Thursday, May 5, 2022

The U.S. Government's Policy on UFO Hoaxes

Why aren't UFO hoaxers sent to jail? Making false reports to law enforcement agencies is a punishable offense but hoaxing a UFO is not a crime under any known local, state, or federal statute. Even if it was, the United States Air Force has never had law enforcement jurisdiction except on their own bases and installations. Project Blue Book was given the job to investigate UFOs including reports from civilians, but there was a policy preventing them from exposing hoaxers. 

Our investigation began while pondering a statement from the Department of Defense’s Office of Public Information (OPI). Pan American pilot Captain Bill Nash was a witness and UFO advocate with questions for the Air Force. In a reply dated July 16, 1954, Captain Robert C. White replied saying:

"As stated in the enclosed fact summary, it is contrary to our policy to identify hoaxes in order to avoid embarrassing innocent parties."

From UFOs: A History 1954 June-August Supplemental Notes by Loren E. Gross, page 30.

The reprint of the letter didn’t not include the “Fact Summary,” so the hunt was on. The Air Force UFO files mainly concentrate on their investigations, not policy, but a few examples were found. The following material is best viewed as exhibits in an evidence folder. Not a comprehensive collection, a folio of some of the key suspects and prime offenders.   


The 1949 Flying Saucer Cover-Up 

Project Blue Book files contain a report from Nov. 3, 1949, about the Air Force’s investigation of Mikel Conrad’s UFO story. Conrad starred and directed in the film The Flying Saucer and he promoted it with the claimed that it featured real footage of a real saucer filmed in Alaska. 

The Pittsburgh Press, Sept. 18, 1949

When questioned, Conrad admitted it was to promote the movie, “not a reality.” The reports stated that Conrad asked them not to reveal “the fact that the saucer is a hoax,” which would hurt its take at the box office. They agreed. “OSI had no interest in his picture, since he had not actually sighted any unconventional object in the sky.” 

By the early 1950s, the Air Force estimated that less than 2% of UFO reports were due to hoaxes, but the phonies caused a disproportionate amount of effort to investigate. A review of the UFO cases listed in Project Blue Book files shows that the hoax label was most often applied to cases where photos or alleged UFO physical material were determined to be false. Many of the cases without physical evidence were evaluated as “Insufficient Evidence,” or Psychological.” The USAF developed a policy that no matter what the nature of the report, the names of witnesses were to be kept confidential.


The Public Disclosure of the USAF Hoax Policy

Science Service Staff Writer Allen Long interviewed an unnamed spokesman for the Air Force on the saucer issue for a Oct. 12, 1953, syndicated newspaper article. (Later reprinted as Science Digest Jan. 1954, "The Air Force Looks at 'Saucers'" and in Great Adventures in Science, 1956.) Long wrote:

“… the mystery apparently is made to grow deeper by an Air Force policy of not discrediting a person or organization. ...If the experts conclude that the sighter had hallucinations or that he deliberately concocted a hoax, the Air Force remains silent rather than discredit the person who turned in the report. No official statement is issued saying the sensational sighting was bunk. 

This assures the Air Force that other persons will continue turning in legitimate reports without fear of other persons will continue turning in legitimate reports without fear of public ridicule. It also means the Air Force will continue receiving a certain number of red herrings.” 

As reprinted in  in Great Adventures in Science, 1956.

 A few months later, this policy acknowledged in an official disclosure. The "Fact Summary" sent to Capt. Nash mentioned in our opening was actually the "Fact Sheet" issued in late 1953 (reprinted as “Plenty Going on in the Skies” in US News & World Report Jan. 1, 1954) which stated:

"The names of the persons involved in the sightings are withheld in respect of their privacy. They are free, however, to say what they please." 
[And three paragraphs later,] Although hoaxes comprise but a small percentage of total reports, some of them prove to be the most, sensational and the most publicized. However, to insure that the Air Force will not embarrass individuals or groups who are sincere in their beliefs or who may be victims of such hoaxes, the facts brought out in the investigations of these false reports are generally not made public. Unfortunately, this policy has often given the erroneous impression that the Air Force is deliberately denying or withholding. information which, if revealed, would prove the existence of ‘saucers'." 

US News & World Report Jan. 1, 1954

Captain Edward J. Ruppelt

In 1951, Captain Edward J. Ruppelt took over as head of the UFO investigation by the U.S. Air Force, and in 1956 wrote a book, The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects

In the foreword he stated:

“In many instances I have left out the names of the people who reported seeing UFO's, or the names of certain people who were associated with the project, just as I would have done in an official report. …This policy of not identifying the ‘source,’ to borrow a term from military intelligence, is insisted on by the Air Force so that the people who have co-operated with them will not get any unwanted publicity.”

Ruppelt’s personal files included material used in the preparation of his book, and a few of them shed light on the policy. Ruppelt got into hot water over a hoax accusation in 1952.

Shell Albert - Sunday Herald Aug 3, 1952

Seaman Shell R. Alpert supposedly photographed four UFOs above the Coast Guard Air Station at Salem, Massachusetts, on July 16, 1952. The New York World-Telegram and Sun reported on July 30, 1952, “Without questioning anyone’s integrity, Capt. Ruppelt said his first impression was the picture is a fake. He said the alleged saucers appear to have been painted in.” The Blue Book card for the case selected the box, “Unknown,” with comments stating, “open to doubt.” The monthly case listing booked it as “Unidentified.”

Ruppelt’s notecard on the Shell Albert case:


Coast Guard - I got into trouble on these. I said that I thought they were fakes. The CG didn’t like it. The photo lab didn’t believe that they were kosher because of the highlights. They were missing from the cars. They set up lights on the building and got highlights from them.”

Specific to hoaxers, there were two notecards, one by hand, one typed, with nearly identical comments. 

Very few hoaxes, about 2%. They are usually elaborate and draw a lot of attention. The press helps out a lot in digging them out. Some cost the government a lot because of investigations or because they 'kick off' other reports. I wanted to really slap somebody. Photos are biggest hoaxes. Difficult to prove it unless the person admits it.”

The typed version included another line: "We are stymied because we can't give it away." 

1957: Public Accusations

Sometime in 1957, the new Blue Book head, Captain George T. Gregory, prepared a lecture for the Air Technical Intelligence Center, “The UFO Program.” In the brief section on “Hoaxes,” Gregory said, “Public relations must be maintained; we cannot, nor do we desire to initiate legal charges.” 

During the 1957 flap, the Air Force was bombarded by UFO reports, and Project Blue Book was busy trying to investigate and explain them. 

The Nov. 15, 1957, Department of Defense press release presented the Air Force’s “evaluation of recent Unidentified Flying Objects reports.” They made an unusual policy exception of labelling James Stokes’ and Reinhold Schmidt’s stories as a hoax, but did not name the men, just identified the incident locations: 

Alamogordo, New Mexico: "EVALUATION: Hoax, presumably suggested by the Levelland, Texas ‘reports.’" 

Kearney, Nebraska: “Investigation revealed that local officials consider originator wholly unreliable… EVALUATION: Hoax…”

See pages 16 &17 of UFOs: A History 1957 Nov. 13th-30th by Loren Gross. Information from the DOD was used in newspaper stories.

The Plain Speaker, Hazleton, Pennsylvania, Nov. 16, 1957,

More 'Objects' Reported In Region; Air Force Discredits Space Stories

The Rocket from Russia 

While not a typical UFO case, the following incident provides insight into how the Air Force usually dealt with hoaxers. On Oct. 29, 1957, Angelus Crest Hwy, California, a man made a phony Russian missile as a prank on his boss, but it went out of bounds when the authorities were called in. The man confessed and the investigator agreed not to expose hoaxer’s identity. Blue Book discussed featuring the case on a television show program along with other examples of hoaxes.

San Bernardino Sun, Oct. 31, 1957

The Air Force was taking a harder line with hoaxers and bluffed on a television show to deter hoaxers. The Armstrong Circle Theatre “UFO: Enigma of the Skies,” was broadcast live on January 22, 1958, and Colonel Spencer Whedon, Chief of the Air Technical Intelligence Center (ATIC) implied committing a UFO hoax was a federal crime:

“The important thing here is that this type of hoax besides being a violation of federal law, is a rather expensive joke. A single UFO investigation may well cost the government $10,000.”

The Hector Quintanilla Years

Hector Quintanilla came in as Blue Book head in 1963. During his tenure, the policy of not prosecuting hoaxer continued, but he was more active in exposing them publicly.

In The Skywrighter (Dayton, Ohio) April 15, 1966, TSgt. David N. Moody was interviewed about his retirement from Project Blue Book. On the topic of UFO hoaxes Moody said, “The Air Force has no means to take action against perpetrators. That it’s a matter for civil authorities.”

Dr. J. Allen Hynek echoed that impotency in a report dated June 4, 1968, to Blue Book chief, Lt. Colonel Quintanilla. Discussing Carroll Wayne Watts' claim that a hypnotist had manipulated him into hoaxing a UFO story, Hynek said (emphasis added):

"One of the original reporters called up, quite incensed, and asked whether I couldn’t get the Air Force to prosecute the hypnotist for unethical practices, etc., for having made a dupe of [Mr. Watts] and subjected him to public ridicule. I told him that first of all the Air Force did not prosecute in such cases, and that furthermore in such lawsuits it is the injured party who brings suit and that I hardly felt that the Air Force or I had been injured by the purported hypnotist’s actions."

Hector Quintanilla saw Blue Book through to its end in 1969. In his unpublished memoirs written in 1974, UFOs: An Air Force Dilemma, he said: 

“On a number of occasions, I was crucified because I labeled certain sightings as hoaxes. I always believe in calling a spade a spade, but sometimes in my position this became extremely difficult. What most critics didn’t realize at the time was that I had good evidence or good reason to label a sighting a hoax. Every sighting that I labeled a hoax turned out to be just that from the very beginning or was subsequently proven to have been perpetrated by an individual.” 

During Quintanilla’s tenure, several hoax accusations were made by the Air Force. Below are some prominent examples of Hector applying the heat to hoaxers: 

The April 29, 1964, multi-witness case involving five children at Canyon Ferry Village, Montana, was also called a hoax by an Air Force investigator.

The Billings Gazette, May 5, 1964

March 2, 1965: John Reeves of Brooksville, Florida, claimed to have seen a landed saucer and met the aliens. 

After Project Blue Book investigated Reeves story, “it is the opinion of the Air Force that an attempt was made to perpetrate a hoax.”

Rex Heflin took several UFO photos on August 3, 1965, and during the publicity that followed, Hector Quintanilla said Blue Book had investigated and, “We have classified it as a photographic hoax.”

Rex Heflin and one of the photos that brought him fame.

Dan and Grant Jaroslaw said they photographed a UFO on January 9, 1967, at Mount Clemens, Michigan. The Air Force didn’t say hoax, but after investigating, Dr J. Allen Hynek said there was “considerable doubt on the sighting and removes it from serious consideration.”

This Week, March 5, 1967

Immunity from Exposure

The findings of the government-contracted UFO evaluation led by Dr. Edward U. Condon was published as Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects. It essentially followed the Air Force’s policy by not naming the witnesses in discussing the cases it examined. The study reached a negative conclusion on the value of the government continuing UFO research. As a result, Project Blue Book was closed in 1969. For a few years the UFO business was quiet, but in 1973 things heated up again. Without Project Blue Book to serve as a scarecrow, hoaxers had the run of the field.

Hattiesburg American (Mississippi) Oct. 19, 1973

We’ll close with a quote from Ed Ruppelt. His files also contained the original and revised drafts for his 1956 book. After his section on the 1947 Maury Island case, on page Ruppelt wrote:

"So long ago that nobody knows why, the government established a policy not to comment on anything that is written or said by private citizens. People can make any fantastic claim with a relatively high degree of immunity to being exposed… 
This policy has been a bonanza to the writers of saucer lore. The basic concept of 'saucerism vs. the Air Force' warfare is to print or say anything and as proof of your honesty, dare the Air Force to contradict you."

For whatever reason, those paragraphs were cut from Ruppelt's printed book.

. . .


 Bad Science Fiction

There were a few times The Air Force commented on UFO authors and their books:

Kenneth Arnold
In a July 12, 1947, report the investigator stated:
"It is the personal opinion of the interviewer that… if Mr. Arnold can write a report of the character that he did while not having seen the objects that he claimed he saw, it is the opinion of the interviewer that Mr. Arnold is in the wrong business, that he should be writing Buck Rogers fiction.”

George Adamski
On October 30, 1959, Major Lawrence J. Tacker replied to an inquiry about The Flying Saucers have Landed by George Adamski. Tacker replied:
“Mr. Adamski is a popular science fiction writer, but he has never presented any proof of his claims to the USAF.”

Frank Scully
On June 24, 1965, Col. Eric T de Jonckheere replied to an inquiry about a UFO book:
 “The incident referred to in Frank Scully’s book, “Behind [the] Flying Saucers” is not based in fact. The Air Force has no connection with this alleged incident. The Air Force considers this incident and Mr. Scully‘s book as science fiction.”

Donald Keyhoe
On Aug. 25, 1965, Col. Eric T de Jonckheere suggested this reply to an inquiry:
“The Air Force regards the books by Donald E Keyhoe on flying saucers as science fiction.”

Thursday, April 21, 2022

UFO Patterns: Signals in the Noise

Hearing an unbelievable or absurd flying saucer yarn, Gray Barker would often respond with an enigmatic smile and say, “It all fits the pattern.” It was a private joke, since much of popular UFO lore was invented or circulated by Barker himself.

The human mind is always trying to find patterns. Most people are familiar with pareidolia, which Merriam-Webster defines as “the tendency to perceive a specific, often meaningful image in a random or ambiguous visual pattern.” Pareidolia applies to visual stimulus, but it’s a type of apophenia, “the tendency to perceive a connection or meaningful pattern between unrelated or random things (such as objects or ideas).” 

From A Popular Handbook and Atlas of Astronomy, by William Peck, 1891

Apophenia is finding false signals in the noise. Confirmation bias can play a role as well, and once we’ve adopted a hypothesis, we favor that which seems to fit with, or support our view. An example of that is when Italian astronomer Giovani Schiaparelli detected lines on the surface of Mars, he interpreted them as canals, proof of construction by intelligent inhabitants. When flying saucers came along, it had people making all kinds of mental connections in trying to solve the mystery.

As early as 1947 the Air Force was looking at UFO sightings to determine some actionable data. The idea was that if UFOs were under intelligent control, some evidence of that should be found by identifying repetitions of some characteristics, such as shape, performance, behavior, and locations observed. In March 1953, Project Blue Book head Edward J. Ruppelt gave a “Briefing for Air Defense Command,” where he stated:

“We have made a statistical study of the data that we have collected in order to attempt to determine whether or not there is any common pattern in the sightings but we have had no success in finding any such pattern.”

Copy from The San Bernardino Sun, May 1, 1967

Dr. J. Allen Hynek was an astronomer who worked a side gig as a consultant to the Air Force. In the mid-1960s Project Blue Book had authorized Hynek to recruit assistance from colleagues in analyzing and processing UFO reports. Jacques Vallee, a young French ufologist who was pursuing his Ph.D. and working as a computer programmer, was brought in chiefly to assist in data management. Vallee was always looking for messages in the data, and in his 1965 book, Anatomy of a Phenomenon, frequently mentioned patterns and pattern-analysis:

“If new phenomena are present in the set of patterns that constitutes the UFO problem, there is a possibility that these phenomena may lie outside the scope of any one of the specialties recognized today by science, and still be discernible to the mathematical mind.” 

Hynek was influenced by Vallee and searched for common features or patterns in UFO reports. 

Hynek’s Observables 

The San Bernardino Sun, May 1, 1967, ran an article, “It's Easy to Be Ufologist -- Just Read Below” by Karl R. Edgerton. Dr. Hynek was quoted, saying the "more impressive cases" among the unexplained sightings "fit into a pattern." He listed five common characteristics.

  • The UFOs had a bright red glow.
  • They hovered a few feet off the ground.
  • They emitted a "high-pitched whine."
  • Animals in the vicinity were terrified, often before the UFOs became visible to the people who later reported them.
  • When the objects at last began to disappear, they vanished in seconds.

The next year (Amarillo Daily News, Feb. 15, 1968,) Hynek was asked about the Carroll Wayne Watts case and Texas UFO flap, and he was supportive. “He said many facets of the sightings at Wellington ‘fit the pattern’.” Unfortunately, the Watts case turned out to be hoax, a pastiche based on the alien encounter stories from Dan Fry and Barney and Betty Hill. Watts’ yarn fit the pattern through counterfeiting and mimicry.

Post-Blue Book   

After the closure of Project Blue Book, Hynek wrote a book in 1972, The UFO Experience: A Scientific Inquiry. In it he used the word “pattern” 343 times, most often in this context, “UFOs in general, have been reported from many parts of the world, and a definite pattern is evident.” Discussing the 1961 Hill abduction story, Hynek said, “If we discount entirely the account revealed only under hypnosis, the first portion fits the pattern.” Hynek talked about how conventional items mistaken for phenomena did not typically generate reports of high strangeness.

“An aircraft fuselage glistening in the sun, reported by some untutored person as a UFO, is not reported to rush away at incredible speeds. Flares dropped from airplanes (which have often given rise to UFO reports) are not reported as having stopped cars, frightened animals, or cavorted about the sky; nor do the reports contain reference to 'occupants' or to oval-shaped craft hovering six feet off the ground.” 

Jacques Vallee, and J. Allen Hynek wrote in their 1975 book, The Edge of Reality: A Progress Report on Unidentified Flying Objects, “definite patterns of appearance and behavior” repeat in cases throughout the decades:

“One would expect that if UFOs had no substance in fact but were entirely the products of human imagination, there would be considerably greater variety in UFO reports. It does not say much for human imagination to report the same old (but incredible) stories; over some three decades one would imagine that story tellers as well as out and out hoaxsters would bring some variety into their productions!”

On Geraldo Rivera’s ABC talk show Good Night America on June 9th, 1977, Dr. Hynek was asked about the Travis Walton story, and he was supportive of it.

“It fits a pattern… we have some two dozen similar abduction cases currently being studied. Something is going on!”

One of Hynek’s last interviews was in Omni magazine Feb. 1985, and he was asked about his Center for UFO Studies. “What was the understanding that began to emerge from your work?” Dr. Hynek replied: 

“I realized that we don't have UFOs, only UFO reports. I defined the UFO phenomenon, then, as the continual flow of strange sightings and reports from all over the world. The patterns and contents of these reports constitute the UFO phenomenon. The phenomenon says nothing whatsoever about origin, nothing about little green men. The question about whether you do or don't believe in UFOs is irrelevant. If you define the UFO as the UFO report and its consistent contents, then the phenomenon is there.”

Ufologist and saucer satirist Gray Barker died on Dec. 6, 1984.

J. Allen Hynek died on April 27, 1986, so in that sense, Dr. Hynek had the last laugh. 

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Early Accounts of Alien Abductions

Notions of alien abductions were circulating long before the 1961 Betty and Barney Hill case, even before anyone had heard of flying saucers. Charles Fort’s 1919, The Book of the Damned discussed the possibility of extraterrestrial visitors, and he speculated that someone up there likes us - as in the way we taste.
“And I have data that, in this book, I can't take up at all — mysterious disappearances. I think we're fished for.”
The Fortean journal, Doubt # 13, 1945 had a short article that played off this notion, supposing that the missing crew of a German ship might have become a meal for Martians.

Doubt # 13, 1945

Science Fiction Kidnappers

“Earth Slaves to Space” by Richard Shaver, Amazing Stories Sept. 1946

Ray Palmer published the stories of Richard Shaver as nonfiction as in Amazing Stories, tales of an ancient extraterrestrials, the Atlans and Titans. Carrying a cover date of June 1947 but published at least a month earlier, Palmer put out a special all-Shaver Mystery issue, and his editorial stated:
“…Mr. Shaver declared that Titans, living far away in space, or other people like them, still visit earth in space ships, kidnap people, raid the caves for valuable equipment, and, in general, supply the basis for all the weird stories that are so numerous (see Charles Fort's books) of space ships, beings in the sky, etc.”

Science fiction and fantasy stories frequently featured stories of monsters or aliens abducting humans for examination or worse. When the flying saucers appeared, that sort of thing was mentioned, but only as a joke. On July 7, 1947, newspaper columnist Hal Boyle’s a silly piece about being abducted by a spaceman in a flying saucer was published. His alien abductor was a big green man, Balminston X-Ray O’Rune from Mars, “some eight feet tall, covered with thick green hair, with one eye like a hardboiled egg in the center of his forehead, and no visible mouth at all. He was naked, his hands were three-clawed.”

More seriously, John W. Campbell's editorial in the October 1947 issue of Astounding Science Fiction was titled, “Flying Somethings,” where he speculated that UFOs were extraterrestrial scout vehicles, and he discussed how they might abduct specimens for study. He wrote about it from flipped point of view, as if we were the explorers of another planet:

"For several months, our investigation would be conducted by noncontact observation; until we know much more about the people, we'll do well to stay clear of them. After some weeks though, a stealthy raid might kidnap a few inhabitants for general questioning and investigation. In this, we'd be very smart not to damage the kidnaped parties; the resentment of a technically civilized race can be distinctly unwelcome even to a more powerfully technical people. Investigation of local animals can give all the necessary basic biological science for preliminary understanding of the local race.”
(See pages 71-72 of this PDF for 
Campbell's full article: UFOs: A History, Supplemental Notes August 1—December 31 by Loren E. Gross.) 

Comics are often a good indicator of how a topic has penetrated the public’s consciousness, but occasionally they have been ahead of trends. An alien abduction kicked off the story in the Sunday Superman newspaper comic strip from May 2 to July 18, 1948. Superman and Lois Lane were captured by a scouting party for invaders from Mars and taken aboard their spherical Martian spaceship. 

The Martians wanted to conquer Earth to solve their water shortage, and the two were taken as test subjects to be taken to Mars and examined to see if earthlings could resist the Martians’ weapons.

(Reprinted in Superman: The Golden Age Sundays 1946–1949 by IDW Publishing, 2014.)

In the episodes that followed, it became a farce with the ugly Martian queen trying to marry Superman, but he solved their problem and helped her find a husband. Therefore, the invasion was prevented.

Into the 1950s...   

Dennis Wheatley's 1952 book, Star of Ill-Omen, was a tale of Martians kidnapping people to learn humanity’s nuclear secrets, in order to use atomic bombs in warfare on their own planet.

The notion of flying saucer abductions came up now and then, but not in reputable places. The October 1953 issue of Man to Man magazine featured the article by Leroy Thorp, “Are the Flying Saucers Kidnapping Humans?” It was not based on contemporary accounts, just an undated recycling of a mysterious disappearance supposedly taken from one of Charles Fort’s books.

Harold T. Wilkins wrote a book released in the U.S. as Flying Saucers on the Attack in July 1954. It included several stories about the unexplained loss of people, planes, and ships, and he suggested alien abduction as the solution:
“One wonders how many cases of mysterious disappearances of men and women in 1948 – 1952 might be explained as ‘TAKEN ABOARD A FLYING SAUCER IN A LONELY PLACE’?”

A Saucer-Related Disappearance Makes News

Two men took off in a plane searching for saucers, and they were never seen again. From the Los Angeles Mirror, Nov. 18, 1953, as reprinted in UFO Crash Secrets at Wright Patterson Air Force Base by James W. Moseley, 1992.

George Hunt Williamson’s summary from Other Tongues - Other Flesh, 1953:
“On November 18, 1953, the Los Angeles Mirror reported that two missing electricians may have been kidnapped by interplanetary invaders in a Flying Saucer. The two Saucer enthusiasts were Karl Hunrath and Wilbur J. Wilkinson. They had taken off in a rented airplane from Gardena Airport on November 11th with a three-hour gas supply. Despite widespread search, no trace of the plane or its occupants has been seen. The rumor that the plane was found dismantled on the top of a California mountain with no sign of the two men is unfounded. Officials claim that nothing has turned up in the case as yet.”

Vanished in Vermont

Rev. O. L. Jaggers had been lecturing on flying saucers since 1952, and asked, “From whence do they come? …Russia or some enemy nation? Are they interplanetary…?” Jaggers gave a lecture in San Francisco on August 22, 1954, on “How Flying Saucers are Kidnapping Human Beings from the Earth.” The lecture advertised that it would present: “Names and addresses of people kidnapped by Flying Saucers!”

Odessa American Sept. 9, 1955

From the looks of the article below in the New Castle News, September 2, 1954, one audience member tried to verify some of the details about the alleged flying saucer abductions. 
(Full text follows the blurry clipping.)

New Castle News, September 2, 1954

Missing Vermont Folk Not Whisked Off by Saucers
The town of Bennington, Vt., doesn't know what did happen to three persons who have vanished mysteriously in the last eight years but it is quite sure they were not picked up by a flying saucer and whisked off to Russia. It will so inform a San Francisco, Calif., clergyman who yesterday asked the Bennington Chamber of Commerce if that had really happened. Wrote Rev. Harold DeRoo, pastor of the Miraloma Community church in the west coast city:

"I am endeavoring to verify some information recently presented by an itinerant speaker who came to this city. His topic was flying saucers. In the course of the address he related the alleged fact that five men of Bennington, Vt., were literally drawn up from the face of the earth and have never been heard of. According to the accounts these saucers originated in Russia which has devised a magnet to draw people from this country. I should appreciate very much if you could either verify or nullify the account."

Bennington officials said they don't have the answer to the disappearance of Paula Weldon, Bennington college student who never returned from an off-campus stroll; Middie Rivers, a Bennington woodchopper who vanished a short time later, or a boy named Jepson who disappeared from his father's car at the town dump as the father was pouring food into a nearby pigsty. But they were sure there were no Soviet saucers involved in these cases and that there was no mass evanishment by a quintet of citizens.

The 1960s: Alien Abductions Become Mainstream

In 1966, the Betty and Barney Hill story was published in John Fuller’s bestselling book, The Interrupted Journey, and it had an enormous cultural impact. The book also led to the popularization and acceptance of the alien abduction concept.

The Des Moines Register Sept. 30,1966 and the Minneapolis Star Oct. 6, 1966

Jet magazine, Oct. 20, 1966

The Hills’ story was serialized in many newspapers and in Look magazine.

The Hill case became the industry standard, and the basis for comparison for all the many reports of alien abductions that have surfaced in the decades since.

. . .

We've just hit some highlights here. For more information on pre-saucer abductions, see:

The U.S. Government's Policy on UFO Hoaxes

Why aren't UFO hoaxers sent to jail?  Making false reports to law enforcement agencies is a punishable offense but hoaxing a UFO is not ...