Friday, August 16, 2019

Forgotten UFO Literature: The Poems of 1947



In the first weeks of the flying saucer hysteria of 1947, many opinions were offered about the mystery. Some people expressed their outlook in the form of poetry, and here's a small collection of some early notable examples.

The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Kentucky, from July 4, 1947:


Two saucer poems from The Boston Globe, July 7, 1947:




A (premature) lament about the end of the saucers. From the Pennsylvania Altoona Tribune,  July 22, 1947:


And finally, not exactly poetry, but a piece on what William Shakespeare might have said about UFOs. From Ohio's Dayton Daily News, July 8, 1947:


Friday, August 2, 2019

Major Tiger Joe Thompson, WW II UFO Witness


Joe Thompson Jr., (1919 - 2012) of Nashville, Tennessee, was not the typical UFO buff. His obituary described him as: “Thoughtful and devoted husband, father and grandfather, man of faith, insurance executive, Presbyterian elder, P-51 Mustang pilot and World War II hero, photographer, storyteller, planter of trees, friend to many, stranger to none...”

Before the war, Thompson graduated from Vanderbilt University with a degree in biology in 1941. Thompson was a pilot in World War II, ultimately as a major, and he chronicled his wartime experiences through photographs. In 2006, his book was published, Tiger Joe: A Photographic Diary of A World War II Aerial Reconnaissance Pilot by Joe Thompson and Tom Delvaux.


During those days as a pilot, Thompson became a UFO witness, seeing a formation of the mysterious wartime aerial phenomenon known as foo fighters. Due to that experience, he took a particular interest in the postwar sightings of flying saucers. Thompson eagerly studied UFO reports and literature, and became a local expert, and in the mid-1950s discussed the subject in public, at civic club lectures and on radio.



Thompson is noted as being a foo fighter witness, but there's very little recognition today for his role in educating the public on UFOs as a lecturer. There are just a few mentions recorded on Thompson in period UFO literature. M. K. Jessup’s 1956 book, The UFO Annual, included two newspaper excerpts about him. The first was about Thompson’s role in a public debate, from The Nashville Tennessean, June 22, 1955:

Joe Thompson of Northwestern Mutual Insurance maintained that all the qualified people such as airplane pilots who have seen the flying “somethings” couldn't be so far wrong... Thompson's argument hinged on the fact that pilots, accustomed to watching for objects in the sky and instantly recognizing regular objects, have seen the so-called flying saucers. “These qualified men with thousands of flying hours know what they see and don't see,” he said.

The Nashville Tennessean, June 22, 1955
Jessup's second one on was about one of Thompson many public lectures on UFOs, as reported by The Nashville Banner, Oct. 18, 1955:

M. K. Jessup’s 1956 The UFO Annual
As far as we know, Thompson never had another UFO sighting, but he was watching the skies. Here's a photo from him that was featured in The Nashville Tennessean newspaper’s Sunday magazine for June 26, 1955:

Flying Saucers, Are They a Myth?
In his lectures, Thompson discussed everything from ancient sightings to modern events, as well as the Air Force investigations of UFOs.
The Tennessean, Oct.18, 1955, The Jackson Sun, May 1, 1956
The Jackson Sun, May 3, 1956
Thompson’s continued to lecture on saucers at least through 1961. Mysteries of the Skies: UFOs in Perspective by Gordon Lore and Harold Deneault, 1968, page 118, features another of the few references to Thompson in UFO books:
The Nashville Banner, on February 15, 1961, published an interview with a veteran whose "flying saucer" talk at a local club had touched off a new round of discussion and speculation. The veteran, Joe Thompson, then an agent for Northwestern Mutual Insurance Co., was described by the Banner as a college graduate, a family man and a responsible civic leader whose "interest in flying saucers stems from his World War II experiences in air reconnaissance work over Germany.”
The story said: "Reconnaissance crews kept seeing 'strange circular objects over the Rhine Valley,' he recalled. They flew in formation and could not be overtaken by American planes. 'We thought they were some sort of German aircraft device,' he said, 'until after the war when we discovered the Germans thought they were ours.' "


In The Nashville Tennessean newspaper’s Sunday magazine for Oct. 30, 1966, an illustrated two page article by Max York discussed Thompson’s sighting, “Joe Thompson and the Foo-Fighters.”
It wasn't until 1947, when the stories about flying saucers hit page one, that Nashville's Joe Thompson Jr. gave much thought to those strange objects he saw in World War II. Now an insurance man, Thompson was a photo reconnaissance pilot in the war. He and his wing man were on a mission over the Rhine Valley, photographing German troop movements, when he saw them...
The full text of the article is among the historical resources at the Project 1947 site.
Project 1947, hosts The 1966 foo fighter story put Thompson’s UFO interest back in the public’s mind and he lectured at least once more, on “UFOs- Fact or Fantasy?” for a mid-November 1966
presentation in Nashville.

Remembering Tiger Joe

The rest of Thompson’s involvement in the topic is undocumented, but due to the sensational news about the 1973 “Pascagoula Abduction” of Charles Hickson and Calvin Parker in Mississippi, he made a brief return to the topic on radio. Thompson spoke about UFOs on Nashville’s WSM radio call-in talk program, “The Teddy Bart Show,” at least twice, in October and November.


Thompson’s participation in the public discussion of UFOs was unusual because he was a prominent citizen, and did not appear to fear it damaging his reputation. The UFO topic has been polluted with an endless stream of hoaxers, hucksters and charlatan who have vied for our attention. From time to time, it’s worth remembering the honorable people like Joe Thompson.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Fantastic Universe: UFOs and Civilian Saucer Intelligence


Flying Saucers and Science Fiction seem to go hand in hand, but wasn't true for most of the early authors. Issac Asimov wrote that, “It is taken for granted by everyone... (that) I believe in flying saucers, in Atlantis, and clairvoyance and levitation... No one would ever think someone who writes fantasies for preschool children really thinks that rabbits can talk– but a science-fiction writer apparently must believe in flying saucers. Well, I do not.”
(From “My Built-In Doubter,” The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, April 1961)

Hollywood's movies were mostly responsible for connecting UFOs to science fiction. Most reputable SF magazines tried to steer clear of the flying saucer fad. About ten years into the saucer age, one magazine editor saw things differently.

Hans Stefan Santesson took over as the editor of Fantastic Universe magazine in 1956 and he had a strong interest in the UFO topic, frequently featuring saucers in science fiction stories, and also in non-fiction articles by ufologists. Perhaps best of all, Santesson's Fantastic Universe featured the column "Shapes in the Sky" by the early serious-minded UFO organization, Civilian Saucer Intelligence (of New York). The group was small, but reputable, primarily Isabel Davis, Alexander Mebane and Ted Bloecher. Civilian Saucer Intelligence published the CSI Newsletter from 1954 to 1959, which is now archived as PDFs at the CUFOS site along with some related documents.

For more about CSI, see The Big Study:  Sacred Object: CSI-NY Tells Hynek About UFOs

Ufology in Fantastic Universe

Many of the issues can be found online, and we've included links where available.


Fantastic Universe Feb. 1957
This issue debuted two UFO articles:
“An Introduction to Ufology” by Ivan T. Sanderson
“The Truth is Fantastic" by Gray Barker.

Fantastic Universe March 1957
“Shapes in the Sky” was the first article by Civilian Saucer Intelligence, and it examined the frequently reported shapes of UFOs.

Fantastic Universe May 1957
“Shapes in the Sky” by Civilian Saucer Intelligence discussed several UFO cases where unusual physical characteristics were reported.



Fantastic Universe July 1957
“Shapes in the Sky” by Civilian Saucer Intelligence discussing physical evidence, "angel hair."

Fantastic Universe Aug. 1957
Two UFO articles:
“UFO- Fiend or Foe” by Ivan T. Sanderson
“The Saucer Myth” by Lester del Rey

Fantastic Universe Sept. 1957
“Shapes in the Sky” by Civilian Saucer Intelligence on "Angel Hair, Gossamer Showers and Flying Jellyfish..."



Fantastic Universe Nov. 1957
Three UFO articles:
"What Pilots a UFO?" by Ivan T. Sanderson
“Meet the Extraterrestrial” by Isabel Davis
“Shapes in the Sky” by Civilian Saucer Intelligence, examining UFO "Sounds from the Sky."

Fantastic Universe Dec. 1957
"Comments from a Scientist" by Ivan T. Sanderson
“Shapes in the Sky” by Civilian Saucer Intelligence, more "Sounds from the Sky."

Fantastic Universe Jan. 1958
“Shapes in the Sky” by Civilian Saucer Intelligence, on "Smells from the Sky."


Fantastic Universe Feb. 1958
“Continents in Space” by Ivan T. Sanderson
“Shapes in the Sky” by Civilian Saucer Intelligence, on UFO radar cases.
“Saucers - Fact Not Fiction” by Morris K. Jessup.)

Fantastic Universe March 1958
“Shapes in the Sky” by Civilian Saucer Intelligence, on UFO "radar angels."

Fantastic Universe April 1958
“Shapes in the Sky” by Civilian Saucer Intelligence, on the "Sky-Ice Age."


Fantastic Universe May 1958
“We’ll Never Catch Them” by Ivan T. Sanderson
“Shapes in the Sky” by Civilian Saucer Intelligence, on 1957 UFO cases.

Fantastic Universe June 1958
“Shapes in the Sky” by Civilian Saucer Intelligence, on more 1957 UFO cases including electromagnetic interference reports.

Fantastic Universe July 1958
“The Truth about Flying Saucers” by Morris K. Jessup
“Shapes in the Sky” by Civilian Saucer Intelligence, on UFO "radiation burns."


Fantastic Universe Aug. 1958
"Report from Brazil" by Dr. Olavo Fontes
“Shapes in the Sky” by Civilian Saucer Intelligence, on Aimé Michel's Flying Saucers and the Straight-Line Mystery.

Fantastic Universe Sept. 1958
“Man-made UFO” by Ivan T. Sanderson
“Shapes in the Sky” by Civilian Saucer Intelligence

Fantastic Universe Oct. 1958
“Shapes in the Sky” by Civilian Saucer Intelligence
"Flying Saucer of the Seas" by Hans Stefan Santesson (as Stephen Bond)


Fantastic Universe Nov. 1958
“Shapes in the Sky” by Civilian Saucer Intelligence on "...a neglected aspect of Ufology — the animals, generally dogs, often the first to see the strange shapes in the sky..."

Fantastic Universe continued into 1960, and many other issues featured UFO-themed stories, book reviews or art. Two places to find more issues online:

The Internet Archive hosts an incomplete collection of the series in The Pulp Magazine Archive


There's also a collection at the the Luminist Archives: Fantastic Universe

Related Publications

Hans Stefan Santesson published a collection of UFO material from Fantastic Universe as a book, Flying Saucers in Fact and Fiction, 1968

Isabel Davis and Ted Bloecher later were associated with Dr. J. Allen Hynek's Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS). They collaborated on a book in 1978 on the Kelly-Hopkinsville "Goblin" case, Close Encounter at Kelly and Others of 1955.

Friday, July 5, 2019

UFOs: Real True Hoaxes of Advertising


Sell it with Saucers! Within days of the coming of the saucers in 1947, the UFO topic was exploited by promoters to get attention for their products. See our earlier piece, Discs in the Sky: Flying Saucer Commercialism  for some of the first products and pitches. The 1950s was when the practice hit its peak, and even the military of US and UK were hoaxing saucers in order to advertise their message.

May 1950: The Northern California National Air Guard used the flying saucer picture below to attract new recruits.

July 1950: The military captured a Martian invader in Alameda, California, but it was just a publicity stunt for Jaycee variety show "Life in a Swiss Cheese Factory."  

Future Magazine, July 1950

August 1952: There was another hoaxed flying saucer by the military, this time an advertising stunt recruiting drive for the US Navy Reserve.

While in a slightly different category, 1952 also saw the debut of the saucer that advertised itself, the coin-operated Flying Saucer ride from Meteor Machine Corp.


Aug. 1953: In Phoenix, Arizona, the Jack Stewart Studebaker auto dealership featured a flying saucer in its window display to attract customers.

Forbes magazine, Aug. 1, 1953

Dec. 1952: The Long Beach, California Air Show featured a mock saucer, since everyone knew they were the future of flying.

Independent (Long Beach, CA) Dec. 15, 1952 
July 1955: The United Kingdom got into the saucer show business. The Royal Air Force Maintenance Command built this one for their annual White City Tattoo.
 
Walla Walla Union Bulletin, July 11, 1955

Jan. 1956:  Another UK saucer for show business, this disc co-starred in the ice show, "Babes In the Woods."  
Kansas City StarJanuary 4, 1956

The commercialization of flying saucers is a regular topic of exploration at STTF, so we'll be back with more UFO and alien exploitation soon.

Many of the saucers above were located in the galleries at
UFOPOP: Flying Saucers in Popular Culture.

Friday, June 21, 2019

The First Several Saucer Solutions of 1947


In the weeks following the historic UFO sighting by Kenneth Arnold, many explanations surfaced for the reports of flying saucers. This was spoofed in a cartoon in the July 7, 1947 edition of The Times Record from Troy, New York:
The Times Record, Troy NY, July 7, 1947
The explanations offered ranged from the serious to the silly. STTF's Claude Falkstrom has collected some of the most notable ones from the summer of 1947.


The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 28, 1947

The Tennessean Sun, June 29, 1947 
The Vought  XF5U-1 "Flying Flapjack?" 


Daily News, July 5, 1947

The Montana Standard, July 5, 1947 
Atomic Experiments?


The Independent Record, July 6, 1947
Mass Hysteria?
Dr. Steckel v. Dr. Overholser
Two psychiatrists gave their conflicting opinions on saucers, Dr. Harry A. Steckel v. Dr. Winfred Overholser on flying saucers as mass hysteria:
The News-Press, (Fort Myers, FL)  July 7, 1947
Remotely-piloted Missiles, Corpuscles?

The Mexico Ledger, July 7, 1947, The Evening Sun, July 7, 1947
Optical Illusions and the Power of Suggestion?


The Milwaukee Sentinel, July 7, 1947
Meteors, Birds or Reflections? 


The Ottawa Journal,  July 7, 1947,  Tampa Bay Times and The Evening Sun, July 9, 1947
Airborne Radioactive Waste?

The Daily Courier, July 10, 1947

Grain Silo Reflections?

 The Sentinel, Carlisle PA, July 9, 1947

Several Silly Suggestions:

The Weekly Acadian, July 10, 1947
Entoptic Phenomena?

Tampa Bay Times, July 13, 1947
Fear-Inspired Folklore?

Messenger-Inquirer, July 20, 1947

Associated Press Science Editor, Howard W. Blakeslee wrote a long article on how the flying saucers might be a "new folklore in the making":
The flying disks are probably the first of a series of aerial puzzles, with others to come, in the opinion of Dr. J.L. Moreno, New York... Men have been seeing things like flying disks for centuries. Now these apparitions have a new meaning and some of them a new dreadfulness. 
The full text of the article can be found at Saturday Night Uforia, "in the news 1947," look for the story, Seeing of Saucers in Flight Is Phenomenon of Current Fears



Industrial Waste?
The News Palladium, July 30, 1947

The Saucers That 1947 Forgot

By August of 1947, the flying saucer sensation was over, and the topic was spoken of in the past tense. The Gallup Poll asked "What do you think the saucers are?" After months of conflicting explanations, no one could be sure, but of the respondents who thought saucers were real, the top answer was military "secret weapon."
Aug. 15, 1947
When saucers were discussed, the idea lingered that the UFOs could be a secret military weapon, but there was no consensus on who was flying them.

The Soviets thought they were ours.

St. Clair Chronicle, Aug. 23, 1947

Oregon Representative Harris Ellsworth got word that behind the saucers story we might find a rocket from Russia.
The Freeport Journal-Standard, Dec. 22, 1947

Stories of saucer sightings, and various explanations from the credible to the crackpot variety, continued to make good copy. The newspapers continued to provide stories about flying saucers for their curious readers. It didn't much matter to the newspaper editors what was being seen, or whether it was real; saucers were news, and they sold news. 

Forgotten UFO Literature: The Poems of 1947

In the first weeks of the flying saucer hysteria of 1947, many opinions were offered about the mystery. Some people expressed their out...