Monday, December 29, 2008

David Bowie and the Detroit UFO Crash

Once in a while, when I’m cruising the Internet, I come across a story that relates to me in some fashion. Many times I’m surprised at the misinformation that is put out there. The latest, or rather the latest I found, was the story of a UFO crash that I reported happened in the Spring of 1975. Some of those wondered where I got the date as published in my History of UFO Crashes.

The entry tells us that the event happened near the Ohio-Michigan border and I listed is as "Insufficient Data," meaning that I didn’t have anything more than the information published. There are those that question this.

I wrote, "Bette Shilling reported to Len Stringfield that a friend, an Air Force officer, had told her that he’d seen a coded message telling of a flying saucer crash. According to that information, two of the aliens were dead and a third was still alive. The message was directed from a communications station in Detroit and sent to the commanding officer of a base somewhere in Ohio."

That seems fairly straight forward. The information came, indirectly from Bette Shilling, and it went to Len Stringfield. The footnote told me that it was from his 1991 Crash/Retrieval publication, but that wasn’t helpful, and, as it turned out, not completely accurate. But more on that later.

I found, from Stig Agermose, the following:

Here is another thought-provoking account that ought to be checked for sure. The alleged crash took place in 1974 and was announced two times by a tv station in Detroit, once in prime time news: a UFO with four aliens aboard had been intercepted by the United States Air Force and had crashed in the area. My check with Kevin Randle's "A History Of UFO Crashes" established that the incident might be confirmed by an entry in Len Stringfield's "Crash/Retrievals", but I haven't been able to compare with the latter. More on that presently.

In her book about the life with her ex-husband (Backstage Passes, Life On the Wild Side with David Bowie, Orion Books, London, 1993, p. 203ff.) Angela Bowie says that it was nice to leave the hectic life of New York once in a while, whether it was for a concert tour or a mystery one. This quote concerns a tour in 1974:
The open road, for instance, was most refreshing. Yes...the limo purring along at a steady twenty-five, good old Brooklyn Tony Macia's bodyguarding bulk behind the wheel, Detroit back down the interstate unraveling behind us, Minneapolis-St Paul up ahead somewhere, the moonroof open, the powerful telescope surveying the summer night sky from its tripod mount, the aliens up there perhaps recognizing that we meant them no harm, that we were the ones who could be trusted...

They had been having a bad time, after all. One of their craft had been intercepted somewhere north of Detroit, engaged by the United States Air Force and - well, we never found out what happened after that. We didn’t know if the saucer had been forced to crash-land on earth, or blasted out of the sky so that it fell to earth, or what. We didn’t know if its occupants - its crew? - were dead or alive or somewhere in between, although we did know that there were four of them.

We knew all this because while we were in our hotel room in Detroit, we saw an afternoon TV news flash to the effect that a UFO had crashed in the area with four aliens aboard...more news at six.

We tuned in again at six - of course we did, along with everybody in the state - and learned more, but not much more. The news crew confirmed the landing, yet avoided being specific about its location and presented what little information they had with great caution, as if doing their best to downplay the sensational and possibly panic-causing information they were supplying, straight-faced and soberly, to their public. These were the station's regular newscasters, reputable and popular, with everything to lose by creating a hoax and nothing but brief notoriety to gain.

That, however, is what we were told when the eleven-o'clock news came around: The prime-time news crew had perpetrated an irresponsible and inexcusable hoax, and had therefore been dismissed from their jobs. No UFOs had landed; no aliens were in custody, dead or alive; the United States Air Force had positively not engaged or intercepted any craft whatsoever in the skies above Michigan; and that, officially and absolutely, was that.

It was difficult to know what to make of this incident. At one extreme, it could have been just an overblown cosmic-hippie-cocaine dream, an instance of too much weirdness for too long crashing through into the perceived reality continuum. On the other hand, we had the videotape.

Yes, even in 1974. It so happened that the documentary filmmaker Alan Yentob was along with us on the trip, making the film that would become "Cracked Actor", and he had his VCR hooked up to the television set in our hotel room when the afternoon news flash first caught our attention. So we'd taped the whole six-o'clock and eleven-o'clock news shows. There was no denying that the broadcasts had happened.

The broadcasts at least. In David's opinion, and mine too, what had just occurred was indeed a warp in the usual business of business-as-usual.

David believed very strongly that aliens were active above our planet, and so did (do) I. That's why we were so alert in the limo on the way to Minneapolis, watching intently for signs of further UFO activity in the bright night sky. It was mostly David who had his eye pressed to the telescope (purchased by Corinne Schwab, his personal assistant, during a lightning shopping spree in Detroit). He'd talked about the six-o'clock newscast during his show at Cobo Arena in Detroit, and he believed that the energy thus created might well have communicated itself to the beings monitoring from above our human reaction to their fallen (slain/captured/atomized?) fellows.

I don't know quite what David expected, because by now he'd moved beyond his manic-monologue mode into his silent, non-communication state, but I suspect he wouldn’t have been surprised at all if the aliens had come right down to the limo and tractor-beamed him up for an exchange of ideas. He was feeling pretty much like the center of things here on earth at the time, after all, and it probably seemed obvious to him that some right-thinking human should take on the job of Man's ambassador...

No aliens heeded the call, though, and after a while he disappeared into his coke, sheltered by Corinne, and I lost interest. I left the tour, and them, the next day.

Evaluating the story I must admit the logic of Angela's views. It seems unlikely that a well-respected and popular newsstaff should risk its standing as well as its existence for the short mention, which reports like that might give.

Add to this that her account might be confirmed by Len Stringfield's "Crash/ Retrievals."

Agermose then quotes the entire entry from my book, as I did above, adding the name of my book and the page on which it is found... 206 if you must know. He then wrote, "Unfortunately Randle doesn't say where he got the date from. Maybe Betty Shilling dated her experience to the spring of 1975, giving Randle a reason for referring the crash to this time frame. Stringfield himself might offer another and better basis for doing so, but as I don't have a copy of his book, I would very much appreciate if somebody could tell me how close Randle's rendering of the particulars is to Stringfield's own.

Well, I certainly can. In Stringfield's The UFO Crash/Retrieval Syndrome, Status Report II: New Sources, New Data and published in January 1980 by the Mutual UFO Network, Inc. he wrote as Item B-4 on page 21:

Bette Shilling, working on a college UFO project, first heard of my "Retrieval" paper when I was interviewed on a Los Angeles radio station in the Fall of 1978. She wrote to me and I responded by phone when I learned that her friend, an Air Force officer, had told her that he knew of a crashed alien craft occurring in the Spring of 1975. At that time, she said, he was Communications Officer at another base in Ohio (Wright-Patterson?) About a crash in a rural area near the Ohio border in Michigan. Two dead bodies, and one still alive, were retrieved. Name withheld by request.

There it is. All that Stringfield had to say on the subject, and I have seen nothing to suggest he ever learned anything more about it. I’m not sure that this is even the same event but I would like to make a few comments here.

First, if a news team had put the story on the air as a joke and then been fired for that joke, surely that would have made the news. We’ve seen all sorts of stories of reporters and anchors getting themselves into trouble over stories and losing their jobs. We would have heard about this. And even if it hadn’t made the national news, a possibility in 1974, it certainly would have made the news in Detroit and would be in the newspapers there. The sudden departure of a television news team would be mentioned in the newspaper which means there would be a record of this.

Second, there is talk of a video tape and those of us around in today’s world where everything is on tape or DVD and pops up on YouTube might not realize that in 1974 videotape was just beginning to hit the market and the only tape decks available were bulky and expensive, which is not to say that Bowie or the documentary maker wouldn’t have been able to afford it. So, granting the possibility they had the capability, where is the tape?
This strikes me as another of those stories that a friend, or a relative, or someone else remembers seeing, on the front page of the newspaper, a picture of a crashed flying saucer. Except no one is ever able to produce the newspaper. There is always something that prevents us from getting to that point.

So, without the video tape, we just have another story that is not corroborated by anything.

The criticism seemed to be directed at me, suggesting that I had either gotten the date wrong, or that I had something else that provided the date. What I had was everything that Len Stringfield had supplied to me. The report is second hand at best and we don’t know the name of the Air Force officer.

So why even discuss this? Well, I take a page from Len Stringfield’s book. He thought that by publishing what information he had, he might stir the pot and learn a little more. There are those who believe that he should have kept reports like this one to himself until he learned more about it. I think he was right. Put the story out there and see if any corroboration turns up.

Stig Agermose, I believe, was doing just that. He’d found something that was close and was trying to learn a little more about it. He was wondering where I got my date and my information and he was unable to check out Stringfield’s book.

Now it’s all out there. It’ll be interesting to see if this leads anywhere else, or if we have hit the end of that road.
BTW, if there are any readers out there in Detroit, this might be something to research. Was a news team fired in late 1974 for reporting that a UFO had either crashed or been shotdown by the Air Force... or any news team canned in that time frame for any reason. It might be a nice little bit of corroboration.


Brett said...

Angela says that Bowie had mentioned the news broadcast in his show at the Detroit Cobo Arena. According to this, the only show he played there in 1974 was on 22 June. On 20 June he played in Toledo, so the broadcast would have taken place on 21 or 22 June 1974.

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cda said...

Who is this guy? Have there been any crashes in India?

RRRGroup said...

We (my team) were doing journalistic work in Detroit, Toledo, and Indiana during the time-frame (1971-1986) nad maintained our TV news connections in Detroit, where I worked for the Detroit News in the late 60s.

Bill Bonds (WXYZ), Carl Cederberg (CBS), and many Detroit News staffers kept us apprised of "flying saucer" stories as we were publishing materials about UFOs at the time, particularly around 1975/76 (and signed some British ufologists to work with us).

No on-air announcement about a crashed saucer or alien bodies came out of Detroit or we would have been notified by newsies, friends, or family.

This has to be bogus story or an urban legend.


KRandle said...

Okay, I was looking at the Kecksburg stuff, which happened on December 9, 1965, and it was reported as a UFO on Detroit television. I don't know if they talked of a crash, but there was a report. I'm wondering if Bowie played anywhere in the US in 1965, and if so, would he have been in the Detroit area. Yes, it's ten years earlier, but we do have some of the elements.

CDA - I have nothing to suggest a crash in India, but do have one in Pakistan.

GreenScreenMC said...

Sony did have a fairly compact portable VTR (reel tape, not VCR cassette) for AV use at the time and professional U-MAT cassette decks were only twice the size of the later consumer VCRs. It's not improbable that filmmaker Alan Yentob might have had something up in a hotel room to view his production dailies or just for sport.

Dennis Toth said...

Two quick comments. 1. Most likely the news story was delivered in a half dismissive, jokey manner. This is usually how such stories (if they even make it to the air) are given which always make the account easy to drop, retract or whatever. It also means that no news reporters were probably ever fired over the incident.
2. It is indeed possible that a video was made of the report. By this point in the 1970s, the Sony Portapack was in use by various independent filmmakers, especially documentary filmmakers. It was big, bulky, weighed about 75 pounds and strapped onto the body in a manner that made movement slow and difficult, but it was out there.

Unfortunately, it was mostly used as a cheap means of doing footage that you may or may not need. If you needed the material, it would then be transfered to film. If you didn't need it, you taped back over it. Likewise, the preservation value of the video was meager. So most likely any such video footage no longer exists.

Bob Barbanes: said...

Kevin, in 1965 David Bowie was still being booked as "Davy Jones" which is his real name. Unfortunately, there was another Brit with the same name who found much more fame in a group called The Monkees.

David Bowie did not really come to prominence until 1969 when he put out the famous, "Space Oddity" (Ground Control to Major Tom...). So it's extremely doubtful that he played any dates at all in the U.S. in 1965.

Angela appears to be very confused with some easily-verifiable facts. After Bowie played Detroit in 1974, he next played Dayton, Ohio, not Minneapolis. To get to MSP (for some reason) you'd have to go to the southwest, clear around Chicago first.

Another thing that bothers me: Using a telescope in a moving vehicle? Come on... Didn't happen. Angela must have been high on...well, something. That, or her memory of those years is very faulty.

Then there's the "Roswell Factor." Do we think it's possible that a crash could have happened in 1974 without generating the same kind of hubbub that Roswell did? Were we so focused on American politics and the Viet Nam War at the time that we collectively could overlook something so "insignificant" as a UFO crash?

I think not.

RRRGroup said...


We finally got through to a colleague at The Detroit Newspapers (News and Free Press operations arm), asking them to check the archives for any UFO sightings/crash reports for the period 1970 to 1980.

There are several scanty reports of sightings but nothing about crashed flying saucers or recovered aliens.

We have an associate who works for WXYZ in Detroit who is going to check file tapes for the same period when he gets in to the station on Monday [1/5].


Anonymous said...

I highly suggest that people who are interested in UFOs check out the writings of Renato Vesco.

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Unknown said...

This story had come out before Angela Bowie's (second) autobiographical book:

1) David Bowie diary in 'Mirabelle', December 14th 1974 - ghost-written by Cherry Vanilla - "I heard the most incredible thing the other day that I must tell you about, and I promise every single word of it is true! I was in Detroit, where I was due to do a concert, and before the show I was sitting in my hotel room listening to the radio.

Suddenly, the newsman interrupted the regular programme with the news that a spaceship had been found in the desert - an alien spaceship about six feet wide and thirty feet long - and inside were three alien beings. The three creatures were killed on impact when the spaceship plummeted to earth, but they were taken to a hospital to be examined, anyway. These people looked like human beings but were much smaller and when they were examined it was discovered that their vital organs were like human beings too! The catch is that their brains were found to be much farther advanced! Wow!

As soon as the newscast was over I got all the band and my back-up singers together, and had them ring up radio and TV stations all over the country to see if they had all got the report. About half the stations said they had and half denied it - so, it really is quite a mystery. No one knows what's happened to the spaceship or the spacemen at this point, and it seems that someone is trying to cover up the whole matter completely!

I asked the audience at the concert that night if they had heard about the spaceship landing, and just about all of them had, so I definitely wasn't hearing things! I'd really like to know more about it, though!"

2) The biography 'Stardust' by Tony Zanetta & Henry Edwards, published 1986.

My current feeling is that the broadcasts were related to Robert Spencer Carr, partly because Bowie refers to him in an interview published November 26th 1974 - "There's one that you people probably haven't even heard of here, 'cause the U.S. government threw a blanket over it. It's all over Canada though... happened about three, four weeks ago in Akron, Ohio. Same sort of thing that Prof. Carr is saying happened at Patterson Air Force Base. There was a decompression accident and they have a ship and four bodies: three feet tall, caucasian, although weathered all over to make up for it, same organic stuff: cocks and lungs and such, but different, bigger brains.

"You know Barry Goldwater is resigning from politics to become President of a UFO organization... he's not really resigning from politics, he just realizes they can't keep it all secret much longer and he wants to be at the top when it breaks. It will break soon."

For more on Bowie and UFOs/Flying Saucers/ETs during the mid-1970s, see the videos 'David Bowie 1974' and 'David Bowie 1975' on youtube. To see a contribution he made to a TV documentary in the 1980s, which might be an admission that he knows a lot more about aliens than he has overtly revealed, see the video 'David Bowie and Bugs Bunny.'


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terryhaferkamp said...

In 1974, I was a young teenager and was up late one night watching t.v. A news broadcast announced that a UFO had crashed and the bodies of several aliens had been recovered. I was the only one up that night and when I told my parents the next morning, they said I must have dreamed this because it was never announced again on the news. I know I was not dreaming and finally over 20 years later, I was sharing this story with a friend and she told me her father had heard the same news story. When I talked to him he confirmed this. I know what I heard and I believe.

Steve Sawyer said...

Angela and David Bowie were doing herculean amounts of cocaine around this time, among other exotic substances, also.

Just might have been a contributing factor.

Jes' sayin'... 8^}

Daniel Transit said...

'..Just might have been a contributing factor...'

Not sure what you are referring to, Steve - a contributing factor to what?

David Bowie Asked About E.T. Influence & UFO Sightings (Audio)

David Bowie Extraterrestrial Connection : Print Media Survey, 1971-79

Daniel Transit said...

David Bowie has died and... you couldn't make it up... Ray Santilli is Angie Bowie's manager:

Big Brother house a sanctuary for David Bowie's ex-wife

Angie Bowie's manager Ray Santilli said the Celebrity Big Brother house was "a sanctuary" for her following David Bowie's death.

Santilli entered the house to break the news to his client, off-camera.

He said she wanted to stay in the house because she didn't want to be seen to be cashing in on his death by leaving.

"The whole Big Brother experience is emotional and she knew that before she went in to the house," he added.

This clip is originally from 5 live Afternoon Edition on Tuesday 12 January 2016.