Friday, December 8, 2017

Lost UFO Films: Socorro and Frank Stranges

Frank E. Stranges & The Saucer Films That Time Forgot

The Reverend Frank E. Stranges passed on in 2008, but he is fondly remembered.
"No one knows this more than Dr. Frank E. Stranges. This erudite, holding degrees in Theology, Criminology and Psychology, has dedicated his life to the study of the Bible and other sacred texts in relationship to spiritual growth and understanding not only of our planet and its people, but also of those from other worlds." 
So says his bio/obit at ISUISDr. Stranges also made a few UFO film projects, but it's the missing ones that may matter the most. Here's a news item on his lecture promoting his UFO documentary Phenomena 7.7 from the Redlands Daily Facts (CA) March 5, 1965:
Saucers—Fact or Fiction ... announcing a lecture by Dr. Frank E. Stranges, president of the International Evangelism Crusades... Frank Stranges has just completed work on a color documentary film entitled, "Phenomena 7.7." It will be released to movie and television shortly... Versed in many fields of interest. Dr. Stranges will lecture on flying saucers. 
A review with details of the movie, from the Citizen Times (Cedar Rapids, Iowa,) July 13, 1966:
A Documentary on UFO's ...after 21 years of research Dr. Frank E. Stranges... has produced a UFO color documentary entitled "Phenomena 7.7.' The strange title comes from equally strange information... UFO sightings have been reported to the U.S. Air Force and of these, 7.7 per cent still remain' classified as "unknown... unidentified." Phenomena... is an interesting and well-put-together documentary. Its main purpose is to inform rather than alarm, but in some places it falls short of this goal. Included are concepts and explanations from a variety of newscasters and for interesting viewing but this attempt to cover all phases of the mystery appears to lack any scientific basis. Highlights of the film include impressive film clips and color stills of UFO's that never before have been presented to a public audience, and reports from scientists and military officials on their theories and observances. 

An advertisement in Understanding published by Dan Fry, Volume 11 Number 6, June 1966 made the film sound sensational:
PHENOMENA 7.7 ... DOCUMENTARY-70 Minute, Full Color Motion Picture
concerning . . . Unidentified Flying Objects
by Dr. Frank E. Stranges, Michael Musto, Capt. Merle S. Gould, Wm. F. Paul
... YOU WILL SEE Actual Motion Pictures of ‘Unidentified Flying Objects’ never before viewed by any public audience. If You Do Not believe in the existence of ‘Flying Saucers’ you owe it to yourself to see “PHENOMENA 7.7.” Hear profound statements from those who have actually seen Unidentified Flying Objects!
Lonnie Zamora and the scene of his sighting.

Documenting the Socorro Saucer

Phenomena 7.7 included a rare filmed segment on one of the most compelling unexplained UFO sightings of all time, the 1964 Lonnie Zamora encounter in Socorro, New Mexico. The documentary is of particular interest to UFO historians for its color photography of the witness and the landscape surrounding the sighting, relatively close to the date of the original events.

The film may also shed some light on later theories about the UFO sighting being a hoax. Debunker Phil Klass' speculation about Socorro Mayor Holm Bursum, Jr being part of a scheme to bring tourists to the town had some reality behind it. The town leaders were banking on the movie, Phenomena 7.7 to bring in the tourists. Project Blue Book files contain Dr. J. Allen Hynek's letter on his March 1965 Socorro visit, where he wrote that Sgt. Sam Chavez  told him, "Zamora did not want to be in the picture, but it was at the Mayor's insistence, via his boss, that he consented to do so. I can't quite believe this myself. When I talked to Zamora later, he seemed to be reasonably pleased about being in the move." A later passage tells of the film producers promise to the town's Mayor in (the Socorro El Defensor Chieftan)
March 9 issue has a story "Film Studios Praise Cooperation Here in Film on UFO's." The letter received from Mr. Michael Musto, a letter sent to Mayor Holm O. Burson, stated, "Phenomena 7.7 is now completed. It will be viewed by countless millions of people throughout the world. It will open the door to facts heretofore shrouded in secrecy. It will prepare the entire human race for a better knowledge of the universe and possible neighbors who may have been observing our earth for centuries."
The Alamogordo Daily News from April 25, 1965, stated, "Posters are being planned by the Chamber of Commerce for placement within Socorro businesses to alert tourists to the town’s claim to fame. A portion of a movie on UFO’s was filmed earlier this year at Socorro. Much of the town’s hope for additional tourist dollars is based on this film, which Empire Films Studio of Hollywood had planned to premier at Socorro soon." 

Sadly, the film did not get national distribution, so the tourism Socorro hoped for did not materialize. It was instead shown at Stranges' UFO lectures and in smaller venues. From the San Jose State College newspaper, the Spartan Daily for May 24, 1966:

NICAP, The Silence Group?

 The UFO Investigator, Nov./Dec. 1965
 In 2014, UFO historian Isaac Koi searched for information on the Stranges film. He shared the most detailed description of it at The UFO Collective, an article from The UFO Investigator from November/December 1965 by the National Investigations Committee On Aerial Phenomena, NICAP.  In 1965, Donald Keyhoe and NICAP had great influence, so it is possible their disapproval and condemnation of the film contributed its failure to reach a mass audience. The entire piece is reproduced below:

 Film '7.7' Disappointment 

In Vol. Il, No. 2, we announced that a documentary film built around the UFO landing at Socorro, N. M. in April 1964, would be released in 1965 and might have a strong impact because the AF has accepted the report by Socorro Police Officer Lonnie Zamora as genuine and has stated that he saw an "unknown vehicle." 

We regret that our expectations were not fulfilled. The Socorro case is treated, briefly no mention is made of the AF conclusion. Instead, the film has a commercial twist, showing motel and restaurant owners as highly pleased that so many tourists come to see the landing site. 

But this is not the worst. The film, we have learned, was produced by "Dr." Frank. Stranges, evangelist, who frequently uses contactee stories in platform discussions of UFOs. Several years ago, before NICAP knew of Stranges' activities, he became a NICAP member. Later, he claimed personal friendship with the director, though they had never met, and implied NICAP approval of his contactee reports. NICAP canceled his membership, returned his fee, and has disavowed any approval of his UFO claims. 

The 7.7 film (referring to the approximate AF percent of unsolved UFO cases) includes shots of various contactees, including Dan Fry, who claims a remote controlled flying saucer landed near him in the desert, took him aboard and flew him to New York; also George van Tassel, builder of a so-called 'rejuvenation machine', which allegedly resulted from information given him by outer space beings. Also appearing in the film is a shot of an attractively dressed blond busily taking notes - UFO connection not mentioned. NICAP representatives present said the press seemed more amused than impressed. 

But the most unfortunate angle is that the film is narrated by Los Angeles columnist George Todt, who has written many fine, factual columns supporting NICAPs investigation over a period of years. Mr. Todt has an excellent record in WW II; as a broadcaster and newspaperman; he has fought Communism, opposed suppression of UFO information and has crusaded for another important American objectives. We are sure that Mr. Todt was completely unaware of the producer's background or the nature of the film when he signed up as narrator. 

In the press showing mentioned, Empire Studios publicity men stated the narrator was the 'personal representative of Major Donald E. Keyhoe' implying approval of the film. Under the circumstances, NICAP must put these points on record: 
1. Neither NICAP nor the director was ever consulted about the film. 
2. When we first mentioned it, we did not know the producer. 
3. Although Mr. Todt has been a good friend to NICAP, and he served as a public relations adviser, he is not the personal representative of the director, and he has not been authorized to mention NICAP Or the director in regard to this film. 

We have heard '7.7' is being offered for TV use and we have informed network heads of the facts. 

If 'Phenomena 7.7' is scheduled at your local theater please show this statement to the manager and to newspaper film reviewers, to prevent NICAP's being untruthfully linked with this film.
- - -

The Vinyl Disc 

The 1966 record, Flying Saucers Unlimited, is listed as being based on the motion picture Phenomena 7.7, but seems to be mainly a recorded lecture of Frank Stranges. 
Flying Saucers Unlimited
The record seems to have reached more people than the film, and luckily it has been preserved. This link will allow you to hear it:

Television: Flying Saucers- Here and Now

Frank E. Stranges, as seen in a clip from the TV show, UFO
Frank Stranges also filmed a pilot episode in Chicago for an ambitious television series, Flying Saucers- Here and Now.

Flying Saucers International No 26, March 1968
It was a promising series, the premise was to base the show on the files of the late Frank Edwards, and the series name was taken from his second best-selling UFO book. Saucers were a hot property in the 1960s, and the trade magazines made note of the show's production.
Broadcasting, March 4, 1968
The May 1968 issue of Dan Fry's Understanding carried a notice about his part in the show:
Daniel Fry, Contactee
On March 26th our Founder-President, Dr. Daniel W. Fry, flew to Chicago for the filming of his particular contribution to a proposed TV series entitled "FLYING SAUCERS, HERE AND NOW."
This series is being produced by Mr. Cy Newman and hosted by Dr. Frank E. Stranges. It is expected the series will be a continuation of the Frank Edwards Program.
We alert you to check your TV programs for this program. Although neither dates nor TV affiliates have yet been announced it is "reported" that 34 stations have evidenced interest in the subject matter to be offered.

Other guests filmed were Carroll Wayne Watts and his wife, Rosemary from Loco, Texas. Watts was involved in a famous contact/abduction case that made headlines in early 1968. Flying Saucers- Here and Now, if it has survived, may be the only film recording of Watts' story, possibly valuable evidence in the study of abduction testimony.

Not everyone took the news well or was looking forward to the series. The MUFON Journal to-be, Skylook, in their May 1968 issue panned the show in advance.

Skylook, May 1968
Like Phenomena 7.7., the pilot for Flying Saucers- Here and Now was shown at Dr. Stranges' flying saucer lectures and conferences.

Spartan Daily (San Jose, CA) Nov. 16, 1970

What became of the films?

A TV Guide listing for early 1969 indicates the movie and TV pilot may have been edited together for at least one broadcast on KEMO-TV Channel 20; San Francisco, CA:

DOCUMENTARY TWENTY  [color] "Flying Saucers Here and Now.” A report on the UFO sightings 1952-1968, includes stills and film clips of the objects and and interviews with persons who saw them. Dr. Frank E. Stranges, head of the national investigations on UFO's, is the host.  
The next listing for the channel suggest the broadcast was 2 hours long.

Phenomena 7.7 was shown (perhaps for the lat time) at the 1971 Giant Rock convention in California, and James W. Moseley who was between Saucer News and Saucer Smear was there with Gray Barker , and Moselry reported on the scene, including a passage on Dr. Stranges' lecture and his film:

Saucers, Space & Science # 60, 1971 PDF at AFU
The last known showing of the TV pilot was described in the Valley News from Van Nuys, California, February 22, 1973:
Unidentified Flying Objects" will be the subject of the family night meeting of Boy Scout Troop 133 tomorrow at 6:30 o'clock at the Northridge United Methodist Church, 9650 Reseda Blvd., according to Scoutmaster Hal Holoter. Dr. Frank E. Stranges, international director of the National Investigations Committee on UFOs, headquartered in Van Nuys, will present a lecture titled "The World of UFOs." He will also show a portion of a color television series called "Flying Saucers -- Here and Now," with sound film showing actual UFO footage. 
Contacting the company that produced the television show revealed that they no longer had the pilot or any records about it. Dr. Stranges' National Investigations Committee on Unidentified Flying Objects still has a website, and it offers a few DVDs, but when contacted in 2012, said, they "only have orig 35 mm of Phenomena 7.7.  Sorry." It's possible then, that the film can be rescued from obscurity. There were no leads found on the fate of the television pilot.

There's a chance, though that someone reading this may own a copy of the documentaries and be prompted to share it so these films are not lost to UFO researchers and historians. If you have information on any of these films, please contact us at The Saucers That Time Forgot, and we will put in touch with capable archivists.  


  1. > Reverend Frank E. Stranges
    > Dr. Stranges

    A friend of mine gave a lecture in Toronto about five years ago that included a discussion of Stranges' titles and degrees. If I recall correctly, he couldn't find a single legit PhD. Most of the man's religious and law affiations were groups that merely sold memberships to any takers.

    Many of the details are in my friend's podcast.

  2. Further information on the production of a documentary that immediately preceded PHENOMENA 7.7 I believe is contained in a 50 page pamphlet that was published by Merle Gould who published The Cosmic Star newspaper out of Hollywood and who acted as producer/director for the film. The title of the film and the pamphlet was 'STRANGE SIGHTINGS' FROM OUTER SPACE and the pamphlet was co-written by Stranges and a man named Robert Park, the writer for this film and supposedly the film that you talk about which at that time was being tentatively titled "7%". On page 7 the pamphlet states that "His first dramatic feature picture-tentative titled "7%"; will go into production this summer or early fall. It will be produced by Dr. Frank Stranges."
    The booklet mainly profiles the different people who were involved in the production of the film including contactees Dan Fry, George Van Tassel, Carl Anderson, Gabriel Green and Michael X Barton along with some performers who make it sound as if at least part of the film consisted of dramatizations. The premiere of the film supposedly took place at the Hotel Continental, presumably in 1964. On page 39 it states that parties interested in showing the film are instructed to contact:
    P.O. Box 252
    Venice, Calif.
    which is the address for Frank Stranges' outfit in Southern California.
    Here's a picture of the cover:

    As a side note I was most interested in the 'Flying Saucers: Here and Now' project and the comment in Flying Saucers International that would indicate that Frank Edwards was originally planned to host it which would make sense since it was based on the title of his second 'Saucer book'. Given all of his experience in broadcast journalism and how good he was at presentation I could imagine how it might have been popular which gives more of a motivation as to why he may have been bumped off when he was that and some of the photographic material that he supposedly collected that journalist Bill Nelson describes in his 'Booktab' 'The UFO Conspiracy' which never made it into Edwards' final book.

    1. Thanks for this information and for your comments here and on other pieces. It's good to have feedback, and hear what kind of stories resonate with our readers.

      We're still hoping the Stranges film (re)surfaces, and soon.


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