Thursday, August 27, 2020

The Trial of a UFO Gold Digger

A sensational close encounter of the third kind was reported to Nebraska police on November 5, 1957. The witness was later accused of hoaxing his story, then incarcerated for a psychiatric evaluation. To many flying saucer advocates, the witness was a victim of the Government’s cover-up, and that reputation helped propel him into fame as a UFO lecturer. That career was cut short when he was convicted for grand theft and fraud against the people who had believed in him.

Isaac Koi’s list of The Top 100 UFO cases ranks this one as number 76, but when mentioned at all today, the dramatic saga is often abbreviated to a paragraph or less. The following STTF investigation is based on contemporary media accounts, rare UFO literature, Air Force and prison documents, and an interview with a family member close to the witness.

Reinhold O. Schmidt

Reinhold Oscar Albert Schmidt was born on February 16, 1897, in Kenesaw, Nebraska, of German-American parents. “Smitty” was 60 years old when he reported a UFO encounter, a sturdy well-dressed charismatic six-footer, a solid citizen, a family and business man, unlikely to be the perpetrator of pranks or hoaxes. Schmidt and his wife, Friedda had raised three children, Harold, Arthur and Jeanette, all grown with families of their own. In 1952 Friedda moved from Nebraska to Wyoming, apparently without Reinhold. His occupation was listed as a farmer in the 1930 and 1940 censuses, but at the time of the UFO incident, Schmidt was living in Bakersfield, California working for the Val-U-Pak Company of Brawley, CA. His job as a salesman and grain buyer took him back in Nebraska for a business trip.

First Contact: Nov. 5, 1957 - Kearney, Nebraska

Reinhold Schmidt’s report came on the wake of the launch of Sputnik 2 and the Levelland, Texas UFO sightings. Schmidt’s claim of a large blimp-like UFO and his car having “motor trouble” before the encounter were similar to the reports from Levelland of electromagnetic effects stopping auto engines. He was paralyzed by a beam of light then he spoke to people from the silver ship. Schmidt’s tale didn’t seem all that outlandish. He wasn’t stating the people were from outer space, he said they wore conventional clothing and spoke “high German” and broken English, which suggested an earthly origin.

The crew was conservatively dressed and all appeared to be between the ages of 45 and 50. The Air Force file states that Schmidt said two of the men had mustaches, one “wore a small mustache (Hitler type).” As for the ship, he described it as cigar-shaped with a flat bottom, about 100 feet long, 30 ft wide and 12 ft high, and it had an interior vertical tube with a propeller near each end. The control instruments had dials with earthly numbers, some of them Roman numerals. There was a lounge area in the ship with a sofa and chairs. The only thing really “alien” about the tale was the inside walls of the ship were transparent, making windows or portholes unnecessary. They didn’t tell him much about them, just that they had made a brief stop to repair their craft. Once that was done, they bid him goodbye. Once the ship was out of sight, he was again able to start his auto engine again.

Schmidt later said that, “my own idea at the time was that this was a Russian ship manned by German scientists…” After going back to Kearney he reported it to the police and they accompanied him to the event location where they found trace evidence. That evening, both Schmidt and the police chief were interviewed for local television and radio news shows. One of the interviews was replayed on the Long John Nebel radio show, which was broadcast by the powerful New York station WOR. Schmidt described finding the craft, and said a beam of light came from it that paralyzed him. He said the occupants seemed to glide on a section on the floor like on an escalator, or a “magnetic field.” The interviewer asked Schmidt what he thought it was, and he replied, “I really don’t know, I think it was a ship from another continent, or from a – I really don’t know. I’m sure it wasn’t any of our ships, because in the first place it wouldn’t have used that beam...” Police Chief Thurston Nelson joined the interview and said he was notified just before 4 PM about the “space ship.” He said it “seems fantastic,” but he checked the site with several people, inspected it and he said “I am positive the man definitely saw the ship. ...definitely there were tracks there.” He described finding  four leg impressions, 1 foot in diameter, and footprints of men, and said, “oil leaked out of the ship.” A sample was taken for analysis, a thin green oil like castor oil. He called the FBI in to investigate. The term flying saucer was not mentioned, just “space ship.”

UFO reports were being taken seriously by the US military, a matter of national security, and they were faced with forty-six of them. Air Force investigators from the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) were sent to check on the three most promising ones, sightings at Levelland, Texas, New Mexico, and to Nebraska for Schmidt’s story. Captain George Gregory of Project Blue Book requested the FBI look into the case and check Schmidt’s background. After the newspapers got hold of the story, it spread across the USA, still buzzing from the Levelland, Texas sightings. In the wake of the Sputnik satellite launches, the press was referring to flying saucers as “Whatniks.” 

Veedol almost sounds like an alien name. When a discarded oil can was found in the field near the sighting, doubts surfaced, and when matching can of Veedol 10-30 motor oil was found in the trunk of Schmidt’s car, his credibility took another big blow. Finding out about his criminal record finished it. Kenneth Gotobed was the county attorney and he participated in the investigation. “Gotobed, said Government officials discourage filing charges in such cases for fear that other persons might refuse to report significant occurrences.”

Schmidt refused to take a polygraph test, which made authorities suspicious, and it turned out he’d lied about his age. News reported, “Schmidt identified himself to Kearney authorities as a 48-year-old grain buyer from Bakersfield Calif. However he admitted Wednesday, officials said, that his correct age is 58.” That was another fib, Schmidt was born in Feb. of 1897, so his age was 60 at the time.

Rather than prosecute Schmidt on criminal charges for filing a false police report, they ordered a psychological evaluation of him. The NORAD investigator for Project Blue Book stated in his report of Schmidt: "A lengthy record of arrest and fines for bad checks and absconding with crops from 1932 until 1938... SOURCE was interviewed for three (3) hours by county psychiatrists and it was determined that SOURCE was in [redacted] and is in need of [redacted].”

Project Blue Book files also contained a news clipping of the AP news story from Nov. 8, 1957, that fills in some of the above redactions: “Schmidt was committed to the hospital after the psychiatrists from the institution reported the grain buyer to be ‘very ill’ and needing help immediately.” A subsequent UP story quoted the psychiatrists as saying, "in immediate need of psychiatric treatment." The diagnosis was that the UFO event was a “hallucination,” yet they also considered the case an attention-seeking hoax.

The Plain Speaker, Hazleton, Pennsylvania, Nov. 16, 1957,

More 'Objects' Reported In Region; Air Force Discredits Space Stories

Nov. 15, 1957: A news release from the Department of Defense Public Affairs presented the Air Force’s “evaluation of recent Unidentified Flying Objects reports.” They made an unusual policy exception of singling out Reinhold Schmidt’s story as a hoax, but did not name him, just identified the location of Kearney, Nebraska, saying “Investigation revealed that local officials consider originator wholly unreliable.” 

After two weeks of observation, Schmidt was released on Nov. 22. Superintendent of the Hastings State Hospital, Dr. J.A. Wolford, said, “I could see no reason for keeping him longer.” The newspapers were done with Schmidt, dismissing him with a laugh as a crook and a crackpot, and it seemed the event was being used to make UFOs a crackpot topic once again. However, the saucer community was being told another story, that Schmidt was a victim, unfairly smeared by authorities to discredit his testimony. Wayne S. Aho, a flying saucer lecturer, tried to reach  Schmidt while he was held. After Schmidt’s release they connected via correspondence and telephone, and with Aho’s help, Reinhold Schmidt became a saucer celebrity.

1958: A UFO Career Takes Flight

The Long John Nebel show launched a lot of saucer careers, usually by featuring witnesses or authors, but sometimes just by discussing them. Major Wayne S. Aho was retired from the US Army and had become an early advocate of UFO Disclosure, as director of Washington Saucer Intelligence (composed chiefly of himself and a mailing list). Unlike Major Donald Keyhoe (whom he was sometimes confused with), Aho was an advocate for the Contactees and their religious approach, claiming his own contacts and was virtually a fixture at their conventions. On February 1, 1958, Long John Nebel had Aho as a guest, and Aho told Reinhold Schmidt’s story. He portrayed Schmidt as a victim of the UFO cover-up, locked up as insane by officials out to hide the truth. He read from a letter by Schmidt that stated he would prove his sanity and clear his name, and he would go to Washington, appear on television, or whatever was necessary to do so. 

Second Contact: Feb. 5, 1958 - Kearney, Nebraska

After his release, Schmidt went back to work in the Kearney area, but not for long. On Feb. 5th, his car stopped again. The people in the ship had returned, and on this visit they allowed him to not only board their ship, but also go with them on a flight. They had been aware of his incarceration, and said if he’d been held much longer they “would have put on a mass demonstration over Kearney and made ourselves known.” The purpose of this encounter was to ask Schmidt three questions, and it became clear that they were visitors from another world. The Visitors were concerned with the danger of our atomic weapons and wanted to know if it was possible to establish a peaceful relationship with Earth. This time, Schmidt did not report the encounter to the police. Instead, he called Wayne Aho.

Schmidt took a leave of absence from Val-U-Pak and met Major Wayne Aho in Iowa on Feb. 17, where Aho was booked to speak at the Lend-A-Hand Club for Anna Keppy’s New Age Forum. Schmidt made his debut saucer talk there, and joined Aho on the road for a multi-state lecture tour.

In their appearances, Wayne Aho came on first, stating that flying saucers were real and carried visitors from other worlds. He urged the public to petition Congress to end the government’s policy of secrecy on the UFOs, and he introduced Schmidt as a victim of the cover-up. In Schmidt’s portion, he told the story of his early encounters and the injustice of his incarceration. He claimed that as a result of the police committing him to the mental hospital he suffered a loss of $15-16,000. He’d passed every test to prove his sanity, but the police lied about the situation, and he’d been falsely accused of many things, including smoking marijuana. As for the polygraph test he refused, he would take one, but only if Kearney officials would take one also. Responding to the characterization that he was an ex-con, he explained that he was a buyer for an employer that went broke, and consequently he unknowingly passed bad checks. Schmidt also told a story about another misunderstanding from around 1948, having been robbed on the road, shot in the arm, given an injection and being robbed of $15,000 of his own money. As for his prior interest in saucers, Schmidt denied having read any UFO books.

Long John Nebel featured Reinhold Schmidt as a guest on his March 23rd radio show, and it made a lasting impression. Nebel later writing about Contactees said, “To some of the etheric enthusiasts the most convincing of all of the tale tellers is Reinhold Schmidt.” On his April 19, 1958 show, Nebel asked saucer inventor Otis T. Carr about his opinion on Schmidt’s story. Carr replied cautiously, “We only know what we read in the papers and it's hard for us to express an opinion.” Yet Carr said he’d flown his own model saucer and had once seen a real one flying at a distance. Asked if the UFO he’d seen could have come from another planet, Carr said, “There's a great possibility, yes.” Carr and Schmidt had quite a bit in common, but aside from crossing paths at several conferences they don’t seem to have ever actually worked together. 

Schmidt made a return visit to Kearney on March 5 & 6, 1958, as part of his lecture tour with Aho. The flyer announcing it featured a drawing of Schmidt’s UFO, and the other side featured a screed by Wayne Aho urging the public to petition the government for flying saucer disclosure: “There is a rising demand for the Citizens RIGHT TO KNOW about all of the hidden facts and rightly so... Write intelligent letters to your STATE SENATORS & CONGRESSMEN...”

The local news reported the event turnout was modest, less than 40 attended, “Aho said he attributed the small attendance to the scare instilled in the people of Kearney by secrecy surrounding saucers and mistreatment given believers as exemplified by the hospitalization of Schmidt.” In The Ufologer, March- April 1958, Aho described his investigation into Schmidt’s treatment and the progress on their lecture tours together. The entourage, including Anna Keppy, “went to interview people in Kearney and check the State Mental Institution to find out the truth of the matter." 

As Schmidt toured, his story became increasingly more elaborate, but instead of substantially embellishing his original encounter, he claimed to have a series of  incredible adventures, each one a bit farther out. He later explained, “Each new contact and subsequent visit aboard their craft has been a greater step in learning, not only about ourselves here on Earth, but about Universal laws and the wonderful way of life that is possible when they are applied.”

Third Contact: April 1958 - Tulsa, Oklahoma

According to Schmidt, during the tour he was picked up by the lead Visitor and driven in a black MG sports car to a remote area where the spaceship was parked. Schmidt answered the questions he’d been given on his second encounter, but could say little else about the encounter. “I remained inside the craft with the space people for about two hours during which they told me several things which I do not yet have permission to reveal to the public.”

One rare video survives from this tour. WKY-TV in Oklahoma City, OK, hosts a film clip from April 9, 1958 of the Schmidt-Aho lecture era published on YouTube with the segment named, "Saucer Interviews." Their summary: “Newsman Ernie Schultz questions Reinhold Schmidt, a man who claims to have entered and spoken to occupants of a flying saucer near Kearney, Nebraska. Schultz also questions Wayne S. Aho, a former Army Intelligence agent.”

Tucson Daily Citizen (Tucson, Arizona) Saturday, May 03, 1958

Aho was helping Schmidt learn the business. Along the way, Reinhold Schmidt met the show biz couple of June and Ron Ormond there. June had been a singer and dancer, Ron was a B-movie writer and director, both interested in the paranormal. For about a year, Ron and June had been gathering financial support to create the first documentary movie about contact, “The Real Flying Saucer Story.” They wanted Schmidt to be a part of it.

Margaret Storm wrote an article in support for Schmidt for the UK’s Flying Saucer Review May/June 1958, “Schmidt sues U.S. Government,” Storm was a Contactee author and lecturer from New York closely associated with Otis T. Carr. She said the Air Force swept in to kill Schmidt’s story, falsely imprisoning him in an insane asylum. 

“Now there is to be a big court trial... against the government… Since Schmidt and the Kearney authorities were already on a nationwide TV and radio hook up when they stated that the story was true, it is bound to make news when the court trial starts. Further a Hollywood movie company has already signed up Schmidt to make a documentary film. They are going to build a model of the space ship just as Schmidt described it and use it in the movie. Then Schmidt is to be presented with the model and he plans to build a sort of museum on the landing spot... It looks though this might be the turning point in saucer history. I don’t see how the military can possibly get out of this one. Schmidt is such a fine person and a very simple man. Everyone likes him immediately.”

Storm inadvertently showed how quickly Schmidt acclimated to flying saucer show business and launched several enterprises. No lawsuit was ever initiated by Schmidt, but it made for good gossip. Schmidt’s first product was a pamphlet to be sold at his lectures, published May 1958, “The Kearney Incident Up To Now: The Report of Reinhold Schmidt” edited by Anna E. Keppy, Lecture Tour Assistant, and printed by the Spacecraft Research Association of Phoenix. One detail in it was dropped from subsequent editions, a comment about the leader of the ship’s crew, “this man looked and talked just like a man that was watching TV with me in the hotel lobby the night before. On the ship he said, “Tell your people we know they have seen this ship before and they will see it again.”

Among the Contactees at Giant Rock


Reinhold Schmidt’s flying saucer convention debut was at George Van Tassel’s annual outdoor gathering, the fifth annual Spacecraft Convention at Giant Rock, May 31, June 1, 1958.  Describing the event,  Van Tassel wrote, “The biggest spacecraft convention ever held was enjoyed by 10,000 people at Giant Rock... Outstanding among the speeches was the story of Reinhold Schmidt and his Nebraska contacts. ...This is one of the most amazing stories to date, due to the outright brazen efforts of ‘officials’ to get ‘Smitty’ to change the story.” Theosophist Riley C. Crabb attended the event and reviewed it in “Space Convention at Giant Rock, California - 1958,” saying that, “The man with the most interesting tale to tell… was Reinhold Schmidt.” Crabb was left with a favorable opinion, and like Van Tassel saw Schmidt as the defiant target of the UFO cover-up. Schmidt’s star was on the rise, and he, along with Van Tassel, Daniel Fry, Wayne Aho were among the eight people interviewed about their flying saucer contacts at Giant Rock for the NBC program “You Asked for It.” The 10-minute segment was broadcast June 22, 1958. 

The Giant Rock convention provided Smitty with a real education, introducing him to many new concepts and connections. June Ormond also lectured there about “The Real Flying Saucer Story.” Quoted in Flying Saucer Review July/Aug. 1958, she said, “Since this picture will be financed by the saucer fans, here is your opportunity to own and be part of this worthy enterprise ...Instead of using Hollywood actors, the actual people who had the experiences, both objective and subjective, will be used. It will not only be released through theaters the world over, but through the many saucer clubs and independent road-showing mediums. In this way the millions can be reached. And each contributor should reap many times his investment in the end.” Reinhold was listening, and he apparently liked the concept of offering investments in saucer enterprises.

 San Mateo Times, Aug. 22, 1958 

After Giant Rock, Smitty took off the training wheels and the Schmidt-Aho lecture went their separate ways. Aho was busy with his role as Otis T. Carr’s “Director of Public Education” and saucer co-pilot for OTC Enterprises, Inc., but that’s another story. Smitty became a professional saucer man, and as a solo act, Schmidt was featured at Gabriel Green’s Amalgamated Flying Saucer Clubs of America (AFSCA) conventions. Schmidt also lectured for UFO groups, most frequently for Daniel Fry’s Understanding, Inc. study units. The groups were essentially a pre-selected friendly and receptive audience or customers for Schmidt. The Units across the USA provided the lecturers a tremendous support network. They had to only worry about travel expenses, since they had the opportunity to speak almost every night,with free food and lodging typically provided in the homes of Unit members. Fry’s Understanding magazine often mentioned Schmidt in their pages, and his booklet was recommended and sold there. 

Fourth Contact: August 14-19, 1958 - Mojave, California

In this dramatic episode, Schmidt discovered more about the space people’s technology and the miraculous source of their ship’s power, and more about their purpose for being here. It also introduced the first mention of Schmidt’s mining business. Describing his August 1958 trip aboard a flying saucer, he said the leader dropped in for a visit, and invited him for a ride on the spaceship. Schmidt’s mines made their first appearance. He said, “I have a rock quarry on Highway 6, about forty miles north of Mohave.” There was one other hint of mining, during the flight he said they “made three stops, one in Greenland for about thirty minutes, and two short stops in Alaska, to check on some minerals.”

Perhaps by some cosmic coincidence or master plan, the longer Schmidt was around Contactees, the more of their Space Brother concepts emerged from Smitty’s own alien friends. “The space people told me... that they will not stand by and see our planet destroyed by atomic bombs. Our radiation problem was also discussed. This space people are now using a new device to rid our atmosphere of radiation from atomic and hydrogen bomb explosions. This device is dropped from a high altitude and acts as an umbrella to cover a large area and not only purifies our air but sometimes nullifies the actions of the bomb itself.” It seemed that rubbing shoulders with Otis T. Carr had a similar effect. “Aboard the ship, one of the ladies brewed coffee in a percolator with no visible power source. Schmidt I asked her what made it work, and she replied, ‘This is the same power and energy - free energy - which drives this ship.’”

It was incredibly fortunate timing for an encounter, since he was booked for another convention lecture just days later, so Scmidt had lots of new things to talk about. The first Northern California Space Craft Convention was held Aug. 22 & 23, 1958 at the County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton. It was hosted by the Oakland Space Craft Club, aka Understanding Unit No. 3, led by Della Larson. From Understanding Sept. 1958:

“Major Wayne Aho did an excellent job as M.C.... Among the outstanding new speakers was Otis Carr, from Baltimore, a dynamic and enthusiastic backer of Spacecraft, whose development through revelation and the New Sciences, of Free Energy and the Saucer principle, have led to his preparation for a large enterprise, almost a city, for this purpose, at a place which they have called ‘Space,’ Maryland.” 

In October, Schmidt was on a lecture tour of Understanding Units in California, and along with him, Carl Anderson, author of Two Nights to Remember.’ The San Mateo Times of Oct. 9, 1958, article on Schmidt’s event noted that June Ormond would be discussing “The Real Flying Saucer Story” film project, also called, “Crusade to New Horizons,” and reported that "The talents of George Van Tassel, Kenneth Arnold, Dan Fry, Ray and Rex Stanford, Dana Howard, Carl Anderson, Buck Nelson, Reinhold Schmidt and many others will be utilized.” 

Meeting Mrs. Bertha Mantzurani

In one of his many 1958 lectures for Dan Fry’s Understanding Units, Reinhold Schmidt met a Santa Cruz member, Mrs. Bertha Mantzurani, a 58 year-old widow who worked for Leask's Department Store. They became friends due to their common saucer interest. He told her that he’d lost money giving his lectures and he needed funds to develop his Nevada and Northern California mines that produced colored stone for building construction. Mrs. Mantzurani said that she “believed in Mr. Schmidt and felt the project was a good one.”

Bertha took out a loan from the bank and gave him money as needed:  $1,000 for a house trailer for two mine workers to live in, then $3,000 to rebuild a mine road washed out in a flood, and later $1,500 to repair a mining truck. The two had been exchanging “friendship letters,” but after seeing no progress or return on her investment, Bertha began writing to him to request that Schmidt repay her money. Twice when she traveled to Bakersfield, he deflected her efforts to view the progress at the mines. To reassure her, Schmidt mailed her several mine property deeds.

1959: Going Public with the Planet

Schmidt’s booklet was updated on Jan. 31, 1959, as The Kearney Incident and To the Arctic Circle in a Spacecraft. In writing about the adventure, Schmidt waited until the closing lines to finally disclose just where the Visitors came from: “This concludes my report of my contact with the people from the Planet Saturn up to the present time.” Most other Contactees were meeting Venusians after George Adamski made it popular, but not Smitty.  Schmidt was a small time act compared to “Professor” Adamski, but then so were all of the other Contactees. Schmidt returned to Giant Rock for George Van Tassel’s Sixth Interplanetary Spacecraft Convention held May 23-24, 1959. It boasted an attendance of 10,000 guests. With Schmidt’s exposure and connections made at the saucer conventions, he could get lectures booked almost anywhere, at least anywhere in California. He was a guest at AFSCA’s (Gabriel Green’s Amalgamated Flying Saucer Clubs of America) First National Convention, Sat. & Sun., July 11, 12, 1959, Hotel Statler-Hilton, Los Angeles, Calif. His lecture was "Contacts With The Saturnians." Other speakers included Dan Fry, Ray Stanford and Margaret Storm. AFSCA director Gabriel Green later revealed that aliens were among the 2000 people who attended the conference: “Reinhold Schmidt and Laura Mundo (Marxer) both reported that their space contacts were in the audience during their lectures, as did several others.” 

Sept. 5-6, 1959: The second Northern California Space Craft Convention. Speakers included Buck Nelson, Gloria Lee, June and Ron Ormond, Orfeo Angelucci, Reinhold Schmidt and Otis T. Carr. (Otis Carr had been charged in May for violating securities regulations for selling stock for OTC Enterprises’ flying saucer manufacturing, but was free on bond, and still welcome at UFO conventions.)

Fifth Contact: Jan. 24, 1960 - Bakersfield, California

On this adventure, Schmidt’s Buick was lifted up for a rendezvous with the same craft from his previous encounter. Boarding it, he flew with them into space where they docked with an enormous mothership. Schmidt said Saturnians used telepathy and described their wondrous machine that could replay moving pictures of earth’s past - and possibly its future.

In his book, Schmidt quoted a passage from Secret Places of the Lion that inspired him. “George Hunt Williamson, American anthropologist and scientist of the New Age said: ‘The builders of the Great Pyramid buried one of their great space ships near the structure ... It will be revealed - no doubt within a comparatively short time…’ The Feb. 5, 1960, The Los Angeles Times article showed he was going to Egypt to find it, “Schmidt Will Hunt for Spaceship Under Pyramid.” He was introduced as “part owner of Aztec Quarries, Inc.” The Space Brothers’ message of peace was repeated, “He said the Saturnians are trying to divert earthlings from wholesale self-destruction by use of nuclear weapons.” It also announced Schmidt's lecture for the Odd Fellows Temple in Pasadena, Feb. 11, 1960, co-sponsored by Gabriel Green’s AFSCA and Dan Fry’s Understanding, Inc. 

Sixth Contact: Feb. 9-11, 1960 - from Bakersfield to Egypt

Schmidt’s trip to Egypt went even better than he had hoped, and it was fully disclosed in Gabriel Green’s AFSCA as a special issue of their magazine, The Reinhold Schmidt Story, AFSCA World Report 13-15, Jan.-June, 1960. It was his entire saga, heavily revised (possibly with the help of a ghost writer) updated to include his Egyptian encounter. There were some retcons and new revelations about his earlier adventures. For “security reasons” he had to call the head Visitor “Mr. X” (since the true names of Saturnians could be used as codewords to keep out fakers) and the early stories were revised to use that name. His second Kearney encounter changed, retconned to be the time the visitors revealed their point of origin. “During the course of our discussion, my friends told me that they were from the planet Saturn!”

Schmidt also revealed that the aliens had given him his start in mining: 

“Incidentally, my Saturnian friends were instrumental in my getting into the quarry business. I have four quarries now, which they pointed out to me and helped me to acquire. They showed me how a valuable metal could be extracted from the rocks of one of the quarries. This metal is similar to that which the Saturnians use in the construction of their Spaceships. When certain improvements in our social and economic systems have been made... to work and live together in peace and friendship, then we of Earth will be able to use this metal in the construction of Spaceships in which we also can visit other planets.”

Discussing his Arctic trip, Schmidt expanded on the motives and methods of the Saturnians, who did “not believe in meddling with the free will of the Earth people, but that they did not wish to see us destroy ourselves. Therefore they secretly interfered with our nuclear weapons with a device to disable the bombs and to reduce the radiation already released. These devices were the UFOs reported as the “green fire-balls.” 

There was no mention of miraculous healing, but Schmidt revised the dialogue in the coffee brewing scene, with the Saturnian lady saying of their wondrous free energy: “It can be channeled in any way, from flying a Spaceship to making coffee!" 

On the way to Egypt, they again made a few stops in Alaska to check in on mineral deposits. “We passed over the Arctic Circle again, but this time we didn't land. On my first trip there, I had learned that the Earth was tilted at a dangerous twelve degrees off its normal position, and that there was a grave possibility that it might shift on its axis. But recently, I had been told that it had moved back to six degrees off center, and the danger had been averted. Believe me, I breathed a sigh of relief!” 

In the dramatic conclusion, Schmidt was flown to Egypt to tour the Great Pyramid. Beneath it, the Saturnaians showed him what it housed: the Crown of Thorns, the one true Cross, and the spaceship Jesus used to ascend after his resurrection. 

Schmidt was returned home just in time for his scheduled lecture at 8:00 P.M.  on Feb. 11. From Understanding March 1960:

“Pasadena, Unit No. 12: A crowd of close to 300 jammed Odd Fellows Hall on Feb. 11 to hear Reinhold Schmidt, who landed one hour before lecture time, tell of his trip by Saturnian spacecraft to the pyramids... Considerable excitement was generated by the lecture, as it had been billed in advance that the speaker was ‘expected to land in time for meeting.’”

Daily Independent Journal March 9, 1960

Throughout spring, Schmidt was touring with his lecture, “My Trip to the Pyramids in a Space Craft.” On March 10, 1960, Schmidt lectured at the San Rafael Improvement Club, in a talk sponsored by Understanding Unit 31. More than 150 people attended, including some tough customers, a sizable contingent of middle and high school students. When Schmidt took questions from the audience, he was unable to provide satisfactory answers for the kids’ logic-based questions about anachronisms and scientific errors in his story. His defense seemed to be that he was only repeating what he’d seen and heard. When asked about how fast the Saturnian spaceship could fly, Schimidt could only say, “I don't know what the speed of light is.”

The next day, March 11, 1960, Schmidt played to a friendlier audience, the members of Understanding Unit No. 3 at the Leamington Hotel in Oakland. The Oakland Tribune quoted Schmidt as telling the audience of 250, "In the great pyramid I saw lots of wonderful things including the rocketship Jesus Christ went to heaven in. And a crystal ball that showed me the past, present and future." That event was where Mrs. Eva Newcomb first met Schmidt. And his  story intrigued her. They became fast friends and she invited Schmidt to her home at 4185 Wilshire Blvd. 

Mrs. Newcomb and the Saturn Quarry

Eva Newcomb was a widow in her late fifties, a member of the Understanding Unit No. 3 in Oakland. She was not wealthy, but earned some income from taking in boarders and rental property. Eva had been studying the flying saucer mystery for about three years and was charmed by Reinhold Schmidt. He persuaded her to sell pre-energized quartz with miraculous healing powers from his mine, one found for him by Mr. X and friends. Smitty told her that a quartz crystal had healed his 76 year-old brother from paralysis, who was able to rise from his wheelchair and walk again. Eva was later quoted as saying, “He brought several pounds of crystals to the house and graded [and priced] them.” To formalize their partnership, she had her attorney draw up a contract stating their obligations; Schmidt would supply and advertise the crystals, Newcomb would distribute them. Later, “I began selling the crystals to people who heard about them at the lectures and to those who responded to an advertisement that Mr. Schmidt had placed in the Flying Saucer bulletin.”

Over the next few weeks, Schmidt visited Eva Newcomb several times, and on April 11, 1960, she agreed to become more deeply involved, becoming partners by giving him $2,000. Schmidt had earned Eva’s trust and addressed her in affectionate terms such as “honey” and “darling.” At some level, Eva was being romanced, and she said he once proposed marriage. To raise the money, she mortgaged some property, and it bought her half interest in “the Saturn Quarry, the source of the crystals, located in rugged High Sierra country near Bishop. Schmidt told her the quartz was mined for him by Indians whom he paid 20 cents a pound to bring them to a pickup location. She said that in part, “My money was to be used for building a road into the mine.” At his instruction, she wrote a letter to introduce herself to his Saturnian benefactors. 

Weeks later, when Eva began asking Schmidt about the progress on the road to the quartz mine, he came up with a dazzling distraction. After a three-week absence, he told of discovering a fabulously rich gold mine in Alaska while on a flight with his space friends. He showed her a huge nugget as a sample, saying the mine would yield $30,000 in gold per month. Schmidt offered her a half interest in the mine for $3,000. Consequently, she obtained another mortgage and gave Schmidt a cashier’s check on May 3, 1960.

Schmidt’s International Space Craft Project Convention

Schmidt continued his lectures and appearances and spoke at the AFSCA’s second national convention in Los Angeles, August 13 and 14, 1960. Reinhold (along with Dan Fry, Calvin Girvin and others) endorsed Gabriel Green’s candidacy for President of the United States. Green’s platform stated: “We affirm that flying saucers are real… making contact with various persons of our planet for the purpose of imparting information which can be used for the benefit of all men of earth.”

Eva Newcomb stopped selling the healing quartz crystals on Aug. 15, 1960, when California state authorities informed her Schmidt was violating postal laws. She placed the remaining crystals in sacks and stored them in her basement. There’s no word on how Schmidt responded, but his frequent absences had begun to make Eva suspicious.

On Aug. 27 & 28, 1960, Schmidt was a guest at the third Northern California Space Craft Convention, in Berkeley, CA, where he seized the opportunity to advertise his own show. The Oakland Tribune reported he said maybe a few aliens were there among them, and. “If they’re here, I’m sure they’ll attend my convention and Rosamond next weekend."

Schmidt’s own production was the International Space Craft Project Convention at Rosamond, CA,  held Sept. 3 - 5, 1960. It received advance press in the Bakersfield Californian and Schmidt mailed flyers throughout the saucer community, announcing it as an annual event: “Meetings are scheduled for Labor Day weekend for the next five years.” The site was Burton’s Tropico Mine, a  tourist attraction and former gold mine. Schmidt hosted the event and also gave a lecture. Other invited speakers included: Gabriel Green, Otis T. Carr, Wayne Aho, Della Larson, Hope Troxell, Rose Hackett Campbell, Daniel Fry, Chief Standing Horse, Gloria Lee, Ralph Hoffman, John Otto, George King of the Aetherius Society, and Brigadier General Herbert C. Holdridge, US Army, retired.

International Man of Mystery

Schmidt’s booklet had been translated and published in 1959 in Germany as Zwischenfall in Kearney, by Karl Veit, president of Deutsche UFO/IFO-Studiengemeinschaft (DUIST), a group that supported Contactees. That helped build an audience for Schmidt, and his German heritage helped make him an honored guest at DUIST’s International UFO Congress in Wiesbaden, Germany, held October 22 - 24, 1960.

Ufo-kongress in Wiesbaden 1960. From left to right, Karl Veit, Reinhold Schmidt, Carl Anderson. (Also pictured, a model of Otis T. Carr’s saucer, sent in his place.)

The auditorium was reported to have filled each day to capacity with 1000 eager fans. During the event, Schmidt seems to have shared some of his crystals, he presented a handful of “glasperlengems”(glass beads) for an auction to benefit DUIST. This caused some excitement, since the audience believed these to be jewels from his Saturnian visitors. 

When he got back to the states, Schmidt lectured on Nov. 12, 1960, for the Womens Club in Grover Beach, CA. About the same time Schmidt was entertaining the ladies, Edward C. Easton, a boarder in Eva Newcomb’s home, informed the Oakland police that he thought Schmidt was “a confidence man” trying to cheat Eva by selling her a crystal mine. According to the later testimony of Police Inspector Lester King, that launched a 6-month investigation into Schmidt.

1961: Arrest and Rejection

Reinhold O. Schmidt attended a Los Angeles Contactee gathering along with Gabriel Green, Margaret Storm, Gloria Lee, Dr. Frank E. Stranges, Orfeo Angelucci, Hope Troxell, and others for several nights. They ran a classified March 30 to April 2, 1961, in The Los Angeles Times:


SPEAKERS on most exciting topics 

of OUR ERA. Lectures Nightly.


250 N. WILTON PL. HO, 6-3055

Schmidt at the Cosmic Counsel Center in Los Angeles with Gloria Lee, Schmidt and Rev. Frank E. Stranges

On April 11, 1961, Oakland Police Inspector Lester King located Reinhold Oscar Schmidt, who “was found living well in the Padre Hotel in Bakersfield.” He was arrested, taken to Oakland and jailed, charged with two counts of grand theft.

While he was locked up, the Oakland Tribune April 13, 1961 revealed that Dan Fry’s organization was no longer supporting Schmidt, saying, “It was disclosed today by Mrs. Mary L. McAlpine of Understanding Unit 31, he fell out of favor with Understanding… Inquiries disclosed that some of his ‘witnesses’ disclaimed the testimonials Schmidt credited to them, she said. Schmidt is now ‘out’ with the outer space people.” Bertha Mantzurani had received nothing for her investment, and had been writing to Schmidt for months, asking for the return of her money. In May, seeing that he was now facing criminal charges, she stopped writing and waited to be called as a witness to testify against him.

Schmidt was released on $10,500 bail and went back to his saucer business in the hopes he’d beat the charges For the next few weeks, Schmidt was busy promoting his motion picture debut. The Pasadena Independent May 26, 1961 column, “As I See It,” reported: “...there will be a showing of a film called ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ at the Wilshire-Ebell Theatre, 4401 W. 8th St., Los Angeles, this Sunday evening at 8 p.m. ...based on the experiences of Reinhold Schmidt, and he, as any saucer fan knows, has chatted with people from Saturn.”

The First Saucer Contact Movie: Edge of Tomorrow 

June and Ron Ormond’s “The Real Flying Saucer Story” documentary never happened. According to June, she had collected about $18,000 at various saucer conventions, but Ron eventually said, “I don’t know if I actually and truly believe everybody 100%.” June was stunned and said, “Are you kidding? I’ll have to give back all the money.” The Ormonds did make a saucer movie, but only Reinhold Schmidt was in it. The film was based solely on his story and financed by money he’d raised. Like June had promised her backers, Schmidt told his marks that the movie would not only help prove the reality of aliens to the public, it would also produce an enormous return for their investments. Schmidt raised at least $25,000 to finance the film, but said the film cost $20,000 to make, while June later said he paid them $10,000 to make the movie. That’s classic Hollywood accounting. 

On May 28th, 1961, Edge of Tomorrow debuted in a special screening at the Wilshire-Ebell theater in Los Angeles. The opening credits provided the only information on the cast and crew:

International Space Project presents

Reinhold O. Schmidt in


Adapted from “The Kearney Incident”

and “To the Arctic Circle in a Space Craft”

Screen Adaptation, Camera and Direction 

June and Ron Ormond

Reinhold O. Schmidt’s movie was reviewed in James Moseley's Saucer News June 1961, by Fred Browman (reprinted on  pages 44-45 of UFOs: A History January - June 1961 by Loren Gross). Browman reported that Edge of Tomorrow was a 16mm color movie, advertised by flyers mailed to 7,000 Los Angeles buffs,  and that “one thousand starry-eyed saucer addicts” attended the premiere. Browman said, “the bulk of the picture comprises an endlessly tedious, badly photographed interview… The hour-long monotony opened with Reinhold O. Schmidt-hero, star, and martyr--driving interminably around Kearney… Then, at long last, the film re-enacts the famed encounter: briefly the audience spots what appears to be an aluminum cucumber lying in an untidy garden. ..."Reinhold Schmidt, playing himself, was excruciatingly self-conscious and static throughout the film. As for acting and direction, neither of these qualities was evident in the opus.” 

Browman’s review was fair, and it's hard to believe that anywhere near $10,000 went into the production. Of the spaceship, they only showed a section with its hatch from the outside, then a set of a control console inside. As in Schmidt’s account, the aliens looked human, but in the film they were given nothing interesting to do or say. Disappointingly, there wasn’t even a scene of the spaceship in flight. During the long “interview” scenes, Schmidt recounted further adventures, including a few details about his flight to Egypt, however, there’s no mention of seeing Jesus’ spaceship. At the abrupt and undramatic conclusion, Schmidt swore on a Bible that all he had said was true. None of Schmidt’s confidence and charisma made it onto screen: he appeared stiff and unnatural. The whole thing was a mess, but that would have been forgivable had it not been so dull.

Schmidt had convinced some of the women attending his lectures to help finance his movie, but it turned out to be a poor investment. He was arrested a month before the movie’s debut, and worse, the film was never released theatrically. It was shown only at a few saucer conventions - and at his trial.

Smitty’s picture was on the cover of Ray Palmer’s Search Magazine June 1961 for Richard S. Shaver’s article written before his arrest, “Comment On Reinhold Schmidt.” Shaver rejected the Contactees’ stories of benevolent aliens. However, he accepted much of Schmidt’s story as true, but thought that he was being duped, that some of the experiences were sinisterly manipulated illusions. Shaver said the Saturnian Mr. X worked for “the Cocks,” explaining, “The Cock is a contemptuous epithet for the head, who is supposed to be the actual old devil himself.” It would have been interesting to hear what Shaver thought about the criminal charges against Schmidt, but he’d likely have blamed it on the Devil or the deros.

Fall brought Schmidt’s second and final annual convention, the International Space Project Convention Sept. l - 3, 1961, at Bakersfield Inn, but not much is known about the particulars. Karl L. Veit, leader of the German saucer group DUIST gave a lecture, printed in the Dec. 1961 issue of Understanding, and he described the other lecturers present as “prominent speakers,” and we can be confident that Schmidt’s film, Edge of Tomorrow was shown. A few weeks later, Schmidt’s trial began.

The Trial of Reinhold O. Schmidt

The trial of Reinhold Schmidt was held at Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland, California, and ran from Oct. 17 to 26, 1961, a total of seven days actually in court. Schmidt’s 1957 saucer story made national newspaper headlines, but his 1961 trial was not front page news, not even in the local California papers. Judge Donald K. Quayle presided over the case, representing the state was Deputy District Attorney, John S. Mead, and the defense, Attorney Robert S. Forsyth. The jury of twelve contained seven men and five women. Schmidt was charged for two counts of grand theft against Mrs. Eva Newcomb.

On the first day, Eva Newcomb gave testimony for four hours about how she had met Schmidt and how he’d convinced her with his stories about space people and healing crystals. Described as “frail and small-voiced” Eva testified, “His description was so vivid and his manner so convincing that I believed him.” To help persuade her, Schmidt presented quartz jewelry that “he said the Space Brother sent me as a gift.” She started selling Schmidt’s crystals and gave him $5,000 for partnership in his mining projects. In cross-examination by Schmidt’s attorney Forsyth, he rejected the allegations that Schmidt had romanced Newcomb or had claimed healing properties for the quartz. Eva broke down in tears and Judge Quayle adjourned court for the day. She was taken to the hospital, suffering “a disorientation by the strain of the trial.” 

During the second day, prosecutor Mead called Fred Babcock, a Bakersfield mining consultant, to the stand. Babcock testified that the quartz mine documents Schmidt had shown Mrs. Newcomb were really for a failed uranium mine. It came out later that the “healing” quartz crystals had been purchased for the scheme, and had not come from Schmidt’s mine.

On day three, Mrs. Bertha Mantzurani was called to testify, but Schmidt was not charged in the case for taking the $5,500 from her, as it was considered “business loans for ventures that have not worked out.” Bertha was called as a witness to demonstrate Schmidt had used similar fraudulent techniques on other victims. Her testimony revealed that she was still working to pay back the loan she'd taken from the bank, and that Schmidt never gave any return for her money invested. It turned out that the property deeds he had given her were worthless phonies, actually only mine paperwork, “notices of location.” Also those called to testify was Inspector Lester King of the Oakland Police, who discussed gathering evidence on Schmidt from Newcomb and others during their six-month-long investigation.

When Eva Newcomb returned to testify, Schmidt’s defense attorney Robert S. Forsyth continued his cross-examination of her. As for the quartz mine investment, he pressed the narrative that there was no fraud or seduction, that Schmidt had only borrowed, not stolen the money. 

Schmidt on the Stand and the Surprise Expert Testimony

The big day came when Reinhold Schmidt testified in his own defense. Like in his film, he put his hand on the Bible and was sworn in. He boasted that his movie was scheduled to be shown in fifty theaters in the US and abroad, and testified that it was based on his true experiences of meeting Saturnians who helped him discover his crystal and gold mines. At length, Schmidt told the court all about his spaceship travels and adventures, and to the shock of some in the courtroom, including the part about seeing the spaceship of Jesus in the Great Pyramid. 

Under questioning from prosecutor Mead, Schmidt admitted he’d taken $25,000 from two other California women to finance his movie. Mead also confronted him about romancing Eva Newcomb, and produced the flowery card Schmidt had sent for her birthday. It opened with, “Until the day we fell in love..." Schmidt’s explanation was that he just grabbed  a card and sent it to her without reading it. He did admit to using “loving talk” to widows Newcomb and Mantzurani, but said that was “mere friendship,” not romance. He also stated that the women had initiated the investments, and that it was Mrs. Newcomb who had requested to sell the crystals, and he denied saying that they had healing powers. However, he did admit to telling her the story about his brother’s paralysis recovery, insinuating she jumped to conclusions. Schmidt stated Mrs. Newcomb was at fault since she had not properly accounted for the crystal sales, so he had not returned her $2,000 loan. As for the $3,000, he was about to pay her back, but he was arrested first. The press coverage made no mention of trial evidence proving the reality of Schmidt’s Alaska mine, and it’s like the gold never existed.

After Schmidt testimony, the state produced Dr. Carl Sagan, a University of California astronomer and National Academy of Sciences consultant, to testify about the scientific veracity of Schmidt’s claims. Sagan thought the whole story was impossible since it hinged on people coming from Saturn. He testified that the planet was too cold and contained noxious gases that a human being could not survive. According to Sagan, Schmidt’s attorney went on the attack by saying, “Dr. Sagan, I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but isn’t it a fact that four or five hundred years ago, university scientists like yourself were maintaining that the Earth was . . . flat?” 

Carl Sagan wrote about the Schmidt trial in his 1966 book, Intelligent Life in the Universe,” as chapter 2, "Extraterrestrial life as a psychological projective test," where he used the pseudonym “Helmut Winckler” for Schmidt. He wrote that Schmidt’s crystal was supposed to be “a rather special kind of quartz. It cured cancer.” When Sagan asked him about the catastrophic scientific flaws in his story, “[Schmidt’s] response was that he could hardly be held responsible for statements made by inhabitants of the planet Saturn. He was merely relaying information.”

After Sagan’s testimony, Judge Donald K. Quayle finally agreed to Schmidt’s request and allowed jurors to view the film Edge of Tomorrow, probably its final public screening. The court then heard the closing arguments from both the prosecution and defense. The state said it had proved its case, so Schmidt should be convicted. The defense argued that the money from Mrs. Newcomb was a loan that Schmidt intended to repay, and insisted that the defendant should not be punished for his saucer stories. 

On Oct. 27, Judge Quayle gave final instructions to the jury. After deliberating for 4 ½ hours, the jury came back with the verdict: Guilty. Schmidt’s attorney immediately moved for a new trial. The $10,000 bond was revoked and the judge ordered Schmidt held in Alameda county jail pending sentence. Prosecutor Mead said he was “more than satisfied” by the verdict. Subsequently on November 17, 1961, Schmidt was sentenced to a term of one to ten years in California state prison for grand theft. An appeal was again filed by Schmidt’s attorney Forsyth on the grounds that the verdict was not supported by evidence. As a result, Schmidt was granted a release pending the appeal, but his bail was increased to $20,000, so he was confined until the additional $10,000 could be raised.

Fate magazine, April 1962

Apparently Schmidt was released while his conviction was under review, but once again faced a psychiatric evaluation. “Law Steps in on ‘Spacemen’” was the article from a March 1962 Los Angeles paper reprinted in Norbert Gariety’s S.P.A.C.E. April 1962. Agents of the State Division of Corporations said Schmidt had “purportedly bilked Californians of some $50,000 to make a movie.” The specific complaint came from an unnamed 74-year-old Long Beach woman who had been lured to invest $18,000 in the film Edge of Tomorrow. It stated that after his conviction, Schmidt “was sent to the State Medical Facility at Vacaville, where psychiatrists found him to be sane,” and that he was “now in a state mental prison in Northern California.” Additional charges were apparently never filed in the complaint by the Long Beach woman. As in the instance of Mrs. Bertha Mantzurani, the prosecutors probably lacked enough persuasive evidence to prove criminal wrongdoing in court.

Schmidt was free for about a year while his conviction was under review. In June of 1963 Judge Leonard Dieden denied the appeal and Schmidt was sent to prison for his crimes.

Oakland Tribune June 9, 1963

With Schmidt’s conviction, the international distribution of his film never took place. Schmidt’s final bow in ufology was the 1963 publication of his story, revised as a 64-page booklet with photographs from his movie, a drawing of the planet Saturn on the cover. The new title was Edge of Tomorrow: The Reinhold O. Schmidt Story

While Schmidt was in prison, his name faded from the UFO press, however it surfaced at least once - and not favorably. It was in the April/May 1965 issue of the journal of Borderland Sciences Research, Round Robin. Helen Anderson of the Understanding Inc. Unit No. 9 in Santa Cruz (a frequent host of Schmidt’s lectures) wrote about a new Contactee, Sidney Padrick, who had been invited to speak at her group. She said that as a precaution, one of their members “interviewed Padrick first, searching for holes in his story; and decided this was no Reinhold Schmidt.” This goes to show that Smitty was not entirely forgotten, at least by the people he’d burned, members of Daniel Fry’s Understanding Inc.

Prison and Beyond

Not much was known about what happened to Reinhold Schmidt after his conviction, but his grandson Tom was able to fill in some of the blanks. We spoke to Thomas Ronald Schmidt by telephone on Oct. 19 and 22, 2018, but sadly, Tom passed away on April 26, 2019. Tom remembered where Reinhold Schmidt’s sentence was served, and thought Reinhold actually served only two or three years.

Based on the information Tom Schmidt provided, we contacted the California State Archives for Reinhold's prison documents. They only had what amounted to 3 pages' worth, confirming the date of his prison sentence and showed that the first four months of his time was served at the California State Medical Facility at Vacaville, then he was transferred on Aug. 13, 1963, to the California Men's Colony, a minimum-security prison close to San Luis Obispo. Tom emphasized that his grandfather wasn’t crazy, but part of his prison stay was at the nearby Atascadero State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.

California Men's Colony prison parole mugshot

The documents show that in July 1966 Schmidt received a parole for the last 2 years and 6 months of his sentence and was released, having spent a total of three years in prison. After his parole in 1966, Schmidt was granted a divorce from his estranged wife Friedda. Tom said Reinhold struck up a romance and married a waitress, Helen Dietrich Gable, 51, a divorcee from Nebraska. He went back to work, trading in agricultural products as a crop buyer, but not in the flying saucer business. After prison, Schmidt rarely spoke about that. On Sept. 6, 1968, his parole was up, and Schmidt he was officially discharged from the system as a free man, and it was around that time he moved back to Bakersfield.

Tom’s father was Reinhold’s youngest son, Arthur Dale Schmidt, and his family also lived in Bakersfield. Tom was particularly close to his grandfather and loved visiting him by riding his bicycle across town to Reinhold’s house where they’d watch old movies together on television. Though Tom had been too young to experience the saucer events and convention days, he heard about them later, and was the family member most interested in them. Tom fondly recalled how when he was seven or eight years old, he asked his granddad it felt to fly in a flying saucer, and Reinhold said, “It was like riding in an automobile.” Around the same time, his grandfather gave him a flyer for the saucer movie which Tom brought to school for show and tell. When the teacher saw that Tom intended to talk about saucer contact, she told him he could be excused from giving a presentation. Tom thought she found it too controversial for grade school. 

Tom Schmidt and an illustration of the mementos left behind by Reinhold.

In 1974 Schmidt was 77 years old and Tom was a teenager. Reinhold was packing to move back to Nebraska, and he gave the Tom a suitcase full of his UFO memorabilia. It contained newspaper clippings, books, reel-to-reel tapes, 8 mm film of lectures, letters, telegrams and more. Tom still had the collection and cited the correspondence from the US and abroad, Germany in particular as evidence that his grandfather was an engaging speaker who was well-liked by people everywhere. Sadly, that visit was the last time that Tom saw his granddad. Reinhold Schmidt went back to Nebraska, and died there just one day later, on September 20, 1974.

Tom said that some time later, a man from the military came by to ask him if Schmidt had left any UFO material behind. Tom was afraid he would take away the souvenirs, so he said no, there was nothing. He wrote down the name - the man was Wayne Aho.

At the end of our talk, Tom said he thought there really was something to his grandfather’s story, that Reinhold Schmidt “wouldn’t have gone through all that trouble, if it was just something he’d made up.” 

Reinhold O. Schmidt
1897 - 1974

Obituary from Star-Herald, Scottsbluff, NE, Sept. 21, 1974

Left on the Edge of Tomorrow

June Ormond, the widow of Ron was interviewed in 1987 for Film Comment magazine about their movie work. There had been very little around 1960, but she said, "We made a film of Reinhold Schmidt’s experience, though it wasn't much of a story.” June said he paid them $10,000 to make the film Edge of Tomorrow, and that it was shown “to packed houses at the flying saucer conventions.” Mrs. Ormond had a negative impression of Schmidt, “A con man, if there ever was one. They put him in prison because he got money on false pretenses from quite a few women. He was a real charmer…”

Carl Sagan said, “In my discussions with [Schmidt] during recesses, I was unable to decide to what extent his escapades with the Saturnians were a conscious fraud, and to what extent he genuinely believed his account.”

Many figures in the flying saucer business traded in falsehood, but the majority of them dealt in intangibles such as spiritual enlightenment. The mistake that Schmidt made, like Silas Newton, Harold J. Berney, and Otis T. Carr was in dealing with physical products under false pretenses, with the promise of producing great wealth for the investors. That’s something that earthly laws are equipped to deal with. Schmidt’s 1963 book closed with a teaser for his next adventure:

“My wonderful experiences are not over, for my Saturnian friends have promised me the greatest experience yet: a tour of the planets! On that occasion, they said, five other persons will be taken also, but I do not yet know who they will be.”

If a group of six earthlings took such a voyage, no one has ever spoken about it. So ends the tale of Reinhold O. Schmidt, one of the few Flying Saucer Swindlers ever sent to prison.

. . .

Additional Information

Whatever Happened To…

Eva Newcomb and Bertha Mantzurani - Eva Newcomb‘s name does not appear in connection with UFOs after Schmidt’s trial and we were unable to find what became of her. Both she and Bertha Mantzurani were both members of Daniel Fry’s Understanding, Inc., but Bertha was more active in the organization and became vice-president of Unit No. 9 in 1960. Bertha Mantzurani started using the name, “Tahahlita B. Wiese,” and she went on to find happiness with another saucer man. Daniel Fry divorced his wife and started living with Bertha/Tahahlita in 1964. The Arizona Republic Feb. 25, 1965 carried a notice of the marriage license of Daniel William and Tahahlita Bertha Mantzurani. (Who’s Who gives the date for the marriage as March 3, 1965.) They were together for over ten years and split up in the mid-1970s. For more on Tahahlita’s story, see Håkan Blomqvist´s blog.

Major Wayne S. Aho, Ret. - Wayne Aho had changed horses midstream in 1959 and partnered with another saucer entrepreneur, Otis T. Carr, and was scheduled to fly with him to the moon. That didn’t go as planned; Aho eventually set up his own saucer sect in Seattle, Washington, the Church of the New Age.

Della Larson - The former president of Oakland Space Craft Club, aka Understanding Unit No. 3 of Daniel Fry’s Understanding, Inc., Della Larson, died at the age of 70 in Oct. 1965 . It was an apparent suicide while Larson was statying at the Three Oaks Hospital in Walnut Creek, California receiving psychatric care. (As reported in the Oakland Tribune, reprinted in Data-Net newsletter, Nov. 1968, page 1.) 

Ron and June Ormond - Ron was more interested in psychic matters than saucer and the two drifted away from the UFO scene. In a strange twist of fate they went from making exploitation films to making Christian exploitation films

. . .

The Reinhold O. Schmidt Story: Published Versions

The Kearney Incident. n.p.: The author, 1958. 15p.

The Kearney Incident-- Up To Now, Phoenix, AZ: Spacecraft Research Association, 1958. 16p.

(Edited by Anna E. Keppy, Lecture Tour Assistant, printed May 1958)

The Kearney Incident and To the Arctic Circle in a Spacecraft, Ed. Anna E. Keppy. Hollywood, CA: The author, 1958 (C. Jan. 31, 1959.) 39p. Reprinted as “The Kearney Incident” by Reinhold O. Schmidt, in Flying Saucers magazine, Oct. 1959, Raymond A. Palmer, publisher.

The Reinhold Schmidt Story, AFSCA World Report 13-15, Jan.-June, 1960. Los Angeles, CA: Amalgamated Flying Saucer Clubs of America, 1960. 18p.

Edge of Tomorrow: The Reinhold O. Schmidt Story. Hollywood, CA: The author, C. Dec. 1963. 64p. 

Edge of Tomorrow, New Brunswick, NJ: Inner Light Publications, 1975, 1990. 64p.

While Schmidt in prison, how was his book sold? Gray Barker’s Saucerian Bulletin, vol 6, no. 1, Dec. 31, 1961, included it in an announcement of “New Publications Available.” In the Oct. 31, 1962 issue, Barker carried a short notice summarizing Schmidt’s trial and conviction, but the closing revealed it to be an advertisement in disguise:

“...readers who want to delve further into the matter may be interested in The Reinhold Schmidt Story, a publication fully illustrated with drawings of the spaceship he reportedly sought in Kearney. Price of this professionally printed booklet is only $1.00, and we have a supply in stock.”

That would have been the AFSCA special issue, however, Barker’s 1969 Saucerian Books catalog included a listing for the 1963 version published by Schmidt, Edge of Tomorrow: The Reinhold O. Schmidt Story. We located no other outlet for Schmidt’s book, so Gray Barker appears to have been its primary distributor. In the UK, Susanne R. Stebbing, Distributor of Specialist Books, had an advertisement in Flying Saucer Review, May/June 1971, “Saucerian Publications,” featuring books published by Gray Barker’s Saucerian Books, among them was also Schmidt’s Edge of Tomorrow

Shortly after Schmidt's death, Timothy Green Beckley (as Inner Light Publications) reprinted the book in 1975 as Edge of Tomorrow, and Beckley sold it through his UFO Review magazine. The Weekly World News Aug. 2, 1994 had an advertisement from Beckley's company, Inner Light Publications, and it used their 1990 reprint of Schmidt’s volume as a bonus when three or more books were purchased. The ad ran several times, at least up until 1997.

. . .

Reinhold O. Schmidt: Documents and Media

Claude Falkstrom and the STTF team gathered over 100 newspaper articles to research the Schmidt saga. To view a PDF of the collection, click Reinhold O. Schmidt Newspaper Clippings.pdf

Project Blue Book investigated Reinhold O. Schmidt’s first case and has a 76-page file on him: 

5 November 1957, Kearney, Nebraska 

Also, a self-contained searchable version of Schmidt’s PBB file.

Audio recordings: A few of Schmidt’s original and subsequent radio interviews are known to have survived, originally archived by Wendy Connors for the Faded Discs project. 

Gene Larson, KGFW radio, interviewing Schmidt on Nov. 5, 1957 7:20 P.M. (12:25 minutes)

A transcript of the KGFW interview appeared in Flying Saucers magazine, May 1958, in Gray Barker’s column, “Chasing the Flying Saucers.” Project Blue Book clipped a copy for their file on Schmidt:

Reinhold O. Schmidt recording of a radio interview, also features Kearney Police Chief Thurston Nelson. Nov. 5, 1957 (poor audio quality, 23:35 minutes) 

Reinhold O. Schmidt and Wayne S. Aho recorded an 87 minute interview at the home of Rev. John H. Brinson, director of the Michigan Flying Saucer Federation, March 2, 1958. 

The Way Out World, by Long John Nebel, 1961, contains a few pages on Schmidt and his UFO conventions.

The World of Flying Saucers by Donald H. Menzel & Lyle G. Boyd, 1963, features a small section on Schmidt, “The Saturnian Visitors.”

The Rise and Fall Of Understanding, Inc. by Håkan Blomqvist at his blog.

The NICAP site’s hosts a PDF collection of 1957 clippings, including many on Schmidt’s incident and its aftermath.

A Special Thanks to:

Louis Taylor of Information Dispersal for rare photographs and documents.

David Houchin of the Gray Barker UFO Collection at the Clarksburg-Harrison Public Library, Clarksburg, WV.

AFU, CUFOs, the SIGN Historical Group and NICAP for archiving UFO literature and historical documents. 

. . .

Schmidt’s Second-hand Saucery

At the time of his first encounter, Schmidt claimed he had not read a saucer book, but that he had heard and read about saucers and ET contact in the news. His initial Kearney incident was unique and it resembled the 1890s stories of encounters with mysterious airships and their crews more than it did a saucer contact story. After entering the UFO lecture business with Wayne Aho and going to the Giant Rock convention, he became familiar with saucer lore and story elements and language from other Contactee figures. Those details began appearing in Schmidt’s narratives.

Space Brothers, Repairing the Earth’s Axis and Atomic Pollution - The first element to creep into Schmidt’s tale was to unambiguously redefine the craft and its crew as a spaceship and extraterrestrial visitors. Instead of possibly being the crew of a foreign secret aviation project, they were transformed into benevolent aliens who had come here to protect us from nuclear self-destruction. It was the dominant Contactee theme, first popularized by George Adamski. To differentiate his brand, Schmidt had his aliens come from Saturn instead of Venus.

Margaret Storm was another big influence. It was her position that the mysterious green-fireballs UFOs were actually alien devices to clean up from our atomic explosions. Schmidt stole that for his Saturnians. Schmidt’s peculiar claim about the aliens restoring the tilt of the earth’s axis was apparently taken from Storm, who wrote in her 1959 book, Return of the Dove:

“A sufficient amount of imprisoned energy had been released… by 1957 to permit the angelic hosts to begin anew their work of straightening the axis of the earth. Before the end of 1958 they had made the final adjustment... required to bring the earth’s axis into the line required by galactic measurement.” Schmidt said the Saturnians could not interfere with our atomic weapons and man’s free will, and that’s another point central to Margaret Storm’s philosophy, that the angelic aliens could only teach us, not force the removal of “the destructive weapons fashioned by other human free wills.”

Storm’s book also had a lot about Jesus’ crucifixion and connections between angels to outer space. It does not feature a scene like Schmidt’s of a launch to heaven in a spaceship, but it does connect him to the land of the pyramids, where, “Mother and Son trained together in Egypt for their Ascension...”

The Desert Sun, June 28, 1957, “New Political Party” by Inez Robb described how Margaret Storm professed that the green fireball UFOs were an alien device used to clean up our atomic bomb radiation fallout. Schmidt adopted that idea for his Saturnian saviors.

Free Energy - Schmidt said the Saturnians used free energy to power their space ships and make coffee. That concept seems to have been cribbed from fellow lecturer Otis T. Carr, who claimed the saucer-shaped spaceship he was building would fly through space using “free energy” in an Oct. 1957 statement.

Crystals and Alien Healing - Schmidt’s account of traveling to the Great Pyramid to view the spaceship of Jesus is an “ancient astronaut” scenario, and he introduces the story with a supporting quote from George Hunt Williamson’s 1958 book, Secret Places of the Lion. Williamson was a religious mystic who recycled many concepts from earlier Theosophists and occultists, and in his earlier 1953 book, Other Tongues- Other Flesh had written extensively about the properties and powers of crystals.

“Many reports state that the Saucers appeared to be made of crystal and were translucent; they must utilize the same power once known on Earth and found in the Vril Stick.”

. . .

Some Stray Schmidt Trivia:

Reinhold's prison stay may have caused him to miss most of the first television series about the visit of a saucer man, the My Favorite Martian  television show’s run from 1963 - 66.

The rights for the movie  Edge of Tomorrow were somehow passed to a mining company, Bovic Inc. in Grants Pass, Oregon.

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...