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of a hoax

This Spotlight 1952 entry focuses on events from In The News 1952.

Saucer Chart

Above: First pages of October, 1949 Life Magazine story on launch of a Viking rocket at White Sands Proving Ground.

AT THE END OF August, 1949 -- as far as the public was concerned -- all had been relatively quiet on the "flying saucer" front over the first two months of summer.

A few months earlier, in the midst of spring, 1949, there had been a flurry of conflicting explanations for the flying disc phenomenon -- including a lengthy two-part Saturday Evening Post feature article by journalist Sidney Shalett attacking reports of flying discs as nonsense, two nationally syndicated Walter Winchell columns asserting that the flying discs were Soviet aircraft, and an official Air Force statement saying that the flying discs were neither Soviet nor interplanetary aircraft and most likely were the result of misidentification, but also that 40 percent of reports remained unexplained and that all reports were being taken seriously.

But in the intervening months since then there had been precious few news articles detailing actual sighting reports, and those mostly limited to local coverage -- a situation which would change dramatically as summer drew near to a close. From the August 30, 1949 edition of the Los Angeles, California Times...

U.S. Officers Report Seeing Flying Disks

By Marvin Miles

WHITE SANDS, PROVING GROUND, N.M., Aug. 29 -- Flying saucers -- or at least mysterious "objects" -- have been sighted by service personnel at this vital center of America's upper air research.

I talked with three men, two senior officers and an enlisted technician, who reported seeing strange objects in the sky, one as recently as last Friday during preparation for a high-altitude missile flight.

In all fairness, it must be pointed out that other officers and engineers at White Sands scoff at the reports and put them down to imagination, weather balloons, dual images in high-powered optical equipment, or possibly distant planes reflecting sunlight.

Experienced Observers

Yet the men who gave these reports presumably are familiar with such possibilities and well acquainted with the appearance of balloons and planes and the quixotic results of staring at a fixed point in the sky for long moments.

One officer believes, sincerely, that the objects seen are space ships and declared that a ballistic formula applied to one observation through a photo theodolite showed the "ship" was 35 to 40 miles high -- an "egg-shaped" craft of fantastic size and traveling at incredible speeds of three to four miles a second!

The observer in this case, he said, was tracking a balloon into the upper air when the object swept across the balloon's path and cavorted for some 10 seconds -- taking turns up to 22 times the force of gravity -- before it disappeared. It had no visible means of propulsion.

Technician's Report

The enlisted technician reported seeing an object at 3:35 p.m., last June 14, as he was tracking the course of a V-2 test rocket in a 20-power elevation telescope, an instrument that can follow a missile to altitudes of 100 miles or more.

"I don't know what it was, but I had never seen anything like it before," he told me. "It seemed to be metallic, but I couldn't tell its size, its speed or its altitude. It would be impossible unless you knew one of the three factors."

He added he had informed his superiors of the incident and was told the next morning he had seen a "disk."

Weather Balloon?

A check of one officer elicited the response: "It was probably a weather balloon," but he declared the enlisted technician is considered "a reliable man."

Last Friday's object was seen by a senior officer shortly after 11 a.m. and reported to the unit commander. The observer was preparing for a missile firing and scanning the skies through binoculars.

"I don't know what it was, but it came out of the north in a shallow dive and turned west. No, I wouldn't guess at speed or size." He hastened to explain he is a "skeptic."

Proof For Skeptic

"Isn't seeing such a thing the best proof for a skeptic," he was asked.

"I should say it was," he smiled. "But I just saw something and reported it."

In all, some five reports have been made in the last six months, one officer said, with only one last year.

On one occasion, he told me, three of four officers saw a flying object with the naked eye, and at another time two smaller objects were observed to "chase" a test rocket. These may have been dual images on the telescopes, he said, although they were seen from several widely separated stations.

These reports tend to take the "flying saucer" question out of the realm of housewives' stories and the tales of air transport pilots. Still they have actually proved nothing -- merely added to the mystery.

Marvin Miles' piece was a jaw-dropping revelation. The White Sands Proving Ground was virtually ground zero for American research into guided missiles and space rocketry for both the Air Force and the Navy. National magazine pieces on individual launches at the site consumed pages at a time, each one explicitly carrying with it the message that the United States was operating on the frontiers of rocket and missile science -- and implicitly assuring Americans that the U.S. was ready to meet any Soviet challenge.

As such, White Sands was also the home to America's newest heroes -- the "rocket scientists" -- who were the best and the brightest America had to offer, equaled in stature only by the physicists who had unlocked the secret of the atomic bomb. As Miles said, this flying saucer report was far "out of the realm of housewives' stories". These were brilliant men -- whose job was launching and tracking rocket ships -- personally testifying to the reality of the flying discs.

Nor was Marvin Miles the only reporter on the story. From the August 31, 1949 edition of the Lubbock, Texas Morning Avalanche...

Commentator Claims Officers Have Sighted 'Saucers'
Flying Discs 'Tracked' In New Mexico

Los Angeles, Aug. 30 -- A radio commentator said today that the much-publicized "flying disks" have been tracked by ranking "upper air research scientists" and that some officers reported they "definitely have seen the so-called flying saucers."

Clete Roberts, former war correspondent, now news analyst and commentator for radio station KFWB, said in a broadcast today that he obtained his information at White Sands, N.M.

White Sands is a vital center of the nation's "upper air research." The commentator said he was told by competent scientists that one "flying saucer" was photographed but that the picture was ruined.

Roberts said that he spent several days recently in White Sands and that he talked to several competent and trustworthy scientists and Army officers, all of whom declared their belief in the authenticity of the "flying saucers."

However, although their observances assured the realness of the "flying discs" which have been a controversial subject since they first were seen in the United States over a year ago, the scientists would not say for publication what they thought the discs actually were.

Of the various theories advanced in the past by those who reported seeing the discs and by astronomers and scientists was that the objects were from some other planet.

Roberts said on his news broadcast today:

"I was told by a highly-regarded senior officer that on several occasions flying discs had been carefully tracked. On one occasion they had been photographed but unfortunately the film was spoiled.

"One officer told me that astronomical experts, using a powerful elevation telescope established on a mountain peak, had carefully followed the flight of two flying discs which were following the trail of a V-2 rocket that had smashed its way into an area 100 miles or more above the earth."

Meanwhile Army and Navy officials at White Sands would neither confirm nor deny reports that "flying discs" have been seen by scientists at the base.

Lt. Alton McDonald, in the Navy information office said "I've heard rumors they have been sighted. But I haven't found any individual who will admit he has seen one."

In answer to a direct question, Lt. McDonald said, "No, I have not seen a flying disc myself."

The Army information office said it had no information at all on the subject.

That same day, denials were issued at White Sands. From the August 31, 1949 edition of Farmington, New Mexico, Daily Times...

Discount Reports Of Flying Saucers Near White Sands

White Sands, N. M., Aug. 31 -- (AP) -- Brig. Gen. Phillip G. Blackmore says reports that flying discs have been seen near here are not true so far as he knows.

The White Sands proving ground Commandant made the statement after two Los Angeles newsmen reported officers here said they saw discs or mysterious flying objects.

"Nothing of the kind has ever been reported to me, and I am sure it would have been if it were true," he said.

Blackmore said some flying disc reports may have originated from weather observation balloons sent from Mule Peak, near the proving ground...

The firm denial was amplified by the Air Force in Washington. From a story on the Marvin Miles and Clete Roberts reports in the August 31, 1949, edition of Twin Falls, Idaho Times News...

...In Washington, a spokesman for the air force said no such reports have been received from officers at White Sands. He declined further comment...

But at the same time the commandant of White Sands and the Air Force press office in Washington were denying, the United States Navy was confirming. From the August 31, 1949, edition of the El Paso, Texas, Herald Post...

Newsmen Report Spots in Sky At Rocket Base

Mystery surrounds the "flying saucers" reportedly seen over the White Sands Proving Ground.

The phenomenon was reported by two Los Angeles newsmen who said officers at the rocket-testing base had seen the flying objects in the sky.

Brig. Gen. Philip G. Blackmore today said that weather balloons sent up from Mule Peak, near the Proving Ground, may have been mistaken for the "flying discs."

However, a Navy spokesman at the upper air research center indicated that flying objects "were definitely seen."

"They had nothing to do with research or experimental work at the Proving Ground," he said...

Which left the public where it had been for many months, with conflicting pronouncements from responsible sources, as summed by the Detroit, Michigan Free Press...

Take Your Choice

Visiting reporters say some of the men at White Sands, our rocket proving ground, insist they have seen flying saucers high overhead. With instruments, the story goes, they determined them to be big ovoid affairs some 40 miles up -- perhaps mysterious space ships.

Other people at White Sands say it's a lot of nonsense. They speak of double refraction in optical instruments, meteorological balloons and distant planes glittering in the sun.

In other words, the flying saucer issue stands right where it always did. You can choose to support either side and cite what sounds like fairly competent testimony.

But if the scales at the time were balanced pro and con, they were about to be tipped by the heavy thumb of fate.

True Magazine

Above: First page of January, 1950 True magazine article "The Flying Saucers Are Real" by Major Donald Keyhoe.

AT THE END OF December, 1949 -- four months following the White Sands revelations -- the Air Force abruptly announced that it was summarily withdrawing from the flying saucer fray.

The announcement was not only unexpected but a shock to the public -- which earlier in the year had been told by the Air Force with great fanfare that the saucers were "no joke", and would continue to be seriously investigated.

But this new Air Force announcement had -- in a sense -- been equally a surprise to the Air Force itself, a hurried public reaction to breaking news being trumpeted nationwide, as reflected in the December, 27, 1949, edition of the Lubbock, Texas, Morning Avalanche...

Former Marine Flier Reveals Research Findings
Flying Saucers Claimed 'Real'

NEW YORK, Dec. 26 -- (INS) -- The magazine True declares that the flying saucers are actually airships with which "living intelligent observers" from another planet are studying the planet earth.

The January, 1950, issue published today, contains an article called "The Flying Saucers Are Real." Contending that this "systematic close-range observation" has been going on for 175 years; that the frequency of visits by these highly-advanced types of aircraft is increasing; and that True's conclusions have been "fully accepted by informed authorities."

Author of the article is Donald E. Keyhoe, former Marine Corps pilot, and one-time chief of information of the aeronautics branch, Department of Commerce.

Three Types Identified

Keyhoe -- whose contentions are supported fully by True -- says that the inter-planetary explorers are using three identifiable types of aircraft. He lists them as:

1. A small non-pilot-carrying disk-shaped aircraft equipped with television or impulse transmitters; 2. a very large (up to 250-feet in diameter) metallic, disk-shaped aircraft operating on the helicopter principle; 3. a dirigible shaped wingless aircraft.

Keyhoe, who has had 25 years experience in aviation and was once aide to Col. Charles Lindbergh, bases his conclusions on an exhaustive eight month study of all available documents on the saucers, and interviews with Air Force personnel and civil aeronautical experts.

Among the key statements listed by the author is the following, from an Air Force report, pointed out to Keyhoe by a leading aircraft designer:

"The possibility that some of the incidents . . . may represent technical developments far in advance of knowledge available to American engineers and scientists has been widely considered . . . Observations based on experience with nuclear power plant research in this country label as highly improbable the existence on earth of engines small enough in size and weight to have powered any of the capricious saucers."

Keyhoe writes:

"Sighting of flying disks and rocket shaped aircraft has not been confined to the United States. Both types have been reported all over the globe. . .

"To avoid ridicule, most pilots and observers now make reports privately; these have been averaging 12 a month . . ."

The writer states that the pattern of observation of the "saucers" resembles "well-developed American plans for the exploration of space expected to come to fruition within the next 50 years."

He adds:

"There is reason to believe, however, that some other race of thinking beings is a matter of two and a quarter centuries ahead of us."

Usual Explanations Discounted

Keyhoe states that none of the usual explanations advanced for the recurring phenomena of the flying disks -- which reached a peak in July 1947 -- "will stand up in the important, most highly authenticated cases." He includes in this group such theories as "hoax, hallucination, hypnosis, weather balloons, the planets and optical illusions."

The magazine says also that it accepts the official Air Force statement that the saucers are not a secret U.S. device, being kept from the public.

Approximately 300 reports of saucers have been made to Project Saucer, the U.S. Air Force unit set up to study the phenomena. The magazine quotes Dr. J.A. Hynek, a project astronomer, as saying that 17 per cent have been ascribed to stars, planets and meteroites [sic]. The Air Force, True reports, says that 30 per cent of the disks have been explained, and more probably will be.

However, the magazine says, its investigators were not allowed access to the 1947-48-49 sighting reports of Project Saucer.

A service pilot is quoted as saying that Project Saucer is being continued because "they've obviously got a hot potato and don't dare drop it."

Air Force experts are quoted as theorizing that the planetary observers have most likely established a space vehicle, which circles Earth in an orbit. From this base, the observation aircraft could be sent down to survey Earth at close range.

Reassuringly, Keyhoe concludes:

"There has been no sign of belligerence in any of the saucer cases -- except the tragic case of Mantell."

(This is a reference to Capt. Thomas F. Mantell, jr., whose F-51 fighter plane disintegrated on Jan. 7, 1948, after reaching an altitude of 20,000 feet while chasing a disk reported to be 250 feet in diameter.)

The writer adds:

"Even the stoutest believers in the disk do not think any mass invasion from space is possible at this time . . . having survived the impact of the atomic age, we should be able to take the interplanetary age, when it comes, without hysteria."

Keyhoe's article detonated like a diving V-2 onto the public psyche. Captain Edward Ruppelt -- later head of the Air Force flying disc investigation known as Project Blue Book -- would later write...

It is rumored among magazine publishers that Don Keyhoe's article in True was one of the most widely read and widely discussed magazine articles in history.

But the Air Force reaction was simply to denounce Keyhoe's article, proclaim that all previous sighting reports had been solved to its satisfaction, and announce that "Project Saucer" -- the "public" name of the Air Force's Project Grudge -- was now closed forever.

The announcement left the field wide open to all claims about the saucers from whatever source, and if the Air Force had no further comment there were no shortage of others who would fill the void. The public, now having been told in print that flying saucers were not only real but interplanetary in origin, began to hear rumors that the U.S. government was in fact not only not disinterested, but in actual possession of crashed discs and the bodies of the "little men" who had piloted them.

And as a kick-off to 1950, the story of crashed discs would get national play alongside Keyhoe's True magazine article. From the January 9, 1950 edition of Time magazine...

Visitors from Venus

The flying-saucer yarn was much too good to die young. Last week the U.S. was abuzz again with rumors about mysterious aircraft flitting around the sky. Latest rumor, presented as truth by the current issue of True magazine: "For the past 175 years the planet Earth has been under systematic close-range examination by living, intelligent observers from another planet." True's article set out to prove that the flying saucers carried interplanetary scouts who may have studied the earth's customs.

Hundreds of newspapers repeated this fascinating Trueism; Frank Edwards, Walter Winchell, Lowell Thomas and other radio commentators trumpeted it over the air. Denials from Washington had little effect, though an Air Force spokesman stated: "Air Force studies of 'flying saucers' lend no support to the view that they may come from another planet."

The gaudy rumors were already well launched before True came into the picture. Four months ago, Los Angeles heard that rocket tests at White Sands Proving Grounds were being watched from above by interplanetary interlopers. Repeated from mouth to mouth with amplification and new twists, the story got fancier.

Unearthly Tongue. Some time ago, according to one version, a large space ship crashed in flames in New Mexico. Its 15 crew members were burned to a crisp, but luckily some of its instruments remained intact. One was a radio receiver, over which at short intervals came cryptic messages in an unearthly tongue.

While U.S. observers were studying the wreck, the story went, a second space craft crashed near by. Both of its two occupants were killed, but one of their bodies, thrown free, was found in good condition. The interplanetary visitor was about three feet tall and a bit primitive, even monkeylike, in appearance. His body was rushed to the Rosenwald Foundation in Chicago for expert examination.

Pressurized Prisoners. This fanciful tale was hardly in circulation when a bigger and better version caught up with it. The space ship's space men were not dead at all. Fifteen of them had been captured alive. They would not, or could not talk (as earthbound creatures know talking), but one of them obligingly drew a map of the solar system and pointed to the second planet from the sun. Thereupon, at the suggestion of a smart Earthling, all the prisoners were hastily placed in a pressurized chamber filled with carbon dioxide to simulate the atmosphere of Venus.

The Air Force did not bother to deny this fantastic story. It repeated vehemently that no reported flying saucer had ever proved genuine. And it disbanded its Project Saucer, a group with headquarters at Wright Field, Ohio, that had been investigating all flying-saucer reports. Apparently its continued existence encouraged the growth of rumors by suggesting that there might be something back of them, after all. It was announced last week that Project Saucer's files including pictures (none of them genuine flying saucers) would be placed on public exhibition in the Pentagon. From now on, said the Air Force, its only similar activity would be the conventional military watch for unidentified flying objects which might enter the U.S. air from some other earthly country.

Meanwhile -- starting several days before the Time magazine piece -- word was beginning to spread of a Kansas City auto dealer who had more specifics to offer on the crashed discs. It had started with a January 6, 1950, article in the Wyandotte, Kansas Echo newspaper. From there the story grew as it was reprinted in other newspapers. One such was the Mexico, Missouri Evening Star which published the original piece in full, before running the following in its January 20, 1950 edition...

No Venusians?
Little Men Were 'Just A Gag', Say Tellers of Venus Story

"It was all a gag," says the teller of the story about those space ships and the 3-foot-tall Venusians.

The story circulated widely from its start in Denver, Colo. The Ledger received a reprint version Wednesday and offered it as "interesting reading -- whether fact or fiction." At the same time, the Ledger asked the Associated Press in Kansas City if it had made any check on reliability of the story, and the AP advised the Ledger it had had no official comment and would check the Denver source of the story.

Wednesady [sic] night one of the men who had passed on the story told reporters the whole thing was ridiculous. Yesterday he told them it was a gag.

The engineer, George Coulter, called by long distance Thursday, mysteriously told the Kansas City Star "I have been told in recent days that I saw nothing, that I have heard nothing, that I know no names. My lips, therefore, are sealed. [sic, no end quote]

A few minutes later he told the Associated Press that his story had been a gag.

Before that, the Kansas Citian who had passed on the story had calls from more than a dozen newspapers in four states. He had a lot of other calls, too, mostly ending with haw-haws, from friends and acquaintances who wanted to talk about the little men.

The Kansas Citian, Rudy Fick, motor car dealer, brought the story to Missouri from Denver and had all the canasta players in the area talking about the flying saucers instead of red treys.

Fick says he passed on the story as something he had been told, without vouching for the truth of it.

It seems that Fick recently was returning to Kansas City, by way of Denver, from a trip to Ogden. Utah, where he had been on business. He was displeased with his train accommodations, when he saw a highly inebriated and consequently noisy man in the berth next to him. So he left the train and made plane reservations, with the result that he had a 3-hour layover in the Colorado capital.

To while away the time, he called Jack Murphy, Denver area Ford manager. Murphy met Fick at a hotel and they were chatting in the lobby when Murphy was paged for a telephone call. When he returned, he said:

"Get your hat and coat, Rudy, we're going to my office and I'm going to let you in on the most fantastic story you ever heard."

Arriving at Murphy's office, they were joined there by Coulter, then not known to Fick, and another man, whose name Fick does not recall. Coulter tossed on a desk an odd-looking chunk of metal and said:

"Well, boys, there it is." Coulter then told Fick and the it-now-seems-not-so-astonished Murphy, this story:

"Coulter had wangled entrance into a radar station near the Arizona-New Mexico border and there had seen two flying saucers, one badly damaged and the other in virtually perfect condition. The saucers in reality were space ships with cabins "six feet wide, encompassed by rings eighteen feet across and two feet thick. They were equipped with tripod, ball-bearing type, landing gears.

"While in the air, the rings whirred around the stationary cabins, giving the ships a gyroscope effect. The piece of metal which Coulter had put on Murphy's desk was from the cabin of the damaged ship. That metal had defied analysis, being of completely out-of-this-world composition.

"Each of the ships had been manned by crews of two little men. The bodies in the damaged ship were so charred that it was impossible to tell much from them. The other two bodies were well preserved. The occupants were three feet tall, blond, beardless and without cavities or fillings in their teeth.

"Except for their size, the little fellows were constructed pretty much along the lines of the human beings dwelling on the earth. They were clad in clothing of a blue material, sort of wiry with skin-tight trousers. They wore no underclothes, but their bodies were taped.

"Each ship carried supplies of small white tablets and equally small brown cubes. The cubes, when doused in water, fizzled and frothed into volume of about one gallon each."

Coulter also displayed a device which appeared to be either a clock or an automatic calendar based on a 28-day, or lunar month, scale.

Coulter assured Fick and Murphy that the visitors from Venus apparently had no designs toward attacking the earth. He said that the government was letting the facts about the flying saucers leak out slowly, through such sources as himself, to avoid mass panic which might be caused by an official announcement.

That was the story, which all the men passed on and which they now say was a gag.

But not all the newspapers which reprinted the original story -- and not all their readers who further spread the tale to friends and coworkers -- managed to pass on word of it all being "a gag".

Nor was the Wyandotte, Kansas Echo story the only one in circulation. From the January 8, 1950, edition of the Atchison, Kansas Daily Globe...

Izzard's Strange Story Of The Flying Saucers

(Editor's Note: Wes Izzard, editor of the Amarillo (Tex.) Globe-News, whose adventures in Europe were sent by special dispatch to The Globe last year, has stumbled into a story which he describes as "either the most fantastic event of the century or the greatest hoax ever perpetrated." Excerpts from his page one article in the Texas newspaper are reprinted herewith).


This story, which has to do with flying saucers, was told to me by two prominent businessmen of Denver, following a tip received from a Kansas City man.

The Denver men had no particular objection to my using their names, although I promised I would not just now.

I have the names on file. In this story I shall call one of them Mr. X and the other Mr. Y.

THE STORY THEY TOLD ME, and which they say was told to them by scientists who should know, boils down to this:

The flying saucers are real.

They apparently come from another planet.

They are made of a metal that defies analysis.

The bodies of small, humanlike creatures, have been found in them.

There is no evidence of war-like intent on the part of the occupants.

The government people who are investigating the saucers plan to let the news leak out gradually to avoid hysteria.

Remember this information comes second and third hand, and it may be a hoax.

The long conversations I had with Mr. X and Mr. Y are particularly significant, coming on the heels of the article in True magazine, in which Author Donald Keyhoe contends that the flying saucers are real and come from another planet.

THE AIR FORCE HAS DENIED Mr. Keyhoe's story, and has even announced abandonment of its flying saucer investigation project. All incidents investigated, says the Air Force, were found to be the result of imagination, hysteria or natural phenomena.

But Mr. Y of Denver has a possible explanation of the Air Force attitude, which shall be explained in a moment.

I shall simply relate the chain of events that led to my conversations with Mr. X and Mr. Y, and repeat what I can remember of those conversations. I shall not attempt to draw conclusions. The story, after all, is almost too incredible to be believed.

It all began last Wednesday night.

I received a long distance call from my brother, Alex Izzard, who was in Atlanta, Ga., on business. He lives in Kansas City. He told me had just listened to a news commentator in Washington, who charged that the Air Force was covering up in its denial of the Keyhoe saucer article.

"Just before I left Kansas City," my brother told me, "I heard a story in this connection that I think you should investigate. It was told to me by (and here he named a prominent Kansas City businessman who lives in his neighborhood).

"This fellow, he went on, "has been on a trip out West and came back through Denver. He called on a friend of his there named Mr. X and ran into a meeting in Mr. X's office that has him talking to himself."

THEN HE RELATED substantially the story that I shall unfold here. When he had finished I said flatly: "I don't believe it."

So I called Mr. X on long distance. Here is our conversation as closely as I can remember it:

"Are you acquainted with So-and-So in Kansas City?" I named my brother's friend.

"I am."

"Did he stop off and see you recently!"

"He did."

"Did you and he attend some sort of meeting having to do with flying saucers?"

"Well, it wasn't exactly a meeting, but he was in my office when some men came in and we talked about them."

"YOUR KANSAS CITY friend," I explained, "is a neighbor of my brother; and he told my brother the most fantastic story about flying saucers I ever heard. What I want to know is, was he pulling my brother's leg?"

There was a pause. "No, Mr. Izzard," Mr. X said. "He was not pulling your brother's leg."

"Will you tell me what you know about the saucers?"

Mr. X replied: "First let me say, I haven't seen them. I have seen some things I was told came from the saucers. My information comes largely from a good friend of mine here in Denver -- a businessman named Mr. Y. I have every faith in his judgment and veracity, and, frankly, what he has found out has both of us going around in circles. I have met some research men who are his friends, and they have brought some instruments and stuff to my office. These things are, I suppose, evidence of a sort. What they have told me is hard to believe -- and hard not to believe."

Mr. X then told the story. He wound up by saying:

"But I wish you would call Y, and let him tell it to you. He has been closer to it than I."

So I put in a call for Mr. Y. And here, substantially, is the story he told me:

Mr. Y has a friend who is a physicist specializing in magnetic forces. This man has been doing some work for the government. In the last eight months this scientist and two or three assistants have visited Denver frequently. Mr. Y calls them "the boys."

"They have stayed at my home," Mr. Y said. "They have slept there and eaten there. And they have talked to me and to each other about this thing. I am a hardboiled business executive, and I think I can tell when a man is lying. It's hard to believe that these boys are lying when they talk about this project they're working on."

"The boys" according to Mr. Y, have told him that the government has collected several flying saucers and are analyzing them at a secret base in California. This base is not far from Los Angeles. All tests made so far indicate these vehicles did not originate on earth.

And there were people in some of them. At least that's the story.

"NATURALLY," SAYS MR. Y, "I was skeptical. So one day the boys brought me a piece of metal they said was from one of the saucers, and asked me to have it analyzed. I know a metallurgist here in Denver, and I took it to him. He said sure, he could tell me what was in it in five minutes. He said it looked like aluminum, but felt a little like magnesium. Then he went into his laboratory and he put it in his little furnace.

"After a few minutes he opened the door, then he closed it. Then he opened it again, then closed it. He looked at it half a dozen times, and the expression on his face kept getting stranger and stranger. Finally he turned to me and said, 'Where did you get this stuff, anyway?'

"I couldn't tell him, of course. He would have thought I was crazy. So I told him a friend had given it to me. He asked me if he could keep it and work on it. I told him yes.

"Since then he has called me exactly seven times, begging me to tell him where the metal came from. It wouldn't melt and he doesn't know any more about it now than when he took it out of my hand."

"But the people," I demanded. "What about them?"

"They have described two of them to me," said Y. "They were men exactly 36 inches tall. They had human characteristics. They had hair on the head, but not on the face. They wore clothes of a strange material that was fireproof".

"Were they alive?" I asked.

"No," he said. "Dead. Apparently they were killed by the change in the atmospheric pressure."

"What else did they find in the ships?"

"Well, the boys tell me they found water in one of them -- heavy water; twice as heavy as ours. And there were small cubes that looked as though they might be food. The research boys boiled one of them and it swelled up into a sponge-like mass that filled two bushel baskets."

"What about the instruments you fellows had up in X's office?" I asked.

"Well," said Mr. Y, "one of them was something like a radio that worked through some sort of magnetism. At least that's what one of the boys told me. They were able to bring in some sounds on it at specific times and for specific intervals. I had a tape recording made of the sound, and asked a musician what he thought it sounded like. He said it sounded like nothing he had ever heard, but vaguely resembled a Chinese orchestra playing Egyptian music.

"ONE OF THE BOYS suggested it might be conversation, or signals of some sort.

"Then there was a gear of some kind -- not die-cast or stone cut, but apparently machined of some strange metal.

"Also the boys tell me that one of the ships had sort of a gyroscopic arrangement, with three metal balls at the corners. These balls would spin for 20 minutes when given a twirl, and they were so finely machined that no lubricant was used."

Then we got talking about Keyhoe's article and the Air Force denial of the whole saucer business.

"What do you make of that?" I asked.

Mr. Y indicated he thought the Air Force project was some sort of blind. Actually, he said, the investigation has been carried on for the last three years by a very hush-hush outfit known as the US Army Air Research Division. It operates, says Mr. Y, at least three laboratories, one of which is close to Los Angeles.

"I think," he said, "that this group has a well-prepared program for letting the story out little by little to the people to avoid hysteria. I think the Keyhoe article is a part of that program; and so is the Air Force denial. I am told that Reader's Digest will carry a serious saucer story in its February issue."

The space ships -- if that's what they are -- according to Mr. Y, come in two sizes: The small saucers that carry two creatures, and the larger cigar-shaped ships that carry 16.

"Where do they come from?"

Mr. Y doesn't know. Neither do the boys. But they have made some guesses. According to Mr. Y, the boys say the best guess is Venus, but they are far from sure.

And that's the story I was told by two sober, respectable, successful Denver businessmen.

The identities of "Mr. X" and "Mr. Y" are not difficult to pinpoint when compared to the Wyandotte Echo story. Kansas City auto dealer Rudy Fick had been in the Denver office of Ford representative Jack Murphy when he met the man who told the story -- making Murphy "Mr. X". And the man who told the story -- identified by Rudy Fick as "George Coutler" -- would have been "Mr. Y".

But neither the Fick story as printed in the Wyandotte, Kansas Echo nor the Wes Izzard article as printed in the Amarillo, Texas Globe and then reprinted in the Atchison, Kansas Daily Globe could have been the source of the January 9, 1950, Time magazine piece mentioning the crashed-discs-from-Venus story -- for that particular issue was already in mailbags and on its way to newsstands at the time the Echo's original story on Rudy Fick was published. And though Time gave no specific source for the story, it had already been around for months.

For instance, in November 1949, as told in an FBI letter to the Air Force about a tip from movie actor Bruce Cabot concerning something he had heard from oilman Cy Newton while golfing at the exclusive Lakeside County Club in Los Angeles' tony Toluca Lake district...

CABOT overheard NEWTON talking about a magnetic radio the latter had in his possession and which he claimed had come from a flying disc which had crashed in New Mexico. NEWTON, who claimed to be in the oil business, had the radio with him at the golf course. CABOT described the radio as being about 7x2x2 inches.

NEWTON further advised CABOT that he and an unnamed scientist were using the radio as a 'doodle bug' to find oil deposits in the ground. NEWTON stated that several of the flying discs had recently crashed in New Mexico, Arizona and Maine. He also told CABOT that the discs had contained men and that he had bits of cloth at home from the clothing of these men. In addition, NEWTON claimed to have pieces of metal from the gears of the disc.

A story which would receive further play over the airwaves, as told in an Air Force investigative report...

...a local KFI radio news commentator, SAM HAYES, on a morning program, announced in effect that a party at a Hollywood country club had stated that he had information on flying discs and that the discussion took place over a round of drinks at the "nineteenth hole" of the local golf course and that the "story got better with each drink."

Whether the Sam Hayes radio broadcast included the specifics of crashed discs and their "little men" pilots is unknown. But the Air Force investigative report directly linked it to the story told by oilman Cy Newton as heard by movie actor Bruce Cabot. And even if the precise details weren't included in the broadcast, there were doubtlessly many members of the "Hollywood country club" who heard the story in full -- meaning there was likely more word of mouth spreading of the story involved, reaching even the editorial ears of Time magazine.

And a similar version had been broadcast by a local radio station in Virginia, and then reported in a newswire story nationwide -- as from the December 27, 1949 edition of the Middlesboro, Kentucky Daily News...

Another "flying saucer" report cropped up yesterday.

Radio Station WRVA at Richmond, Va., reported that the wreckage of a spaceship had been found with some 12 dead crew members aboard. It said the disc was powered by small engines the size of a basketball and were made of unfamiliar metal. The space-traveling victims, it said, were much smaller than earthmen and wore clothing similar to that worn on this planet during the 15th Century.

But Time may have been referring to another source entirely -- Frank Scully, a columnist for the Hollywood trade paper Variety had been writing about crashed discs and their "little men" pilots as far back as October, 1949...

It was 100 feet across, with a cabin in the center that measures 18 feet in diameter and 72 inches high... sixteen men, intact but charred black, were found in the cabin. The space ship contains two metals never found so far on this earth.

This was followed by a November, 1949, Scully column which stated that the ships traveled via "magnetic lines of force" and that scientists who had been studying them were outraged when the discs "were dismantled by the Air Force over the protests of magnetic research scientists" and sent to government research centers elsewhere.

And Hollywood being Hollywood -- and the trade publication Variety being its daily "bible" -- Scully undoubtedly had ample opportunity to expound on his story at the many parties of the day, consisting not only of the movers and shakers of the movie industry but their guests as well, often including movers and shakers in other endeavors such as publishing, as well as columnists and reporters from both Los Angeles and out of town.

But for all its public coverage, there were many missed connections in the reporting of the story along the way. For instance, the man Rudy Fick identified as "George Coulter" was in reality George Koehler, advertising salesman for radio station KMYR in Denver -- a misidentification which Koehler apparently neglected to mention when issuing his "I have been told in recent days that I saw nothing" statement to the press.

And according to information given to an Air Force investigator by Jack Murphy, the man who introduced Koehler to Fick...

MORLEY B. DAVIES, Field Representative, J. Walter Thompson Company, has been bringing stories concerning flying saucers to MURPHY since early October 1949. These stories originated with GEORGE KOEHLER (previously reported as COULTER), an advertising salesman for Station KMYR in Denver, Colorado.

And according to information given to an Air Force investigator by Morley B. Davies, the man who introduced Murphy to Koehler...

KOEHLER had been telling him stories concerning the flying saucers since early October 1949. He described one as being 116 feet across and capable of carrying 16 occupants. He stated that they had come from Venus and had made the trip in forty-one (41) minutes. He stated the speed of these saucers was around 100,000 miles per second. KOEHLER stated that his source of information was a Dr. GEBAUER of Phoenix, Arizona and four other scientists.

And the October, 1949, timeframe in which Koehler began telling his story to Davies -- which Davies then repeated to Murphy -- synched with the columns on the crashed discs by Variety columnist Frank Scully.

Just as the November, 1949, story by oilman Cy Newton -- as reported by movie actor Bruce Cabot -- synched with the "dismantled saucer" story by Variety columnist Frank Scully.

Nor was the fact that both Koehler and Newton had in their possession at various times the "radio" from another world or the timepiece which kept time according to Earth's lunar cycle a coincidence.

After all, George Koehler was an intimate of Cy Newton, whose full name was Silas Mason Newton.

And Silas M. Newton was an intimate of Frank Scully.

The only unknown link in the chain being the mysterious "Dr. Gebauer" and his "two or three assistants" -- whom George Koehler named as his source.

Saucer Chart

Above: First two pages of the March, 1950 True magazine article "How Scientists Tracked A Flying Saucer" by Robert S. McLaughlin, USN.

AS JANUARY, 1950, TURNED to February, 1950 -- and even as February, 1950, passed into March, 1950 -- there was little change in the situation. The Air Force remained sulkily silent, Keyhoe's article continued to make waves, and the original Fick story about crashed discs from Venus and their dead "little men" pilots continued to spread.

On February 9, 1949 -- for instance -- the Algona, Iowa, Kossuth County Advance reprinted a column from the Osage, Iowa Mitchell County Press. And although the Advance prefaced the reprint with a warning that it was "probably all a gag" it also wrote that "it is so well written, fantastic in its conception and based on some facts that it bears repeating". Then, after devoting 24 column-inches to the story as told by Rudy Fick, ended with the statement...

According to the article, Coutler called The Star long distance and said, "I have been told in recent days that I saw nothing, that I have heard nothing, and that I know no names. My lips, therefore, are sealed."

True or false, it's quite a story. Who knows? Maybe it's true.

Then -- at the end of February, 1950 -- startling events bestirred once more. From the February 23, 1950 edition of the Long Beach, California Press Telegram...

Navy Commander Insists 'Saucers' Are Space Ships From Some Other Planet

NEW YORK. Feb. 23 (UP) -- A Navy commander who headed a guided missiles research unit said today that flying saucers, although officially debunked, really are "space ships from another planet."

Cmdr. Robert D. McLaughlin, now skipper of the destroyer Bristol, indicated the visitors from outer space seemed to delight in zooming over the White Sands proving ground in New Mexico where a group of Navy experts and scientists were testing secret weapons.

McLaughlin said he saw one of the disks in May, 1949, about a month after five trained observers, using precision instruments, tracked a strange object "about 105 feet in diameter."

Those discs were "space ships from another planet, operated by animate, intelligent beings," McLaughlin said in an article in the March issue of Time magazine.

But McLaughlin's conclusions were doubted by his former Annapolis classmate, Cmdr. H.H. (Swede) Larsen, executive officer of the Navy's experimental guided missile ship.

Larsen said McLaughlin was in "all respects a very capable and reputable" officer "not given to wild statements" but thought, nevertheless, that his friend's statements needed further verification.

Tracked By Observers

McLaughlin said he was "convinced" that what he saw "were flying saucers," operated by strangers from outer space.

In April, 1949, he said, observers at White Sands sent a weather balloon aloft and while plotting its course with an instrument called a theodolite, they found themselves tracking a flying saucer.

He said an accurate plot of the object's course was recorded for 60 seconds, and the data obtained showed the object to be elliptical in shape, 105 feet in diameter, flying at an altitude of approximately 56 miles at about five miles a second.

He said the thing swerved upward so abruptly that the occupants must have experienced a force of 20 G's (20 times the pull of gravity) which would have killed an earthman.

McLaughlin, who graduated from the naval Academy in 1941, said he saw a smaller saucer the following month, soaring slowly overhead, but suddenly "it spurted like a scalded cat" and shot across the Organ Mountains of New Mexico.

Junior Model

On another occasion, in June, Navy men who fired an upper-atmosphere missile spotted two small circular objects, "guessed to be approximately 20 inches in diameter, appear from no place" and start chasing upward after the missile, he said.

"It is staggering to imagine intelligent beings that small in a 20-inch space ship, but we must not disregard any possibilities," he said.

McLaughlin said "the design, construction and operation of the saucers indicate to me that a very superior intelligence is at work. Not only at work, but present within the disks."

The story itself was not new -- it had been the subject of the news articles of late August 1949, as included above. But the True version attached a name and a rank to the story, and included many specifics not available in the August, 1949, news reports.

Just as important, Commander McLaughlin was not only willing to go on the record but to actually personally write the story of his and others' experiences.

To which there was no reaction from the Air Force -- after all, McLaughlin was a Navy man. And from White Sands Proving Grounds came only the terse statement that there was "nothing new" to the report and that there would be no further comment.

But if the Air Force was unwilling to talk about it, others had no such hesitation and within days McLaughlin's story began to be conflated with the crashed-disc-with-dead-pilots story. From the March 7, 1950, edition of the El Paso, Texas, Herald Post...

Dis(c) Just Another Flying Fib

The Army is either sitting on the biggest story in history or a fresh flying disc epidemic is running a high fever.

An El Paso business man told The Herald-Post today he heard this story:

White Sands Proving Ground supposedly found the wreckage of a flying disc somewhere in New Mexico. Inside the wreckage was the body of a "little man" who presumably was an explorer from Mars or one of those planets outside our own solar system...

The business man said he got his information from a radio ham operator.

The radio ham said, mysteriously, that he got his information second hand but that the mysterious object was one of 30 cases investigated by Project Saucer, the agency that spends its time running down reports of flying discs, and not made public. It happened not in New Mexico but in Colorado, he added…

And coincidental or not -- in the same way that the Rudy Fick article telling of George Koehler's crashed-discs-and-little-men-pilots story had piggybacked onto True's widely read January, 1950, Keyhoe article -- a new iteration of Koehler's story would make a very public appearance directly following Commander McLaughlin's article.

This new iteration was by way of a mysterious guest lecturer at the University of Denver. Speaking to a science class on March 8, 1950, the lecturer spun a tale very similar to that told by George Koehler to Jack Murphy, Morley Davies and Rudy Fick, as well as to Wes Izzard, editor of the Amarillo, Texas Globe-News. Word of the March, 8, 1950, lecture was soon picked up by the Denver, Colorado Post, and within days became the subject of a feature article by reporter Thor Severson, giving full details of what the science students had been told. Severson's article was then syndicated for reprinting in other newspapers, as for instance from the March 24, 1950, edition of the Lethbridge, Canada, Herald...

Here's Latest In "Saucers"

Fact of fiction, truth or trick?

That's what everyone is asking about flying saucers these days.

Here is a report of a lecture given to a University of Denver basic science class last week by a man represented as a science expert -- a man whose name is still a closely guarded secret.

A transcription of his fifty-minute discussion of the saucers was played Saturday before a group of Denver businessmen, two of them United Air Lines executives who remained frankly skeptical of the ideas presented.

The lecture, sponsored by the University of Denver, is a matter of record and considerable speculation. Here is a report of the controversial saucer speech.

(In Denver Post.)

The flying saucer . . .

Does it exist?

If it does, is it born of the earth planet or is it interplanetary?

And the men who operate them -- are they the strange little creatures of foreign planet life some men in authority have pictured, little men who have tapped the wells of knowledge far deeper than the earth-bound human?

These are disturbing questions.

Wednesday . . . a stranger whose identity was shrouded in a cloak of carefully spun mystery gave some disturbing answers -- this in an address before a classroom of students at the University of Denver.

His fifty-minute address shocked the campus into divided camps -- those who believed, those who scoffed in disbelief. Saturday, his identity was still closely guarded by his sponsor, George Koehler of radio station KMYR. He still was identified only as a "man of science", a man accepted by the University of Denver as of a "mature mind."

But this speech, captured by wire recording, was relayed before a hand-picked group of aviation experts and businessmen Saturday In the KMYR studios.

His amazing remarks, reconstructed, ran something like this:

There is a flying saucer.

The air force has NOT abandoned its Operation Saucer as it said.

Four of these saucers have actually landed on the earth.

Three of the four have been captured and are now under research.

Thirty-four men, obviously from another planet, and measuring approximately thirty-six inches in height, were found dead in three of the saucers.

The first saucer to land on the earth landed within the last two years and on a site within 500 miles from Denver.

The saucers apparently come from the planet Venus, not Mars.

Under research, the metal used in the saucers has disclosed two minerals unknown to the earth man.

Articles found in the first space ship included an instrument which measures lines of magnetic force and an odd type of paper with hieroglyphics strange to earth communications.

The captive saucers apparently operate on lines of magnetic force.

It is entirely possible that the ships are capable of travelling from the planet Venus to the planet earth -- a distance of 161 million miles when the orbits lie in extreme positions -- in one hour.

The lecturer, never identified in his introduction, spoke before upward of 200 students. His delivery was calculated, slow. There was no accent of diction to betray his origin. He used scientific terms with familiarity, bespeaking a knowledge of science.

He repeatedly used the word "we" in referring to scientific experiments on the strange craft he said existed. Yet he did not actually associate himself with the experiment. Sandwiched in the lecture was a hint, also, that soon full disclosure of the government's interest in flying saucers is forthcoming.

The lecturer said the first craft to land on earth was ninety-nine and nine-tenth feet in diameter with a central cabin measuring seventy-two inches in height. The second he said, measured seventy-two feet in length. The third thirty-six feet.

All craft, he said, had a revolving ring of metal encircling the outer edge, and stationary cabins. He implied that the ring might be a controlling force in harnessing lines of magnetic force, or used in guiding the craft itself.

He indicated the saucer is capable of maneuvering in any given direction, that it could land, also, in any direction since it had a tricycle type landing gear of three metal balls.

The speed of the saucer, he said, is probably virtually unlimited.

It is entirely logical, also, to accept the theory that a craft could operate with harnessed magnetic force, he argued, since the entire universe is controlled by lines of magnetic force.

Sixteen men, ranging in ages from 35 to 40 if the earth's gauge of time is employed, were taken dead from the first craft, he said. Their bodies had been charred the color of a dark coat.

Sixteen dead men were also taken from the second craft. These, said the speaker, were as fair complexioned as the Anglo-Saxon. Except for their small stature, they were physically comparable to the earth man, he indicated. With one difference -- they had no beards, just "something resembling peach fuzz."

Two men were taken from the third craft -- also dead.

The lecturer indicated, further, that all three craft so far referred to landed under their own power, that they did not crash, suggesting that, even if the men died before the saucers touched the earth there was some off-setting power to land.

Nor was there a rivet or a bolt or screw in the entire assembly of the ship, said the lecturer. The control board, he saw, was a mass of push buttons. As to the metal -- it was he said, extremely light; and, subjected to 10,000 degrees of heat -- the system of measurement either Fahrenheit or Centigrade, was not mentioned -- it defied decomposition.

The speaker did not refer to any type of propelling motor. He said, simply, that the craft operated on lines of magnetic force and indicated the means had been found to switch from Venus' lines of force to lines of force controlling the earth thereby permitting interplanetary flight.

He made no reference to actually finding weapons but he suggested that the foreign planet tes [sic] may have also solved the riddle of disintegration, since one plane which assertedly followed a flying saucer was "disintegrated."

He told, also, that a wafer-like food, which expands when in water, was found on one of the crafts, that one craft, also, had wall enclosed bunk-type beds for sleeping.

Late in his speech the lecturer referred to the discovery of a fourth saucer. A group of scientists he did not identify stumbled onto the craft, he said, near a government proving ground. It was unoccupied but nearby they saw several of the "little men". They gave chase but somehow were eluded. Later, when they returned to the saucer, the ship was gone.

The saucer, and the men, he said, just "disappeared".

At no time did the speaker suggest where the crafts he claimed exist are being put under the blazing lamp of research. Nor did he suggest what happened to the bodies of the thirty-four men he said were found dead in the first three crafts to land.

He said simply: "There is a flying saucer."

And it did nothing to hurt the mysterious lecturer's credibility when the day following the lecture, news broke of a crashed disc with a dead little-man pilot near Mexico City...

...which by all appearances was a story independent of the tale being told by George Koehler and the mysterious lecturer at the University of Denver.

Then again -- as the flying discs had proved time and again -- things are not always what at first they might seem.

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1. The story of Captain Mantell will be covered in depth in a series appearing in the future.

2. No story even remotely connected to the subject of flying saucers appeared in the February, 1950 issue of Reader's Digest.

3. The full Air Force investigative reports from which snippets are included above are available for review here.

4. The contents of the Frank Scully columns of October and November, 1949, are taken from Scully's book "Behind The Flying Saucers".


The Arrival

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The Day The Earth Stood Still

Invasion of The Body Snatchers, 1956

It Came from Outer Space, 1953

Queen of Outer Space, 1958

2001: A Space Odyssey


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