The big question was, why would he do such a thing? The answers go from the obvious one of just selling books, clear down to the more sinister one that he might be like a producer for '20/20' [television] to expose how totally gullible the UFO fraternity is, and that we'll believe and swallow absolutely anything. It would affect the entire UFO community if indeed he was a 20/20 producer and ended up on TV, saying, 'You know, Hugh and Barbara, the most amazing thing was, after we made this insane, idiotic presentation with these dummied-up photos that we did in two hours, and we gave them all these clues and all these ridiculous statements, in spite of all that, we even sold them books.' It could be that sinister -- it could set ufology back five years."
Lindemann: "Was there any significant dissent in your board meeting concerning your general view of Shargel?"
Brown: "No. None, except from Donald Ware, who felt it should not be the Congress' position to attack anyone, that we are only a forum. Other people were trying to convince him of the potential damage Shargel could do. Michael Hesemann put it brilliantly. He said, 'We have done nothing wrong in giving our open forum to Dr. Shargel. But now, knowing what we know and suspecting what we suspect, if we do nothing about it, then we may well be doing the wrong thing.'"
Lindemann: "Do you anticipate taking any public step to expose him or challenge his information?"
Brown: "At this point, we plan to get together a list of things that we want to see -- for example, at least one of the pieces of filmstrip that his slides of the supposed 'Roswell craft' came from. There's an obvious thing there. If you've got a single frame of movie footage, with two moving objects -- the plane shooting gun-camera footage, and a craft [UFO] moving -- and you look at one frame, that frame isn't going to be clear. There's going to be motion in that frame. These things [his photos] are crystal clear. They're at a dead stop. That isn't possible. This is supposedly 1947 gun-camera footage. And it just wouldn't be like that." [Note: Bob Brown makes much of his living producing aviation films. - ed]
Lindemann: "Perhaps a more thorough check of his credentials is in order."
Brown: "It is certainly required. He seems to have all the proper stuff, but again, people make a living counterfeiting."
Lindemann: "One thing we should realize is that Dr. Shargel, whoever he is, has been around awhile now and has been publishing a newsletter on a regular basis. Therefore, if this is a '20/20' situation, he's carried it to exceptional extremes. This leads me to suppose that he's up to something else."
Brown: "Indeed he may be. This might be nothing more sinister than him trying to sell books. Maybe he observed the Celestine Prophecy phenomenon and said, 'How can I tap into this?' I don't know. I hope that's all it is. Of course, I'm making an assumption that the guy is not being truthful, but I don't have definitive proof."
Lindemann: "If he is legitimate NASA, or has any legitimate government affiliation, and is clearly putting out incorrect information, then we would have to say that he is performing disinformation, by definition."
Brown: "I would agree."
Lindemann: "If he's not a legitimate NASA person of some sort, then he's just an out-and-out fraud. It seems to me that those are two strong possibilities. The third possibility, which seems somewhat more remote, is that his credentials are legitimate and so is his information. Broadly speaking, those are our three options. If he's legitimate, of course, we'd all be very interested. But if he's not, then I would say he should be exposed."
Brown: "Exactly. When I think of the two hours we gave him, and all the other presentations we turned down to give him a spot, it kind of makes me ill."
Lindemann: "Do you intend to issue any formal statement about this?"
Brown: "It depends on the reply we get from him. We have asked him to produce certain things. I have him scheduled to come to Oakland [California] on February 8 for a presentation. This was scheduled before I saw him here, taking him on good faith. I could cancel it, but at this point I intend to leave the invitation on the table. Hopefully he will produce some of this stuff and we'll have some definitive answers by then. My personal suspicion is that he won't produce the things we ask of him, but I don't know."
CNI News comments: It gives us no great pleasure to cast such doubts on the character or work of anyone in the UFO field. However, we do believe that there is good cause to question both the motives and the information of "Dr." Shargel. We will continue to pursue the details of his background. Meanwhile, it is clearly Dr. Shargel's responsibility to substantiate both his presumed credentials and his seemingly incredible claims, and we hope he will do so without delay.
[UPDATE: By mid-March, 1997, much more had been learned about Shargel. Highlights: he does not have a Ph.D. degree. He never worked for NASA (whether he ever worked for any NASA sub-contractor in a non-scientific capacity is debatable). He has no scientific credentials. His claims regarding unusual lifeforms from Vega and elsewhere are pure fabrication. He takes apparent delight in confounding the gullible and insulting his critics. He has posted outright lies and preposterous accusations against other UFO researchers at his web site. He claimed to be the chosen replacement for "Heaven's Gate" leader Marshall Applewhite immediately following the mass suicides in San Diego in late March, 1997 (on the strength of this claim, he appeared on many television talk shows). He was quoted in several critical news reports as saying that he doesn't care if his publicity is positive or negative, as long as his name is spelled correctly. He is, in short, a complete fraud and one of the most reprehensible and outrageous characters to emerge in the UFO community in recent times.
Based on these findings, CNI News urges everyone interested in the integrity of UFO research, or just plain human decency, to avoid Lee Shargel like the plague.]
Original file name: CNI - Lee Shargel.Brown
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