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.

Similar kite pranks continued at least into the 1970s.

Associated Press, Nov. 6, 1974

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.

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