Friday, April 26, 2019

Captured Flying Saucers: Saybrook, IL, July 26, 1947

In Captured Flying Saucers: July 7, 1947, The Disk that Slipped by the FBI, we looked at how J. Edgar Hoover was upset that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was cut out of a UFO investigation. Along with previous disappointments dealing with the military, that caused the FBI to want nothing to do with flying saucers. Later the same month, the policy, if not the attitude, changed.

(Document on the FBI site: BUREAU BULLETIN No. 42)
The Bureau, at the request of the Army Air Forces Intelligence, has agreed to cooperate in the investigation of flying discs...
Series 1947
You should investigate each instance which is brought to your attention of a sighting of a flying disc in order to ascertain whether or not it is a bona fide sighting, an imaginary one or a prank. You should also bear in mind that individuals might report seeing flying discs for various reasons. It is conceivable that an individual might be desirous of seeking personal publicity, causing hysteria, or playing a prank.
The Bureau should be notified immediately by teletype of all reported sightings and the results of your inquiries. In instances where the report appears to have merit, the teletype should be followed by a letter to the Bureau containing in detail the results of your inquiries. The Army Air Forces have assured the Bureau complete cooperating in these matters and in any instances where they fail to make information available to you or make the recovered discs available for your examination, it should promptly be brought to the attention of the Bureau.
Any information you develop in connection with these discs should be promptly brought to the attention of the Army through your usual liaison channels.
They also noted that there was the potential for UFO hoaxes to be used to breed fear:
"The Army Air Forces Intelligence has also indicated some concern that the reported sightings might have been made by subversive individuals for the purpose of creating a mass hysteria."

The Springfield FBI Memo

One of the USA's greatest concerns about flying saucers were that they were a new weapon of some sort by the Soviet Union, therefore, investigating UFOs was a matter of national security. As a result, saucer sightings were taken seriously, and many FBI agents' reports were written in grave tones, though few cases were of genuine importance.

Shortly after the FBI saucer directive, a report came in from Illinois. Someone had recovered a small disc. The memorandum to headquarters for FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover:

TO: Director, FBI DATE: August 20, 1947

FROM: SAC, Springfield


Reference is made to Bureau Bulletin No. 42, Series 1947, dated 
July 30, 1947 re the above. 

For the Bureau's information a Mrs. xxxxxxxxxxxxx of Saybrook,  
Illinois reported to this office the finding of a flying disc 
in her front yard at 6:00 A.M. on July 26, 1947. 

It appears from investigation conducted by an Agent of this 
office that the stability of xxxxxxxxxxxxx is questionable. How- 
ever the alleged flying disc was obtained and it is apparently 
the concoction of some of the juveniles in the area. It is an
old wooden platter, which has assembled on it a silver plate, a 
spark plug, a timer, and some old brass tubing. Photographs 
were taken of the same and there are six views enclosed herewith. 

No doubt this was someone's idea of a prank. 

The disc is presently being retained by the Springfield Office and 
will be retained pending receipt of Bureau advice relative to its
destruction. The thought in retaining it was that perhaps the 
Bureau might desire to have it transmitted to Washington for any 
novel value it might have. 

Enc. (6) 
To view the FBI file on this case: 62-0-1445: Saybrook, Illinois, July 26, 1947

On Sept. 5, 1947, FBI headquarters replied: Nah, if the military doesn't want it, get rid of it.

The FBI site has a page on their site about the “Unusual Phenomena” files collection, “The FBI and UFOs: Flying Flapjacks, Saucers, and Saw Blades.” It featured a brief recap of the Saybrook saucer case and displayed two clear pictures of it:

The FBI and UFOs: Flying Flapjacks, Saucers, and Saw Blades
The FBI report failed to mention that the flying disc carried the brand of its purported country of origin: Russia. With the "timer, and some old brass tubing," it looked a bit like a bomb. Had the "Russia" label been published in the media, it might have led to just the kind of mass hysteria the authorities feared, hoax or not.

The Saybrook citizen's report seems to have gone directly to the local FBI, and was not covered by the newspapers like so many other flying saucers stories around the same time. Since the FBI's investigation was conclusive, nothing was passed on to the Air Force, therefore this incident is not found in the files of Project Blue Book. In a sense, the case is unsolved. Once the FBI decided it was just a prank by some kids, they were done with it. We'll never know who made the phony soviet saucer or just why.

The FBI was only in the UFO business for a short while. According to their site, a July 1950 FBI statement said that “the jurisdiction and responsibility for investigating flying saucers have been assumed by the United States Air Force... the FBI does not attempt to investigate these reports..."
There were a few exceptions though, but those generally were focused on saucer swindlers, not actual reported UFO sightings.

There were many other early cases of hoaxed captured flying saucers, and the FBI was involved in several of them. See our previous STTF articles, including: Captured Flying Saucers: The North Hollywood Disc, July 10, 1947

Friday, April 12, 2019

FBI UFO Files, 1947: The Harbinger Letter

The FBI got into the UFO business in 1947, but they wanted nothing to do with it. In many cases, the FBI was stuck doing the legwork for low-level cases, chasing down rumors and hoaxes for the Air Force. They continued to do so up until 1950, but after that they were still occasionally involved mostly in investigating the people involved in UFO cases, most often Contactees or frauds - or both.

FBI files contain many documents on UFO- related cases, often without any context. We’ve written about two such cases before. The most famous FBI document is the Hottel Memo:
Scientist Predicts ET Contact / FBI Crashed UFO DocumentAnother stir was caused by "A Memorandum of Importance" dated July 8, 1947 which seemed to show the FBI knew quite a bit about the nature of the saucers and the aliens who flew them:

The problem comes from the FBI material not clearly identifying the source, and worse, by failing to note the solution. We recently discovered another case that follows this pattern, but with a bit of research have matched it to newspaper reports to resolve the mystery.

A Strange Flying Saucer Letter

July 11, 1947, less than a month after Kenneth Arnold’s newsmaking saucer sighting, people across the USA were receiving strange letters suggesting that the UFOs could be “harbingers of a better day,” and that “one of these startling discs is on its way to you.”

Many of the people who received the letter wrote to their local newspaper, and at least one citizen forwarded a copy to the FBI to see what they could make of it.

The mysterious letter itself, postmarked New York City:
Have you seen one of the mysterious "Saucers?" 
What did it look like? 
Do you think these strange celestial manifestations are harbingers of a better day? 
Do you believe it means a new and revolutionary advance is coming? 
Will it make your life brighter, happier, more useful? 
We believe one of these startling discs is on its way to you. Then the secret will be out. 
(Signed) The Combined and Amalgamated Committee of Sky-scanners, Disc Decipherers and New-Product Introducers. 

FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover replied to the informant, but merely offered thanks, not an explanation, and no clarification is contained in the files.  

The original FBI files

The Silver Disc Appears

Below is a simulation of the follow-up to the mysterious letter, and the newspaper clippings that clarify the mystery.

The Decatur Herald, (Decatur, IL) July 18, 1947, The Call Leader, (Elwood, IN) July 16, 1947
It was an advertising stunt for Eversharp CA, perhaps the first major company to exploit the flying saucer craze. They were the biggest, but not the first. Many smaller local businesses had beat them to it by commercializing saucers to promote anything from radio stations to hamburger stands.

Here’s a look at the Eversharp CA, a pioneer in the ball point pen business. More on the company can be found in the article at Eversharp CA Ballpoint 1945-1947 at

There are more FBI flying saucer cases, from the serious to the silly and we’ll continue to look at them here at STTF. We’ll also keep looking at other examples in the never-ending saga of saucer exploitation

Frank Edwards: Making UFOs Newsworthy

Dr. J. Allen Hynek on UFO literature (in  The Edge of Reality , 1975): “If I were to recommend anything in the popular category, I would cho...