Today, we forget the incredible influence radio once had. Radio commentators such as Walter Winchell (and Frank Edwards) had their finger on America’s pulse, sometimes reporting the news, other times making it. They also did a lot to introduce and propel the UFO story. Winchell’s sensational show was printed as a newspaper column, and in this story from the July 7, 1947 San Jose News, he said, “The mystery of the ‘Flying Saucers’ is not new.” He went on to cite a recent book by R. DeWitt Miller, Forgotten Mysteries.
|San Jose News July 7, 1947|
|East Oregonian, July 17, 1947|
In his 1955 book, You Do Take It with You: An Adventure into the Vaster Reality, Miller discussed his entry into the saucer scene.
"fantastic facts... presenting them in mystifying array, much as Mr. Fort used to do. He is, in fact, a Fortean, and has been dogging the Great Doubter's footsteps for 15 years or more, accumulating a mass of pallid data on such things as the Devil's Footprints, death fogs, sea serpents and missing ships"The chapter, "Enigmas Out of Space," focused on strange aerial objects. Miller noted that there had been speculation strange sights in the sky might be the vehicles of interplanetary visitors:
"That conscious beings from other worlds have actually reached this earth and navigated our skies in space ships."The publicity gave Miller's career a boost, and he enjoyed a brief moment in the sun as the world's only saucer expert.
|The Oregonian, July 8, 1947|
Miller's book enjoyed the flying saucer spotlight, but only for a short while. Someone finally noticed that he cited Charles Fort as his inspiration. Loren Gross described the rediscovery of Fort:
It wasn't long before Walter Winchell was quoting R. DeWitt Miller but we know he could have done better than that. As it turned out an Associated Press reporter made the discovery in Chicago's Newberry Library. There the reporter claimed to have discovered a "rare unknown” book, the scarlet colored volume titled The Book of the Damned.
Thayer howled with laughter when he read about the “great discovery.” Awhile after this "discovery” the news agencies tracked Thayer and the Forteans to their lair to ask: "Who was this guy Fort?" And: "Can we quote such and such?" This was the high- point of the whole history of the Fortean Society and it was sad Fort himself was not alive to take a well-earned bow. (From UFOs: A History Vol. 1: 1947 by Loren Gross)
Fort had collected accounts of strange flying things and speculated that they were interplanetary, leading the way for Miller, Vincent Gaddis, Ray Palmer, Meade Layne and others. Fort died in 1932, and had little to do with the Fortean Society, which Tiffany Thayer created in his honor. Thayer kept the torch burning by publishing the Fortean Society’s Doubt magazine.
The First UFO Book- Sorta
|Fort provided the backstory!|
WALTER WINCHELL says: "The mystery of the flying saucers is not new, In Forgotten Mysteries R. Dewitt Miller offers two cases which perhaps will clear up the mystery."
|Weird Tales, May, 1950.|
Epilogue: Project Blue Book
The Air Force's Project Blue Book files have nothing of substance on R. Dewitt Miller's book, but it turns out that Miller had a UFO experience of his own, 1 Feb 1954, Puente California, an "Angel Hair-type case, and it includes a photo of the physical evidence. The file does mention Miller's book in passing.
The PBB files have more of substance on Charles Fort, indicating his books "were examined."
R. DeWitt Miller’s Forgotten Mysteries was also published under the title, Impossible Yet it Happened!