Exposing PseudoAstronomy

March 2, 2015

Podcast Episode 127: The Saga of Comet Hale-Bopp and its Fugacious Companion, Part 1

Great Comet Hale-Bopp,
Part 1: On the claimed photos
Of your companion.

I’ve been working on this episode for awhile: The saga of the great and powerful Comet Hale-Bopp and the conspiracy, mystery, intrigue, lies, schemes, hoaxes, and suicides that accompanied it. The idea came when I started listening to a new Art Bell set of interviews that I had obtained, and I realized early in the episode (November 14, 1996) that I was listening to THE interview that started the whole thing. I found another dozen or so interviews and decided to make an episode out of it. About three months and over 10,000 words of notes and transcripts later, this is the release of Part 1 of what will be a three-part series on Hale-Bopp.

The three episodes are meant to be stand-alone in that they don’t need the others to be understandable. But, put them together and they tell the story in a lot more depth. This first part is about the image – the “hard science” – claims about the companion. Next one will be on the remote viewing claims and aftermath, and the third will be on the Heaven’s Gate cult and aftermath and continued conspiracy, including a brief entry by Richard Hoagland.

I have decided that, while I may do my interview with Dave Draper on potentially pseudoscientific conference abstracts before Parts 2 or 3 are finished, I will wait to put it out, such that Parts 1-3 will be back-to-back-to-back.

There were two logical fallacies pointed out in this episode: Argument against authority, and correlation ≠ causation (cum hoc ergo propter hoc).

And, finally, I plan to do a small tribute to Leonard Nimoy, no earlier than April 1. The tribute will be from you: If he or any of his characters affected you (especially as perhaps related to an interest in science or astronomy or critical thinking), please send in a few sentences. Or, record no more than 30—60 seconds and send the file to me. I will read/play them either on episode 129, 130, or 131.



  1. When I was a kid I experimented with purging myself of emotion and trying to be totally logical all the time just like wit the Kolinaar discipline in Star Trek-The Motion Picture.

    Comment by hitchens67 — March 2, 2015 @ 11:59 pm | Reply

  2. That was interesting. I will admit, when I first heard Browns claim that the photographs had arrived in the form of undeveloped 35mm camera film my first thoughts was that the claim was going to be that the “top-ten university astronomer(/professor)” had photographed images displayed on a monitor in the telescope control room, but then that goes to the workings of my mind.

    It does also make for an interesting point of comparison with some of Mark Hazlewoods remarks back in Episode 80, where he described one of his alleged sources as being a ‘NASA insider’ with a “triple doctorate”, it’s almost as if promoters of strange claims need ‘highly qualified sources’ to impress their audience.

    Finally one piece of cultural fallout from the ‘Hale-Bopp Saga’ may have been the Nocturnum Campaign published by Fantasy Flight Games for the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying system in three parts (Long Shades – Hollow Winds – Deep Secrets) between 1997 – 1999. The villains of the scenario use a ‘gizmo’ to pull a comet into an impact trajectory with Earth, with the intention of using the energies unleashed when the comet strikes the Earth to power another ‘gizmo’.

    To provide plauseable reasons for the player characters not going to the authorities when they discover this, the authors provide two devices, the first is a trumped up murder charge, the second is a full blown conspiracy to cover up the impact, not by the villains, but by the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

    The backstory as presented to the games master, is that the IAU has a set of secret clauses in it’s charter that require it to cover up major impact events so as to give the goverments of the world a chance to find a solution unburdened by rioting mobs. The first step in the conspiracy is to have someone ‘discover’ the comet so that the IAU can issue ‘tweaked’ trajectory solutions that show the comet will pass close to Earth, but not hit.

    At the same time the IAU monitors both professional and amateur astronomers worldwide (The authors assume the news media will simply accept anything an IAU certified astronomer tells them…), if someone threatens to expose the cover-up they are visited by a team that explains the situation and offers the person a chance to join in the cover-up, if the offer is refused, then the recipient dies an ‘accidental’ death and their data is confiscated.

    All I will say about the above scenario is that the authors, unlike most conspiracy theorists, do not make the mistake of assuming that the world ends at the continental borders of the United States.

    Comment by Graham — March 4, 2015 @ 7:49 pm | Reply

    • Interesting …

      As for the 35mm film photo, I didn’t even think about it being from a computer monitor. That was definitely NOT the case because the photo did not show any of the artifacts you would get from taking a photo of a CRT back in the 1990s. So we can at least rule that out.

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — March 9, 2015 @ 9:14 pm | Reply

  3. Wow–hearing about this again raises a good amount of anger. The sheer dishonesty of the players is breathtaking. Anxiously awaiting the next episode! Thanks!

    Comment by lancemoody — March 5, 2015 @ 3:59 pm | Reply

    • Imagine how I felt listening to about 15 hrs of this crap AND rewinding multiple times to transcribe. 🙂

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — March 5, 2015 @ 4:42 pm | Reply

  4. What happened to Shramek when all this came to its conclusion?
    Do you know if he ever acknowledged his mistake?

    Comment by Trebor — June 9, 2016 @ 3:00 am | Reply

    • No one I’ve heard has found evidence that he retracted.

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — June 9, 2016 @ 10:01 am | Reply

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