Thursday, August 13, 2020

Fame, Fortune and Flying Saucers

Flying saucers and aliens... Some people feared these strange visitors from other planets, while others embraced them as saviors. Xenophobia is defined by Merriam-Webster as “fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.” Fewer people are familiar with the term for its opposite, xenolatria. Xenolatry is veneration, love, or worship of the foreign. 

Armando Simón’s 1979 essay, “The Zeitgeist of the UFO Phenomenon.” Simón’s essay focuses on the portrayal of aliens in science fiction movies:
“Some films have presented the antithesis of the invasion theme. Innocent and peaceful aliens in this case were attacked by an unreasoning, bigoted, and warring human race... The aliens, therefore, served as a convenient point of view for the screenwriter's xenolatric flagellations of humanity.” 

That’s from UFO Phenomena and the Behavioral Scientist,  edited by Richard Haines, and
Simón defined xenolatric in a footnote: "This term, recently coined by Isaac Asimov (1976), means hatred for one's own culture combined with idolization of other cultures while remaining blind to any shortcomings in the latter.” Xenolatry is an important underlying premise behind the strain of UFO belief embraced by the Contactees. To them, mankind is a primitive warlike people - we are unworthy, and need to be saved by the wisdom from our benevolent big brothers from outer space. In the age of atomic fear, a lot of people were desperate for salvation from above, whatever the source. As with virtually anything, opportunists pounced to exploit these beliefs.

It seems incredible to us today that in the 1950s people could have been so gullible to fall for swindlers' claims about flying saucers, such as meeting the people who flew them, or having the secrets of their technology. What we have to appreciate is that at the time some kind of unidentified flying objects  were actually being seen by many people, and many more were hearing about them secondhand from supposedly trustworthy sources - coverage in the papers, radio and television news shows. UFOs were frequently a serious topic of discussion, in part because of the news generated by the investigation of flying saucers by the US Air Force. 

Due to the constant media publicity, many people accepted to some degree that flying saucers were real. The main questions were about: what are they, why are they here, and where did they come from? The first saucer generation had seen the impossible happen, the invention and detonation of the atomic bomb, the launches of rockets, and then satellites like Sputnik. However, most people’s understanding was limited to what they’d picked up from newspaper headlines and entertainment, and it seemed that all that “Buck Rogers stuff” was coming true. It was the dawn of the space age, and anything seemed possible.

Exploiting the Possibilities

Mankind’s speculation about life on other worlds did not begin in the 1940s with the flying saucer era. It preceded science fiction too and is probably as old as the development of language. With the flying saucers, it provided charlatans a golden opportunity to capitalize on the public’s interest, and they exploited it to package everything, from fringe religious teachings to confidence schemes.

Among those interested in the reports of flying saucers were the spiritualists and students of the occult. The spiritualists already claimed mental contact with other worlds and used saucers to make people believe that any wonders in the sky - past or present - were evidence of something from beyond our meager planet. In 1888, Helena Blavatsky used the idea of civilizations on other planets in The Secret Doctrine, but in a mystical or religious way, saying that they held knowledge and wisdom far superior to our primitive understanding. She co-founded the Theosophical Society, and Theosophy was a huge influence on fantasy and science fiction literature. The occult was also part of the foundation for folks like Meade Layne’s Borderland Sciences Research Associates (BSRA) beliefs about aliens visiting in spaceships - long before saucers.

BSRA director Riley Crabb wrote in a 1961 article that mysticism "is distasteful to many people who have been brought face to face with metaphysics by their interest in the Saucer phenomenon. This means that old material, the Ancient Wisdom, is going to have to be rewritten for them, dressed up in modern, Space Age, terminology, before they'll study it..." 
(“The Sky People,” Round Robin, vol. 17, no 1, Jan-Feb 1961, p 22). What Crabb described was well underway, and as we shall see, just what George Adamski had perfected back in the late 1940s. 

“The Disgraceful Flying Saucer Hoax” article by Bob Considine in Cosmopolitan magazine, Jan. 1951, noted that the US Air Force wasted a lot of time and money investigating phonies, but that flying saucer fakery was not actually a punishable offense:

“And nothing can be done about such frauds.  A man who pilfers a three-cent stamp from the Post Office Department can be fined and sent to a Federal prison... Yet the most callous and cynical saucer­hoaxers will continue to go scot free, with a cackle of delight, until a penal act is created to check such offenses.”

Except when there was some other associated fraud, hoaxing a saucer story was not a crime. That legal loophole gave opportunists a virtual license to steal. 

Contactees and Capitalists

The history of the Contactee era is complex and involves many interesting personalities, each with their own storylines. The 1957 book, Flying Saucer Pilgrimage, by Bryant and Helen Reeve provides a great look at the era and its figures from a believer’s point of view, and it shows just how intermingled the saucer culture was with New Age mysticism. Our examination is more centered on how the UFO culture, particularly the Contactee faction, was exploited by those seeking fame and fortune. We’ll introduce some of the players who were significant in capitalizing on flying saucer belief, actually turning it into a business. Sort of a Saucerian “Who’s Who” of personalities discussed in past and future STTF articles.

Kenneth Arnold
Kenneth Arnold’s 1947 sighting launched the flying saucer craze, and within weeks of it, he was lecturing on the topic. Early on, Arnold cagily refrained from committing to an explanation, but he did say he thought the saucers were under intelligent control and might be from another world. Arnold was the first witness to become a UFO lecturer, and he went on to publish a souvenir booklet and co-author a non-fiction book on his experiences.

Ray Palmer
Raymond A. Palmer was in the UFO business well before the whole saucer scene took off. He promoted the Charles Fort-derived notion of extraterrestrial spaceships visiting earth as reality in his science fiction magazine Amazing Stories. In 1947,  Palmer latched on to the premier saucer witness, Kenneth Arnold, featuring him in the 1948 debut of Fate magazine and co-writing The Coming of the Saucers in 1952. Palmer also published many UFO, New Age and Contactee books including: Other Tongues, Other Flesh by George Hunt Williamson, 1953, The Secret of the Saucers by Orfeo Angelucci, 1955, and Flying Saucer Pilgrimage by Bryant and Helen Reeve, 1957. A born huckster, Palmer began increasing the UFO content in his magazine Other Worlds, then in 1957 retitled it Flying Saucers.

Donald Keyhoe

Donald Keyhoe was a retired Marine major who had served in World War I and became a writer of both news articles and fiction, including adventure stories for pulp magazines. In 1949 the editor of True magazine sent Keyhoe the assignment of picking up a flying saucer story they’d gotten stuck on, hoping Keyhoe’s military contacts could help him penetrate the secrecy. The resulting article was a sensation almost as big as the original fever of 1947, and along with the resulting 1950 book, The Flying Saucers Are Real, proved the UFO topic was a bankable topic. Keyhoe was focused on factual, documented cases from credible witnesses, but many others that followed were peddling sensational stories to cash in. 

Frank Scully and Silas Newton

In a way, it all began with a lecture. Silas Newton told a story for Denver college students, an implausible tale of a crashed flying saucer and the dead aliens inside being captured and hidden by the US government. Frank Scully promoted the crashed saucer story, and in a sense, it paved the way for the Contactees tales of meeting aliens. Behind the Flying Saucers introduced the basic meme of peaceful visitors from Venus, a world far more advanced than our own, but opposed by the barbaric US military, who Scully called “the Pentagonians.” The saucer story itself was the brainchild of oil swindler Silas Newton who evidently invented it as a backdrop to sell “doodlebugs,” oil detection devices that he said were based on the alien technology. The crashed saucer story became a best-selling book and enduring legend even though it was proven to be without factual basis. Frank Scully and Silas Newton were honored guests when flying saucer conventions began to be held, but that diminished when Newton and his partner Leo Gebauer were convicted of fraud in 1953. Newton set another precedent though, for a light penalty. He never served any prison time for the fraud. When it comes to saucers, crime pays. White collar crime, at least.

 George Adamski

George Adamski used flying saucers as the bait to get people to accept the mystic teachings he’d been peddling since the 1930s with his "Royal Order of Tibet." In 1952 he recycled his old material, saying it was knowledge passed to him from the angelic people, our Space Brothers from other planets. Adamski topped Newton and Scully’s story of a magnetic saucer from Venus by adding a living, talkative occupant, a friendly brother from space. “Orthon” was borrowed from Klaatu, of the 1951 film, The Day the Earth Stood Still, a modern Messiah figure. It was a means for Adamski to spread his “ministry,” but the desire for fame and fortune may have been part of it too. Adamski’s rise as a UFO lecturer and author is chronicled in A Critical Appraisal Of GeorgeAdamski The Man Who Spoke To The Space Brothers by Marc Hallet, 2016. The financial success of Adamski is discussed, and Hallet says that things really took off with the publication of the 1953 book, Flying Saucers Have Landed, which became a bestseller. Adamski capitalized on his fame in a number of ways. At his many lectures, he sold his books and pamphlets, and at his Palomar Gardens home, sold copies of his saucer photos and charged tourists to look through his telescope. Hallet also notes that “He also simply accepted gifts, sent in by admirers from all corners of the world.” It was a good business model, and Adamski soon had many imitators and competitors. 

Gray Barker

Gray Barker launched The Saucerian in September 1953, a magazine, devoted to flying saucers and associated mysteries. His 1956 book, They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers, helped establish the legend of the Men in Black, and stir up saucer paranoia. Barker wrote the column, “Chasing the Flying Saucers” for Ray Palmer’s Flying Saucers magazine, which helped boost his profile, and he went on to become a book publisher himself. Under his imprint, Saucerian Books, Barker published over 80 books and booklets by Contactees and New Age authors between 1959 and 1984. In The Saucerian and Saucer News, he also sold his own self-made flying saucer films and other merchandise, as well as brokering books and products by others.

Truman Bethurum

Truman Bethurum was the second most popular Contactee behind Adamski, and he developed a significant following of his own within the saucer world. Bethurum captivated crowds with his tales of riding in a spaceship piloted by Aura Rhanes, the beautiful female saucer captain from planet Clarion. In 1954, Bethurum’s book, Aboard A Flying Saucer was released, and he sold it along with other pamphlets at lectures and conventions. In 1955 Aura Rhanes (in astral form) advised Bethurum to solicit contributions to purchase land and build the “Sanctuary of Thought,” a commune of peace and brotherly love. Its continued operation was funded by further contributions, the sale of Bethurum’s literature - and the fees from private spiritual readings.

Orfeo Angelucci
Orfeo Angelucci is mentioned here chiefly because of his popularity in the early days, and for his role in the inaugural 1953 Los Angeles saucer convention. In The Secret of the Saucers, Orefo Angelucci described a visionary experience where an otherworldly entity spoke to him and shared revelations, ones that sound familiar to other occult saucer narratives:

“We know your mind is filled with questions. One question in particular troubles you and it concerns the entity the world knows as Jesus Christ. May we set your mind at rest. In allegorical language Christ is indeed the Son of God. The star that burned over Bethlehem is a cosmic fact. It announced the birth on your planet of an entity not of Earth’s evolution. He is Lord of the Flame — an infinite entity of the sun. Out of compassion for mankind’s suffering He became flesh and blood and entered the hell of ignorance, woe and evil. As the Sun Spirit who sacrificed Himself for the children of woe he has become a part of the oversoul of mankind and the world spirit. In this He differs from all other world teachers.”

Angelucci went on to become a popular lecturer, the author of two books and a series of pamphlets, and he seemed to be the most sincere of the Contactees, more of a religious visionary than a performer. 

Daniel Fry

Daniel W. Fry was yet another Contactee and went on to form his own spiritually-focused UFO organization, Understanding, Inc., which had local study groups or “Units” that formed a network. Speakers approved by Fry could tour the Understanding lecture circuit from group to group, and usually be fed, housed, and paid by the membership along the way. Fry’s lecture circuit provided a ready customer base to saucer lecturers, and for the more predatory types, easy marks to be tapped for dollars. 

Gabriel Green

Gabriel Green was an active participant in the Contactee convention scene, claimed to have had his own contact experiences, and founded the Amalgamated Flying Saucer Clubs of America in 1957. Green presided over the AFSCA, published their magazine, sponsored lectures, and hosted their successful series of UFO conventions. Green capitalized on his status as a saucer celebrity by announcing his candidacy for President of the United States with Daniel Fry as VP, running on a platform based on the teachings of peace and wisdom from space. His 1960 presidential bid was backed by the support of his UFO convention lecturers, and supposedly, the people of Alpha Centauri. Green ultimately withdrew and endorsed John Kennedy, but later entered the race for United States Senator for California in 1962, where he lost in the primary with a relatively impressive 170,000 votes.  

George Van Tassel

George Van Tassel began hosting the annual Interplanetary Spacecraft Convention at Giant Rock, California, in 1954, providing a stage for anyone who claimed to be in contact with flying saucer occupants.  It was a  showcase for Contactees, who had a spiritual saucer approach, regarding aliens as angelic “Space Brothers,”and Van Tassel’s host organization was “The Ministry of Universal Wisdom.” Lecturers for his first convention included George Hunt Williamson, Orfeo Angelucci, Truman Bethurum, Dan Fry, author Frank Scully and Van Tassel himself. Admission was free, but there was a bustling marketplace with books and saucer-related merchandise for sale. Shortly thereafter, Van Tassel said he received plans from the aliens to build the Integratron, a building to house a machine that he claimed would “recharge energy into living cell structure, to bring about longer life with youthful energy." Van Tassel began soliciting financial donations to finance it., and the building was completed in 1959. However, the rejuvenation device never was finished, despite of the thousands of dollars collected for its construction. Nevertheless, Van Tassel’s conventions energized the Contactee scene in the 1950s, and he inspired many others to host flying saucer gatherings in other locations.  

Long John Nebel and “The Party Line”
Another person instrumental in giving Contactees a voice was Long John Nebel who hosted the legendary WOR radio talk show, “Long John’s Party Line,” which launched in 1954. The format featured Nebel and a group of panelists interviewing an offbeat guest. The Daily News from New York, in their Aug. 2, 1957 edition described the show:

“Long John's ‘Party Line’ is something unique in radio, one of the most interesting and novel post-midnight items ever heard in New York and in the 25 other states reached by WOR... Airing Mondays through Saturdays, midnight to 5:30 A. M. Nebel and his guests discussed “unconventional subjects as flying saucers, haunted houses, reincarnation, astrology, numerology, witchcraft, stage and black magic to hypnotism, the stock market, advertising practices, medicine, travel, archeology, bullfighting, modern art and music...”

The show featured some serious UFO proponents such as Donald Keyhoe, but they were far outnumbered by the fantastic fringe from “The Way Out World.” Nebel himself was not a believer, but he knew what was good for business.
Howard Menger

Howard Menger struck fame by appearing on the Oct. 29, 1956, Long John Nebel show, which led to national TV exposure on the Steve Allen Show. Menger’s tale was familiar, he’d met people from a spaceship, gone for a ride and taken pictures. The story was so familiar, he became known as “the East Coast Adamski.” Menger became a flying saucer entrepreneur, with an impressive list of products. His record of piano music, Authentic Music From Another Planet, 1957 was followed by his bride-to-be Connie Weber’s My Saturnian Lover, 1958, and together they held the” East Coast Interplanetary Space Convention" at his New Jersey farm in 1958, and unlike the Van Tassel gatherings they charged admission, $2.00. Gray Barker announced the publication of Menger’s book there, and From Outer Space to You came out in 1959. Gray Barker marketed these products through his Saucerian magazine, and also sold copies of Menger’s flying saucer pictures and movies.

Buck Nelson

Buck Nelson achieved some celebrity status from his story about meeting Venusians and their giant 385-pound dog, “Big Bo,” which he chronicled in the 1956 booklet, My Trip to Mars, the Moon, and Venus.  It was sold at his appearances at Giant Rock and lectures nationwide, but he had another product, physical evidence from his space adventures, packets of fur from Big Bo. In 1958 Nelson began hosting his own annual “Spacecraft Conventions” at his ranch in Mountain View, Missouri. Besides the typical book stalls for lecturers’ wares, Nelson had his own saucer souvenir booth which sold toys, postcards, ball-point pens, pennants, balloons, liniment for sore backs and so much more. Nelson also operated a concession stand offering such refreshments as hotdogs burgers and soda. By Nelson’s final convention in 1966, attendance was down to 150 people, down from the phenomenal turnout of 1958 with about 2000 customers.

 Wayne Aho

Major Wayne S. Aho described himself as the director of “Washington Saucer Intelligence,” which becomes a bit less impressive-sounding when you know it was based in Oklahoma, not Washington, DC, that it was a civilian organization, that the Major was retired from the Army, and that he mostly the director of his own lecture tours. The press and public sometimes confused the Contactee Aho with the far more conservative UFO proponent Major Donald Keyhoe. Aho was a pervasive lecturer in the late 50s, but seemed to begin phasing out the Washington Saucer Intelligence facade about the time he became “Director of Public Education” for Otis T. Carr’s OTC Enterprises, Inc. Aho created the New Age Foundation in the early 1960s, a UFO-based organization that was overtly religious, and held spiritual gatherings at Mt. Rainier.

Reinhold O. Schmidt 

Reinhold O. Schmidt was an agricultural broker, a seemingly ordinary man drawn into an extraordinary adventure. He saw a silver spaceship and its crew near Kearney, Nebraska, and after his credibility was challenged was briefly confined to a mental hospital for observation. Afterwards, Schmidt went on to have a series of ever more amazing contacts - and lecture tours. The space people showed Schmidt where to mine for gold and precious miraculous minerals, but when Schmidt began luring large investments out of gullible widows, he eventually wound up in trouble - court and then prison. 

Otis T. Carr 

Otis T. Carr was considered an inventor, not a Contactee, but he shared in their values - and their spotlight on the lecture stages. Carr’s plan was to build a saucer-shaped spaceship operated on cosmic free energy principles, and to do so, he formed OTC Enterprises, Inc, and set about his goal of collecting $20,000,000 to finance it. His story has some elements in common with that of Reinhold O. Schmidt, including arrest, conviction, and some of the supporting cast. Like with Schmidt, we’ll be giving the Carr story a feature-length STTF treatment in the future, part of our “Flying Saucer Swindlers” series.

The End of the Beginning

By the early 1960s, the saucer prophets’ act had worn thin, and their day was done. Donald Keyhoe and other serious flying saucer proponents considered the Contactees a distracting circus sideshow that damaged the credibility of the UFO topic. They wished the clown show would go away, and to some extent, it happened. George Adamski died in 1965, and the Contactee scene seemed to be drying up as well. Gabriel Green’s Amalgamated Flying Saucer Clubs of America was finished around 1969, and Dan Fry’s Understanding Inc. were fading, but so was the more serious NICAP. That left APRO and MUFON to carry on, leaving the Contactee folks without a major organization to champion their cause. The conventions at Giant Rock continued on a smaller scale but ended with the death of George Van Tassel in 1978. 

However, the Contactee movement wasn’t finished, it just fell out of fashion. In the 1970s the stories of the Pascagoula Abduction and the Travis Walton incident helped revive interest in alien encounters, and the message of the Space Brothers was rekindled somewhat by the 1978 film Close Encounters of the Third Kind. In the 1980s without a strict Donald Keyhoe to keep the Contactees away, the spirit of the Space Brothers made a stealthy comeback by infiltrating mainstream ufology. As UFO organizations struggled to survive, they relaxed their standards to embrace devotees of fringe beliefs of all sorts. This side of ufology is not necessarily about money, but it’s show business, and as the saying goes, the show must go on.

In the weeks and months to come, STTF will take a closer look at some of these figures, including their careers as lecturers, convention promoters, and sometimes, criminals.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

US Army Colonel Robert B. Rigg, Flying Saucer Visionary

Robert B. Rigg (1913 – 1986) was an artist, writer, and a career US Army man who retired as a colonel. Rigg had a vision for the future of war, and it included flying saucers. This article from the Boston Globe Sunday magazine, July 12, 1959.

Machines for Future Wars
by Nat L. Kline

The picture on the cover of today’s magazine and those on these pages illustrate amazing new war machines which could he used at some future date. Some of them are being studied by the Army and other of the military services. Some are actually being developed right now.

The pictures are from original paintings by Lt Col Robert B. Rigg, formerly with the Army's Research and Development division at the Pentagon, now assistant deputy director of the Combat Development Group, U.S. Army Armor School, Ft. Knox, Ky. During World War II, Col Rigg was military observer for the War Department, serving with six different allied armies, including the Soviet Army in Azerbaijan and Manchuria. While on Gen George C. Marshall's staff in China right after the war, he was twice captured by the Chinese Communists, imprisoned, tried for espionage, and narrowly escaped death sentences. He served with Gen James M. Gavin, former chief of Army Research and Development, both in Germany and in the Pentagon.

About a year ago his book, "War-1974" (Military Service Publishing Co.) startled military men with its introduction which declared the book might sound like science fiction but "is an indication of a military technique to come." The book gave a dramatic account of possible future warfare, and machines of combat for "shoot-and-scoot" strategy like those pictured here were shown. Col Rigg pointed out that none of the 3-D weapons of war needed new scientific discoveries. Radar, jet engines, helicopters, rockets, television principles revealing developments being made in continuous, steady fashion by the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, private industry all

At Fort Benning, Ga., home of The Infantry School, demonstrations recently gave realistic views of rocket-shooting helicopters; paratroopers dropping en masse with a whole team of assorted weapons in support; small units completely self-sufficient, in line with the Army groups' new pentomic, streamlined structure. Nothing is amazing in the age of megatons, satellites and missile-shooting atomic submarines. Weapons such as these only stir military planners to "the step beyond."

Decades later, Army Space Journal Fall 2003, ran an article, “from the eyes of The Past” that explained the origin of the paintings and reproduced them in crisp color.

Somehow, Rigg also got into the flying saucer business, but before we go there, let’s look at how he established his reputation as a visionary of the future of warfare.

Armor Nov-Dec 1955

Rigg began fleshing out his thoughts in preparation for a book, and in his article,“Soldier of the Futurarmy,” Army, November 1956, he expanded his examination to the arms and armor of the infantryman and looked at the other ways technology could change the battlefield from vehicles to the delivery of fuel to power them.

In some of his work Rigg was thwarted by military secrecy polices. During Dec. 1957, Rigg was in the news twice for matters of National Security. In two separate articles, syndicated columnist George Dixon reported how US government secrecy affected projects by Robert Rigg. Not UFO secrecy, though, just the regular kind. Overzealous security censors would not approve his painting of a nuclear explosion, and they also scuttled his book on military history.

Guns magazine Feb. 1958, featured an article by Rigg tailored for their audience, “

War - 1974

In June 1958, Rigg’s book, War - 1974 was published by Military Service Publishing Co. Some people classify it as a science fiction or a future war book, but it’s a bit more grounded than that.

The book was 304 pages long, with illustrations by Riggs of aerial war. It discussed the current technology being developed with narrative extrapolation on how it could be deployed on a grand military scale -  dramatically depicted in a hypothetical scenario about a World War set in the near-future of 1974. As usual, flying military vehicles played a prominent role. A passage from War - 1974:

“Tomorrow, helmeted men will be riding on aerial jeeps and assault platforms- vehicles that will be lifted and propelled by two to four ducted fans inclosed in oblong or saucer shapes with two or three men in the middle- men possessed of TV cameras, electronic eyes, and automatic weapons.”

Building a Space Force

In Armor, July-August 1959, Rigg returned to his flying tank concept in "Some Thoughts on the Army of the Future." 
The article included a photo from the science fiction movie, The Mysterians, saying, “Depicted here, is a concept of a future tank whose main weapon is an energy concentrator which beams its rays upon the enemy.” We’ll come back to The Mysterians in our conclusion.

Military Review

Rigg was made a full colonel in late 1959 or early 1960, and in his article in Army Feb. 1960, “Robert B. Rigg discussed the future role of the infantry squad, but the area of our interest is the role he had for flying saucers:
“Significant improvements in mobility lie ahead in such developments as zero ground-pressure vehicles, aerial assault saucers, and eventually perfected VTOL STOL aircraft that will serve combat units and reconnaissance elements.”

Most of the later work we found from Col. Rigg focused on more conventional pragmatic concerns, He served in Viet Nam, and both wrote and painted about his experiences there. He retired from the Army in 1966 but continued to write for military magazines and was an associate editor for Army magazine. In his article for Army Jan. 1968, "Made in USA." Rigg discussed the possibility of domestic unrest causing guerilla warfare that would have to be dealt with by the military. “Army units must be oriented and trained to know the cement-and-asphalt jungle of every American city. Possibly the sight of such maneuvers in several cities could prove a deterrent to urban insurrection.
The article received a lot of attention and was reprinted in the Congressional Record

Colonel Robert B. Rigg died in 1986 at the age of 72 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
One of the most peculiar legacies he left behind was a series of paintings about a flying saucer invasion.

The Mysterians and the art of Robert B. Rigg

The US poster made it explicit that the aliens came to Earth to “Abduct Its Women!”
How did Lt. Col. Rigg wind up painting promotional material for a Japanese science fiction movie about alien invaders? It was for The Mysterians, a 1957 movie by Toho studios. The film’s basic plot was that aliens came here from a dying world to conquer the earth. They had destroyed their own planet by nuclear war and are suffering from deformities, so they needed earth women to revive their dying race. When the Mysterians’ true motive was revealed, the nations of earth banded together to defeat the alien invaders. (There was also an extraneous giant monster, a late addition to the story, designed to make the film more marketable to Godzilla fans.)

The Mysterians

RKO Teleradio picked up The Mysterians and dubbed it into English for a 1959 US release, but the timing was bad. Unfortunately, it was just as RKO was shutting down their film business, so they had to use MGM to distribute the movie. RKO had already prepared posters and promotional material for the movie and the press book sent to theaters suggested how exhibitors could market the film:
“There are many books on the market today dealing with SCIENCE FICTION and particularly with OUTER SPACE. One of the most popular books currently is “War – 1974” by Robert B. Rigg (Lt. Col., U.S. Army), the famous artist who created the special series of paintings depicting THE MYSTERIANS, and the fantastic equipment used by them in invading the earth. Use these timely books in setting up tie-ins to your playdate…”

It would seem that Rigg was approached by RKO due the success of his 1958 book, and he accepted this as a work-for-hire gig, apart from his Army job, just as his book had been a private endeavor. When MGM stepped in, perhaps they didn’t follow up on whatever RKO had planned, so Rigg’s artwork for the film was not prominently publicized as originally intended.

(In a strange bit of trivia, the UK press book for 

Col. Rigg’s spectacular paintings were used to create a special set of 10 lobby cards that theaters could order to create a display. In addition, two of Rigg’s paintings were used in the conventional set of the lobby cards sent out to promote the film, which had far greater public exposure.

In any case, it was some of Rigg’s best work and although the monster and aliens were a bit outside his usual fare, he was right at home with the battle scenes with planes rockets and flying saucers.

For the complete set of illustrations Col. Rigg painted for the movie, please see:

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Ufology: Information Dispersal - Documents and Photos

Louis Taylor recently left a series of interesting comments on The Saucers That Time Forgot, and it prompted us to check his Blogger profile which links to his Pinterest page. It’s called "Information Dispersal," where Luis hosts an interesting collection of various UFO correspondence, documents, and photos, mostly from the 1960s. The correspondence covers letters between ufologists such as Steve McNallen, Tom Adams, Anthony Kimery, Ed Biebel, John Keel, Bill Moore and others.

When we contacted him, Louis told us a little about his UFO projects:
"I've been working on a couple of books and doing research into all manner of details concerning the phenomenon including those you've covered on your blog. Been looking into the concurrent evolution of the anti-communist right and UFOlogy in the 20th century as well as the GOC (Ground Observer Corps) and other things like accumulating sighting catalogs of UFOs around transmitters as well as ringing hull cases."
Louis has been building an archive of vintage material from various sources, including items offered for sale on eBay. Unfortunately, many of these come without any data about their date or origin. 

At his page, Louis has a collection of photos labelled, “Orphaned UFO Images,” and asks: “Have you seen me? I was created many years ago but I don't know by whom. Any information as to the true source of the following images would be greatly appreciated.

I asked him if we could share some of his UFO pictures at STTF.
“That would certainly be fine by me.  The whole point of posting them is to try and get any information that might be available that might further identify them.

Louis also shared a collection of images, some of which will be used in later articles. There’s some press material from the 1967 direct to television movie, Mars Need Women

We found info on this movie still from "Flying Saucer," it’s from an English dubbed version of the Italian film, "Il Disco Volante."

The last photo is the most mysterious, a 1947 photo shot from a plane with what looks like a snowy mounting in the background, and above it a flying spherical object.

The photo is a print used for an unknown newspaper’s story, and on the back is a pasted a clipping of the published caption:

An object flying over Mount McKinley in Alaska which three Fairbanks girls believed to be a “flying disk” was recorded on film by the trio during a Fourth of July vacation flight near the mountain. The girls, Margaret Hawk, Mary Lou Hawkes, and Julie Harris, say they had focused their camera on the peak when a “bright red mass” went flying through space leaving a gaseous trail. What they saw is shown in this picture to the right of the peak's crest. The “disk” was visible only a second, they said, and then disappeared into the mist.
 [stamped] JUL 15, 1947

Louis Taylor notes the print had been retouched, a common practice to sharpen details for newsprint publication.  He said: 
“From the look of it it actually looks like a frame from a home movie or something.  It's obviously been retouched but what is it, a Perseid meteor or something else?”

So far, we have been unable to find the published version. This is an outstanding find, and would be in the running with the Frank Ryman picture for the first UFO photo of the flying saucer era.

 STTF readers are urged to check out Louis Taylor’s gallery of documents at Information Dispersal. If you have any information on any of the photos, please post in the comments below or send Louis an email.

Fame, Fortune and Flying Saucers

Flying saucers and aliens... Some people feared these strange visitors from other planets, while others embraced them as saviors. Xenophobia...