Wit and Wisdom of J. Bond Johnson
by R. J.
Ufologists tend to be deadly grim
dour, never cracking a smile. At first blush that would seem odd,
because there is plenty of UFO-related humor out there. Much of it
appears in the newspaper accounts of sightings, where reporters who
can't find an outlet for their creativity in stories about dog shows or
zoning meetings can let loose a barrage of witticisms about "the silly
season." After a while it gets boring if you happen to care about the
topic, and of course as a serious student of UFOs you are either
directly or tangentially the butt of the joke. So the ufologists don't
One unfortunate result of this mind-set is that we fail to identify the
truly creative ufological jokester on the rare occasions when he
appears in our midst. This is the case with the humorist J. Bond
Johnson. Even his name is funny, the J. standing for James. Remember
He's pushing 80, and after a very full life, he finds himself sitting
around worrying that the world has forgotten him and all his
accomplishments. Senility is not the only deficit brought about by age.
One also loses the companions of yesteryear who would listen to the
stories, and laugh and laugh, sharing the mirth. So J. Bond has done
the natural thing, which is to seek another audience for his
In 1947 J. Bond was working at the Fort Worth, Texas
as a photographer and reporter. One day he was sent to the office of
Brigadier General Roger Ramey to photograph some material thought to be
a "flying disk." A previous press release from the Roswell Army Air
Field had proclaimed the capture of same, causing an uproar. Johnson
arrived, Speed Graphic in hand, took the photos and delivered them to
the newspaper. That was all he did, or at least that is the sum and
substance of what he told Kevin Randle during three hours of taped
telephone conversations 42 years after the event.
Along with a great mass of other photographic material, the original
Ramey office pictures were donated by the newspaper to the University
of Texas, which maintains a huge photo archive. The University has
supplied prints to anyone willing to pay the nominal copying fee. In
this way Roswell researchers and even the U.S. Air Force, and through
them the CIA, got these famous shots, and were able to study them with
J. Bond's first foray into ufological leg-pulling came about when he
teamed up with another jokester, William Moore. That's the fellow who
stood up at a MUFON symposium and admitted -- or claimed -- that for
many years he had been cooperating with government agencies to furnish
them with UFO data and to help spread disinformation. Moore has written
much on Roswell, and in a refreshingly open self- assessment of his
book he said it is "...a disgraceful hodgepodge of fact and fiction."
Moore and J. Bond teamed up, which is not surprising, given their
mutual merry- making interests and proclivities. For years the two
proclaimed that the Ramey office photos showed the "real" debris,
meaning the material found on the Foster ranch, and described in detail
by various awed witnesses.
The literal-minded ufologists did not get the hint, missed the nudge
and the wink. They studied and studied those photos. So did the Air
Force, when it undertook to review the Roswell matter, even enlisting
the photographic analysis facilities of the CIA for the purpose. But
the photos show only a battered radar reflector. Always have, and
always will, because that -- and that alone -- is what was on Ramey's
floor. Even J. Bond eventually conceded, but only after much smoke had
been blown in many eyes. (Moore has long since dropped from sight.)
Now suddenly, after a long absence from the scene, J. Bond has returned
to pull more legs, yank more chains. This time he has no partner, just
the Internet. He composed a "press release," written as if it issued
from some neutral reporter, and in this way sprung his latest joke. The
major claim is the old one, slightly amended: the photos are of a radar
reflector, but in the foreground, thus unnoticed by myriad observers,
is some of the "real" debris.
J. Bond's "press release" begins this way: "It has been announced by
the University of Texas at Arlington that on June 1, 1998, a special
exhibit will open in the Special Collections Section of the Main
Library featuring super-enlargements of the more than half-century old
famous Roswell UFO crash photographs. In making the announcement, Dr.
Gerald D. Saxon, Associate Director for Special Collections, Branch
Libraries and Programs, University Libraries, stated that the special
exhibit will be offered in response to an unprecedented demand by the
public to view at close range details of the newly enhanced photographs
of the most famous and controversial UFO wreckage, which was 'captured'
by Unites States military forces near Roswell, New Mexico in 1947."
"Dr. Saxon stated that photographic exhibits at the library usually are
scheduled at least two years in advance, but that this special photo
exhibit has been arranged on very short notice due to world wide
attention once again being focused on the UTA Library following a
recent announcement that it has finally been established that the
photos are of portions of the actual crash debris."
Of course, the "recent announcement" also emanated from the smoking
word processor of J. Bond Johnson, but the reader is cleverly steered
away from that fact.
A call to the UTA Library revealed that yes, they have received many
calls about the photos subsequent to J. Bond's "recent announcement."
Yes, they are making the photos available to walk-through visitors.
Contrary to J. Bond's breathless claims, the UTA "special exhibit"
consists only of the four Ramey office photos in 16 by 20 inch format,
the largest they make. These are under plastic and laid out on a table.
No special security precautions are being taken, simply because none
The Library hasn't a clue about what J. Bond means by
"super-enlargements." Nor do they know what he is talking about when he
claims the pictures show "portions of the actual crash debris." They
are concerned that their public service function is being turned into a
circus. It appears that the librarians are just another group that has
missed the point of J. Bond's humor.
Elsewhere, J. Bond has claimed that when the Air Force studied the
Roswell issue in 1994, they engaged in a hot dispute with the UTA
Library over the photos, apparently demanding that the originals be
transferred to the U.S. government. I asked the Library to comment on
this claim, and received the following reply from Dr. Saxon.
"Jane Klazura, a staff member in the Special Collections Division of
the UT- Arlington Libraries, forwarded me your undated letter re the
Roswell negatives/photos held by UTA. I wanted to answer your questions
so that there is no mistake as to what we have done in the past with
"You mention in your letter that Mr. Johnson has said that an agency of
the U.S. government engaged in a "dispute" with UTA re these photos.
That simply is not true. There was no dispute. A few years ago the Air
Force wanted to analyze the Roswell negatives, and we provided high
quality copy negatives for them to use. As a matter of policy and
archival practice, we do not send out original negatives to anyone or
any institution. The Air force was pleased with the quality of the copy
negatives and used them in their analysis and subsequent report.
"For your information I am speaking from firsthand knowledge of this
because I was in charge of Special Collections at the time. Our staff
member in charge of the Star-Telegram Photograph Collection at the
time, Betsey Hudon, has since retired. The Roswell negatives/photos are
a part of the Star-Telegram Collection, which has close to one million
images in it."
One would suppose that J. Bond would tell us just a bit more about the
means by which the photos have recently been magnified or enhanced,
revealing the "real" debris that all others have failed to spot.
Despite repeated requests for elucidation on this vital point, his
responses have been extremely obscure. Michael Lindemann interviewed
him, and wrote that the process consisted of using a xerox machine to
"blow up" the photos in many steps!
Lindemann didn't catch on, and I suppose that out of desperation to get
a rise out of the ufologists, J. Bond came up with what he thought
would be the unmistakeable give-away. He started saying that the
"enhancement" work was done at Staples, an office supply chain.
According to this version, Staples provides a service in which a photo
or document is "digitized" and transferred to a computer disc. The
"digitized" image can then be magnified almost infinitely.
Professionals familiar with image enhancement know how ridiculous all
But once again, we failed to take the hint -- when J. Bond said he did
it at Staples, that should have been the occasion for a big belly
laugh, not the intense furrowing of brows that afflicted the hopelessly
I paid the U of T 24 dollars each for the seven photos they offer, in
the 16 by 20 inch format. Once again, the joke is on me. A careful
examination with a magnifying glass revealed none of the exotic stuff
J. Bond talks about.
Then a friend has used some sort of (real, not Staples) computer
enhancement to magnify the photos about sixty-fold. Still nothing. My
friend, who is in touch with J. Bond, has passed the bad news on. J.
Bond, ever the jokester, replied by angrily claiming that my friend
must be blind.