Wednesday, June 20, 2012

I'm a Spy... According to Some

Well, it’s happened again. I’m a spy sent, in this case, to "investigate" the Center for UFO Studies and to dig up dirt. Those sending me were Jim and Coral Lorenzen who ran the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization in Tucson, Arizona.

I have said before and I’ll probably say it again. You know you have arrived when you’re accused of being a spy for somebody. Years ago someone slung the allegation that I had worked with Hector Quintanilla on Project Blue Book. This is, of course, untrue.

Toward the end of Blue Book, I was still in high school. About a month after graduation I entered the Army for training as a helicopter pilot, which included basic training, pre-flight, and the various phases of flight school. That all lasted about thirteen months and upon graduation, I, along with every other member of my flight school class with a single exception, had orders for Vietnam.

Project Blue Book was officially closed in December 1969 while I was sill on active duty with the Army. Clearly I had no opportunity to participate in Blue Book investigations. I suspect that someone learned of my later association with the Air Force and just made an assumption... because no one would just have an interest in UFOs without some motivation such as an investigation assignment with the Air Force.

Back in the mid-1980s Bill Moore said that he had been spying on APRO for the Air Force and that he suspected there was another two or three working on the same assignment. He said this because the Air Force, according to him, was getting more information on APRO that he was supplying. He suggested that I was one of those others spying on APRO.

Again, I suspect he said this simply because, by that time, I had served on active duty with the Air Force and was a member of the Air Force Reserve. Of course his allegation was untrue and I say this so people will know that I deny it without getting lost in "weasel" words.

What is more interesting is Moore’s claim that he was spying on his fellow researchers. No, I don’t really think he was, though he might have believed that. I just don’t think the Air Force cared that much by that time.

And now the latest, slung by an anonymous source, who claimed that in 1984, at a MUFON function in San Antonio, she heard that I had been sent, in the mid-1970s by APRO to dig up dirt on Hynek. This too is untrue.

I did receive some assignments from APRO. One was for me to learn what I could about cattle mutilations in Minnesota. With Robert Cornett, I spent a week in the Minneapolis area talking to all sorts of people about the mutilations. What we learned then was that UFOs had nothing to do with those particular mutilations. There were terrestrial explanations for all the alleged mutilations we encountered, which is not to say, of course, that this investigation solved the entire mystery. It solved this one small part of it, and we sent our conclusions onto APRO headquarters.
The issue with the Hynek Story
I believe that this latest allegation is an outgrowth of an article and editorial published in Official UFO, volume 1, number 8, in May 1976. At the time Official UFO was one of several UFO related magazines including UFO Report, Argosy’s UFO and True’s UFOs and Flying Saucers Quarterly.

For those keeping score at home, one of the editors of one of those magazines warned me that if I wrote for Official UFO I would not be published again in his pages. I ignored his warning simply because I was a freelance writer and was attempting to make a living as a freelance writer. I wasn’t going to have a market closed on the say-so of some junior editor at another magazine, unless that magazine would pay me a retainer of some sort.

So, I was writing many articles for the many magazines and making a good enough living at it, even with the sporadic nature of payment, which seemed to be at the whim of the magazine.
The editor of Official UFO at the time was Bernard O’Connor who was a good guy and a good editor. He once sent a check for payment to Robert Cornett that was a dollar over the agreed on fee... the extra dollar was for a beer.

Artwork that accompanied
the story.
Anyway, O’Connor had a story called, "Dr. J. Allen Hynek, the Pied Piper of UFOLOG'Y," by Dick Ruhl. O’Connor wanted to use the story but it lacked something and it needed editing. O’Connor put Ruhl in touch with me and he asked me some questions about Hynek and the Center for UFO Studies. The one thing that stands out in my mind, at the time, was Hynek had been saying that the Center was on the stairs of his home... meaning they had not yet acquired offices. Later, they would have an office in the Wrigley Building in downtown Chicago. When Hynek showed a slide of the building where the office was, there were those who thought CUFOS occupied the entire building... but I digress.

Dick Ruhl interviewed me about my experiences and one of those related specifically to the cattle mutilations. I was given the name of a federal agent who had investigated the claims of one or two federal prisoners about their involvement in those mutilations. I took that as far as I could, but in the end was blocked by Hynek’s suggestion that there were too many people involved and too much information was flowing in too many directions. He suggested that some of us back off... or to be blunt, cut out of the loop. I continued on in another direction, eventually learning what I wanted to know. I related this to Dick Ruhl who included it in his article. I will note here because some seem to have missed it, those statements were in quotation marks which means I didn’t write that section, I told the story to Ruhl who put in it the article.

There was another event covered as well, but the same thing applies there. I related my experiences to Ruhl who included them in the article. When it was finished and submitted, O’Conner asked me to review it as would any editor. I think of is as looking at the grammar, syntax, sentence structure and flow. I might even have done some fact checking.

In the end, I was surprised to find my name on the story. I hadn’t really had a hand in writing it, other than the editorial work I had done. In the same issue there is a story that I did write about the Green Fireballs and Project Twinkle.

I did notice that O’Connor had something of an editorial in that issue and he talked about a UFO investigator at Hynek’s home. He talked about asking the secretary there to find a specific case file but after a search was unable to locate it. This investigator suggested that the files were on the stairs (which is where I learned this fact) and on the grand piano in Hynek’s home. For those interested, that was not me. I don’t know who it was and O’Connor does not identify him. I can see why some might have assumed that I was that investigator and that he operated as a "spy" to learn more about the operation of the Center as it existed in 1976. But, as I say, that was not me.

There is another aspect to all this that probably should be addressed. I have, for way over twenty years, been associated with CUFOS. I have been listed on the masthead of their publication for twenty years as a contributing writer and was a special investigator for them. In 1988, as they were gearing up their Roswell investigation, they approached me to assist them. They believed that my background as a military officer would be of some assistance in talking with those who were retired military.

I was asked then about the article that Dick Ruhl and I were listed as writing. I told them how it came about... besides, it really didn’t say anything all that nasty about Hynek, just suggested that, at the time, CUFOS was a black hole. Information went in but nothing came out. That changed later with the establishment of their magazine.

The bottom line is this. I didn’t spy on CUFOS for APRO and I didn’t spy on APRO for the USAF (I thought I’d keep that acronym thing going). I have not been a government agent reporting on the activities of the UFO community but I have reported (in magazines and books and not to any official, or unofficial agency, for those who read way to much into things)on what I learned during my investigations, which was sometimes not what others wanted to hear. I have reported on what I believe to be the important issues in the UFO field, and while I have used pen names on articles, I have not introduced myself using a fake name or misrepresented what I was doing. Yes, there have been allegations, but I am able to refute them with evidence. (I think of J. Bond Johnson and his associated nonsense here as he claimed to be the "Roswell Photographer").

I also realize that there are those who will not believe this because they simply have their minds made up about these spying allegations. Evidence means nothing to them and to them I say, "I don’t care." For the rest of you, these are the events as they happened (which sounds like a great line to start a movie).

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Aztec, Scott Ramsey and Fred Reed

After my book, Crash – When UFOs Fall from the Sky was published, Scott Ramsey told one radio show host that he wanted to debate with me about the Aztec UFO crash. I declined, but only because I hadn’t read his book so I wasn’t aware of what Ramsey might have learned. I try to keep an open mind, although the Aztec crash seemed to have been proved a hoax more than once long ago.

Since that time, I have seen Ramsey’s book, spoken with him twice, and exchanged emails with him. I didn’t want to review the book because it seemed to be filled with errors, some minor and some egregious. I suggested that it was a fun little book, which it is in a distorted, perverted sort of way, but it is also a dishonest book, leaving out information that would underscore the false nature of the Aztec case.

There is the story of Fred Reed (although he is identified as Art Reed in, at least, one place on page 198). Reed, according to Ramsey was a former OSS member (the OSS being the Office of Strategic Services, a World War II organization that gathered information about the Axis and operated behind enemy lines), who was sent into Aztec to clean up after the saucer either crashed or landed, depending on which interpretation of the event you chose to believe.

According to Ramsey, in a 1999 interview with Reed, he learned that Reed and his team "...were dispatched to aircraft crash sites from time to time, especially when they were prototype aircraft of something secret..."

Fair enough. Nothing too outrageous here.

Reed said that they were brought in to make it look as if nothing had ever happened. He said that one of those times was "in the area northeast of Aztec, something big had been removed. I can tell you that."

He talked about seeing large equipment tracks, areas where trees had been damaged and the like. They were told to pick up everything from cigarette butts, c-ration cans, or whatever and bury them 18 inches deep, which doesn’t seem all that deep to me and which would leave the evidence on site for others to find. In fact, had I been in charge, I would have had them remove anything like that rather than leave it behind, but then, that’s just me.

Reed said that he had cleaned up a lot of places over the years. He suggested that some of these were just experimental craft and they wanted nothing left for enemy agents (well, that’s my interpretation of it) to find.

But then Reed told Ramsey, "You have a bunch of young guys traveling and living in motel or hotel rooms, and at night we would talk. We never heard the word Flying Saucer or Flying Disc, but years later I ran into my old C.O. and asked him what the hell crashed up in Aztec back years ago. He responded it was no aircraft, but he hinted to a flying disc."

Okay, we now have a hint about it, but Ramsey asked Reed to be more specific and according to Ramsey, Reed said, "My. C. O. said it was no aircraft – nothing as far as the U.S. was concerned. He alluded that it was one of those flying discs."

Overlooking the fact that it seems strange that the C.O. would share classified information with Reed (which does happen after so many years), this is very good information from a first-hand witness... Or is it?

It seems that in the days prior to Ramsey’s interview with Reed, Reed wrote a letter to Aztec Local News. In the March 27, 1999 letter, Reed wrote:
Dear Sir,

Today, my wife and I took advantage of the big celebration and went out to the site of the UFO crash of late 1948 in Hart Canyon. The workers who dedicated their time to this presentation of an important part of New Mexico history are to be commended. The road signs to guide the visitors were strategically placed, and the plaque marking the spot was in the right place. The aliens had built stone cairns marking the path from the oil field road to the crash site. These cairns are still in place today. The trees around the crash site open to the south, which is a typical distress signal for extraterrestrials.

The area looked essentially as it had in 1948 when the OSS sent our group there. We were to make a detailed survey of the area and report back to them, which we did. We were then reassigned elsewhere. We were never told what the OSS was looking for.

But a traveling survey crew like that eats in cafes, sleeps in motels, has no close family, and knows intimately only the men they work with. So, of course, we spect many long nights trying to figure out just what did happen in Hart Canyon.

We had heard rumors that a UFO had crashed there. But it did not look like a crash site. And we had heard that army personnel had rushed in there and cleaned up the site. But it did not look like a clean-up site either. One thing did stand out. There appeared to be some heavy traffic - not on any graded road - leading through the large rock slides to the canyon northwest of the site.

So what it boiled down to was this: No UFO crash. Instead, the UFO landed there for some specific intent to place (bury?) some instrument or thing there. They they got into their saucer and flew away. All of the other stories were put out by the government to cover up what they did not know about it. I guess the answer might be found in the old files of the OSS. But not in my time.

Yours truly,

Fred Reed
  There is a great deal wrong with this, but look at the differences in the stories. Now he is talking about it being an OSS mission, unaware, at the time, that the OSS had ceased to exist in the months following the war, replaced by the Central Intelligence Group that was replaced by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Note also that he is not ambivalent about the object that crashed. It is alien, and the trees on the south side of the site are open which is "typical" of an extraterrestrial distress signal.

He also wrote, "The aliens had built stone cairns marking the path from the oil field road to the crash site. These cairns are still in place today." That observation is missing in his interview with Ramsey about a week later.

Although the letter was written in 1999, it would seem that a document, created prior to the first interview would be valuable. It would suggest that the investigator had not contaminated the witness... except in this case, the story changed radically. The letter should raise red flags about the importance and the reliability of the witness. Such radical alterations suggest that the witness is not being candid with the interviewer and is taking his cues from him.

Paul Kimball, who produced and directed a documentary about the Aztec UFO crash noted on his blog:
1. Reed, in his letter, specifically states that nothing crashed on the mesa. Instead, the "rumour" that he heard was that a flying saucer had landed, planted a device, and then flown away - NO recovery! After his interview with Scott, this had changed to "a crashed flying saucer" that had been recovered by the military.

2. Reed, in his letter, refers to several stone cairns which the aliens had left in place to mark the road from the oil road to the "crash site" (note the contradictory statement even within this letter - "crash site" vs. "landing site"). After his interview with Scott, we now have the "out of place, large concrete pad" that had been poured to aid in the recovery.

3. Reed, in his letter, states that the "clean-up" operation occurred in late 1948. After his interview withe Scott, this date has been "corrected" back to April, 1948.

4. Reed, in his letter, talks about how the trees around the crash site open to the south, which is a "typical distress signal for the aliens." This ridiculous statement, which shows more than anything else that Reed is blowing smoke, is nowhere to be found after his interview with Scott.

5. Reed, in his letter, states that his group was sent to the site to make a "detailed survey of the area" and "report back" to the O.S.S. After the interview with Scott, this has morphed into a "cleanup" operation, despite the fact that in his letter, Reed stated that "We had heard that army personnel had rushed in there and cleaned up the site."

This should drive a stake into the heart of this testimony. Given this letter, written days before the Ramsey interview, it is clear that Reed’s story evolved quickly and drastically. Since Ramsey had a copy of the letter, he should have reported on these problems but did not.

Yes, we all have been caught by "witnesses" who were spinning tales. Frank Kaufmann and Gerald Anderson spring to mind. But in those cases, neither had presented a story that was so clearly changed from the beginning so quickly. Anderson began to adjust his tale, adding information to cover discrepancies, but not within a week of his original interviews. Kaufmann was able to produce documents to support his stories because he had a stash of old military letterhead and a couple of vintage typewriters.

But the other side of that coin is that when I learn that a witness has fabricated some of his testimony, inflated his credentials by claiming military rank and awards that were unearned, or made other statements that can’t be verified, I expose them myself. Here we have a case in which the testimony is at odds with what was written just days earlier, but there is no indication in subsequent reporting that the man has radically altered his statements.

And yes, I know that the telling of a tale from memory often has little twists and turns and that is expected. But this goes far beyond that. While I could accept the OSS statement if the guy had served with them during the war and continued with them through their various permutations, the other changes are just too much. It should have raised red flags, as Paul Kimball suggested, but those seem to have been ignored.

Karl Pflock, to his credit, had made it clear that he couldn’t name the source for the Newton diary and he couldn’t prove there was a diary. He thought the information should be published, probably with the hope that someone else, with similar knowledge would come forward to prove the case. Here, we just have the contradictory information ignored, but it should also be published.

What this means, simply, is that we have a compelling reason to reject the Reed testimony. The story is inaccurate, it is contradictory, and it detracts from the case for the Aztec crash. It should be published so that those who wish to judge the reality of the Aztec crash for themselves will have access to all information available. It shouldn’t be forgotten or ignored by the new primary investigator on the case.

And as an aside, I should make it clear that I do not believe there was a crash, landing, touch down, or anything else involving an alien craft near Aztec in 1948. The story is clearly the invention of a con man who hoped that the idea of alien technology would create interest in his oil finding (doodlebugs) gadgets. That the story survives until today is a testament to the lack of research capabilities of some of those in the UFO field.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Aztec, Karl Pflock and Scott Ramsey

In his book, The Aztec Incident, Scott Ramsey is quite annoyed with Karl Pflock over Karl’s claim that he’d seen a diary reportedly kept by Silas Newton, one of the original Aztec crash proponents. Karl’s report, in which he claims that Newton wrote that the Aztec crash was a hoax, seems to prove that there was no Aztec crash... but to be fair, can we trust that assessment?

Karl Pflock
A moment to recap, if necessary. Karl told me, as he peddled Roswell in Perspective, that editors at Prometheus had said that his book wasn’t skeptical enough. I would have thought the criterion would be for evidence to support the skepticism rather than skepticism for the sake of skepticism, but that is an argument for another time.

In the past I have noted two points where Karl printed his skeptical arguments that were flawed, but no one from that side of the fence questioned these claims. In one, he took Don Schmitt and me to task for suggesting that Corporal E. L. Pyles had seen an airborne object that might have been the thing that crashed. He said that Pyles could not remember the date, but a paragraph or so later, mentioned that Pyles noted that when he read the newspaper report about the flying saucer "capture" he thought that might have been what he had seen. In other words, Karl seemed to corroborate our claim that the incident took place in the first week of July, 1947. (Well, we put a precise date on it based on other information and I hope to get to the bottom of that during our investigation.)

The second was his dismissal of the Frankie Rowe story that her father had been to the crash site. Karl mentioned three firefighters he had interviewed, but when I interviewed one of them, the story was slightly altered. No, the stuff Karl published was accurate, it just wasn’t everything that the man knew about the situation. Karl, to give him the benefit of the doubt, cut his interview short after he had the information he wanted rather than all the information available.

I mention this because another story has developed and it has to do with one aspect of the Aztec crash, or rather one of the original and primary, though second-hand witnesses to the Aztec crash. Silas Newton was the original source for the story that Frank Scully published about the UFO crash at Aztec in his Behind the Flying Saucers.

According to what Karl wrote in Anomalist 8, Spring 2000, pages 137 to 161, he had learned from an unnamed source that Silas Newton had left, not really a diary, but a memoir of sorts, that talked about the Aztec crash. Karl said that after the Albuquerque Journal ran a story about the Aztec crash on May 17, 1998, he received a telephone call from a "source" who said he had a document written by Newton. Karl asked for a copy and was told, "Absolutely not," but that he could see it if he wanted to. On July 11, 1998, according to Karl, he met with the source for the first time.

Over about the next year, he met with the source and talked with him on the telephone a number of times. Although he got to see the document, he wasn’t allowed to photograph it or to have any other sort of photo copy. He was allowed to read it, take notes and even copy what he wanted in his own hand, but nothing more. He just wasn’t allowed do anything that would prove the document existed.

Karl did say that he didn’t know what Newton’s handwriting looked like, but was able to obtain, through William Moore, a holographic copy of Newton’s will, which is, of course, a handwritten copy. To his admittedly untrained eye, the writing on both documents looked the same. So, for Karl, this was a sort of corroboration.

The main point here is that, according to Karl in what he copied from the Newton diary, "The Aztec saucer tale, including all of the associated landing claims was a hoax. Newton invented the tale to give his "doodlebug" [which is a device that allegedly find oil or other minerals with a machine] pitch – in his words – ... a big secret feel."

Karl also wrote, "Now we come to what, if true, may be a significant new development in this wild affair. After the Denver Post revealed he was Scientist X, [which refers to a lecture at the University of Denver in 1950 where Newton laid out the Aztec crash tale as well as other flying saucer information] Newton received two visitors at his Newton Oil Company office in Denver. These men claimed to be with a highly secret U.S. government entity, which they refused to name. Newton writes [again according to Karl] ‘They grilled me, tried to poke holes in my story. Had no trouble doing it and laughed in my face about the scientific mistakes I made. They never said so, but I could tell they were trying to find out if I really knew anything about flying saucers.’

"Newton’s visitors told him they knew he was pulling a scam and then gave him what may have been the surprise of his life. ‘Those fellows said they wanted me to keep it up, keep telling the flying saucer story and the people they worked for would look out for me and for Leo...’"

What Karl had done, was not only expose Aztec as a hoax, but also hinted that there was a governmental agency in the background who wanted this hoax story to be repeated. They had something they were hiding, though Karl didn’t speculate about what that secret might be.

This is devastating information for those who accept the Aztec crash story as real. The man who claimed responsibility, Newton, had written down that he made up the story to lend credibility to his "doodlebug" and that the government knew it. They just didn’t care.

Scott Ramsey, however, suggests in his book, The Aztec Incident, that he quizzed Karl on these points and others sometime later, in 2002, during one of the Aztec UFO conventions. According to Scott, he asked if Karl had compared any known samples of Newton’s handwriting to the diary. Karl told him, "...he could not find any comparisons to do such a thing. Karl could see that I was becoming amused at how he ignored his former Intelligence training in allowing such unsupported or unverified statements, so he backed down to telling me that the source was Silas Newton’s nephew..."

Scott wrote, "My conclusion remains that no diary exists and the false Newton story was either fabricated or Karl himself was the victim of a hoax."

Karl did, according to what he published two years earlier, however, have samples of Newton’s handwriting, and it looked to be the same as the diary. In fact, according to what I was told, Karl had been able to locate several samples of Newtons’ handwriting.

But Scott is right about one thing. If a proponent of a crashed saucer story came out with this sort of unsupported information, we would all be right in suspecting it. Without the diary, without the name of the source, without some sort of independent corroboration, we would reject it out of hand... knowing that it is up to those telling the story to prove it true.

Given some of the things that have appeared in the past such as Karl’s claim that Corporal Pyles couldn’t remember the month of his "sighting" ,but then saying a paragraph later that after he saw the story in the Roswell Daily Record if what he saw was tied to the UFO crash, and his partial interview with one of the Roswell firemen, you have to wonder about the value of his Aztec revelations. You have to wonder if Karl wasn’t a little too enthusiastic about the "Newton diary," which, of course, does not make the Aztec crash reality.

There is one other point, though I’m not sure of the relevance. Back in the 1970s, just as the cattle mutilation phenomenon was gaining some national attention, two fellows, Daniel Kagan and Ian Summers convinced a publisher to allow them to investigate the case. While in Colorado Springs, at the home of a private detective, they met a fellow who claimed his name was Kurt Peters... Kurt with a "K". They later identified that fellow as Karl Pflock. Karl himself admitted as much decades later in the pages of UFO when he tried to make light of the little deception, writing, "I was a Ufologist for the CIA...".

It was, of course, all tongue-in-cheek. It was meant to suggest that these stories of his spying on the UFO field for the CIA were nothing more than mere rumors that seemed to circulate throughout the UFO field. You know that you have made it when people begin to accuse you of working for the FBI, the CIA, AFOSI or a number of other agencies.

Karl explained "Kurt Peters" this way. "Erianne [the Colorado Springs private detective who was interested in cattle mutilations] needed a writer to collaborate on a book. I needed a money-maker, and this seemed just the ticket. I could have saved myself well-deserved embarrassment if I had not allowed my critical judgment to be shouldered aside by visions of fame and fortune."

Karl continued, "Not long after our book proposal began making the rounds of publishers, Erianne was contacted by Kagan and Summers, who said they were working on a book about the mutilations mystery. Rivals!... I suggested it might be useful for me to be at the meeting. However, there was a chance that Kagan and Summers might recognize me by name as a writer and put two and two together. Erianne suggested I use a pseudonym and say I was a researcher who sometimes helped him on cases. Thus the misbegotten ‘Kurt Peters’ was born."

Of course, this whole thing sounds somewhat bogus. Kagan and Summers wouldn’t care that Karl was working on a book about the mutilations because they had already sold theirs. And there really was very little chance that they would have recognized Karl’s name since he hadn’t published much, though he had worked as an editor at a small publisher at one time.

This little episode allows us a glimpse of some of Karl’s thought processes. In the end, it might mean nothing, other than he was attempting to protect his book project (which never saw the light of day) but then, it was a calculated deception.

While Karl’s tale of Newton’s diary is suspect, if for no other reason than Karl never revealed his source, he didn’t have a copy of the diary other than the notes he had taken, and no one else has seen the diary, it doesn’t mean that the Aztec crash is real. It only means that Karl’s revelations, while extraordinary if true, are simply unsubstantiated hearsay. There is no way to verify any of those revelations unless the source reveals the information to another.

The Aztec case remains with no real evidence to support its reality and a provenance that seems to return to Silas Newton, who told it to Frank Scully. Newton was charged with fraud and other crimes on several occasions dating as far back to 1928 and as recently as 1972, just prior to this death. As a witness, as a source, Newton leaves a great deal to be desired.

So, here’s where we are on this. I can’t give much weight to Karl’s claims of a Newton diary simply because none of the evidence has been seen by anyone other than Karl. If the situation were reversed, that is, a witness came forth with some documentation to prove Aztec real but the source was not revealed and the documentation was not revealed, we’d all be quick to condemn it. (Think of Virgil Riggs here... the former Air Force enlisted man who met with Donald Bass who said it was real, but no one has heard from Bass in decades.)

That is the situation we have here. Nothing to support Karl’s claims, and so, until we see more evidence, until the source talks to someone else, the tales of Newton’s diary are simply unsubstantiated hearsay and that’s really all they are.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

The 2012 Roswell Festival - Galaxy Fest

For those keeping score at home, this year’s Festival in Roswell is known as Galaxy Fest. It runs from June 29 through July 2 with most of the activities centered around the International UFO Museum and Research Center in downtown Roswell.

Normally, I wouldn’t post something like this because it is little more than an advertisement for the Roswell Festival, but this year things are a little different. Don Schmitt informed me that the director of the museum, Julie Shuster, was taken ill a couple of weeks ago and will be laid up through the festival. Although I believe she wants to participate, I don’t believe her health will allow it this year.

I know that a lot of work goes into coordinating something on this scale. The logistics from providing all the support for the speakers, authors and celebrities who will be there, to getting the programs put together, the advertising necessary, and all sorts of other activities to make sure that everyone who attends has a good time can be overwhelming (and I’ve only mentioned a couple of the behind the scenes tasks needed to complete the whole package... I mean, do they have the equipment set up to project the slides for the speakers... whose going to man the front door, the gift shop, who gets what space for the outside vendors area... and so on and so on).

Given Julie’s (Julie Shuster seen here) dedication to the museum and the festival, I thought it appropriate to mention it here... and hey, it is my blog so I get to make the rules.

No matter what you believe about the Roswell UFO crash, it is a good time, and if you want to believe in Mogul, you’ll have an opportunity to argue with many who disagree... But remember, the point is to share information, not impress your point of view on the world.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Kenneth Arnold and the Flying Saucers

It has become a matter of conventional wisdom, that is, the idea that "flying saucer" is a misnomer, invented by a newspaper reporter who had been listening to Kenneth Arnold talk of a motion of nine objects he saw near Mount Rainier, Washington in June, 1947. It didn’t describe the shape of the objects, according to the skeptics, but the motion as they flew. They moved like saucers skipping across a pond and were not circular like a, well, saucer.

Bill Bequette is often credited with coming up with the term, "flying saucer," after Arnold described the motion of the craft. In later interviews, Bequette denied this, and it seems that the available written record bears this out.

According to one newspaper account, printed on June 25, Arnold was quoted as saying, "He said he sighted nine saucer-like aircraft flying..."

From the Hayward, California Daily Review of June 26, we see a quote attributed to Arnold. "They were shaped like saucers and were so thin I could barely see them."

From San Antonio on the same date is "Arnold described the objects as "flat like a pie pan."

Bequette, in the East Oregonian reported, "...flat like a pie pan and somewhat bat-shaped..." which is a hint that there was something scalloped in the rear, like the wings of a bat.

On June 26, Arnold was interviewed on KWRC (radio, if it is necessary to make that distinction given the date... yes, I know there was commercial television but not much and certainly not in that area in 1947), and he said, "They looked something like a pie plate that was cut in half with a sort of a convex triangle in the back."

Arnold's Drawing for the Army.
The point here is that all these statements were made, literally, within hours of seeing the objects (I suppose you could say that as much as 48 hours had passed, though I think the time was shorter than that). It wasn’t until The Coming of the Saucers was published in 1952 that the stylized, blunt-nosed and decidedly scalloped trailing edge was seen. This was, I believe, the firm hand of Ray Palmer. As an editor, he had a habit of re-writing and guiding articles in the direction that he wanted them to go. Arnold often said that he wasn’t much of a reader and had little time for the sorts of things that interested Palmer.

By June 28, the term, "flying saucer" was firmly affixed to the story. In one newspaper, the East Oregonian, the story began, "Kenneth Arnold said today he would like to got on one of his 1200-mile-an-hour ‘flying saucers,’..."

So, what did the damned things look like, when we examine those stories told in the hours and days after the event? Arnold provided, for the Army, a report on what he had seen and provided a signed drawing of the flying saucer. It certainly does have a rounded appearance, but the back end of it is flattened. There is no cut out on his drawing and the there is no hole, or cockpit in the center, as shown in the later versions.

Ray Palmer, who was in the process of creating Fate with Curtis Fuller, wanted a story from Arnold for the first issue of the magazine. On the cover were these yellow disks that had holes in the center because Palmer was pushing the Maury Island tale and those witnesses (well, alleged witnesses but admitted hoaxers, which makes them liars) said the objects they saw were donut shaped.

Then, with The Coming of the Saucers, the shape evolved into the classic crescent and bat-like trailing edge we see today. Gone is the hint of a saucer shape and while there is a cockpit on top, there doesn’t seem to be a hole through the center.

It seems to me that Arnold was describing something that was more saucer shaped than not, and that his description, though denied later, was of a saucer-shaped object. The drawing he made and sent to the Army is much more likely to be the best illustration of the object because it was the one made closest to the event. By 1952 and his book with Ray Palmer, all sorts of pressures had been brought, including Palmer’s attempts to validate the Maury Island nonsense.

The stylized Arnold "saucer."
Bequette, then, did not originate the term and the invention of it can be given to Arnold, based on his descriptions as published within a day or two (though I could have said hours here), and to headline writers who have a habit of attempting to lure readers to a story with something inspiring, graphic, spectacular or odd... or all of the above.

And flying saucers were born, not out of a misunderstanding about the shape of the objects seen, but out of the description supplied by Arnold.

It should also be noted that in following stories by other witnesses, objects were described as flying saucers that were cigar shaped, ball shaped (or spherical) triangular and a half dozen other ways. While these clearly were not saucer shaped, they were all lumped into the same grouping, here meaning unidentified objects in the sky and not necessarily anything else. But invention of the term comes directly from the Arnold sighting and the descriptions he gave to various reporters and not to a misunderstanding.