‘Mirage Men’—Disinformation Agents Or Just A Mirage?

Robert Sheaffer

In UFOlogy today, the term Mirage Men is understood to signify supposed shadowy government agents who, for inscrutable reasons, are allegedly tricking the public—not by “debunking” UFOs but creating belief in UFOs and the like. The title comes from a 2010 book by the British author Mark Pilkington, Mirage Men: An Adventure into Paranoia, Espionage, Psychological Warfare, and UFOs. In 2013, the book was made into a movie of the same title written by Pilkington and directed by John Lundberg, Roland Denning, and Kypros Kyprianou. The movie purports to demonstrate “How the US government created a myth that took over the world” (www.miragemen.com). Interestingly, Lundberg is a leading “crop circle maker” in the United Kingdom (www.circlemakers.org).

One investigator who has been widely promoting the idea of Mirage Men is James Carrion, who served as the International Director of MUFON from 2006 to 2009. Carrion was very different from the typical MUFON leader. Not even willing to defend Holy Roswell as an E.T. event, he was far too independent a thinker to fit in well at MUFON. It was no surprise when Carrion and MUFON went their separate ways, with him proclaiming that the UFO phenomenon “is based in deception—of the human kind.” He cited several very interesting examples of such deception, although none of them involved official agencies (see my book Bad UFOs, p. 4).

After promoting the Mirage Men hypothesis on his blog for several years, on August 20, 2016, Carrion claimed to have found a “smoking gun” that demonstrates “Human Deception at Play during the UFO Wave of 1947” (http://goo.gl/cq87Ej). He cited an FBI memo of July 21, 1947, stating that Colonel Carl Goldbranson “desired the Bureau conduct some investigation of Shaver to determine whether or not he has any information pertaining to the origin of the flying saucers.” This, says Carrion, “unequivocally documents the connection between U.S. strategic deception planners and early UFO events by relating how Colonel Carl Goldbranson petitioned FBI assistance in investigating UFO events. Goldbranson was a WW2 member of Joint Security Control and one of its principal deception planners.”

On August 23, I posted the following comment on Carrion’s blog: “Goldbranson ‘desired the Bureau conduct some investigation of Shaver to determine whether or not he has any information pertaining to the origin of the flying saucers.’ So, am I correct in understanding that Col. Goldbranson was asking the FBI investigate Richard Shaver to see what he knows about the origin of the flying saucers? Shaver, the guy who claimed that underground robots are fighting in caves?”

Carrion seems not to have noticed that Goldbranson was in essence asking the FBI to investigate the “Shaver Mystery,” a well-known series of crackpot stories about all kinds of impossible things that were supposedly true. In chapter 5 of his classic 1952 book Fads & Fallacies in the Name of Science, Martin Gardner explains: “Drawing on his ‘racial memories,’ Shaver described in great detail the activities of a midget race of degenerates called ‘deros’ who live in huge caverns beneath the surface of the earth. By means of telepathy and secret rays, the deros are responsible for most of the earth’s catastrophes—wars, fires, airplane crashes, shipwrecks, and nervous breakdowns.”

On August 25, longtime UFO researcher Brad Sparks wrote:

[Carrion’s] “proof” is what is now his central figure in the entire plot, a “Col.” Carl Goldbranson, and an FBI memo of July 21, 1947, released decades ago. But Carrion has so far failed to prove that Goldbranson did anything more than ask the FBI to investigate a notorious character who supposedly knew the origin of flying saucers and whose location and timing supposedly coincided with certain incidents in early July 1947…. Carrion apparently missed the fact that it was the infamous Richard Shaver whose name got through the document censors in one place of the FBI memo. Yes, the Richard Shaver of the lunatic Shaver Mysteries, full of “deros” or “deranged robots”—the so-called robots who were not actually even robots (how deranged is that?!?)—and Lemuria tales….

But Goldbranson did not even ask the FBI to perpetrate any deception! How is asking the FBI to investigate someone amount to carrying out a deception? Does any of this deceive the Soviet intelligence agencies? And into believing what? That a marginal character such as Richard Shaver of the Shaver Mystery stories and the “truth” about underground worlds and Lemuria was a credible bearer of intelligence about flying saucers being U.S. secret weapons? (see http://goo.gl/308r0g).

The British researcher Christopher D. Allen noted:

The FBI did, from time to time, interview a few oddities we would call “cranks.” Adamski was one, Ray Palmer was another, Shaver was obviously another. I dare say anyone who, in the opinion of the FBI, published something cranky that might have some effect on the security of the US was a suspect, and therefore a risk. Hence these occasional interviews of eccentrics. (http://goo.gl/5S0tib)

So while we don’t know if the FBI actually did interview Shaver, even if they did it doesn’t prove anything. What this does suggest, however, is the startling fact that the experienced military intelligence officer Goldbranson actually thought that the “true fantasy” writer Richard Shaver might have some useful information about flying saucers!

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Believers in government UFO conspiracies are always on the lookout for “evidence” to support that belief, and now they think they may have found some. Alejandro Rojas of Open Minds, a group that promotes UFO claims, wrote on July 6, 2016, about the supposed discovery of “the US military’s high-priority UFO reporting system” (http://goo.gl/Fp0ICA):


AFI 10-206 now references what is called Operational Reporting (OPREP). In the past, UFO researchers have noted the term OPREP-3 on UFO documents. Australian UFO researcher Paul Dean has been taking a closer look, and it appears this may be the way important UFO sightings are being reported by the military today…. Dean first noticed that OPREP-3 was being used to report UFOs when he was looking into UFO cases in the 70s, in particular a case from the Pinecastle Electronic Warfare Range in Florida on May 14, 1978….It is no wonder that these cases are deserving of a vital reporting system such as OPREP-3. It is also no wonder that despite telling the public they are not interested in UFOs, that they are in fact investigating these shocking cases of unidentified aircraft violating our most secure airspace.

Skeptics with a military background were quick to point out that the various OPREPs have long been used to report practically any kind of unexpected event up the chain of command, for example, a vehicle accident. So if some military personnel saw a light in the sky that they could not identify, the officer in charge would write an OPREP and send it upstairs. But some UFO conspiracy theorists seem to think that the reporting of lights in the sky on an OPREP is proof of the long-rumored Secret Government UFO Investigation Group.

* * *

And here comes a new piece of craziness: trending on Facebook in mid-September was the “black moon,” which is one of the silliest things I have seen in a very long time. The Express in London proclaims, “Warning of rare BLACK MOON: Astrological event to herald ‘End of Days’ and second coming.” This supposedly rare event was supposed to occur on September 30, 2016, at 8:11 pm Eastern time, which is in fact the exact time of the new moon.

“On Friday September 30, a rare Black Moon will occur, which many are linking to the apocalypse. The spectacular Black Moon occurs when the illuminated side of the moon is caught in the shadow of the Earth, making it virtually impossible to see” (http://goo.gl/ELbwhc). This makes no sense at all. The moon can only move into the Earth’s shadow at the time of full moon, not new moon. And the new moon is always “virtually impossible to see,” unless it impinges on the solar disk during an eclipse.

Somewhat more comprehensible are other discussions of the “Black Moon” of September 30. An article by science writer Joe Rao explains, “Friday’s sky (Sept. 30) is host to a somewhat unusual lunar event in the Western Hemisphere: a second new moon in a single month, which some people call a ‘Black Moon’ …. A second full moon in a single calendar month is sometimes called a ‘Blue Moon.’ A Black Moon is supposedly the flip side of a Blue Moon: the second new moon in a single calendar month” (see http://goo.gl/0rru35).

Of course, astronomers did not invent these terms and never used them—at least not until they became fixed in the public’s mind. Decades ago, some creative writer reassigned the old term “blue moon,” which used to signify a rare event, to mean two full moons in a single month (which is not so rare), and the usage stuck. Now it appears that the same has been done in the case of two new moons, and with all this hoopla the designation is likely to stick. Then there is the supposedly dreadful “Blood Moon,” to which many attribute religious significance. It is nothing more than the full moon passing into total eclipse, illuminated only by reddish light passing through Earth’s atmosphere.

Robert Sheaffer

Robert Sheaffer’s “Psychic Vibrations” column has appeared in the Skeptical Inquirer for the past thirty years. He is also author of UFO Sightings: The Evidence (Prometheus 1998). He blogs at www.badUFOs.com.


In UFOlogy today, the term Mirage Men is understood to signify supposed shadowy government agents who, for inscrutable reasons, are allegedly tricking the public—not by “debunking” UFOs but creating belief in UFOs and the like. The title comes from a 2010 book by the British author Mark Pilkington, Mirage Men: An Adventure into Paranoia, Espionage, …

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