Thursday, February 13, 2020

The First UFO Lawsuit?

In the early 1950s there were two news stories one year apart about UFO-related court cases. We'll take the later one first, since it involves an alleged flying saucer crash.

Case 1: Fell on a Farmer

Dateline: Columbus, Ohio, Oct. 7, 1953, the injured party, one Ferdinand Hackover.

The Ames Daily Tribune, October 9, 1953

Debris from US government-launched balloon projects has been found since well before Roswell, from broken Rawin targets to Radiosondes. It's rare, but sometimes the debris has conked people. Here's a better documented case from 1963, one caused by the Weather Bureau.

The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, LA,  Nov. 12, 1963

Case 2: Stripper Sues Saucer Scientist

The 1952 legal complaint was about an early attempt to duplicate flying saucer performance and technology.

Dateline: Feb. 7, 1952, New Orleans, Louisiana, the the injured party, one Evelyn West, a celebrity who was interested in furthering a UFO research project.

Evelyn West in magazines and newspapers

The Daily News, New York, Feb. 7, 1952

The Ames Daily Tribune, Feb. 7, 1952

There's not enough information to determine if she was the victim of a con man, or merely an inept inventor with big dreams. Sadly, there was follow-up to the story, but Sir magazine Feb. 1956 featured the article, “'Treasure Chest' West and the Nudists,” which was focused on West’s controversial role as a proponent of nudism. It did mention the flying saucer investment lawsuit in passing, but didn’t provide any update on the outcome.

Saucer Exploitation

What these two 1950s saucer lawsuit stories have in common is that there's no further record of either of them. Evelyn West was real, and quite famous, but we were unable to find a trace of  an alleged inventor by the name of Steven Vitko. Likewise for the Ohio farmer in, no record found of any person named Ferdinand Hackover.

True or not, the stories are good examples of the game the newspapers played, exploiting saucers as serious news, but other times playing them just for laughs. They didn't spend much time sorting out  or updating details of a novelty story from yesterday's news. What really mattered was selling newspapers today.

. . .

As with so many of the most interesting UFO cases featured here at The Saucers That Time Forgot, Project Blue Book had no file on any of these incidents.

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