Thursday, January 9, 2020

The First UFO Documentary: The Flying Saucer Mystery

The Flying Saucer Mystery, 1950

Telenews Theater and advertisement 
Telenews Theater opened Sept. 1, 1939, in San Francisco, but instead of feature films, it was exclusively devoted to screening non-stop newsreel footage. With its success, they opened a chain of 13 theaters in major cities across the USA, and as Telenews Productions, Inc., began making their own newsreels. In late 1950, Telenews released a 9½ minute film made with Hoffberg Productions, Inc., The Flying Saucer Mystery.

Motion Picture Daily, Jan. 8, 1951

Oakland Tribune, Nov. 17, 1950, Detroit Free Press, Feb. 22, 1951

At the time it was made, the Air Force said it had disbanded “Project Saucer,” the government’s study of the UFO problem, but the problem hadn’t gone away. The short film did not try to cover the history of UFOs up to that point, just discussed the controversy that was underway. It does not mention Kenneth Arnold, but he can be seen among the pilots pictured in the July 1950 issue of Flying magazine, in the article "Flying Saucers — Fact or Fiction?" Another magazine article discussed was U.S. News & World Report, April 7, 1950, “Flying Saucers: The Real Story," an article that stated the UFOs were real aircraft, most likely, experimental craft developed by the U.S. Navy. In response to such claims, Navy admiral Calvin Bolster appears, making a statement denying the allegations.

See the sources section for links to these articles.

The film's main focus was on the best new evidence of 1950, the alleged first authentic photographs and motion picture film of flying saucers, the two snapshots by farmer Paul Trent, and the film shot by television cameraman Al Hixenbaugh. It also featured UFO witness, Arthur Weisberger of Tucson, Arizona, describing his sighting, apparently the only record of the event.

Trent, photos, Al Hixenbaugh film, Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester, NY June, 29, 1950
The credits for the production are apparently lost, but the film featured the following people discussing UFOs: 
  • Admiral Calvin Bolster, USN
  • Commander Robert McLaughlin, USN (quoted, but not shown)
  • Arthur Weisberger, witness
  • Sid Mautner, executive editor of International News Photos
  • Donald E. Keyhoe, author, “The Flying Saucers are Real”
The film was apparently only shown for a few months, and rotated among the Telenews Theaters across the nation. While many thousands of people must have seen it, it didn’t reach to millions at their homes like radio broadcasts and daily newspapers. Still, it was important.

The documentary was very much prompted by Donald Keyhoe’s work, and it’s fitting that they saved him as the final speaker. Admiral Bolster was an Annapolis classmate and friend of Keyhoe’s, and one of his military sources on flying saucers as well.

The Flying Saucer Mystery owes much to the controversy stirred up by Donald Keyhoe’s article in the Jan. 1950 issue of True magazine, and serves as a valuable document to the public’s evolving beliefs about UFOs. It addressed the popular notion promoted at the time that saucers were a secret weapon by the US military, and the statement by Navy Admiral Bolster can be taken as a gentle acknowledgment that flying saucers are real. The public’s attitude at the time seemed to be, that some of the saucer reports were true - and just maybe, the things came from outer space.

Some Notes on the Saucer Simulation

The flying saucer simulation that opens and closes the film was taken from the March 3, 1950 episode of the television show, “We the People,” where Commander Robert McLaughlin was a guest. McLaughlin was the author of an article in True magazine, titled “How Scientists Tracked a Flying Saucer.” In the story, he described the April 24, 1949 sighting by Professor Charles B. Moore, and theorized about the design and performance of the kind of  spaceship he thought it might be. It was an flattened oval shape, with a grid-like rear that housed it’s interplanetary propulsion system. The TV show made a faithful model, but then botched the job by having it spin through space like a lopsided pancake. Nevertheless, McLaughlin’s design became one of the most famous UFOs in history when it was used as the basis for Donald Keyhoe’s famous paperback cover.  

Thanks to Luis Taylor the UFO researcher behind Information Dispersal, who sent of scans of the flyer advertising the movie for exhibitors in the UK.

Below is the transcript for the 1950 documentary. 

Transcript: The Flying Saucer Mystery, 1950 

The Flying Saucer Mystery, 1950 on YouTube


The Flying Saucer: a twentieth-century mystery that cannot be ignored. The strange disks have been reported by hundreds of sober Americans since 1947. Just what did these see? Man has dreamt a flight of, conquering gravity from ancient times to the present. In imagination, he has travelled the skies in fantastic machines. Fifty years ago, this flying saucer was an illustration for H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. Are the flying saucers things of fantasy? 

Some say they're natural objects, meteors or bright stars transformed by imagination into discs of mystery. Others say the saucers are weather balloons, common enough in the sky and easily mistaken for a disk. These theories were checked when the Armed Forces investigated the flying saucers. Admiral Calvin Bolster of the Navy's Bureau of Aeronautics gives his conclusions. 

Admiral Calvin Bolster:
“These balloons might explain isolated cases of circular-shaped unidentified objects flying at altitudes, extreme altitudes that have been reported. However, I do not feel that these balloons explain the majority of the so-called flying saucer sightings that have appeared in the press.”

People saw something, something not a balloon, not a meteor, not a hallucination. Reliable witnesses have sighted them over nearly every major city, along our airlines over secret research areas. In True magazine, Commander Robert McLaughlin a Navy guided missiles expert told the flying saucers detected by radar over White Sands, New Mexico. Scientists were try rocket suddenly detected a saucer at 56 miles altitude over 100 feet in diameter. The disc was traveling at 1,800 miles per hour, rapidly out-ranged their instruments. But there had been time for precise accurate measurements, says McLaughlin, That saucer could not have been made on earth.”

Airline pilots with thousands of hours experience have reported saucers coming within a few hundred feet of their planes matching speed briefly and then darting off at supersonic speed leaving a glowing exhaust trail. Student pilot Arthur Weisberger reports on his experience. 

Arthur Weisberger:
“My name is Arthur Weisberger. On July 21st Tucson, Arizona, while out on my backyard, three shiny objects in the sky attracted my attention. I glanced up and there were three flying saucers in a V, approximately a half a mile away from me at an altitude of 350 feet. They appeared to be hovering in midair with that I believe to be a spinning action. The saucers stayed still for approximately 40 seconds, and then took off due north horizontally. From a dead stop, these saucers exceeded a rate of 500 miles an hour for approximately five seconds, still going horizontally due north towards the Santa Catalina Mountains. At the end of five seconds, they went at approximately 45 degrees straight, well, up. They exceeded a thousand miles an hour until they vanished from sight. They appeared to be 50 feet in diameter, with what appeared to be a dome on the top with, I can't be sure but, I believe I saw the sun glinting off of, well, windows or observation portholes of a sort.”

(3:50 Trent photos)
What people saw is reveal clearly by this remarkable International News photo, the first ever taken of a flying saucer. It's one of two pictures made early this year by farmer Paul Trent of McMinnville, Oregon. Enlarged, the photo reveals clearly the familiar disc shape. Trent was able to snap only two photos of the saucer. He estimates the size at about 20 or 30 feet, says that from a near hovering position when first seen, it accelerated rapidly and vanished from sight in no time at all. Note the control tower in the center referred to by Weisberger. This enlargement shows it to be vertical compared with the saucer’s angle of flight. Sid Mautner, executive editor of International News Photos comments on these unusual pictures. 

Sid Mautner:
“Our agency refused to release photographs of the purported flying saucer to the newspapers of the country until we could inspect the original negatives. We now have the the negatives in hand, and I can vouch for the fact that they have not been retouched or faked in any way, and that they are indeed actual photographs of a so-called flying saucer.”

(5:24 Al Hixenbaugh film)
Latest evidence in the saucer mystery are these exclusive motion picture films from Louisville, Kentucky, the first scenes ever made of a flying saucer. Note the white halo around the saucer, an effect reported by some observers. Slightly irregular in shape, the disk appears to be rotating and to possess a dancing motion against the background. A staff cameraman of TV station WHAS was on routine assignment when he heard a loud whooshing sound overhead. Looking up, he saw the saucer hovering in the sky. After two minutes the disc accelerated and vanished directly upwards. An investigation revealed no weather balloons aloft at the time.

Are the saucers a U.S. secret weapon? This is officially denied. Here, Admiral Bolster speaks for the Navy.

Admiral Calvin Bolster:
“In my position in the research and development organization of the Bureau of Aeronautics and of the Navy Department, I am thoroughly familiar with both our aircraft and our guided missiles programs, and can state without reservation that the Navy has no saucer-shaped aircraft or missile in any of these programs.”

(6:59 U.S. News & World Report cover: “Flying Saucers: The Real Story.”)
Many authoritative sources, including U.S. News & World Report, have declared otherwise. 
(7:11 Photo: Vought XF5U-1, the "Flying Flapjack)
These sources say the discs are jet craft developed from an experimental Navy fighter of 1945, but only one model of this plane ever flew, says the Navy. Some experts point out that only thirty years ago, rocket development was in this crude stage. (Clip of pocket sled crashing going off the rails and crashing.) In two decades, German scientists developed these primitive rockets into the fearsome V-2. No major improvement on the V-2 has been made public since the war, despite intensive research by U.S. engineers in cooperation with German rocket specialists. Are the saucers the secret descendants of the V-2?

(8:00 paperback, The Flying Saucers Are Real.)
The author of this book, Annapolis-trained ex-Marine, major Donald Keyhoe, says, the saucers are not from this earth, that they far off perform any craft that man can build today. 

Donald E. Keyhoe:
“After a one year’s investigation, I believe that the flying saucers seen by veteran airline and Air Force pilots are objects from another planet. The Air Force itself has officially admitted that flying saucers exist. This statement appears in Project Saucer case number 75. Not only that, the Air Force has officially analyzed the motives of possible visitors from space. Here is a direct quotation from the official report: 
‘Such a civilization might observe that on earth we now have atomic bombs and are fast developing rockets. In the past history of mankind, they should be alarmed. We should therefore expect at this time, above all, to behold such visitations.’”

(8:57 Saucer simulation clip)
Agreeing with Keyhoe is Commander McLaughlin. From his observations, “We the People” constructed this model of a flying saucer as it might appear in interplanetary space. 

(Clip of earth from high altitude.)
Are eyes from another world looking at this scene? A saucer’s eye view of our planet, filmed at a height of 57 miles. These scenes were made from a remote-controlled Army rocket, but today, visitors from space may be studying us from similar heights.
. . .

In the next STTF article, the story continues and we look how a new version of the film was created in response to the big UFO news of 1952.

For Further Information on the UFO Cases Featured

Commander Robert McLaughlin, USN and the White Sands, NM, sightings of 1949
"How Scientists Tracked A Flying Saucer," True magazine, 1950

U.S. News & World Report, April 7, 1950, “Flying Saucers: The Real Story"

Flying magazine, July 1950, "Flying Saucers — Fact or Fiction?" by Curtis Fuller

Arthur Weisberger, sighting, Tucson, Arizona,  July 21, 1950
Nothing Found

Paul Trent’s UFO photos:

Al Hixenbaugh’s UFO film from WHAS (Red flag: He was also a stage magician.)

A special thanks to Isaac Koi for his help in obtaining the transcripts of the two versions of this documentary. Isaac has been working to preserve and share UFO literature and history for many years, and has several projects underway with the AFU in Sweden. Check the AFU site for a wealth of rare UFO documents and literature.

1 comment:

  1. Thx very much for this and for including the YouTube video. If you compare the 1952 version to this version you will note that although the 1952 version is longer the 1950 version contains More information on some of the cases it covers including and particularly the Al Hixenbaugh film. The YouTube video segment for this version lasts from 5:20 to 6:26. A full one minute and six seconds. Compare that to the segments in the 1952 version. They come out to about half a minute. Even if certain shots were repeated you can still tell that there is at least one clip that isn't in the 1952 version. The one that shows the disk along with the single engine plane is entirely absent from the 1952 version. Why material would have been excised of the most important piece of evidence arguing in favor of the existence of these objects, evidence that this production seemed to have exclusive access to is a question worth asking.


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