Thursday, November 5, 2020

The Life and Legend of Otis T. Carr - Part 2

 Continued from

The Life and Legend of Otis T. Carr, Part 1: The Rise of OTC Enterprises 

Countdown to the Saucer Launch

Shortly before the big events in Oklahoma, Otis T. Carr received some national publicity in an article in Cosmopolitan magazine, April 1959, “Long John and the Night People” by Richard Gehman. It described Nebel’s program and its roster unconventional of guests and discussed Carr’s free energy and moon flight plans in the section, “A Space Ship in Every Garage,” then Gehman said, "Most of these people are, or pretend to be, utterly serious. They speak with the transported conviction of a Los Angeles faith cultist. When they are questioned closely they launch into plausible, if all but unintelligible, jargon of the kind one finds in the science fiction magazines.”

Otis T. Carr in his workshop, 1959 press photo.

On Jan. 17, 1959, Wayne S. Aho announced his position as Director of Public Education of OTC Enterprises. Aho also said, “a new approach to education is all important in this space age. Man has gone as far as he can go in so-called pure science…” He recommended some books: Dimensions of Mystery by Otis T. Carr and Law of Life by A.D.K. Luk, from “Millennium Publications, 2502 No. Calvert St, Baltimore 18, Md.” That address was the original headquarters for OTC Enterprises, and A.D.K. Luk was the pseudonym for their stenographer, Alice Beulah Schutz.

Clipping from Catalog of Copyright Entries, Third Series: 1959: January-June

Law of Life was a repackaging of Guy Ballard’s “I AM” Theosophy, where Schutz wrote, “The appearance of Space ships, saucers or Scouts are becoming widely known and are being more and more accepted, as are contacts with people of other planets. This has been done throughout the ages, to some degree, as well as the assistance of the Ascended Masters. These are the teachers of mankind.”

Dana Howard’s Contactee book Up Rainbow Hill was released in Feb 1959, while not published in connection with OTC, it featured several passages about Otis T. Carr and his work. Carr must have liked it since he kept several copies on hand in his personal library.

Up Rainbow Hill

Though it didn’t bear the name, Millennium Publications produced another Theosophical book in 1959 from the 2502 North Calvert St. address of OTC Enterprises. It was Return of the Dove, the space mysticism reimagining of the life of Tesla by Margaret Storm, OTC’s publications editor. 

Their occult book business was kept quiet; the saucer model plans were OTC’s only physical product, as far as the public knew. Otis T. Carr wanted his name associated with spacecraft.


A Tale of Two Saucers

Throughout the previous year, Norman Colton had been saying there would be a public demonstration of OTC Enterprises spaceship. The contract with Frontier City, USA owner James Burge made that a requirement, and the flight was scheduled for the dedication of the park’s space ship ride in April of 1959. It was a tall order for Carr and associates to oversee the construction of two saucer projects at once. According to Eugene Carini, fabrication of the OTC-X1 prototype began in January of 1959, and it took their contractor, Aircraftsmen Inc., two months to construct its six-foot aluminum airframe.


The OTC-X1 saucer ride designed by Otis T. Carr was already under construction when he filed a patent on Jan. 22, 1959, as “a novel amusement device having the overall configuration of a space craft...” (Later granted on Nov. 9, 1959, Carr’s only successful patent.)

FBI records show that during this time OTC Enterprises was busy promoting the company and trying to sell franchises. On Feb. 19, 1959, a meeting was held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for the purpose of establishing “a franchise from the Carr group for the state of Pennsylvania … similar type meetings were being held In 39 other states in the United States for the same purpose… to purchase a share of the franchise …the total cost of which would be $30,000.” Finding support in the area, Carr set up an OTC Enterprises office across the river from Pittsburgh in Homestead, PA, and “was selling package plans for his space ship at $5 each and attempted to contact a local department store with the idea of being his representative here for $12,000.” (The Pittsburgh Press, Aug. 11, 1960)

With the prototype being built, interest increased about the plans for the manned flight the OTC-X1, something that would come to be known as “Demo Day.” As part of a “publicity kickoff,” Otis T. Carr went to New York City for radio and television interviews. On Friday, Feb. 20th, 1959, the Henry Morgan TV talk show featured Carr, Long John Nebel, and several of the Party Line panel regulars. Carr emphatically repeated his claim he would launch for the moon on Dec. 7, 1959, accompanied by Wayne Aho - and possibly Daniel Fry. When asked if the ship had been built, Carr said no, but that it could be constructed “in five weeks.”

In his new role, Wayne S. Aho was busy helping publicize the Oklahoma demonstration. Carr (and OTC staff) sent a series of letters and “Space-O-Grams” to investors announcing the test and provided them with a list of hotels and motels with special rates for the event. Their invitation letter from March 23, 1959, contained the promise of a New Age:

“You are cordially invited to attend the demonstration of... the OTC-X1 Spacecraft in Oklahoma City... We have a great program of introduction before us to bring to mankind a higher standard of living in the development of higher consciousness - - which will ultimately be the foundation and framework for the new Earth.”


The next message from OTC Enterprises, Inc. had their Baltimore address crossed out, stamped with “Space Oklahoma, Inc.” With that, Carr made the move of OTC headquarters official. During this time, Carr seemed more interested in the Frontier City saucer ride than he did in the prototype. The original date announced for the saucer launch was April 5, but OTC sent out a Space-O-Gram changing the date to April 19:

“OTC… engineers have asked for two additional weeks of further testing and refinement so that the remote radio flight controls will be utterly dependable to respond accurately… for aerial performance…”  It asked attendees to “write, wire or telephone any of our listed headquarters for further information. Besides OTC Enterprises, the 40 names listed included Daniel Fry (of Understanding Inc.), Gabriel Green (of the Amalgamated Flying Saucer Clubs of America), Calvin Girvin, Howard Menger, Della Larson, Hope Troxell, and other saucer and contact supporters.

Eugene Carini among the OTC-X1 construction and from his 2001 interview with Lance Moody

 The silvery OTC-X1 prototype looked good, standing four feet high, six feet in diameter, and it reportedly weighed 600 pounds. Carr’s literature stated the saucer would rise “400 to 600 feet” into the air, and that’s what people were coming to see. But there was a big problem. Eugene Carini said in his 2001 interview that in mid-April he received an urgent call from Carr asking him to fly to Oklahoma to install the electrical wiring to power the prototype. When Carini asked if there was a wiring diagram for him to use, Carr said, “No, that’s your job.” Carini was flown in and put up in a motel near the warehouse where the saucer was being finished. He was given only three days to do the job. Carini worked there day and night alongside a team of about 14 mechanics to complete the saucer’s innards for its flight demonstration on Sunday.


Show Time

The Oklahoma City event, as scheduled by OTC Enterprises, was essentially a UFO convention centered around the saucer launch and ride opening. Horizons Unlimited, the local saucer group, organized and hosted the events for the saucer people:

Base for registration and special guests of OTC.

  • Friday, April 17: Registration at the Town Park Motel, with guests encouraged to visit Carr’s “Educational, recreational Space Ride” at Frontier City.

  • Saturday, April 18: An afternoon of lectures beginning at 2:00 P.M. at First Christian Church amphitheatre: a welcome speech, keynote address, then Otis T. Carr on “Free Energy and the Third Electrical Age." After that, short talks from guests and a “Science Symposium” led by Wayne S. Aho.

  •  Sunday, April 19: Guests had the morning free to attend church services, then visit Frontier City. At noon, the OTC-X1 prototype would be exhibited, then at 3:00 P.M. taken six miles east to a gravel pit for the demonstration of the OTC-X1 prototype under the direction of “Peter G. Varlan, Operations Chairman.” After that, another “Science Symposium by selected scientists.” Finally, at 7:00 P.M., a ceremonial dinner with a special message from Otis T. Carr.

Things did not go as planned.

The OTC-X1 demonstration brought out a contingent of flying saucer fans from far and wide. CSI News Letter, July 15, 1959, reported: “No major Contactees appeared (Mrs. Daniel Fry was there but not her husband), but lesser ones known and unknown were plentiful. Dana Howard talked about her trip to Venus. Margaret Storm told listeners that Carr is directly inspired by ‘the Divine Master St. Germain’  …[Lari Kendrick, president of Horizons Unlimited, demonstration co-sponsor] was there; he is former radio announcer who has seen hundreds of saucers and is now Oklahoma distributor for the OTC-X1.”

Among the many other recognizable saucer folk present: Gabriel Green, Calvin C. Girvin, author of The Night has a Thousand Saucers) Canadian flying saucer researcher, Wilbert B. Smith, author of The Boys from Topside, Hayden Hewes, director of the Interplanetary Intelligence of Unidentified Flying Objects, and a group of six led by Art Kloepfer, president of Dan Fry’s Understanding Unit from El Monte, California. OTC’s Doubting Thomas was there, too; even Bud Gosnell had high hopes of seeing Carr’s saucer fly.

Gabriel Green, president of the Amalgamated Flying Saucer Clubs of America

OTC Enterprises guaranteed press coverage for the event by actively recruiting it. They’d coaxed the NBC’s live radio program Monitor hosted by Walter McGraw to cover the story. Norman Colton persuaded Long John Nebel and seven of his panelists to come by paying for their trip and all expenses. The advance straight news coverage was near zero. The Daily Oklahoman, April 9, 1959, featured a story on the event, “Flying Saucer Tryout Slated,” saying, “Inventor Otis T. Carr will put his theory of “free energy” space flight to the test here April 19.” It appeared on page 20, next to the comic strips.

As for Carr’s other saucer, the Frontier City “Space Ship” ride, the attraction was operational, but not yet finished, lacking the disc’s rim and other cosmetic details. The ride was to be dedicated that weekend, then officially opened to the public shortly thereafter.


Technical Difficulties 

The stage was set, the audience was filing in, but backstage there was some drama with the stars. True magazine reported the story as heard from Margaret Storm. A few days before the flight Storm sent “an electronics engineer," who "examined the wiring and announced that it would create a short circuit all around the model, and the ship would never get off the ground. Hearing that, Otis Carr flew “into a screaming rage, burst a blood vessel in a lung, and had to be taken to Mercy Hospital.”

That engineer was Eugene Carini, and in 2001, he told Lance Moody his own version of events. “When I first saw the craft at the warehouse, and examined it closely, I was really shocked and taken aback because I knew the circuitry, the properly designed circuitry, that I had to put in it would not work. And the reason being… is that when it was built and fabricated at [Aircraftsmen, Inc.], they had built the internal gridwork out of aluminum struts and girder work... Now the top and bottom half of the craft had a capacitor effect action, and they were supposed to be insulated, so therefore, any circuitry that I connected to the top and bottom half of the craft, when I threw the switch, would be a dead short to the batteries. And when I mentioned that to Otis, he got very upset and said, ‘Don't tell anybody.’ And then he disappeared and ended up in the hospital...” Wayne Aho would later state that Carr “had to enter the hospital for eight days... with a lung hemorrhage... probably caused by over-work and strain.” Carini didn’t believe Carr was ever sick, that the hospital was “a safe haven for him, to get away from the pressure.” Nevertheless, work was on the saucer ordered to go on.


Friday, April 17, 1959

The saucer people started arriving Friday, getting signed in and receiving their name tags to identify them for OTC events. Many of them took a “flight” in the OTC Educational Space Ride, and it reportedly gave a good simulation of traveling in space.  

The OTC ride with Rex Stanford, Gabriel Green and John McCoy. From Understanding magazine, April 1959


Long John Nebel and company’s flight arrived at about 3:00 A.M., on a cold and rainy Saturday the 18th. Nebel’s Party Line producer Paris Flammonde came along, and regular panelists including Ellery Lanier, who was there in the prospects of writing the story for True magazine, also Sam Vandivert, photographer. Nebel was eager to get started but couldn’t locate Carr — and he was told that no one was permitted to see the saucer. Fate magazine quoted a local television reporter as saying, “This thing will never leave the ground… a great deal of the ballyhoo they’re giving out is tied in with the ride at Frontier City. I have tried constantly to get in to see the saucer model, but they’ve kept it hidden.” Unhappy with that, Nebel found out where the prototype was being finished and demanded to be let in. Inside he found the saucer in three or more pieces with its top removed, tools scattered on the floor around it. “I knew then and there it would never work,” Nebel later said.

Ellery Lanier and John Nebel, photo by Sam Vandivert.

Throughout the events, Long John Nebel taped interviews from Oklahoma City with attendees and members of Carr’s team, later broadcast after his return to New York. Eugene Carini described the free energy mechanics of the prototype, and said the principles were solid. He noted that technical problems were common in test flights, but said he was cautiously optimistic the launch would go as planned. Eugene Carini interview (YouTube audio clip, approximately 9 minutes).

Saturday, April 18, 1959

The Saturday afternoon lectures at the church went on as planned with about 70 saucer buffs in attendance. In Carr’s absence, a taped message was played instead, saying, "Barring any flat tires, I feel that history will be made Sunday afternoon when the model of the OTC-X1 is launched here." Meanwhile, Long John thought something smelled fishy, so he set out to find the missing inventor, and he found Carr at Mercy Hospital. 

In Mercy Hospital

Carr was in his room, dressed in a hospital gown, up walking and talking to a nurse. Nebel said, “He appeared to wracked with pain as soon as I appeared, and I helped the great man into bed.” Carr recovered his strength well enough to tape a short interview for Nebel’s show, assuring him the craft would work and be ready to fly, saying, “it certainly won’t be as big a disappointment as Cape Canaveral.” Otis T. Carr Hospital interview (YouTube audio clip, approximately 9 minutes).

During his stay in the hospital, Carr received more visitors, most of them bringing gifts and sympathy. However, Bud Gosnell paid a visit, too, and told him, “Otis, you’re a goddamned faker, a coward, and you’re yellow-bellied.”

The public and the flying saucer fans who’d made the pilgrimage knew nothing of the technical difficulties and little of Carr’s hospitalization. Many fans saw and rode the OTC-X1 attraction, socialized, and eagerly waited for the Sunday launch.

Sunday, April 19, 1959 “Demo Day”

Silent footage from Frontier City. Includes images of crowds walking around the amusement park, with scenes of the OTC-X1 in the background. Also, a shot of the partially constructed saucer prototype, then Wayne S. Aho is shown speaking to a crowd. 
WKY News: Saturday-Sunday, April 18-19, 1959 (YouTube)

A crowd of around 3,000 was on hand Sunday at Frontier City by the space ride for the unveiling of the OTC-X1 prototype at noon. It didn’t show. The arrival of the saucer was until delayed until 2:00 P.M., and the audience was subjected to Wayne Aho lecturing for nearly two hours. Finally, around five o’clock, Aho passed the bad news that the launch was postponed. The prototype didn’t work due to either “electrical difficulties,” or that “precision parts failed to fit.” An announcement was made for newsmen to come to the warehouse and photograph the saucer, but for the audience, there was nothing.

Norman E. Colton directing the press. Photo by Sam Vandivert.

At the warehouse, Norman Colton warned photographers not to touch the saucer or look at or photograph underneath it. Reporter Gene Campbell took a peek, and reported that it “revealed nothing more interesting than a tri-wheel landing gear and an electric cord attached to the saucer.”

OTC’s Sunday invitation-only evening church meeting had been scheduled to serve as a victory party for the launch. About 70 people attended, Eugene Carini among them. Otis Carr missed the ceremonial dinner, so a pre-recorded tape by him was played instead, causing some to wonder how far in advance he’d known the flight was off. Carr assured his followers that not only would the prototype soon launch, and the real OTC-X1 would fly to the moon as planned on Dec. 7, 1959. On board would be Carr as Flight Captain, Norman Colton as Flight Engineer, Hildegarde Shea as Flight Commissar, and Wayne Aho as Guest Passenger.

Wayne S. Aho, OTC's Director of Public Education.

Wayne Aho oversaw the event and tried to put a brave face on the flop. He held up one of Carr’s small models, the closest anyone came to seeing a saucer fly. However, from the OTC perspective, it wasn’t a total flop. 3000 people had been interested, and many of them had taken a spin on what the “45-foot Educational Space Ride.”

OTC had laid out a lot of capital to present the Oklahoma City launch, estimates of building costs for the OTC-X1 prototype ranged from $20,000 to $40,000, and it was reported that $15,000 was spent to bring in and lodge newsmen, including Long John Nebel and his crew. OTC didn’t have enough money left to pay for Eugene Carini’s plane ticket home. He said Norman Colton had to take up a collection at the church to raise the cash. Many attendees had travelled far to see Otis Carr and the flight of his saucer, but most left without getting a glimpse of either. But some did go home with souvenirs.


Before heading back for New York, Long John Nebel interviewed Norman E. Colton, who was disappointed only in that people had not been able to see the launch. Colton didn’t regard the flight as canceled, merely delayed. Norman Colton interview (YouTube audio clip, approximately 3 minutes). 

Early Monday morning there was a rumor that the launch was on, but it was another false hope. John Nebel and most of his group took a flight home. In late afternoon Norman Colton tried to salvage things with a warehouse demonstration of the prototype for the press. There were about 14 workmen or mechanics on hand to conduct the test of it spinning in place. WKY News was there and filmed the crew preparing the experiment, with shots of newsmen watching and photographing the saucer spinning in the warehouse.

WKY film of the OTC-X1 bench test. (YouTube)

Walter McGraw of NBC’s Monitor said, “Finally, a bench test was run, on Monday, ‘to see if it was properly balanced;” mercury then leaked from the innards of the machine, and the plastic halves began to come apart from the vibration. This test was powered (quite openly) by an outside electric motor. In short, the famed demonstration was a flat tire — ‘it wasn't even an anti-climax, because there wasn't any climax for it to be anti to.’”


The Aftermath and the Press Coverage

Despite OTC’s efforts, the general public was largely unaware of the event, probably because most news outlets avoided it as a publicity stunt for the amusement park. Locally, there was a story in The Daily Oklahoman, April 20, 1959, by Gene Campbell on the scrubbed launch.


The national news coverage was slight, just one nationally photo with a caption saying, “electrical bugs forced them to delay the test.”


The saucer magazines provided an insider’s point of view, mostly unfavorable.

Daniel Fry’s Understanding magazine, April 1959, carried the article, “Visit to a Small Spacecraft.” It was a trip report by six members from the El Monte Unit., which described the disappointed crowd leaving the scrubbed launch on Sunday as a “funeral procession.” That evening, several select groups were allowed to view the X1 prototype, but not the Understanding group. “We were very much disappointed in this.”



Thy Kingdom Come, March/April 1959, carried several photos taken during the events, but reported on the story only by reproducing a statement written by Wayne S. Aho of OTC. Aho claimed the event was “very successful” despite the scrubbed launch. He said that the problem was being corrected, however, “We are not announcing a flight date and do not plan to announce it in advance. Pre-flight tests will be made, then validation and public demonstration will take place.”


FATE magazine, August 1959, ran a scathing story on Carr, “The Saucer that Didn't Fly” by W. E. Du Soir. It opened with, “The serious field of UFO's and flying saucer research received a setback at Oklahoma City…” The name “Du Soir” was a pseudonym, probably for one of Nebel’s associates, Paris Flammonde or Ellery Lanier.

Civilian Saucer Intelligence of New York published a harsh article condemning Carr in CSI News Letter, July 15, 1959. It raised the issue about whether Carr was a phony or just a fool. “What makes the accusation of fraud now seem inapplicable—or at any rate less likely—is the ineptitude of this grandiose fizzle. No con man out of rompers would fumble things this way from start to finish. He would have provided something for the paying customers to look at, something to support the hopes of past and potential suckers.”

Wilbert B. Smith

Canadian  radio engineer and saucer buff Wilbert B. Smith had been following the OTC story with great expectations and had traveled with his antigravity research partner Bill Ridell to witness the launch. Smith was a believer in saucers and aliens, but after the trip, not in Carr. Smith wrote in a letter dated Aug. 4, 1959: “At Oklahoma City Mr. Gosnell, who is a shareholder in OTC Enterprises, arranged for [us] to see the innards of the 6 foot model… after about an hour of close inspection during which we became familiar with every nut and bolt, we came to the conclusion that if the saucer went anywhere, someone was going to carry it!” 

Bud Gosnell wrote the SEC again and described Smith’s examination of the OTC-X1, stating Carr’s saucer had “...many crude and amateurish defects... The only animation of the prototype was possible only from the dry cell and hot shot batteries which he had been built into the prototype.” 

Symbolic illustration of Carr's troubles to come.

Eugene Carini considered the fiasco a turning point for Carr, a severe emotional blow from which he never recovered. What Carini didn’t know at the time was the severity of Carr’s problem with alcoholism, which got much worse after the flop of the OTC-X1 prototype. He thought it had affected Carr’s judgment all along and had led to careless decisions. OTC Enterprises, Inc. was almost finished. After Carr left Baltimore, the former headquarters remained open while OTC also leased workspace in Oklahoma City, and Pennsylvania. Carini thought some of the problems came from Norman Colton embezzling funds. “I had found out that he had been getting involved with taking sums of money from book sales, and some here, and some there - wherever. And that was upsetting to me, and of course, a lot of stress for Otis, also.”

The stress for Carr was just beginning. The United States Securities and Exchange Commission and the state of Oklahoma were investigating him for illegal sales of stock. He was headed for the courtroom, possibly prison.

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 Part 3, the conclusion: 

1 comment:

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