Monday, June 24, 2013

Pre-Arnold UFO Sightings

I have been searching for any documentation of a flying saucer, a disk-like craft, being described in the months prior to the Arnold sighting of June 24, 1947. There are many such references, but all of them seem to have been published after Arnold. The Project Blue Book files list several… and it should be noted that there are fewer listed there today than there were originally… the lone exception, as mentioned, is the Walter Minczewski sighting in April 1947. Michael Swords told me that he suspected that documentation for it existed in the Weather Bureau but he had seen nothing. For me, with this particular question, I had to know that the documentation existed. It was about being able to wave a document of known provenance and showing that it mentioned a disk-shaped craft and with an established date before Arnold.

Yes, and to head off any discussions of saucers in the decades that preceded Arnold, I know that these descriptions had been used. Yes, there was documentation for it, but I was looking for something specific in the months prior to Arnold.

Thanks to the people over at the NICAP site especially Michael Tarbell, and Steve Sawyer who made sure that I saw it, we have an interesting sighting from December 30, 1946. It appears in a mimeographed publication known as “Round Robin.” It is dated February 1947 [which given how these things worked, might not have been published until March or April, but it is dated February], and has the title, strangely, “Space Ships Again?”

The editor noted that they had published, in December, a report by Ella Young from 1927 and another sighting of “remarkable lights seen on 20th of last October.” This report, including corroboration of a friend, said:

Yesterday, Dec. 30, [1946] I was with a friend on the high ground that curves southward from Morro Bay [California]. We were looking at the sky to the south where the sun had gone down – golden, with a bank of cloud mist, also golden, on the horizon. The time was 25 min. of six. Suddenly a dark object appeared in the sky; it came forward and grew more distinct. It was very black on the golden sky, and was coming forward head-on – an air machine of some sort. It had a bat-like appearance owing to the curve of its wings. There may have been motion at the extreme tip of each wing but I could not be sure. It appeared to stand still for several minutes and the form was most distinct. Suddenly it with lowered itself toward the horizon, or the bank of cloud mist made an upward movement (perhaps both movements occurred), for the machine passed behind the cloud and did not again appear. Immediately afterward a great flush of colour spread on the sea… I enclose a statement from my friend…

This Ella Young, described as the distinguished author seems to have been a fairly well-known poet. She was born in Ireland but immigrated to the United States in 1925, and moved to California. Given that information, and the spelling of “colour,” I suspect this is the right woman.

The friend is not identified in the “Round Robin” and I have been unable to learn who it was, though this sighting is in Harold Wilkins’ Flying Saucers on the Attack [page 40 of the American paperback edition]. He describes “…Young as an American authoress, who wrote to Mr. Meade Layne, M.A., who has devoted much time to the investigation of these remarkable phenomena, seen at various dates…” Although Wilkins reproduces Young’s statement in his book, that didn’t provide evidence of the report prior to Arnold. Interestingly, he also alters it, changing the time from “25 min. of six,” to “and the time was 5:35 p.m.,” and removes both the underlining and the parenthetical statement.

The “Round Robin” editor also printed the note that came from Young’s friend but without a name, it does little to actually corroborate the story. It was signed as “An Interested Observer,” and it said:

A friend [Young] and I were sitting near Morro Bay about 5:30 in the evening of Dec. 30, watching the sunset over the sea. As brilliant colours poured into the sky, golden and bright red, a large blackish shape appeared. We thought it was a large airplane but noticed that the wings were larger than usual and that they curved like the wings of a bat or a bird. They were wider and broader, also. The shape flew slightly toward land, then hung poised in the air for at least more than five minutes. Then rather suddenly a large band of golden cloud floated in front of it, blotting it out completely. The sunset deepened in colour but the shape had disappeared. I thought this might be of interest to you, as there is no doubt about the shape.

Well, not exactly a disc shape, but then, it sort of matches the description given by Arnold some months later. Sure, you have to interpret what is meant by the descriptions and by doing that you certainly can slip off the rails. For those who think they might want to track down Ella Young, which wouldn’t be all that difficult given her writing career, I will note that she died on July 23, 1956.

There is some intriguing discussion with this article. It said, “And as was lately pointed out in Flying Roll, RR [Round Robin] friend Vincent Gaddis has collected data on some thirty-odd instances of mysterious flying objects, widely varying in appearance – nearly all of recent date.”

This might be even more important than Young’s sighting. Here is a reference to thirty UFO sightings that were made prior to Arnold. We know little about them, other than Vincent Gaddis had collected them. If we can access that source, then we might find a wealth of information about disk-shaped UFOs (which to this point I have been unable to do other than learn that Meade Layne was probably the publisher of “Round Robin”… and that Layne had a Ph.D from USC, taught at a couple of universities, and wasn’t the nutcase he has been labeled as being). It would suggest a growing wave of sightings that existed prior to Arnold and suggest that Arnold didn’t mark the beginning, but actually the middle of the wave. The press jumped on the Arnold sighting, and only then realized what was going on, meaning that people were seeing strange things in the sky. My search of sightings documented prior to Arnold might just have found the mother lode.


Steve Sawyer said...


I've also emailed Martin Shough in regard to the Ella Young report, and inquired about any other pre-Arnold, post WW II "disk-like" or "saucer" type of sightings that he may know of, and for which contemporaneous source documentation still exists for analysis.

If such cases can be more clearly established in the pre-Arnold era after WW II, then that would have a significant negative impact on one of the main tenets of the psycho-social hypothesis, or PSH, which holds that virtually all "flying saucer" and "disk" or "disk-like" sighting reports were derived from varying forms of emotionally triggered psychological issues, such as hysteria, early cold war jitters, presumptions subconsciously based upon Arnold's media-mangled reports of his sighting, confabulation, hoaxes, delusion, lying publicity seekers, mis-identifications, etc. (i.e., anything other than actual, legitimate sightings of such "saucer" or "disk-like" aerial objects, of course).

Such cases, if established with known, published, pre-Arnold original source documentation, would go a long way in at least partially discrediting the PSH, and also, by showing that such objects being sighted, in the U.S. and elsewhere, preceded Arnold's own sighting, that too would be rather significant, not just to establish by sufficient documentary pre-Arnold provenance that such "object sightings" occurred several times off both the east and west coasts, but that Arnold's sighting was only one of several, and preceding, "disk" sightings.

Seems like a rather important issue to try to resolve, IMHO.

Gilles Fernandez said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gilles Fernandez said...


Good work Kevin (and all).

If this news is correct (I dont doubt about it), it will diminish the psychosocial contamination pist concerning the 1947 UFO wave, stating (to be short) there is no case filed before the publication in the Medias of Arnold case (25 june, East Oregonian newspaper if my memories are correct).

It seems us, UFO-Skeptics, we will have to revise this particular point in our general copy concerning the "1947 UFO wave"...
GG then !


Gilles Fernandez

Anthony Mugan said...

Congratulations on such painstaking research. Must confess to being a little sceptical. Arnold's descriptions varied over the years from initial rather disk like forms ( although not perfectly circular) to more like a flying wing shape. The 'bat' simile seems to sit awkwardly in that progression (Shough suggests he may have been using an analogy to 'bats' used to signal aircraft on take off from carriers which would at least be more consistent with his initial description but clearly speculative).
Can't see how this impacts on the psychosocial model very much as the description is rather plane like. It would need someone more expert than I to comment on planes with wide curved wings (if any) in the period and how line if sight effects, perhaps including the turn the object took if hit account for the apparent hovering.
Interesting description though, even if my initial suspicion is a misidentified plane ( or large bird etc?)

cda said...

Would the UFO era have 'taken off' in the way it did had Arnold merely seen ONE disc shaped object, at a distance, whilst taking a walk, instead of seeing 9 such objects from his plane over the Rockies travelling at, possibly, supersonic speeds?

Anthony Mugan said...

Hello. That's a good question. Why some memes run whilst other ideas don't is beyond my expertise. It may be worth noting that Arnold provided us with quite a bit of quantitative data. The transit of the objects was timed using a clock, rather than a subjective estimate. Their movement was timed between landmarks giving a reasonable estimate of angular velocity. Their transit was bracketed by certain peaks which give us estimates of distance and speed. Their apparent angular size was contrasted to a known quantity (a DC-3 in the area).
There is as ever much controversy and many theories..most of which can be shown to be wrong, but perhaps this, the man's credibility and the 'readiness' of society to consider such concepts could be put forward as possible factors.
In terms of the original post...perhaps I was being a little harsh. Insufficient information may be the better bet at the moment although interesting and with very best wishes for success in this line of enquiry to KR.

KRandle said...


Who knows why something stick? Maybe it was a slow news day... maybe it was because Arnold was a pilot and was assumed to know what was in the sky around him.

I will note that his aircraft was supersonic, which of course, is not what you mean, I just thought I would jerk your chain. And it wasn't the Rockies but the Cascades, though if you were to quiz me about natural formations in the UK, I'd be hard pressed to get them right.

I continue to search for these sorts of references (meaning unusual aerial phenomena) prior to Arnold and have some leads.

cda said...


My geography of the US failed me, but I think my use of the language is correct.

In your first paragraph I presume you meant "some things stick".

Arnold used his watch to calculate the objects' speeds and his estimate was 1700 mph, which may be accurate but is much more likely inaccurate (i.e. false).

It is very rare for any UFO witness to be in a position to calculate the speed of the observed objects(s), as Arnold was, or to have the presence of mind to do this. A few radar measurements have been made, but very few actual physical measurements. This, plus the discoidal shape and the number of objects sighted, helped to give this Arnold sighting the impetus to launch the 'UFO era'.

KRandle said...

Ahh CDA -

You misunderstand. Your sentence seems to suggest that Arnold's plane was traveling at supersonic speeds, not the UFOs... I say this as a joke.

And, of course I meant sometimes somethings just stick.

Wade said...

CDA, why do you say much more likely false? Are you just assuming that Arnold couldn't calculate the speed correctly, or do you assume he was exaggerating? Just curious.

Speaking of assuming, it seems to me that the PHS theory assumes that everyone that came forward with a sighting before Arnold, but reported after Arnold, was either a hoaxer or they were all seeing balloons or Venus or what have you.

I can see why sceptics would want to assume this, but I feel it is a significant weakness in the theory.

Kurt Peters said... has always been my 'belief' that Arnold did-not-ever say that he saw a disc-shaped object, but rather a sorta worn man's shoe heel shaped planform:

(Arnold sketch at very bottom of page) Dr. Randle, may I suggest that you consider the testimony of Linda Moulton Howe, as described in the Cattle Mutilation expose 'Mute Eveidence' (by Kagan and Summers)..

Howe was captured there describing how, as a little girl, she was a BFF of Arnold's daughter, and often sat on his lap as he told them UFO stories...

Anthony Mugan said...

@Kurt (and also CDA in terms of the speed estimate).

Conscious this is getting off topic a bit, but, in terms of the descriptions of what Arnold said he saw the original documentation (including his report to Air Technical Intelligence in early July 1947) have a circular front with a convex base (i.e. close to circular but somewhat flattened at the base).
If I've understood it correctly the concave base appeared slightly later after Arnold was shown an alleged photo of such a 'heel' shaped UFO by Air Force intelligence officers. You can understand how that evolution may have occurred as Arnold was given to understand the photo was being taken as genuine at that time. As time goes by the descriptions tend towards more crescent like / flying wing shape. His initial description are distinctly disk like. The oft repeated claim that the 'saucer' description was a description of movement does not sit well with these early sources (and is a bit of a bizaare analogy in the first place, as who has ever skipped saucers over water?)

We also need to be a bit careful about estimates of speed. There is an error in the SIGN documentation of the incident in which Arnold's estimate of apparent angular size of the objects, based on comparison with a nearby DC-3, is incorrectly stated as an actual estimate of size. This led many analysts, including Hynek, to conclude that the estimates of size, distance and speed etc are inconsistent. This is a clear error in the documentation, and when the angular size is plugged in the estimate of speed works with the estimated distances.
(the very thorough analysis by Martin Shough, on his Aerial Phenomena website is well worth reading in this regard). Arnold gave several estimates for the speed, but the lower figures seem to be explicitly including considerable margins for error in his measurements to give a more conservative estimate.

Apologies for drifting off topic!

Steve Sawyer said...

While I really don't see the relevance of Linda Moulton Howe being the "BFF" of Kenneth Arnold's daughter, or how LMH "often sat on his lap as he told them UFO stories..." I'm assuming there must be some abstrusely cryptic connection... somewhere.

BTW, the sketch "Kurt Peters" refers to (apparently Arnold made more than one drawing) is from a retyped version of his original confidential memo to the USAF, with the graphic shown digitized without all the details of Arnold's original memo -- here's a couple of better ones, which show not only the basic planform of 8 of the 9 objects Arnold is alleged to have seen in sharper detail, but also with all of Arnold's dimensional notations, and note also the "scalloped" two concave "cut-outs" on the 8th of 9 objects Arnold said he saw flying in a "train," and which appeared different from the other 8 objects, which had the same curved front, but sort of "heel-like" diagonal "cuts" on the back of the majority of objects he observed:

See: [half way down page - see green circled area for "tail area" of object 8 of 9 "in train," on far right of Arnold sketch showing "scalloped" end edges -- the far right margin appears to have been cut-off slightly, obscuring the "scalloped edge" back end of object 8. This graphic appears to have come from the FBI under an FOIA request, interestingly enough, not directly from the USAF. I have no idea why the right margin is cut off, though.]

Also: [facsimile last page of Arnold memo - click to enlarge. One unusual thing to also note -- while this facsimile or photographic copy of the Arnold memo's last page, both signed and annotated, seems like the original one submitted as part of his 9-page confidential memo to the USAF, it doe _not_ show on the right margin the "scalloped" edge part of the sketch that is shown on the "green circle" one at the first link, and it also does not show Arnold's signature, plus the annotations seem somewhat different, although both versions, or copies of the Arnold memo end with "The national certificate of my plane is 33355," so maybe Arnold made a 2nd copy of his memo, and redrew slightly different sketched details on the one that went to and came back from the FBI under an FOIA request. Kinda weird, though, that discrepancy between the two different versions of the Arnold memo. I guess someone could refile FOIAs for the Arnold memo to both the USAF and FBI to cross-compare the two somewhat different memo drawings and the differing, hand-annotated written details noted with the two sketches.]

See also: [original "page 9" photo/facsimile copy of memo about 2/3rds down this page, and general wiki coverage of Arnold's sighting.]

And: [for Arnold posing with and pointing at oddly stylized and professionally drawn version of "object 8." I think Arnold said this drawing really didn't look all that accurate, but it does show the "double-scalloped" back end.]

Anthony Mugan said...

Have to admit I'm a touch sceptical about these concave or scalloped back ends. They don't appear in the original documentation but only begin to appear after Arnold was shown an alleged photo along those lines by AAF intelligence officers. Then it was initially just one of the objects and later all if them had this shape.

In terms of the pychc-social model it is perhaps a relevant point to note that these concave rear edges are not at all common in reports, although would need to be assessed against the widespread coverage of the disk shape in the media, which actually is much closer to the form originally described by Arnold

Bob Koford said...

Hello, Kevin.

type: NARA-PBB89-767_screen in the Blue Book Archives search engine

reported after Arnold

Nick Riggs's story: The Invasion of Planet Earth, was given to the Air Force, along with a couple of other items.

He begins with a report of a flying saucer on his family's land in 1929.

The reliability of his report is unknown, but it contains a few other interesting tidbits, such as the train ride incident, which brings to mind Scully,, all weird.


David Rudiak said...

One of the closest reports to Arnold's in shape and speed, complete with photo, came from Enlo Gilmore of Tulsa, who photographed 8 Arnold-like objects July 12, 1947:

Gilmore said he blew up the object images and they resembled baseball catcher's mitts, somewhat oval-shaped. He also compared them to flying wings. One seemed to have a hole in the center. The poor quality microfilm newspaper photo shows roundish objects, but not perfectly round. Other witnesses backed up Gilmore, saying they had seen the things too. My website has the following write-up:

Tulsa, OK, about 4:00 p.m.
--Freelance photographer Enlo Gilmore, 23, formerly a Navy navigator during the war, photographed 8 objects flying at high speed over Tulsa. He was alerted by someone else, and just had time to grab his telephoto lens, snap it into place, and take one picture. According to the AP, Gilmore said the objects were not round but somewhat oval in shape, similar to the shape of a catcher's baseball mitt.

In contrast, the Tulsa Daily World had Gilmore saying, "They looked more like flying wings." Later he made enlargements, that he said confirmed the flying wing shape, and added, "My theory of the thing is that the army has a fleet of flying wing airplanes, but they are trying to keep it secret."

Gilmore said they glistened in the sunlight and had a silvery color. They were flying at an elevation of about 22 degrees above the horizon in a westerly direction. Gilmore said another witness, veteran James Holt, clocked the discs between two landmark Tulsa buildings about 7 blocks distant north of his position and 4 blocks apart and [about 30 degrees apart), and said it took about 2-1/2 seconds to pass between the buildings [about 12 degrees per second]. He estimated they were about 2000 feet high.

Gilmore added, "I was a gunnery officer in the Navy, but those things moved twice as fast as anything I ever saw." Later using triangulation and closely measuring his enlargements, he claimed he had determined the objects were about 64 feet across and traveling at approximately 1740 miles an hour.

One of the blow-ups showed an aperture abut 6 feet across in one of the objects which Gilmore said indicated they were jet propelled, but added he didn't see any vapor or hear any noise.

Skeptics claimed the photo could have been made by superimposing spots on a negative. But Gilmore said there had been multiple witnesses besides himself and Holt. Envoy R. Miller, in charge of the Salvation Army unit at Sand Springs, later came forward to corroborate the sighting, saying his son, Melvin Miller, 14, had also related seeing the saucers and a photographer swing his camera around to make the picture.
(Tulsa Daily World, 7/13, 7/15; Lawton Constitution, 7/13; Lawton Morning Press, 7/13)

Terry the Censor said...

> Interestingly, he also alters it, changing the time from “25 min. of six,” to “and the time was 5:35 p.m.”

25 minutes of six is the same as 5:35. There is no change.

KRandle said...

Terry -

You missed the point. Although it means the same thing, he altered it and didn't mention the change. When you quote something by putting it in quotation marks, you are supposed to quote it, not change it... misspellings, poor grammar, it should remain the same.