Thursday, July 2, 2020

The UFO-Kite Connection

Project Blue Book said they received many false UFO reports prompted by aircraft, balloons and the like, but also a lesser number from the category labelled as “Other,” which included: “missiles, reflections, mirages, searchlights, birds, kites, spurious radar indications, hoaxes, fireworks, and flares.” Kites. This is another scrapbook edition of STTF, and this time on the flying saucer-kite connection

Illustration is based on the famous 1966 “Swamp Gas” press conference with Blue Book consultant, Dr. J. Allen Hynek.

Sir Isaac Newton, UFO hoaxer.
As a boy, Isaac Newton was fascinated with John Bate’s 1634 Mysteries of Nature and Art, and built contraptions described in it. According to Sam Kean, Newton, “also built a lantern described therein, tied it to a kite, and flew it at night near his home, a spectacle ‘which wonderfully affrighted all the neighboring inhabitants,’ he recalled.”
Clipping from Odd Fellow's Talisman and Literary Journal, Jan. 1878. Illustration from Mysteries of Nature and Art

Echoing Newton’s kite was one of the earliest hoaxes of the flying saucer age, a prank by the boys of the Flying Kilroy Model Club of Hayward, California. They flew a black kite at night with a silver disc painted on it, with members pretending to be astonished onlookers.

Hayward Daily Review (CA) July 12, 1947

The Saucers May Be Mine

Inventor Harold E. Dunn said he wondered if test flights of his new silver conical kite were responsible for some of the early flying saucer sightings. And he made sure to point out, by the way, they’d be on sale soon at a retailer near you.

Amarillo Daily News, Aug. 1, 1947

Corpus-Christi Caller-Times, Aug. 10, 1947

The Flying Discs vs the Flying Saucers

Jesse C. Donaldson’s invention of the “Wirl Wing Controllable Flying Discs” was featured in Life magazine Dec. 1947, but the complete name of the product was not given, and there was no reference to flying saucers made.

1948 advertisement for the Wirl Wing from Sunday color newspaper comics section.

The Los Angeles Times April 30, 1948 Jesse C. Donaldson took Theodore S. Lundgren to court over the virtually identical “the Flying Saucers” kite. The judge dismissed the case.

The Los Angeles Times May 6, 1948

Gremlins and Saucers from Above

Life magazine April18, 1949 called the Magikite, the kite had a bag/clip system that could release a payload of aerial toys ranging from Army paratroopers and gremlins to flying saucers.

A Fake and a Mistake from 1950

The Estherville Daily News April 5, 1950

William Allison was the inventor of a polymorphic kite that was spotted in Dayton, Ohio, not far from the Air Force’s saucer HQ at Wright Field.
The Times News (Idaho) Oct. 8, 1950

Saucers to Build or Buy
Two of many 1950s saucer-related kites: Boy’s Life magazine directions for a saucer-shaped kite, and the space-themed kite from Alox which featured flying saucers.

The Captured UFO of 1967

In 1967 the US was still in the "Swamp Gas” wave of flying saucer sighting, many of which were caused by hoaxes launched by kids, such as small hot air balloons. Below is a case from Galesburg, Illinois found in the files of Project Blue Book.

Galesburg Register-Mail, March 14, 1967

One UFO Case Solved

The mystery of one UFO in the Galesburg area was solved Monday night. Guards at Butler Manufacturing Co. sighted it shortly before midnight and began following it. They found a string and hauled in the UFO. It was a red plastic kite with a flashlight bulb and two batteries. The wiring was with rigged so that the swing of the kite which caused a bulb to flash. Depending upon the direction of the kite, either a red or white light was seen. Looking over the kite are Patrolman Edmund Watson, Capt. Eugene Smith and Patrolman Earl Wilson.

Project Blue Book was delighted to have a captured kite as evidence that many flying saucers were just hoaxes, pranks, and cases of mistaken identity. Galesburg Police Department report in Project Blue Book files.

Back to the Forties

While not really a kite, rawin radar reflector targets were kite-like structures, foil attached to balsa wood frame, carried aloft by balloons. Hundreds of these were launched in military tests in the 1940s, and many of them dropped from the sky and were found by civilians.

Madison Wisconsin State Journal, July 7, 1947

From 1947 on, this foil debris was frequently mistaken for flying saucers, and some were featured quite prominently in the news.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Project Blue Book Investigation: 1948 Crashed Unidentified Aerial Object Photo

70 years ago, a letter launched the Air Force investigation of an “Unidentified Aerial Object.”

Martin W. Peterson lived in Cincinnati, Ohio, but held a seasonal job as a summer school metal shop teacher in Warren, Minnesota. While there in 1948, his friend Walter Sirek found a strange object embedded in the ground behind Nish’s Tavern. It was a metal disc-like object with fins like a rocket. When they examined it, they found it to be about two feet in diameter, and the fins on either side of the jet or rocket exhaust port had scorch marks. Peterson photographed Sirek holding the object but did not report the discovery to the authorities. 

After the 1950 publication of Donald Keyhoe’s book, The Flying Saucer Saucers Are Real, the resulting publicity caused a friend to suggest to Peterson that he should submit his evidence to the US government. In his letter dated June 19, 1950, Peterson sent in a short letter reporting the saucer discovery:

Dear Sir:
I am anxious to know what this contraption is. It was found with its point buried in the hard ground in my home town some time ago.

I have enclosed my return addressed envelope for an answer and the snap shots.

Yours most sincerely,
Martin W. Peterson

Enclosed were four snapshots, which were subsequently labeled exhibits A - D.

Only three of the four photos were collected in Air Force files, each with Sirek's face obscured.

The two versions found in published versions of Project Blue Book Records.
On the lower set we've superimposed Sirek's photo from Cosmopolitan.
The Air Force launched an extensive inquiry that involved an analysis of the photographs object which included dispatching agents from the Chicago Office of Special Investigations to check on the credibility of Peterson and to interview him and any other witnesses.

National Press

The newspapers first got word of the story when Air Force files were opened to columnist Bob Considine. As a result, Considine wrote a four-part series on flying saucers, and in the final installment prominently discussed the Minnesota saucer, exposing it as a fake, apparently an unintentional hoax. The story as printed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Missouri) Nov. 19, 1950:

Hoax Aspect of Flying Saucer Story
Practical Jokers Keep Air Force Busy Solving Their Fakes

Link to complete article.

Drew Pearson also mentioned the episode in his nationally syndicated “Washington Merry-Go-Round” column on Nov. 25, 1950.

For Cosmopolitan magazine, January, 1951, Bob Considine repackaged his saucer series into a long article, The disgraceful flying Saucer hoax.” The excerpt on the saucer rocket:

On June 19, 1950, the Air Materiel Command received a letter from one Martin W. Peterson.  Enclosed were four snapshots of a friend holding an odd object with a saucerlike body. From its thin sides, there protruded what appeared to be the tip of a spear and the fins and exhaust-pipe assembly of a miniature V-2.
Peterson was located in Warren, Minnesota.  So was his friend, the saucer man — Walter Sirek, a gas-station attendant.  Sirek told the investigators that he had found the strange device two years before, imbedded in the earth behind Nish’s Tavern, in Warren.  He had figured, he said, that it was the work of a local tinsmith named Art Jensen.  Jensen, when questioned, remembered putting something of the sort together at the request of a Warren hardware man named Ted Heyen and a radio repairman named Robert Schaeffer — as a gag entry in a local newspaper “saucer contest.”  An acetylene torch had been played over the tail surfaces to give them the appearance of having been scorched by gases escaping from the hauntingly familiar “engine” encased in the saucer.
Heyen and Schaeffer tired of their gadget after a time and threw it away.  Sirek found it.  Peterson, visiting Sirek shortly thereafter, took snapshots of Sirek holding the contraption — and two years later sent them to the Air Materiel Command.
It took this particular investigative chain reaction from June nineteenth to September twenty-seventh to run its course.  Agents had to be transported from Wright Field, Washington, and elsewhere to the points of inquiry, fed, housed, and paid.  The fruits of their labors were a few apologies and the saucer — which had been made of the lid of an automatic washing machine, a sawed-off curtain-rod spear, tin tail assembly, and an “engine” composed of a disemboweled midget radio and an old insecticide bomb.
More malicious gagsters have taken the trouble to buy and crudely assemble mounds of scrap steel and iron, burn the junk into an unrecognizable tangle, and report to the Air Force that a saucer had crashed and burned on their property. However plain the hoax, the Air Force often feels that it must take samples of the "wreckage" for study in its Wright Field laboratories or in other metallurgical centers.

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. One who turns in a false alarm that routs out the local fire department on a Halloween night can also be jailed, as can a man who writes a check for a dollar when he has no bank funds to cover it. Yet the most callous and cynical saucer-hoaxers will continue to go scot free, with a cackle of delight, until a penal act is created to check such offenses.

Considine got one fact wrong. The Air Force’s analysis of the object was based only on the photos, the object itself was never recovered. The file notes than in light of the confession, “no attempt was made to locate the ‘aerial object.’ …the large amount of junk at the city dump… is periodically covered over by earth by a bulldozer.”

Walter Sirek and the “Unidentified Aerial Object.”
While this man-made saucer was not created for a hoax, it ended up sending the Air Force on a wild goose chase. Nevertheless, it provides a good example as to the kind of work put into saucer investigations, and reveals how much was often spent chasing so little.

For more details on the Air Force’s investigation, see the file in Project Blue Book.

 . . .

Trivia Across Time

Two familiar names coincidentally pop up in the story. Coast to Coast hardware employed Ted Heyen, and his saucer building partner was a radio repairman named Robert Schaeffer. In more recent years, Coast to Coast A.M. is a radio show is broadcasting wild UFO stories, the sort which are often debunked by skeptic Robert Sheaffer.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Dashiell Hammett and Flying Saucers

What did Dashiell Hammett have to do with flying saucers? Nothing, but the characters he created are a different story. One of them is remarkably similar to the legend of the alien bodies record at Roswell, New Mexico. 

Dashiell Hammett is best known for his 1930 detective novel, The Maltese Falcon, which was later made into the classic 1941 film starring Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade. A few years later, The Adventures of Sam Spade radio program that ran from 1946 - 1951. The sponsor was Wildroot Cream-Oil, who also used Hammett’s character in a series of single-page advertisements in newspapers and magazines disguised as comic strips.

 Although he had nothing to do with the ads, the comics were called, “Dashiell Hammett’s Adventures of Sam Spade,” and the March 19, 1950 episode was titled, “The Case of the Flying Saucer.”

Click here for enlargement
Later the same year, another of Hammett’s characters was drawn into an even bigger story, one about a captured flying saucer and alien bodies - both dead and alive. But first, let’s skip ahead for a moment to 1958.

The Thin Man

Hammett’s 1934 novel The Thin Man had several movies based on the characters, Nick and Nora Charles, and was later the basis for a television series on NBC from 1957–59, starring Peter Lawford and Phyllis Kirk.

Opening credits to The Thin Man

Like with Hammett’s other characters, the series was mostly detective stories, but once again, flying saucers entered the picture. Episode 32 of season one was titled, “The Saucer People.” From a newspaper listing from Aug. 29, 1958:

The Thin Man, starring Peter Lawford. Nick and Nora Charles investigate“The Saucer People.” A scientist claims he has been riding in a flying saucer – thereby hoping to devise a scheme for fleecing thousands from their life savings. 

Unfortunately, we were not able to locate a copy of the episode itself.

Secret Agent X-9 and the Captured Saucer of 1950

Along with artist Alex Raymond (the creator of Flash Gordon), Dashiell Hammett created the Secret Agent X-9 newspaper comic strip in 1934.

Hammett left the series after the first year, but it continued a successful run in the hands of other writers and artists until 1996. From 1945 to 1960, the series was written and drawn by Mel Graff, who finally gave X-9 a name, Phil Corrigan. In May to July 1950, Graff featured a story where X-9 was drawn into a sensational case involving a captured flying saucer and the aliens found inside.

STTF reader ISleepNow posted a video on YouTube titled, Secret Agent X-9 "The Day After Aztec," saying, “These panels of the Secret Agent X-9 comic strip… were originally published in May through June of 1950 making them the earliest significant flying saucer story as far as newspaper comic strips were concerned. But of greater concern was the possible truth lying behind them.”

The final strips were not included, but we've located some key selections to finish X-9's saucer adventure.

In the final episode, X-9 is briefed on the astonishing truth about flying saucers, but we readers lacked the security clearance to be included.

Mel Graff's story about little alien men was very much influenced by Frank Scully's 1950 book, Behind the Flying Saucers, and the hoax on which it was based. The book was also the basis for the legends of Hangar 18 and aliens found in crash near Roswell,

X-9 was back to dealing with more traditional spy business, but later there were at least two other UFO episodes. In Sept. 1966 by Robert Lubbers (aka Bob Lewis), the strip below shows X-9 with "Tracking Control" monitoring a UFO’s entry into the earth’s atmosphere.

In the hands of writer Archie Goodwin and artist Al Williamson, in 1978, the series featured another UFO storyline, with Corrigan investigating the abduction of the USA's top scientists.

The Stuff that Dreams are Made of

No, Dashiell Hammett didn’t write about saucers, but his novel The Maltese Falcon was about a struggle over a priceless relic that turned out to be a counterfeit. That’s something very similar to the situation ufologists often find themselves in, and a bit like the ending of the Humphrey Bogart movie version of Hammett's s novel.

The UFO-Kite Connection

Project Blue Book said they received many false UFO reports prompted by aircraft, balloons and the like, but also a lesser number from th...