Friday, December 29, 2017

The Debunkers That Time Forgot: Dr. Richard P. Youtz


Professor Richard P. Youtz, chairman of Barnard College's psychology department from 1946 to 1974.

In Richard H. Hall's introduction to "Historical Viewpoints" in the March-April 2004, Journal of UFO History, he wrote: "A regular feature will be viewpoints and opinions about UFOs offered up over the decades by all sorts of people. Some of the comments for astute, others sadly misguided, and some are by allegedly intelligent and educated people who should have known better than to shoot from the lip." The first sampling was led by the following: 
Under the headline "Saucers Explained" (Science News Letter, Apr. 30, 1960) Dr. Richard P. Youtz, a psychologist and Bernard College, New York City, it says that what witnesses are reporting as "flying saucers" are only "afterimages" resulting from having looked at a bright light source.
Dr. Youtz's work was based on years of study, and long before that 1960 paper, he'd been quoted in newspapers saying that 60% of reports of flying saucers were just optical afterimages.



The New York Barnard Bulletin Oct. 27, 1952
Barnard Bulletin, Nov. 5, 1956
And finally, a story on the presentation that formed the basis for "Saucers Explained."
Alton Evening Telegraph, May 2, 1960

A Rational Voice


Followers of Donald Keyhoe's claim that the flying saucers are real had little interest in hearing any science that did not support the extraterrestrial hypothesis for the origin of UFOs. Dr. Youtz passed in 1986, and received a nice obituary in the New York Times. Today, his work is remembered almost only by his former academy.

"Youtz's belief that the scientific method could be applied to the analysis of behavior guided much of what he did. No phenomenon seemed too far out to approach scientifically. He presented one paper in which he speculated that some reports of flying saucers might be due to visual afterimages. In another line of research, he spent three years studying the perception of colors through the skin. In the early 1960s, there were reports that scientists in the Soviet Union had demonstrated that some people were capable of dermato-optical perception. In careful experiments, Youtz demonstrated that the ability to detect colors was eliminated if the objects were covered by thick glass or if the skin temperature was below 24-degrees C. Furthermore, performance deteriorated if the colored objects were made of material that did not have good thermal conduction properties, such as wood or sponge. These experiments showed that about 10% of the population could discriminate colors by touching objects but that the basis for the discrimination was the thermal properties of objects. Youtz's was a rational voice in the sometimes wild discussion of dermato-optical sensitivity that was taking place."
The History of the Barnard College Psychology Department
Professor Youtz's flying saucer solution didn't catch on, but his work in "dermato-optical perception" seems to have been immortalized, inspiring DC Comics' Batman villain, the "Ten-Eyed Man," the man who could see with his fingertips.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Signs: Ezekiel, the Bible and UFOs



"It's God's truth — I will swear it on a Bible." 
- Kenneth Arnold, Oregon Journal, June 27, 1947

Kenneth Arnold received a warning shortly after his sighting of flying saucers in 1947. Some people were seeing the saucers as a sign from above.

Preacher Sees Doomsday "... getting his flock “ready for the end of this world.”
Spokane Daily Chronicle, page 1, June 27, 1947 

Biblical connections were being found:
Los Angeles Herald-Express, July 8, 1947
"Ezekiel the Prophet Foretold Flying Discs."

The Bible and Project Blue Book

Project Blue Book checked the Bible for such signs. General John A. Samford, from page three of the AF transcript of the July 29, 1952 press conference prompted by the Washington, D.C. UFO radar incidents.

“The volume of reporting is related to many things. We know that reports of this can go back to Biblical times. There have been flurries of them in various centuries. 1846 seems to of been a time when there were quite a flurry of reporting of this card. Our current series of report goes back, generally, to 1946 in which things with this kind reported in Sweden."

Later handwritten notes added in margin, with an arrow pointing to Biblical times:

“Charles Fort has written on the subject of UFOs – his works published during the last century.”



Captain Edward J. Ruppelt of Project Blue Book in a 1952 document, “Draft of Article for August Air Intelligence Digest” had a section dealing with the Biblical UFOs, UAPs or UAOs:
"Ezekiel Saw de Wheel,"Zechariah saw a "roll"
The AIR INTELLIGENCE DIGEST will not quarrel with readers who dismiss as far-fetched any interpretation of the Biblical quotations below as references to 1) a disc-shaped UAO and 2) a cigar-shaped UAO. These quotations are presented solely for whatever significance, if any, that DIGEST readers read into them.
The wording of the well-known reference in Ezekiel is: " . . . a whirlwind came out of the north . . . a fire unfolding . . . and a brightness was about it, out of the midst thereof as the color of amber . . . it sparkled like the color of burnished brass . . . like burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps . . . the appearance of the wheels was like unto the color of a beryl (greenish-blue) . . . as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel".
Less familiar is a passage in Zechariah: "Then I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and beheld a flying roll . . . the length thereof (was) twenty cubits, and the breadth thereof (was) ten cubits." "Roll," in Biblical terminology, usually meant the parchment rolls then used for books. In some translations, the phrase "flying book" is substituted for "flying roll" in the foregoing passage. Converting cubits into feet, Zechariah's "flying roll" measured 30 by 15 feet.
Ruppelt briefly touched on the topic in his 1956 book, The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects:
“Did UFO reports actually start in 1947? We had spent a great deal of time trying to resolve this question. Old newspaper files, journals, and books that we found in the Library of Congress contained many reports of odd things being seen in the sky as far back as the Biblical times. The old Negro spiritual says, 'Ezekiel saw a wheel 'way up in the middle of the air.' We couldn't substantiate Ezekiel's sighting because many of the very old reports of odd things observed in the sky could be explained as natural phenomena that weren't fully understood in those days."

The Air Force wasn't going to accept the Biblical accounts on faith alone, but it was enough for many.

Flying Saucers, God's Last Sign of the Age

Certainly a bit of religion worked its way into UFO lore, such as with George Adamski's Space Brothers, "technological angels" from Venus. A bit of flying saucery worked its way into some churches as well. The Reverend R.D. Ingle included saucers in some of his sermons.


"Earthquakes and Flying Saucers, God's Last Sign of the Age."


Harrisonburg Daily News Record (VA) March 21, 1953
"The United States Will be Invaded From the Air According to Bible Predictions"
Zanesville Signal (OH) April 1953 
Reverend Billy Graham was asked in his column about Ezekiel and flying saucers. Graham didn't know much about saucers, but didn't think they were part of Biblical prophecy. Still, he thought it prudent to get right with the Lord just in case, and also to "Watch..."
Charleston Daily Mail (WV) April 2, 1953

The topic of UFOs and religion is near infinite, so we'll let Rev. Graham have the last word for now.



Friday, December 15, 2017

First Flying Saucer Occupant Report, Published July 9, 1947



Little Green Men from Mars were not initially given any serious thought as being the answer to flying saucers. In 1947, most people thought that if flying saucers were real, they must be a secret military project- ours or by other countries spying on the USA. Space aliens were taken no more seriously than the earlier talk of mischievous gremlins sabotaging airplanes during World War II.

The first report of contact with alien beings from saucers was made in Nashville, Tennessee in early July 1947, and published in the day after the story of the "captured flying disc" story from Roswell, New Mexico:

The Nashville Tennessean, July 9, 1947, page one
All Over the Nation People Talk Saucers
The flying saucer furore has finally hit Nashville... One man, apparently sane and sober, wrote the editor of The Nashville Tennessean, a long interesting letter about his brush with a couple of Men from Mars on a nearby flying field. These strange little men, “all heads and arms and legs, glowing like fireflies,” landed and alighted from a flying saucer as he drove along a highway, the man wrote. The man from Nashville and the Men from Mars exchanged greetings (in sign language) and the saucer finally took off in a cloud of dust, so the letter says.

The Nashville TennesseanJuly 9, 1947
Indistinguishable from a joke?

Describing the story, Jerome Clark in The UFO Encyclopedia Volume 2, 1992, said,

"The newspaper account characterizes the correspondent (whose letter was only paraphrased, not published) as 'apparently perfectly sane and sober,' but the story sounds more like a practical joke than a serious report."
The letter may not have been genuine, but the account is important for being the first published, and closely resembles many other that would eventually surface later, including a number of accounts told or published at the each year on April 1st.

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, December 8, 2017

Lost UFO Films: Socorro and Frank Stranges

Frank E. Stranges & The Saucer Films That Time Forgot


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

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

Documenting the Socorro Saucer

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

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

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



NICAP, The Silence Group?

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


 Film '7.7' Disappointment 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Vinyl Disc 

The 1966 record, Flying Saucers Unlimited, is listed as being based on the motion picture Phenomena 7.7, but seems to be mainly a recorded lecture of Frank Stranges. 
Flying Saucers Unlimited
The record seems to have reached more people than the film, and luckily it has been preserved. This link will allow you to hear it: http://wfmu.org/365/2007/346.shtml

Television: Flying Saucers- Here and Now

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

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




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

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

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

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

What became of the films?

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


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

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

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

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



Friday, December 1, 2017

The Day Before Roswell, July 7, 1947: Between Something and Nothing

The day before the news about a recovered flying disc in Roswell, New Mexico, the newspapers were chock full of saucer stories, and many papers featured a cover photo of Jane Campbell displaying a Rawin target, scooping Mac Brazel and Jesse Marcel.

Madison Wisconsin State Journal, July 7, 1947
May Be "'Saucers' -- Near and Afar
Jane Campbell, 17, of Chillicothe, Ohio, exhibits an unidentified mechanism which fell from a balloon and landed on her father's farm. The father, Sherman Campbell, said the vaned object, through optical illusion, may have caused some of the reports of "flying discs." 

An Estimate of the Situation

The Fort Madison Evening Democrat from July 7, is a great example of early UFO news coverage. The UP story combines wire reports of the real and unreal, in an attempt to cover the emerging phenomenon. The confused position of the newspapers seemed to echo that of the military.
"We're not dismissing the possibility that there's something to it, and we're not dismissing the possibility that it's all a hoax."- Captain Tom Brown, Army Air Force spokesman, Washington, DC. 
Carnival searchlights, Ghost Rockets, the Loch Ness Monster and much more:
Fort Madison Evening Democrat, July 7, 1947


The barrage of conflicting stories in the news kept the public interested- and confused. In the absence of facts, speculation and rumor were king, and in those days, many UFO legends were born.

Real Life Comics #55, Jan. 1951

Friday, November 24, 2017

High Alert! UFO over Oak Ridge National Laboratory, circa 1951



Professor Alan D. Conger is the key player in this case, and we'll begin by introducing him thorough a few key quotes from his obituary:
Alan Conger, a pioneer in genetic effects of radiation, died 22 Dec 1995... He was 78 years old. Alan was born 23 Mar 1917, in Muskegon, Michigan. He attended Harvard as both an undergraduate and a graduate student, and received the Ph.D. degree in biology in 1947.
After (working in the weather service for the Army during WWII), Alan returned to Harvard to pursue his graduate work.. Alan had become interested in the genetic effects of radiation... He began his research career in this field at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 1947 and had a major role in the early bomb tests in the Pacific.
 
Only small part of the following plays a role in the UFO case, but it's too valuable not too repeat.
Alan was well known for his puckish sense of humor... One tangible artifact to have survived his Florida period is associated with Alan's service on the Radiation Study Section of the National Institutes of Health. He donated to that body an alligator coprolite that he had collected in the Florida swamps, which he had mounted on an impressive plaque for presentation annually to the member chosen by his colleagues to have propagated during his study section tenure the greatest quantity of the material of which the coprolite was composed.
( We had to look it up. Coprolite means fossilized excrement.)

Flying Saucers over Oak Ridge National Laboratory




First, we need to introduce the location.
"Established during World War II by the Manhattan District, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) occupied the X-10 site on the fifty-six-thousand-acre reservation between Clinch River and Black Oak Ridge purchased by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1942. Initially called Clinton Laboratories after the nearest town, it began as a top-secret installation to produce plutonium for the first nuclear weapons." For further details, see The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture: Oak Ridge National Laboratory.


In The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects, Capt. Edward J. Ruppelt, ex-head of Project Blue Book said, "...UFO's were habitually reported from areas around 'technically interesting' places like our atomic energy installations, harbors, and critical manufacturing areas." He cited a notable UFO case from Oak Ridge, where an object was sighted by ground observers, confirmed by radar, and pursued by an Air Force plane:  
On June 21, 1952, at 10:58P.M., a Ground Observer Corps spotter reported that a slow-moving craft was nearing the AEC's Oak Ridge Laboratory, an area so secret that it is prohibited to aircraft. The spotter called the light into his filter center and the filter center relayed the message to the ground control intercept radar. They had a target. But before they could do more than confirm the GOC spotter's report, the target faded from the radarscope. An F-47 aircraft on combat air patrol in the area was vectored in visually, spotted a light, and closed on it. They "fought" from 10,000 to 27,000 feet, and several times the object made what seemed to be ramming attacks. The light was described as white, 6 to 8 inches in diameter, and blinking until it put on power. The pilot could see no silhouette around the light.
Ruppelt's story was just one of many from the facility. It's an old question: Are there more UFOs reported around sensitive government facilities because the objects are attracted to them, or is it just that the heightened security produces more false alarms? Fran Ridge's site has a page, NICAP: The Oak Ridge Sightings, featuring several similar events of this kind from around 1950, other Radar-Visual cases where planes were sent out to pursue UFOs reported over ORNL. 

1976: Alan Conger's UFO Disclosure




The Oak Ridge National Laboratory Review's Fall 1976 issue featured a look back at the organizations history: "this special issue of the Review contains a skeleton history of the Laboratory's first 25 years, interspersed with reminiscences, anecdotes, funny pictures, and a few expansions on particular aspects of importance to the Laboratory." There was only one reminiscence about a UFO.


Alan Conger Remembers... 
     Old-timers in the Biology Division may remember the overhang roof facing the highway outside my second floor lab in 9207 -our lunch patio where we dined on balmy days under the morning glories. At the height of the UFO scares (ca. 1951 ?), coming across some balloons and a helium tank left over from our first lab Open House, I filled six or so balloons with helium, tied them together with string, and attached a 6-ft strip of aluminum foil beneath as a radar target. With Kim Atwood's help, I got it out of the lab and launched from our roof patio, admiring its stately ascent as it drifted down Bear Creek Valley, rapidly transforming from a recognizable bundle of balloons and foil into an unidentifiable flying object. We then ran down the hall, calling out to Jack Von Borstel, Bill Arnold, Shelly Wolff, and others, "See the UFO!"
     It caused great excitement and much speculation about what it was, its size, velocity, and height; and soon, even more excitement when it was detected by the nearby radar station on Pilot Mountain, and the fighter-interceptor squadron then stationed at Knoxville was scrambled to intercept the intruder. With planes buzzing around, and our scientist friends seriously considering the object, the situation had rapidly become so very imposing that neither Kim nor I had the guts to confess to our hoax. We kept quiet and hoped the Air Force or AEC would be unable to identify us.
     A few years ago, my son, reading a book on UFOs, came across this incident as one of the case histories of UFO sightings from Air Force records. He recognized it as a hoax, and surmised that some unknown Oak Ridge scientists probably perpetrated it.
-Alan D. Conger, Professor of Radiobiology, School of Medicine, Temple University 

Conger's accomplice was Dr. Kimball C. Atwood III, senior biologist at the ORNL. Most UFO balloon hoaxes are perpetrated by mischievous kids, not Ph.D.s working at US government facilities.
 Up close, the UFO must have looked something like this.


But at a distance, the sun's reflection from metal foil would have been the most visible feature. The foil also provided something for the radar to find, serving as an improvised radar wind target of RAWIN. On radar, the foil strip registered as a solid object, and it was due to this the hoax worked well enough for the Air Force to scramble planes to catch the UFO.

Radar operator, circa 1950.
Dr. Congers did not remember the precise date of the incident, so it's difficult to match Air Force records. There is a possible match in Project blue Book's files in this one from December of 1950:  18 Dec. 1950, Oak Ridge, Tenn. 

This episode and its exposure seems to have been the extent of Professor Conger's involvement in the UFO controversy.

In an interesting trivial footnote to the story, Conger's hoaxing accomplice, Kim Atwood, had a son who has written articles on medical quackery for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry's Skeptical Inquirer magazine.
"Kimball C. Atwood IV, M.D. is an anesthesiologist at the Newton-Wellesley Hospital in Newton, Massachusetts. He is Assistant Clinical Professor at the Tufts University School of Medicine and Contributing Editor of the Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine." 
CSI is the den for UFO debunkers like Robert Sheaffer, James Oberg, Joe Nickell, and the late Phil Klass.

Thanks to Roger Glassel for locating the magazine article with Dr. Conger's confession.

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...