of a hoax
Above, left: Back-cover illustration for the November, 1947, edition of "Fantastic Adventures" magazine. The top caption reads "Will the ancient gods of Egypt and other lost civilizations come back to Earth in time to avert an atom war? Is the 'Eye of Horus" still watching us? See page 174 for story." In the diagrams in the blue box, the first reads "Control chamber suspended within central sphere. Lens-shaped body transparent to visible degrees of spectrum, but presenting surface reflections from certain angles as a glass lens does". In the second diagram, the arrow pointing to the center reads "Centrally placed space-flow drive. Sealed in sphere. Probably the size of a grapefruit". The arrow pointing to the right side reads "Jet slits can be fired in sequence to produce spin. Can be flown in atmosphere without spinning. Course can be instantly changed in any of ten directions". The captions underneath read "Diameter varies -- from 50 ft. to 250 ft." and "Ships can only be photographed clearly with infra-red film". Above, right: First page of story.
IN THE INITIAL MONTHS of the first wave of "flying saucer" sighting reports -- beginning the day following the iconic Kenneth Arnold sighting near Mt. Rainier in late June, 1947 -- the American public was almost completely dependent on newspaper accounts for any word on the startling situation said to be developing in American skies. Some national magazines -- notably Time and Life -- would carry short summaries of developments in the beginning weeks, as did some broadcast news programs. But the day-to-day accounts of the latest reported sightings came only with each day's arrival of the local gazette.
Along the way -- even at this early stage -- newspapers also carried some attempt at explanation. In Texas, Maj. James B. Pritchard of the Army Air Forces pointed to misidentified weather balloons as the likely source of the reports. From New York, Dr. Donald Laird -- director of the psychological laboratory at Colgate University -- laid saucers to "particles which are always inside the eyeball". In Ohio, Prof. John F. Smith -- head of the Physics Department at St. Lawrence University -- said it was nothing but the sun reflecting from airplanes. Broadcasting nationwide over the air, influential columnist Walter Winchell assured Americans that the saucers were in fact secret American flying wing aircraft. From Oregon, noted astronomer J. Hugh Pruett suggested a grab-bag of explanations, including "distant clouds, or airplanes, wind-borne seeds, weather bureau balloons, meteors and bright stars near the horizon". While from Idaho, Kenneth Arnold -- the man whose sighting started it all -- announced he was convinced they were experimental U.S. guided missiles. And summing up with a more philosophical overview, psychiatrist Jacob Levy Moreno -- father of group therapy -- ascribed it to "the symptoms of a mental condition from which human society suffers at present… fear of coming disaster".
But just as quickly as it had first appeared, the aerial phenomenon seemed to abruptly fade out. From the July 21, 1947, edition of Time magazine...
The mysterious "flying saucers" that had bedeviled the heavens for a fortnight (TIME, July 14) seemed to have whisked back to Wonderland. A few U.S. citizens still saw them, last week; so did people in England, Italy, Chile, Iran, Holland, Japan and China... But by last week the "somethings" had petered out into a trail of rueful headshaking and self-conscious laughter.
Psychiatrists put the pandemic uproar down to mass hallucination, horseplay, suggestibility, insecurity or outright psychopathy. Scientists found "no evidence to substantiate the existence of heavenly disks."...
And indeed, sightings would be reported only sporadically in the newspapers for the remainder of the year, while coverage disappeared entirely from the more-reputable national magazines. But even in the absence of a national frenzy, a residual feeling of having experienced something incredible and unexplained remained for many, and there was yet another format in which less prosaic explanations began to appear -- the pulp press of science fiction and fantasy magazines.
Certainly, stories of interplanetary travel -- and even alien invasion -- had fueled the genre for decades. But with news of the actual arrival of the saucers in the skies, these stories began to offer astonishing possibilities for consideration -- the first known of which would be the story Son of the Sun, published in the November, 1947, issue of Fantastic Adventures...
SON OF THE SUN
By ALEXANDER BLADE
(See Back Cover)
WE ARE already here, among you. Some of us have always been here, with you, yet apart from you, watching, and occasionally guiding you whenever the opportunity arose. Now, however, our numbers have been increased in preparation for a further step in the development of your planet: a step of which you are not yet aware, although it has been hinted at frequently enough in the parables of your prophets, who have garbled whatever inspiration they have been able to receive. Sometimes they were ignorant. Sometimes they were unable to translate clearly the concepts implanted in their minds. Sometimes they were cautious, and to insure the preservation of the information they wished to place upon record in the world, they spoke in metaphors and symbols.
We have been confused with the gods of many world-religions, although we are not gods, but your own fellow creatures; as you will learn directly before many more years have passed. You will find records of our presence in the mysterious symbols of ancient Egypt, where we made ourselves known in order to accomplish certain ends. Our principal symbol appears in the religious art of your present civilization and occupies a position of importance upon the great seal of your country. It has been preserved in certain secret societies founded originally to keep alive the knowledge of our existence and our intentions toward mankind.
We have left you certain landmarks, placed carefully in different parts of the globe, but most prominently in Egypt where we established our headquarters upon the occasion of our last overt, or as you would say, public appearance. At that time the foundations of your present civilization were "laid in the earth," and the most ancient of your known landmarks established, by means that would appear as miraculous to you now as they did to the pre-Egyptians, so many thousands of years ago. Since that time the whole art of building in stone has become symbolic, to many of you, of the work in hand -- the building of the human race toward its perfection.
Your ancestors knew us in those days as preceptors and as friends. Now, through your own efforts, you have almost reached, in your majority, a new step on the long ladder of your liberation. You have been constantly aided by our watchful "inspiration," and hindered only by the difficulties natural to your processes of physical and moral development, for the so-called "forces of evil and darkness" have always been recruited from among the ranks of your own humanity -- a circumstance for which you would be exceedingly grateful if you possessed full knowledge of conditions in the universe.
You have lately achieved the means of destroying yourselves. Do not be hasty in your self-congratulation. Yours is not the first civilization to have achieved -- and used -- such means. Yours will not be the first civilization to be offered the means of preventing that destruction and proceeding, in the full glory of its accumulated knowledge, to establish an era of enlightenment upon the earth.
However, if you do accept the means offered you, and if you do establish such a "millennium" upon the basis of your present accomplishments, yours will be the first civilization to do so. Always, before, the knowledge, the techniques, the instructions, have become the possessions of a chosen few: a few who chose themselves by their own open- minded and clear-sighted realization of "the shapes of things to come." They endeavored to pass on their knowledge in the best possible form, and by the most enduring means at their command. In a sense they succeeded, but in another sense their failure equaled their success. Human acceptance is, to a very large extent, measurable by human experience. Succeeding generations, who never knew our actual presence, translated the teachings of their elders in the terms of their own experience. For instance, a cross-sectional drawing, much simplified and stylized by many copyings, of one of our traveling machines, became the "Eye of Horus," and then other eyes of other gods. Finally, the ancient symbol that was once an accurate representation of an important mechanical device has been given surprising connotations by the modern priesthood of psychology.
The important fact is, however, that we are here, among you, and that you, as a world-race, will know it before very much longer! The time is almost ripe, but as with all ripening things, the process may not be hurried artificially without danger of damaging the fruit. There is a right time for every action, and the right time for our revelation of ourselves to your era is approaching.
SOME of you have seen our "advance guard" already. You have met us often in the streets of your cities, and you have not noticed us. But when we flash through your skies in the ancient, traditional vehicles, you are amazed and those of you who open your mouths and tell of what you have seen are accounted dupes and fools. Actually you are prophets, seers in the true sense of the word. You in Kansas and Oklahoma, you in Oregon and in California, and Idaho, who know what you have seen: do not be dismayed by meteorologists. Their business is the weather. One of you says "I saw a torpedo-shaped object." Others report "disk-like objects," some of you say "spherical objects," or "platter-like objects." You are all reporting correctly and accurately what you saw, and in most cases you are describing the same sort of vehicle.
The "golden disk" -- now confused with the solar disk and made a part and parcel of religion -- even in your own times. The "discus," hurled sunward by the Grecian -- and your own -- athletes. The "eye of Horus," and the other eyes of symbology, alchemical and otherwise. Our mechanical means of transportation.
Now that the art of manufacturing plastic materials has reached a certain perfection among you, perhaps you can imagine a material, almost transparent to the rays of ordinary visible light, yet strong enough to endure the stresses of extremely rapid flight. Look again at the great nebulae, and think of the construction of your own galaxy, and behold the universal examples of what we have found to be the perfect shape for an object which is to travel through what you still fondly refer to as "empty" space.
In the center of the discus, gyroscopically controlled within a central sphere of the same transparent material, our control rooms revolve freely, accommodating themselves and us to flat or edge-wise flight. Both methods are suited to your atmosphere, and when we convert abruptly from one to the other, as we are sometimes obliged to do, and you are watching, our machines seem suddenly to appear -- or to disappear. At our possible speeds your eyes, untrained and unprepared for the maneuver, do make mistakes -- but not the mistakes your scientists so often accuse them of making.
We pass over your hilltops in horizontal flight. You see and report a torpedo-shaped object. We pass over, in formation, flying vertically "edge-on," and you report a series of disk-shaped, platter-like objects, or perhaps a sphere. Or we go over at night, jet-slits glowing, and you see an orange disk. In any event, you see us, and in any event, we do not care. If we chose to remain invisible, we could do so, easily, and, in fact, we have done so almost without exception for hundreds of years. But you must become accustomed to our shapes in your skies, for one day they will be familiar, friendly, and reassuring sights.
This time, it is to be hoped that the memory of them, passed on to your children and their children, will be clear and precise. That you will not cause them to forget, as your ancestors forgot, the meaning of the diagrams and the instructions we will leave with you. If you do fail, as other civilizations have failed, we will see your descendants wearing wiring-diagrams for simple machines as amulets, expecting the diagrams to do what their forefathers were taught the completed article would accomplish. Then their children, forgetting even that much -- or little -- would preserve the amulet as a general protective device -- or as an intellectual curiosity -- or perhaps as a religious symbol. Such is the cycle of forgetfulness!
That the "story" was heavily imbued with the mystic -- it literally read as a "channeled" message -- is no surprise. Since its modern beginnings in the 19th century, "mediumship" had progressed from simple contact with "loved ones who had passed to the other side" to contact with "guardians" -- oversouls from other planes or dimensions who guided and kept a careful account of the evolution of humanity. And the author was not "Alexander Blade" -- which was a pseudonym used sporadically in the pulp press by various authors -- but in this case, was one Wilma Dorothy Vermilyea, who more commonly wrote under the name Millen Cooke. A devotee of the mystic herself, she was at the time married to John Starr Cooke, also a mystic (and later an influential presence in the counter-culture movement of the 1950s and 1960s).
But Son of the Sun equally reflected the influence of the editor of Fantastic Adventures -- one Raymond A. Palmer, himself a devotee of all things paranormal. And for the next two years, those seeking non-skeptical magazine coverage of flying saucers would have only the publications of Ray Palmer to turn to.
Above: Cover illustration of Spring, 1948 premiere edition of Fate Magazine.
IN 1948, RAYMOND PALMER would launch a quarterly magazine called Fate, devoted to "Articles On The Mysterious, The Strange, The Unusual, The Unknown".
Ten years earlier, as the newly appointed editor of the fantasy magazine Amazing Stories, Palmer had shepherded the then-moribund publication into such an unprecedented pulp success that its publisher -- Ziff-Davis Publications -- would soon have him overseeing seven others. But Fate -- of which Palmer was half owner -- would prove not only to be the epitome of Palmer's career, but would lay the groundwork for both the style and substance of esoteric lore over the coming decades, and even into the twenty-first century.
Fate's first issue (Spring, 1948) would feature two stories by Kenneth Arnold, telling of his own personal sighting and of his adventures investigating another -- the "Maury Island" incident. The next issue (Summer, 1948) would feature another article by Arnold, entitled "Are Space Visitors Here?", along with a story on the "Crow River Flying Disc" (consisting of a letter to Palmer and a purported photo of the object). Arnold would again appear in the third issue (Fall, 1948) with a piece entitled "Phantom Lights in Nevada", telling the story of colored discs of light, and noting, "More than fifty of the shepherds of the area have seen the mysterious lights, and it has been noted that dogs bark at them, proving they are visible to animals as well as humans". Meanwhile, 1948 would offer only one saucer story in the "reputable" national magazines -- a Popular Science feature on the Navy's Skyhook balloon program, entitled "Are Secret Balloons the Flying Saucers?".
Likewise, in 1949 the only "reputable" magazines to feature the saucers were a lengthy and scathingly skeptical two-part piece in the Saturday Evening Post entitled "What You Can Believe About Flying Saucers" and a dismissive report in the May 9, 1949, edition of Time...
Science: Things That Go Whiz
The frightening idea really began to take hold on June 24, 1947. That was the day when Kenneth Arnold of Boise, Idaho looked out of his airplane near Mt. Rainier and saw -- or thought he saw -- nine enormous discs flying at 1,200 m.p.h. The newspapers began to talk about "flying saucers."
As the flying-saucer idea sank into the public mind, all sorts of mysterious swooping things were reported. Policemen in Portland, Ore. saw discs that looked like "shiny chromium hubcaps." Two pilots in Alabama saw a huge black object bigger than an airliner. A man in Oklahoma City saw a "saucer" as bulky as six B-29s. A prospector in the Cascade Mountains saw six discs that made the needle of his compass gyrate wildly. Little children saw little discs. Two kids in Hamel, Minn., reported that a dull grey disc two feet across had come right down between them, hit the ground, spun around, bounced up again making whistling noises, and sped off over the trees.
After some months of buildup, the portents had become so numerous and alarming that the Air Force began gathering all the data it could find on each report of "unidentified aerial phenomena" such as flying discs, space ships from Mars and things that go whiz in the air. Last week the National Military Establishment issued a statement on Project Saucer. Spinners of yarns about flying saucers, including a score or so of Air Force pilots, stuck stoutly to their stories. But the Air Force's scientists found no convincing evidence that mysterious aircraft (from Mars, or even from the U.S.S.R.) had been at large in the U.S.
Flame & Fight. There had been plenty of reports to keep Project Saucer busy. In January 1948, an object like "an ice cream cone topped with red" was sighted by several observers over Godman Air Force Base, Ft. Knox, Ky. Three fighter planes flew off in pursuit. Captain Thomas F. Mantell chased the object to 20,000 ft., later crashed, probably from lack of oxygen, and died.
In July, two Eastern Airlines pilots flying over Alabama met a "wingless aircraft, 100 ft. long, cigar-shaped and about twice the diameter of a B-29." Dazzling blue light glared from its windows, and long orange flame streamed out behind. It shot past the airliner at a speed one-third faster than common jets.
In October, Lieut. George F. Gorman of the North Dakota National Guard reported that he had had a dogfight with a flying saucer over Fargo. He was heading for his airfield in his F-51 at night when he saw a mysterious light "six to eight inches in diameter, clear white and completely round with a sort of fuzz at the edges." Lieut. Gorman dived at the light. The light dived at Gorman. Round & round they went for 27 minutes. Then the light put on speed and tore out of sight on a northwest-north heading.
Balloon & Star. Project Saucer sifted more than 240 reports in the U.S. and 30 in foreign parts. About 30% of the "unidentified aerial phenomena," it decided, were due to astronomical objects, such as meteors, bright stars or planets. Other flying discs turned out to be weather balloons, some of them carrying lights, or the big plastic balloons that scientists send up to study cosmic rays. Some of the mysterious lights were probably reflections on an airplane's windshield.
Many phenomena were hoaxes by practical jokers. A woman in Seattle reported excitedly that a flaming disc had landed on her roof. When examined by federal agents and Navy bomb experts, it turned out to be a 28-in. disc of plywood with two radio tubes and a quart oilcan mounted on pieces of plastic. Painted on the wood were a hammer & sickle and the letters, U.S.S.R. Another "flaming saucer" that spun down from overhead gave Shreveport, La. a good scare, turned out to be a joke by a local prankster who wanted to frighten his boss.
Some of the phenomena have not been fully explained, and reports still come in at the rate of about twelve a month; but the National Military Establishment is not worried. Group suggestibility and "vertigo" and the difficulty of judging the speed and distance of an airborne object give plenty of material for the human imagination to work on. In the case of flying saucers, it appears to have worked hard. Since no single bolt or rivet of a mysterious aircraft has yet been found, there is no reason to believe that either Russians or Martians have been tearing off on mysterious cross-country trips over the U.S.
In fact -- though one would never know it from its piece above -- the Time story was reporting on an Air Force announcement made the week before that saucer reports were "no joke" and being taken quite seriously (though it discounted "alarming possibilities"). And, unlike Time, the national newswires pointedly noted that though the Air Force felt sixty percent of reports could be accounted for by conventional explanations, still "40 per cent remain a mystery".
Meanwhile -- along with such articles as "Invisible Beings Walk The Earth" and "The Red River Witch" -- the readers of Fate could find news updates, feature articles, and even letters to the editor telling of personal experiences which were turned into feature articles, such as the September, 1949, article, "My Encounter with the Flying Disks"...
My Encounter With the Flying Disks
by John H. Janssen
Here is another of the historic stories that were suppressed during the "flying saucer scare" in 1947. FATE uncovered it and asked this Aviation Editor of the Morristown Daily Record to write it for us. Why was it kept secret till now?
My dear Mr. Webster:
Your letter of February 21 relative to the "Flying Saucers" that I observed and photographed near the Morristown airport July 10, 1947, has been referred to me by city editor William P. O'Neill.
This was done because all material -- photographs, columns, features and articles that I do for The Morristown Daily Record are, by nature of agreement, my personal property. In no manner has The Morristown Daily Record any claim to the "Flying Saucer" photo and story other than that of being the first to publish it.
Enclosed are two newspaper excerpts and the original photograph of the phenomenon that I witnessed that mid-summer morning nearly two years ago. It is all that remains to remind me of an incident in my life that I sincerely wish had never happened, and gave me the reputation of possessing the "wildest imagination in the State of New Jersey."
I say this not in jest but with chagrin and bitterness!
As you may readily deduce by the pen notation in my hand on the back of the "Disks" photo, I was, at the time, quite boastfully proud of its widespread publicity. Had I known the ridicule that was to be mine which began with fate's propitious opportunity to photograph these modern aerial apparitions, I would gladly have turned my back and ignored them. But I did take this photograph. And now -- I curse that day!
Although only part of the enclosed is submitted at your request, you have unintentionally and unwittingly opened the floodgates of a pent-up and suppressed emotion and smothered story by your interest in the phenomenon. Thus you give me hopeful cause once again to risk ridicule and re-tell the most bizarre and fantastic of encounters with these so-called "Flying Saucers."
It is the sequel to the July 10 photo and my personal convictions as published in northern New Jersey newspapers. A story that editors and publishers have labeled as being "too utterly fantastic for publication -- even if true!" A suppression by the press because it dared not risk the inevitable scathing causticity of contemporaries!
Later, almost two weeks to the day, it happened. It was bizarre. It was unbelievable, fantastic. In retrospect it now seems so remote, vague and unreal -- as though memory had succored hallucinations that had invaded and influenced an impressionable mind.
But it did happen. I know it happened. An aerial encounter that would have rocked the pillars of modern aeronautical science had any publisher dared to print it!
Under date of July 23, 1947, is this word-for-word quotation from my diary:
...Altimeter registering 6000 feet. Feels so good to be up in the cool, clean air. Far away from the reflected heat of an ascending, scorching mid-summer sun. Off on the horizon, to the east, through the early morning haze, New York's skyscrapers are faintly discernible.
The 65-hp. Continental in my little J-3 is purring as smoothly as a contented kitten after lapping up a dish of warm milk. Far beneath I watch the specks and dots that are the buildings and homes of staid, old Morristown.
It felt so good just to be alive. So wonderfully good and exhilarating to be flying this beautiful morning.
Then, while my eyes played over the horizon, I became momentarily startled by a shaft of light that seemed much like that of a photographer's flashbulb. It came on high. Very high. Above that position of the airplane's nose flyers are wont to designate as 11 o'clock.
Merely the reflected sun, I thought, bouncing off the metal sides of an extremely high flying aircraft. I gave it no further thought.
Now the engine began to perform peculiarly. It coughed and sputtered spasmodically. I pulled on the carburetor heat and gave it full throttle to blast accumulated ice from the carburetor...
The engine emitted one final wheezing cough and then quit. The nose of the ship, instead of dropping to a normal glide, remained steadfast and rigidly fixed on the horizon. In its normal, level-flight attitude!
Abruptly I became aware that the little craft was now motionless. Perfectly still. As though defying the basic laws of gravity!
I became frightened and close to panic at so weird a predicament. And then, wide-eyed with confoundment, I saw the air-speed indicator at zero!
There was an odd, electric-like pricking sensation coursing through my body. And I had that eerie, sixth-sense feeling that I was being watched and examined by an indescribable something that minutely studied my features, my clothing and the airplane with microscopic thoroughness and with tenacious determination.
I flecked a bead of cold perspiration from my eyes. Then -- I saw it!
Above and slightly beyond my left wing-tip. A strange, wraith-like craft that I sensed as being one of the much-discussed flying disks. Its flanged, projecting rim was dotted on either side with steamer-like portholes. And it appeared to radiate in a dull metallic hue that conveyed an impression of structural strength and a super intelligence that was not of this world.
It too, appeared motionless. About a quarter of a mile away. Maybe more -- I'm not quite sure. Distances in the air are very deceiving. But I knew that this disk-like craft was responsible for my strange predicament.
Beyond and slightly higher I could see another seemingly fixed and motionless in the sky. And I assumed that this second of the strange crafts was but waiting for the one nearest me to complete its observations.
Then I became possessed with the most unaccountable urge to reach up and snap on the magneto switch. (I had turned it off when the engine quit.) The compulsion was so powerful that my hand was forced to do its bidding.
I switched both the magnetos to 'on' position. Eerily, slowly and supernaturally the propeller began to turn. Faster. Then the engine burst into its steady, rhythmic drone. She nosed down into a stall, picked up air-speed, and steadied under control.
The peculiar bodily sensations had ceased. I scanned the skies but the disk-like craft had dissolved into the morning haze.
Upon landing at Morristown airport I was greeted with:
"Say, you look kinda peaked. Didn't run into any of those flying saucers up there, did you?"
Mumbling something or other about indigestion I dashed to the office. I barged in on city editor O'Neill and babbled excitedly of my strange experience.
He leaned back in his chair and eyed me coolly.
"A good yarn. Yes a darn good yarn. But who's gonna believe it?"
Then he first uttered the words I was to hear time and again in my futile efforts to get the Disk encounter published:
"It's too utterly fantastic to print -- even if true!"
After several rejections of my "capricious fantasy" (as it has also been labeled) I succumbed to blind, petulant rage and destroyed other photos and journals of aerial phenomena that I and others had experienced. But thanks to an understanding and flying-disk-interested wife, this original photo and scrapbook excerpts were hidden at the bottom of our attic trunk where it was spared destruction.
Why do I unleash so wild, so weird and so fantastic a tale when you simply request a photo and clippings? Well, when I received your letter, that tiny, infinitesimal spark that lay smoldering for so long, burst into a roaring blaze of hope. At long last -- the fates have sent an editor who is interested in my phenomenon!
That the "quotes" may have been highly edited and supplemented by editor Palmer -- whose heavy authorial hand often permeated stories in his publications -- and that the reporter, named as John H. Janssen, may or may not in fact be quite who or what he claimed, were no more considerations to the readers of Fate than they were to Ray Palmer himself. Palmer's uncanny bond with his readers assured they would come away with exactly what they came for: a spectacular story with no room for ambiguity as to the nature of its cause.
And thus by the end of 1949 -- two-and-one-half years into the flying disc phenomenon -- the public had only two choices in magazine coverage from which to ferret out its own truth: the skepticism of the "reputable" press, and the overwrought but imaginative extravagance of the pulp press.
A situation which would change dramatically with the abrupt entry into the saucer fray of a testosterone-driven "man's magazine" called True.
Above: Covers for the January, 1950 and March, 1950 editions of True magazine.
ALL THROUGH THE ROAR of the 1920s and straight on through the whimper of the 1930s, the target readership of the majority of American national magazines had been unchangingly and indisputably feminine. The virtues of domesticity could be found in Ladies' Home Journal or Good Housekeeping. For the latest in fashion and beauty, there were Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and Redbook. For homey fiction, there was Saturday Evening Post as well as McCall's. And if those wouldn't do, then dozens upon dozens of specialty magazines focusing on everything from the lives of the movie stars to patterns for needlework could be found at any newsstand -- all with a decidedly feminine bent.
Such was the gynic publishing landscape upon which True magazine burst in 1937. It was the nation's first "man's magazine", and set the style for all others to follow -- and there would be many imitators over the coming decades, with titles such as Sir!, Saga, and Stag. But as Newsweek would later describe it, True was "a man's magazine with a class all its own, and the largest circulation of the bunch."
The secret to True's success lay in its format and it's timing. The format began with suitably masculine cover illustrations reflecting True's eclectic mix of exciting adventure, crime, and war stories -- along with features on sports, hunting, fishing, cars, workshop hobbies and home repair. Never offensive or off-color, the covers guaranteed that True could be bought and read without causing embarrassment. Inside, along with the stories, was an occasional "pin up" illustration of a buxom blonde, redhead or brunette in an alluring pose, invariably wearing something delicate and sheer over silken-soft skin. Sometimes a buttocks might be seen, but little else would be revealed outside of the contours of a well-toned shape.
A success in its own right, True only grew more popular
with America's entry into World War II, with millions of men on the march. Following the war, Ken Purdy came aboard as editor in chief, ushering in its "golden age". Starting out in the 1930s as a newspaper reporter, Purdy went on to become associate editor of Look magazine, before moving on to the United States Office of War Information as editor of Victory during World War II. Of Purdy's time at True, David E. Petzal of Field and Stream would later write...
Published by Fawcett Publications from 1937 to 1974, its full name was True -- The Man's Magazine. There was nothing else like it. Unlike the rest of the men's guts adventure rags (which were hugely popular at the time) True was not only truthful, but created by writers, editors, photographers, and artists of the first rank. In its heyday during the 1950s, True was overseen by Ken Purdy, who was not only a superb editor in chief, but is still generally acknowledged as the greatest automotive writer of all time.
And in his book Lord of Publishing: A Memoir, renowned literary agent Sterling Lord -- who counted among his clients Jack Kerouac -- would write of Purdy...
I was hired at a salary of $110 per week by Ken Purdy, the editor, a brilliant, high-strung man, who was also a colorful writer. (When he wrote about foreign cars, which he loved, you could almost hear the sound of singing violins.)
And it was under the editorship of Purdy that True not only aggressively inserted itself into the confines of the flying saucer fray, but immediately dominated the national discourse. Lord would write...
At True I read manuscripts, typed comments, and sometimes acted as first reader for Purdy. Ken was a talented, gutsy editor. I hadn't been with him very long when he developed an idea for a startling article and enlisted a writer named Major Donald Keyhoe, a retired Marine who had been conducting his own research on the existence of flying saucers...
At the time, Major Keyhoe had already had a distinguished career as a pilot, a military man, and as an author on aviation (including both fiction and nonfiction). His summons from Purdy came in the form of a telegram...
NEW YORK, N.Y., MAY 9, 1949
HAVE BEEN INVESTIGATING FLYING SAUCER MYSTERY. FIRST TIP HINTED GIGANTIC HOAX TO COVER UP OFFICIAL SECRET. BELIEVE IT MAY HAVE BEEN PLANTED TO HIDE REAL ANSWER. LOOKS LIKE TERRIFIC STORY. CAN YOU TAKE OVER WASHINGTON END?
KEN W. PURDY, EDITOR, TRUE MAGAZINE
The end result of their collaboration would come eight months later, with Keyhoe's article in the January, 1950 issue of True, entitled "The Flying Saucers Are Real". Captain Ed Ruppelt, head of the Air Force investigation known as Project Blue Book, would later write...
The article opened with a hard punch. In the first paragraph Keyhoe concluded that after eight months of extensive research he had found evidence that the earth was being closely scrutinized by intelligent beings. Their vehicles were the so-called flying saucers. Then he proceeded to prove his point. His argument was built around the three classics: the Mantell, the Chiles-Whitted, and the Gorman incidents. He took each sighting, detailed the "facts," ripped the official Air Force conclusions to shreds, and presented his own analysis. He threw in a varied assortment of technical facts that gave the article a distinct, authoritative flavor. This, combined with the fact that True had the name for printing the truth, hit the reading public like an 8-inch howitzer. Hours after it appeared in subscribers' mailboxes and on the newsstands, radio and TV commentators and newspapers were giving it a big play. UFO's were back in business, to stay. True was in business too. 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.
Two months later, True would -- again using the words of Captain Ruppelt -- "clobber the reading public" with a piece by Commander Robert McLaughlin, who had been in charge of a guided missile research unit at White Sands Proving Ground. In McLaughlin's piece, he related in detail his and others' experiences with flying discs aerially intruding during their highly classified work at the government's premiere missile and rocket test site.
Both articles -- Keyhoe's and McLaughlin's -- represented a radical change of approach from those of Look, Time or Fate. Here were the witness statements in depth, with all details given, telling of the actual experiences of pilots and scientists as they might read in an Air Force or FBI investigation: without paraphrasing, without hyperbole, without even an opinion offered in most instances -- just the details recorded as the highly qualified and sober witnesses had described them. Also included where relevant were Air Force "explanations" for the incidents just described -- often blatantly based on facts not in evidence and recasting events to be contrary to what the witnesses themselves had described. Even these "explanations" were mostly left to speak for themselves, except where some amplification would help the reader understand their meaning. True, the authors had their own opinions on what it all meant -- but those opinions never tainted the witness descriptions themselves. Those were presented unedited and unadorned, with the readers left free to agree with the authors' opinions or not.
By the time Commander McLaughlin's article appeared on the newsstands he had already been reassigned to sea duty, and would have nothing further to add.
But Major Keyhoe continued his dogged pursuit of the story -- and having first burst on the scene with a radical change in approach, his next step forward would be nothing short of trailblazing an uncharted path into the American publishing scene.
Above: Cover illustration for Major Keyhoe's 1950 book.
THROUGH THE DISTANT LENS of six decades passed it might seem odd that it took three full years for the first book on flying saucers to hit the bookshelves. But as experienced at the time, the phenomenon itself was one that came and went in infrequent waves -- and there were long periods when other matters urgently commanded the American public's attention.
Beginning in January, 1948, Executive Order 9981, saw an end to segregation in the Armed Forces. January 1948 also saw the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi in India. Other events throughout the year included a Supreme Court order against religious instruction in schools, the communist takeover of Czechoslovakia, the beginning of the Marshall Plan, the establishment of the modern nation of Israel and the first Israeli-Arab war, and a United Nations–supervised election creating two separate Korean governments, one of them communist. Meanwhile, from June 1948 to May 1949 the crisis regarding the Soviet blockade of Berlin threatened to ignite into a third world war with any errant crash of the staggering 300,000 flights of the "Berlin Air Lift" -- with a supply plane landing in or taking off again from Berlin on average every 30 seconds, day and night. And against this backdrop, 1948 was also the year of a presidential election which would determine the future course of the nation at a critical time.
The year 1949 was an equally eventful period of aftershocks from the global upheaval of World War II, and included the communist takeover of China -- the most populous nation on Earth -- as well as the first Soviet atom bomb, not merely ending America's hegemony over the penultimate terror weapon but placing it in the grasp of America's most feared enemy.
With all of the aforementioned just skimming the surface of events of the time, no wonder then that absent a major wave of sightings -- and there had been none since to compare with that of early summer, 1947 -- coverage of saucer reports was sporadic, and tended to erupt only after spectacular individual incidents. Even those were few and flared up only briefly, soon crowded out in a sea of newspaper column-inches devoted to national and international events and crises.
Likewise, the national magazines had their editorial hands full with coverage of pressing issues. And with tens of millions of Americans still struggling to rebuild a normal life after a decade of economic depression, followed by a half-decade of war, the very idea of a book devoted to "flying saucers" -- once it had become reasonably certain that they weren't secret Soviet aircraft flying at will over American territory -- would have seemed nonsensical at best.
In fact, the amazing success of Keyhoe's article in the January, 1950, edition of True had been a combination of fortuitous circumstance and clever timing by Purdy -- the announcement of its publication and startling claims came just after Christmas Day, 1949, starting the week which was traditionally the slowest news period of the year.
And though its genesis is known, the path to publication of The Flying Saucers Are Real as a book is both unclear and surprising -- the very idea of special-interest books for the masses itself being relatively new, dating back a mere decade to 1939. As explained by Clive Thompson in the May, 2013, edition of Smithsonian Magazine...
Robert Fair de Graff realized he could change the way people read by making books radically smaller. Back then, it was surprisingly hard for ordinary Americans to get good novels and nonfiction. The country only had about 500 bookstores, all clustered in the biggest 12 cities, and hardcovers cost $2.50 (about $40 in today's currency).
De Graff revolutionized that market when he got backing from Simon & Schuster to launch Pocket Books in May 1939. A petite 4 by 6 inches and priced at a mere 25 cents, the Pocket Book changed everything about who could read and where. Suddenly people read all the time... And by working with the often gangster-riddled magazine-distribution industry, De Graff sold books where they had never been available before -- grocery stores, drugstores and airport terminals. Within two years he'd sold 17 million.
"They literally couldn't keep up with demand," says historian Kenneth C. Davis, who documented De Graff's triumph in his book Two-Bit Culture. "They tapped into a huge reservoir of Americans who nobody realized wanted to read."
But if the detailed circumstances of its path to publication are unknown in detail, it's historic import is clear -- three full years after the Kenneth Arnold sighting came publication of the first book on flying saucers, The Flying Saucers Are Real, by Major Donald Keyhoe.
And if the publishers are to be believed, it was not published without significant opposition. From the May 25, 1950, edition of the Mason City, Iowa, Globe Gazette...
Claims Defense Department Attempts Cover Up on Sale of "Flying Saucers Are Real"
NEW YORK (UP) -- An editor said Thursday that defense department officials have exerted "a lot of pressure" to prevent sale of a book by Donald Keyhoe entitled "The Flying Saucers Are Real."
Jim Bishop, editor of Fawcett Gold Medal books, said, however, that the book will be put on sale June 5 anyway "unless the defense department gets out a restraining order."
"If they can prove publication will do the country harm, involve national security," he said, "we'll withdraw it."
The department, which repeatedly has belittled reports of "flying saucers," said in Washington that it had "no interest" in Keyhoe's book.
"We have never heard of the book in any way, manner, shape or form," a spokesman said.
Bishop said the book already had been put on sale at midwestern newsstands but was withdrawn after five days when the department applied "pressure."
Bishop said Keyhoe had been working on the flying saucer story for more than a year, traveling throughout the nation interviewing civilians and military personnel and tracking down reports. He wrote an article on the subject which appeared in the January issue of True Magazine.
"In his investigations," said Bishop, "the closer he got to a solution of the flying saucer reports the more the defense department air forces began to throw traps in his way.
"They gave" him false clues and false leads. Certain colonels got friendly and gave him phoney tips."
Bishop said the book originally was scheduled to go on sale June 5 but that some midwest wholesalers put it on sale prematurely.
Minneapolis, he said, "was flooded with them."
Late last week, he said, "pressure was brought to bear" to remove the book from the stands and telegrams were sent out immediately instructing dealers to withdraw it.
It then was decided to go ahead with the sale "unless the defense department gets an injunction."
Bishop said the book gives "the names, places, dates and ranks of officers."
Two days later, the first reviews were out. From the May 27, 1950, edition of the Warsaw, Indiana, Times-Union...
The Saucer Book
IN A 175-PAGE pocket-size book just put out by Fawcett Publications, entitled "The Flying Saucers Are Real," Donald Keyhoe tells us what is described as the "true story behind the strangest phenomena in history." The author has had a quarter of a century of experience in observing and writing about aeronautical developments. He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. He flew in active service with the marine corps, managed the tour of the historic plane in which Bennett and Byrd made their North Pole flight, was aide to Charles Lindbergh after the famous Paris flight and was chief of information for the aeronautics branch of the Department of Commerce. It was Keyhoe's article in True magazine's January issue this year which first put the theory to the public that the saucers were space ships from another planet and that the only other possible explanation was that they were extremely high-speed, long-range devices developed here on earth, marking "an almost incredible leap in technical progress even for American scientists and designers."
During the past year -- since May, 1949, Keyhoe has been investigating the saucers for True, looking over the evidence, interviewing observers and air force officials involved. He has come to the conclusion that the government, despite on-and-off, hot-and-cold contradictory statements, which have left the public with these impressions (a) that there is no such thing, or (b) that the saucers are new American weapons, is nevertheless engaged in an intricate program to prepare America -- and the world -- for the secret of the disks. He writes: "The official explanation may be imminent. When it is finally revealed, I believe the elaborate preparation -- even the wide deceit involved -- will be fully justified in the minds of the American people." He thinks the government fears sudden disclosure to the world that the age of interplanetary travel is here would be too much of a shock and would create great panic.
Sooner or Later...
"But even if all the evidence (that the saucers are space ships) should be completely ignored." Keyhoe concludes, "Americans cannot escape eventual contact with dwellers on other planets. Even though space visitors never attempt contact with us, sooner or later earthlings will be travelling to distant planets -- planets that scientists have said are almost surely inhabited. The American people have proved their ability to take incredible things. We have survived the stunning impact of the Atomic Age. We should be able to take the Interplanetary Age, when it comes, without hysteria." Keyhoe, in his book, discusses most of the reported saucer sightings, including those where 10,000 residents of Tucson, Ariz., and 3,000 at Farmington, N.M., viewed the fantastic saucers, that at least one experienced pilot was killed while flying close to observe the craft and how commercial airline pilots have seen the saucers time and again while on regular scheduled flights.
Keyhoe's book was partly an expansion of his January, 1950, piece for True. But that article had been limited in its seven pages to the details of a few specific incidents -- in and of themselves revelatory. Now without the limits of magazine column inches, the book covered a wide array of incidents, both long before the Kenneth Arnold sighting and all the way up to March, 1950 -- two months before the book hit the newsstands. Most important of all, its greatly expanded scope allowed for something equally unprecedented in coverage of the saucer story: the details of the investigation itself, and especially what an investigator -- as well as witnesses -- faced in dealing with the Air Force...
I WENT to the Pentagon the next morning. I didn't expect to learn much, but I wanted to make sure we weren't tangling with security.
I'd worked with Al Scholin and Orville Splitt, in the magazine section of Public Relations, and I thought they'd tell me as much as anyone. When I walked in, I sprang it on them cold.
"What's the chance of seeing your Project 'Saucer' files?"
Al Scholin took it more or less dead-pan. Splitt looked at me a moment and then grinned.
"Don't tell me you believe the things are real?"
"Maybe," I said. "How about clearing me with Project 'Saucer'?"
Al shook his head. "It's still classified secret."
"Look, Don," said Splitt, "why do you want to fool with that saucer business? There's nothing to it."
"That's a big change from what the Air Force was saying in 1947," I told him.
He shrugged that off. "The Air Force has spent two years checking into it. Everybody from Symington down will tell you the saucers are bunk."
"That's not what Project 'Saucer' says in that April report."
"That report was made up a long time ago," said Splitt. "They just got around to releasing it."
"Then they've got all the answers now?"
"They know there's nothing to it," Splitt repeated.
"In that case," I said, "Project 'Saucer' shouldn't object to my seeing their files and pictures."
"That one taken at Harmon Field, Newfoundland, for a starter."
"Oh, that thing," said Splitt. "It wasn't anything -- just a shadow on a cloud. Somebody's been kidding you."
"If it's just a cloud shadow, why can't I see it?"
Splitt was getting a little nettled...
If it were possible to get an inside look at Project "Saucer" operations, I could soon tell whether it was an actual investigation or a deliberate cover-up for something else. Whichever it was, the wall of official secrecy still hid it.
As a formality, I had called the Pentagon again and asked to talk with some of the Project officers. As I expected, I was turned down. The only alternative was to dig out the story by talking with pilots and others who had been quizzed by Project teams. I had several leads, and True had arranged some interviews for me.
My first stop was Chicago, where I met an airline official and two commercial pilots. I saw the pilots first. Since they both talked in confidence, I will not use their right names. One, a Midwesterner I already knew, I'll call Pete Farrell; the other, a wartime instructor, Art Green.
Pete was about thirty-one, stocky, blue-eyed, with a pleasant, intelligent face. Art Green was a little older, a lean, sunburned, restless man with an emphatic voice. Pete had served with the Air Force during the war; he was now part owner of a flying school, also a pilot in the Air National Guard. Green was working for an air charter service.
We met at the Palmer House. Art Green didn't need much prompting to talk about Project "Saucer." After reporting a disk, seen during a West Coast flight, he had been thoroughly grilled by a Project "Saucer" team.
"They practically took me apart," he said irritably. "They've got a lot of trick questions. Some of 'em are figured out to trip up anybody faking a story. The way they worked on me, you'd think I committed a murder.
"Then they tried to sell me on the idea I'd seen a balloon, or maybe a plane, with the sun shining on it when it banked. I told them to go to the devil -- I knew what I saw. After seventeen years, I've got enough sense to tell a ship or a balloon when I see it."
"Did they believe you?" I asked him.
"If they did, they didn't let on. Two of 'em acted as if they thought I was nuts. The other guy -- I think he was Air Force Intelligence -- acted decent. He said not to get steamed up about the Aero-Medical boys; it was their job to screen out the crackpots.
"And on top of that, I found out later the F.B.I. had checked up on me to find out if I was a liar or a screwball. They went around to my boss, people in my neighborhood -- even the pilots in my outfit. My outfit's still razzing me. I wouldn't report another saucer if one flew through my cockpit."
But for reasons which can only be surmised, the book did not make nearly the same waves as the original article had. Perhaps it was the title, giving the impression that it was a rehash of what had come before. Perhaps, also, it was the paperback format -- the impression being that a book premiered as a pulp "pocket book" meant that it had not been considered good enough to warrant a hardback edition. Nor did its densely crowded 178 pages of 10-point type, with a minimum of margin space and careless cutting and binding do anything to improve its appeal.
And even had it none of the defects listed above, The Flying Saucers Are Real had the unfortunate timing of being released as another book was in its ninth week atop the New York Times bestseller list -- Immanuel Velikovsky's Worlds In Collision. Although not the same subject it definitely had appeal to the same readership with its theories of biblical global catastrophes having been real and caused by close approaches of Venus, Earth and Mars. And the public controversy over Worlds In Collision exceeded even that generated by Keyhoe's January, 1950, article in True -- to the point that Harvard's Harlow Shapley not only issued stinging condemnations but organized a university boycott against books by the publisher to prevent Velikovsky's work from ever seeing print. Velikovsky's book would stay at number one on the best-seller list for five more weeks, and then more months as the number two entry.
And finally, The Flying Saucers Are Real had the unfortunate timing to be published three weeks before the Soviet-backed invasion of South Korea by the North, and thoughts of saucers in the sky -- even if from another planet -- paled in significance to the beginning of a conflict which could soon lead to a third world war.
Above: MacMillan's third hardback edition of Immanuel Velikovsky's "Worlds In Collision", published within two months of its original release. Bowing to threats of a boycott of its textbooks by the academic community, MacMillan handed over rights to the wildly successful bestseller to rival publisher Doubleday. The hardback edition spent 27 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List, and its subsequent reprintings in hardback soon numbered in the dozens.
THOUGH FALLING FAR SHORT of success in the marketplace, Major Keyhoe's The Flying Saucers Are Real would endure as an indispensable historical reference; the closest thing possible to a contemporaneous "insider's" guide to the first three years of reports, including the maneuverings of the Air Force behind the scenes, the stories of pilots and others never officially reported, the previously unknown details about incidents which had gained some fame -- and even the ephemera which would only gain significance later.
For instance, as the book neared its end -- chronologically aligned with the progress of Keyhoe's investigation -- Keyhoe made mention of a story which had first gained prominence in January, 1950, just after his own article for True had generated nationwide front-page coverage. The story, told by one Rudy Fick of Kansas, related a stop-over in Denver, Colorado that Fick had made during a business trip. Fick had been in the office of an associate when George Koehler, a local radio advertising salesman and friend of Fick's business associate, came to the office and told Fick a fantastic story. Keyhoe covered that in his book, as well...
The story of the "little men from Venus" had been circulating for some time. In the usual version, two flying saucers had come down near our southwest border. In the space craft were several oddly dressed men, three feet high. All of them were dead; the cause was usually given as inability to stand our atmosphere. The Air Force was said to have hushed up the story, so that the public could be educated gradually to the truth. Though it had all the earmarks of a well-thought-out hoax, many newspapers had repeated the story. It had even been broadcast as fact on several radio newscasts...
While I was waiting for Wright Field's answer, Ken Purdy phoned. He told me that staff men from Time and Life magazines were seriously checking on the "little men" story. Both Purdy and I were sure this was a colossal hoax, but there was just a faint chance that someone had been on the fringe of a real happening and had made up the rest of the story.
The key man in the story seemed to be one George Koehler, of Denver, Colorado. The morning after Purdy called, I took a plane to Denver. During the flight I went over the "little men" story again. It had been printed in over a hundred papers.
According to the usual version, George Koehler had accidentally learned of two crashed saucers at a radar station on our southwest border. The ships were made of some strange metal. The cabin was stationary, placed within a large rotating ring.
Here is the story as it was told in the Kansas City Star:
In flight, the ring revolved at a high rate of speed, while the cabin remained stationary like the center of a gyroscope.
Each of the two ships seen by Koehler were occupied by a crew of two. In the badly damaged ship, these bodies were charred so badly that little could be learned from them. The occupants of the other ship, while dead when they were found, were not burned or disfigured, and, when Koehler saw them, were in a perfect state of preservation. Medical reports, according to Koehler, showed that these men were almost identical with earth-dwelling humans, except for a few minor differences. They were of a uniform height of three feet, were uniformly blond, beardless, and their teeth were completely free of fillings or cavities. They did not wear undergarments, but had their bodies taped.
The ships seemed to be magnetically controlled and powered.
In addition to a piece of metal, Koehler had a clock or automatic calendar taken from one of the crafts.
Koehler said that the best assumption as to the source of the ships was the planet Venus.
When I arrived at Denver, I went to the radio station where Koehler worked. I told him that if he had proof that we could print, we would buy the story.
As the first substantial proof, I asked to see the piece of strange metal he was supposed to have. Koehler said it had been sent to another city to be analyzed. I asked to see pictures of the crashed saucers. These, too, proved to be somewhere else. So did the queer "space clock" that Koehler was said to have.
By this time I was sure it was all a gag. I had the feeling that Koehler, back of his manner of seeming indignation at my demands, was hugely enjoying himself. I cut the interview short and called Ken Purdy in New York.
"Well, thank God that's laid to rest," he said when I told him...
On the trip back, I bought a paper at the Chicago airport. On an inside page I ran across Koehler's name. According to the A.P., he had just admitted the whole thing was a big joke.
But in spite of this, the "little men" story goes on and on. Apparently not even Koehler can stop it now.
And though Keyhoe couldn't know it at the time, not only did Koehler not want to "stop it now", he would help propel the story of crashed discs and little dead crewmembers into the basis for the second American book on flying saucers...
...one that just months later would far outstrip Keyhoe's in sales and popularity.
1. After the second issue of Fate, the magazine's byline was changed from "Articles On The Mysterious, The Strange, The Unusual, The Unknown" to "True Stories Of The Mysterious, The Strange, The Unusual, The Unknown".
2. The story of "My Encounter with the Flying Disks," by John H. Janssen has been verified as far as its existence on both the cover and table of contents of the Summer, 1948, edition of Fate. However, the text has not been verified as a verbatim transcript through personal comparison to the story originally published in the September, 1949, issue of Fate (which might well vary from the transcript given above in terms of punctuation and paragraph breaks). This story is one that has been repeated in various and slightly-different verbatims for many years, and appears even today across a variety of websites. Few if any of these sites make mention of Fate magazine as the source, or of its publication two years after the alleged event. All say John H. Janssen was associated with the Morristown Daily Record, with some even erroneously stating that it was an aviation publication (it was and is a daily newspaper) and that Mr. Janssen was "aviation editor" (the same claim made in Mr. Janssen's article). But according to Ted Bloecher in his Report on the UFO Wave of 1947, Mr. Janssen was "airport columnist", a quite different thing than "aviation editor". Bloecher also relates the following...
Case 790 -- July 9, Morristown, New Jersey: In an account published in the Morristown Daily Record (7/10) there is a description of a sighting that presumably took place on the preceding morning. The witness was John H. Janssen, of Morristown, identified as "Airport Columnist" on the Record. He reported that he was on his way to the airport at mid-morning when he "caught a glint in the sky and, looking up, saw what he first took to be a group of airplanes. Closer examination revealed a formation of four disc-like objects floating in the air at about 10,000 feet. Janssen said he "quickly fitted a filter to his camera lens" and took the photograph printed with his story. "I had only time for this one picture. While I was turning the film for the next exposure the lead disc suddenly shot upward and toward New York City in a dazzling burst of speed. The other three followed and all were out of sight in a twinkling of the eye. In my brief glimpse of the discs I did notice that the lead one was of a dull metallic color and the others appeared to be of a silvery hue.
"From where I stood on the top of my car watching the strange craft," he said, "I guessed them to be anywhere from 100 to 300 feet in diameter. The circumference was the thinnest part of the ships and widened toward the middle where possibly they could be ten to twenty feet high-enough to provide living and operating quarters."
The photograph shows four bright objects, three of which are distinct ovals against the clear sky in a slightly curved line, while the fourth, at the top of the line, is less distinct. In the lower part of the picture is part of a cloud formation.
Janssen was the second of two UFO witnesses in the 1947 wave to publicly express belief that the objects were space ships. "I really believe these craft to be operated by an intelligence far beyond that developed by we earth-bound mortals and (I) am inclined to agree with the theory that they are space craft from another planet." He went on to theorize on possible magnetic and antigravity methods of propulsion to explain the acceleration of the objects. "In all probability these are reconnaissance craft and as they have been seen all over the world and not only in this country, are probably making a thorough study of us and our terrain and atmosphere before making any overtures."
In the light of subsequent claims by Mr. Janssen, including a story purportedly taking place several weeks later and describing how his plane was stopped in mid-air for a number of minutes while being scrutinized by a pair of discs hovering nearby, the original sighting report and photograph must be viewed with a certain amount of suspicion. As the original photograph is no longer available, a drawing of the reproduction in the Daily Record is included.
In fact, rather than a drawing, the NICAP site link to this portion of Mr. Bloecher's work is apparently a black-and-white scan of the original photo. However, elsewhere on the NICAP site is the purported photo...
3. There is some confusion as to whether The Flying Saucers Are Real is the first non-fiction book on the subject. Many websites refer to it as coming after Frank Scully's Behind the Flying Saucers, which was published in September, 1950. And in his 1956 book, Captain Ed Ruppelt says The Flying Saucers Are Real was published in the fall. However, the contemporaneous newspaper reports and reviews prove The Flying Saucers Are Real was physically available for purchase at booksellers in the midwest by late May, 1950, and was in fact scheduled for a June 5, 1950, release. Also published that year in England was The Riddle of the Flying Saucers by Gerald Heard, which some claim preceded Keyhoe's book. But a personal review of the original UK first printing shows that the introduction makes note that The Riddle of the Flying Saucers covers events through the summer and up to autumn 1950, making it the third published work after The Flying Saucers Are Real (published late spring, 1950) and Behind the Flying Saucers (published September, 1950). The following is a review of Heard's book in the December, 1950, edition of Spectator magazine, written by the Astronomer Royal, Sir Harold Spencer Jones, F.R.S. ...
The Flying Saucer Myth
FROM about midsummer 1947 and throughout the past three years there have been numerous reports of mysterious saucer-like and other objects having been seen moving through the sky at great speeds. These reports have largely emanated from the United States, where they have given rise to much interest and to some alarm. Are these mysterious objects secret weapons in course of trial? Are they sent by an enemy Power to spy out the land? Are they perhaps launched from another planet? Or is there a simple explanation, some natural phenomenon having been misrepresented and incorrectly reported?
It not infrequently happens that when there is a report of some- thing having been seen which is mysterious and outside ordinary experience, other people begin to think that they see the same thing. The reports of the Loch Ness Monster provide an instance. In the case of the flying saucers, something similar seems to have occurred.
The first reports of these objects apparently came from Boise in Idaho; before long, flying saucers were being seen in many other of the States. It has been suggested that the whole thing may be merely a case of mass-hallucination.
So widespread has been the interest aroused by the flying-saucer problem that the reader will turn to Mr. Gerald Heard's book in expectation of finding some light thrown on the mystery. He will be doomed to disappointment, for, after summarising and discussing the evidence, the author, after possible alternatives have been examined and discarded, offers an explanation which is more improbable than the flying saucers themselves.
But, first of all, what do the observers of these objects state that they have seen? There is a marked diversity in the various reports, and it is certain that they cannot all refer to the same type of phenomenon. Most frequently the reports refer to disk-shaped or saucer-like objects which, however, are sometimes described as being heart-shaped or as having a tail fin. Statements about size are strangely discordant, ranging from a few feet to several hundred or one thousand feet in diameter; but it may be remarked that there are many people who estimate the moon to be about the size of a dinner plate. The speeds at which the objects move are variously estimated from about 200 to 18,000 miles an hour. In one instance, a flying saucer is said to have gone from horizon to horizon in three seconds. Some other reports describe giant cigar-shaped wingless torpedoes, with windows and fore-cabin, glaring with a weird mysterious light, which are capable of tremendous speed and are of master-manoeuvrability, so that they can make circles around a plane travelling at a speed of 300 miles an hour.
A third type is described as a giant balloon. One such is stated to have anchored itself for nearly two days at a height of about 5,000 feet about the town of Alice, Texas ; it is curious that it was apparently seen by only five citizens of that town. In another instance the balloon is said to have been double-decked. One was seen to explode, but no fragments could be found. Then there are objects described as balls of light, appearing as bright white globes, a foot or so in diameter, which can make sudden darts, or rapid twists and turns, and which can suddenly hop up thousands of feet and perform other weird capers.
Almost all the reports appear to agree that there is no sound accompanying these appearances. If the objects have a material existence, they have never been observed to start from the ground, or to fall to or alight on the ground. They either disappear over the sea or into the depths of the sky. If they are of terrestrial origin they must sooner or later come down somewhere. If they are mechanical devices, something must sometimes go wrong and a crash occur. But this never happens with flying saucers.
There are many natural phenomena which appear mysterious, and for which, in some cases, there is as yet no satisfactory explanation. The accounts of such appearances given by those who are unfamiliar with them may be strangely unlike the real thing. The aurora borealis, ball lightning, St. .Elmo's fire, mock suns and parihelia, the Brocken spectre, a blue sun or a blue moon, a bright fire-ball, a slow-moving train of meteors, for instance, are sufficiently far from the normal range of most people's experience to give rise to wonderment. I receive many reports of unusual or strange phenomena; but rarely is an account of what was seen sufficiently precise and accurate for a definite opinion to be given as to the cause. There was an occasion during the 1914-1918 War when it was reported by a British officer in France that a Zeppelin was in a certain direction and was moving westwards; he had for some time been carefully watching Jupiter through his field-glasses and had interpreted the four bright satellites as lights in the hull; the diurnal motion of the planet had convinced him that he was observing a distant moving Zeppelin.
In December, 1949, the U.S. Air Force declared that all the reports of flying saucers received had been investigated and had been disposed of as having natural causes. I believe that many of them are distorted accounts of natural phenomena; in a few instances, meteorological balloons, experimental aircraft or guided missiles may possibly have been observed. In one or two cases fire-balls may have been seen.
But such explanations are too prosaic for Mr. Gerald Heard. He wants something more exciting. In the course of my experience I have come across so many instances of the unreliability of ocular evidence that I prefer to seek a natural explanation, and I frankly mistrust much of the testimony. Mr. Heard prefers to trust the evidence, and so is compelled to seek an unnatural explanation. For he accepts the view that flying saucers are not U.S. secret weapons in course of trial, and he admits that they cannot be launched by an unfriendly Power, as it would be quite illogical for any such Power to disclose its own secret weapons to a possible enemy.
Mr. Heard is therefore compelled to suggest an extra-terrestrial origin, and the suggestion which he makes is that the flying saucers have come from Mars. Because the largest sunspots ever recorded appeared not long after the firing-off of atomic bombs, he assumes (quite illogically) that the atomic bombs caused the sunspots. It is well-established that the sun's ultra-violet radiation is increased at times of great sun-spot activity ; the Martians, he asserts, have the strongest of reasons for not wishing ultra-violet radiation from the sun to increase, since the tenuous Martian atmosphere affords little protection against the short-wave rays, which are deadly to life. He suggests further that the sun is one of the pulsating stars known as Cepheids, and that it is these stars which are liable to explode and become novae (neither statement, incidentally, is correct); atom bombs might serve as the trigger which would cause the sun to explode. The Martians may have read the signs, have assumed that some trouble is brewing, and have therefore taken steps to find out what we are up to. That is presumably why they have devoted their attention almost entirely to the United States. The two small satellites of Mars have provided the platforms from which they have launched their Mars-to-Earth flights. The Martians, he considers, are large insects, super-bees about two inches in length, with a highly developed social organisation!
There are no limits to such unscientific speculation. Once one embarks upon it, it is necessary to plunge deeper and deeper. The enormous speeds attributed to these objects, and their silence, almost presuppose that some form of super-energy, which is unknown to us, is available to these Martian insects. The ability to hover silently for any time at any height "seems to demand the power to resist gravity with its counter-force, a negative reaction to the pull of the earth, as on the negative pole of the magnet objects are not drawn in but driven out." Mr. Heard supposes that "magnetism is, as it were, the other pole of gravity." Two saucers, reported to have been whirling round each other, were, it is suggested, recharging each other. Even radar is brought in to add an air of plausibility for the unscientific reader: the "rods and foci of force that, the radar picks up, directed force, may be from the disks."
Mr. Heard supposes that the smaller disks come down from a giant disk, riding as a second and very midget moon right under our lee, and that the dancing balls of light were directed by a super- intelligence from this space-platform.
The scientific reader will jettison the whole of this chain of argument We know enough about Mars and the conditions that prevail there to be confident that no animal life can exist on it. As for very big manufacturing plants being in operation on Mars in order to turn out disks in large numbers, as is supposed, it is just fantastic. The unscientific reader will find his credulity strained to the utmost. The fact that such arguments have to be put forward to account for these flying saucers seems to me to provide the strongest possible demonstration that the whole thing is a myth.
4. Major Keyhoe's subsequent books on the subject were all issued as hardbacks, and achieved much better reception. Keyhoe would go on to head NICAP (the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena), building it into the most important civilian research organization of its day. His access and reporting on behind-the-scenes maneuverings of the Air Force were unprecedented and remain unequalled by anyone since.
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