Sadly, hoaxes are part of any paranormal research. Some hoaxes are unintentional - the witness didn't know what they were seeing and a little bit of research reveals that the sighting could be explained. Often a sighting ends up being something as simple as an unusual but explainable weather occurrence, or even just a camera artifact or distortion. When these unintentional hoaxes are revealed, we are all left unhappy that we didn't see what we thought we saw, but go back to the drawing board and look for more evidence of the paranormal.
That's the scientific method, taking a theory or piece of evidence and testing it to see if the results match up with our theory. If they don't, then we know it wasn't real. The scientific approach to Ufology is a time consuming and frustrating approach, but it's what we have to work with and has proven itself in every other field of science. Theory, testing, and drawing conclusions is the only way we can get to the truth of the questions: are UFO's real and does alien life exist?
Of course, some like to take short cuts and jump to conclusions. Can't explain a weird light in the sky? It's a UFO. Prove me wrong. These hoaxers have an agenda that has nothing to do with scientific hypothesis and the search for truth. Sometimes their motives are simply to create click bait news to generate traffic to their website or social media. Other hoaxers do it for attention, seeking 15 minutes of fame and a chance to say "I saw a UFO!".
That seems to be the case for a recent sighting near a United Kingdom water tower: a man named Mikey Nice shared a cell phone image taken outside his apartment building. The above image made the rounds on social media and caused jaws to drop. In the picture a mother ship sized UFO is seen hovering just above the apartment building. It's a stunning picture that we all hoped was real. But it wasn't.
Amazingly, there were no other reports or witnesses to the low flying ship, as would be expected with such a phenomenal sighting in an urban environment. That was the first red flag. The second was how Mikey Nice reacted - he insisted his photograph was legitimate. So he wasn't open to a more reasonable explanation.
The image drew enough interest that a flood of researchers descended on the town in search of answers, and within days the hoax and image was exposed as an intentional fake. When seen in daylight, the mother ship was a water tower. For those with an open enough world view, here is the image which debunked the Water Tower hoax.
One of the first debunkers, Scott Browne, has a site dedicated to the hoax, and gives some insights into his process to reveal the hoax, and the reaction by the UFO community:
"I quickly got busy creating a graphic with a side-by-side comparison and other photos showing that this is undeniably what it was, but when I returned to the group to post my conclusion the photo and thread had been deleted. I then proceeded to post my graphic anyway to show any interested parties exactly what was depicted in this photograph.
A short time later someone commented and I went back to see what they had to say and unfortunately my photo was deleted by one of the administrators of this group. I was amazed that they would do this when you could clearly see that I was showing a truthful conclusion...I then addressed the administrators in a post and asked why my post was deleted. A few people commented stating that I better be careful because sometimes they heavily censored the posts in the group, but within moments that post was also deleted and I was removed from the group."
Is this reaction really what we need in the community? Shouldn't we be looking at any and all evidence with a certain degree of skepticism? It seems that people only want to see evidence which supports their view rather than negate it. And that's exactly why our government doesn't trust us with the secret of aliens and UFO's. We couldn't handle it.
Not calling out hoaxers is undermining everyone's search for answers. Please be a Skeptical Believer in the Unexplained. It's ok to not believe everything that you read. Even the most popular websites will report on things that are obviously untrue. The consequence is that these false reports become part of our collective conscious to the point we remember them as true. That's how Fake News becomes real. It spreads like wild fire.