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20 Questions with José Escamilla: Rods
In 1994, José and Karen Escamilla accidentally caught on tape strange flying rods with undulating appendages. They continue their quest to find out what they are.

José Escamilla, explorer and filmmaker, discovered strange flying rods while investigating UFOs with his wife Karen in New Mexico in 1994. A satisfactory explanation for these enigmatic things is still being sought. Are they alive? Are they dangerous? Where do they come from and where do they go? In answers to this month's 20 Questions, José talks about this bizarre phenomenon.

1. How, when and where did you first discover the rods?
J.E.: On March 5, 1994, I videotaped UFOs that appeared in broad daylight over Midway, New Mexico - a small community nine miles southeast of Roswell. Then on March 19,1998, I again videotaped the area, making a documentation of where the UFOs had appeared on March 5. While reviewing the March 19 tape, I saw something that I had never seen before: A streak passes by the camera from across the road and right above where I was standing. As I saw this through the viewfinder, my first impression was that these were insects or birds. Then when I reviewed the footage frame by frame, I realized that they were not insects or birds... but something else. Upon seeing the objects on video, Karen, my wife, coined them "rods" because they resemble microorganisms she has seen under a microscope.

2. Do they only show up in photos and video, or can they be seen with the naked eye?
J.E.: They can be seen with the naked eye. If you have ever seen something zip by in your eye peripheral - and most all of us immediately assume it was a close flyby of an insect or bird - but then you turn and look and there are no birds or insects anywhere in sight, then you have witnessed a rod with the naked eye. People have come up to me at lectures after seeing the footage of what these things look like, and they tell me that they too have seen them with the naked eye. They are extremely fast, but they can be seen.

3. What do you think they are? Are they alive?
J.E.: All the footage, from the early shots to the latest "smoking-gun evidence" from the cave in Mexico, seem to reflect that these objects may be living organisms. In fact, we now have discovered how they may fly! I have also just acquired footage of an actual cigar-type UFO that is traveling from left to right and slow across the sky over Rhode Island, and two rods zip through - all in the same scene! This is groundbreaking footage because lots of people who have been videotaping rods have termed them as alien craft, which we feel they are not. The cigar-shaped object in this particular footage resembles in great detail the object videotaped by Tim Edwards and Tom King, and it certainly moves much slower than the two rods. We are excited about this new evidence.

4. How do you know they're not just lens flares or some other optical anomaly?
J.E.: Early on in the investigation, I knew we would have to dispel the claims that skeptics would make in trying to discredit what we were documenting, so we did a variety of tests, including shooting toward the sun where lens flares would appear across the lens POV. And guess what? We captured rods zipping past as they always do, and the lens flares remain stationary in the scene.

5. There are many skeptics, of course, who have denounced both your methods and your findings. Can they be convinced?
J.E.: Most people don't know that I am a professional film and video editor with extensive credits and experience. And in doing these tests, I came up with a protocol that basically washes away the insect-bird theories skeptics also brought out. With this protocol, which I call "sky fishing," there is no way that anyone can misidentify all that is videotaped. Skeptics like Joe Nickel of Skeptical Inquirer don't claim insects anymore because of the obvious, but they have alluded to a hoax. Kal Korff and Bob Shell, however, continue to call rods mis-filmed insects. This is simply because they don't know any better. Needless to say, the new Smoking-Gun Evidence video shows it all.

6. How big do you estimate them to be?
Rod, partly hidden by clouds.J.E.: We can only estimate at this time, but anywhere from a few inches to a hundred or more feet in length. There is a still taken over Maryland (see State by State on our Web site) where a rod's torso is covered by a cloud while part of the tail and head can be seen. Judging the height of the clouds at a minimum of 1,500 to 2,000 feet, this rod must be longer than a hundred feet, and it was traveling at a high velocity.

7. How fast do you calculate they are moving?
J.E.: One rod in Norway ascended upward toward where a cameraman was videotaping base jumpers down below. He is literally standing at the edge of a cliff 3,000 feet above the ocean. Down below you can see the beach and coastline, some clouds, and a base jumper who has leaped off the cliffs. This rod emerges from the left side of the screen, and it appears small. As it moves closer to where the cameraman is, it gets larger before going off upper right screen. The rod travels about 3,000 feet in 10 frames of video. At 30 frames per each second of video, this means it travels that distance in one-third of a second. That is very fast. So they may travel from 150 to perhaps 1,000 miles per hour. We have yet to get an accurate speed.

8. This seems like a fairly recent phenomenon. Why do you think they have never been seen or detected before?
J.E.: Actually, they have been seen and detected before. In the late 1950s, Trevor James Constable photographed rods using infrared film. He called them "critters." Ivan T. Sanderson, a biologist, also photographed them. A man named Tom Jonestroem videotaped rods in Sweden in 1989 and 1990. He captured rods while filming tank footage for the Swedish defense department. They all scoffed at him, claiming they were mis-filmed insects. However, a Hollywood crew videotaped the identical type of rod as Tom's over North Hollywood while shooting The World's Scariest Police Shootouts. This not only vindicates Tom, but also proves the rods were seen and recorded by accident before we discovered them on our videos.

9. Those are still recent sightings. Any record of anything older?
J.E.: In 1896, for two days straight, people over Crawfordsville, Indiana saw a large, 30-foot thing in the sky they called a "Sky Monster" that moved "like a serpent swimming through the air." This was probably a rod. Other case histories included the dragons in caves and skies over London, the "ghost rockets" over Norway and Sweden, and many other historical "myths" that could have been rods.

10. If they are living creatures, why do you think they cannot be seen at rest? Or can they?
J.E.: We have been asked about why there are no carcasses. If rods only exist in the skies, perhaps they are one-celled animals that have the lighter-than-air weight required for existing in the atmosphere. If we look at the sky as a less-dense "ocean," then when they die perhaps they float "up" to the less-dense areas of the atmosphere. Perhaps rods eat the dead rods for the precious gases they must use for their buoyancy. We just don't know until we can catch one or find a carcass. Who knows, maybe there is a specimen somewhere that has been passed off as part of a squid or cuttlefish or something. Scientists don't know they exist... yet.

11. Where do you think they are flying to?
J.E.: We don't know where they come from or where they go, but at the cave in Mexico we have hundreds of rods on video, suggesting this might be a habitat where we can go and study them using more technical, scientific methods over a more controlled environment. Mark Lichtle, who videotaped hundreds of rods "by accident," says that as far as finding a carcass, this might explain why one hasn't been found: In the cave, there are literally thousands of swallows that live there. He said you would expect to find hundreds of dead swallows at the bottom of the cave. He has only found one dead swallow's carcass in all the times he's been there. So if that's any indication, maybe that's why rods' carcasses can't be found even at the cave. We won't know until we get to the cave during the expedition we are planning in November this year [1998]. We want to find a specimen. This would be the most important discovery in the world of science. We can only hope we'll be lucky.

12. Are there more than one kind of rod? How many different kinds have you detected?
J.E.: The different types we have recorded are: the "centipede" types, which have the appendages across the torso; "white rods," which have no appendages, but appear to have a ribbon-like appearance; and "spears," which are super-thin and very fast with no appendages at all. Color varieties are yellow, white, reddish brown, and dark brown.

13. Have rods be recorded around the country?
J.E.: They have now been seen in more than 28 states across the U.S. (see State by State) and in Canada, Norway, Sweden, and Mexico.

14. What kinds of reports have you received from these areas?
J.E.: In the state-by-state section of our Web site, you will see reported sightings, and there are some areas where we have not received the video yet.

15. Has there ever been an attempt to catch one?
J.E.: Not yet, but we will try during the expedition. However, if they are a species, they could be classified as an endangered species, so by catching one I want it to be perhaps a carcass as opposed to trying to trap one alive. I would hate to find out that we might have pissed one off as we don't know their true nature.

16. Do you think they might be dangerous?
J.E.: They appear to be friendly. During one photo shoot, there was one rod that comes close to colliding with a base jumper in the cave, and at the last minute it makes an abrupt maneuver to avoid a collision. I would hate to think what one of these might do if it were threatened.

17. Are they easier to catch with a still camera or a video camera?
J.E.: Still cameras capture them, but video catches them more often. Remember that videotape can be re-recorded on, while still photographic cameras take stills one at a time. It would take an enormous amount of film and cost in order to capture them on still cameras. However, we intend to use high-speed 16mm film cameras at the cave where they appear to exist in more frequency.

18. What kind of research are you currently doing on the rods?
J.E.: First of all, we are always encouraging people to use our protocol for videotaping rods, and to contact us if they might have recorded one or more in their areas. We need more evidence of their existence in other locations so that we may get a better mapping of rod activity across the U.S. and around the world. We just made the breakthrough on how these things may fly with a crude rod model I built and animated using the undulatory wave membrane theory brought up by Jim Peters. We want to put the rods phenomena in the public eye as a real thing, as opposed to just another UFO sighting that can be easily dismissed.

19. But you don't put them in the same category as UFOs the way most people think of them, do you?
J.E.: Although rods are unidentified flying objects until we identify them as anything else - including a species - we feel that we now have more than coincidental evidence of their existence. Perhaps after the expedition they will be taken more seriously. Plus, once people are unafraid to go on record for seeing rods in the skies, they will begin to see the "other things" that are appearing in the skies. Rods will bring down the barriers caused by fear of admitting we see things. We'll just have to continue making a strong case pertaining to the rods phenomena. As it is, we now have smoking-gun evidence as to their existence. The next level is to find out what they are or aren't, where they go and come from, and then it's up to science to determine what to do next.

20. How can other people try to detect the rods? If they do, how should they report the sighting?
J.E.: I urge people to see the "sky fishing" section on our Web site. I can be e-mailed about their videos, and I will respond to anyone who feels they might have captured rod activity in their area. On our Web site you will find the whole story, stills from the video, and a complete manual on how to videotape rods.  


Have You Ever Seen or
Photographed Rods?

Have you, like José Escamilla, captured these odd things on film or video? If so, please let me know so I can share your experiences with our readers.

You have a standing invitation to tell me your experiences with the paranormal and unexplained.

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