Seeing what you want to see when what you see is fake
This post is based on my Skinny Bob tweets analyzing the Skinny Bob footage, based on the work done by Reddit users (mostly on r/SkinnyBob). My particular interest is the second video where I believe the evidence shows a modified Mars Attacks puppet was probably used. This puppet was first suggested (to my knowledge) by Reddit user BrooklynRobot who has my gratitude. I expanded the analysis, looking into the armature and paint job of the puppet and illustrating not only the similarities to Skinny Bob but the plausible modifications to the head that may have been done.
Four videos relating to Skinny Bob were uploaded to YouTube by Ivan0135 in April-May 2011, supposedly KGB film footage from 1942-69 of alien visitors. (The videos are referred to here as SB1-4.) The videos are 5 min total - I’m focusing more on the 37 seconds depicting grey(s) in motion. These videos are the only evidence we have. It's 8mm/16mm film projected onto a screen and recorded with a video camera that also picks up the audio of the flickering projector. The video has a timecode at lower left.
I'll briefly look at the footage as a whole, then talk about how a Mars Attacks puppet may have been used in some scenes.
Like other “real deal!” UFO video out there, the Skinny Bob videos use tricks to hide the fact the footage is artificial: terrible quality, short scenes with choppy cuts, unstable camera, high contrast black & white, low resolution, motion blur, and dirt filters added. Skinny Bob himself doesn't manipulate objects or speak in SB2. (He does walk in SB4.)
Without even looking further, these factors make the footage suspect. But there are other reasons to doubt the footage depicts anything resembling what Ivan0135 claims.
Video cameras that used an aspect ratio of 16:9 were rare prior to 2011, and all were digital. Yet the Skinny Bob video includes analog artefacts (horizontal grey lines, rainbow moire), a clue that these are added effects. The timecode font is Consolas (Microsoft), released 1/1/2007. So the video was made after this date. The fades, ghosting, dirt & scratches look like old projected film - yet they affect the video timecode. Therefore these were layered on top after 1/1/2007.
The film scratch overlay was tracked down to a piece of stock footage (earliest upload found is 2009) and was probably created with a plug-in, Sapphire Film Damage for BorisFX. This video (timestamped) from Small Town Monsters goes over that evidence.
The unconvincing explanation from Bob-believers for the fake overlays is that they were added to real vintage footage to obscure its origin or to make this Top Secret leaked real footage appear fake. Yes, it just so happens that leaked footage of aliens walking this Earth looks just like fake footage using obvious workarounds to disguise the limitations of animation and CGI.
For me the most curious part of the SB2 Skinny Bob footage, if real, is that his entire eye sockets and surrounding face are "in shadow". Given the shadows don't move when his head moves, it's clear these areas have been painted black. We all know how easy it is to spot fake "realistic" humanoid eyes on film, no matter how realistic the rest of the figure is.
One way to overcome this is to not show the eyeballs. On just a couple of frames from SB2, the eyeballs can possibly be detected after enhancement. Two Redditors (Smooth Imagination and Ben Philips) showed their enhancements, but when I did the same (background image below right), adjusting brightness & contrast etc., I got something slightly different. (We all used different settings, I guess.) If my enhancement is accurate, it appears to show the eye white. I "painted" over it to clarify what I believe could be there: beady eyeballs. Despite other scenes in the Skinny Bob footage showing typical huge alien Grey eyes, it seems to be generally accepted by both sides of the argument that Skinny Bob has normal sized eyes, and wears shades in other scenes.
Bob's eyelids, on the other hand, seem to be built for much larger eyes. They cover the entire eye socket when he blinks, which means they aren't even touching the eyeball. (The function of blinking is to clean the eyeball.) My guess is the lids are CGI. The left lid stretches as the 3D mesh is put under stress. It is also a very odd shape as it lowers.
Note the puppet's armature has only three fingers (like Skinny Bob) even though the completed puppet has a pinkie.
When a composite image of the camera pan of Skinny Bob from SB2 is created, we can compare his body proportions with the puppet. All the joints line up, which means all the "long bones" are exactly the same length. Eyeball-to-crotch length is also the same. Bob appears to be wearing shoulder pads and the thickness of his outfit makes his limbs thicker than the puppet's. He even has the same bulge at the elbow. The skull has been modified as discussed elsewhere.
Looking closer at the hands, every phalange is the same length, the long dark fingernails match, and even that bulge at the base of the thumb matches the underlying metal armature joint. The shading on the fully painted puppet gives the appearance of tendons on the B&W low-res Bob footage.
(From photos across the internet it's clear the puppets were finished with various different paint jobs, and there are slight variations in shape and thickness due to the foam latex.)
And looking closer at the head: if Bob is the Martian puppet, the lower jaw and teeth were removed (Bob's jaw is never seen to open), and the brains cut away. The eye sockets and sharp cheekbone look similar. The angle and length of the cheekbone also matches.
The plastic skull underlying the foam "brains" fits inside Bob's head, the shape of which could have been built up with modeling clay.
Skinny Bob's face is unnaturally immobile. His brow moves - the puppet has an articulated brow - but otherwise there's no muscles movement around mouth, cheeks, or eyes, even when he parts his lips and blinks. Both these effects may be CGI enhancements in postwork. Or the lip movement may be claymation. Indeed the entire face and skull of Skinny Bob look suspiciously like clay (in texture) overlaying the Mars Attacks puppet armature.
The pan or tilt-scan of Skinny Bob in SB2 starts at the knee, so we can't tell how long his shins are. From the crash scene in SB1, we can see he has usually long shins. I superimposed the puppet's slightly bent leg on Skinny Bob's slightly bent leg to show they match. (Thanks to coolranchsnails on Twitter for giving me the idea to check this.)
SB4 ("Family Vacation") depicts supposedly secretly shot aliens walking along a wall. Are they living breathing aliens who crash landed on Earth last century to be captured by Russians, and who later formed a treaty and then got mad when they noticed someone filming them (per the silly text cards)?
A clue that SB4 is stop-motion is that the walk cycle is improperly animated on one of the aliens - his arm just stops swinging in its natural arc.
Everyone jokes about the impossibility of an alien Greys having that skinny neck supporting a humongous head. The creators of Skinny Bob must've been aware of this, and they've given Bob a nice thick neck. The problem is that thick neck muscles themselves require other anatomical changes. Big muscles need big insertion points which means big bones. A large head also requires a large support structure in the rest of the body, including a broad chest and sturdy hips. Yet below the neck, Bob is scrawny.
If Bob wasn't animated with stop-motion, maybe he was animated by a puppeteer with her hand inside his head operating the articulated brow, and her wrist serving as his neck. I lined up Bob's skull with the puppet's using a photo that included a human hand, and the wrist is the correct size.
What about the impracticality of a turtle-neck sweater when one sports a humongous head? There does appear to be a seam down the front of Bob's top to address this issue. More interesting to me is that the neck and shoulder part of the outfit (the yoke) appear to be a separate piece.
Going back to the curious fact that the footage is shot, edited, and aged to obscure animation flaws, note that we never see Bob actually do anything in SB2. He moves his head (easily achieved by a puppeteer) and raises his arm, but he doesn't manipulate anything with those stupidly impractical long fingers (only visible in 6 frames with no evidence of fingers moving). Is his arm simply on a stick?
This life-size prop of the Mars Attacks puppet was possibly used to create Skinny Bob's handprint in SB3. The phalanges exactly match, with one finger removed and some image editing to blend the hand, lengthen to create a heel, and to add crease details (although the prop already has fairly realistic texture on its palm). Below, the prop's fingers are superimposed onto the handprint.
In my Reddit post and Twitter thread I lay out evidence that UK puppet maker Ben Philips may have been involved in creating the Skinny Bob footage (again, following up others' initial work on Reddit). Ben wrote extensively about the footage a few years ago but never once remarked or even seemed to notice that Skinny Bob bears a striking resemblance to his own puppet creations over the years.
If Skinny Bob in the SB2 and SB4 footage is a Mars Attacks puppet, the necessary modifications aren't too extensive for a skilled puppetmaker:
Were the puppet and animation prohibitively expensive? Remember:
We don't yet know every detail of the animation and postwork used to create the footage of Skinny Bob, but my conclusion is that a Mars Attacks puppet with modified head, animated with stop motion or puppetry with CGI enhancements, is the closest match to Skinny Bob in the SB2 and SB4 footage.
Sleep paralysis has been offered as an explanation for some alien abduction experiences (I first read about it from Carl Sagan but I'm sure he wasn't the first), and the evidence shows the explanation is a good one. Seeing small shadowy staring entities with bad intent around your bed, being paralyzed, feeling yourself levitate and pass through the wall - all while the fear centers of the brain are going haywire - and then perhaps falling asleep to have a nightmare about an examination (or feeling you have been "put under")... It's no wonder that some people interpret this as a real event.
Nobody I've spoken to (in real life), other than relatives who like me suffer from sleep paralysis, had ever heard of it. Apparently it's not well known among the general population, and perhaps not among therapists either - certainly it's not something abduction therapists could have explored deeply, or they'd realize it could explain many of their clients' experiences.
Metastudy on sleep paralysis
A metastudy looked at the correlation between sleep paralysis and various factors. Sleep paralysis usually occurs while falling asleep or waking up. The body is paralyzed as in REM sleep, to prevent you acting out your dreams. So your brain is awake, but your body hasn't caught up yet. Your eyes are open but you can't otherwise move, except for breathing.
You may experience:
Significant predictors of sleep paralysis - it's important to note these are not symptoms or causes of sleep paralysis, just things that a sufferer may also suffer from:
Possible significant predictors of sleep paralysis (some studies found, others did not):
These factors were NOT found to be significantly correlated with sleep paralysis:
SOURCE: Denis, French, Gregory, A systematic review of variables associated with sleep paralysis. Sleep Medicine Reviews 38 (April 2018), pp. 141-157.
See also: Article on Skeptic.com by Heidi Love who suffered from extreme episodes of sleep paralysis and learned to enjoy them (I certainly never did). See also the reader comments. She describes it as a form of lucid dream.
No one really knows the prevalence of sleep paralysis, or its causes and cures. The research is all over my place so I did my best to summarize. The "evil presence" that visits me and levitates me off my bed is 4' tall shadowy alien greys. I force myself not to fall asleep, but rather to attempt to move and break the spell, so I've never had a dream immediately following an episode. I've never been "abducted" into an alien craft or regressed to "recover memories" about a paranormal experience. But I can absolutely understand how sleep paralysis may be misinterpreted, in our culture, as an alien visitation.
The power of suggestion
After talking recently to someone who experiences glowing orbs during sleep paralysis, which I never had, this week I had my first glowing orb experience! I woke up on my back, paralyzed as usual. First I saw a drone with a red light hovering in the room. It was rather like a robot vacuum cleaner, only about 6" diameter, 5' from the floor near the corner of the room, actually more on hubby's side of the bed. Is he a person of interest?
Then a brilliant, burbling glow rose up over the foot of the bed, surrounding a white orb. A second later everything vanished because hubby jabbed me in the arm which broke the paralysis and the spell. (I've trained him to do this.)
Glowing orbs in the bedroom are reported by experiencers. I assumed they were hallucinations or dreams but didn't associate them with sleep paralysis because I'd never seen one - but now that I have, I can add them to the list of symptoms.
I created the graphic at the top for sharing. If someone describes an experience to you that includes these elements, but they've interpreted it as paranormal, perhaps take the opportunity to offer a different perspective.
It seems clear many alien abductions from beds could actually be sleep paralysis followed by a dream, which all seems real on recall. Hypnotic regression brings forth imaginative details and implants those fantasies as "memories".
My observation is that many experiencers (who believe they've been abducted or had a CE5) at some point talk about childhood abuse or neglect, or about substance use/abuse. So I have some thoughts on that.
Today I spoke to a relative - like me he grew up in a safe loving home, never felt threatened, always knew he'd be protected. He's suffered sleep paralysis episodes since early childhood. At age 8 he realized it wasn't real: he calls this milestone the development of his "critical consciousness." We all develop critical consciousness around this age - the ability to distinguish fantasy from reality. A 6-year-old might think the real Elsa came to his birthday party. At age 9 he knows it's a lady in costume.
The difference with sleep paralysis is: it feels realer than real. If you don't know what it is, your critical consciousness doesn't kick in. It's like the 9-year-old grows up still thinking Elsa came to his party. He may even misremember her appearance, as he plays back the memory in his head, as looking like the cartoon. Just as I perceive the entities in my room as short shadowy humanoid shapes observing me, but remember them later as alien Greys with huge eyes (details that weren't actually "seen" in the hallucination).
So while adults may apply critical consciousness to every other area of life, a sleep paralysis sufferer who still thinks it's "real" isn't applying critical consciousness here. And culture tells them how to interpret the experience (old hag, succubus, tokolosh, jinn, demon, alien).
When he was very young, my relative would try to resist the entity as it yanked him by the ankle off the bed. Every time he fell to the floor, he immediately found himself back on the bed again. This helped him realize that it wasn't real and that nothing bad would happen. He was, after all, living in a household where bad things didn't happen. It was easier to just let the non-existent entity win.
He also describes the entity tugging at him, then catapulting him through the wall. He learned to let it happen because on the other side of the wall a lucid dream was waiting for him. (He is highly interested in improving his lucid dreaming skills, and found that changing his drug/alcohol habits, whether increasing or decreasing, tended to increase the chance of lucid dreaming. Since he strongly associates lucid dreaming with sleep paralysis, it's possible altering drug habits will also increase sleep paralysis episodes.)
He also feels vibrations - "Like touching your tongue to a 9V battery" but through his entire body. I get buzzing and vibrations too. And of course intense fear... which he's learned to overcome. "Don't fear the phantoms," he tells me.
The fear unfortunately is my brain chemistry screwing up - I haven't learned to ignore it even though I quickly realized as a 13-year-old that the hallucinations weren't evil. I interpreted it as being all in my head, some weird sleep disorder, perhaps because I had a safe happy home where nothing bad happened, and rational parents. While the experiences were often terrifying while they lasted, even after I learned about sleep paralysis in my late 20s, there was no lingering trauma whatsoever.
What about a child who isn't fortunate enough to have that kind of home?
Stress affects memory formation. Abuse is stressful. Regression in adulthood generates imaginings that feel like memories. Add sleep paralysis episodes filled with fear and malevolent entities, ignorance about what is actually happening, and lingering trauma caused by the fear the events are paranormal - could this be a recipe for an unshakable belief you're being visited or abducted by aliens?
When I created this site, I included Travis Walton's story as a classic alien abduction story. I wasn't satisfied with Philip Klass's interpretation that all the men were lying. His 1978 interviews with Steve Pierce didn't suggest that, and if all were complicit there would've been no need to create an actual flying saucer at all. They could've simply invented their story on the job.
I preferred the explanation first proposed in 1976 by Raymond E. Fowler, that the hoax was perpetrated by two men (Travis and Mike Rogers) on the other five, using a paper balloon or similar model. After writing up this theory, producer Ryan Gordon contacted me in July 2021 and told me, unsolicited, that he was making a film or TV show in collaboration with Travis Walton who had confessed to the hoax using a fire tower. The film would expose the hoax. Because this would destroy Travis's standing in the UFO community where he made his living, he would be paid a large sum of money so he could move from Snowflake and retire. He was apparently bored with what he called his "job", with endlessly retelling the lie that had consumed his life.
In early 2021 the sniping between Travis and Mike reached new heights. Mike had gotten wind of Travis's intention to confess on film, and wanted in. Gordon told me (and later, at least one other) how his film might frame Travis's confession in the gentlest way possible. I wrote it up in this Twitter thread. In essence, the film would be a behind-the-scenes documentary about a (fake) remake of Fire in the Sky, in which Travis (as a consultant on the movie) would undergo hypnoregression and "remember" that he hoaxed the event.
I don't understand how anyone can go to their grave with such a devastating lie unconfessed. I have to think Travis saw the forthcoming exposé as a relief. In the end, the film never happened and he had to press the reset button - he claimed he barely knew Gordon and had cut him off as soon as Gentry Tower came up, despite a phone call between them suggesting otherwise and Gordon's admission to several people that he was, at the time, a family friend.
When he pulled off the prank, Travis Walton was a 22-year-old young man under the control of his domineering older brother and father-figure Duane, whom National Enquirer reporter Jeff Wells described via his colleague as ruthless and "some kind of psychopath". "The kid is scared to death of him, and so is our reporter." When Travis returned after five days, he was in shock over how the story had snowballed - the expensive manhunt that the sheriff was planning to sue him for, if he could prove a hoax, and the murder suspicions against his crewmates. Travis went along with Duane, pocketed his share of the disappointing $5000 prize from the Enquirer, and wrote a book.
But it didn't stop there. While the lives of his crewmates were devastated, Travis somehow set that aside as his fame and popularity grew over the decades. And he never set the record straight. Even now, when his brother is long-dead and he's not exactly a young man anymore.