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A History of the Aircraft Developed at Groom Lake, America's Secret Aviation Base

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About the Author
Bill Yenne is the author of more than three
dozen nonfiction books, especially on aviation
and military history. These have included
profiles of the B-52 Stratofortress, unmanned
combat air vehicles, and secret weapons of the
Cold War, as well as histories of the Strategic
Air Command, the US Air Force, and his
recently updated The Story of the Boeing
Company. He has contributed to
encyclopedias of both World War I and World
War II and has appeared in television
documentaries on the History Channel, the
National Geographic Channel, and ARD
German Television. He visited the U-2 and
SR-71 in their heyday at their rookery at Beale
AFB, and he has traveled the lonely desert
perimeter of Area 51.
Mr. Yenne is also a member of the
American Aviation Historical Society. He
lives in San Francisco and on the worldwide web at

AREA 51 IS LIKE a multifaceted gem. It is equal parts truth and illusion. It is equal
parts hard, cold engineering reality and imaginative guesswork. It is equal parts
playful obfuscation and “use-of-deadly-force” national security concealment and denial.

Area 51 is a black world of black airplanes that officially does not exist, and
it is also a fantasy world of extraterrestrial visitation that almost certainly does
not exist. It is the home of secret projects that did not exist—until we were told
that they did exist. It is probably the home of secret projects that did exist, but
about which we will never know.

It is a world of things that are perceived only by the shadows that they cast.
As Bill Sweetman wrote in Popular Science magazine, the “vague, untraceable
allocations in congressional budgets that often signal classified programs are on
the rise, and modern technological innovations are now enabling aircraft designs
that might have floundered in the black world for years. Further, there are
significant gaps in the military’s known aviation arsenal—gaps that the Pentagon
can reasonably be assumed to be actively, if quietly, trying to fill.”
Following the money into apparently benign voids is like trying to follow a
magician’s sleight of hand or a Las Vegas blackjack dealer’s practiced hand.
Is it any wonder that the gateway to the mystery world of Area 51 should be
an airport in the capital of fantasy? Can the boundary between fact and illusion
be fuzzier anywhere on earth than it is in Las Vegas—except perhaps, at Area 51?

People who fly in and out of Las Vegas hardly notice a nondescript terminal
off at the northwest corner of the 2,800-acre sprawl of McCarran International
Airport. Nor does the majority notice the white Boeing 737s that are parked at
this nondescript terminal.
With the lights of the celebrated “Strip” barely a half mile away, why should
they? These visitors have come fixated not on unmarked airport buildings but on
the well-delineated pleasures of this unique and sparkling, larger-than-life theme
park. As they deplane, anxious for a weekend or more of bachelor parties, of
nightclubs, of luxuriating their senses, or of gaming, they hardly notice as one of
those plain white 737s taxis out, takes to the air and heads due north into the
darkening sky and into an unknown world that is perpetually “dark” in the
metaphorical way.

“Janet” is the call sign used by this fleet of airplanes operating from Las
Vegas to Groom Lake and Tonopah. The Janet fleet, fewer than a dozen in
number, include Boeing 737s and Beechcraft executive propliners. They are said
to be owned by the US Air Force, but they carry civilian registration. They are
to be owned by the US Air Force, but they carry civilian registration. They are
painted white and carry no markings other than a tail number and a red line on
each side of the fuselage.

Janet is the tangible, yet mysterious, link to that other world. She is the means
by which civilian and military personnel working in that world pass through the
looking glass, and they are our tangible indication that the looking glass has another side.
In the early days of Groom Lake operations, when most of the civilians
traveling in and out were Lockheed employees working on the Aquatone and
Oxcart programs, the US Air Force operated routine flights between Burbank
and Area 51. According to Gregory Pedlow and Donald Welzenbach, “The
project staff decided that the simplest approach would be to fly the essential
personnel to the site on Monday morning and return them to Burbank on Friday
evening. Frequent flights were also necessary to bring in supplies and visitors
from contractors and headquarters.”
In those days, transportation was provided by a regularly scheduled Military
Air Transport Service flight using a C-54 that was known as “Bissell’s Narrow-
Gauge Airline” after CIA overhead reconnaissance programs chief Richard Bissell.

By the 1970s, much of the site management at Groom Lake, like that at the
neighboring NTTR, was outsourced to civilian contractors. One of these was the
engineering firm of Edgerton, Germeshausen, and Grier (EG&G), which first
entered the world of nuclear testing and black airplanes to develop systems to
monitor and evaluate experimental technologies. Gradually, EG&G took on a
wider facilities management role at secure government locations, and they have
played a key role at Groom Lake and Tonopah.
EG&G has also been a prominent part of the Area 51 conspiracy theory lore
for decades. A mere mention of their name will elicit a knowing nod from any
black airplane enthusiast. They are believed to be the operators of the Janet
airline and to have the contract for guarding the perimeter of the Groom Lake complex.

Since 2002, EG&G has been fully absorbed into another engineering and
management firm, URS Corporation (formerly United Research Services).
Among its white world activities, the EG&G Division of URS entered into an
“institutional services contract” to help manage NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
Traveling to Groom Lake from Las Vegas via Janet takes less than an hour. For
the majority of us who cannot book a flight on this successor to Bissell’s airline,
the majority of us who cannot book a flight on this successor to Bissell’s airline,
the drive takes hours—from the wall-to-wall-crowd density of Las Vegas
through some of the emptiest country in the contiguous United States. To
actually see what it is all about amid the mysterious mountains of the Nellis
Range, this long drive is compulsory.

The exit off Interstate 15 for Nellis AFB is only eighteen miles from
McCarran, and just a dozen miles later, as you turn north onto US Highway 93,
there is nothing ahead or in the rear-view mirror but desert. The ninety-three
miles of two-lane Highway 93 that run north to the junction of Nevada Highway
375, the Extraterrestrial Highway, are long and straight. It is the kind of road
where 80 mph feels like 50 mph. It is populated by long haul truckers, the
occasional motor home, a few ranchers in their pickups, and the handful of
people who are drawn to this quarter by the mystery stories told on Internet sites
or whispered in faraway coffee shops.

Halfway to Ash Springs, a sign warning of low flying aircraft marks the point
at which Highway 93 passes beneath the edge of the air space controlled by
Nellis AFB as part of the Desert Military Operating Area (MOA). For the
remainder of the drive, nothing in the sky above is there without permission of
the Nellis Tower. During Red Flag, the skies here are filled with F-15s, B-2s,
and all manner of hardware, but the mysterious airspace of Area 51 is still far ahead.

There is a welcome gas station in Ash Springs, but little else can be seen
along Highway 93 other than the primordial desert landscape and the intriguing
contrails high above. Turning off at the junction just north of Ash Springs, one
finds that the emptiness of the Extraterrestrial Highway makes Highway 93 seem
like the Las Vegas Strip. It is one of those highways where three or four songs
can go by on your music player before you pass another car. Mostly, it is local
traffic, but you can tell by the bumper stickers on some of the vehicles that
people are still coming out here to squint at those contrails and to look longingly
for lights in the night sky.

There are no gas stations on the Extraterrestrial Highway or fences to keep
wandering cattle off the road. The landscape is unchanged since the nineteenth
century settlers passed this way and decided not to stay.
Passing over the Pahranagat Range at Hancock Summit the traveler is greeted
with a view of a distant desert landscape scarred by the longest, straightest
gravel road imaginable. Some have compared it to the Nazca Lines in Peru,
which Erich von Däniken famously postulated to have been made by
extraterrestrials. This one was not made by extraterrestrials, but many people
believe that it leads to them.

This line is the road into Groom Lake, to Area 51. It was built before von
Däniken’s best-selling book Chariots of the Gods? was first published in 1968
and two decades before Bob Lazar drove this road on his way to work. Beyond
the point where the road disappears into the horizon, one can see the ridge that
obscures the view of Groom Lake. From near Hancock Summit, those with fourwheel-
drive vehicles—or a blatant disregard for rental cars—can drive most of
the way to a place on Tikaboo Peak where the actual facilities at Groom Lake
can be viewed at a distance of about forty miles.

The turn-off to the Groom Lake Road at Lincoln County Milepost 34.6 is
obvious but unmarked. Nearby, at Milepost 29.6, is one of the principal icons of
Area 51 folklore. Though it has been painted white since around 1996, it is still
known as the Black Mailbox.
The mailbox actually belongs to Steve Medlin, whose ranch is nearby, but
some conspiracy theorists believe this to be a mere cover story. Despite the fact
that it bears Medlin’s name and contains his mail, rumors still persist that this is
the place where top secret mail is delivered to anyone and everyone from the
Men in Black of 1950s flying saucer mythology to the extraterrestrials
themselves. Today, it also serves as a message board for the enthusiasts who
cannot resist the urge for graffiti.
The road that leads from the Black Mailbox past Medlin’s ranch intersects the
Groom Lake Road. This modern Nazca Line is one of the best-maintained gravel
roads anywhere. As you drive, it is easy to find your mind wandering back to
February 26, 1962, when Article 121, the first Oxcart A-12, was trucked to
Groom Lake over this same road. If the nearby Joshua trees could talk, what
stories they could tell of the exotic hardware whose conveyances have kicked up dust here.

The trees, except in the most outlandish fantasies, do not have voices, but it is
widely believed by those who spend their days in Area 51 speculation, that the
road has “ears”—sensors buried along the way to alert the guards of incoming
visitors. As anyone can see, the hills do have eyes. No attempt is made to
disguise the camera stands on nearby Bald Mountain.
After nearly fourteen miles on the straight section, Groom Lake Road rounds
a corner and reaches the border of the restricted zone. There is no gate and no
fence, but the unambiguous warning signs leave no doubt that this is the point
beyond which outsiders dare not go.

During the Cold War, AFB perimeters were marked with signs that carried
the warning “Use of Deadly Force Authorized,” meaning that the guards were
permitted to kill trespassers. These are gone now, but the threat of detainment
and arrest lives on. Not so high up on the hills nearby, watching anyone who
stops to view the signs and make the obligatory U-turn, are guards in pickups
and Jeep Cherokees watching with binoculars.

As their vehicles are not in military colors, it is assumed that these people are
employees of a contractor firm such as EG&G or URS. Area 51 enthusiasts call
them the “Cammo Dudes,” because they do wear camouflaged uniforms. This is
counterintuitive, because their primary function, short of making arrests, is to be seen.

Located about twenty miles northwest of the Black Mailbox, Rachel, Nevada,
is the only town on the Extraterrestrial Highway. An icon of the Area 51
subculture in its own right, Rachel experienced its heyday in the 1990s during
the decade after the official revelation of the F-117A and the unofficial
revelations of Bob Lazar.

Table of Contents

Area 51 - Black Jets- A History of the Aircraft Developed at Groom Lake, America's Secret Aviation Base
And, as his strength
Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow—
“Shadow,” said he,
“Where can it be—
This Area 51?”
“Over the mountains
Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride,”
The shade replied—
“If you seek for Area 51!”
(With apologies to Edgar Allen Poe’s poem “Eldorado,” also about a place
which officially did not exist.)

The Untold Truth


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 530 p
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 2018 & 2019 John Scott Chace 

This book is a continuation of my first two books; "UFOs In U.S. AIRSPACE:
HARD EVIDENCE" and “The Invasion of Earth: UFO and Extraterrestrial
Contact.” However, this book concentrates on the UFO cases found in Project Blue Book.
If you want to know more about the intimate details of Project Blue Book UFO
cases you purchased the right book. Having seen many UFOs in Connecticut
over several years, I wanted to understand the ships and their crews. I take a very
different look at UFOs invading our earth than other writers. My goal is to
educate the public on the activities of the ships and their crew. That is I am
interested in what they do, where they go and why they appear at secret military sites.
My first sighting was in Connecticut in 2011. Since then, I kept a log of all my
sightings which ranged up until 2013. All of my UFO sightings led me to the
conclusion that I must know more about these visitors.
Being an Air Force Brat, I assumed I knew most of our jets and bombers, but
these unidentified flying objects were no planes, and they were not military
aircraft. These ships have "no markings” and they typically glow at night.
World government leaders have had a poor track record of educating us all on
this new reality as such we are called to teach each other. That is what I intend to
do here. I hope you enjoy my third book.

Table of Contents

Project Blue Book, Top Secret UFO Files- The Untold Truth
All photographs in the book are in the public domain and have been referenced.
All UFO illustrations in the book are designed by John Scott Chace.

Pursuing the Truth Behind the World’s Greatest Mystery

Gian J Quasar

To that vast horizon, whose approaching will solve many riddles . . .
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 2004, 2005 by Gian J. Quasar 

The Bermuda Triangle:
A Riddle at a Nearby Shore
WITHIN THE WESTERN North Atlantic Ocean there exists what might be
called a triangle of sea extending southwest from the island of Bermuda to
Miami and through southern Florida to Key West; then, encompassing the
Bahamas, it extends southeast through Puerto Rico to as far as 15° North
latitude, and then from there northward back to Bermuda. This is the
area commonly called the Bermuda Triangle. For all intents and purposes
it appears like any other temperate sea. Yet in the annals of sea mysteries
there is no other place that challenges mankind with so many extraordinary
and incredible events, for this is where far more aircraft and ships have
disappeared throughout recorded maritime history than in any other region
of the world’s oceans. With few exceptions the disappearances have
been in fair weather, sending out no distress messages and leaving no
wreckage or bodies. In the last twenty-five years alone, some seventy-five
aircraft and hundreds of pleasure yachts have inexplicably vanished despite
the fact that GPS is now extensively used, that communication systems are
powerful and reliable, and that searches are immediately launched.
Disturbing as these numbers may seem, the circumstances surrounding
many of the disappearances are what really give rise to the greatest
alarm. From the files of several federal investigating bureaus, eye-opening
details emerge that continue to present difficult questions that as yet have
no answers within the scope of our present knowledge of the sea, aeronautics,
and navigation. One such disappearance illustrates this point.
It was Halloween 1991. Radar controllers checked and rechecked what
they had just seen. The scope was blank in one spot now. Everywhere else
within the scope seemed normal, and routine traffic was proceeding undisturbed,
in their vectors, tracked and uninterrupted. But moments earlier
radar had been tracking a Grumman Cougar jet. The pilot was John Verdi.
He and trained copilot, Paul Lukaris, were heading toward Tallahassee,
Florida. Just moments before, with a crackle of the mike, Verdi’s voice had
come over the receiver at the flight center.
He requested a higher altitude. Permission was quickly granted and the
turbo jet was observed ascending from 25,000 feet to its new altitude of
29,000 feet. All seemed normal. Some thunderstorms had drifted into the
path of the jet, and satellite imagery confirmed the area was overcast.
But that was no concern for Verdi. They were above the weather. At
their present altitude they were just breaking out of the cloud cover,
emerging into the brilliant sunlight.
The clouds must have been their typical breathtaking sight, billowing
below in glowing white hills and arroyos.
They were still ascending. Verdi had not yet “rogered” that he had
reached his prescribed flight level.
Radar continued to track the Cougar. Until, for some unknown reason,
while ascending, it simply faded away. Verdi and Lukaris answered no
more calls to respond. Furthermore, they had sent no SOS to indicate
they had encountered any hint of a problem. Readouts of the radar observations
confirmed the unusual. The Grumman had not been captured
on the scope at all as descending or as falling to the sea; there had been
no sudden loss of altitude. It just disappeared from the scope while climbing.
One sweep they were there. The next—raised brows on traffic controllers:
it was blank.
The ocean, sitting under convective thunderstorm activity, was naturally
not conducive to a search. No trace, if there was any left to find,
was ever sifted out of the Gulf. When it was all over, the whole incident
was chalked under a familiar and terse assumption: “aircraft damage and
injury index presumed.”
So far, very few disappearances have ever been reported by the press and,
if they are, they’re reported with little attention to detail, or the reports studiously
avoid any reference to the unusual. In 1978 and 1979 alone, eighteen
aircraft mysteriously vanished, yet only two or three rated any space
in newspapers. Among these missing planes was a DC-3 airliner; a large
twin-engine charter on approach; and several private aircraft in the narrow
corridor between Bimini Island and Miami, which are in view of each
other from aircraft altitudes. Yet, nevertheless, all vanished as if surgically
extracted by a hand being careful not to affect the surrounding heavy
traffic on that route, which reported no signs of wreckage or unusual
weather. Even apart from the strangeness of the events preceding and surrounding
some disappearances, it appears fairly obvious by the number
that something is very wrong.

Although it is often publicly recited that the Bermuda Triangle’s reputation
is based on twenty planes and fifty vessels posted missing over the
last hundred years, official records vividly show that such a number can be
and has been easily exceeded in any given two-year period. On an average,
however, four aircraft and about twenty yachts vanish each year.
The frequency of those two years is alarming enough. But out of all
the alarming elements in the statistics, it is not the isolated surges of
losses that are the most intriguing. Dossiers on all aircraft accidents,
which include missing planes, are still maintained, and behind-the-scenes
they monotonously document the startling repetition. A “Brief Format,”
usually just called a Brief, is available for perusal from civil investigating
authorities, particularly the National Transportation Safety Board in
Washington, D.C. These handy and mostly terse one- or two-page chits
preserve the known facts. Considering the brevity of the information, the
nickname Brief is not a misnomer, especially prior to 1982 before the
Board enlarged the scope of information contained on the sheets. Their
pages, though, quietly testify to the actual number of missing planes in
the Bermuda Triangle.
Computer searches of the database files of the NTSB for several time
brackets reveal some sobering statistics. It is quite surprising to examine the
Briefs and notice what is not in newspapers. For instance, between 1964 (the
oldest dates for the “Brief ” records) and 1974 thirty-seven planes vanished.
The period from 1974 to 1984 show that forty-one aircraft have mysteriously
disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle. The pattern was the same—mostly
over the Bahamas; it continued: from 1984 to 1994 thirty-two vanished.
And from 1994 to the present twenty aircraft have disappeared. Although it
may appear that the number is on the decrease, this decrease mirrors the
economic downturn of the late 1990s, and dropped sharply after September
11, 2001, when traffic was severely curtailed for a number of reasons.
There is no evidence, however, that the circumstances for disappearances
are any less unusual than before. Mystery continues to strike. On
Christmas Eve 1994, a Piper aircraft vanished over West Boca Raton,
Florida—one of the few instances of a plane ostensibly disappearing
over land. Although radar operators could never find a trace of it in their
tracking readouts, a witness below clearly saw the navigation lights of
the Piper. Investigation proved it must have belonged to Laurent Abecassis,
who had taken the plane out earlier in the day for some practice flying.
On May 12, 1999, an Aero Commander, while approaching Nassau,
disappeared from radar for thirty minutes, then miraculously reappeared,
though the pilot seemed unaware anything had happened, be-
fore the plane and the pilot vanished again, this time permanently. On
February 1, 2001, Casey Purvis was in his Cherokee Six playing radar tag
with a Coast Guard aircraft as a practice maneuver. Suddenly he reported
himself in a fog, then vanished. Wreckage from the aircraft was
later found near Marathon, Florida Keys, where he last reported himself.
Weather from both the nearby Coast Guard aircraft and Marathon reporting
station confirmed visibility was clear for 12 miles. On July 20,
2002, a Piper Lance mysteriously crashed after taking off from Freeport,
Grand Bahama. After having been in flight long enough to have been
halfway to Florida, its fuselage was found only 15 miles from its point
of departure. Radar tracking cannot explain it. The phenomenon of
the bizarre is not abating.
Factual aviation accident reports are available from General Microfilm,
the National Transportation Safety Board’s documents contractor, from
1978 onward. Those prior have been destroyed. Carefully sifting through
these accident reports brings to light a pattern interwoven with tragedy
and mystery. Together they create a sobering picture of sudden and many
times bizarre disappearances at sea in a confined area. Quite often, when
faced with the facts, the curious have come away badly jolted. The pages
they read bare some recurrent themes in the losses and these, in turn,
open the door to some potentially explosive issues.
Everybody involved in one particular case—tower and radar controllers
and listening pilots alike—was dramatically affected by some frantic last
words. Uttered in a desperate voice, they introduced other elements, stark
and frightening, in the mystery of missing planes. While in flight near the
coast of Puerto Rico, on June 28, 1980, about 35 miles out, José Torres,
the pilot of an Ercoupe, signaled that a “weird object” in his flight path was
forcing him to change course. Despite all his evasive maneuvers, the object
continued to cut him off. That’s not all—he reported his equipment was
on the fritz, and he was now lost.
“Mayday, Mayday,” he continued to call. Then, as astounded controllers
watched, the plane vanished from the radarscope, with Torres
and his passenger, José Pagan. Minutes later an object reappeared on the
scope and then flitted away. In what manner it fled the scope the report
would not comment.
A search that night cast beams of light on a dark ocean. It was the typical
nothing: a bland ocean surface crisscrossed with streaming beams of
Civil Air Patrol spotlights. The crests and swells were devoid of any trace
of an accident.
Many of the other planes have simply vanished while in sight of land,
while coming in for a landing, or after having just departed, occurring, it
should be emphasized, between a single sweep of the radarscope (less than
40 seconds). Others have vanished over shallow waters, less than 10 feet
deep, yet with equal lack of trace or silhouette to mark their position, as if
magically they just faded away, while others have vanished during radio
contact, as in the case above, blurting such words like: “Is there any way
out of this?”; “Stand by, we have a problem right now”; “Oh, Jesus
Christ . . . ! ”; “What’s happening to me?”; or reporting that their compass
or directional gyro is going berserk.
The missing boats are not just specks lost on a big ocean. Many have
vanished just at the edge of the harbor, others while cruising around a
peninsula, and others have been found drifting shipshape, lifeless, the
occupants gone without leaving any clue behind as to what happened.
In no search undertaken by the Seventh Coast Guard district (which
has jurisdiction over the area of the Bermuda Triangle), for any airplane
or vessel posted overdue and then eventually declared missing, has a body
ever been recovered. Even when the vessel may later be found, it is always
found deserted or, in the case of aircraft, it is found ditched in shallow
water, the ignition key removed, the doors tightly closed, but no sign of
the pilots or passengers.
The disappearances have not been limited to small craft. A whole
squadron of five Navy torpedo bombers, the famous Flight 19, vanished
on a routine training flight off Florida on December 5, 1945, after the
flight leader radioed, among other things, that both his compasses were
no longer working. Although the airplanes had the latest navigational
devices and sea survival equipment, the patrol never found their way
back, nor was any trace found. Passenger aircraft have included DC-3
and DC-4 airliners, plus several other four-engine models. Military aircraft
have even included an eight-engine B-52 bomber. Large ships have included
the 504-foot tanker Marine Sulphur Queen, the 520-foot Poet, and the
590-foot Sylvia L. Ossa. In the case of the Ossa, before she vanished she had
just signaled she was near Bermuda—a dramatic reminder of the boundaries
of the Triangle. Most of these vessels were carrying cargoes that
are fairly safe to ship, such as coal and corn; some have even been in ballast—
that is, empty and shipping no cargoes at all. None of these are as inexplicable
as “reappearances,” where a pilot’s radio messages are captured
receding hundreds of miles beyond where he vanished and hours after
fuel exhaustion. In the case of the Grumman Cougar jet that vanished
from radar while ascending to 29,000 feet, the summation of one observer
that “there is just no logical explanation” seems to fit all these incidents.
There is a growing belief that there is something very different out in
the Triangle as opposed to other seas. Since ships and planes disappear in
like manner, there seems to be little possibility that ordinary mishaps such
as pilot error, vertigo, fuel exhaustion, getting lost, disorientation, or natural
disasters like tidal waves, cyclones, or whirlpools can be the sole culprit.
While some of the above can be deadly to planes, they are not to
ships and vice versa.

Table of Contents

1 The Bermuda Triangle: A Riddle at a Nearby Shore 1
2 The Riddle of Missing Planes 14
3 The Riddle of Vanished Ships 51
4 Can It Be That Simple? 83
5 Those Who Lived to Tell 97
6 Space-Time Vortices, Zero-Point, and Sunken Worlds 118
7 Clues from a Shifting Paradigm 144
8 Atyantica 168
9 The Warnings of Lunar and Martian Anomalies 189
10 Interest from a Past World? 209
11 Let the Oceans Speak 230
12 A Vast Horizon: An Answer from Without,
Within, and All Around Us 249
Notes 262
Bibliography 269
Acknowledgments 283
Index 285

Gian J Quasar - Into the Bermuda Triangle

Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind

V.S. Ramachandran, M.D., Ph.D.,

and Sandra Blakeslee

l. Neurology-Popular works. 2. Brain-Popular works. 3. Neurosciences-Popular works.
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 1998 by V.S. Ramachandran
 and Sandra Blakeslee  

By the deficits, we may know the talents, by the exceptions, we may
discern the rules, by studying pathology we may construct a model
of health. And-most important-from this model may evolve the
insights and tools we need to affect our own lives, mold our own
destinies, change ourselves and our society in ways that, as yet, we
can only imagine.
The world shall perish not for lack of wonders, but for lack of wonder.

In any field, find the strangest thing and then explore it.

This book has been incubating in my head for many years, but I never
quite got around to writing it. Then, about three years ago, I gave the
Decade of the Brain lecture at the annual meeting of the Society for
Neuroscience to an audience of over four thousand scientists, discussing
many of my findings, including my studies on phantom limbs, body image
and the illusory nature of the self. Soon after the lecture, I was
barraged with questions from the audience: How does the mind influence
the body in health and sickness? How can I stimulate my right brain
to be more creative? Can your mental attitude really help cure asthma
and cancer? Is hypnosis a real phenomenon? Does your work suggest
new ways to treat paralysis after strokes? I also got a number of requests
from students, colleagues and even a few publishers to undertake writing
a textbook. Textbook writing is not my cup of tea, but I thought a
popular book on the brain dealing mainly with my own experiences
working with neurological patients might be fun to write. During the
last decade or so, I have gleaned many new insights into the workings
of the human brain by studying such cases, and the urge to communicate
these ideas is strong. When you are involved in an enterprise as exciting
as this, it's a natural human tendency to want to share your ideas with
others. Moreover, I feel that I owe it to taxpayers, who ultimately support
my work through grants from the National Institutes of Health.
Popular science books have a rich, venerable tradition going as far
back as Galileo in the seventeenth century. Indeed, this was Galileo's
main method of disseminating his ideas, and in his books he often aimed
barbs at an imaginary protagonist, Simplicia-an amalgam of his professors.
Almost all of Charles Darwin's famous books, including The Origin
of Species, The Descent of Man, The Expression of Emotions in Animals
and Men, The Habits of Insectivorous Plants-but not his two-volume
monograph on barnacles!-were written for the lay reader at the request
of his publisher, John Murray. The same can be said of the many works
of Thomas Huxley, Michael Faraday, Humphry Davy and many other
Victorian scientists. Faraday's Chemical History of a Candle, based on
Christmas lectures that he gave to children, remains a classic to this day.

I must confess that I haven't read all these books, but I do owe a
heavy intellectual debt to popular science books, a sentiment that is echoed
by many of my colleagues. Dr. Francis Crick of the Salk Institute
tells me that Erwin Schrodinger's popular book What Is Life? contained
a few speculative remarks on how heredity might be based on a chemical
and that this had a profound impact on his intellectual development,
culminating in his unraveling the genetic code together with James Watson
. Many a Nobel Prize-winning physician embarked on a research career
after reading Paul de Kruif 's The Microbe Hunters, which was
published in 1926 . My own interest in scientific research dates back to
my early teens, when I read books by George Gamow, Lewis Thomas,
and Peter Medawar, and the flame is being kept alive by a new generation
of writers-Oliver Sacks, Stephen Jay Gould, Carl Sagan, Dan Dennett,
Richard Gregory, Richard Dawkins, Paul Davies, Colin Blakemore and
Steven Pinker.
About six years ago I received a phone call from Francis Crick, the
codiscoverer of the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid ( DNA) , in which
he said that he was writing a popular book on the brain called The Aston ishing
Hypothesis. In his crisp British accent, Crick said that he had completed
a first draft and had sent it to his editor, who felt that it was
extremely well written but that the manuscript still contained jargon that
would be intelligible only to a specialist. She suggested that he pass it
around to some lay people . "I say, Rama," Crick said with exasperation,
"the trouble is, I don 't know any lay people . Do you know any lay people
I could show the book to? " At first I thought he was joking, but then
realized he was perfectly serious . I can't personally claim not to know
any lay people, but I could nevertheless sympathize with Crick's plight.
When writing a popular book, professional scientists always have to walk
a tightrope between making the book intelligible to the general reader,
on the one hand, and avoiding oversimplification, on the other, so that
experts are not annoyed. My solution has been to make elaborate use of
end notes, which serve three distinct functions : First, whenever it was
necessary to simplifY an idea, my cowriter, Sandra Blakeslee , and I resorted
to notes to qualifY these remarks, to point out exceptions and to
make it clear that in some cases the results are preliminary or controversial
. Second, we have used notes to amplifY a point that is made only
briefly in the main text-so that the reader can explore a topic in greater
depth . The notes also point the reader to original references and credit
those who have worked on similar topics . I apologize to those whose
works are not cited; my only excuse is that such omission is inevitable in

a book such as this ( for a while the notes threatened to exceed the main
text in length ) . But I 've tried to include as many pertinent references as
possible in the bibliography at the end, even though not all of them are
specifically mentioned in the text.
This book is based on the true-life stories of many neurological patients.
To protect their identity, I have followed the usual tradition of
changing names, circumstances and defining characteristics throughout
each chapter. Some of the "cases" I describe are really composites of
several patients, including classics in the medical literature, as my purpose
has been to illustrate salient aspects of the disorder, such as the neglect
syndrome or temporal lobe epilepsy. When I describe classic cases (like
the man with amnesia known as H . M . ), I refer the reader to original
sources for details . Other stories are based on what are called single-case
studies, which involve individuals who manifest a rare or unusual syndrome.
A tension exists in neurology between those who believe that the most
valuable lessons about the brain can be learned from statistical analyses
involving large numbers of patients and those who believe that doing
the right kind of experiments on the right patients-even a single patient-
can yield much more useful information. This is really a silly debate
since its resolution is obvious: It's a good idea to begin with
experiments on single cases and then to confirm the findings through
studies of additional patients . By way of analogy, imagine that I cart a
pig into your living room and tell you that it can talk. You might say,
"Oh, really? Show me . " I then wave my wand and the pig starts talking.
You might respond, "My God! That's amazing ! " You are not likely to
say, "Ah, but that's just one pig. Show me a few more and then I might
believe you . " Yet this is precisely the attitude of many people in my field .
I think it's fair to say that, in neurology, most of the major discoveries
that have withstood the test of time were, in fact, based initially on singlecase
studies and demonstrations . More was learned about memory from
a few days of studying a patient called H . M . than was gleaned from
previous decades of research averaging data on many subjects . The same
can be said about hemispheric specialization ( the organization of the
brain into a left brain and a right brain, which are specialized for different
functions ) and the experiments carried out on two patients with so-called
split brains (in whom the left and right hemispheres were disconnected
by cutting the fibers between them ) . More was learned from these two
individuals than from the previous fifty years of studies on normal people .
In a science still in its infancy ( like neuroscience and psychology)
demonstration-style experiments play an especially important role . A classic
example is Galileo's use of early telescopes . People often assume that
Galileo invented the telescope, but he did not. Around 1607, a Dutch
spectacle maker, Hans Lipperhey, placed two lenses in a cardboard tube
and found that this arrangement made distant objects appear closer. The
device was widely used as a child's toy and soon found its way into
country fairs throughout Europe , including France . In 1609 , when Galileo
heard about this gadget, he immediately recognized its potential .
Instead o f spying o n people and other terrestrial objects, h e simply raised
the tube to the sky-something that nobody else had done . First he
aimed it at the moon and found that it was covered with craters, gullies
and mountains-which told him that the so-called heavenly bodies are,
contrary to conventional wisdom, not so perfect after all: They are full
of flaws and imperfections, open to scrutiny by mortal eyes just like objects
on earth . Next he directed the telescope at the Milky Way and
noticed instantly that far from being a homogeneous cloud ( as people
believed), it was composed of millions of stars. But his most startling
discovery occurred when he peered at Jupiter, which was known to be a
planet or wandering star. Imagine his astonishment when he saw three
tiny dots near Jupiter (which he initially assumed were new stars ) and
witnessed that after a few days one disappeared. He then waited for a
few more days and gazed once again at Jupiter, only to find that not
only had the missing dot reappeared, but there was now an extra dot-a
total of four dots instead of three. He understood in a flash that the four
dots were Jovian satellites-moons just like ours-that orbited the
planet. The implications were immense . In one stroke, Galileo had
proved that not all celestial bodies orbit the earth, for here were four
that orbited another planet, Jupiter. He thereby dethroned the geocentric
theory of the universe, replacing it with the Copernican view that
the sun, not the earth, was at the center of the known universe . The
clinching evidence came when he directed his telescope at Venus and
found that it looked like a crescent moon going though all the phases,
just like our moon, except that it took a year rather than a month to do
so . Again, Galileo deduced from this that all the planets were orbiting
the sun and that Venus was interposed between the earth and the sun .
All this from a simple cardboard tube with two lenses . No equations, no
graphs, no quantitative measurements: "just" a demonstration.
When I relate this example to medical students, the usual reaction is,
Well, that was easy during Galileo's time, but surely now in the twentieth
century all the major discoveries have already been made and we can't
do any new research without expensive equipment and detailed quantitative
methods. Rubbish ! Even now amazing discoveries are staring at
you all the time, right under your nose . The difficulty lies in realizing
this. For example , in recent decades all medical students were taught that
ulcers are caused by stress, which leads to excessive acid production that
erodes the mucosal lining of the stomach and duodenum, producing the
characteristic craters or wounds that we call ulcers . And for decades the
treatment was either antacids, histamine receptor blockers, vagotomy
( cutting the acid-secreting nerve that innervates the stomach ) or even
gastrectomy ( removal of part of the stomach. ) But then a young resident
physician in Australia, Dr. Bill Marshall, looked at a stained section of a
human ulcer under a microscope and noticed that it was teeming with
Helicobacter pylori-a common bacterium that is found in a certain proportion
of healthy individuals . Since he regularly saw these bacteria in
ulcers, he started wondering whether perhaps they actually caused ulcers .
When he mentioned this idea to his professors, he was told, "No way.
That can't be true . We all know ulcers are caused by stress. What you
are seeing is just a secondary infection of an ulcer that was already in place . "

But Dr. Marshall was not dissuaded and proceeded to challenge the
conventional wisdom . First he carried out an epidemiological study,
which showed a strong correlation between the distribution of Helicobacter
species in patients and the incidence of duodenal ulcers . But this
finding did not convince his colleagues, so out of sheer desperation,
Marshall swallowed a culture of the bacteria, did an endoscopy on himself
a few weeks later and demonstrated that his gastrointestinal tract was
studded with ulcers ! He then conducted a formal clinical trial and
showed that ulcer patients who were treated with a combination of antibiotics,
bismuth and metronidazole ( Flagyl, a bactericide ) recovered at
a much higher rate-and had fewer relapses-than did a control group
given acid-blocking agents alone .
I mention this episode to emphasize that a single medical student or
resident whose mind is open to new ideas and who works without sophisticated
equipment can revolutionize the practice of medicine . It is in
this spirit that we should all undertake our work, because one never
knows what nature is hiding.
I'd also like to say a word about speculation, a term that has acquired
a pejorative connotation among some scientists . Describing someone's
idea as "mere speculation" is often considered insulting. This is unfortunate
. As the English biologist Peter Medawar has noted, "An imagi
native conception of what might be true is the starting point of all great
discoveries in science . " Ironically, this is sometimes true even when the
speculation turns out to be wrong. Listen to Charles Darwin: "False facts
are highly injurious to the progress of science for they often endure long;
but false hypotheses do little harm, as everyone takes a salutary pleasure
in proving their falseness; and when this is done, one path toward error
is closed and the road to truth is often at the same time opened. "
Every scientist knows that the best research emerges from a dialectic
between speculation and healthy skepticism . Ideally the two should coexist
in the same brain, but they don't have to . Since there are people
who represent both extremes, all ideas eventually get tested ruthlessly.
Many are rejected (like cold fusion ) and others promise to turn our views
topsy turvy (like the view that ulcers are caused by bacteria) .
Several of the findings you are going to read about began as hunches
and were later confirmed by other groups (the chapters on phantom
limbs, neglect syndrome, blindsight and Capgras' syndrome ) . Other
chapters describe work at an earlier stage, much of which is frankly speculative
(the chapter on denial and temporal lobe epilepsy ) . Indeed, I will
take you at times to the very limits of scientific inquiry.
I strongly believe , however, that it is always the writer's responsibility
to spell out clearly when he is speculating and when his conclusions are
clearly warranted by his observations . I 've made every effort to preserve
this distinction throughout the book, often adding qualifications, disclaimers
and caveats in the text and especially in the notes. In striking
this balance between fact and fancy, I hope to stimulate your intellectual
curiosity and to widen your horizons, rather than to provide you with
hard and fast answers to the questions raised.
The famous saying "May you live in interesting times" has a special
meaning now for those of us who study the brain and human behavior.
On the one hand, despite two hundred years of research, the most basic
questions about the human mind-How do we recognize faces? Why do
we cry? Why do we laugh? Why do we dream? and Why do we enjoy
music and art?-remain unanswered, as does the really big question:
What is consciousness? On the other hand, the advent of novel experimental
approaches and imaging techniques is sure to transform our understanding
of the human brain. What a unique privilege it will be for
our generation-and our children's-to witness what I believe will be
the greatest revolution in the history of the human race: understanding
ourselves . The prospect of doing so is at once both exhilarating and disquieting.

There is something distinctly odd about a hairless neotenous primate
that has evolved into a species that can look back over its own shoulder
and ask questions about its origins . And odder still, the brain can not
only discover how other brains work but also ask questions about its own
existence : Who am I ? What happens after death ? Does my mind arise
exclusively from neurons in my brain? And if so, what scope is there for
free will? It is the peculiar recursive quality of these questions-as the
brain struggles to understand itself-that makes neurology fascinating.

Table of Contents
Foreword by Oliver Sacks, M . D . vii
Preface XI
Chapter l: The Phantom Within 1
Chapter 2 : "Knowing Where to Scratch" 2 1
Chapter 3: Chasing the Phantom 39
Chapter 4: The Zombie i n the Brain 63
Chapter 5: The Secret Life of James Thurber 8 5
Chapter 6 : Through the Looking Glass 113
Chapter 7: The Sound of One Hand Clapping 127
Chapter 8 : "The Unbearable Likeness o f Being" 1 5 8
Chapter 9: God and the Limbic System 174
Chapter 10 : The Woman Who Died Laughing 199
Chapter 1 1 : "You Forgot t o Deliver the Twin" 2 12
Chapter 12 : Do Martians See Red? 227
Acknowledgments 2 5 9
Notes 263
Bibliography and Suggested Reading 299
Index 3 14


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