Thursday, May 17, 2007

Warren Smith: UFO Investigator or Hoaxster

by Tim Banse

(Blogger's Note: I too knew Warren Smith (seen standing near the Mississippis at the left, photo courtesy Tim Banse) and I too was told many of the same things by Smith that Tim Banse mentions in this article. Smith once told me that he knew a Texan whose wife had been at a dude ranch when the Del Rio UFO crash happened. Smith said that the wife had written to her husband about it and that the letters still existed. This would be a tremendous piece of corroboration, if true. In the end, Smith was never able to produce the letters and based on other things he said about it, I have concluded that this too, was not true.

Since Tim knew Warren better than I, it seems only natural that he provide this insight into the man who once had some influence in the UFO field...)

While our society may revere writers in general and UFO writers in particular, it’s important to remember they are only human, of flesh and blood. As a species, freelance writers struggle in a literary ghetto. Most do not share the status or the income levels of best selling novelists like Stephen King or Tom Clancy. Instead, writers struggle at the job of living, enduring long hours at the keyboard. At the end of the day publishers pay us a pittance for our blood.
Writers put up with bill collectors, shabby clothes and a rusted out, oil-burning automobiles because being a writer is a calling, like being a priest or a politician. We’re helpless to do anything else. Noted UFO author Warren Billy Smith said more than once that if he had invested half of the effort he put into his writing career into a pizza franchise, he would be a millionaire.

In his long career Warren published dozens of novels, non-fiction books and magazine articles. In the UFO field, he was best known for his reporting on the Shirmer, Del Rio, Texas, and Stoughton, Wisconsin cases. The problem is that his research has always been suspect. Too many times no one has ever been able to locate Smith’s conveniently transient witnesses.
But here today, in this article, the whole truth will be revealed for the first time. On more than one occasion Warren Billy Smith fabricated entire UFO incidents from beginning to end. I know this because Warren Billy Smith told me so on more than one occasion over the course of our 25-year friendship. This gives rise to the salient question: Why on earth would he fabricate? The answer is as simple as the sea is salt. Necessity was the mother of invention.
As he told the story, one wintry morning, Warren had a UFO book contract to finish and he was one chapter short. The deadline loomed large. He needed the back half of the book advance in order to pay bills and to buy Christmas presents for his four kids. In order to fulfill the terms of the contract, the manuscript absolutely, positively had to be on the editor’s desk in New York by week’s end. There was no time for further research. So Smith did what he had to: He knowingly committed falsehoods to paper. Using his well-honed fiction writing skills, Smith created two eyewitnesses to a supposed UFO event in Missouri.

As I mentioned earlier, Warren related this and other stories of deception more than once over coffee in his hometown of Clinton, Iowa. He liked to hold court at the Village Inn restaurant with its bottomless cups of coffee. The truth of the deception was corroborated by Glenn McWane, who worked as a researcher for Smith and a number of other UFO authors in the 60s and 70s. Glenn confided in me that Warren had admitted to him the deception. That was about the time and the reason why Glenn ended his professional relationship with Warren.

Coincidentally, it was also in Clinton, Iowa that the budding UFO author Brad Steiger met Warren Smith. Back in the 60s Brad Steiger was a high school teacher who wanted to become a writer. To hear Warren Smith tell the story, he showed Steiger how to write and sell his work. For the record, while it’s true Warren and Brad Steiger collaborated on a number of books, Brad’s research and writing is now and has always been renowned for its accuracy and truth.

Understanding exactly why Warren fabricated UFO testimony comes easier when you delve deeply into his background. Warren was a child of the Great Depression. His stepfather was a veritable conman from the hills of West Virginia who shamelessly used Warren to lend legitimacy to his scams. One favorite ruse involved parking their old Ford motorcar within sight of a farmhouse. Methodically the stepfather stepped out of the car, took off his suit jacket, neatly folded it in half and laid it across the front seat of the car. He looked like a dandy, a man with money. Dutifully father Smith jacked up the car and changed the tire, pretending it was flat.

Finished with part one of the ruse, he and little boy Warren would casually stroll up to the farmhouse, knock on the door and ask whoever answered for a cool drink of well water. The charming, well-dressed stepfather made polite conversion for a moment or two, rattling on about the weather, the depression, and the flat tire. Then, like TV police detective Colombo, the stepfather would turn to walk away, stop in mid stride and do an about face.

"By the way," he would tell the farmer. "Took off my signet ring before I changed the tire. Stuck it in my pocket. Musta fallen outta my pocket." He sighed at the imagined loss. "Family heirloom. Find it, I’d pay a $100 reward." With that the stepfather would scribble a phony telephone number and address on a scrap of paper and hand it to the farmer.

Some weeks would pass before the partner in crime would show up at the farmer’s door. Unshaven and ragged, looking like a drifter, the partner would also ask for a glass of water. He too made small talk. In the midst of pleasant conversation he’d pull out a cheap paste ring and show it to the farmer. "Found it down there by the side of the road. Figure it’s worthanything?"

Greed is the essential element in any con. How much money the ersatz bum got for the cheap ring was only limited by how much money the farmer had in his cookie jar. Sometimes it was five dollars, sometimes six. In the depression, when hamburgers cost a quarter, that was a lot of money. Warren learned at a young age how to get money for nothing.

Another piece of puzzle relates to Warren Smith’s early writing career and his association with author James Jones. After his return from the fighting in the Pacific islands during the Second World War, James Jones met a married woman named Lowney Handy. Long story short, she became his writing teacher and his lover (her husband approved of the liason). With the blockbuster success of the novel From Here to Eternity the two of them founded the Handy Colony for struggling writers.

The way Handy saw it, "There is no more than a hair's breadth between the artist and the criminal. The artist graduates out of the criminal class and looks into his heart and writes, or else he watches those around him with a cold clinical eye and writes about himself as he sees them." Over its 20 years, the Handy Colony attracted some 70 drifters, rebels and struggling writers. One of them was Warren Smith.

Handy forbade alcohol and rich food, and prescribed enemas for writer's block. Once a month she'd haul her troop of students across the border to a Terre Haute, Indiana brothel.

One particular technique Lowney taught was copying. Copying meant beginning each and every day by copying ten or twenty pages, verbatim, from one author or another. Who it was didn’t really matter. At the end of the exercise, the pages were unceremoniously tossed into the wastebasket. Obviously this wasn’t plagiarism. Instead, the exercise was intended to burn the principles of grammar, syntax and metaphor into a beginning writer’s subconscious mind. Copying also breeds discipline. You write every day, ten or twenty pages. Period. No matter what. Warren Smith learned his lessons well.

Once he became a selling author, Warren Smith created a large body of original work. Non fiction credits included books on UFOs, the hollow earth, clairvoyance, the abominable snowmen, Edgar Cayce and satanic worship. His articles appeared in True, Argosy, Fate and dozens of other magazines. He also authored dozens of historical romance and western novels, writing under his own name and a dizzying array of pseudonyms such as: Eric Norman, Robert E. Smith, Joanna Warren, Norma Warren, David Norman, Barbara O'Brien and Barbara Brooks.

Often he copied-slash-rewrote other author’s works and sold it as his own. He used to brag over coffee how he rewrote novels by Stewart Edward White (circa 1900). If you didn’t know the source of the original material, then the massaged work and the original appeared to be written by entirely different authors.

Don’t misunderstand. There’s no question Warren Billy Smith was a talented author. There’s also no question that in at least some cases his non-fiction books and magazine articles were in reality fiction. That is, if you can believe the autobiographical accounts of a man whose father was a con artist. In his heart of hearts, Warren took great pride in being the son of a con man.

Warren Billy Smith passed away on May 9, 2003. He was 72 years old and had been in ill health for some years. He was never a step away from his oxygen bottle, having never been able to kick the cigarette habit that ultimately killed him.

Without a doubt there will be some readers who are angry, and wondering why a supposed long time friend would write this expose. The answer is that Warren would be amused by it all. Knowing him and his personality as well as I do, my guess is he’s laughing at the UFO scams he successfully pulled off nearly 30 years ago. Also, the man who published more than a million words loved what he did for a living, deep down to his bones. Even if he never did invest in
Pizza Hut.

UFO hoaxster or investigator, Warren will be missed.

(Blogger’s Note, Part Two: I have known Brad Steiger for a number of years, hell, decades. We’ve talked about UFOs and when I hosted a radio program, he was a guest I could count on. He also helped arrange other guests. He has been a friend for a long time, so it is only fair that I provide him with a little bit of a forum here.

He wrote, "I chuckled at Tim's comment that Smitty taught me all I knew about writing. We shared an office in Clinton for a year or so. I wrote articles and short stories for the men's magazines. I was young then. I remember one day when I wrote a total of 20,000 words.

"Smitty [Warren] wrote trade journal articles. He was very well established in the trade journal field and was an excellent photographer.

"The only reason Smitty ever wrote about UFOs and the paranormal was because of my introducing him to a NY agent in 1966, who asked him if he could write books on the kooky subjects with which I was having so much success. Ever the opportunist, Warren said, yes, of course. Thus his career was launched."

The point here, would be, that there is little doubt that Smith told Tim that he got Brad started in writing, and I think the choice of words by Tim suggests that he didn’t really believe the story. It is now just another example Smith bending the truth as it fit him.

I will note here that some believe that Brad Steiger and Warren Smith are the same man. I tell you that I knew Smith and I know Steiger and they certainly weren’t and aren’t the same. I do know that Steiger came up with the name Eric Norman and used it on one of his books. Smith liked the name and without consulting with Steiger, highjacked it. Other than the first of the Eric Norman books, all other belong to Smith, and those written by Smith suffer from the same problem... a lack of credibility.)

- Bibliography of books by Warren Billy Smith

- Warren Smith & Eugene Olson. The Menace of Pep Pills. Merit Books, 1965. P.
Johnny Shearer. Sodom, U.S.A. Brandon House, 1965. P.
----. The Male Hustler. Brandon House, 1965. P.
Warren Smith. Finder's Keepers. Belmont, 1965. P.
Warren Smith with Brad Steiger. Treasure Hunting. Ace Books, 1965.
Warren Smith w Gabrial Green. Let's Face Facts About Flying Saucers. Popular Library, 1967.
Warren Smith. Strange Women of the Occult. Popular Library, 1968. P.
----. Strange & Miraculous Cures. Ace Star Books, 1968. P.
----. Strange Powers of the Mind. Ace Star Books, 1968. P.
----. Strange ESP. Popular Library, 1969. P.
----. Into the Strange. Popular Library, 1969. P.
----. Abominable Snowmen. Award, 1969.
----. Strange Murderers & Madmen. Popular Library, 1969. P.
Eric Norman. The Under People. Lancer Books, 1969. P; also 1997 Japanese edition.
----. Buried Treasure Guide. Award, 1970. P.
Warren Smith. Strange Abominable Snowmen. Popular Library, 1970. P.
----. Strange Hexes. Popular Library, 1970. P.
Robert E. Smith. The Man Who Sees Tomorrow. Paperback Library, 1970. P.
Eric Norman. Gods, Demons & UFOs. Lancer Books, 1970.
Warren Smith & Brad Steiger. What the Seers Predict for 1971. Lancer Books, 1970. P.
Warren Smith. Talking to the Spirits. Pinnacle, 1971.
Warren Smith & Brad Steiger. Satan's Assassins. Lancer, 1971. P.
----. Predictions for 1972. Lancer, 1971.
Paul Warren. The Sensual Male. Pinnacle, 1971.
Robert E. Smith. We Live Many Lives. Paperback Library, 1971. P.
Warren Smith. Bitter Harvest. Delton Press, 1971.
Warren Smith. The Strange Ones. Popular Library, 1972. P.
Eric Norman. Beyond the Strange. Popular Library, 1972. P.
Robert E. Smith. The Healing Faith. Lancer, 1972. P.
Eric Norman. This Hollow Earth. Lancer, 1972. P in 1997 Japanese edition.
Warren Smith. Predictions for 1973. Award, 1972.
----. Chains of Fear. Delton Press, 1972.
Eric Norman. Gods and Devils from Outer Space. Lancer, 1973. P.
Warren Smith. Predictions for 1974. Award, 1973. P.
Barbara O'Brien Martinis, Manhattans or ME? Zebra, 1974. P.
Barbara Brooks. High Society. Pinnacle, 1974.
Warren Smith. Predictions for 1975. Award, 1974. P.
----. Triangle of the Lost. Zebra, 1975. P.
----. Myth & Mystery of Atlantis. Zebra, 1975. P.
----. Predictions for 1976. Award, 1975. P.
----. Secret Forces of the Pyramids. Zebra, 1975. P.
----. Authentic Directory of CB. Award, 1976. P.
----. UFO Trek. Zebra, 1976. P.
----. Predictions for 1977. Award, 1976. P.
----. The Hidden Secrets of the Hollow Earth. Zebra, 1976. P.
----. Lost Cities of the Ancients--Unearthed! Zebra, 1976. P.
----. Secrets of the Loch Ness Monster. Zebra, 1976. P.
----. Ancient Mysteries of the Mexican & Mayan Pyramids. Zebra, 1977.
----. The Book of Encounters. Zebra, 1977. P.
----. The Secret Origins of Bigfoot. Zebra, 1977. P.
Joanna Warren. The Conrad Chronicles: Belle Mead. Zebra, 1978. P.
David Norman. The Frontier Rakers. Zebra, 1979. P.
----. The Frontier Rakers #2: The Forty Niners. Zebra, 1979. P.
Joanna Warren. The Conrad Chronicles #2: The Dreamers. Zebra, 1980. P.
----. The Conrad Chronicles #3: The Destined. Zebra, 1980. P.
David Norman. Frontier Rakers #3: Gold Fever. Zebra, 1980. P.
----. Frontier Rakers #4: Silver City. Zebra, 1980. P.
----. Frontier Rakers: Montana Pass. Zebra, 1982. P.
----. Frontier Rakers: Santa Fe Dream. Zebra, 1983. P.
Norma Warren. Trails West. Zebra, 1985.
Jake Logan. High, Wide, and Deadly. Berkley Western, 1987. P.
----. Gold Fever, Berkley Western, 1989. P.
Warren B. Smith. "Dreams of Darkness, Deams of Light." In Dragon Lance Tales, Volume 1: The Magic of Krynn edited by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. TSR, Inc., 1987.


BJ said...

Hey - since you're into UFOs, have you seen this Roswell video? I thought it was fake until I watched Part 2. What do you think?

chris e said...

It was good to find the article on
warren.I enjoyed his stories.He became a good friend. He was always
writing something. When my wife joan and I got married he and his wife stood up with us. His youngest daughter played piano.He would write for Bantam what ever was hot in pictures, tv or music.He did alot of research. I really miss him chris e

Terry the Censor said...

The writer didn't name the UFO book for which Smith invented witnesses. Was this "The Book of Encounters"?