Thursday, October 7, 2021

UFOs and Alcohol


Before flying saucers came along, witnesses who reported seeing weird things like little green men or sea serpents were ridiculed for being drunk or crazy.  

The series of UFO events in 1949 at White Sands Proving Ground in New Mexico, were witnessed by credible observers working there, engineers, scientists, and technicians. Commander Robert. B. McLaughlin carefully wrote up the details of the sightings and forwarded them to the Pentagon. Shortly afterwards, the reply came from an admiral in the Navy's guided missile program, "What are you drinking out there?"

Drinking alcohol alters judgment, reasoning, decision making, and negatively affects sensory perception, memory, and psychomotor tasks. Booze does not typically cause people to see UFOs. Chronic alcohol abuse can cause hallucinations, but they are predominantly auditory, not visual. Drinking is more likely to cause someone to fail to notice something that is there, than to see something that’s not. Nevertheless, drinking is sometimes a factor in reporting UFOs.

On March 31, 1950, a UFO report came from San Diego. "An unidentified woman today telephoned local newspapers that a flying saucer landed on Highway 80 near Jacumba and ‘a little man jumped out and ran down the highway in the direction of Imperial Valley. He ran faster than Jesse Owens.’" Sherriff’s deputies responded but found no trace of the saucer or the little man. The US Navy also received a similar report, and it was covered in the following item from the United Press:

El Centro, California, March 31. (UP)  The El Centro Naval Auxiliary Air Station said telephone calls had been received at the station today similar to the San Diego “flying saucer” story and two planes and an automobile were dispatched to check the reports. Naval authorities who made the investigation returned from Jacumba and reported: “The man who reported the saucer story was drunk when he reported it. Was drunk when we got there. And was drunk when we left.”

The Jacumba saucer report came in on the last Friday night in March. The next day was April 1st.

In John Keel’s 1988 essay, "The People Problem," he said, “the history of ufology has shown that a town drunk can have a real UFO experience as well as the town's police chief. The drunk would automatically receive a very low rating on the reliability scale.” 

Panels from “Mandrake the Magician” comic strip, 1966

Our next case demonstrates the problem alcohol brings to credibility.

Santa Monica, California, February 11, 1957 

Frank Robert Parker enlisted in the Army in 1942, serving as an aerial photographer and camera technician during World War II. After his discharge he attended the Los Angeles Arts Center, studying commercial photography and design. In 1951 he went to work for the Douglas Aircraft company in Santa Monica and became a master layout man drafting patterns for aircraft.

The trouble came Feb, 11, 1957, on a night out after work. Parker was arrested, but he insisted it was a misunderstanding. Parker was out in public and encountered some policemen. “I told him that I had a flying saucer in my car and they arrested me. I told them it was on the back seat of my car and they wouldn’t believe me. They wouldn’t even go and look.”

Athens Messenger (Ohio), Feb. 20, 1957

Frank Robert Parker later admitted to having “a few beers” before the encounter. The police jailed him overnight and charged him for public intoxication. At his court date, Parker brought his flying saucer to in an effort to convince Judge Mervyn A. Aggeler that he had been telling the truth when he was arrested. The judge said, “The charge is not that you were not telling the truth, but that you were intoxicated.”

Parker said he had been working six months on his flying saucer. It was a professionally-crafted disc-shaped model plane about 40” in diameter, sporting a central engine-powered propeller and a tail fin for stability. While he was in the drunk tank the saucer was left unguarded in this auto. “I’m glad no one carried it off. There’s a lot more work to go into it, but I think it’s going to fly when I have it finished. He plead guilty and was fined $20.

The Los Angeles Times, Feb. 16, 1957

 There’s no further documentation fate of his flying saucer or much on the life of Parker himself. He eventually left California and lived the rest of his days back home in Great Falls, Montana. Was Parker actually drunk? We can’t know for sure, but with liquor on his breath, talking about saucers did not help his case. 

Having a few drinks won’t make someone see a saucer, but it can fuel some loopy ideas about pranking a UFO report. Alcohol and saucers don’t mix.

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For further reading on witness ridicule and alcohol, see the Blue Blurry Lines article: 


  1. > Before flying saucers came along, witnesses who reported seeing weird things like little green men or sea serpents were ridiculed for being drunk or crazy.

    This happened during the airship waves too.

  2. Exactly, it's part of the UFO experience - and of every tall tale ever told.


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