Sunday, April 5, 2020

Flying Saucer Swindlers: Silas Newton and the UFO Crash


In 1950, the public had been told that flying saucers are real, but there was even more exciting news circulating. A scientist disclosed that four spaceships had been captured by the US government - and we should expect another flying saucer landing soon. The story was issued by United Press (UP) and published as front page news by many papers across the USA on October 20, 1950.

Hartford Courant Oct. 20, 1950

The Minneapolis Star Oct. 20 1950 
The "scientist" was oil man Silas M. Newton, billed in the news as a geophysicist. The Newton story began circulating in late 1949, and spread faster than a virus, and by early 1950, several variations of it were in circulation. 
... the story got from Silas Newton to J. Edgar Hoover: Newton told George Koehler (employed at radio station KMYR in Denver), who told Morley Davies, who told Ford dealers Murphy and van Horn, who told auto dealer Fick, who told the editor of the Kansas City Wyandotte Echo. By that time, Koehler had become "Coulter," just like a game of "gossip" (or a game of "pi")!       
This article was picked up in the news, where it caught the interest of the OSI. The OSI agent passed the story on to Guy Hottel of the FBI, and he gave the 8th-hand story to Hoover. http://www.nmsr.org/aztec.htm

The FBI Hottel Memo


A version of Silas Newton's story was recorded by agent Guy Hottel of the FBI New Orleans office on March 31, 1950. It's a real document, but it has often been misrepresented, taken out of context. Since it surfaced in the 1970s, the "Hottel Memo" has been frequently cited as evidence of a government cover-up of recovered UFOs, and also falsely linked to another incident, the alleged flying saucer crash known as the "Roswell Incident." 

The document itself can be viewed at the FBI Vault:

In 2011, Isaac Koi made a thorough examination of the frequent "re-discoveries" of the Guy Hottel Memo: "Debunked! The FBI alien bodies memo – A case study in the reinvention of the wheel"


Behind the Flying Saucers

Silas Newton's story really caught fire when it was picked up in a national magazine. Frank Scully was a Hollywood gossip columnist, with "Scully's Scrapbook" dishing up tinseltown gab for Variety magazine. Scully was also a respected reviewer of literature and wrote a few books of his own. In 1949, he published two Variety columns on the discovery of flying saucers (Aztec) and a follow-up piece Jan. 11, 1950 with 20 questions he thought the Air Force should answer, accusing the US Government of covering things up.

Newton and Scully
Those columns laid the foundation for what is arguably, the most influential book in UFO history, Behind the Flying Saucers, the original story of the cover-up of small alien bodies retrieved from captured UFOs in New Mexico. The tale also featured other elements that would later resurface in the resurrection and expansion of the story of the saucer debris taken to Roswell, such as the recovery and scientific examination of the spaceship's strange light metal, advanced technology and the dead aliens it contained.

The saucer story itself was thin, barely fleshed out from Scully's sketchy columns, but he added details about how oilman Silas Newton had heard about the discs from the mysterious magnetic research scientist Scully called "Dr. Gee," and there was extensive discussion of how the saucers were constructed on the "System of Nines," and flew using magnetic propulsion. Newton was interested in using that alien magnetic technology to detect oil, and that would come to play an important role in his future.

The story was a hoax, part of a scam by Newton to provide an exotic technological origin for the "doodlebug" he was selling with partner Leo GeBauer, a device that was supposed to magnetically detect oil deposits beneath the earth. He was tried and found guilty of fraud in 1953.

Before: Co-defendant Leo GeBauer, his attorney, and Silas Newton
After: Newton Sentenced
Here's a short version of the Silas Newton Aztec hoax, a non-UFO article examining the episode as just as an oil swindle. It's from the site of the The American Oil & Gas Historical Society:


The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Although the hoax had its critics, it took two years before it was debunked by J.P. Cahn in "The Flying Saucers and the Mysterious Little Men" in True Magazine, Sept. 1952, and in a follow-up piece in True Magazine, Aug. 1956, "Flying Saucer Swindlers." Newton and Scully exploited the hopes and fears of those interested in the UFO mystery, promoting the belief that extraterrestrials were visiting Earth and that there was a Government conspiracy to hide it. When the hoax was exposed, the story was largely forgotten, but the alien and cover-up concepts were adopted as canonical beliefs. The Air Force was portrayed as a villain in Newton's story and Scully's book, and it continued to be a source of irritation. In 1965, answering a request for information about it, the Air Force replied:


For more on the Frank Scully book, see the previous STTF article,


The Shape of Things to Come

As for Silas Newton's 1950 prediction that a flying saucer would soon land, he was off. It happened in 1952, according to the story told by George Adamski.

For more on the Adamski hoax, see:
Saucer News presents: the George Adamski Exposé

The Saucers That Time Forgot will be presenting an series of in-depth articles on other early Flying Saucer Swindlers. Next up, Harold J Berney: The FBI’s Flying Saucer Fugitive.

1 comment:

  1. For what it is worth, back in the 1990s Martin Kottmeyer compiled a list of all the UFO related predictions made up to 1998, it makes for interesting reading if only for the large number of 'end of the world' type predictions, the Scully prediction is there as number 23. The link below goes to the introduction. The list itself is on page 2.

    https://www.anomalist.com/features/waiting.html

    ReplyDelete

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