Penthouse Retrospective

by David Rorvik Originally Published: September, 1980

Uncontrolled Media | 40 Years Ago This Month

As the day wore on in Albuquerque, it quickly became evident that most of those testifying had little difficulty comprehending this “unprecedented discipline.” They had a pretty good idea of who-or what-was doing it. Predators? The CIA? Fanatically dedicated cultists? Not likely, said Richard Sigismund of Boulder, Colo., who described himself as an investigator of “the UFO phenomenon for over twenty years” and “heavily into psychology.” He spoke articulately and at great length about the UFOs and argued that many sightings seemed to.be related, in time and place, to cattle mutilations. He dismissed the idea that a secret military or intelligence unit was conducting experiments with cattle, persuasively observing that public clamor would eventually “blow the lid from any secret project’’ and thus entail far more risk than any post-Watergate government would be willing to assume.

Predators, he added, were out of the question: “The classic cases of mutilation toward which we are directing our attention do not, by any stretch of the imagination, bear the all-too-well-known characteristics of the work of predators.”

“Cultists?” he asked. “If so, we are dealing with a large and very well funded nationwide organization of such cultists, whose audacity must indeed be matched by seemingly inexhaustible financial resources and outstanding scientific and technical capabilities. That such an organization exists and would or could continue its depredations over the course of at least a decade, leaving few if any clues, also seems hardly likely.”

Numerous others, who had similarly devoted significant parts of their lives to UFO investigations. echoed these ideas. obviously finding in the phenomenon of cattle mutilations the comfort of added ammunition in their persistent efforts to pressure Congress and the president to launch a new federal investigation of UFOs. Not everybody in Albuquerque that day, however, was a “UFO freak.” Gabe Valdez, of the New Mexico State Police, spoke, too. He has been investigating cattle mutilations in his home state for several years, and because he rejects the predator hypothesis (“It’s very hard for me to believe that a predator can take the heart out of an animal through a small wound on the neck”), he is willing to consider other explanations.

Sheriff Harry L. Graves of Logan County, Colo. who investigated dozens of mutilations between 1975 and 1977, reasons similarly. “There’s absolutely no evidence that the ‘mute’ deaths were caused by predatory animals. In fact, the lack of visible footprints or tracks seems to leave us with little or no physical evidence or traces at all. However, there is the surgical removal of the animals’ organs, coupled with the appearance of mysterious lights during the time of the mutilations.”

Ken Anderson, a toxicologist in Montana, where mutilations have also been numerous, says that “the reason more mutilated cows are found as opposed to bulls is that some lab specimens could be utilized more appropriately from the female than from the male. In the milk-producing system of the cow, the physiological anatomy would give you specific data, such as: what is being concentrated in the milk after it goes through the manufacturing and breakdown processes?”

The idea here is that some secret research group may be exposing cattle to “exotic substances,” as Anderson puts it, then killing them, taking their organs and blood for analysis. Howard Burgess. a retired radiation instrumentation scientist, who is assisting the New Mexico State Police in their mutilation investigation, has posited a similar theory.

Blood cults, satanic groups, and the like have not yet been entirely dismissed, however, as a possible explanation. Newsweek, in early 1979, declared: “For almost a decade, the gruesome livestock killings have baffled law-enforcement officials. Hundreds of cattle in twenty-seven states have been found dead and mutilated… with almost surgical precision…. After seven such deaths in central Iowa in the past several months, the state Department of Criminal Investigations says it finally has some suspects-members of certain unnamed ‘satanic groups.’”

The impression was thus left, by this naive piece of reporting, that it was the beginning of the end for the quite hu man — satanically inclined-perpetrators of these cattle mutilations. All this because investigators in Des Moines “discovered several abandoned Iowa farmhouses with strange writings on the walls and floors indicating satanic worship.” The clincher seemed to be that when said officials went to the Des Moines public library to consult books on satanism. “every volume on the subject had been checked out.” (They demanded to know by whom; library officials refused to comply.) Very suspicious. Except: why would cultists capable of carving up livestock “with almost surgical precision,” a habit of theirs for at least a decade, suddenly need to avail themselves of the satanic knowledge sequestered in the Des Moines public library?

“The cattle-mutilation hype has cost millions of dollars in anxiety; lost law-enforcement, legislative, veterinary, and medical man-hours; and millions in media hysteria.”

This is a story not of the macabre but of the mendacious. The mendacity has not always been intended, for this is also a story of human nature, and human nature is notorious for self-deception. The Newsweek article is reflective of this tendency. Cattle mutilations are a good story — so long as there are sensational hypotheses and ultimately no satisfactory solution.

A mystery solved is a mystery lost. The media, as much as the conspiracy freaks, cultists, and UFO advocates, all have their own peculiar vested interests in the non-solution of this story and thus consciously or unconsciously have assiduously ignored and/or beaten back the one solution that is overwhelmingly supported by the best evidence.

Years before even the launch of Fox and MSNBC we were talking about Uncontrolled Media. Seems like we may not have that fire contained yet.

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