Friday, April 6, 2018

Saucer Scares, 1954: Real Things Seen in the Skies

There is no doubt that many balloons of all sorts contributed to reports of flying saucers. General Mills was launching scientific experiments since 1947, but weather balloons had been aloft in the skies since the 1890s. There were also balloons being flown by the US government of of a more secret sort. Before spy planes and satellites took over the job, balloons were used by military intelligence to collect data on our enemies, and even as a means to distribute propaganda leaflets.
Some of these balloon flights, covert or otherwise were reported by witnesses as unidentified flying objects.

The Times News (Idaho) ran a story on April 20, 1950:
Wyoming Ranch Hand Discovers- "Saucer" Unreal
Other papers used headlines for the same story such as: "Western Flying Disc Turns Out To Be A Balloon" and "Cowpuncher Finds 'Flying Saucer' Just Navy Balloon"
DOUGLAS. Wyo.. April 30 (UP)— A Wyoming cowpuncher thought he had latched onto a real flying saucer but learned the object was merely a balloon for measuring cosmic rays. Ranch Hand Everett Fletcher sighted the object In the sky 32 miles north of here and followed it to the ground. "It scared me," he said. "I thought it was an honest-Injun saucer.” Stamped on a nameplate was 'This scientific apparatus is the joint property of the US. Navy and the University of Minnesota.” A telephone call to Minneapolis  identified the ball as a  navy instrument apparently used for measuring cosmic rays."Don't open it," a navy officer warned. "Don't fool with the thing. Ship it here Immediately." The air force and other defense agencies have said repeatedly their investigations have found no evidence on the existence of so-called “flying saucers.” 

Saucer Scares: 1954

Holland Evening Sentinel, May 26, 1954 

Jefferson City, MO Daily Capital News June 2, 1954

 Mckinney Daily Courier Gazette June 3, 1954

The Army's Flying Saucers

The Yuma Sun July 3, 1954 carried a feature, "Test Weather Station Bureau Operates Around the Clock." As an aside, it mentioned that the Army  balloon launches were sometimes mistaken for flying saucers.

BALLOON OR FLYING SAUCER? — Many re­ports of flying saucers across the country have actually been these Army weather balloons, shown in closeup here with Pvt. Robert F. Kennedy (left) and Lt. John Schwartz. The two weathermen are inflating; the white six-foot rub­ber balloon which may go as high as 20 miles above the earth.  

READY TO FLY — All the  recording data goes up into the stratosphere in the little radio boxheld here by Pvt. John Schwartz (right). Pvt. Robert F. Kennedy and Sgt. Gerald Levy pre­pare to launch the balloon. (Meteorology photos: all U.S. Army photos by Pfc. Paul Caponigro).
Note: No, this was a different Robert F. Kennedy, not the politician, but the Army photographer Paul Caponigro became famous, when he turned to other subjects after leaving the service, and has made a success of it.

THAR SHE BLOWS — Taking off on its 20-mile-high flight, the rubber weather balloon, filled with hydrogen, is released in the Research and Development area at Yuma Test Station. A radio transmitter hanging from the balloon keeps the ground crew informed of its where­abouts at all times.

Reports of Strange Craft from Outer Space 

Lowell Massachusetts had a population of 95,000 in 1954, and about 275 of their citizens made phone calls to the newspaper one August night to report an unidentified flying object.
Lowell, MA Lowell Sun, Aug 19, 1954
A voice of authority always helps to calm things down. Harry A. Bullis, General Mills' chairman of the board, was quoted to explain the strange things seen in the skies.

Bakersfield Californian Oct. 5, 1954

Cedar Rapids Gazette Oct. 17, 1954

As aerospace technology advanced,  the dependence on balloons for scientific experiments  diminished. Likewise, satellites and planes eventually eliminated the need for so many spy balloons. 
What happened to those who had so dutifully worked to construct these magnificent balloons? Some must have been assigned to other duties, but undoubtedly some were out of a job.
. . .

For further reading on balloons as UFOs, and the associated controversy, see: 
Exotic Balloons and the UFO Phenomenon – An Intertwined Puzzle by Joel Carpenter.

Friday, March 23, 2018

UFOs, Weather Balloons and Witnesses

Weather balloons were nothing new in the 1940s, and had been flying since the 1890s without causing much trouble - until the flying saucer fever of the 1940s. 

(Photo by Metropolitan News, 1935)
Pilot R. J. McNown of Northwest Airlines, watching Betty Burt release the 10,000th balloon for the Weather Bureau at the Chicago Municipal Airport, while government meteorologist E. D. Knarr prepares to follow the balloon's flight through the Theodolite instrument. 

In March 1953, Captain Edward Ruppelt prepared "Project Blue Book Special Briefing For Air Command," a lecture on the status quo of the Air Force's UFO investigation.  It included balloons in a section discussing common generators of false saucer reports. Some sightings were indeed balloons, but an AF study showed that during two months of peak "saucer fever," only about 14.5% of balloons launched had generated UFO reports.  
Project Blue Book Special Briefing For Air Command (Fold3)
The following is a collection of news clippings from 1952-3. All these flying saucers reports were explained as balloons - before being reported to the Air Force.

Dubuque Telegraph Herald Oct. 24, 1952
Radiosonde balloon release. U.S. Army photo
What these stories can tell us is that these Identified Flying Objects-to be can sometimes generate some reports with some unearthly sounding characteristics.

Jefferson City News and Tribune Nov.16, 1952

Clovis News-Journal, Nov. 16, 1952
1952 Radiosonde launch. Bracknell, Berkshire UK
Morning Avalanche Jan. 28, 1953

Bakersfield Californian, Jan. 31, 1953

In a follow-up piece, we'll take a look at the reports and excitement from what was flying in 1954.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Earth vs the Flying Saucers: Airboy #88, June 1951

Airboy #88, June 1951 features a little-known UFO story, "The Great Plane From Nowhere!" The 13-page story features no credits, but it's believed 
to be illustrated by Ernest Schroeder. You don't need to know much to get started. Adventurer Davy Nelson, aka Airboy, was the son of an aviator. His miraculous plane was named Birdie. In our summary we've renamed some of the characters just for fun.

The story begins with Professor George Adamski observing a spaceship from his observatory in atop Mount Palomar, California.

Captain Thomas Mantell is sent in pursuit of the object, but it is too high.

Airboy is called in by the Pentagon, and after they modify Birdie for the high altitude flight, he approaches the strange high-flying craft. He's pulled into it. Abducted!

Airboy becomes the first Contactee. He learns they fly the saucers and have come here after a natural disaster destroyed their world. Their ship is a flying city, Argus. He has been chosen to deliver a message to our world from the visitors, that they come in peace and are bearing gifts.

After the nations of the world decide to welcome the people of Argus, a landing site is chosen and Argus begins to descend. Earth's fleet of planes sent to escort them, but without warning or explanation, Earth attacks!

Airboy sides with Argus and gives them military advice on how to use their unarmed saucers to defend against the military aggression of the people of Earth. 

Argus is saved. Perhaps realizing that 1950s Earth was not ready to accept extraterrestrial immigrants wearing dresses, the people of Argus make other plans. Airboy goes back home, but we aren't shown the consequence of him siding with the aliens. All's well that ends well.

This story was published in 1951, a year before George Adamski's Nov. 20, 1952 close encounter with Orthon from Venus, another benevolent visitor here to share wisdom, peace and knowledge from beyond.

The full story is online at Comic

Friday, March 2, 2018

Explosive Tendencies: Fireball or Flying Saucer? Oct. 17, 1952

1952 was the year that put flying saucers on the map, but it was so busy that many reports were never investigated by Project Blue Book. The morning of October 17, 1952, a brilliant flash was seen in the sky in parts of Louisiana and Mississippi, and reports from witnesses came in of a mysterious fireball zig-zagging in the air, or an exploding airplane, or an attacking flying saucer.

The event made news, especially in the two states where it had been seen. From the Mississippi coverage:
The Daily Herald (Biloxi, MS), Oct. 17, 1952

On the Louisiana side of the Mississippi River, about 30 miles north of Natchez. Miss.. Deputy Sheriff Rosy Massony of Tensas Parish said "an awful jar shook windows in St. Joseph and Waterproof." The Tensas Parish sheriff's office is in St. Joseph. "Some of our boys told us pots and pans were rattled in kitchen shelves" Massony said. Massony said others who said they saw the flash were two Negroes driving an early morning grocery truck near St. Joseph. They said they stopped the truck when it looked as if the fireball was heading toward them. Massony said they ducked under the dashboard. In New Orleans an airport porter declared "the flying saucer" chased him to the sea wall.
Meanwhile, the meteorite had the spotlight. Radio Station KALB at Alexandria. La., said it had received reports from over Louisiana of an explosion or flash. One person told the station that he heard an explosion that "sounded like the blowing of a safe," and another said there was a "blue vapor trail" at about 14,000 feet. Sounded a bit like flying saucer stuff! 

Coverage of the story varied, depending on the information each paper had at the time the story went to press or the editor's appetite for sensationalism. 
The Orange Leader October 17, 1952

October 17, 1952 The Monroe News-Star from Monroe, Louisiana

The earliest story to get a good handle of the facts was from Alexandria, Louisiana.
The Louisiana Alexandria Daily Town Talk, October 17, 1952 - Page 1

Identify Mystery Light
Meteorite In Southern Sky Stirs Frenzy
Meteorite Excites Dixieland. A brilliant flash appeared in southern skies early today and authorities, here probably was caused by a meteorite. The bright light was seen by witnesses as far away as Shreveport, in the north- west, of Louisiana; and another report came from an air-line pilot who said he saw the flash while flying 50 miles north of Mobile, Ala. Buildings were reported lightly shaken at Natchez and Summitt, Miss. A long-distance operator in Jackson, called to ask if there were any reports of an explosion said the aerial explosion occurred about 4:10 a.m., approximately the same time buildings trembled in the two Mississippi cities. Persons saw the flash In Louisiana felt no concussion, however, and police said no sound was reported. 
Dr. Joseph F. Thompson, associate professor of astronomy and mathematics at Tulane University, said "the phenomenon probably caused by a meteorite" with "explosive tendencies." Dr. Thompson explained "burn up when they enter, the atmosphere and terrific heat stirs up inside the meteor core, When these gases certain temperature, their pressure can be enough to explode the meteor, causing terrific brightness." 
Local descriptions of the fireball varied from "it sounded like someone blowing a safe" to a report from Overton street where a woman reported she thought "the moon done slipped." C. Dupuy, of Poland, said a "light of great intensity" flashed over the area about 15 miles high. He said the light was so bright "I could have picked up a pin off the floor." Mrs. W. T. Franklin of Alexandria said she saw the trail of light near an explosion. The blast was followed by smoke-like colored rings, she reported. Other residents in the area reported seeing the flash and "colored smoke rings" in the sky after the fireball disappeared. Mr. and Mrs. Roy Caubarreaux, of Cocoville, between Marksville and Mansura, said they were awakened by the bright light. 


Once the facts were in, the excitement died down, but the story had a last gasp, as a treasure hunt for meteorites.
The Greenville, MS Delta Democrat-Times, Oct. 22, 1952

As with so many of the most interesting UFO cases featured here at The Saucers That Time Forgot, Project Blue Book has no file on this incident.

Friday, February 23, 2018

A Flying Cucumber Comes to Kansas, Sept. 1954

Before the term UFO for Unidentified Flying Object took hold, every flying weird thing was called a Flying Saucer - at least by the newspapers. John Jacob Swaim, though only age twelve, was found to be credible. He reported seeing a "cucumber ship," but also referred to it as a "saucer." What makes the story more remarkable is that Swaim the sighting included a small humanoid, and the fact that physical traces- tiny foot prints- were left behind to be examined by authorities.

First, the story as discussed in The Belleville Telescope from Belleville, Kansas, November 11, 1954.

A story appearing in the September 8 issue of the Wichita Eagle by Don Pinkston, reporter, concerning a 12-year-old Coldwater boy, John Jacob Swaim seeing a "flying saucer and a little man" was sent to The Telescope by Mrs. Clara Blakeloy of Scandia, a great-aunt of the boy. The boy's story seemed to be backed up by odd-looking footsteps found in the farm field of his father, John Swaim, the next morning by the county sheriff and other spectators. The news story indicates that John Jacob's "little man, and the saucer he flew away in. is the biggest topic of conversation in Coldwater and the surrounding community these days." Mrs. John Swaim, the boy's mother, is a niece of Mrs. Blakeley. More people read the Telescope than any other paper in North Central Kansas
Here's the story that had them talking:

Hutchinson News, Herald KS, Sept 15, 1954
On the editorial page of the Arkansas City Traveler, where it was noted that a Government investigation of the incident was unlikely. They close the article by defining their policy on printing saucer stories, "The reader is left to judge for himself..."

The Arkansas City Traveler, Sept. 20, 1954

Often misspelled as "Swain" in the few places that mention the sighting.

Gray Barker later covered the Swaim sighting story in Saucerian #6, Spring 1955, pages 12-13

The Lincoln Star coverage had the most detailed description of the unusual small footprints found at the sighting scene of this early close encounter of the third kind.
The Lincoln Star, Sept. 24, 1954

Another Cucumber

Project Blue Book has no file on this incident, however their files do carry a report on an earlier flying cucumber- one carried on the roll as "unidentified," Incident #252, dated  27 Jan 1949:  

Witness sketch by Capt. Sannes, USAF
A UFO sighting by a military witness AF Captain Eckerman Sannes and his wife Dorothy, between Cortez and Braderton, Florida.

Are these two cucumbers connected or coincidence? "The reader is left to judge for himself..."

Friday, February 9, 2018

Operation Hush-Hush: The UFO Crash and ET Bodies Cover-Up

Frank Scully was a Hollywood gossip columnist, with "Scully's Scrapbook" dishing up tinseltown gab for Variety magazine. Scully was also a respected reviewer of literature and wrote a few books of his own. In 1949, he published two Variety columns on the discovery of flying saucers (Aztec) and a follow-up piece Jan. 11, 1950 with 20 questions he thought the Air Force should answer, accusing the US Government of covering things up.
Those columns laid the foundation for what is arguably, the most influential book in UFO history, Behind the Flying Saucers, the original story of the cover-up of small alien bodies retrieved from captured UFOs in New Mexico. The tale also featured other elements that would later resurface in the resurrection and expansion of the story of the saucer debris taken to Roswell, such as the recovery and scientific examination of the spaceship's strange light metal, advanced technology and the dead aliens it contained.

The saucer story itself was thin, barely fleshed out from Scully's sketchy columns, but he added details about how oilman Silas Newton had heard about the discs from the mysterious magnetic research scientist Scully called "Dr. Gee," and there was extensive discussion of how the saucers were constructed on the "System of Nines," and flew using magnetic propulsion. Newton was interested in using that alien magnetic technology to detect oil, and that would come to play an important role in his future.
Silas Newton and Frank Scully
There were no verifiable details or evidence presented to prove the saucer tale, but then Scully said the Pentagon had it all, concealed by "Operation Hush-Hush." The book also featured a lot of padding or filler, including quotes from early news flying saucer stories, titled, "The Post-Fortean File 1947-1950," ironically, ultimately the most genuine and valuable part of the volume.

Scully secured a lucrative deal with major hardcover book publisher, Henry Holt and Co., whereas Donald Keyhoe's book was merely a paperback by Fawcett's Gold Medal Books. Behind the Flying Saucers became an international bestseller, a hit in hardcover and in paperback reprints. Here's a collection of items by (and on) Scully that didn't make it into his book.

Toledo Blade, Sept. 25, 1950

Variety: Scully’s Scrapbook, May 10, 1950
Frank Scully claimed he was surprised by being asked to make a premature disclosure about his UFO book. It was on May 6, 1950, at a banquet hosted by Hollywood screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewcz was at Ciro’s in Los Angeles:
Then Mank threw me to the Lions... grabbed the mike and said I was writing a book on flying saucers and he was sure the Columbia alumni would rather hear about that more than anything else.  
So l had to violate my oath of office and talk for 15 minutes, striving desperately not to tell these diners anything of the sort. Surely Mank must have known that the first rule of a hep literati is, “Don’t tell it, sell it!” In the second place, why should I go to jail for Telling All before I get the book out? And in the third place, I’ve noticed only too often that people who get it through their ears never bother to get it through their eyes. Besides, if Henry Holt & Co. knew I was going around talking about this book instead of writing it; they’d slug me with a flying saucer, magnetically directed to hit me right where it would hurt most; which at this moment, due to millions of units of penicillin injections that read like a Truman budget, Would be right where I’d like it least. 
So these are some of the reasons I dummied up and wouldn’t talk about “Behind the Flying Saucers” (July, 1950, $2.75 all bookstores).
Variety, Nov. 22, 1950

Variety: Scully's Scrapbook, Nov. 22, 1950
Scully toots his own horn by reprinting an interview he'd given with a local paper.
(Full text below clipping.)
Scully's Scrapbook, Variety, Nov. 22, 1950
Scully’s Scrapbook
By Frank Scully
College Inn, Nov. 17. 
Among the sea of letters, clippings and exhibits, which have all but swamped Bedside Manor since I became the Saucerian ambassador (without portfolio) to the Pentagon, 98% have been favorable. Some of the best have come from those between the ages of 14 and 30. In fact in a coming issue of Pageant I am printing one from a 14-year-old 
amateur astronomer. But the best has just come from a 20-year-old student specializing in music at DePaul University, Chicago. 

His name is Richard Wyszynski. I realize that such a name more properly belongs in a Notre Dame backfield but this boy was fast, too. He chased me over half of Chicago and cornered me at the Bismarck hotel just when I was trying to get away from it all by catching a revival of vaude at the RKO Palace. I even offered to settle by taking him to the show and shelve the interview. But he said he could catch the show any time and wouldn’t take long to get his story because he had his questions all typed out. 

He was true to his word, and later we caught Belle Baker, whose son I understand is a nut on flying saucers; Smith and Dale, Frank Paris and others— a grand bill and a full house. 

Frankly I never expected to hear from Richard the Lion Hearted again but in the current DePaulia his piece is printed, and if Readers Digest can reprint the cream of the crop, why can’t I? Here then is the Scully Award for the Best Reporting of 1950: 

Frank Scully’s Theories on Flying Saucers 

By Richard Wyszynski 

Last year about this time, a man named Frank Scully wrote in his column in Variety that flying saucer had been dismantled and investigated. Since that time, Scully, an elderly gray-haired man who moves along at a spirited clip and talks in a low strong voice, has had his book “Behind The Flying Saucers” (On which he has been working since 1947) published and brought before the public. The book has risen from 13th to 4th place among the nation’s reading, but several areas in the country remain aloof from the book, and that’s why Scully was shuffled into Chicago, a few weeks ago, which also provided the fortunate opportunity for this private interview, coincidentally exactly a year after his first saucer article appeared in Variety. 

For those unacquainted with the lore of the airborne ovals, I might explain that Scully, along with Donald Keyhoe, Commander Robert McLaughlin U.S.N. (now serving sea duty) and 5% of the nation’s populace (according to Gallup, May 22, 1950) thoroughly believes that saucers are guided interplanetary space ships. 
Scully differs from his contemporaries in favoring Venus as the home planet of the discs and embracing magnetic force as the means of the ships’ propulsion. According to this theory, these ships ride on or across magnetic lines of force of which there are 1,257 to the square centimeter throughout the universe. In his book, Scully explained the instances of the mysterious lecturer at the University of Denver who amazed the students with his information on saucers, and also proclaimed that of all the saucers which landed here, none remain intact, although various parts of these missiles were hurriedly recalled by Washington from official personnel who had ransacked the saucers. The book also contained a detailed explanation of magnetic forces and a history of the antagonistic struggle between the Air Force and saucer-writers. 

When the book came out, it caused a lot of “backstage screaming” and one friend of Scully’s said: “Somebody in the Pentagon is going to have a hemorrhage.” When Scully wrote that valuable parts of the grounded saucers had been carelessly taken by personnel as souvenirs, the Air Force made a hasty summons for all disc equipment not in their possession. The Pentagonians, however, still ignored the twenty direct questions Which Scully fired at them in Variety and in his book (and in several newspapers which reprinted the article), although the Rosenwald Museum in this city took the trouble to refute any reports of an exhibit of a Venusian corpse in its display dealing with the growth of the human body. 
The Airforce fears 1) panic 2) revelation of military secrets if they let out all their data on saucers, they could reveal only that information which would not endanger national security, but Scully doesn’t accredit them with the necessary intelligence to do this. He also believes that secrecy-for-security-s’il-vous-plait requests from Washington have stifled any available reports from men stationed at Palomar, world’s most powerful telescope. 

Venusians Curious 

Scully’s train of thought on our global neighbors runs along these lines: the Venusians, maintaining the quality of curiosity, sent their reconnaissance force to investigate the atomic detonations of the past five years. There have been only two instances of hostility: the scattering of Captain Mantell’s body and F-51 over the Fort Knox countryside after a high and hot pursuit of a flying saucer, and the head-on crash challenge offered to Lt. George Gorman after his 27-minute dogfight with a disc above Fargo, North Dakota. (At the last moment, Gorman decided not to risk his skull on something so weird and relinquished the chase) Scully believes that the Venusians of the grounded saucer died not because they couldn’t maintain level flight over our magnetic fault zones, but because they hadn’t mastered the means of safe disembarkation into the atmosphere of this planet. The difference in gravitation between Venus' and Terra may account for the Venusian’s small, but proportionally accurate, sizes. 

Scully also affirmed three statements, to the effect that: 1, The mysterious lights sighted over Sweden for such a long period of time shortly after World War II were probably caused by fractures of magnetic forces of flying saucers. (The Aurora Borealis is an example of resplendent light caused by “fractures” of magnetic disturbances). 2. The United States of America has a defense weapon utilizing magnetic force. 3. Scientists, in their highly developed work with this secretive power of destruction, are actually defending the country more effectively than the Air Force, which should be considerably distressing to Major Alexander P. DeSeversky. 

States Disgust for National Officials 
Frank Scully is thoroughly disgusted with the foibles of inefficient officials stationed in the nation’s capital throughout past several decades; he stated that if he would’ve been president at Woodrow Wilson’s time, this country would’ve been saved a lot of trouble.
Scully likes to to “work out in the open” and that is just what he is doing in his book. He compares himself to a writer in the 15th century revealing the facts of modern civilization and being subject to the condemnation of the people of the time. His work is not that of a theorist, nor of a scientist, nor even of a witness, of a flying saucer; he is strictly a reporter trying to do his job as he sees fit and finding it to be a pretty rough task.

And in trying to separate the fact from the fantasy, if what Scully reports is all wet, why is the Pentagon so perturbed ... why has Scully’s phone been tapped for the last three years? And if this data turns out to be completely authentic, cannot the American people extend their concept of existence past the barriers of this globe and into the universe? Perhaps it is as Mr. and Mrs. Scully both said to me: “They don’t believe in them because they're scared. We seem to be scared of practically everything these days.
- - -

De Flygande Tefaten and The Journal of a Flying Saucerian

In 1952, Billboard magazine reported that Frank Scully's book was being circulated all over the world, and he was working on a second UFO volume, to be titled, "The Journal of a Flying Saucerian."

Billboard Aug. 6, 1952

Billboard Aug. 20, 1952

Billboard makes a mention of the debunking of Scully's Behind the Flying Saucers. It was published in True magazine's September, 1952 issue, an article by J.P. Cahn titled, "'The Flying Saucers and the Mysterious Little Men." It exposed the story as a hoax and ultimately put crashed saucer stories out of business until the 1970s. For more on J.P. Cahn's article and the follow up, see debunker Robert Sheaffer's page, The Frank Scully "Crashed Saucer" Hoax (1950).

The influence of Silas Newton's saucer tale and Scully's book is incredibly far-reaching, and we'll return to other facets of the story in future installments here at The Saucers That Time Forgot.

Saucer Scares, 1954: Real Things Seen in the Skies

There is no doubt that many balloons of all sorts contributed to reports of flying saucers. General Mills was launching scient...