Image: Saturday Night Uforia Logo

our speaker tonight:

josef allen hynek


Often labeled "the first picture from space", the photo above was in fact was just one of a series of motion picture film frames.

ON OCTOBER 24, 1946 a V-2 rocket towering four stories high -- assembled over the course of a year from captured German components under the supervision of captured German scientists -- shot straight upwards from the New Mexican desert. Accelerating to a maximum speed of 4,000 feet per second, it climbed to a point 65 miles above the Earth within three minutes of launch -- far and away the greatest height any man-made object had ever reached. Repurposed from its original design as a Nazi weapon of savage destruction, it carried instead scientific instruments in its warhead bay, including a revolutionary film camera engineered for the occasion.

During the course of the flight, four and one half minutes of views from the ship were captured on the 50 feet of movie film loaded in the camera -- starting from the first moments after launch. From 1,000 feet the film showed a panorama of the White Sands Proving Ground. At 30 miles up it showed mountains and valleys as they might be seen on a topographical plaster model. But the most anticipated and ultimately famous film frames came as the rocket attained its peak and momentarily leveled off before falling back to Earth.

The visible distance to the horizon at that point was more than 700 miles. Had there been a human traveler aboard they would have been able to take in more than one and a half million square miles of the surface of the Earth -- in this case including the cities of San Diego and Salt Lake City to the west, Denver to the north, Kansas City and Houston to the east, and then beyond the U.S.-Mexico border to Chihuahua in the south. But the human body and head can swivel to take in a 360° view, while the camera position was fixed in place -- limiting its lens to 40,000 square miles overall.

Still, as the camera's designer Clyde T. Holliday would later write, the film showed for the first time "how our Earth would look to visitors from another planet coming in on a space ship." And it brought enduring fame for Holliday, whose name was forever linked to the accomplishment.

But little noticed and rarely mentioned was the fact that Holliday had not worked alone in his achievement. True, he had designed the camera itself. But Holliday had worked in close consultation with a colleague at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory -- astrophysicist Dr. J. Allen Hynek, with whom Holliday had partnered on the original plan and its multitude of details.

That the 36-year old Hynek was content to have significantly contributed outside of the limelight is no surprise. For unlike some of Hynek's more famous contemporaries, pursuit of accolades had never been part of his personal agenda...

...a humility which allowed Hynek's scientific mind to remain open to possibilities which lay beyond his personal knowledge or experience, even as some of his more illustrious colleagues remained content in their certainties and celebrated for their hubris.


HynekDr. J. Allen Hynek in the mid-1940s.

THIRTY-SIX YEARS earlier Josef Allen Hynek had been born into tumultuous astronomical times.

In 1908, an astronomer had discovered that a comet's tail included cyanogen gas, a relative of cyanide. And as Halley's Comet approached the earth in May, 1910 -- its 24-million mile tail predicted to brush the planet -- rumors erupted that all of mankind would be poisoned.

Panic spread in some quarters. Forty-two year-old Millie Schmitkowski left her Indiana home to be with her parents in Hungary at the end of all things. In New York, news came of an 'anti-comet pill'. One newspaper suggested a three-day submarine trip to escape the comet's toll. And graphically-illustrated full-color 'End of the World' postcards did a great business in Germany and France.

But most made sport of it. Reassuring articles appeared in the newspapers. Home telescopes came into vogue. Comet-viewing parties were held across the globe. Astronomers hit the lecture circuit. Buttons, plates, silverware, tins, and jewelry proliferated with comet designs.

And in the very midst of this interplanetary star-borne fear and frenzy -- on May 1, 1910 -- Josef Allen Hynek was born.


A pre-goatee Hynek inside McMillan Observatory, circa mid-to-late 1930s.

WHAT EFFECT, IF ANY, the great comet's passing at the time of his birth had on Dr. Hynek's psyche is unknown -- if he ever talked about it, it was to friends or family and not in published interviews.

Nor -- though he was a prolific author -- did Hynek ever write about his childhood or adolescence, which may account for the fact that most commonly available biographical notes contain variations of the simple statement "Josef Allen Hynek was born in Chicago, Ill., to Czechoslovak parents" before moving on to his later life.

But even that simple summary is in error. Hynek's father, Josef, was born in Bohemia, an ancient kingdom which only became incorporated into Czechoslovakia following World War I. Hynek's mother, Bertha Waska, was born in the United States.

And some little bit more is known from what Hynek told others -- for instance that he first became enthralled with astronomy when he was seven, and quarantined to his home for six weeks after contracting scarlet fever. In those days before commercial radio, let alone television, his mother -- herself a school teacher -- kept him occupied with books, one of which was a volume about astronomy. "I was fascinated immediately," Hynek would later say.

But Hynek himself would make a more telling revelation to colleague and friend Jacques Vallee, as recorded in Vallee's November 13, 1966 journal entry detailing the conversation...

"Well Jacques," he began as we drove on the freeway that connects the city to its academic suburb, "this is a truly historic occasion. Did I ever tell you how I became interested in science?"

"Wasn't your mother a schoolteacher? You told me she once gave you a book about astronomy that fascinated you."

"That's not what made me decide to take up science as a profession. So many people get into science looking for power, or for a chance to make some big discovery that will put their name into history books... For me the challenge was to find at the very limitations of science, the places where it broke down, the phenomena it didn't explain."

"Had you studied the paranormal before you decided to become an astronomer?"

"I had spent a great deal of time reading about esoteric subjects. Of course I wouldn't say any of this to my colleagues, they would think I'm crazy. But as a student I read everything I could find about the Rosicrucians and the hermetic philosophers."

It was my turn to take a deep breath.

"I might as well confess to you that I have spent several years in the same studies," I finally told Hynek. "Until recently I even followed the Rosicrucian Order."

"Which one?" asked Hynek.

"AMORC, which is headquartered in San Jose."

"You know there are several movements that call themselves Rosicrucian, don't you? Among the hermetic writers I was very impressed with Max Heindel when I was younger, until I started reading the books by Manly Hall. Eventually that led me to Rudolf Steiner, who I believe is the deepest of the group."

"I always admired the old traditions which state that there is no such thing as a physical Rosicrucian organization. The only valid Rosicrucian Order they claim, is not on this level of existence. And they insist that the true initiation, the only illumination of the spirit that counts, cannot come from any human master, but only from nature herself. When I read this I dropped my membership to the San Jose group. I continue to wonder if there may be a genuine 'Rose+Crois' that remains invisible."

There was a silence as we both savored the realization that we had followed such a similar course.

"I have never stopped thinking about what must lie beyond all this," he said with a gesture that encompassed the dark shapes of the Rocky Mountains to the West and the vast plains to the East. "I never cease to be fascinated by the limitations of our science, as great and amazing and powerful as it has become. Now we are about to see how it handles this phenomenon of UFOs that has become so familiar to you and to me. Yes, we shall see..."

But however esoteric his private inspiration, Hynek pursued a far more prosaic path in the early days of his career, first graduating from the all-male Richard T. Crane Technical Preparatory High School in 1926 -- where he was editor of the school paper and earned top marks in trigonometry -- followed by a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Chicago in 1931.


Above: Yerkes Observatory staff in August, 1933. Center front is observatory director Otto Struve. Hynek is seen on the extreme right of the third row, sans goatee -- and tie.

HYNEK SPENT THE NEXT four years performing postgraduate work at the University of Chicago's Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wisconsin -- at the time and perhaps still the most storied of observatories in the world. Built in 1897, and often called "the birthplace of modern astrophysics", it was the first to host laboratories for the study of astral physics and chemistry -- while pride of place went to Yerkes' 40-inch refracting telescope, the largest on Earth.

But aside from the history -- many famous astronomers had passed Yerkes' way, including a young Edwin Hubble who completed his Ph.D there -- the idyllic setting itself undoubtedly struck Hynek's deepest chords. Sited atop a hill and overlooking the blue expanse of Lake Geneva, the building itself was a huge 19th-century vision of the Romanesque with, as the observatory states , "hundreds of ornate, often playful representations of animals real and fanciful, signs of the Zodiac, phases of the Moon, and many other embellishments". In short, a temple where Hynek could privately indulge both his scientific and hermetic contemplations.

And it was Hynek's great good fortune that the observatory's director was Otto Struve, a renowned research astronomer, who was at least the seventh astronomer to be produced by the Struve line in five generations.

Struve's great-grandfather Wilhelm had founded Pulkovo Observatory near St. Petersburg, where his work in trigonometric parallax astronomy led to the final confirmations of Copernicanism -- publishing 272 scholarly articles along the way. Otto's grandfather, father, uncle, cousin and cousin's son were also professional astronomers.

And in Struve, Hynek undoubtedly found not only a brilliant senior colleague, but a demanding taskmaster...

He was invariably the first one to arrive in the morning, and he spent many evenings at the office. After an evening staff meeting he might go off to the forty-inch and observe all night. That he could be considered a twenty-four-hour-a-day astronomer was almost true... He had only one interest and one concern, namely, that astronomy should be developed and pushed to the maximum that was possible... On one theme alone he was completely inflexible, that a scientist should think first of science and only third or fourth of himself...

Struve had a great interest in a high level of achievement. W.H. McCrea recalls that he was astonished to see how exacting Struve's standards were. He would not "lower the hurdle" but would give the student "the fullest possible opportunity to surmount it."

-- Biographical Memoirs, V. 61 (1992)
National Academy of Sciences

But if Struve was a stern taskmaster, he had found in Hynek a true ascetic, happy to withdraw from the vanities and troubles of the outside world. And in later life Hynek would fondly remember nights spent preparing modest meals and sleeping under the observatory dome. "The whole thing had a sort of mystical quality, I guess," Hynek would later recall, adding sheepishly that he was "so utterly absorbed in the life of the observatory that I had hardly heard of Hitler."


Above: Ohio State University in the mid to late 1930s. The horseshoe structure at top is the university stadium, where in 1935 OSU student Jesse Owens ran track. The next year Owens would win four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

IN 1935, HYNEK secured his Ph.D. , and left Yerkes to accept a position as instructor in the department of physics and astronomy at Ohio State University (OSU). The invitation had come as a result of serendipity -- the director of Perkins Observatory had borrowed a spectrograph from Yerkes to study a nova. Along with the equipment came Hynek to operate it -- requiring night after night spent in the freezing cold. So impressed was the director with Hynek's abilities and demeanor that he recommended OSU seek Hynek out, leading to Hynek's first professional work as an instructor.

Three years later, in 1939, Hynek was promoted to assistant professor. Then, in 1941, he was invited to teach a summer semester at Harvard College Observatory, a considerable honor for a young astrophysicist just starting to secure his professional reputation.

It was sometime during that period that Hynek proposed marriage to a student 14 years his junior, Miriam Curtis -- known to all as "Mimi". Little known now was that this was Hynek's second marriage. His first, in 1932, had lasted seven years, and the two departed friends.

Married to Mimi in early 1942 Hynek was on his honeymoon when he met up with a friend in Washington who was recruiting scientists for war work. Hynek immediately offered whatever services he might provide. As a result he ended up at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory as part of a large team developing a radio proximity fuze which would allow bombs to be detonated automatically when within a certain distance to a target. It would prove to be a game-changer in the war, and amongst many other achievements saved countless numbers of men who may have otherwise fallen victim to Japanese Kamikaze attacks. So important was the radio proximity fuze that it was rated alongside radar and the atomic bomb as one of the three most important scientific developments affecting the outcome of the war.

Hynek would ultimately work on the project for four years, on leave from Ohio State University. His primary role in the effort was organizational, acting as librarian for the massively-documented effort. But as noted in an 1989 interview with Ralph Baldwin, planetary scientist and colleague of Hynek in the project, "He was head of our records library but he was a lot more than a librarian."

PerkinsPerkins Observatory.

IN 1946 Hynek returned to Ohio State University, promoted to associate professor and named director both of the university's smallish McMillan Observatory as well as Ohio Wesleyan University's Perkins Observatory, at the time staffed and operated by OSU. Under Hynek McMillan was primarily dedicated to student work, while Perkins -- with a renowned 69-inch telescope of its own -- also served professional astronomers, many of whom traveled from around the world to conduct their research. Perkins also hosted international conferences and was home to an impressive astronomical library, including many rare volumes.

Hynek's time over the next decade would be spent in professional and academic pursuits, including presenting papers at important astronomical conferences. He was by this time both well known and highly regarded by his peers. But Hynek was also a dedicated teacher, eager to share his love of astronomy with students and public both, carving time out of his busy schedule to lecture at local Rotary and Lions Club meetings. And he invited the public into his rarefied world as well, as in the following from the April 15, 1945 edition of the Columbus, Ohio Evening Dispatch...

OBSEBVED -- The dome of an observatory is always fascinating and almost everyone likes to look through a telescope. If star gazing is your hobby, Prof. J. Allen Hynek of Ohio State University invites you to join a new group that was founded April 15 at McMillan Observatory on the campus of Ohio State University. Prof. Hynek presides over the observatory and has been conducting open house for students and the public. He has started a star gazing club. Cincinnati and Cleveland have flourishing star gazing clubs and if you are interested, drop the professor a card or contact him at the observatory for meeting dates. This should really be something new for Columbus folks and also makes Ohio State's facilities open to the public as they have been trying to do here of late in a more dignified fashion. One of these nights I want to take a look at Venus.

In 1950 Hynek was promoted to full professor and became assistant dean of the Graduate School. In 1951, he became one of a handful for candidates to become vice-president of OSU (he wasn't selected).

Over the coming three years Hynek would become an early and outspoken advocate for research into harnessing the energy of the sun, telling reporters...

It will have to take the place of the earth's natural resources, such as coal and petroleum which will be exhausted many millions of years before any very great change occurs in the sun's radiation.

And in 1954 Hynek led a group to Iran to photograph and study a total solar eclipse -- one of four groups from OSU stationed around the world.

But it would be in the mid-1950s that Hynek would come first to national prominence, followed by a time in the spotlight as the eyes of a worried nation turned to him for understanding and reassurance.


October 7, 1957 front page of the San Mateo Times.

IN JANUARY 1956 newspapers across the country carried variations of a national newswire story...

COLUMBUS (INS) -- An astronomer from Ohio State university will supervise the tracking and observation of the globe-girdling earth satellite from a vantage point at Harvard university, Cambridge, Mass.

Dr. J. Allen Hynek left Tuesday night for the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory at Harvard where the earth's official "eyes" will watch the speeding globe as it circles this planet in less than an hour.

A series of "satellite observatories," Dr. Hynek said, will be deployed around the earth to keep tabs on the satellite. Dr. Hynek and Dr. Fred Whipple, director of the observatory and chairman of the department of astronomy at Harvard, will supervise observation for the government.

Telescopic and radar equipment will be specially designed for the project during the next two years. It is now planned that 12 manmade moons will be built and at least six will be successfully launched into their orbits to circulate around the earth for varying periods.

Dr. Hynek said before his departure that "purpose of the satellite project is to obtain much-needed scientific data about the earth's upper atmosphere and other information. If successful, the satellite will represent man's first step in the conquest of space."

The project was to be part of the U.S. "contribution" to the upcoming International Geophysical Year, a cooperative project amongst scientists worldwide exploring a wide range of Earth sciences; in reality its purpose was also military -- the coming satellites were to be launched by the U.S. Navy under the project name of "Vanguard". But Vanguard was plagued with mishaps and delays, leaving the Soviet Union to be the first in space with the surprise launch of Sputnik on October 4, 1957.

Hynek learned of Sputnik from a reporter. It was a Friday evening and Hynek was alone in the building with his assistant, Kenneth Drummond. Suddenly the phone rang -- the first of many incoming calls from reporters that night. Of that first call Hynek would say...

For about 10 minutes I was absolutely dumbstruck. I wandered around the office, opening file cabinets, trying to get numbers and hardly being able to dial.

He would later call it "an intellectual Pearl Harbor".

But thanks to Hynek, the U.S. was much better prepared than it might have been otherwise. For since early 1956 Hynek had been coordinating a massive effort under the name "Moonwatch" (the "moons" in question being the coming artificial satellites). As part of Moonwatch 247 optical tracking stations had been set up worldwide, and plans were progressing for a further 12 photographic tracking stations.

By the morning following the news, Hynek had become the focal point of the nation's attention. Alerting his "Moonwatch" teams -- mostly volunteer brigades of amateur astronomers -- tracking data began to come in almost immediately. Over the course of the next several days Hynek and colleague Fred Whipple held twice-daily news conferences, and a panicked nation soon settled to calm.

And on October 21, 1957, Hynek -- along with colleagues Fred Whipple and Don Lautman -- appeared on the cover of Life Magazine, the nation's preeminent publication.

Hynek spent the next years solidifying Moonwatch and traveling the world to set up the photographic tracking stations, which became an integral part of the U.S. space program. Simultaneously he worked with the Air Force to set up a balloon-based telescope program, dubbed "Project Stargazer".

But by 1959 Hynek yearned for a return to academics, and accepted an invitation to become chairman of the department of astronomy at Northwestern University.

At Northwestern Hynek immediately began a program of building it into a significant player, expanding its one astrophysics course to an even dozen, and hiring 20 new members of the faculty in the first year alone. This, along with Hynek's prestige, began attracting many new graduate students to the school.

But Hynek also brought with him another innovation, which he labeled "image orthicon astronomy" -- combining television technology with telescopes. It had grown out of experiments conducted during Moonwatch with colleague Fred Whipple. The combination of technologies greatly improved the telescope's ability to gather light, with the National Science Foundation labeling it "the most significant astronomical advance since photography". In the coming years, Hynek would install the first orthicon telescopes in the nation.

But it was in 1960, his first year at Northwestern, that Hynek was invited to speak at the upcoming "Fourth Symposium on Hypervelocity Impact" at Eglin Air Force Base. The proceedings of the three-day conference were classified by the military as secret, but included such topics as "propagation of stress waves in visco-elastic solids".

What made Hynek's invitation to speak most notable, then, was it's subject... once called flying saucers, but later referred to as unidentified flying objects.


Dr. J. Allen Hynek at Northwestern University.

THE THINKING BEHIND the inclusion of the topic at the symposium remains obscure, but the reason for choosing Hynek is not -- since 1948 Dr. J. Allen Hynek had been the official astronomer consultant to the United States Air Force on the subject of what were then called "flying discs".

At first the Air Force had gotten what it wanted from its consultant, a dismissive view of the phenomenon. But as reports continued to amass, and the quality of the reporters became more and more impressive, Hynek's scientific curiosity came into play, and he became personally convinced that a very real phenomenon -- whatever its origins -- was at hand.

Such a change in thinking, however, was not immediate, but occurred in phases over the course of decades. The speech that follows then, represents a point in time midway in the continuum of Hynek's careful process.

And with that said, without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, Dr. Josef Allen Hynek, our speaker tonight...

(A written version of the talk presented to the Hypervelocity Impact Conference Eglin Air Force Base, April 27, 1960)

I find it intriguing that at such a distinguished gathering as this I, an astronomer, should be asked to address you, not on the subject of satellite tracking -- my work for the past four years -- nor on stellar spectroscopy, stellar evolution, nor on the expanding universe -- all topics to which I could do some manner of Justice -- but on Unidentified Flying Objects. Not that I am not qualified to speak on this topic. Perhaps, if I may be permitted to say so without incurring the charge of immodesty, I am uniquely qualified in all except one way to speak to you -- and that exception is simply that I have never seen a UFO. But I have had as much experience, I daresay, as perhaps almost anyone with UFO's on their own plane of existence. And on that plane they are as real as rain. That plane is that of reports -- for as far as any of us here are concerned -- unless some of you in the audience have had personal experience -- they exist for you and me simply as reports.

Some years ago the Air Force did me the honor of adopting -- at least semi-officially -- my definition of Flying Saucers. "A Flying Saucer is any aerial sighting or phenomenon that remains unexplained long enough for someone to write a report about it."

My acquaintance with Flying Saucers, as reports, goes back twelve years when, as an astronomer at Ohio State, and hence quite close to Wright Field and the Technical Intelligence Center -- I was asked to review 200 reports to see how many could be explained on an astronomical basis. Most unfortunately, the really interesting ones could not be. There were many meteors and fireballs, and occasionally the planets, as in one case where Jupiter and its four bright satellites was reported as a mother space ship and its brood of small craft. But the real lulus, silver disks that sped across the sky, lights that wandered about the sky at night, luminous objects that landed and from which emerged little men, or as in the case of two FBI operatives I interviewed (quite a switch -- usually they interview me) who were scared witless (the word is witless) by a large version of a child's Christmas toy top that buzzed them on a lonely road in South Carolina at 4:00 a.m. -- none of these reports had, at least in my mind, a ready explanation.

Now mind you. I'm not saying that these things happened. I'm saying that they were reported to have happened -- a very, very great difference. And the central problem to which I address myself tonight, and on which I want you to be the Judge and Jury, is simply what on earth (or perhaps I should say, what not on earth) could be the stimuli that gave rise to these reports.

This is the problem which concerns me -- largely as a matter of curiosity -- because in our times there has been no more bizarre phenomenon, that attracted the attention of so many, than that of the waves of flying saucer reports that have from time to time occurred In the U.S., in France, in Brazil, Italy and lately, I hear also, in the USSR. It chills me to think that our Russian colleagues, if they address themselves to this problem, might come up with an answer before we do -- that is, an answer to the problem of report generation.

In what field of human endeavor might the answer lie?

In physics, in psychology, in meteorology, in optics, in ESP, or finally in astronomy, or in the province of astronomy? It must lie somewhere perhaps in many of these fields. (I mean the answer to where the stimuli for the reports lie.) The reports are real, and their cause must be real -- even if the cause is mass hallucination, it is still a real cause.

What generated these reports? Here are a few things.

(At this point in the talk slides of fireballs, illuminated cirrus clouds, balloons, artificial earth satellites were shown along with a number of cartoons from the popular press.)

What generated the others? What others?

Let us now grant that the great majority of reports are generated because people are simply not good observers, because they are easily mistaken in what they see, because they do not understand mirages, meteors, and strange meteorological phenomena. And also let us grant that some are generated because many people are downright superstitious, and what is more, because a great many people are wishful thinkers and, if the truth be known, lonesome. It might surprise us to realize how many people desperately want there to be other life in the universe and to be able to communicate with it. And hence these people will swallow any cock and bull story that by the remotest chance might be credible.

The universe of the astronomer today is a vast and frightening place. It was one thing when man had reason to believe that he was the king-pin in the universe and that he and the earth were the center of creation. But today, in his most uncertain world, frought [sic] with ICBM's and the threat of annihilation, there are many of us who would like to think that we are not alone, that we can be friends with someone in the cold outside universe, and that perhaps through them make rapid strides in our science and even in our politics. There are some who believe that if we could turn our attention to something absorbing away from the earth perhaps our fears of nuclear warfare among ourselves would diminish, and perhaps that this new focus of attention might even lead to the solution of all of our hard problems as inhabitants of this tiny earth. For it is tiny. May I digress for a moment and speak as an astronomer rather than as a UFO investigator, to summarize for you the astronomical situation, for it is a very necessary backdrop to our story.

The world's largest telescope is the 200-inch Hale telescope on Mt. Palomar; it can see out into space several billion light years. The light year in itself is hard to visualize, but perhaps it can be attempted if one imagines a string going around the earth's equator 236 million times. The length of that string would be one light year. It is important to remember that the nearest star to the sun is four and one half light years away.

The distances are so vast that it is only natural that we try to condense them and make a model of things to aid our own thinking. Suppose we were to try to make a model, to scale, of everything that is visible through the world's largest telescopes. Let us give our imagination full play and assume that we could use the entire area of the United States on which to construct our model -- a sort of supercosmic Disneyland. If we did this we should discover to our amazement that even In such a stupendous model the earth would be completely invisible, even through a microscope. Yes, indeed, even through an electron microscope. Faced with such a universe in which to live, it is no wonder that man as a sub submicroscoplc speck feels isolated and alone, and afraid of the Russians, and perhaps it is understandable that he might be desirous of seeking out and finding some understanding intelligence elsewhere. Indeed, there are few scientists, and particularly astronomers, who would not welcome bonafide evidence that intelligent beings did exist elsewhere and that there was a possibility of communication with them. (Think of the increased appropriations for scientists -- and for UFO Investigators!) Only our military friends, justly cautious, warn us, if this be the case, not to try to communicate first, lest our "friends" in space prove hostile and annihilate or at least exploit us. Perhaps we should be content to be alone in space!

(At this point in the talk a number of representative slides were shown depicting objects in the solar system, in our galaxy, the Milky Way, and clusters of galaxies -- out to the limit of the visible universe.)

Now we are through with our cosmic digression. I leave it for you to figure out for yourself how grossly probable it is that other life exists in the universe somewhere In the countless other solar systems that, it would seem, statistically must exist -- yet how improbable it is for such life to travel to us, and to communicate with us, unless it originates somewhere in our own solar system, or at very best, around some of the very nearest stars to us. There is, of course, always the outside possibility that other beings have invented means of extremely rapid transport, allowing them to travel with nearly the velocity of light. In this case; relativity points out that their time scale would be so short relative to ours, that to them it would appear as though they made a journey of many light years in just a few years. Although theoretically possible, this is yet too much in the realm of science fiction for us to consider seriously.

And now, with this stage setting, let us examine the reports -- and again I emphasize that we shall be examining just reports, reports whose generating stimuli many of us would most dearly like to discover, for there may indeed be some very good physics hidden in them. Something caused these reports to be made. What was it? Were the causes related, or did one set of things generate one set of reports, say in France, and another in Brazil? Do Italian flying saucers bear the same stamp as those of the U.S. or of France? Let us examine the evidence.

I would now like to describe for you some French flying saucers. It appears that for about two months in France, from the middle of August to the middle of October, 1954, France was peppered with a barrage of UFO reports. Like mushrooms they spouted all over France and likewise some in Italy and some in Germany. The reports of these, however , came in largely through the medium of French provincial newspapers. And it was only through the work of Aime Michel, an enthusiastic investigator in France,, that these reports were collated, plotted, and compared. The compilation of these reports appears in a book by Michel, "Flying Saucers and the Straight-Line Mystery." The "Straight-Line Mystery" in the title refers to the fact that when Michel plotted the reports for any one day on a very large-scale map, the reports had a devastating way of forming straight-line patterns on the map, most difficult to explain by chance.

I would not, of course, accept anything I read in a book without knowing something of the author. It chanced that I happened to be in Paris on other business and took two days off on my own to seek out Michel and talk with him. He lives with his wife and small son in a small modest Paris suburb apartment. He is a radio engineer and, what I was particularly anxious to find out, of calm, rational deportment, quite unlike the typical enthusiast or crackpot with whom it has been my lot to come in contact from time to time. I went over with Michel many of his stacks of newspaper clippings, which he had purchased at his own expense, and his maps, and I, at least, am convinced that the reports are real; that is, that the reports do exist as such in various French newspapers on those dates. I firmly believe that hoax and a deliberate attempt to concoct a cock and bull story must be ruled out. It would save us much bother and worry if we could take this way out, namely to say that Michel manufactured the reports out of thin air and wrote the book just to make money. From the returns he has had, I might say in passing that his labors must have been done at coolie wages.

In any event I feel reasonably certain that some stimulus existed in France -- whether political, scientific, extraterrestrial, meteorological, or psychological -- that in the space of two months generated several hundreds of reports, reports which show a definite thread of pattern.

So, with this preamble, let us travel to France, in the late summer, 1954. The curtain apparently went up on this fantastic show on August 23, at 1:00 a.m., 40 miles northwest of Paris. A businessman had just put his car away, and as he came out of the garage he was surprised to see a pale light illuminating the town which had been in complete darkness a little while before. The night was completely clear and the moon was at last quarter, and hence was rising at about that time.

Looking at the sky, he saw a huge, silent, motionless luminous mass, apparently suspended above the north bank of the river some 300 yards away. "It looked," he said, "like a gigantic cigar standing on end. I had been watching this amazing spectacle for a couple of minutes when suddenly from the bottom of the cigar came an object like a horizontal disk, which dropped at first in free fall, then slowed, and suddenly swayed and dived horizontally across the river toward me, becoming very luminous. For a very short time I could see the disk full-face ' it was surrounded by a halo of brilliant light."

A few minutes after it had disappeared behind him, going southwest at prodigious speed, a similar object came from the cigar and went through the same maneuvers. A third object, and then a fourth -- and finally a fifth detached itself from the cigar which was still motionless. This last disk dropped lower than the earlier ones, to the level of the new bridge, where it remained still for an instant, swaying slightly. At that time he could see very clearly its circular form and its red luminosity -- more intense at the center, fading out at the edges -- and the glowing halo surrounding it. After a few second's pause, it wobbled like the first four, and took off like a flash toward the north, where it was lost in the distance as it gained altitude . During this time the luminosity of the cigar had faded, and the gigantic object, which may have been 300 feet long, had sunk into darkness. The spectacle had lasted about 3/4 of an hour.

Unbeknown to him, this observer reportedly had witnesses. Two policemen making their rounds at 1:00 a.m. also observed the phenomenon, as had an army engineer southwest of the town of Vernon.

The case was briefly described in the Paris newspaper, LIBERATION. Nothing more was done about it, except that Michel conducted his own investigation.

Speaking of policemen: if those same two policemen had reported that they had seen two thugs beat up a victim and take to the woods, their testimony might be sufficient to send someone to the chair; but when something violently unusual comes up, like this, or if they had seen the angel Gabriel riding along on a nine-legged octupus [sic], no one would, of course, believe them.

Oddly enough, policemen have figured in many sightings. I remember back in 1947, a policeman in Oregon who was feeding pigeons in back of the station house, observed some flying disks. It was .1:00 p.m. on the Fourth of July, just two weeks after Kenneth Arnold had reported the first real newspaper case in the U.S., on June 24, 1947 -- the classic case from whence sprang the name flying saucer. He reported having seen "saucer-like objects" flying over Mt. Rainier.

To get back to France: How does one even begin to explain the first of the remarkable series of French reports? Well, if this case stood alone it would have little significance. Science cannot deal with an individual case. There must be repetition, and pattern.

Three weeks later, September 14, there was a repetition -- in broad daylight and observed by hundreds of witnesses in a half dozen villages in the general area 250 miles S.W. of Paris. Only one newspaper mentioned it, and only by chance did it get investigated. Witnesses were mostly farmers and a few priests and schoolteachers. One witness reported:

"It was about five in the afternoon. Emerging from the thick layer of clouds that looked like a storm coming up, we saw a sort of luminous blue violet mist, of a regular shape something like a cigar or a carrot. Actually the object came out of the layer of clouds in an almost horizontal position, slightly tilted toward the ground and pointing forward, like a submerging submarine.

"This luminous cloud appeared rigid. Whenever it moved, its movements had no connection with the movement of the clouds, and it moved all of a piece, as if it were actually some gigantic machine surrounded by mists. It came down rather fast from the ceiling of clouds to an altitude which we thought was perhaps a half a mile above us. Then it stopped, and the point rose quickly until the object was in a vertical position, where it became motionless.

During this time the dark clouds went on scudding across the sky, dimly lighted from underneath by the violet luminosity of the object. It was an extraordinary sight, and we watched it intently. All over the countryside other farmers had also dropped their tools and were staring up at the sky like us.

"All at once white smoke exactly like a vapor trail came from the lower end of the cloud. At first it pointed to the ground but finally rose up to describe around the vertical object an ascending spiral. While the rear of the trail was dissolving in the air and being carried off by the wind, the source of the trail went up to the very top of the vertical object and then started to come down again, turning in the other direction. Only then, after the smoke trail had vanished entirely, could we see the object that was sowing it -- a little metallic disk, reflecting in its rapid movements flashes of light from the huge vertical object. The little disk then stopped turning around the luminous cloud and went down toward the ground again, this time moving away. For quite a few minutes we could see it flying low over the valley, darting here and there at great speed, sometimes speeding up, then stopping for a few seconds, then going on again, flying in every direction between the villages that were four miles apart. Finally, when it was almost a mile from the vertical object. It made a final dash toward it at headlong speed and disappeared like a shooting star into the lower part where it had first come out. Perhaps a minute later the carrot leaned over as it began to move, accelerated and disappeared into the clouds in the distance. The whole thing lasted about a half an hour."

It would take us too long to quote from the other witnesses -- about a hundred in all -- but their stories were about the same.

At this point are you probably saying to yourselves, "Is this a serious scientist in front of us telling us a tall tale just to be entertaining? Could it be that he possibly believes this stuff?" Well, certainly, if it is a tall tale, it is not consciously told as such. It is told, remember, as far as we are concerned, as a report. We are all somewhat in the fix, perhaps, of members of an aboriginal tribe attempting to evaluate the report of a fellow member who had, in some unaccountable way, an encounter with a helicopter, a device totally unknown to his fellow tribesmen. A tall tale, or did he really see something? Our only basis of judgment would be his past record of credibility, or the records of all those who reported having seen the helicopter. There would certainly be no scientific way of judging their story. The easy way out, of course, would be simply to regard it as just that -- a story. It would absolve his fellow tribesmen from the necessity of doing any serious thinking about it.

In our own case, and in the cases shortly to be before us, we can vouch only for the fact that the reports do exist, and that whatever stimulus generated them, it generated them for a number of observers rather than a single individual. Let us go on with a few more French saucers and then sample a few from this country and elsewhere. Let me capsulate a few:

September 7 at Amiens, 7:15 a.m.: " eyes were caught by a sort of mound, two hundred yards away in a field. It looked something like an unfinished haystack, with an upside down plate on top.

"That's a queer color for a haystack," I said to Yves, "look at it. All of a sudden I noticed that the haystack was moving a little, with a slight swing back and forth, like an oscillation. We both rushed toward the mysterious object. When we got close the object took off on a slant, traveled diagonally upward for about fifty feet, and then began to go straight up. We watched it for three minutes. The object was about 30 feet in diameter."

September 18: " object arrived at high speed over the horizon, stood still several minutes over the town, and then disappeared into the zenith."

September 19: A circular object appeared suddenly in the north. It was flat gray and appeared to be metallic; it slowed, stopped, and remained motionless for about 30 seconds, during which time it swayed back and forth slightly. After a half minute it went off again in a northwest direction."

Same day, night: "A bright light crossed the sky, slowed down and landed. It seemed to be the size of a small bus. After staying on the ground for about 40 seconds, the light became reddish and rose vertically, and like a red ball, went off toward the southeast."

September 22: Under the clouds a huge, luminous ball hung motionless. Reddish and surrounded by a sort of moving smoke, also luminous. Watched for half an hour. Then suddenly from the lower part of the ball there emerged another, much smaller luminous ball; after a few seconds of free fall it slowed, turned obliquely and disappeared at high speed. A moment later dropped and went off -- and then a third, and a fourth. Just then an airplane appeared in another part of the sky; it seemed on a collision course with the ball. The ball abruptly changed position and rose into the clouds and disappeared. The show was over.

September, 26: The little dog began to bark and howl miserably. She saw it standing in front of something that looked like a scarecrow. But going closer she saw that the scarecrow was some sort of a small diving suit, made of translucent plastic material. Behind the blurred transparency of the helmet, two large eyes were staring out at her; the suit began moving toward her with a kind of quick, waddling gait.

She uttered a cry of terror and took to the fields. Looking back she saw a big metallic object, circular and rather flat, rise up behind nearby trees, move off nearly level with the wheat field, and then took off toward the northeast with considerable speed, gaining altitude as it did so.

Neighbors gathered quickly and at the spot where the aircraft had risen, they found a circle, ten or so feet in diameter where the shrubs had been crushed. Trees at the edge of this imprint had some branches broken and the bark rubbed off, and the wheat in the direction of take-off was flattened out in radiating lines.

In this last cited report, the original witness was found in a state of nervous collapse. She was put to bed where she remained for two days with a high fever.

Likewise: September 28: A tramp locomotive was running on a railway line from Nantes to Vannes, In the marsh close to the tracks a circular, flat machine was in rapid flight just above the ground. Luminous, dark red, tinged with violet. It soon reached the locomotive, flying only a few yards above it, and then followed it. Then it accelerated and disappeared toward the west at a terrific speed. For a few seconds the clouds continued to be illuminated by a violet light. The fireman, bewildered, was trembling so much that his place had to be taken until they reached the station. He had to be helped to his bed and for several days he suffered from nervous shock.

The climax of the French wave came on September 30 and October 1, 1954, a wave which was over by October 18. But on those two days, hundreds of reports flooded in. But there was no mechanism whatever to handle them. No scientist would touch this tricky subject, and their official Air Force team began sorting reports by tossing out the "obviously incredible reports." They latched onto those cases in which they could foresee a natural explanation, a most human and understandable reaction.

This French wave of stories is reminiscent of another wave of strange stories that flooded France a century and a half ago -- stories of stones that fell from heaven. Persistent stories came in, in waves, from time to time, of stones that fell from the sky. Now, how credulous can one get -- stones falling from the sky, indeed!

But in due course the French Academy of Sciences appointed a committee to study the subject, and after a full examination of the stories, reported back to the Academy that there was nothing to it- -- he stones in question had not fallen from the sky but had been hit by lightning! This despite their much greater density and obvious difference from surrounding stones. When a group of people don't want to admit something, there's nothing quite as hard headed as a scientific committee, on which each man has his scientific reputation to protect and going out on a limb is certainly not the way to do it.

The great irony of it -- and I choose the word irony with care -- came just a few years later when the little town of L'Aigle France was literally peppered with iron meteorites. This time the French scientist Biot alone undertook the investigation, and in the face of incontrovertible evidence he and his colleagues finally were convinced. Since the year 1803 a meteorite can land in France with the full per- mission of the French Academy of Sciences.

Lest you think that all the cases I have are French, I will pass on to others, after just one more which bears some resemblance to a case which was reported from Louisiana, which, of course, was originally French territory.

It is October 4 and we are at Poncey. "It was about 8:00 p.m.," Mrs. Fourneret said, "and It had already been dark for some time. About 20 yards from the house, in the meadow, a luminous body was balancing itself lightly in the air, to the right of the plum tree, as if preparing to land. As well as I was able to judge, the object was about three yards in diameter and seemed elongated, horizontal, and orange colored. I was beside myself with fright and seized the boy, running with him to Mrs. Boullier's house where we closed the door tight."

The neighbors armed themselves, the report continues, and went out to investigate. Nothing was there, but they said they found an area over a yard and a half long, 27-inches wide at one end, 20 at the other, where the ground appeared to have been sucked up. On the fresh soil of this hole they said white worms wriggled, and the earth that had been torn out was scattered all around the hole in clods ten or twelve inches across over a radius of about four yards. On the inner edge of the hole similar clods hung down; the earth had been pulled out in such a way that about half way down the hole was wider than at ground level.

They reported further that the little roots and rootlets in this fertile soil were intact everywhere on the inner surface of the hole and that not one had been cut, as would have been the case if the excavation had been made in the normal way. At the center of the hole, they said, lay a plant with a long root, still attached by the end of the root to the soil at the bottom of the hole, with all its rootlets exposed to the air, completely undamaged. In short, if we are to accept this report made in concert by a small crowd and investigated by Michel, it looked just as if the mass of earth spread over the surrounding grass had been sucked out by a gigantic vacuum.

The report stated further that while the villagers still crowded around the edge of the hole, a lad arrived on his bicycle, not knowing anything of what had been going on. "What a fright I Just had," he said, "I saw some kind of a luminous object that was going toward the southeast and climbing. It was like an airplane without any wings, nothing but the fuselage. And the faster it went, the greener it was."

Time does not permit me to continue these tales. There were also a number of cases during this interval involving encounters with occupants of the craft that had landed. Descriptions from all over France were remarkably alike. Small men, in diving suit-like costumes -- all non-hostile but ready to protect themselves. Frequently it was reported that automobile motors and lights went out when the object was nearby, and promptly came back Into normal operation when the object had left.

This brings to mind the famous Hopkinsville case in Kentucky, investigated by a chap who was, quite inadvertently and unbeknown to me at the time of his hiring, employed by me in the satellite tracking project. As time went on I got the full story from him and indeed I could have spent the entire hour tonight telling this tale, a tale so incredible that no sober scientist would care to be caught within ten feet of it. Yet it is one of the reports -- and I stress again, reports, because my friend saw nothing himself, but merely interrogated, he having been at that time the announcer at their local radio station.

I have here some drawings that my friend composed from the descriptions given to him, independently, by the highly untutored people who reported they had had this outlandish experience. This brings to mind the report of Father Gill in New Guinea in which he stated that he waved to some creatures in a flying saucer and that they waved back!

By luck I seem to have known a number of people who were directly concerned with UFO cases, though unfortunately (or perhaps I should say fortunately!) I have never had any personal experience with a UFO. There was the dozing passenger in the famous Chiles-Whitted case in Alabama about 10 years ago, and there is the balloonist, Charles Moore, who recently took the observations that established the presence of water on Venus. Speaking of balloonists, I happen also to know personally the man who launched the first Sky Hook balloon, in the days when these things were supersecret, and which particular balloon happened to cause Captain Mantell' s death when on that fateful day he blacked out in attempting to identify it.

The Charles Moore case is of some interest in itself because of the high technical qualifications of the observer. He was preparing a site for the launching of a large test balloon at White Sands on April 24, 1949. He was checking on cross-winds in the valley between two mountain ranges and had launched a small weather balloon, watching it in a theodolite, keeping it on the cross-hairs. He had a new chap on the team who wanted experience in tracking balloons; and so Moore turned the theodolite to him, cautioning him to keep it on and not lose it, because Moore didn't want to waste a balloon. Shortly after, Moore looked up to check the balloon by unaided eye and thought he saw it moving off to the east. He yelled at the chap that he had lost the balloon, but the chap said, "Nope -- it's still on the cross-wires." Moore looked and confirmed this, and then rapidly switched the theodolite to the strange object, catching it after it had "passed through" the sun. It was elliptical, two or three times as long as it was wide, moving along its major axis, and covered the entire sky from the southwest to the northeast in 60 seconds. Five others saw it and confirmed Moore's sighting. Moore checked his refocus of the theodolite and found it had been focused for infinity. In my talks with him, he has completely ruled out the possibility of aircraft, particularly since it covered the sky in 60 seconds. It went down to an elevation of 25 degrees and then just before it disappeared, which it seemed to do quickly, it rose in elevation by 5 degrees, as checked by the theodolite. This sighting has been classified as a mirage by some "experts" but the physics in this case certainly escapes me. Moore then launched another balloon and tracked it throughout its course to 90,000 feet. At no level were the winds from the southwest, so a balloon is ruled out.

I like to talk with and size-up reporters of reports. I have talked with Adamski, and find him an out-and-out fraud, despite the fact that Queen Wilhelmina gave him a special audience. He is the gentleman who professes to have regular consort with saucers and their inhabitants, and even to have taken a trip in a saucer. Long years of experience with people who come to the observatory, or write in about their theories -- which I file in my file called novel ideas to avoid the possible libel implications of crackpot -- have taught me how a typical fraud or crackpot chooses his words and phrases. Among other things, he cannot conduct a rational discussion, but resorts to constant repetition; he won't listen to the other person and cannot answer questions rationally or intelligently.

I have never, however, attended a saucerian convention. The Sixth Interplanetary Spacecraft Convention was held in Yucca Valley, California, on last May 31 and June 1, -- with 10,000 in attendance. It was here that one newsman was wandering, bewildered, trying to find someone sane to talk to, and entered into conversation with one young woman who appeared to have sense; and so he discussed with her his interest in Mars, pointing out that he had a small telescope and often observed Mars. The young lady listened intently, making an intelligent comment occasionally, but the budding friendship ended most abruptly when she said, "How interesting -- and when did you last visit Mars?"

At another convention, a saucer enthusiast distributed packets of hair clipped fro a 385-pound Venusian dog. It's things like this that give saucers a bad name!! Scarce wonder that the whole subject -- which undoubtedly has some scientific paydirt in it -- is so easily tossed aside by responsible people, And, oh yes, at another convention one could buy a book entitled, "My Saturnian Lover," photographs of saucers, the moon seen from an approaching saucer, moon scenery, and could buy a record of Saturnian music; and, if they stayed up late enough, the conventioneers would see mysterious blue lights at play and observe a balloon-shaped saucer that rose opportunely from behind the barn.

We have gone from the sincerely attested reports, made by people highly respected in their communities, to sheer charlatanism -- but one must take care to step carefully to distinguish the daisies from the cow dung.

I have three more items to place before you, the Jury.

"Last Monday night, about 10:30," Hamilton said, "we were awakened by a noise among the cattle. I arose, thinking that perhaps my bulldog was performing some of his pranks, but upon going to the door saw to my utter astonishment an airship slowly descending over my cow lot, about 40 rods from the house. Calling my tenant, Gid Heslip, and my son Wall, we seized some axes and ran to the corral. Meanwhile, the ship had been gently descending until it was not more than 30 feet above the ground, and we came within 50 yards of it. It consisted of a great cigar-shaped portion, possibly 300 feet long, with a carriage underneath. The carriage was made of glass or some other transparent substance alternating with a narrow strip of some material. It was brilliantly lighted within- and everything was plainly visible -- it was occupied by six of the strangest beings I ever saw. They were Jabbering together, but we could not understand a word they said.

"Every part of the vessel which was not transparent was of a dark reddish color. We stood mute with wonder and fright, when some noise attracted their attention and they turned a light directly upon us. Immediately on catching sight of us they turned on some unknown power, and a great turbine wheel, about 30 feet in diameter, which was slowly revolving below the craft began to buzz and the vessel rose lightly as a bird. When about 300 feet above us it seemed to pause and hover directly over a two-year old heifer, which was bawling and jumping, apparently fast in the fence. Going to her we found a cable about a half-inch in thickness made of the same red material, fastened in a slip knot around her neck, one end passing up to the vessel, and the heifer tangled in the wire fence. We tried to get it off but could not, so we cut the wire loose and stood in amazement to see the ship, heifer and all rise slowly, disappearing in the northwest. We went home, but I was so frightened I couldn't sleep. Rising early Tuesday I started out by horse, hoping to find some trace of my cow. This I failed to do but coming back in the evening found that Link Thomas, about three or four miles west of Leroy, had found the hide, legs and head in his field that day. He, thinking someone had butchered a stolen beast, had brought the hide to town for identification, but was greatly mystified in not being able to find any tracks in the soft ground. After identifying the hide by my brand, I went home; but every time I would drop to sleep I would see the cursed thing, with its big lights and hideous people. I don't know whether they are devils or angels, or what, but we all saw then, and my whole family saw the ship, and I don't want any more to do with them."

Hamilton has long been a resident of Kansas and is known all over Woodson, Allen, Coffey and Anderson counties. He was a member of the House of Representatives. He staked his sacred honor upon the truth of his story. An affadavit [sic] follows: As there are now, always have been and always will be skeptics and unbelievers whenever the truth of anything bordering on the improbable is presented, and knowing that some ignorant or suspicious people will doubt the truthfulness of the above statement, now, therefore we, the undersigned, do hereby make the following affadavit [sic]: That we have known Alexander Hamilton from one to thirty years, and that for truth and veracity we have never heard his word questioned, and that we do verily believe his statement to be true and correct.

signed--E.V Wharton, state oil inspector; M.E. Hunt, Sheriff; W. Lauber, Deputy Sheriff; H.H. Winter, Banker; H.S. Johnson, Pharmacist; J.H. Stitcher, Attorney; Alexander Stewart, Justice of the Peace; P.W. Butler, Druggist; James W. Martin, Registrar of Deeds; and H.C. Rollins, Postmaster.


This sighting was but one of a great many that took place during the great airship episode of 1897 -- the ship that was sighted and its progress watched all the way from San Francisco to Virginia. A look at the newspaper files of that day will recount the events.

Let us come to more recent times: Again -- let me remind you that as before we are dealing at the level of reports. These are nothing but reports I bring before you -- and on their level of existence, they are real -- that is -- real reports.

November 2, 1957, Levelland, Texas: At 10:50 the police station received a call from a local farmhand and part-time barber, Pedro Saucedo (a symbolic name), and his companion Joe Salaz. The story: We first saw a flash of light in the field to our right, and we didn't think much about it -- then it rose up out of the field and started toward us, picking up speed. When it got nearer, the lights of my truck went out and the motor died. I jumped out and hit the deck as the thing passed directly over the truck with a great sound and a rush of wind. It sounded like thunder, and my truck rocked from the blast. I felt a lot of heat. Then I got up and watched it go out of sight toward Levelland.

Saucedo said the object was torpedo shaped -- like a rocket -- and estimated it as 200 feet long. Afraid to return to Levelland for fear of encountering it again, the two men drove on to Whiteface, ten miles west of Levelland, where they phoned in their report. Although Saucedo sounded terrified, the officer on duty did not at that time take the report seriously.

But an hour later the police got another telephone report. Jim Wheeler, about four miles east of Levelland, had seen a blazing 200-foot egg-shaped object sitting on the road ahead of him. At the same time, his car lights went out and his motor died. The object rose and disappeared. A few minutes later came a call front Witharral, ten miles north-northeast of Levelland; Jose Alvarez reported that his lights and motor had gone dead as he drove near a bright, egg-shaped object on the road. At 12:15 a.m. Frank Williams of Kermit, Texas, reported a similar encounter In the same area. While the officials were out investigating -- and, incidentally, reporting strange lights themselves -- the police station received a call from James Long, who reported that at 1:15 a.m. he had been driving on a farm road five miles N.W. of Levelland when he came upon a 200-foot-long, egg-shaped mass that glowed like a neon sign. His engine coughed and died, and his lights went out. As he got out and approached the object, which was less than a hundred yards away, it suddenly took off straight upwards. After the object was gone, his engine started easily.

These engine stoppings, we remember, also occured [sic] in the French incidents. The next day two more witnesses reported to the police that they had encountered a UFO. Texas Freshman was approaching Levelland at 12:05 a.m. when he noticed his ammeter Jump to discharge and back -- then his motor quit as if it were out of gas -- and the lights went out. He got out and looked under the hood but could find nothing wrong. Turning around he saw on the road ahead an egg-shaped object with a flattened bottom -- like a loaf of bread and glowing not as bright as neon. No portholes or propellers were visible. Frightened, Wright got back into his car and tried to start it, but without success. After a few minutes, the egg rose almost straight up, veered slightly to the north and disappeared from view in a "split instant." After it was gone, the car started normally.

And now, let us come up almost to the present. This month April at La Camp, Louisiana, there was a sighting which bears some relation to those in France. There was, unfortunately, only one visual witness but several auditory witnesses. The object or object [sic] -- but witness says one object -- came silently out of the north, and the attention of the witness was first attracted by loud explosions and a bright firey [sic] red light at ground level about two or three hundred yards away. Witness stated that the object and light combined had the size of a nickel held at arm's length and that it appeared to circle, bounce, then turned and went off into space after it had made a number of momentary contacts with the earth. The entire phenomenon lasted only two or three seconds, but when daylight was available again pictures were taken of the impact points. On five of these, paint or metallic substance had scraped off but no other physical evidence was found. The area was searched by helicopter and on foot for a quarter of a mile radius, but no hardware was found. Five craterlets were formed, each about 10 inches deep, 18 inches wide, and 30 inches long, which were fresh. Although the territory of impact was unimproved, the evidence seems clear that the marks were actually made at the time of the explosion. Close to one of the impact marks the bark had been scraped off a tree, one branch had been broken -- presumably by the object -- and leaves were torn off the top portion of the tree.

The investing completed so far indicates that there was no aircraft whatever in the area and further that there had been no sounds previous to the time of contact. No aircraft , furthermore, had been noted on the night of the sighting. Evaluation of this report must await further investigation; but it does appear that for a space of some 120 years some object traveled nearly horizontally, made contact with the earth, produced a considerable luminous phenomenon, and then disappeared to the extent that no tangible evidence of it other than that already mentioned was found in the area. No radiation readings were obtained because of lack of equipment.

One would like to wipe this case off the books, so to speak, by proving definitely that it was a misfired rocket from some aircraft. This is about the only logical, normal explanation, since it was traveling far beyond terminal velocity for a freely falling body, and its path was far more horizontal than vertical. The lack of tangible hardware is likewise hard to explain on this hypothesis. Furthermore, there was no indication of any land-based or air-based rocket firing not only on that night but on any night of that season.

One might like to explain this as a meteorite, but almost certainly a meteorite would have been brilliantly visible before actual landing and would have fallen much more vertically than horizontally. Indeed, after terminal velocity takes hold of a meteorite, it simply falls to the ground as though it had been released from some high point in the vicinity of the landing place.

If we wish to be fanciful not in the sense that it doesn't fit all the facts but because our minds are completely unused to such concepts, we might say that just as we plan in some years hence to send a probe to some other planet to take a sample of the surface and return, so this might have been an interplanetary probe from elsewhere, which picked up its sample and went off! There is nothing in the facts that would contradict it, but I am sure that none of us here would accept that explanation without a great deal more corroborative evidence.

Herein the scientific investigator must differ from the UFO enthusiast, who jumps to conclusions and, largely because he wishes a thing to be so, he automatically adopts it as being so.

We still must address ourselves to the task of evaluating what the stimuli were that gave rise to the typical examples I have outlined to you. I should say, the typical "unknowns," since of course the most frequent stimuli for UFO reports are indeed perfectly familiar objects or phenomena that have been misidentified by the person making the report. We must remind ourselves again that a UFO is nothing more than any aerial sighting or phenomenon that remains unexplained long enough for someone to write a report about it. We have been dealing with the reports that continue to remain unexplained.

What can we say of such reports in general? Does the problem of the stimuli that generated such reports fall in the province of science? We must remind ourselves that science can progress only when phenomena are repeatable, exhibit a pattern, and particularly, when numbers can be assigned to the phenomena in the sense, for instance, of precise angular velocities, precise spectroscopic analysis of the light, detailed photograph evidence, and all of the many things that we have learned to associate with the progress of science. Science cannot logically be concerned with, for instance, religious miracles or indeed with any phenomena which are heterogeneous or singular. Let us suppose, for instance, that once every 100 years the earth were indeed visited, without fanfare, by interplanetary or interstellar beings. Unless all the paraphernalia of science were around at the time of the rare visit, that is, motion picture cameras, flood lights, spectroscopes, geiger counters, tape recorders, and at least 100 scientists who could cross-check on each other, the incident would be sure to be passed off as a figment of the imagination, an hallucination -- mass hallucination if your wish -- a hoax, or what have you. My point is that the visitation would have to be documented as no other human experience in order to be accepted.

And this quite rightfully so. If such visitations occurred much more frequently, say once a week in various parts of the earth, but occurred at random and without the presence of scientists and their apparatus, a thing like that could go on for dozens of years before a sufficient body of evidence and a sufficient pattern of behavior could be accumulated to be introduced into the court of science. We need remind ourselves only of the case of the meteorites to see that this is so. And the more "noise" in the background, the longer it would take to sift out a meaningful pattern. In the case of the UFO's we certainly do have our "signal" almost entirely emerged in "noise." It is well known to all how tricky it is to get a meaningful residue out of recorded "hash." The case of the radar reflections from Venus is the case in point: a formidable series of autocorrelation checks run on electronic computers was necessary to sift out mathematically the fact that in the total noise signal from Venus there was indeed very deep within it the faint radar echo.

We are faced with a similar problems, except that of course radar is an accepted phenomenon, Venus is known to be there, and the people in charge of the project were all highly reputable scientists of enviable past records. None of these conditions prevail in the matter of the UFO. We have not the slightest notion that "Venus" is there in our case, and it seems highly unprofitable to expend vast amounts of energy and the time of the scientists and engineers who might be more profitably employed otherwise, in attempting to find an answer to the question "What were the stimuli that gave rise to these reports?"

And yet when this "noisy signal" has been coming at us for the past dozen years at least and occasionally there seems to be a "blip" which rises well above the noise level, as in the case of some of the French sightings, one does indeed wonder whether the time has come to pay some attention to it. The role of the Air Force in the problem of the UFO in the past dozen years has been in line with its avowed mission, namely that of determining the potential hostility of any action in the air that cannot be immediately explained. Their verdict to date has been that whatever the stimuli for the unknown sightings may be, there is no indication of hostility. And since the great preponderance of the reports are easily explainable as misidentifications of common objects, it seems almost justifiable to extrapolate a bit and cover the remaining two or three per cent and say that if sufficient data had been available, those cases, too, would have fallen into the category of basic misidentification.

This seems a might safe thing to do, and might turn out to be correct; but from my own personal standpoint, as one who has had a fair amount of experience in these things, I will not be satisfied until sufficient investigation shows that this is indeed the proper explanation. I think you will agree that many of the reports would be most difficult to explain as misidentification. Yet to continue such researches place one on what General Chassin, general Air Defense Coordinator, Allied Air Forces, Central Europe, NATO, has called "the difficult path of research that is temporarily in disrepute." He has further stated that "true, the reported sightings include observations of meteorites and balloons, and even lies and dreams; that is why rigorous examination of reports is essential. But after all the examination and screening is finished, we still have a percentage of observations that stubbornly resist every conventional explanation. We can, therefore, categorically say that serious objects have indeed appeared and continue to appear in the sky that surrounds us."

His conclusion would be correct if he were dealing with phenomena that occur in any other field of human experience in law, in medicine, or in the many branches of the sciences. Evidence so well attested would certainly be accepted in court. But it is understandable why it cannot be as yet in the area in which we are dealing. We do need either a breakthrough here -- and a breakthrough would consist of one of more sightings that occurred in front of a battery of scientists and their instruments, and which sighting also produced copious amounts of hardware -- or we need a very careful and devoted study to the evidence already at hand, even recognizing that the signal-to-noise ratio is extremely low and, indeed, less than unity. At least, it appears to me that work should be done on testing some of the hypotheses that have been put forward in cases in which numerous witnesses were present and phenomenon lasted a reasonable length of time. It is, of course, very easy to say "mass hallucination." Under what circumstances does mass hallucination occur? To what sort of people does it occur? Do we have well attested cases of mass hallucination in which a dozen people, often independently, and often scattered over considerable geographic area, have been stimulated to make the same sort of report? Or, we certainly do know that we have mirages that can produce spectacular effects, particularly close to the horizon. But can a mirage travel from one end of the sky to the other, and play about for an hour or so? Tremendously unusual meteorological conditions would have to be predicated; we must at least ask whether such meteorological conditions existed at the times of such reports before we say that a mirage that looked like an unusual craft cavorted about the sky for a long period of time and was seen over several hundred square miles.

I have often stated in the past that the UFO problem, whatever it may be, is nonetheless a problem in public relations and that it presents to us an unparalleled opportunity to give science a boost in the popular mind by providing the opportunity for the demonstration of the application of the scientific method in action. A puzzling sighting occurs: what better service could we do to the public or to science than by showing how the scientists, in detective-like fashion, go about gathering their clues and drawing their demonstrable conclusions. I would like to point out that it is not in the spirit of science for an investigator either to do a sloppy job or to, apriori [sic], jump to a conclusion. He may be dead right, but in science conclusions are not arrived at by jumping; they are arrived at by a careful step-by-step analysis.

I would like to recommend, in concluding, that since the UFO problem has been with us for the past dozen years and is likely to remain for some time, certain selected reports (and at the risk of great repetition, let us remind ourselves that we are still talking solely about reports) be carefully chosen by a panel consisting not only of qualified physical scientists, but of a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a lawyer, and perhaps a prosecuting attorney, plus an educator, a public relations [Illegible], and a man of the cloth. Such a panel, operating without stigma or implied ridicule, could address itself to the task of the problem of report generation -- not in a study of flying saucers.

It appears to me that this would put things in a different light. I do not believe that anyone can doubt the importance to the armed services of an understanding of how "wild reports" get generated. For example, someday a report may get generated which will cause an ICBM to go flying across the ocean prematurely. Likewise, space surveillance on the part of the armed services is a rapidly growing concept. Certainly such surveillance crews must be informed on how reports of strange objects get generated, and, too, they must be aware of all types of natural phenomena -- astronomical, meteorological, and biological -- that in themselves can give rise to such reports. I emphasize again that such a panel would not concern itself with the UFO problem in general, but only with a few selected instances, and then entirely from the standpoint of a serious and calm study of the manner in which the report was generated. Such a study might well yield valuable data not only in psychology and public relations, but in adding to our knowledge of atmospheric optics, unusual meteorological occurrences, and the many facets of physics.

HYNEK'S THINKING about the problem would continue to evolve for the rest of his days, and he would become a leading proponent for serious scientific investigation of the phenomenon. After the close of the Air Force investigation in 1969, he went on to author two best sellers on the subject, and made an ill-fated attempt to organize a center for UFO studies.

But he also continued progressing in his professional life as well, and the degree of his scientific achievements -- both those already mentioned and those left unsaid -- are far too intricate to tackle herein. Suffice to say, he was a man of many accomplishments.

But not least among those accomplishments was his effect on people -- whether it be colleagues or a panicked public, and particularly on his students, who crowded into classrooms to hear him speak whenever they were able, the mutual affection between professor and student something striking and remarkable.

All of which makes it perhaps even more fitting that Josef Allen Hynek left this world in the same manner in which he arrived, during the century's second passage of Halley's comet, both comet and man leaving behind a brilliant streak of ephemeral light in their mighty wake, each unique and of its own kind.

go to comments on this entry


The Arrival

Whether you need some serious styling for your walls at home or work or are on the lookout to give someone a special gift they'll treasure forever, you support the work of Saturday Night Uforia whenever you shop for great posters from from any link at this site -- any, each, and every time you start your shopping from here. You still get the same great deal as your friends and family, but a little will be sent back our way as a thank you from And you'll have the extra satisfaction of directly supporting the work of Saturday Night Uforia while treating yourself or friends to something special... like any of these great sci-fi movie posters (you can even have them mounted, laminated, or framed). Just click on the pic for a larger version...

Cowboys and Aliens

Apollo 18


Aliens, 1986

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy




Giger's Alien


The X Files

Transformers 2- Revenge of the Fallen


Critters, 1985

War of the Worlds

Transformers 2 - Bumblebee

Terminator Salvation

Star Trek

Men In Black II

Alien vs Predator

2001: A Space Odyssey

The Quiet Earth, 1986

Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 1977


Termination Salvation -X

Independence Day

Men In Black

Alien, Italian Movie Poster, 1979

Blade Runner Japanese Style

Star Wars - Saga Collage

Star Wars- Return Of The Jedi

Star Wars

Forbidden Planet, Robby the Robot

Star Wars- The Empire Strikes Back

Invasion of the Saucer Men, 1957

Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, 1956

The Day The Earth Stood Still, 1951

Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, Swedish Movie Poster, 1956

Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, French Movie Poster, 1956

Teenagers From Outer Space, 1959

Robinson Crusoe on Mars, 1964

2001: A Space Odyssey, 1968

Devil Girl From Mars, 1955

Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, German Movie Poster, 1956

This Island Earth, 1954

Robinson Crusoe on Mars, 1964

Invasion of the Saucer Men, 1957

Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, 1956

The War of the Worlds, 1953

Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1978

The Day of the Triffids, 1963

The Phantom Planet, 1962

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


Image: Saturday

Image: Night

Image: Uforia

Saturday Night Uforia Copyright 2012 : All Rights Reserved