Tuesday, March 31, 2020

1957: The lost ET Contact of Nathan S. Newman

Lee Van Cleef standing in for Natan S. Newman in Roger Corman’s 1956 classic, It Conquered the World

Several self-declared Contactees emerged during the 1950s. Some achieved a degree of recognition within the saucer community and a few even became national news, but how many others failed to take off? Consider the brief story of  of Los Angeles, California.

First, it should be noted that we don't actually know the method of contact Nathan achieved, whether it was facilitated by mechanical or psychic means.

It begins with an advertisement appearing in the March 18, 1957, issue of the Los Angeles Times. Newman calls on journalists interested in his extraterrestrial contacts.

Los Angeles Times, March 18, 1957
In a second ad, from April 9th, Newman was looking for funding in support of his contact operation.

Los Angeles Times, April 9, 1957

A third and final ad shows with more conventional concerns appeared on April 11.
We can only speculate, but something must have gone wrong.

Los Angeles Times, April 11, 1957

Did he find a sponsor, but a dispute arose over the funding?
Did he find an alien, but found the need to press charges?

We may never know.

And thus ends Contactee Nathan S. Newman's quest to bring understanding between humanity and an extraterrestrial civilization.

As with so many of the most interesting UFO cases featured here at The Saucers That Time Forgot, Project Blue Book has no file on this incident.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

UFO Culture Examined: They Are Already Here by Sarah Scoles

They Are Already Here: UFO Culture and Why We See Saucers by Sarah Scoles

Reviewed by Curt Collins

Full disclosure: Sarah Scoles interviewed a number of ufologists in researching this book, including me, and I am mentioned in chapter 8. I’ll mostly recuse myself from reviewing that chapter, but the rest is fair game.

It's not very often a new book comes along with saucers in the title, so although our focus here is on weird UFO history, I felt obligated to check it out and review it at STTF. They Are Already Here is pitched as: “An anthropological look at the UFO community, told through first-person experiences with researchers in their element as they pursue what they see as a solvable mystery—both terrestrial and cosmic.”

I first became aware of Sarah Scoles’ work from her Feb. 2017, article in Wired magazine, “What Is Up With Those Pentagon UFO Videos?” one of the few pieces of investigative journalism examining the AATIP story. She approaches the UFO topic from a journalistic background - her usual beat is covering science, and her previous book was about legitimate scientific matters, a biography, Making Contact. Jill Tarter and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. The AATIP story drew her in, and from there, this book.

The very first UFO book, Keyhoe’s The Flying Saucers are Real, set the model for most that have followed: The author receives an assignment or goes on an investigation (aka quest) which allows otherwise dull information to be packaged in dramatic scenes as the narrator overcomes obstacles and digs ever closer to the truth. The trope is tired, since it’s also an overused device to cope with the fact that there’s not going to be a satisfying ending. Since there's not much solid information, and even less in the way of clear answers, the UFO author usually has to drum up some drama by talking about the many locked doors they find, but insisting, have my faith my brothers and sisters, we’re almost to the truth

Chapter one begins with... you guessed it. But the author’s quest bit works very well here. Unlike in the hackneyed formula, Sarah actually does go on a journey - several of them, in a real-life journalistic quest to get under the skin of UFO mavens. By that I mean to understand them, but yes, she has gotten under their skin in both the positive and negative connotations!

Instead of a rabbit hole, she calls it a wormhole, but falls into a wonderland just the same. Part of how she was drawn in was driven by what she found to be curious lapses of details in the reporting of the AATIP story, and its uncritical acceptance by many, and the fact it was being merchandised.

Chapter two takes a weird turn, because it looks like the author began her investigation by going to a UFO convention. C’mon, man! That’s like trying to learn about zoology by going to the circus. Probably worse. But I get it, that’s where the UFO people are, from authors to devotees. A newcomer would expect a ufology conference to be a bit like a scientific conference where the latest scientific papers were presented and so on. Well, not so much here. There are some serious presenters and new data, but most of it is lectures from regulars on the UFO circuit, some of which are more performers than researchers. Often, it's no more than a UFO Comic-Con, a place to hang out with people with similar interests, with the option for cosplay and one-nighters.

Luckily, at the 2018 International UFO Congress, she ran into a few rational folks there, including Robbie Graham, who gave the lecture, “Searching for Truth in All the Wrong Places,” which caught her interest since he seemed to have a grounded approach and healthy perspective on a far-out and fringy topic. It was the book Graham edited, UFOs: Reframing the Debate, that led her to Canadian ufologist Chris Rutkowski, author of the chapter, "Our Alien, Who art in Heaven." Chris is a great guy with wealth of knowledge, but most people ignore him because he just makes too much sense.

Yow! Curt Collins is quoted in the chapter 8, which gives this book the distinction of being the possibly the first ever to mention the Roswell Slides, Gray Barker, and AATIP in the same chapter. And speaking of Gray... the playful wit of his good friend Jim Moseley (of Saucer News/Smear) seems to be alive and well in some of Sarah’s quips and chapter titles:

In chapter 4, Scoles begins her discussion of UFO history with the Kenneth Arnold sighting, which is good, because many numbskulls think it all started with a Roswell crash. She talks about how after Arnold’s story went big, the US was swept with saucer fever, and all of a sudden everyone was seeing saucers. There’s a brief mention of “perceptual contagion,”and that’s spot on. In 1947, there may indeed have been a saucer invasion, but people were reporting discs by the hundreds. In all the excitement, a lot of innocent birds, planes and balloons had their citizenship challenged; Martians everywhere. But that’s the point, she’s looking at the cultural impact of UFOs, which is why she fast-forwards to the Robertson Panel, the CIA panel that has been blamed for causing UFOs to be debunked and ridiculed. Those guys weren’t around back during the heyday of sea serpents, but sailors still got ribbed for being drunk on the job.

I had no idea who "The Patron Saint, or Something of Saucers" was going to be about, and seeing it in the index, thought that would have been Kenneth Arnold. Instead, it's an entire chapter on aerospace billionaire Robert Bigelow, sometimes called the Howard Hughes of ufology. His deep involvement of the AATIP story is just beginning to be understood.

Much of the rest of the book is Sarah's travels to meet people involved in the UFO scene, and she puts in a lot of time on the road and in the air to get to them. The writing is excellent, and the conversational tone of the book is works well, and it almost feels like the author is taking you by the hand touring into a UFO museum - or maybe a haunted house. The biggest gripe I have about the book is that an experienced UFOer will read the book, and say, "Why’d you go there, and why did you talk to that clown?” It’s like that old fairy tale, and anyone new to ufology is going to have to kiss a lot of frogs at the start.

There’s a line in chapter six that reflects her both her scientific background and the insight she gained by studying ufology:"
"Scientific methods are civilization’s so-far best attempt at removing biases, but nothing that involves a person (and probably nothing that involves a robot) is ever truly objective.”
In “It was Always You,” there’s an unexpected twist that closes not only the chapter, but the entire book. Scoles turns her examination 180 degrees and briefly examines her own beliefs, in what must have been a painful section to write so honestly about. It’s only a page and a half long, but one of the most powerful parts in the book. Though little is said there of UFOs, much is said about faith, belief, and feelings.

For UFO nerds like myself, who are often more concerned with data than literary merit, this book has a good index that’ll allow you to target any passage about any of the heroes villains or bit players discussed within.

There’s a passage from chapter one that can save you a lot of time, since if it doesn't grab you, They Are Already Here is not for you:
“I undertook this project because I wanted to understand why these people spent so much time on a phenomenon that they weren’t even sure was a phenomenon—at least not one beyond the human brain. What I found, when I got to know them, was that we were actually a lot alike in a lot of ways. They sought out mystery in the known world—and then scratched at its surface till it eroded into understanding. They believed people flying high in the government wanted to keep secrets. They craved evidence. They wanted better data. They wanted the truth. They wouldn’t—couldn’t—stop until they figured it out. That’s a lot like the journalistic process.”
I thought the book was great, and it would be perfect for any UFO buff to share with friends or family who don’t quite get the “UFO thing.”

In the AATIP-Bigelow-Skinwalker Ranch story, there's been a small tempest over a BAASS scientist saying they were using “the novel approach of utilizing the human body as a readout system for dissecting interactions with the UFO phenomenon.” Sarah Scoles volunteered, but it's sort of the same thing. Via this book, her brain can now be examined as a readout system for dissecting a scientific civilian’s exposure to ufology. She survived it, but can ufology survive its examination by her? I think so, and it’ll benefit from hearing her conclusions.

If you don’t think you’ll like it, buy a copy anyway just to burn. It pairs well with UFOs: Reframing the Debate.


By chance, I happened to sit in an interview of Sarah Scoles on the Paracast radio show. During some of it, I’m sure Sarah must have felt like it was more like a cross-examination or inquisition. She handled herself well, and I thought she did a good job of representing the book.

We also talked about how the prejudice of some of the UFO crowd on Twitter who have rejected the book without bothering to read it. Ufology has dreamed of getting science and journalists to take an interest. Sarah’s done that, and taken two years to give ufology a chance. We should listen carefully to what she made of it.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Flying Saucers & the Regatta Queen Contest: Two Case Studies from 1947

1947 marked the first election in the US where flying saucers played a role. It happened in Oregon, with a candidate exploiting the saucer mystery for an edge in a fierce campaign. Incredibly, it happened twice, in two different races in Oregon, the Coos Bay Pirates Regatta event in Marshfield, and at the Cottage Grove Lake Regatta in Cottage Grove. STTF’s political reporter, Claude Falkstrom, gathered the news clipping to recap the races, the election results, and in one case, the tragic collateral damage.

The Coos Bay Pirates Regatta

From Images of America: Coos Bay, by Andie E. Jensen, 2012:
“The Coos Bay Pirates were a civic group that promoted Coos Bay and North Bend. They were known for their colorful pirate costumes and high jinks in capturing civic members for a time of folly.” They sponsored an annual event, the Coos Bay Pirates Regatta.

The regatta promotion stated: “Thousands of persons will attend... a show worth seeing worth far more than the one dollar admission price... The Pirates produce this show on a non-profit basis to promote southwestern Oregon's interests.” There was a competition: “One of these lovely girls will... rule as queen of the Coos Bay Pirate regatta... Buy a regatta button and ask your Pirate Princess for instructions.” 

The $1 buttons served as tickets to the event, and contestants collected “votes” for queen of the regatta by selling them. Besides a crown and a queenly prize for the winner, there was also cash and merchandise prizes for the runner-ups. The campaign began in mid-June and ended on August 1, the start of the 3-day regatta event. 

Here’s pictures of the candidates, the Pirate Princesses:

The press on the story told about the coronation, the celebrity guests, the orchestra and other activities that would be featured at the gala event.
The Coos Bay Times, June 16, 1947
Meanwhile, less than 400 miles away, a legend was born.
K. Arnold sighting as depicted in Coronet Magazine, November 1952
On June 26, the story broke about Kenneth Arnold seeing a formation of nine unidentified flying objects. As a result, flying saucer fever swept across the USA. As we shall see, it played a role in race for regatta royalty.

On June 28, Queen candidate Donna Christopherson was profiled in the newspaper.
The Coos Bay Times, June 28, 1947
By July 11, Donna Christopherson took the lead in the race for regatta Queen. The next day, she took flight to advertise her campaign and dropped hundreds silver discs from an airplane over Coos Bay, with the message, “Vote for Donna for Queen.” 

The Coos Bay Times, July 12, 1947
Donna appeared in Pirate costume to promote the regatta events.
The Coos Bay Times, July 29, 1947
The saucer stunt had been an attention getter, but by July 18, somehow Donna Christopherson slipped into second place. LuRae Ball took the lead, but then lost it to Fern Amos. The stories from The Coos Bay Times from July 25, 28, 29, 30 and 31 document the close and dramatic race.

On August 1st the final results were:

3. Fern Amos, Veterans of Foreign Wars, awarded $200.
2. Donna Christopherson, Active Club, awarded $300.
1. LuRae Ball, Business & Professional Women's Club, Queen, and awarded a university scholarship.
The Coos Bay Times, Aug. 4, 1947
Sometimes, even saucers aren’t enough.

Key Saucer Locations: Coos Bay, Cottage Grove, Mount Rainier and the Cascade Range 

The Cottage Grove Lake Regatta

Another event took place about one hundred miles away the same time, the Cottage Grove Lake Regatta. The voting for their regatta queen ran from July 13 through 26, and the votes were tallied in ballot boxes in local businesses, “one vote for each dollar received.”
The Eugene Guard, July 12, 1947
In the Cottage Grove contest, the candidate representing the Moose Lodge, Barbara Anderson, took the early lead.
The Eugene Guard, July 17, 1947

To win further votes, Barbara dropped saucers from a plane on Saturday July 19.

Unfortunately, the disk drop resulted in a serious injuries:
The Eugene Guard, July 19, 1947
The accident did not seem to have an effect on the campaign, and closing in on the finish, Barbara held on to her lead in the race.
The Eugene Guard, July 24, 1947
Despite her early lead, Barbara Anderson slipped and finished in second place as runner-up. Shirley Hileman was crowned regatta queen.
The Eugene Guard, July 24, 29 and, 31, 1947
History records no further flying saucer involvement with either Donna Christopherson or Barbara Anderson, the two Oregon saucer candidates who flew no higher than second place. There was also no further news located about the saucer-related injury of the boy, Dick Miller, but in the absence of an obituary, we hope the lad had a full and speedy recovery.

Oregon Flying Saucer Worries and Project Blue Book

As for other UFO business in the area, in the days leading up to the regatta event, some Cottage Grove residents definitely had saucers on their minds. One citizen wrote to the newspaper over concerns that discs were weapons platforms to spread poison.

The Eugene Guard, July 13 and 27, 1947
Another resident had a sighting of something in the sky she was unable to identify - at first.

The Eugene Guard, July 24, 1947
Closing on a historical note...

There is no Project Blue Book file associated with the regatta saucers. However, it is interesting to see that there is a report from Oregon from the period. It was connected to the Kenneth Arnold sighting, over the same mountains, and said to have occurred on the same day, June 24, 1947. 

Fred Johnson, a prospector on Mt. Adams, reported seeing five or six disc-like objects banking in the sun, but unlike Arnold’s UFOs, these saucers had tails, and their presence caused his compass needle to go wild. Unfortunately, it wasn’t reported until after the Arnold story broke, so it’s uncertain as to whether Johnson was a fraudulent copycat, or a corroborating witness to the most famous UFO sighting of all time. The Air Force’s conclusion: Unidentified

Here’s the link the Project Blue Book file on the Fred Johnson sighting report: 
Project Grudge: June 24, 1947, Portland, Oregon (Fold3)

Forgotten Ufologist: Journalist James Phelan

  In the series, The Ufologists That Time Forgot , we focus on obscure figures in flying saucer history. The subject of this article is famo...