Earhart Project Research Bulletin #28
October 11, 2000

Evaluating Betty’s Notebook
This was submitted as a posting to the Earhart Forum, and was so useful we decided to put it here.

As I see the process of assessing Betty’s notebook, it looks something like this:

  1. Seek anachronisms in the related pages
  2. Reconstruct transmission
  3. Assess content

Therefore I want to look ahead to the issue of content assessment. What follows is an attempt to clarify the assessment process by getting criteria and definitions “on the table.” It is unlikely that everyone can agree on criteria, or agree on the relative importance of specific criteria. However, if a discussion begins without some framework confusion seems likely.

Already some postings have identified possible “categories” to characterize the notebook contents, and I think I saw:

Real Transmission From AE and FN
Ham Hoax Pirate Radio, transmitted hoax by noncommercial radio
Dramatization Radio play, transmitted by commercial radio station
“Betty” Hoax Made up by Betty

Maybe (surely) there are some I missed. The “Betty” Hoax is early discounted but included for completeness.

Already I see characteristics of these categories being cited and used for assessment. The following matrix is created to identify some of those characteristics and compare the categories based on those characteristics. Note that in some categories a characteristic may have a broad range of values, therefore it may not be a particularly good determinant of that category. Poorly-characterized categories may also be indicators of poorly defined categories, which require division into finer and more descriptive categories. Of course, the Real Transmission category will have more variability in its characteristics than the Dramatization category. On the other hand this type of analysis may identify some characteristics as critical indicators. Therefore, here’s a straw man matrix:

Note: This matrix has been revised and edited from John’s original submission.
What Betty Heard
Authentic
Hoax
Drama
Fabrication
Heard in St. Pete
(pending)
Yes
Yes
Yes
Duration 1 hr. 45 min.
Yes
Yes
No
Yes
No music
Yes
Yes
No
Yes
No commercials
Yes
Yes
No
Yes
No story line
Yes
No
No
No
Sporadic reception
Yes
Yes (Possible)
Yes (Possible)
Yes
Variable clarity
Yes
Yes (Possible)
Yes (Possible)
Yes
Multiple voices
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Action and emotion
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Attempted statement of location
Yes
Yes
No
Yes
Specific situation details
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Specific situation details correct for Lockheed 10
Yes
No
No
No
Occult situation details
Yes
No
No
No
Specific personal details
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Little known correct personal details
Yes
No
No
No
Occult personal details
Yes
No
No
No
   
5 No
9 No
5 No

“Occult” does not refer to magic, only a compact notation for information hidden from the vast majority of contemporaries.

I expect that everyone who reads that matrix will disagree with one or more of my characterization-values. That is part of the beauty of this formalism because the discussion can then find a focus. If we can’t get something like consensus of what these categories will be like, it is unlikely that we can share conclusions that result. This type of discussion has already started, with the discussion that some sort of location should have been available for broadcast and therefore real transmissions should have that characteristic.

Another advantage is that it lets us identify the logic we are intuitively using:

  • For example, one might say that the apparent lack of a coherent story line is an indication that this is a Real Transmission because the alternatives are likely to have a story line.
  • Also, intuitively, almost everyone seems keen to spot the “occult” details that would strongly indicate Real Transmission because few outside the participants would know them.

Finally, it may show places where categories are degenerate, not distinguished:

  • For example, this set of characteristics does not seem to strongly distinguish Real Transmission from Ham Hoax.
  • The solution is to find more definitive characteristics or admit that the cases cannot be distinguished.

In conclusion, I have attempted to organize the logic some of the credibility asessment posted so far. I see two features:

  1. Some people have intuitively focused on characteristics that would support a conclusion of Real Transmission if found. It is probably not wishful thinking. If it finds the pony, they get the first ride.
  2. It is not clear from the discussion so far that we can strongly distinguish between a Ham Hoax and a Real Transmission based on internal content. Of course post-loss hoaxes were recorded so this is not a new problem.

John Pratt (2373)


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