of a hoax
Above: From April 2, 1950, above-the-masthead front-page "April Fools" story in the Laredo, Texas, Times with the byline of "L.O. O'Flirpa" (April Fool spelled backwards). The opening sentence read "The eyes of the civilized world were focused on Laredo today after a flying saucer crashed at the municipal airport and its pilot, a tiny creature only 21 inches in height, was captured in a terrific struggle with law enforcement officers and airport personnel". The story and picture were a reference to stories of crashed discs and "little men" pilots which had been widely circulating for the prior three months.
AT THE BEGINNING OF April, 1950 -- on April 1st, to be exact -- Associated Press correspondent Ed Creach turned his attention away from the Washington beat that was his usual milieu to pen a lengthy article on the public's recently revived focus on "flying saucers".
Creach -- who at times filled in for national columnist Hal Boyle -- used the fact that his piece was appearing on "All Fools' Day" as a hook, but approached the matter in an even-handed manner. Creach's look at the subject included a short history of the phenomenon and the Air Force's response, as well as the most current reports -- March, 1950 had brought with it a major wave of sightings. Also included was the story behind the latest rumors...
There's the classic story that spread throughout the west:
The government (this is pure fiction, remember) has two flying saucers at a radar station near the Arizona-New Mexico border. One is badly damaged and the other is in almost perfect condition.
The saucers (this is still fiction) are space ships -- from Venus -- six feet wide, encompassed by rings 18 feet across and two feet thick. They are equipped with tripod ball-bearing type landing gears. In the air, the rings whirl around the stationary cabins, giving the ships a gyroscope effect.
Each ship (hold on to your hat, now) contained two little men. The bodies in the damaged ship were too charred to tell much about them. The other two bodies were well preserved. The men were three feet tall, blond, beardless and with perfect teeth.
They were built much like human beings on earth except for size. They wore clothes of a blue, wiry material and their trousers were skin-tight. They wore no underwear, but the bodies were taped.
Each ship carried a supply of white tablets and some small brown cubes. When doused in water the cubes fizzled and frothed into a volume of about a gallon.
Well, a Denver engineer named George Coulter made up the story some three months ago. He told it, as a practical joke, to a visiting Kansas City auto dealer named Rudy Fick.
Back in Kansas City, Fick passed the story on, to some friends. It spread like wildfire. In Mexico, Ray L. Dimmick, a powder company executive, heard it -- people even showed him a strip of metal which they said came from one of the space ships.
Dimmick went back to Los Angeles and told the story. It got into the papers. It was denied. Coulter, who made it up in the first place, plainly described it as a gag.
Still the story circulates. And people almost always are disappointed when they learn it isn't true...
But if people turned away from the story with hopes deflated, they would have to wait but a single summer to see the tale of "little men" pilots and their gyroscopic discs flying high once again.
Above: Cover illustration for the paperback pulp version of Frank Scully's 1950 hardcover book, "Behind The Flying Saucers". The cover artist was Earle Bergey, a noted illustrator whose work adorned a wide number of pulp publications.
THE ORIGINAL VERSION of the story had first gained prominence the previous January, and is the one Creach had described in his April 1st article. The man from whom the tale flowed was one George Koehler -- not George Coulter, the mix-up in the name being the mistake of Kansas City auto dealer Rudy Fick, who had first heard the story from Koehler and then quickly spread word of the fantastic tale. But Creach's description of powder salesman Ray Dimmick was askew -- Koehler had claimed to have personally "crashed the gates" at a military radar station to make his discovery, while Dimmick was claiming his own separate personal experience of a crashed disc with a tiny dead pilot recovered in Mexico.
But by the first day following Dimmick's announcement to the press -- which had echoed over newswires nationwide -- Dimmick's story had changed, as from the March 10, 1950 edition of the Reno, Nevada, Gazette...
Saucer Tale Fades As Details Emerge
LOS ANGELES, March 10 (AP) -- Are you in a whirl over flying saucers? Pull up a cup and hear this: They seem to be coming equipped with midget pilots now.
First, there's the case of Mr. Dimmick's gimmick.
Ray L. Dimmick, a dynamite salesman, returned from a trip to Mexico and gave rise to a story about a space ship 46 feet in diameter, 90 inches thick at the center, built of a metal harder than aluminum, powered by two motors -- and manned by a cretin-type little gent only 23 inches tall.
Dimmick originally told reporters he personally saw this wreckage on a mountainside near Mexico City, but later backtracked and said he was told the story by two business associates. All he actually saw according to his revised version, was a strip of metal, about six feet long eight inches wide and three-quarters of an inch thick.
Dimmick said he was told that the tiny pilot was killed in the crash about three months ago his body embalmed for scientific study and the main portion of the saucer put under military supervision in Mexico City [sic, entire sentence].
The air force here heard Dimmick's story, declared it "absolutely unsubstantiated" and said there has been no word from the Mexican government about such a strange interloper.
From Denver however Dimmick received moral support from a mystery lecturer at the University of Denver.
The unidentified prof's platter pitch midget pilots recently flew three flying discs to earth from Venus [sic, entire sentence].
Prof Francis F. Broman said the lecturer, who claimed to be a scientist was brought before a basic science class to test students' evaluation. The man who brought the 'scientist' to school was advertising salesman George T. Koehler who said he believed the story "to be a fact". Prof Broman said his students were more skeptical. Their opinion, "Of litle [sic] value".
Koehler declined to name the lecturer, saying he felt the air force -- which has taken an exceedingly dim view of saucers -- might ridicule his friend...
And it was with the story of the "mystery lecturer at the University of Denver" that Frank Scully would open his 1950 book, Behind the Flying Saucers -- promising to reveal the full "true story" of crashed discs and the remains of their diminutive crew, now in the possession of the U.S. government and being kept hidden from the public behind a wall of Air Force denial.
The book, coming out in late summer -- more than three years following the "original" flying saucer report of Kenneth Arnold -- had been only the second nonfiction book on the subject, and the first in hardback. Three months earlier the first nonfiction book on the subject had been published -- a paperback entitled The Flying Saucers Are Real by Major Donald Keyhoe.
Keyhoe's work was a sourced and factual account of 12 months of investigation into the mystery, and had grown out of an article of the same name as the book which had been published in the January, 1950, edition of True magazine. Keyhoe had received the assignment from True's highly respected editor in chief, Ken Purdy. Later describing in his book the extent and sources of his research for that article, Major Keyhoe would write...
Going over the cases, I realized that Purdy and his staff had dug up at least fifty reports that had not appeared in the papers. (A few of these proved incorrect, but a check with the Air Force case reports released on December 30, 1949, showed that True's files contained all the important items.) These cases included sightings at eleven Air Force bases and fourteen American airports, reports from ships at sea, and a score of encounters by airline and private pilots.
Witnesses included Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force officers; state and city police; F.B.I. agents; weather observers, shipmasters, astronomers, and thousands of good solid American citizens. I learned later that many witnesses had been investigated by the F.B.I. to weed out crackpot reports.
And from that springboard Keyhoe dived into the details through interviewing witnesses and quoting official military reports, as well as using his considerable access to talk with aviation experts and Air Force personnel -- some who believed, others who disparaged -- but quoting all involved by name, when not otherwise requested by those doing the talking, and by description, when anonymity had been promised.
Meanwhile Scully -- most widely known as a gossip columnist for entertainment trade sheet Variety -- offered a completely anecdotal and undocumented account. Readers, however, were assured by the publisher -- Henry Holt and Company -- that "that Mr. Scully has approached his subject with probity and has interpreted the facts and figures given him with care and caution". And Scully himself presented his bona fides in his preface to the book...
I have talked to men of science who have told me they have not only seen them but have worked on several. I have tried to the best of my ability to find flaws in their stories. But to date I have not succeeded...
Unfortunately for the reader, these "men of science" were so highly placed that they could not be named. Still, Scully insisted, the truth about the saucers would not be found anywhere else but in his book -- with the exception of Fate magazine, the Raymond Palmer periodical which boasted on its cover, "True Stories Of The Mysterious, The Strange, The Unusual, The Unknown", held up by Scully as a paragon of flying saucer journalism.
The first chapter of Scully's book was entitled "The Mystery of The University of Denver". In its first half, Scully had told the story of George Koehler, with emphasis on his alleged persecution by Air Force Intelligence. In fact, Koehler had been interviewed by an agent of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI) but once, on January 19, 1950, following the publication of the tale he told Rudy Fick of Kansas -- the OSI's interest being his claim of having "crashed the gates" at a radar installation -- at which time he denied pretty much everything he was reported by Fick and others to have claimed.
And it was this same George Koehler who had brought and introduced -- as termed in the news article on Ray Dimmick's change of his story -- the "mystery lecturer at the University of Denver". Meanwhile, the widely-reported fact that Koehler himself had in January claimed to have "crashed the gates" to personally make the discovery of the crashed discs and their "little men" occupants went conspicuously unmentioned by Scully in his lengthy rendition of Koehler's adventures with the Air Force.
As to the "mystery lecturer" himself -- whom Scully favorably compared to Galileo, Albert Einstein, and J. Robert Oppenheimer -- he remained unnamed through the first half of Scully's first chapter. And in fact the lecturer's identity went unrevealed to the science students to which he spoke -- most of them awestruck and all of them impressed, according to Scully. "Within two hours" of the end of the lecture, according to Scully, the Air Force was hot on the chase to learn the identity of the lecturer. Scully then continued...
Scarcely had Air Force Intelligence swallowed the bitter pill of a lost suspect when flying disks began flying around like an August festival of moths around an arc light.
Within the week Mexico City; Los Angeles; Durango, Colorado; Mazatlan; Dayton; Gering, Nebraska; Orangeburg, South Carolina; Lima, Peru; and even the Chilean Navy were reporting saucer-shaped objects in their skies. Most of the stories were one-day wonders: streamer headlines one evening, watered down or reduced to hearsay the next. But here and there a story showed surprising staying power.
Surprising, too, was the double standard of identity maintained in these matters. Every citizen who thought he saw a flying saucer had to turn in a report that left no doubt about who he was, where he was, and the alcoholic content of his blood for one week before and one week after he had observed "a silver-like saucer whizzing through space." But in two years of sitting in the reviewing stand, the Air Force rarely identified so much as one officer or civilian technical adviser it had used to blow down these ever-increasing reports.
Painting a citizen-David vs. an Air Force-Goliath picture, Scully's categorization was wide of the mark. No citizen ever "had to turn in a report" if he or she thought they'd witnessed a saucer. In fact, for the year-and-a-half prior to the publication of Behind the Flying Saucers, the Air Force investigation under the auspices of Project Grudge had been proactively disinterested in such citizen reports unless forced to act by publicity or pressure from higher ups. Military witnesses, of course, were required to make such reports -- but even then many kept quiet for fear of ridicule from their peers.
When the need to investigate became unavoidable, witnesses indeed were sometimes questioned about anything which may have affected their judgment, including alcoholic beverages -- it would in fact have been unprofessional on the part of any investigator not to do so. But despite Scully's implication, the Air Force never "outed" the names of any witnesses to the press or the public, and witnesses were fully aware of the names and ranks of any investigators they met with.
As for Scully's claim "the Air Force rarely identified so much as one officer or civilian technical adviser it had used to blow down these ever-increasing reports" -- it was phrased so vaguely it is difficult to address. Certainly newspapers routinely and repeatedly asked for comment from local Air Force bases when reporting local sightings, giving the response as well as the name and position of those responding for the Air Force. Oftentimes such statements were taken from the person who had or would be part of the Air Force investigation, if any, their names likewise being included in such news articles. The same disclosure held equally true for just-breaking incidents attracting national attention, but with the statements coming from Washington, D.C.
There were many times that Air Force spokesmen replied to general press inquiries repeating general statements made many times before, the spokesmen (usually from an Air Force press office dealing with the press on a wide range of issues) going unnamed in the press -- but that was no different from any large government bureaucracy. And it is equally true that in its December, 1949, press release the Air Force had merely summarized a handful of well-known incidents along with its conclusions about each incident, without naming the specific investigators and analysts involved. But this too was pro-forma in any announcement from a government agency -- in this case as part of the Air Force announcement that it was closing down its two-year old investigation of saucers, and such summaries by their very nature avoiding all but the most basic specifics.
But having thus set up a false scenario, Scully continued with a false equivalency...
Even in the case of the University of Denver lecturer, it would not permit him to enjoy the same anonymity which it claimed for itself. The faculty and students were pledged not to publicize what they had heard but to evaluate it for what it was worth to them as science students. The speaker told them to disregard all but what he said. For this reason he was not introduced by name or by his degrees.
One of the things the lecturer said was that the first flying saucer found on this earth was discovered by his colleagues within 500 miles of where he was talking right there in Denver. This didn't send the science students scurrying into the field in all directions, as it should have if they had any feeling for research. It sent some to newspaper offices and the rest spent the afternoon lying on the lawn and gazing at the sky. By the next day the horizontal scanners had increased to nearer one thousand students.
That behind all this smoke was no fire whatever continued to be the unyielding premise of the Air Force High Command, officially, though its officers continued to hop around like chameleons on a scotch plaid, unofficially. Outwardly the Air Force took a detached position in the Christmas season of 1949 and maintained it unperturbed right through the Easter sunrise services of 1950, even though warned by men of high standing in the electromagnetic branch of science that these alien objects in our skies were known for years to pile up in heaviest numbers in January, February, and March. Judging from the piling up of newspaper reports, the scientists were certainly right in their calculations and the weary Air Force spokesmen were wrong.
The second phase of the University of Denver story was either to find the name of the lecturer who might, for all the faculty knew, be an agent from Moscow, Idaho, or to find a "patsy" to blame for the affair. While this was going on, a report came in from Santiago, Chile, quoting Commander Augusto Vars Orrego, head of the Chilean Antarctic Base, as saying that several explorers under his command had photographed flying saucers. The commander denied the possibility of optical illusions because the pictures, he insisted, corroborated what was observed. Whether these would be published depended on his superiors in the Chilean Navy, he told the United Press. So far they haven't been.
This report had scarcely found its place in the line of march before another report out of Santiago from the country's meteorological observatory added that "a spheroid celestial body" (astronomical slang for flying saucer) had been sighted at an estimated height of 18,000 feet. It supposedly crossed the sky in an east to west direction. It remained, according to the naval astronomers, in the sky from 10 A.M. to 1 P.M., and then disappeared. It was observed by thousands.
As Chile is outside the boundaries of the U.S. Air Force Intelligence, this one elicited no comment from the Pentagon. As for things at the Denver level their investigators were too busy tailing that mystery man of science to bother with scuttlebutt from the Chilean Navy.
The same day, unfortunately, for those on the negative side of the debate, the director of the Tonantzintla Astronomical Observatory in Mexico reported photographing a flying saucer. The photograph didn't turn out any too well, but the newspaper Excelsior printed it nevertheless. Luis Enrique Erro, director of the observatory, said it was photographed on March 2 when the strange circular object crossed the Mexican sky.
Then on March 9, Roy [sic, should be Ray] L. Dimmick, Los Angeles sales manager for the Apache Powder Company, the sort of man who would be welcome on almost any jury, started a veritable stampede of disk jitters when he reported the wreckage of a flying saucer picked up near Mexico City. It had a dead pilot on board. The space ship measured 46 feet across, he said, and the pilot measured 23 inches.
"American military men have viewed the strange object," Dimmick testified, "but for military security reasons the entire matter has been kept very hush-hush."
The next day Dimmick dropped back to what the military calls "a previously prepared position" and said he hadn't actually seen the space ship personally but had talked to two important men -- one from Mexico and the other from Ecuador -- who had. One had given him a strip of metal from the saucer. It looked like aluminum, but wasn't of a metal known to this earth, he added. This had a familiar ring. I've handled some of that stuff, too.
"I think the government ought to make its position clear," Dimmick complained. "If it doesn't want to discuss these things for reasons of security, why not say so?"
But the Air Force was not saying anything of the sort. The saucers were "a mild form of mass hysteria." (Except in cases like Dimmick's. He would fall, I suppose, according to their rigid classifications, into either the group suffering from hallucinations or the perpetrators of hoaxes.)
Brigadier General Rodriguez Cardenes, chief of the Mexican Air Corps, added his disclaimer, indicating that the good neighbor policy was not dead when it came to reciprocal agreements on press releases of this sort. It was getting so that pilots, navigators, and others trained to observe objects in the sky were not keen about reporting their observations any longer to Air Force Intelligence. There were too many kickbacks. To observe was to be suspect; to know was to be guilty. It was a crazy situation for America to find herself in, but there it was.
Most persons in responsible posts learned to take the official position as if it had all the force of a directive. Almost to a man you could bank on such persons accenting the positive, if the Pentagon was going that way, or adding their ridicule if the trend was downhill.
In the midst of positive reports from here, there, and everywhere, Dr. Gerard P. Kuiper, professor of astronomy at the University of Chicago, laughed at the idea that the pilot of the saucer reported in Mexico was a small man, but suggested that pilots of space ships could be smart bugs or small plants because that's all, in his opinion, the planet Mars could produce at present.
This sort of smart-alec rebuttal couldn't possibly receive an official rebuff at the time because it was in the "right" direction. Moreover, it sort of set the party line for other astronomers.
Off the record you could find dissenting opinions from astronomers whose standing was just as high as Kuiper's. Many kept an open mind on the issue. Some believed the objects were flying saucers but were still at a loss as to their origin. A few favored one planet or another as a possibility. But from Kuiper's whimsy you'd think that everybody had agreed the space ships were from Mars. Who said they were from Mars? Orson Welles? The ghost of the long dead R.A. Locke? Or was this a device of the military, a negative approach, to condition us to further revelations later involving Mars?
Though no Air Force officer has been known to have written on the subject, True magazine managed to get two Navy men to break loose from the corral during this era. Donald E. Keyhoe, a former Marine pilot, and Robert E. McLaughlin, a commander still on active service, wrote about flying saucers they had seen or had heard about. The articles were long on sound and fury, and while it might be harsh to say they signified nothing, that was more because of poor writing rather than poor material. True was not the first in the field by any means. I was at least ten weeks ahead of True with articles in Variety, and Fate was ahead of me by a year. But mine was not a rewrite. I used material never previously printed by anybody anywhere -- Fate, the Post, and True included.
Much of this was subsequently reprinted from Variety in papers as widely scattered as Boston, Buffalo, Kansas City, and Los Angeles, and a good deal of it has been released over one radio station or another.
During most of these exposés, Air Force Intelligence maintained a weary silence in the face of aerial observations which had turned the peoples of all countries from discussions of the cold war to hot speculations about flying saucers.
As for Denver, and its mysterious lecturer of March 8, 1950, the music went 'round and 'round. Someone remembered that a tape recording had been made of the scientist's talk and that it probably was stashed away at Station KMYR where Koehler worked. Koehler's employer permitted a group of Denver businessmen to listen to the recording so that they could better understand the ridiculousness of all the espionage and counterespionage on the Denver campus.
By then the Chancellor, who had been out of town when the lecture was delivered, was sounding off. He issued a directive to his faculty. They would have to screen speakers more carefully in the future. An anonymous writer on The Denver Post liked this approach to the problem. So he tried his editorial hand at rebuffing anonymity among visiting lecturers. His rebuff had all the moral force of pots calling kettles black.
In the audience of leading citizens at the radio transcription was a reporter of the same Denver Post. He broke the story anew in a Sunday edition. This brought the Army Air Force [sic] Intelligence into the picture again. Finally Koehler said he could take the third-degree stuff no longer.
"The name of the mystery scientist is Edgar B. Davis!" he cried.
It was agreed by all who heard it that this was a nice honest sounding name.
But who was Edgar B. Davis? The hunt started out anew.
At the very hour, however, when Denver was listening to a recording of the lecture, several persons in Hollywood were listening to a tape recording of the same lecture. It was taken from the original tape recording. In Hollywood it was heard in the private home of a doctor and his wife who had been a graduate nurse and a former airline hostess. The recording was in the custody of a geophysicist, a man known to me for years.
All were unquestionably astounded by the revelations and even more so by the fact that the voice on the tape and the one of the geophysicist were almost beyond a shadow of a doubt one and the same voice. Of course, since the flying time between Denver and Los Angeles is only a matter of six hours his presence in both places in the same day could not be advanced as conflicting testimony.
But on March 17, Denver's faculty, student body, press, and Air Force intelligence officers were pretty well convinced they had identified the lecturer who had had the temerity to write the bad words "Flying Saucers For Beginners" on their cloistered walls.
Four students, as well as Barron Beshoar, Denver's bureau manager of Time-Life Incorporated (a gate-crasher to the lecture incidentally), were sure from Denver Post photographers that the man was Silas Mason Newton, president of the Newton Oil Company, amateur golf champion of Colorado in 1942, graduate of Baylor University and Yale, who did postgraduate work at the University of Berlin, a man who had never made more than $25,000,000 nor lost more than $20,000,000, the rediscoverer of the Rangely oil field, patron of the arts, and man of the world generally. In brief, a man of substance as well as science and as American as apple pie.
One student later admitted he remembered the lecturer and knew who he was all along because he had caddied for him at the Lakewood golf course many times. But he hadn't spoken up before because he understood there was to be no publicity. Hadn't the subject matter been announced as confidential, he wanted to know?
This tempest in a university teapot, cooked up to make modesty appear as scandalous and tattletelling as a virtue, was all but obliterated from even The Denver Post by a wire story out of Farmington, New Mexico, on the afternoon of March 17.
Farmington is an oil town of 5,000 persons. Its citizens are given more to looking down than looking up. Their living is way down there in the bowels of the earth in the San Juan Basin of northern New Mexico, close to the Colorado line; within, significantly, that 500 miles of Denver the lecturer referred to.
The town has one newspaper, the Farmington Daily Times. On one ear of its front-page masthead it proclaims, "Our Mission -- Truth; Our Faith -- New Mexico." It was established in 1884, a long time before Air Force Intelligence, and its reputation for veracity in the community is good.
So when on the morning of March 18 it ran an eight-column banner headline proclaiming "Hugh [sic] Saucer Armada Jolts Farmington," it was reporting the news as the entire staff and most of the town's population saw it. Clayton J. Boddy, the paper's business manager, and Orville Ricketts, the associate editor, had a hand in it, but the story was actually written by Walter Rogal, the managing editor.
The main story told that fully half the town's population was still certain the morning after that it had seen space ships or some strange aircrafts -- hundreds of them -- zooming through the skies on the previous day. The estimates ran from several to more than five hundred. "Whatever they were," the writer reported, "they caused a major sensation in this community which lies only a [sic] 110 air miles northwest of the huge Los Alamos Atomic [sic, capitalized] installation."
The objects appeared to play tag high in the sky. At times they streaked away at almost unbelievable speeds. One triangulation estimated the speed at 1,000 miles an hour, and guessed the saucers were about twice the size of a B-29.
The newspaper office was deluged with calls from persons who saw the objects and wanted some explanation of their origin. Most observers described the space ships as silvery discs, and a number agreed one was red in color.
Clayton J. Boddy, a former captain of the engineers of the American Army in Italy, was just one of the number who testified as to what he saw. He was one in fact among those who thought there appeared to be about five hundred of them. His account was confirmed by Joseph C. Callioff [sic throughout, should be Kalloff or Kelloff] and Frances C. Callioff, grocers from Antonito, Colorado, and Robert Foutz, and John Burrell of Farmington. The Callioffs were in Farmington inspecting sites for a proposed new store in their chain, and they contributed the opinion that the saucers seemed to be flying in formation.
Harold F. Thatcher, director of the Farmington unit of the U.S. Soil Conservation Service, was the one who made the triangulation. Not an engineer, he had engineers working under him and knew how to make a rough triangulation of an object. He laughed off the idea that the sky might have been full of pieces of cotton fuzz floating around. "I was not sighting on any cotton," he said. The cotton theory was a contribution of a state patrolman named Andy Andrews.
The first reports of flying saucers were noted at 10:15 A.M. and for an hour thereafter reports kept streaming in.
The second large-scale sighting appeared at 3 o'clock in the afternoon.
The first report that one of the saucers appeared red came from John Eaton, a real estate salesman, and Edward Brooks, a garage employee. Brooks had been a B-29 tail-gunner, and was the first to discount the objects as that of modern aircraft. They were "too maneuverable" he said.
John Bloomfield, another garage employee, said that they traveled about ten times faster than jet planes and frequently made right-angled turns. "They appeared to be coming at each other head on," he added. At the last second one would veer at right angles upward and the other at right angles downward." [sic, no beginning quote mark]
"From the ground they appeared about the size of a dinner plate," said Marlow Webb, another employee. "They flew sideways, on edge and at every conceivable angle. This is what made it easy to determine that they were saucer-shaped."
No one reported seeing any vapor trails, or hearing any engine noises.
In general the town accepted the phenomenon calmly enough. Except for a few isolated reports there was no indication of Air Force's tired old trinity -- hallucinations, mass hysteria, and hoaxes.
As to whether the objects were from another planet or some new craft of American design, the town's opinion was divided.
At 11:15 A.M. the clearest view and reports of the largest number of saucers came into the Farmington Times. By 11:30 all had disappeared.
Nearby Las Vegas reported that at 11:35 observers caught a glimpse of the saucers. Twelve postal employees witnessed one that sailed til noon. One employee was Robert Hilgers, a lieutenant in the naval reserve. He said the object was very high in the sky, "probably twenty miles."
The Las Vegas Daily Optic gave the Farmington story an eight-column streamer too. "SPACE SHIPS CAUSE SENSATION" it proclaimed.
All previous official explanations in the Air Force stockpile, that these things could be kites, balloons, reflections, debris from atomic bomb tests at nearby Alamagordo [sic], wind-blown merry-grounds, suggestibility, hallucinations, mirages, and postwar psychoses didn't seem to cover the Farmington revelations. A whole town couldn't be seeing things.
Without knowing it, that Farmington fish story had come awfully close to landing a whale, because it was in that general direction where it all started in the spring of 1948 when a colleague of the lecturer of the University of Denver tempest got a hurry call to fly to New Mexico. This colleague (I shall call him "Dr. Gee") had been in government service on top secret defense projects for seven years and had played a part in 35,000 experiments on land, sea, and air, involving 1,700 scientists. He was still on call and getting pretty tired of these consultations, which at government salaries represents a loss to a man much in demand by industry.
But this time he was too thrilled to be tired. It took him only three hours to fly from Denver to his destination. There on the ground, having gently pancaked to earth, seemingly without having suffered a scratch, he saw the first flying saucer ever known to have landed on this planet.
Not long afterward I heard about it, first from that University of Denver lecturer and later from the lips of Dr. Gee himself.
"I don't believe a word of it," I remember saying at the time, "but tell me more about it. What did it look like? Where was it found?"
The scientist told me but he also told me so many other things that I had forgotten the name of the town. He explained about magnetic fault zones particularly in Oregon and on the Mojave Desert and how the pilots of these ships seemed to be as curious about them as bees about honey. He said he was checking to see if this curiosity was a likely source or had any connection with the propulsion behind their ships. He told me he suspected they had mastered secrets of flying, which we were only now seeing most dimly.
I kept my own counsel for months. But when others less well informed began sounding off in all directions about flying saucers, I thought it was about time that I told the world if nothing more than proof that I knew more than I had read in the papers.
In fact the night the Denver Post was exposing Scientist X and the Farmington citizens were exposing Operation Hush-Hush, I was dining in Hollywood with the man all Denver was hunting for. He had just talked to George Koehler in Denver by long distance. Koehler had worked for him and had married his nurse. The Farmington report had set Denver in an uproar, Koehler told him.
"Do you remember my telling you," Scientist X said as he hung up, "that the first flying saucer was found on a ranch twelve miles from Aztec?"
I remembered when he reminded me but I had forgotten. "Yes," I said, "I remember now."
"Well," he said, "Farmington is only twenty-eight miles from that ranch. In fact they flew over the exact place where one of their number had fallen a year ago."
"I wonder why they keep scouting that area?" I asked. "Is it a tribute to the saucer that failed to come home or to show that they have mastered the particular fault zone that grounded an earlier patrol?"
"I covered that in my Denver lecture," he said. "Weren't you paying attention?"
And with that conundrum, Scully's readers reached the end of chapter one.
Just as he had in the first half of this chapter, the second half above had Scully describing a wholly-invented pursuit by Air Force Intelligence officers to discover the lecturer's identity -- something which appears in no report in declassified Air Force files of the investigation of George Koehler in January (and in fact, there is not only no Air Force document whatsoever on the Denver lecture, it is not even found within a series of news clippings from mid-March in Air Force files).
And even within that, Scully got his dates wrong -- the alleged Air Force pursuit occurring after the March 8, 1950, lecture, with Scully claiming that "while this was going on, a report came in from Santiago, Chile, quoting Commander Augusto Vars Orrego, head of the Chilean Antarctic Base, as saying that several explorers under his command had photographed flying saucers". But in fact Commander Orrego's report had appeared in newswires nationwide on February 24 -- almost two weeks before the lecture. And even had it occurred simultaneously, Scully's observation, "As for things at the Denver level their investigators were too busy tailing that mystery man of science to bother with scuttlebutt from the Chilean Navy" would be transparently nonsensical -- each local Air Force base having its own assigned OSI agents, responsible only for local events, a simple fact which was widely known.
In any case it had been Denver's local reporters -- and not the Air Force villains of Scully's imagining -- who were intent on identifying Scully's "mystery man of science". After all, the man had been invited to speak at a Denver university and thereupon publicly proclaimed himself to be a scientist working on captured saucers from Venus -- it would have been shocking if reporters had not clamored to learn more.
And curiously, although Scully himself had revealed the name of the lecturer -- Silas Mason Newton -- just before veering into the events at Farmington, he was oddly still referring to him as "Scientist X" when quoting him, a conceit with which he continued in chapter two...
Chapter Two -- What the Scientist Said
THOUGH PERHAPS not too much thought has gone into the saying "nearer to church the further from God" (else how explain the piety of monks and nuns?), it nevertheless happens that a hermit on a faraway hilltop sees more clearly into your windows now and then than your next door neighbor. Such an explanation of the vagaries of reflected light might explain also why it was not the Denver newspapers that gave the best report of what Scientist X had said to students of the University of Denver. The reflected prize for the best reporting would go to the Summerside Journal, a modest sized publication quartered on Prince Edward Island, Canada; between Newfoundland and New Brunswick at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River.
This newspaper obviously got its story from a Denver correspondent, but it recapitulated what the speaker said so well that it's better than a transcript in helping readers arrive at an understanding of what went on that March afternoon.
A transcript of a speech doesn't necessarily leave the reader with a well-rounded picture of what happened. The reason for this is that when a man talks he is primarily appealing to the ears of his readers; when he writes he is appealing to their eyes. Therefore, a complete transcription such as The New York Times frequently employs would not necessarily be the truest picture of what a man said. It would certainly lack his emphasis, his gestures, and (in this case) his chalk sketches on the blackboard.
Basically, the questions brought to the surface by this mysterious talker at the University of Denver were: (1) had science really found flying saucers to be real, (2) what did they consist of, and (3) where were they found?
A listener would like to know if the speaker thought the flying saucers had their origin on this earth. If they were, on the other hand, from another planet, what planet? Were they operated by pilots aboard them? And if by pilots, what were the appearance, size, coloring, age, clothes, and some of the other census-taking facts?
Did their knowledge of aerodynamics go deeper than ours would be another natural question.
In a fifty-minute address, it would be too much to expect any scientist to cover this whole field completely. At best he could subdivide the already divided camps between those who believed in flying saucers and those who disbelieved in them. He might reveal certain information along the way: fortifying the general suspicion that he was a man of education and standing in the community, that he was not only a man of science but of substance.
Well, he was saying, to begin with, that there is such a thing as a flying saucer. He was saying, moreover, that the Air Force, despite its announcement to the contrary, had not abandoned its Project Saucer, but was operating on another level and under possibly another name. He was saying that four of these flying saucers had actually landed on this earth.
Three of the four, he added, had been captured and had been inspected by men with whom he was currently identified in geophysical research. Thirty-four men, measuring between thirty-six inches to forty inches in height had been found dead in three of the saucers discovered.
The first saucer to land on this earth, he said, landed less than two years previous to his talk, "on a site within 500 miles of Denver."
The saucer not only didn't appear to come from any part of this earth, but the question of where it came from still remained unsolved. The best speculation, he added, was Venus, but he continued to stress the point that it was still a wide-open question.
Under research, he said, the materials used in the saucer had disclosed two metals unknown to us. This convinced him and his co-scientists that the saucers were not likely made by us or rival powers.
Found in the first space ship were instruments which seemingly measured lines of magnetic force. These instruments were a key to something which his group was still working on and believed when they solved it, they would have solved the whole problem of the propulsion of these saucers. He said such ships capable of traveling with the speed of light could leave such a planet as Venus, say, which is 161,000,000 miles from us when our orbits lie in extreme positions, and return to Venus in less than one hour.
According to the correspondent of the Summerside Journal, the lecturer never identified himself in his introduction. His speech was calculated, well thought out and delivered slowly enough for the slowest student to absorb and record.
There was no particular accent or diction which the correspondent could detect. The speaker used scientific terms and spoke with a familiarity of a man who knew many sciences. He repeatedly used the word "we" when referring to experiments being done on the strange crafts. He didn't associate himself with any particular experiment. He also indicated that a full disclosure of the government's interest in flying saucers, though officially denied at present, would be forthcoming in the not too distant future. He said the first disk that landed was 99.9 feet in diameter and had a cabin measuring 72 inches in height. The second measured 72 feet in diameter, the third, 36 feet. All measurements on the ships seemingly were divisible by nine, which may have been a clue that they used our system of measurement.
The disks, he explained [sic, no comma] had revolving rings of metal, in the center of which were the cabins. The cabins were geared to the disks, which revolved around the stabilized cabins. The gears, which had no lubrication, were of a gear ratio unfamiliar to our engineers. He thought they might have traveled by using the magnetic lines of force known to encircle planets of our solar system.
From its appearances the researchers assumed that the first saucer was capable of maneuvering in any given direction. Like helicopters, which these ships were not, they could be maneuvered to land anywhere. The smallest had a landing gear built like a tricycle of three metal balls, which could revolve in any direction.
Accepting the theory, which he did, that the craft could operate by harnessing magnetic lines of force, he said it was entirely logical to assume these saucers could travel up to virtually unlimited speed -- at least up to 186,000 miles per second, the speed of light -- in this atmosphere, and where there was no gravitational or wind resistance it would be impossible to compute how fast they could travel.
Sixteen men, ranging in ages, he would guess, from thirty-five to forty years old, if we use our calendar of time, were taken dead from the first craft. Their bodies had been charred to a dark brown color.
Sixteen dead men were also found in the second craft. These, however, had not suffered from burns apparently, and were all of fair complexion. Otherwise they were like the first space travelers -- of small stature. No different from us, except for height, and lack of beards. Some had a fine growth resembling peach fuzz.
The third ship was also manned and the men in it were also dead. This one, a small saucer, 36 feet in diameter, had a crew of only two. These men had lived to land, because they had died while attempting to climb out of their cabin.
Those connected with the research, the speaker said, believed that all three craft landed under the guidance of their own instruments and did not crash, despite the fact that their crews were dead. They may have landed on instruments or they may have been guided the whole distance. But they did not crash and in only one ship was there any mark of imperfection.
In construction, they were quite dissimilar to anything we have designed. There was not a rivet, nor a bolt, nor a screw in any of the ships. Their control boards were a series of push buttons. Their outer construction was of a light metal much resembling aluminum but so hard no application of heat could break it down.
There was no reference to the means of propulsion beyond that the craft presumably operated on lines of magnetic force and the designers had conquered the problem of how to switch from Venus (which is positive) to this earth (which is positive), and therefore repel each other. [sic, entire sentence]
The ships carried no weapons, and the speaker assumed that they had solved the problem of disintegrating an object which might pursue or threaten them.
He gave details of the water and food found on the [sic] board the saucers. He also told of sleeping accommodations on one craft that had wall-enclosed bunks which could not be seen when closed and ingeniously disappeared in the curtains when open. [sic, entire sentence]
As he neared the end of his lecture he told of the discovery of a fourth saucer which members of his group stumbled on near a government proving ground. It was unoccupied at the moment.
The scientists returned to their car for cameras and equipment and as they neared the ship they saw several little men hop into the saucer, and the ship just disappeared like one of those hallucinations we hear so much about.
At no time did the speaker indicate where the ships disappeared to after being broken up for research. Nor did he give any clue as to what happened to the bodies of the 34 men found dead in the first three saucers. "He said simply," concluded the reporter for the Summerside Journal, "'There is a flying saucer.'"
He might have added for the benefit of any eavesdroppers scouting for the Air Force that the ships were as real as the planes over Pearl Harbor, which the Air Force never saw either. He might have, but he refrained.
Comparing this news summary with an actual transcript of the lecture, the reporter for the Summerside Journal comes out with flying colors. That he skipped such technical matters as the speaker's reference to William Gilbert -- (1544-1603) -- as the father of magnetism, and other milestones, such as July 16, 1945, at 5:30 A.M. when the atomic age was born at Alamagordo [sic], New Mexico, and Max Planck's theories advanced in 1903 when he was professor at the University of Berlin is not important. Tying all these things to the age of the flying saucers was part of the speaker's general introduction.
For reasons which can only be surmised, Scully -- now nearly nine-tenths of the way through chapter two -- had bizarrely chosen to describe an article about the lecture as coming from the "Summerside Journal, a modest sized publication quartered on Prince Edward Island, Canada" while awarding it the "reflected prize for the best reporting". Scully noted that the "newspaper obviously got its story from a Denver correspondent, but it recapitulated what the speaker said so well that it's better than a transcript" -- an equally curious claim. For in fact the article in the Summerside Journal was a verbatim newswire story, bylined by Thor Severson, who had written the original article for the Denver Post. The Summerside Journal included both the Post and Severson's name in the story's byline, so this could be no innocent mistake on Scully's part -- making even more freakish Scully's statement that "it was not the Denver newspapers that gave the best report of what Scientist X had said to students of the University of Denver", and making outlandish Scully's statement that, "Comparing this news summary with an actual transcript of the lecture, the reporter for the Summerside Journal comes out with flying colors.".
And though Scully included details as given by Severson -- who had based his story on an audio recording of the lecture later played by Koehler for the benefit of others -- Scully also added tidbits which were not included in the article, and could only have come from that same recording of the lecture, all the while attributing them to the reporting effort of the Summerside Journal. Nor does Scully's claim that paraphrasing was better than reading the transcript itself -- he offered not even a single quote -- bode well about the actual quality of the lecture given by the "mystery man of science", which Scully claimed had held his listeners spellbound.
But the ugliest and most grotesque of all of Scully's insupportable statements -- totally unrelated to the subject at hand -- was that the lecturer "might have added for the benefit of any eavesdroppers scouting for the Air Force that the ships were as real as the planes over Pearl Harbor, which the Air Force never saw either". For, as any schoolboy could have told him at the time, the Air Force didn't exist in 1941, and the defense of Pearl Harbor was a joint army-navy responsibility -- with the army responsible inshore and the navy responsible for distant reconnaissance. And in fact radar units did see and try to warn of the oncoming onslaught -- while the failure to react had been a failure of command. That Scully would so lightly distort the circumstances and then use the tragic deaths from that horrific day of 2402 killed -- many suffering unimaginably in their death throes and nearly all of them in the prime of their lives -- as his venue for a "witty" sneer speaks volumes about the content of Scully's character, even six decades hence, in these more callous times.
Scully then concluded the chapter with "details" which had been missing from the Denver Post article...
He drew four designs on the blackboard. One showed the "System of Nines," believed to have been used in constructing the saucers. Two others showed two views of the saucer, which was 99.99 feet in diameter, 18 feet across the cabin and a clearance of 45 inches above the rim for pilots to see what might be around them. The design looked very much like the photographs taken by Paul Trent of McMinnville, Oregon, and published in the June 26, 1950 issue of Life. The fourth design showed how magnetic lines of force travel from the sun to the various planets, particularly to the earth [sic, uncapitalized] and to Venus.
After his lecture had caused such a stir, the chalked designs were preserved by lacquer, and unless the lacquer has been removed are there to this day.
The reporter missed too that the space ships apparently had no doors, no exits.
They did, however, have portholes. One was broken and it had a hole about the thickness of a pencil. Through this had rushed either gases or air with such speed that it burned the 16 passengers inside to a brown crisp.
The speaker made it quite clear both in the transcript and subsequent fireside chats at my home that the passengers, although approximately 40 inches tall were not midgets. They had no bad teeth, no fillings. They all wore a sort of uniform but there were no insignia on collars or caps.
There were two or three instruments which the scientists judged to be timepieces. It took 29 days for the instrument to make a complete circumference. This was their first clew [sic] that there might be something between the ship's means of propulsion and magnetism, because a magnetic day is 23 hours and 58 minutes, which works out at 29 days for a magnetic month.
Another thing the reporter missed, one that was really significant, was the speaker's solution as to what happened to Captain Thomas F. Mantell. This case had been hashed and rehashed many times, but never once had anybody come near a remotely plausible solution as to what happened to Mantell and his plane.
All reports agreed that on January 7, 1948, an unidentified object was sighted over Godman Air Force base, Fort Knox, Kentucky, by both military and civilian observers. Four national guardsmen in F 51's, flying in the vicinity, were requested by the Godman control tower operator to investigate the foreign object. Three of the planes closed in and reported that it was metallic and of tremendous size. One pilot described it as "round like a teardrop and fluid."
Captain Mantell contacted Godman tower and reported the object was traveling at half his speed at 12 o'clock high. "I'm closing in now to take a good look," he said. "It's directly ahead of me and still moving at about half my speed. The thing looks metallic and of tremendous size . . . It's going up now and forward as fast as I am. That's 360 m.p.h. . . . I'm going up to 20,000 feet and if I'm no closer, I'll abandon chase."
The time was 3:15 P.M. January 7, 1948. That was the last radio contact by Mantell with the Godman Tower.
Five minutes after Mantell's disappearance from the formation the two remaining planes returned to Godman Field. One of them refueled and equipped himself with oxygen. He covered the territory for 100 miles and climbed as high as 30,000 feet, but found nothing.
Later that day Mantell's body was found in the wreckage of his plane near Fort Knox.
This at least is the official opinion of the Air Materiel Command. According to them, subsequent investigation revealed that Mantell had probably blacked out at 20,000 feet from lack of oxygen and that the mysterious object which he chased to his death was the planet Venus.
"However," the report continued, "further probing showed the elevation and azimuth reading of Venus and the objects [sic] specified time intervals did not coincide."
The object, in fact, is still considered "unidentified," and as far as is known has never been identified or cleared up by the Air Force to this day.
But the speaker in Denver cleared it up to the satisfaction of many. He first prepared his hearers by explaining that members of his group had been engaged in government research since 1942. At least 1,700 scientists were involved in top secret projects. They had worked together for five years and had found out more about magnetism in those five years than the whole world had been able to do in centuries previous.
They had come to the conclusion that everything existing owed its shape and being to magnetic lines of force. He explained there are 1,257 magnetic lines of force to the square centimeter. That is to say, to about a half inch.
Around certain areas of this earth are places known to have magnetic fault zones. Here blow-outs occur, similar to the perpetual eddying of the waters around Cape Hatteras. On this continent areas around the states of Oregon and New Mexico are known to have these sorts of faults.
If the saucers fly on these magnetic waves and have an intelligence operating them (like ours or even superior to ours) it follows that they would show a curiosity about areas that were troublesome. Also atomic explosions might disturb magnetic lines of force and certainly be not unknown to their instruments.
This could explain their frequent appearances over areas like the White Sands Proving Ground. Since the air is so much clearer in Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas it obviously is easier for land-based observers to spot them.
Much of the magic, the scientist explained, which has baffled both trained and untrained observers, is not magic at all. A good deal of what is claimed to have happened to ships in the air, such as disintegration, suspension for a period of time, immobilization of their instrument boards, and such can be duplicated in the laboratory. Mantell's plane and every portion of his plane from the motor to the tips of the wings hung together by reason of magnetic frequency. This was true of even Mantell himself. Therefore all that a flying saucer had to do to disintegrate Mantell's plane, the lecturer revealed, was to demagnetize it.
No two lines have ever been known to cross each other naturally. If forced to do so, or if crossed by "accident" you get disintegration and fire.
Anybody who could create such a magnetic disturbance could wipe out every living thing on this earth in a second.
This, then was the magnetic research scientist's explanation as to what happened to Captain Mantell and his ship. The captain was proving a source of annoyance in his pursuit of a magnetically controlled flying saucer. A button was pushed and Mantell and his plane were no more.
Another thing the speaker pointed out that should have been of more durable interest was that the water on the flying saucer was almost twice as heavy as our drinking water. It was carried in two small containers and was very similar in fact to the heavy water the Nazis wanted so badly from Norway in their haste to be the first to make an atomic bomb.
The little wafers, apparently the food supply, were so condensed that when one was put in a gallon of water it swelled up and overflowed. It was fed to guinea pigs and they thrived on it.
From the outside the whole cabin of the first flying saucer examined seemed hermetically sealed and if it had not been for that break in one of the portholes the researchers might have spent months getting into the ship. But from the inside there was a visible knob in the wall and on the knob was another smaller knob. When the smallest knob was pushed the door flew open, but once it was shut again it was impossible to see the door from the outside.
It had not yet been determined what the two materials found on the ship were. Heat had not been able to melt one down, not even up to 10,000 degrees. It was strong, it was light. A dozen men could stand on it and not dent it; two men could raise up one end of the ship, it was that light.
More than 150 experiments had been tried to break down the gear structure of the ship, with no success. It was hard and of a ratio different from the Swedish system which we employ. Instead of being three to five it was three to six, giving no allowance for lubrication or play or wear or expansion under heat. The speaker said that one ship had defied all effort to get inside of it, despite the use of $35,000 worth of diamond drills.
Though the 72-foot ship had sleeping quarters and even a toilet, the third ship had neither of these features. The latter was piloted by two little men, who sat on bucket seats in front of a control board which was entirely manipulated by push buttons. One, when found, was halfway out of his cabin. The other was sitting with his head on his chest; both dead.
It was the little ship that had the three-point landing gear. The locomotion was not on wheels but steel-looking balls. If all the balls were spinning in the same direction, any number of men could not tilt the ship. However, if there were no movement to the steel balls, a child could tilt the disk ship [sic]. This helped to convince the researchers that magnetic laws were involved. The speaker guessed that the two-seater must have been a later model, based and built on the knowledge that the trip from wherever they came and back did not require sleeping accommodations nor toilets, any more than automobiles require them on this earth.
Certainly any flying saucer which could travel from the planet Venus, say, to this earth and back in an hour would have no need for overnight bags.
The speaker also said that the thread used to sew the buttons on the jackets of these men had been tested, and it took 450 pounds of weight to break the thread.
This was the lecturer's story. Later we will get to Dr. Gee's own story, but I have a story to tell, too. And after me the Air Force has its story, for in this court all will get a hearing.
And thus Scully's readers reached the end of chapter two.
It should go almost without saying that Scully's claim that "his lecture had caused such a stir, the chalked designs were preserved by lacquer" was wholly fictitious. As Professor Broman would later point out...
It would have been ridiculous to preserve them. They were just a couple of circles labeled 'Earth' and 'Venus,' a crude sketch of what the saucers were supposed to have looked like, and a diagram showing how combinations of digits can be added up to total nine which was supposed to illustrate something to do with the measurements of the saucers.
As for the technical details given in the lecture, it was largely scientific gobbledygook -- for as others would soon point out, there is no such thing as a "magnetic day" or a "magnetic month". And as for Scully's retelling of the tragedy of Captain Mantell -- supposedly illustrating that the Venusians "had solved the problem of disintegrating an object which might pursue or threaten them" -- it ignored the fact that the wreckage of Captain Mantell's plane was scattered on the ground in large pieces. There also lay Captain Mantell's mortal remains. And quite simply, if "everything existing owed its shape and being to magnetic lines of force", and if the Venusians had used their mastery of magnetic forces to disintegrate (or as Scully would have it, deprive of "shape and being") both Captain Mantell and his plane, then nothing should have remained to be found on the ground, let alone the large sections which were indisputably located just after the tragedy by the local population.
Nor was there such a thing as gears "of a ratio unfamiliar to engineers on this earth" -- at least not the selfsame gears which George Koehler had shown Rudy Fick. On January 17, 1950, OSI Agent Felix Ungerer had interviewed two men who had been with Fick when George Koehler -- the man who claimed to have personally "crashed the gates" at a radar installation -- had told his story. At that time he showed them the gears he claimed came from another world...
While examining the gears with a magnifying glass, VAN HORN discovered the Arabic numeral "6" and a small arrow. MURPHY called in one of his shop engineers who examined the gears and pronounced them "just gears".
And despite Scully's description of "heavy water" being "twice as heavy as our drinking water... similar in fact to the heavy water the Nazis wanted so badly from Norway" there was no such thing -- "heavy water" being a reference to an extra neutron added to the hydrogen atom and making it larger, and having very little to do with any volume of water's "weight". But it was a buzzword of the time, associated with atomic energy, and would do for Scully's -- and his lecturer's -- purposes.
But even within that there were questions begging for reply. Here, allegedly, was a scientifically advanced race from Venus. Yet aside from their mastery of non-existent "magnetic lines of force" as a means of propulsion and the advanced metallurgy with which they constructed their craft, the Venusians were still hopelessly mired in the technology of mid-twentieth century Earthlings -- needing "knobs" to open doors, using sewing thread to secure conventional buttons for their clothing (apparently Earth was ahead of Venus in its invention of zippers and snaps), fold-down wall beds to sleep on, and even toilets -- presumably of the conventional flush type as they were not amongst the described wonders, and leaving unanswered the nature of Venusian toilet paper.
Also missing was any description of the "instruments which seemingly measured lines of magnetic force", or in fact any technology outside of bunk beds, toilets, buttons and knobs. Scully's lecturer did mention "a control board which was entirely manipulated by push buttons" -- Venusians presumably having advanced past dials and toggle switches -- but there was no information on what the control board controlled, or on any feedback mechanism (for instance, a gauge) to tell the Venusians how well they were controlling whatever it was the control board controlled as they pushed their buttons to control it.
Almost as curious was the fact Scully had referred to the lecturer by many adjectives -- the Air Force's "lost suspect", "Scientist X", the "mysterious lecturer of March 8, 1950", the "mystery man of science", engaged in "geophysical research", who "used scientific terms and spoke with a familiarity of a man who knew many sciences", "a man of education and standing in the community", and who "repeatedly used the word 'we' when referring to experiments being done on the strange crafts" -- while only actually using his name, Silas Mason Newton, once... two times less, in fact, than he had used the name of the pseudonymous "Dr. Gee".
A situation which would change with chapter three -- wherein all that Scully's readers needed to know about Newton would be finally revealed....
...or at the very least, claimed.
1. The reaction to Silas Newton's lecture at the University of Denver was the subject of the following editorial in the March 17, 1950, edition of the Greeley, Colorado, Daily Tribune...
One Test of Education
It would be nice to know the whole story of the flying saucer speech at Denver university.
Did a professor invite a fake lecturer to his classes to test his students only to have someone take him seriously?
If true, the professor ought not to he criticized in any way. Something ought to be done about testing student notions of fraud before they are turned loose on the cold, cold world.
Did a fraudulent lecturer fool the professor and gam himself a lecturing assignment as a scientist reporting scientific facts?
If this is so, then the faculty merits the warning Chancellor Jacobs issued thru the dean's office in which he deplored that the recent lecture on flying saucers "has subjected the university to considerable adverse criticism and must not happen again."
The chancellor's letter said:
"Each teacher in our university is responsible for what goes on in his class, for assuring himself that the persons who are permitted to appear before our students are qualified to express their views in regard to a particular field of learning."
After the lecturer spoke, Professor Francis Broman, formerly of Greeley, said the students themselves did not accept his statements at their face value. He thought the lecture was a "good test of the student's ability to weigh evidence."
That statement to the writer turns bank the clock more than 30 years, when a professor of psychology at the University of Colorado insisted that the test of an educated man was his ability to detect fraud and sham.
The psychologist then pointed to the professional man's portfolio of worthless stock in promotion schemes as an indication that the professional man was not broadly enough educated.
It's still true.
The big stock sales frauds in Greeley in the last 30 years could not have trapped a broadly educated person, one who well absorbed in a stiff school well taught, survey courses in basic subjects -- physical sciences, biological sciences, social sciences, and the humanities.
The Denver lecturer was produced by a Denver advertising man. That coupled with Professor Broman's statement suggests it might have been a test of the students, and a very sensible one.
Either that or the advertising man was deluded by his own tactics.
2. On March 17, 1950, newspapers carried an International News Service newswire report, as from the Lubbock, Texas, Morning Avalanche...
'Flying Saucer' Lecture Brings Reprimand To Denver Instructor
DENVER, March 16 (INS) -- A classroom "lecture" to a group of University of Denver physics students on flying saucers resulted today in an order to the faculty that all future speakers be screened.
The directive came from Chancellor Albert C. Jacobs, following widespread publicity about the "lecture" last week. Although announced as an exercise in logic, the unidentified speaker won attention with his claim that three flying disks peopled by tiny men were being studied by the Army Air Force.
Jacobs said that the incident brought unfavorable publicity to the school, and rebuked the instructor for permitting an unidentified speaker to talk on "purportedly scientific" matters.
The story got wrong the class, which was basic science, not physics.
3. The March 18, 1950, edition of the Farmington, New Mexico, Daily Times...
'Saucer' Armada Jolts Farmington
Crafts Seen By Hundreds
Speed Estimated At 1000 M.P.H.
Altitude 20,000 Feet
- - - - - - - - - -
For the third consecutive day flying saucers have been reported over Farmington. And on each of the three days their arrival here was reported between 11 and noon.
Three persons called the Daily Times office to report seeing strange objects in the air just before noon.
Persons along Main street once again could be seen looking skyward and pointing.
High winds and a dust storm prevented clear vision.
- - - - - - - - - -
Fully half of this town's population still is certain today that it saw space ships or some strange aircraft -- hundreds of them -- zooming through the skies yesterday.
Estimates of the number ranged from "several" to more than 500. Whatever they were, they caused a major sensation in this community, which lies only 110 air miles northwest of the huge Los Alamos atomic installation.
The objects appeared to play tag high in the air. At times they streaked away at almost unbelievable speeds. One witness who took a triangulation sighting on one of the objects estimated its speed at about 1,000 miles an hour, and estimated its size as approximately twice that of a B-29.
Farmington citizens stood in the streets yesterday watching the first reported mass "flying saucer" flight ever sighted. Traffic was slowed to avoid hitting sky gazers. The office of the Farmington Daily Times was deluged with calls from persons who saw the objects.
A Red Leader
Scores described the objects as silvery discs. A number agreed they saw one that was red in color -- bigger and faster, and apparently the leader.
Clayton J. Boddy, 32, business manager of the Farmington Times and former Army Engineers captain in Italy, was one of those who saw the startling objects.
Boddy was on Broadway when "all of a sudden I noticed a few moving objects high in the sky."
"Moments later there appeared what seemed to be about 500 of them." Boddy continued. He could not estimate their size or 'speed, but said they appeared to be about 15,000 feet high.
Boddy's account was confirmed by Joseph C. and Francis C. Kalloff [sic], retail grocers from Antonito, Colo., who were in Farmington to inspect the site of a proposed new store, and by Bob Foutz and John Burrell of Farmington. The Kelloffs [sic] said, the objects appeared to be flying in formation.
One of the most impressive accounts came from Harold F Thatcher, head of the Farmington unit of the Soil Conservation service. Thatcher made a triangulation on one of a number of flying craft. He said if it had been a B-29 it would have been 20,000 feet high and travelling more than 1000 miles per hour.
"I 'm not a professional engineer," Thatcher said, "but I have engineers working under me and I know a little engineering, enough to know how to work out a rough triangulation on an object."
Thatcher emphatically denied an earlier report that the objects could have been small pieces of cotton fuzz floating in the atmosphere.
"It was not cotton," he said. "I saw several pieces of cotton fuzz floating around in the air at the time, but I was not sighting on any cotton."
The "cotton" report was started by State Patrolman Andy Andrews, who quoted several Farmington residents as asserting it was cotton they saw. The residents denied Andrews' report.
The first reports of flying saucers were noted a few minutes, before 11 a.m. yesterday. For a full hour thereafter people deluged the Times office with reports of the objects.
A second large-scale sighting occured [sic] at 3 p.m. At that time Mrs. Wilson Jones, 27, and Mrs. Roy Hicks, 33, housewives, " reported seeing the objects to the north of Farmington, flying perfect formation. Others reported the same sight.
Johnny Eaton, 29, a real estate and insurance salesman, and Edward Brooks, 24, an employee of the Perry Smoak garage, were the first to report the red-colored sky object.
Brooks, a B-29 tail gunner during the war, said he was positive the objects sighted were not airplanes. "The very maneuvering of the things couldn't be that of modern aircraft , " he said.
John Bloomfield, another employee of Smoak's garage, said the objects he saw travelled at a speed that appeared to him to be about 10 times faster than that of jet planes. In addition, he said, the objects frequently made right-angle turns.
"They appeared to be coming at each other head-on," he related. "At the last second, one would veer at right angles upward, the other at right angles downward. One saucer would pass another ahead and then immediately the one to the rear would zoom into the lead."
Marlow Webb [sic, no comma] another garage employee, said the objects to the naked eye appeared to be about eight inches in diameter as seen from the ground. He described them as about the size of a dinner plate.
"They flew sideways, on edge and at every conceivable angle," he said. "This is what made it easy to determine that they were saucer-shaped."
None of the scores of reports told of any vapor trail or engine noise. Nor did anyone report any windows or other markings on the craft.
In general Farmington accepted the phenomenon calmly, although it was reported that some women employees of a laundry became somewhat panicky.
Opinion was somewhat divided among those who saw the objects as to whether they were from another planet or were some new craft of our own nation's devising. Some expressed the opinion the entire incident was the fullfilment [sic] of a Bible prophecy.
From sifting all reports, the Farmington Times compiled this "timetable of sightings:
1. 10:15 a.m., five to nine "saucers" zoomed over the town's business area for 10 minutes before moving out of sight to the northeast.
2. 10:00 a.m., report of "hundreds" seen west of town.
3. 10:30 a. m., red "saucers" seen over town.
3. [sic] 10:35 a.m., three objects staged ''dog fight" over town.
5. 11:15 a.m., clearest view of a large number of "saucers."
6. 11:30 a.m., all disappeared.
7. 3 p.m., fleet of "hundreds" seen flying in formation to the southwest from the northeast.
4. In Scully's telling of the events at Farmington he gives the names of two witnesses as Joseph C. Callioff and Frances C. Callioff, while in the Farmington Daily Times story above the names are given as "Joseph C. and Francis C. Kalloff, retail grocers from Antonito, Colo." and then as "the Kelloffs". The United States census records for 1940 show a listing for a Kelloff household in Antonito, Colorado, wherein Chick Kelloff is listed as head of household with son "Joe", aged 20, and son "Francis" or "Frances" (the penmanship is indistinct), aged 18, as "other people in household". Detailed census documents are not yet legally available later than 1940.
4. Professor Broman's disputation of the assertion that the blackboards used by Newton had been preserved in lacquer is taken from The Flying Saucers And The Mysterious Little Men, by J.P. Cahn, published in the September, 1952, issue of True magazine.
5. The full Air Force investigative reports from which portions are included above are available for review here.
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