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?
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.