Thursday, November 18, 2021

Contact in Texas: The Lost UFO Photos

Following this article, be sure to see the collection of original documents, including rare newspaper clippings, the Project Blue Book reports, and witness correspondence with a legendary UFO investigator.

Contact in Texas: The Lost UFO Photos, © 2021, Curt Collins

Close encounters of the third kind involving alien abductions  most everyone knows about the 1961 case of Betty and Barney Hill, or in the 1970s, the Pascagoula incident with Hickson and Parker, or the Travis Walton story. There was an abduction case that came in between that’s not as well known; one of the few investigated by the U.S. Air Force and probed by Dr. J. Allen Hynek.
 

It happened at a critical time in UFO history. Project Blue Book’s “Swamp Gas” fiasco at the flap in Ann Arbor, Michigan, caused a public outcry that culminated in the Congressional Hearing on Unidentified Flying Objects in April 1966. Within months, the University of Colorado was contracted by the Air Force to conduct an independent investigation of the UFO topic and evaluate its scientific merit. It was colloquially referred to as the Condon UFO Study or Committee after its project director, physicist Dr. Edward U. Condon. After initial optimism, UFO proponents began to suspect the study was “rigged” for a negative conclusion to allow the Air Force to get out of the flying saucer business. Publicly, it was stated that “the university's research does not alter Project Blue Book responsibilities of receiving, investigating and evaluating UFO reports,” but in practice, the Air Force seemed to be gearing down and watching the clock.

 


The Texas UFO Flap in Wellington Begins

March 24, 1967: 5:30 A.M. - The UFO report that kicked things off was made by Air Force Staff Sergeant Johnny Ferguson, who with his wife and 3 kids were traveling by car for a long drive moving from Maine to Vandenberg AFB. Near the tiny rural community of Loco, Texas, they were terrified by a mysterious bright “blue-neon” light that chased them at high speed along the road. It finally split into two, changed to a reddish color and disappeared behind a hill. Ferguson reported the incident to Deputy Sheriff George Hooten, then drove into nearby Wellington (population about 3000). 

There had been other sightings, and this one prompted Hooten to contact Altus Air Force Base (across the state line in Oklahoma). Col. Kenneth H. Hallmark and Lt. Robert W. Nicholson came to investigate and interview the Ferguson family.

Hooten told them about other UFO incidents in the area and described two: Mr. and Mrs. John L. Brim of Wellington had seen a bright orange light hover in the sky hours before the Ferguson sighting. On March 21, 1967, at 3:00 P.M., a farmer living near Loco, Carroll Wayne Watts “observed a cylindrical object about 200 feet from the ground traveling at about 50 mph in a northwesterly then northeasterly direction. It disappeared out of sight in about 30 seconds. It was a metallic colored object.” These two sightings were only noted, not investigated.

Deputy Sheriff Hooten told the A.F. investigators that for hunting at night, a few locals attached aircraft lights to their trucks. As the saying goes, "Close enough for government work." In the 7-page report for Project Blue Book, the Ferguson sighting was closed as “ground lights,” and that was that. Yet, ten days later, another incident was reported. The farmer’s UFO had come back.

Project Blue Book case listings.

Carroll Wayne Watts was 28 years old, lived near Loco, Texas, with his wife Rosemary and their three young children. Watts was the son of a prominent farmer, and he was in the family business growing cotton and other crops. 


While driving home in his pickup about 10:30 Friday night, March 31, Watts saw a strange light on family property. He investigated to find a big cylindrical UFO hovering a short distance above the ground. Watts found a hatch or door and knocked on it, expecting to find Air Force men inside. When it opened, instead, he saw no one, but saw strange machinery and heard a mechanical-sounding voice asking him to come inside. It wanted him to stand in front of the device that he could see inside. He was told it would give him a “strenuous physical” examination, which would determine if he’d be allowed to take a flight on the ship. Afraid, Watts refused, then went back to his truck as the craft silently rose and flew away.

The next day, Watts made a report to the local police and subsequently to the same Air Force investigators who had come to the area before. Hallmark and Nicholson interviewed Watts and filed a 5-page report to Project Blue Book. The UFO encounter was reported in the local newspaper and carried across the US by United Press International.

Shortly after the sighting, Rosemary Watts mailed her husband’s first-person account of the sighting to her old Oklahoma hometown paper. The story was printed in The Mangum Star on April 6, subsequently reprinted in the Wellington Leader on April 13 as “Wellington Man Describes Talk With ‘Object.’” Like in his report to the Air Force, Watts’ story clearly hinted that the UFO came from somewhere else, but he made no mention of terminology like space or aliens. He wrote that “the people, whoever they are, aren't harmful,” but that he wouldn’t go inside their ship, “because they might leave with you.” Meanwhile, Watts had another encounter, this time involving contact, abduction, and space flight.

On April 11, 1967, at about 9:30 p.m., Watts was in his truck when he saw a light and his engine died. (There will be a detailed account later.) When he got out, he found a UFO - a different one. It was about 30 feet long, egg-shaped, with a dome on top, flattened on the bottom.

Similar to Watts’ visitors -
Matt Graeber’s UFORIC illustration
of the Betty and Barney Hill alien.

Two small humanoid occupants stood on the steps of the open hatch. They asked him to come inside, and he was too fearful to refuse. The ship took off and docked with the cylindrical UFO from before, and once there, Watts was examined by their machine. When he asked about who they were and what they were doing, Watts said they told him they were surveying and that they were “from the planet you call Mars.” Afterward, Watts reported his experience to the police and the Air Force. Col. Hallmark and Lt. Nicholson again responded and interviewed Watts for Project Blue Book. Their report noted that Watts appeared “reliable and sincere,” but it was deficient in detail. It was only three pages long, mostly focused on items such as the location and weather, and the file mentions (but does not contain) a tape of Watts’ story and his drawings of the alien machinery and writing he’d seen. There was no mention of the aliens, just that Watts “describes taking an actual flight and submitting to a physical examination.”

There was no press on the abduction, but Watts’ story of his first encounter was still circulating. Dr. Edward Condon became interested in it after seeing it in Robert Gribble’s April 1967 UFO newsletter. Condon wrote to Col. Thomas Ratchford of the Air Force, who was coordinating the University of Colorado’s UFO Study. Dated May 18, 1967, Condon’s letter complained about the Air Force failing to inform the committee of UFO cases in a timely manner, and for failing to provide substantive details. Condon cited the Watts case as a key example of this neglect.

Condon to Col. Ratchford, 5-18-1967

Several area lawmen attested to Watts' good character, but his one of staunchest supporters was Wellington Police Chief, Donald Nunnelley. 


He’d written a character reference for Watts and said, “Other reports have been made by persons of Collingsworth Co. For myself I have seen lights… From talking with Mr. Watts or the other persons concerned that have seen UFOs or lights in this area, I have no reason to be doubtful or question these people, as to their honesty or integrity.” Chief Nunnelley also happened to be Carroll Watts’ cousin, but it was a small community.

The Artist and his Hypnotist

Watts UFO story also caught the interest of a Texas art teacher. Dord Fitz was an artist and gallery owner who hustled across Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas, teaching art classes to adult students. Fitz had an interest in ESP and UFOs, and he had shared the cosmic spirituality of The Urantia Book with his students. He also helped promote José Silva bring his Silva Mind Control Method to a wider audience, believing it was a useful tool for unleashing artistic creativity. Fitz himself said he was in touch spiritually with an ancient otherworldly being “Inchen,” who told him that other beings in the universe were coming to our planet, but they would first appear in spiritual form before making physical contact.

Dord Fitz from 1967 article

The timeline of the next few months is not well documented, but based on what Fitz later told reporters, he was interested in the flying saucer stories from Wellington and went there in June of 1967 to learn more. Fitz met Watts and “to find out if he was telling the truth” about the UFO encounters, persuaded him to come to Amarillo and be questioned under hypnosis.

José Silva, 1967

The hypnosis was performed by José Silva, who told this version, “Upon seeing all of this commotion, I suggested to Mr. [Fitz] that, before getting any deeper into this, he check Mr. [Watts] with hypnosis.” Silva said, “I inducted Mr. [Watts] into hypnosis, age regressed him to one day before his related story and went forward minute by minute to the present time.”  Fitz later told reporters that Watts told the same story while hypnotized; it convinced him that Watts was sincere and truthful.

Somewhat overlapping these events, Watts later revealed there were pictures. In a series of other experiences and sightings, on June 7, 11, and 13, he managed to take Polaroid photographs. In all, he had ten photographs of the cylindrical UFO in flight, and another shot of a little man from the ship. Most of Watts’ pictures were black and white, but at least three of them were shot in color.

In much the same way he nurtured and encouraged his art students, Fitz helped Watts tell his story. “I wrote it down and my wife typed it." Fitz assisted Watts in preparing a portfolio of evidence: a typed manuscript describing his encounters, illustrations, statements from other area UFO witnesses, and character testimonials. “I got all this material together and then contacted the Life correspondent in Dallas.” Once the time was arranged. Carroll Wayne Watts, packed up the family and drove to Dallas to share his UFO story with the world.
 

 

Taking the Abduction Story Public

Holland McCombs (1901 - 1991) was a veteran reporter who had worked for Time and Life magazines since the 1930s. In the 1960s, McCombs was the chief for Life magazine’s bureau in Dallas, Texas, located at offices in the Republic National Bank Building. McCombs is perhaps most famous for his involvement in reporting on the assassination of President Kennedy and its aftermath. The University of Tennessee at Martin houses the Holland McCombs Papers, which includes his file on the Watts UFO case.



In the mid-1960s, UFOs were a hot news item, and Will Lang of Life sent a telegram to Holland McCombs on March 22, 1966, requesting material on: “new sightings, landings, and communications with UFOs.” Life was preparing their first big saucer story since 1952, and the “sighting in Ann Arbor, Mich., provides strong peg...” McCombs replied, “We ain’t had none in these parts for a long time, however in 1947 or 1948... I interviewed some of the sighters in Texas and other places...” Without McCombs’ input, Life, April 1, 1966, featured the cover blurb, “The Week of the Flying Saucers,” and the 6-page article inside was titled, “A Well-witnessed ‘Invasion’ by Something” by Paul O’Neil. Dord Fitz saw it and thought he had an even better story for them. McCombs said, “Fitz called me pretty soon after it happened...” (probably around July) but McCombs was ill, so the meeting with Watts was postponed until after he recovered. In the first week of September 1967, Carroll, Rosemary and their three young kids travelled to Dallas for a lengthy interview with McCombs. Mr. and Mrs. Watts brought along a portfolio of supporting exhibits:

· 17-page typewritten UFO narrative (prepared by Dord Fitz)

·  Drawings of alien writing/hieroglyphics, machines, and weapons.

·  Photographs taken by Watts of the UFO (10) and (1) of an alien man.

·  Testimonials from character witnesses supporting Mr. & Mrs. Watts

·  UFO reports from the Wellington area, 9 signed statements, including an endorsement from Chief of Police, Donald L. Nunnelley.

·  Watts’ 2-page handwritten list of people to contact for additional character references.

·  News Clippings (5) from area UFO sightings.

 

During the meeting, McCombs took thirteen pages of handwritten notes that served as the basis for his 6-page typewritten report to Will Lang, Jr., Chief Regional Bureau Director for Life in Manhattan. McCombs was the first reporter to review Watts’ evidence, and he was able to get unique comments from the witness. A complete transcript of his report follows.

WILL LANG – LIFE - New York
Holland McCombs - Dallas
September 11, 1967

FOR SCIENCE - OR SOMETHING.

We can't believe it! We can't conceive or concede that such a thing did happen out there in the Texas-Oklahoma Panhandle - and that we visited and talked to a man who experienced it. But Carroll Watts is an honorable man. All these people say so. (See exhibits) He quotes Ezekiel (1-4, 1-5, 1-12, and 1-14), and sitting here in the office which is brunette housewifey wife Rosemary and their three little children, he just doesn't seem like the sort of guy who would be seeing visions are envisioning them, or telling in the serious vein about something scary and serious it happened to him if it did not happen to him. Not only do you believe he is too much of a fundamentalist (hardshell) Baptist, and western plains plain to tell such a big black lie to the whole world, but you'd be inclined to doubt if he had enough creative imagination to imagine it all.

But on the other hand, though he and all his folks and friends say he lives in Wellington, Texas, he really lives closest to a little Panhandle settlement named Loco, Texas. So you gotta be careful. But he looks and acts and is so much like an honest, God-fearing young red-headed West Texas farmer - which is what he is.

Then we reason that we personally have believed in the possibility and probability of visitations from other planets since we worked on the TIME and LIFE stories back there in 1947. How come if we're going to the moon and eventually to Mars, some other planet or planets and planet peoples couldn't be a thousand, a million, or twenty million years ahead of us in outer spaceness? Then there's all that stuff in LOOK, and the government and Air Force have quit trying to laugh it all off and are much more scientifically trying to find out more about the promising possibilities of visitations from other galaxies, planets, and universes. How come we're the only planet we know about which can and does contain life as we know it? We do not believe that.

So, let's give Mr. Watts and his friends, relatives and neighbors, and the people at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma and around there, a chance to be heard and questioned with a careful and perhaps dubious, but with an open mind. Like the late scientist and adventurer Tom Slick said when he was ridiculed about his search for the Abominable Snowman: “I am not ashamed of refusing to limit the possibilities until they are exhausted and we have the answer, one way or the other…”

So, we can refuse to limit the scientific possibilities of outer space until we know more about what these limitations are!

Now some of this is going to be hard to go with - like the talking with the little men who say they are from Mars. If they were talking in English as Watts swears they were, they were lying about Mars to confuse us Earth people. We think we know that there are no 4-foot, barrel-chested, slit-eyed little men walking and talking on Mars. But we do not know that they do not exist on some other planet. And we can believe that if these little men and their varied spacecrafts have been gathering data on the earth for the past 2,000 years or so, that they could be speaking Earth languages and could want more data on the physical composition of Earthlings.

We can also believe that they are conversant with earthly behaviors of various kinds and can scarcely blame them for preparing for what we might do should we ever get to their planet - considering what we do to each other on our planet.

I am enclosing various exhibits: testimonials from others around the countryside who saw various UFOs and lights; testimonials as to the character of Mr. and Mrs. Watts; newsclips, etc. Then there are the photographs and a 17-page homemade report covering background and dates and events leading up to Watts’ ride in the spacecraft, the physical examination given him by the spacemen, tunneling into the big spacecraft, etc., etc.

Watts' 17-page report is not as convincing as he is face-to-face. He reads like he's lying more than he sounds like he's lying. I'm not saying that either he or his report convinced me by any means. But he did, in person, explain a few of the some 236 questions that come to mind. For instance, he told me about what some of the other people had seen, those who had seen some of the five of the craft and how they would give off reddish looking light and would take off and move in all directions and stay low and how some of them had silver slit windows, etc., according to the other people who have seen them.

At least three of Watts' photos were vibrant color Polaroids

He only saw these two craft, the big bullet-shaped one which is the 100-foot long deal, and the small one in which he was taken away by the little men. The original Polaroid picture of the spaceman was in color and a bit plainer than this fuzzed up thing that I am enclosing. When I asked him about the disparity in looks, he said that they had had it blown up and that he, too, is quite puzzled because that when he saw the men close up, none of them had any hair at all, or no headgear and that their skin was ashen gray, both on their bald domes and on their bodies. When asked about the picture, he explained that he was out in his pickup and when he saw the craft in a pasture about 2:30 or 3:00 in the afternoon of June 7th or 11th that he got out of his truck and started taking Polaroid pictures very nervously and very scared. He says that the craft was behind a crest and that he walked towards it a little way and that about that time this spaceman you see here walked up over the crest and that's when he took the picture.
Enlargements of a black and white copy of Watts' "little man" photo.

Now the color picture, for whatever it might be worth, does show some scrub brush and sort of a crest of a hill and the face and shoulders shape of the man - or whatever it is. He said that after he took this picture the man stood there for a few seconds and then disappeared behind the crest and apparently got in the plane and these other three pictures were taken while the craft was taking off and taken quite rapidly. The dull-finish black and white was reprinted from a color picture. He did not want to let me have the color picture of this nor the color picture of the man on the crest of the hill because he said that he just didn't want to lose them since they were Polaroid pictures, he had no negative.

So, for whatever you may think, I'm sending these five pictures along and would appreciate your sending the whole caboodle back if you are not interested in further pursuit.

Watts explained that he picked up the paper weight because it had an insignia and “some writing on it.” In his original paper he has scribbled out what the writing and insignia looked like and I can get copies of this if you want to see it. He wanted to get away with the paper weight or whatever it was so he could show it to the people at Altus Air Force Base.

Another thing that he explained in person was that he and others were rather convinced that these flying and moving objects and lights had something to do with the Air Force and were from Altus Air Force Base and they were super-secret and all that and they didn't say much about it for awhile - in fact, not until he had his ride and physical.

He explained that the voices sounded like it was metallic and being ground out by machine and that there were no inflections whatsoever, that the slit for the mouth never opened. All that mental telepathy business, we can't swallow at all. And maybe Watts is a bit nuts. Anyway, by his own report here, he was hearing the voices of the little men in the night and his wife wasn't hearing them. Maybe he's unbalanced but I talked to Dord Fitz, an art teacher of Amarillo, and he says that no one in the area ever heard of Carroll Watts being a little off or odd or anything like that. Watts is a clean-cut, trim farmer-looking young fellow of 29 and talks much better than he writes. He doesn't seem to be pushing for money although he's willing to talk about it if any of you are interested.

He recommends that we can talk to Colonel Hallmark of the Altus Air Force Base and Dr. Condon of Colorado and others if we are interested, he'll be glad to see anyone you’d like to send down and we'll take them all around and do everything we want him to do. He further says that he certainly doesn't blame us if we are skeptical or don't believe him and he may have a few things mixed-up because he was pretty shaken up, but that he can talk about it better after the experience than he could at first. His friend, Dord Fitz, called me pretty soon after it happened and that was when I suggested that if Watts came over this way, I would be glad to see him. Then I was hospitalized so we just now got around to it. He explains that he hasn't talked it too much, that no papers have called on him nor any magazines nor anyone outside the Air Force and the peace officers. He said that as far as the Air Force was concerned, he could tell whatever he wants to tell, or do with the story whatever he wants to do with it.

He saw six little men in all and says he believes the one who knocked him out because of his trying to steal the paper weight used some sort of instrument rather than just a fist. He said that the flesh on the little man's arm felt considerably cooler or colder than the temperature of an Earthling.

He was quite disconcerting to me because of his exact estimate of measurements of everything in his meticulous memory of all the things about the examining machine and the other appointments and apparati. He was pretty convincing about his never having gone in for such details and being of a sound and not too imaginative mind.

I've taken down a bunch of detail about the small steps, the description of the ships, description of the so-called weapons and the little ship and the big ship and all of that. But if you want to pursue it, I suggest that you either send someone out there or I will go out there and snoop around and find out what could possibly have provoked are produced all this and see where we can place it in the credibility or non-credibility of the UFO over-all. Also, we should contact Colonel Hallmark and possibly others in Altus, Oklahoma, and Dr. Condon, who, as I'm sure you know, is in charge of the research on the UFO’s and all that.

Please return these pictures and the exhibits when you are finished with them.

###
Enclosures
cc: Miami

After receiving no immediate reply, Holland McCombs, wrote to his boss, Will Lang, at Life on Sept. 25, 1967:

“Mrs. Watts called Friday saying: ‘People out this way keep pressing and saying they want to tell it all and get somebody to do something on it. We keep telling them that LIFE might run it and we do not want them to do anything until we hear from LIFE...’”

McCombs said, “please pass this urgency on… if no one up there is interested… please return the exhibits and pictures.” 
The reply from Lang came by telegram two days later, “Mailing all Carroll Wayne Watts material to you immediately.” McCombs wrote to Mr. and Mrs. Watts the same day, enclosing a copy of the telegram and said,
 “Am terribly sorry… please feel free to interest any other publication in that tremendous experience.” When he received the package from Life on Sept. 29, he immediately mailed the material to the couple saying, “Again, I am sorry LIFE is not interested…”

Shortly afterwards, Dord Fitz checked in with Watts by phone to see if Life magazine was going to publish the story. It wasn’t happening, but Rosemary and Carroll Watts were still determined to get their story out.


Corroboration or
 Cross-contamination?

 

Except for Sgt. Ferguson’s and Watts’ press in the spring of 1967, none of the many sightings around Wellington were reported at the time. According to the story in the Amarillo Daily News, Feb. 15/16, 1968Watts’ last sighting was sometime in October of 1967, however there was a multi-witness case the next month that seemed to corroborate his description of the UFO. While most other local sightings were only of lights in the sky, this one was more spectacular. On the morning of November 3, 1967, three women, Mrs. Hazel McKinney, Mrs. Harry Patterson, and an unnamed friend, were driving by Loco on their way to work in Childress. They first spotted a bright light in a field, but it moved closer, and they saw it was a UFO silver-gray in color, “big enough to drive a car in. It was shaped like a cigar – one end was round,” the other end glowed like a fluorescent light. It seemed to briefly chase their car before flying up and away. What happened next might be considered cross-contamination of witnesses. Mrs. McKinney and Mrs. Patterson went to Watts’ house the next afternoon to tell him their story. At his request, they described the object and drew a picture of it. Then, Watts showed them his UFO pictures and they said it was the same object they had seen. On the face of it, fascinating, but all this sighting information from Mrs. McKinney and companions surfaced only after their conversation with Watts.

 

This is Dr. Hynek Calling…

Dr. J. Allen Hynek was the professor of astronomy at Northwestern University contracted by the Air Force as a consultant for Project Blue Book. Hynek’s files at the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS) contain correspondence to him from Carroll Watts. While Watts wanted publicity, incredibly it was Dr. Hynek who initiated contact, and served it as a stepping stone to national press coverage of Watts’ story.



1967 had been a rough year, particularly for UFO photographs. Hynek had offered support for the UFO pictures from Michigan by the Jaroslaw brothers, but those were revealed to be hoaxed. In November 1967, Hynek argued with Project Blue Book head Hector Quintanilla over the Air Force’s photo analysts rejecting the Bear Mountain UFO photos from a year earlier as fake. “I find no substantiation for the evaluation of hoax… After examination of the print by myself and by Mr. Fred Beckman of the University of Chicago… the evaluation [should be] changed from hoax to unidentified.” However, he was frustrated when Quintanilla stuck to the conclusion reached by the analysts, “Hoax.”

Hynek studied the Project Blue Book file on Watts. Like a lot of cases, it had been closed as “Psychological,” which didn’t mean much, except that it was a single-witness case with no physical evidence to investigate. He underlined a possible red flag that might indicate Watts was a “repeater,” a witness who had too many sightings to be credible, “This is the third report from this individual.” The portion describing contact was minimal and Hynek wanted to know more, so he sent Watts a letter on Nov. 13, 1967, to arrange a telephone interview after the Thanksgiving holiday. Watts wrote back agreeing, “I will need to accept the call at a phone in Wellington,” and confirmed the time requested, 7:00 p.m. on Nov. 26. Hynek was acting out of his personal interest, but he did later expense the call to the Air Force. When the station-to-station call connected, Watts agreed to let Hynek tape the call, which lasted almost an hour.

Carroll Watts immediately began telling his story as an emotionless recitation, perhaps most animated when replying to Hynek’s questions about mundane details such as distances and locations involved. Watts told Hynek that he was driving a new 1967 model pick-up truck, and that when he got close to the egg-shaped UFO his electrical system died. He described the occupants as before, but explicitly said the men’s bodies looked like humans, but were about 4-feet tall, but had thick chests and broad shoulders, and they wore white coveralls. The greatest visible difference was in their heads and faces, which were hairless, and the skin was white to light gray in color. The men had little more than small slits for noses (and ears), and thin lips in a straight line. He saw one smile, but never saw them open their mouths; they spoke with him with “thought-waves.” Their eyes extended or wrapped around to the side of their heads where our hairline begins, and were “something like a horse’s,” with a horizontal pupil.


From Flying Saucers #1, Dell Comics, April, 1967,
"Far Out Physical" by D. J. Arneson and Sam Glanzman.

Hynek was surprised when Watts’ story went beyond what was in the Blue Book report. Watts said he’d begun carrying a Polaroid camera to capture proof of his story. On his first attempt he’d taken six pictures but only four captured the UFO. Watts described two other occasions he captured photos, and by the time he mentioned the color shots depicting the alien and the UFO, Hynek excitedly asked Watts to mail at least one of the photos to him for examination. The call ended with Hynek saying that he’d be in Texas soon for a lecture in Dallas, and he urged Watts to try to meet him there. He also said he’d mail Watts the Blue Book sighting questionnaire to fill out.

Watts promptly completed the sighting form (with minimal answers) and sent it along with a letter, received by Hynek on Nov. 30, 1967. None of his pictures were included, Watts wrote that he didn’t want to risk losing the photos in the mail. Watts mentioned Life magazine correspondent Holland McCombs (whom he thought could vouch for him) and urged Hynek to meet him while in Dallas. To emphasize that he was just one of many in the area with sightings, Watts repeated the story about Jim Moss taking a UFO picture, but the developer lost the roll of film. (Note: Jim Moss became ill in autumn and died at the age of 25 at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Amarillo, a week after surgery on Jan. 20, 1968. He was therefore unavailable to investigators or reporters.)
Original in color. Black and white copy of photo Watts sent to Hynek.

In Watts’ letter to Hynek, Jan. 4, 1968, Watts expressed his regrets for not being able to meet Hynek in Dallas for his lecture. He mentioned there had been other sightings in the area, “since we talked,” to emphasize that he was not the only UFO witness there. Watts asked for advice on how to publicize his story, wondering if it should be a newspaper or magazine. “The people in this area are very anxious for our story to be released.” Growing impatient, Watts decided to send two of his pictures for Hynek to inspect, but he wouldn’t risk mailing the shot of the alien man. He asked if Hynek had talked to reporter in Dallas (McCombs), who had told him his experience was “the best backed up story and more in detail than any he had ever heard of.” Watts was of the opinion his story was “good enough to be published and convince the public, with the proof that these U.F.O.’s are for real.” He added some thoughts about what the aliens might be able to teach us; they had no war, “Our world sure lacks this harmony.” In closing, he again pleaded for advice on how to release the story, and the letter was signed, “Mr. and Mrs. Carroll Watts.” Fred Beckman, Hynek’s photo analyst colleague, wrote a note across the top:
This one to be followed – Get picture of "man."

Another letter came on Jan. 24, 1968. In it, Watts enclosed four photos, two were new UFO pictures (not described), one was a black and white enlargement of the shot sent earlier. Since Watts didn’t have access to a photo studio that made color copies of Polaroids, he took a risk and sent the original of the one alien man picture. 

Original in color. Black and white copy of  "man" photo Watts sent to Hynek.

Once again Watts included a plea for advice on releasing his story. Hynek wrote back to Watts after receiving the new batch of photos, which he later described as “rather remarkable.” He was interested in Watts’ experiences, but reluctant to draw any conclusions. Hynek asked for details of other local sightings, and asked if the other objects resembled the one Watts said he had seen and flown in.

Watts had also been showing the pictures and telling his stories to people in Wellington. Word of it reached reporters, and his story was about to come out, whether Watts was ready or not.

Part Two: 

The UFO Implosion of 1968

Note: Following the conclusion, see the PDF collection is linked below of case documents and the most significant newspaper coverage.

Watts trying to get a moments piece, eating a wholesome saucer of apple pie and ice cream.


In late January, two young reporters for the 
Amarillo Daily News Times got word of things and interviewed Carroll Wayne Watts and other witnesses in preparation for a two-part article on UFO sightings around Wellington. Pursuing the story, John DeBaun and Carroll Wilson contacted Dr. Hynek on Jan. 26. In a letter to Project Blue Book director Hector Quintanilla, Hynek said:

“A reporter from Amarillo called me yesterday to brief me on the flap they have been having in Wellington, Texas --- many independent witnesses -- Exeter type cases -- animals disturbed, etc. -- but they have not reported to the Air Force. None of them want publicity or ridicule. I will follow some of this by phone, as an individual, -- but even the Condon Comm. doesn't have this report.”

Amarillo Daily News, Feb. 15, 1968

On Feb. 15, 1968, Carroll and Rosemary Watts wrote to Hynek and enclosed a copy of the article released “today in the Amarillo newspaper…” (Amarillo Daily News, Feb. 15, 1968) covering “most of the recent sightings” in the area. They were concerned about what would be printed about the story, saying they’d begged the press to wait until “we had the story and pictures evaluated.” The Watts couple said the paper in Wellington agreed not to print anything, but that all the UFO sightings were common knowledge there. They had heard that reporter Larry Lee (with the Houston Post and Associated Press) was interested in covering the story. They had told the reporters that they’d sent Hynek some of the pictures, and wrote hoping that “we have given you information to help science…” The postscript noted that a personal endorsement from the chief of police was enclosed. The letter was signed, “Mr. and Mrs. Carroll Watts.” 

Amarillo Daily News, Feb. 15, 1968, was part one of two articles. Titled, “Wellington, UFO Playground” by Carroll Wilson, the accompanying artwork depicted a UFO based loosely on Watts’ most dramatic photograph. The article covered several area sightings and Watts himself was mentioned only in passing, his story saved for part two the next day. When Dr. Hynek was asked about the UFO reports in the area, “He said many facets of the sightings at Wellington ‘fit the pattern’. Although he is enthusiastic about reports from Wellington residents, he has reservations about a story told by Watts… 

“Mars Ship Trip Told" by John DeBaun was the debut of Watts’ CE III story in print. Vouching for Watts was Collingsworth County Sheriff John Rainey, who was quoted saying he was "of reliable character.” Watts’ basic story was presented: meeting Martians, boarding their ship, the  examination, and the aftermath.

“One night several weeks after his experience, Watts said, he was awakened and a strange voice told him to come down the road so he could go with ‘them.’ Watts said it was similar to the ‘thought wave’ conversations that had been carried on with him before by the spacemen. He said they ‘told’ him they were leaving and they wanted him to go back with them, but he refused.” Dr. Hynek was quoted as saying Watts’ pictures were “spectacular,” but would go no further. “I simply wouldn’t be acting as a scientist if I said ‘yea’ or ‘nay.’”

Dord Fitz was interviewed by Amarillo Globe-Times reporters during the fourth week of February (later published Feb. 26, as “Artist Link in UFO Tale?”.) Prompted by the press activity, Fitz called Hynek to vouch for Watts. Hynek later said, “He told me he was curious about Watts' story and had gone down to Wellington and talked to about 15 businessmen and had decided Watts was reliable." Hynek told AP that Fitz said hypnosis had helped Watts recall details of his experiences. “He said he had worked with Watts and had found him completely reliable and had lots of affidavits and additional pictures.” 


Due to the Amarillo newspaper coverage, the press was beginning to school around Watts. Reporters were sharing resources while simultaneously trying to scoop one another. According to Watts, he had been cooperating with Lawrence Lee of the Associated Press and reporter for several days, when Charles Richards, bureau manager for UPI in Lubbock “butted in.” Reporters visited the Watts’ home Saturday and he and his wife were photographed. Rosemary was part of things and said, "We want the evaluation, including a thorough check of the pictures by photography experts so that people won't say we're just another pair of crackpots.”

The UPI Telephoto caption stated: “2/24/68 – Loco, Tex.
Carroll Watts and his wife Rosemary looked 2/24 at pictures he took last June of what he says is a spaceship from Mars. The Childress County, Tex., farmer is trying to get a Congressional inquiry into his report he saw, photographed and rode in the craft, manned by six Martians about 4 feet tall.”

Charles Richards of UPI wrote his story borrowing space in the offices of the nearby The Childress Index newspaper. UPI released a short story by wire Saturday night that launched a national press frenzy. AP’s version by Lee followed shortly thereafter, but the most detailed account by Jim Maloney in The Houston PostWatts said he “wanted more than anything else to have all of this verified” and welcomed any investigation of his story and photographs. When impatient reporters talked to Dr. Hynek a few days earlier about analysis, he had suggested that Watts be given a polygraph test. Watts readily agreed to do it. The Houston Post arranged the polygraph test and paid for it, set at 11:00 a.m. Sunday in Amarillo.

 

The Polygraph Test

Polygraph machines are often called lie detectors, but it doesn’t read the subject’s heart and soul, it only measures stress indicators in the subject’s body. It’s not infallible and good test results rely heavily on the skill and experience of the interviewer/operator. Law enforcement agencies find polygraph tests to be valuable in conducting interrogations, partly due to many subjects’ being intimidated by them. The guilty may crack and confess even before facing “psychological third degree” questioning in a polygraph test.


Watts’ story was on the front page of many newspapers across the USA on Sunday morning, Feb. 25, 1968. Watts left home at 7:30 a.m. for the drive of about 100 miles to Amarillo for his polygraph test. The examination was set for 11:00 a.m., conducted by Captain L. R. Wynne of Amarillo the Police Department. Wynne had a side gig - he was also one of six Texas state Board of Polygraph Examiners, and he owned the Amarillo Security Control Co. The Houston Post hired him and Wynne polygraphed Watts there at his private office. The process took about four hours, and afterwards Wynne gave a statement to the press and TV reporters, saying, “I’ve had 17 years’ experience and I’ve never heard anyone who told a story so well.” After looking at the four polygrams taken during Watt’s session he said, “There is not a shred of truth here.”

Afterwards, Watts made an oral statement, telling the press that an Amarillo artist (Dord Fitz, whom he did not name) knocked on his door in January of 1967 soliciting art classes. When the Wellington UFO flap began, the artist returned with a scheme, saying, “I can furnish you with actual pictures of UFOs. What would you think about attending some art classes and displaying the pictures?” Watts agreed and said the artist came up with a script and had his wife type several copies of the story to “help him remember.” The artist’s two San Antonio associates hypnotized Watts twice at Fitz’s Amarillo studio, and twice more at his ranch in Higgins in order for him to memorize and rehearse the UFO script. Watts also shared copies of three of his best photos with the press, that he claimed were given to him by “the artist,” and said, "I still don't know how he got those pictures." 

Original in color. Black and white copy of Watts' most spectacular photo.

Reporters asked Watts why he agreed to the polygraph test, and why he kept up the fraud after two days of questioning. “I felt I had to,” Watts said. "I didn't know how to stop it. The damn thing just got out of hand." Pressed for the motive or reason for the hoax, Watts said, “A fellow could have gotten a little money out of it. But not much.”

The coverage of the confession also disclosed a previously unreported chapter in Watts’ story, a second abduction yarn. Watts claimed that Dr. Hynek and Lt. Robert W. Nicholson had called him during the last spring and summer for clues to the disappearance of an Oklahoma airman who was kidnapped while on duty with a strike team probing an unidentified-radar blip. The airman had been wearing a tiny tracking transmitter strapped above his knee, and the beacon was found still beeping away days later in a Louisiana swamp. Watts said he’d been asked to help negotiate with the Martians for the airman’s release, but after failing the polygraph said, “They gave me that under hypnosis, too.”



Examples of the headlines that followed.

Watts was adamant that (besides the artist and his two hypnotists) no one else was involved in the hoax. “The farmer said his wife, Rosemary, and his cousin, Donald Nunnelley, chief of police at Wellington… were unaware of what really was happening.”

The Retcon and the Retraction

Retcon is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a shortened form of retroactive continuity… a literary device in which the form or content of a previously established narrative is changed.” Following the polygraph and its aftermath in Amarillo, Watts drove back to Loco. Precisely what occurred in the Watts home is unknown, but Carroll surely had a conversation with Rosemary, and she must have had something to say about it. All that’s documented is that later in the evening Rosemary called the police reporting they were under attack. Afterwards, she spoke to reporters giving them a retcon to the story, saying Watts had deliberately failed the polygraph.

John DeBaun of the Amarillo Daily News reported he’d spoken to Rosemary Watts. “Late Sunday night several units at the Collingsworth and Childress County Sheriff's departments and highway patrol units were dispatched to the Watts farm after [Rosemary called] Wellington chief of police Nunnelley, and told them someone had fired several shots at [their] farmhouse. Watt's wife said… someone in the car had driven by and fired shots at the house about 10:30 p.m. ‘I put mattresses all around the house and told the kids to lie down on the floor,” she said. “I didn't know what to do.’ Watts fired several shots at the car with an M-1 rifle, she said.” 

Rosemary told DeBaun that her husband failed the test because two men threatened his life and his family if he passed the polygraph. She refused to call her husband to the telephone saying he had already talked to too many people, but UPI somehow reached Carroll Watts and quoted him as saying, “I got a telephone call Saturday night warning me not to pass the test." Sunday heading to Amarillo, "I was on my way to the lie detector test. I saw a woman standing beside her car on the side of the road; she flagged me down. I thought she had a flat tire." Watts said when he stopped to help, he was hit and threatened by two men carrying automatic weapons. "They told me if I passed the polygraph test I would never make it home." UPI also reported, “Watts' nearest neighbor Hershal Mayhugh, who lives three-quarters of a mile away, said he heard no shots Sunday night, but that local and state police had thrown up roadblocks and were checking all passing cars.” Captain Wynne, who performed the examination of Watts, said "He failed it. You can pass a polygraph test on purpose, but you can’t fail one on purpose.” Reporters attempting to interview Watts after the UPI story were unable to reach him. The AP reported that “Donald Nunnelley, chief of police... joined officers in investigating the alleged shooting incident at the Watts’ farmhouse. ‘We could find no sign of anything,’ said Nunnelley.”

So, in the revised narrative of Sunday night, there were allegedly three “silencer” actions surrounding the polygraph test; (1) the phone threat the night before, (2) the road ambush the morning of, then, (3) the shots fired on their home after Watts had failed as they asked. It only made much sense if the shots were a reminder to stay quiet… if so, it had the opposite effect. Immediately afterwards, Rosemary and Carroll instead were telling everyone that the UFO story was the truth after all.

February 26 was another busy day for Watts. While the nation was reading the news stories of the hoax confession, Chief Nunnelley spent Monday morning conferring with Watts, and probably helping to keep reporters away. Watts had asked for an investigation by the Condon Study. It was a day late, but he finally got his wish. 

From Identified Flying Saucers by Robert Loftin, 1968.

Professor E. U. Condon’s UFO study drew on the volunteer manpower of about 60 people affiliated with UFO groups.

“To supplement Air Force reporting, we set up our own Early Warning Network, a group of about 60 active volunteer field reporters, most of whom were connected with APRO or NICAP. They telephoned or telegraphed to us intelligence of UFO sightings in their own territory and conducted some preliminary investigation for us while our team was en route. Some of this cooperation was quite valuable.” (From Scientific Study Of Unidentified Flying Objects, 1969, by Dr. Edward U. Condon & Walter Sullivan, page 33.)

Robert E. Loftin was a coordinator for the Early Warning Network, who provided Condon with field reports for the study. Loftin was joined by James H. Hartley, and William P. Courter, who like him, were members of the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO). They were based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and met with Watts after making the 300-mile drive to Loco. During their visit, Watts was interviewed and Loftin made a 90-minute tape of his entire story.


Robert Loftin, Watts, and William Courter. Photo by James H. Hartley.

Watts was adamant that the confession was forced, and his original account was the truth. One new twist emerged, Watts claimed that four of his pictures were in the hands of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the FBI had joined the others in analyzing his case. After Loftin and his team went back home, he sent his report and a copy of the tape to the Condon UFO Study.

That evening another ufologist called for an interview, Gray Barker from West Virginia. Watts was still avoiding the press, but Rosemary spoke to Barker. She gave him the story and named  the artist her husband said was behind the hoaxed story and pictures: Dord Fitz.

 

Fitz Reacts to the Accusations


Following Watts’ polygraph failure, Dord Fitz frantically called Dr. Hynek, but was only able reach a secretary who took this message:
“VERY IMORTANT… Call in morning before 10:00 A.M. T.V. show at 1:00 in Texas. Mr. Fitz said man who testified about UFO has falsely reported your story to the newspapers. This man, apparently is ready for psychiatric help. Anyway, Mr. Fitz wants to help rectify situation on T.V. newscast.”
There’s no record of that broadcast, but a story appeared in the Amarillo papers with Dord Fitz identified as “the artist,” and he denied playing a role in the hoax. In stories in the Feb. 26 and 27 Amarillo-Globe Times, “Artist Link In UFO Tale?,” and “Artist Denies Part In Watts UFO Hoax,” Fitz said he met Watts in mid-June 1967, checked him out and set up testimonials etc., but he also tried to downplay his involvement with Watts. When Watts told his story, Fitz said, "He sort of did it like a robot. I didn't believe him or disbelieve him at the time. I wrote it down and my wife typed it." He admitted to arranging the hypnosis, but as a tool to uncover the truth Fitz said that afterwards he didn’t talk to Watts again until Sept. when he first heard about the UFO photographs from a student, and Watts then told him he was afraid to mention them sooner, fearing they’d be confiscated. Responding to Watts’ allegations that he’d supplied the hoaxed photos, Fitz said, “I don’t own a Polaroid camera… I have never owned one. I don’t even know how to operate one.” Fitz said, "I'm really worried about what this will do to Dr. Hynek and his work. This has done irreparable damage to the serious study in this field.”
 

 

Life Magazine’s Holland McCombs

The press asked Holland McCombs about the aborted the Life magazine article.

 “[McCombs] of Life in Dallas, said he talked to Watts and his wife last September but could not remember ever meeting the artist. ...He said Watts and his wife showed him about eight or nine Polaroid prints most of them of a little man or of what Watts claimed was the ship.”

(From The Orlando Sentinel, Feb.27, 1968, Page 27 (UPI) “‘Space Traveler’ defends stories.”) 

Holland McCombs sent a red-faced note to Life headquarters in New York saying that Watts “turned out to be one helluva convincing story teller.” He tried to salvage things by looking into how it all had happened. Writing another Life editor, McCombs said:

“Now seems only story is story of the hoax. Talked to two Altus AFB officers who interviewed and taped Watts at the time. Also talked Dr. Hynek… and he said: ‘If this is a hoax, it is a very, very clever one. In fact it would be such a clever hoax it would be almost as interesting as what this farmer claimed has happened to him.’ …After breakdown during polygraph… Watts claims all was scripted by artist (who probably fixed up with pix) and memorized in farm sessions hypnosis. …I thought [Watts was] dependable and sincere, perhaps victim of psychological hysteria but none of us thought he was hoaxing. Now claims he expected money from caper. But when came to me last summer was un-hypnotized and certainly averse to seeking money out of us. ...Advise if interested hoax story.”

 

Dr. Hynek’s Reaction

 

The Chicago Tribune, Feb. 26, 1968, printed the AP story, but with an original segment quoting Hynek, “Mars Story Really Hoax, Texan Admits.” (Full text of Hynek section.)

Hynek Comment

Dr. Hynek said last night that without the lie test the hoax probably never would have been uncovered. Hynek, contacted at his home in Evanston, also said that the investigation is “by no means over” and he suggested that the farmer's explanation really may be part of another hoax.

“Mr. Watts may have been a very sad dupe of someone, and this should be actionable - if there is a hypnotist,” Hynek said. But until Watts names the hypnotist and he is found, Hynek said, there remains the chance that the hypnotism story is yet another fabrication. “Is he now using the story as an excuse, or was he indeed the victim? I really don't think this simple farmer has a technical ability to perpetrate a hoax, but it's up to him to name the hypnotist. I wish I had the time and money to go down there and investigate the thing myself. It's very interesting”

Dr. J. Allen Hynek

Lawrence Lee of AP also called Dr. J. Allen Hynek for a comment. Hynek thought the Watts case had done serious harm to serious UFO research and said, “From now on, everyone will say everything is just a hoax.”

In Hynek’s quarterly Project Blue Book expense report, one entry involved the Watts case. Hynek’s spelling was off, but he was referring to Dord Fitz and Dr. William Rense, a physics professor at University of Colorado, who knew Fitz, and shared his interest in ESP.
“2/23: Called Arnett, Oklahoma with respect to the Wellington, Texas, case. I talked with Mr. Fitts who was reported to have been the hypnotist who supposedly infused Mr. Watts with his phony story. Mr. Fitts, however, turned out to be a good friend of Dr. Ranse, a physicist at Boulder who got his Master's degree with me years ago, and he gave Mr. Fitts a clean bill of health. The whole Wellington case smells.”
Hynek’s report to Major Hector Quintanilla dated June 4, 1968, devoted 2 ½ pages to the Watts episode, saying “I had a great personal involvement in this case, much of it independent of official Project Blue Book business.” He downplayed his role and interest, but acknowledged Watts had “rather remarkable color polaroid photographs.” Then he said:
“The pictures were sent up and examined by Mr. Fred Beckman and me. There is nothing on the picture to suggest that it was not a hoax, and we did not spend too much time in any detailed analysis.” Hynek also phoned “the sheriff in Wellington” to ask about Watts’ credibility. “The sheriff volunteered the information that - to make a long story short - the man was not too bright, and from his standpoint alone a photographic hoax seemed unlikely. He volunteered, however, that if a hoax were involved, Mrs. Watts would be the more likely engineer of such a hoax.”
Shortly after the episode with Watts, Hynek visited Jacques Vallee in Paris, and he seemed to feel bitter. Vallee’s journal entry from Forbidden Science Vol. I, March 18, 1968:
“Hynek acknowledges he feels an emotional need to get even with Menzel, Condon, Klass and the rest of the skeptics. His colleagues' attitude towards him is changing to the point of contempt, and this pains him. He is not taken seriously among astronomers any more.”

 

The Last Press

Jim Maloney of the Houston Post wrote a follow up piece published on Feb. 27, “Citizens of Loco still Claim ‘Things’ Around.” Watts was not talking, but he spoke to area citizens including a café owner who said, “This is all kind of embarrassing to us… a thing like this don’t go away in a hurry.” Chief of Police, Donald Lee Nunnelley said, “There are a lot of folks here that are ready to knock each other around. They are choosing sides.” Many people in the area had UFO sightings, he said, “I can get you 50 of them for an official investigation, all who have seen these things.”


Chief Alvis Maddox


Childress Chief of Police Alvis Maddox had laughed at the Watts story, but on the night of March 2, he had his own UFO sighting. While driving on US Highway 83, as he returned home from Wellington, he saw a large bright object hovering about 500 or 1,000 feet in the air. Maddox eliminated the possibility that it was a plane or helicopter since there were no navigation lights. He chased the object down the road at speeds of 105 mph. “I followed it for about 14 minutes, but it left me,” Maddox said. Even with a witness of his stature, the sighting couldn’t overcome the hit to the credibility of the UFO topic from the Watts fiasco. 


The media had moved on, but ufologists were still nibbling at the bait. Larry Moyers, co-president of the Akron, Ohio, Unidentified Flying Objects and Flying Saucers Investigating Committee, called Watts a few days after the polygraph. Watts agreed to talk to him but said, “…for the safety and benefit of my family, I – we’ve labelled it a hoax. And intend to stay with it until an official investigation comes out to state otherwise…” Watts recited his original narrative, but the surviving version of the tape abruptly ends at about 35 minutes, before the abduction story was finished. Therefore, no mention of the polygraph, confession, Fitz, silencers or the rest.

 

A few days later, the 18-year-old Kevin Randle paid an unannounced visit on March 9 to Watts to get the UFO story. Watts took a break from painting his house to recite the tale, and even agreed to let the young stranger tape it. According to Watts, the polygraph test had not been planned far in advance. “The deal started Saturday night. How it started was the AP and the Houston Post was going to come up here and gather a bunch of information and send it back to Professor Hynek for evaluation and release.” Randle found that Watts’ narrative contained elements familiar to UFO lore. “I wanted to know if he had read anything about UFOs and he said that he hadn’t. …but when he opened the middle drawer of a desk, I saw several UFO books inside. He did read UFO material and then had lied about it.” Kevin Randle did nothing with his Watts interview until using it in chapter 2 of his memoirs, Reflections of a UFO Investigator, Anomalist Books, 2012.

 

The Men in Black

Back on the evening of Feb. 26, ufologist Gray Barker called and spoke to Rosemary Watts, and she gave him a brief rundown of the story, including the alleged threats and attack. While hastily taking notes of the call, Barker wrote down “CIA” three times. After the call he sent a letter seeking an interview, enclosing his 1956 book, They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers and an issue of Saucer News (which he’d recently acquired from Jim Moseley). Barker was sympathetic and warned the couple not to talk to anyone from NICAP. In the 2-page, Saucer News Non-Scheduled Newsletter, #30, March 10, 1968, Barker gave a summary of the polygraph story including the artist whose name transcribed as “Dord Fipz.” Barker thought the hoax status was forced - or a set-up. He claimed to have spoken to the witness and said, “Watts told me he personally feels that the CIA is behind a conspiracy to both discredit him and Flying Saucers!”

Saucer News, Vol. 15, No. 1, Spring 1968, was the first issue written and published by Gray Barker, and it featured his 5-page article, “The Watts Case.” It gave a summary of the Wellington area sightings based on newspaper accounts and Robert Loftin's report, presenting an embellished version of Watts’s story. (Barker’s account of Watts’ tale added some fictional details for drama and storytelling purposes, subsequently repeated in UFO literature as factual.) Back in 1953, Al Bender quit his International Flying Saucer Bureau, using the excuse that strange men in dark suits had threatened him into silence. Based on that tale, Barker developed and popularized the mythology of “the Men in Black.” With Watts’ story, Barker seized on the claim of being intimidated into failing the polygraph and exploited it to perpetuate his ongoing MIB storyline. Many UFO fans wanted to believe Watts’ confession retraction, and Barker’s portrayal helped salvage things and sell the story of Watts as a victim of the UFO cover-up.

Meanwhile, a review of Philip Klass’ skeptical book UFOs – Identified appeared in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, March 24, 1968. “The recent hoax sighting of a Martian spaceship at Loco helps make this book timely reading.”
 

 

Loftin’s Interest Endures

 After Robert Loftin prepared his report on the Watts case for the Condon UFO Study, he also shared details of it to various UFO researchers and played the tape of the story for APRO meetings. Loftin continued to be interested in the Watts case and corresponded with Donald Keyhoe and his associates at NICAP about it. On March 19, 1968, Loftin wrote, “Dr. Hynek gave these photos the same kind of build-up that he gave the Jaroslaw photos. Is this part of the deceit program of the Air Force? I wonder.” On April 3, 1968, Loftin wrote saying, “Watts admitted that the story of him being hypnotized and furnished with phoney photographs is a lie. He is being sued for slander for implication of two innocent men.” (That must have referred to Dord Fitz and Jose Silva.) Loftin included copies of the 3 surviving Watts’ photos and said, “I am very skeptical of all contactee stories, but there is something about this case that fascinates me.”

Loftin kept pursuing the case and arranged for a second polygraph in the spring, and Watts agreed to travel “to undergo hypnotic tests at the Tulsa University and to undergo truth drug tests under leading Tulsa psychiatrists.” However, when the time came, Watts refused to go. (Skylook vol. 1, No. 10, June 1968.) 

Watts subsequently agreed to take vocational and personality tests given by Dr. R. Leo Sprinkle, associate professor of psychology at the University of Wyoming (a pro-Contactee UFO advocate and hypnotist). Watts completed an Adjective Checklist (ACL), and the Strong Vocational Interest Blank (SVIB) and the re results indicated him to be a “serious, sober individual… dependable and persevering.” (Tony Kimery, Official UFO, Oct. 1976)

From Flying Saucers, Aug. 1968

Mr. and Mrs. Watts traveled to Chicago in early spring to be filmed telling their story for a new UFO television series hosted by Frank E. Stranges, Flying Saucers - Here and Now. Investigator Robert Loftin was also on board for the episode. The series was intended to be aired on NBC (or syndicated), but was never broadcast. Frank Stranges featured show footage in some of his lectures and UFO conferences. After the release of his book later that year, Identified Flying Saucers, Robert Loftin was on his way to Tucson when he “suffered a heart attack the evening of Nov. 21st (1968) while en route to a UFO meeting and was dead upon arrival at a medical center.” (Skylook, No. 14, January 1969.)

NICAP received a goofy letter about the Watts case from Tony Kimery, director of the “Interplanetary Intelligence Research Organization on UFOs.” He wrote April 4, 1968, saying, “Our staff are qualified people in the field. … We called Watts approximately two weeks ago. We sort of interviewed him…” 

Regarding the alleged men who shot at the farmhouse: “Mr. Watts said that from what he could find out on the men that silenced him [they were] from some big organization. One of them was Barker from West Virginia and the other Keel from New York.” That’d be Gray Barker and John Keel, but they were myth-making ufologists, not gunslingers for the Men in Black.

Kimery’s fellow UFO club member Steve McNallen visited the Wellington area in July and didn’t speak to Watts but interviewed police chief Donald Nunnelley who recounted the story as if he still thought the events were genuine. McNallen made a handwritten 3-page report, “Recent Developments on the ‘Contact’ at Loco, Texas – The Watts Sighting.” Afterwards, McNallen received a letter from Watts postmarked Aug. 6, 1968, that said, “I certainly hope that someone can help me prove my story to be true someday.”


Watts’ Story versus UFO Lore


Watt’s narrative is interesting for the way the story develops, and for its numerous similarities to previous UFO accounts. His conversation with an unseen voice was reminiscent of Dan Fry’s first encounter. The description of the bodies of the aliens was almost identical to passages from The Interrupted Journey, the book on the Betty and Barney Hill abduction story. So were other elements; telepathy, the physical examination, seeing an alien map, the attempt to get a souvenir to prove the encounter – even the use of hypnosis to uncover more of the encounter. Other story points such as the aliens’ peaceful intent, Watts’ escalating series of encounters (implying he was “chosen’), them giving him a ride in a saucer, were all throwbacks to the classic Contactee scenario. There were also familiar elements from other reports, his vehicle stopping from electromagnetic interference from the UFO, the aliens surveying the earth, and his determination to get either physical evidence or photographs to prove his story. One scene was nearly identical to that of Gary T. Wilcox, who claimed on April 24, 1964, that at his dairy farm in New York that 4 ft tall aliens wearing cover-all type suits emerged from a whitish aluminum hovering metal ship egg-shaped structure. They apparently spoke via telepathy and said, “We are from what you know as the planet Mars.”

Watts’ storytelling technique itself was unusual for UFO encounters. Hoaxers often give story details that go beyond what a participant should know about alien visitors if the story were genuine. Watts only talked about what he saw, and the aliens told him, no more. His story was based entirely from his point of view, often describing things he experienced but (seemingly) didn’t understand, such as feeling thrown back in his seat, then feeling cold, etc. The listener would interpret the clues and feel like a clever detective for figuring out that what was described was lift-off, leaving the atmosphere, docking with the larger ship and so on. Thus, some of the most fantastic claims were supplied by the audience, not Watts himself. It was good enough to persuade many, including Life magazine’s chief in Dallas. It wasn’t enough, though. The Polaroids were tacked on to prop up the story, and the pictures really closed the sale.

In January 2013 I contacted one of the original reporters who shared clippings of his articles. John DeBaun told me:
“I don't recall that Carroll Wayne Watts was particularly credible but he was pretty insistent with his story… I wrote a lot for the Amarillo paper in my youthful days and I don't think I actually shared this story too much with editors I was trying to impress when I was looking for another job because it was so goofy. I viewed it as interesting that people would actually claim such a thing so insistently and not because I believed it at all -- although I wasn't there and I can't say for sure what happened to Watts.”
At this point, we can only speculate based on the evidence. It's most likely that Watts' post-polygraph confession was the closest to the truth, but he shifted most of the blame off of himself on to Dord Fitz. Watts and a friend or family accomplice probably came up with the story and photographs themselves. Fitz served as a catalyst though, acting like a manager and press agent. Intentionally or not, he helped Watts' story get "better," told more smoothly and accompanied with character witness testimonials and exhibits to package it for success. When things fell apart, all parties looked out for their own skin. For Watts, the story of being threatened away from his saucer story was a way out.  

It’s funny that Watts supposedly accused Barker and Keel of being his attackers. In reality, they were the biggest boosters for his story. John Keel recycled Gray Barker’s Saucer News piece on Watts as part of “Behind the FBI’s Undercover Flying Saucer Investigations,” an article in the lurid Men magazine, October 1968. Keel mixed fact, fantasy, and journalistic errors taking the story further into Men in Black mythology. It was reprinted in Keel’s 1970 book, Strange Creatures From Time and Space.
John Keel, Gray Barker, and fellow MIB myth-maker, Jim Moseley.

 

 

 

Life After the Headlines

 

Most of the life of Carroll Wayne Watts and his wife Rosemary after 1968 is sparsely documented, but between then and 1981 they had three more children together. Meanwhile, Donald Nunnelley resigned as police chief in the fall of 1971, and moved from Wellington to Amarillo, leaving Carroll without his cousin’s counsel - or protection.

Rosemary Watts was still supporting the story in the early 1970s, according to ufologist Timothy Good’s Alien Base, 1998. Rosemary corresponded with Henry Johnson, who was briefly married to Madeline Rodeffer (an advocate of George Adamski’s Contactee tales). Describing the photo of the Martian, Rosemary said, “We would certainly have liked to have had a full view of him and also one that was more clear, but it was the last of the film in the [pack] and he didn’t have time to reload the camera and take another one.”

At the time of the UFO incidents, Watts had a spotless record in the community. Afterwards, things changed, and he developed a reputation for being "overbearing" and "a bully,” and Watts’ family physician sent him for psychiatric treatment in 1976. The circumstances are not recorded, but the local newspaper carried a notice in April from Carroll and Rosemary about their house burning, saying, “We would like to thank Wellington Fire Department for their help in trying to save our house at Loco also to all others who gave their help that night.”

Watts’ story was featured in the article “Carroll Wayne Watts: Contactee, Hoaxer or Innocent Bystander?” by Tony Kimery, in Official UFO, Oct. 1976. Most of the text recycled Gray Barker’s Saucer News article, but it contained a new statement by Watts, probably from a letter:
“There were several serious threats made to me and my family, and I found out I had stumbled onto something more serious than I had expected… I haven’t cooperated with any magazine before, because I didn’t want to get things stirred up again. … I decided, due to the seriousness of the situation... that I had better just swallow my pride and forget the whole thing. However, if you want to get mixed up in this and try to straighten it out as it should have been released, I will cooperate the best I can.”
There were also a few new claims of missing evidence; that when Robert Loftin and his investigators had come to Wellington, their hotel room had been robbed and some material was taken. Also, Watts claimed he sent his Polaroid originals by registered mail to Dr. Condon in March 1968, and that when he asked about their return, he was told they were lost.

On June 2, 1977, Watts was arrested for a series of violent incidents that included firing a 12-gauge shotgun into a house and in the getaway, ramming the sheriff’s car with his truck. He was apprehended when officers shot out three of his tires. Somehow, Watts avoided conviction, it was apparently then that his doctor sent him to Rusk State Hospital in 1977 for psychiatric evaluation. Court records describe some peculiar behavior, but no arrests for the next few years. Perhaps foreshadowed by Rosemary and Carroll’s divorce in August of 1981.

On October 3, 1981, Watts pointed a gun at several teenagers and chased one threatening to kill him, and after the kid got away, Watts left, got a beer and told someone he intended to shoot a cop. When police attempted to pursue and arrest him, during the high-speed chase Watts fired six shots at them hitting the vehicle twice. They shot out his rear truck tire and captured him. At trial in March of 1983, the District Attorney said, “He (Watts) has had a past history of problems with the law and people stood up and said 'we're tired of it.'” 

Wellington Leader, March 10, 1983

The defense attorney introduced the insanity plea saying Watts had “a psychotic organic brain syndrome and temporal lobal epilepsy which rendered him unable to determine right from wrong and therefore legally insane at the time.” The jury didn’t buy it and Watts was convicted for the crimes, sentenced to 20 years in the Texas Department of Corrections.

The case was appealed in 1984, The file, “Carroll Wayne Watts v. the State of Texas” describes the dramatic crimes, the legal case, and the insanity defense in great detail. The appeal failed.

We couldn’t locate the records of Watts’ incarceration, but during this time, Rosemary and Carroll Watts were remarried on May 10, 1984. It didn’t last. They were re-divorced on Sept. 17, 1984. Rosemary married Dalton D. Konkler on September 26, 1992 in Collingsworth County, Texas. As for Carroll, his 1996 residence was given as Lubbock, most likely in a mental health facility of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. The only available detail comes from a UFO and alien abduction researcher. Don Worley’s article appeared in Flying Saucer Review, Vl. 42 No. 2, 1997, stating that at that time, Watts was in a Texas State Prison cell. Worley’s sympathetic and distorted account said, “Watts began to have behavioral problems and his brother told me that he was influenced by a stranger who had showed up. Paranoia set in and Watts began to believe that certain people were out to get him. Finally out of mistaken fear he pulled a gun on an officer of the law.” Watts was quoted as saying, 
“The incident cost me my wife, my children, $285,000, my freedom, and my health (heart trouble). Simply because something happened to me that I didn't understand and that I talked about. I think that I would have been better off if I had died in the incident.”
The date of Watts’ release from incarceration and details of his life afterwards are not public, except that he moved to Mansfield, Texas. Carroll Wayne Watts died on Sunday, May 11, 2008, at the age of 69. His family requested that memorials be made to a mental health care facility in Amarillo, known today as Texas Panhandle Centers (TPC).

The Lost Evidence 

Most of the exhibits and primary evidence in the Carroll Wayne Watts UFO case have been lost. What remains is mostly poor black and white copies of the photos and newspaper stories. Archives of UFO researchers sometimes contain buried treasures, however. Dr. Hynek had a large collection of UFO photographs that he sometimes used in his lectures. There was an unlabeled color photo included in a subset titled, “IFOs and Clouds.” Coming across it recently, I recognized it as one of  Watts UFO Polaroids. For some reason, Hynek's slide was cropped to remove the horizon. As of this writing, it is the only known surviving color photo from Watts’ UFO story.


Hynek's slide of Watts' color UFO photo.
Superimposed on the black and white copy to indicate portions cropped from each.


Epilogue: The Fallout from the Watts Case

Dr. Hynek and Watts had a reunion of sorts in the Chicago Tribune, May 18, 1969. “U.F.O. Reports Rapped as ‘Waste of Time’” featured Hynek slamming the Condon UFO Study, and the accompanying illustration was Watts’ photo.

Chicago Tribune, May 18, 1969

The Carroll Wayne Watts case was not included in the Condon UFO Study’s published conclusions in 1969, but it was mentioned in passing, the “…national disclosure of a photographic UFO hoax in Texas…” The scandalous case may have negatively influenced the study’s findings. Dr. Condon’s concluded in Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects: “Careful consideration of the record as it is available to us leads us to conclude that further extensive study of UFOs probably cannot be justified in the expectation that science will be advanced thereby.” The Air Force had the excuse it longed for. Project Blue Book was shut down.

Watts’ tale was an evolutionary step in the abduction narrative and how aliens are depicted. Peter Rogerson noted in Magonia magazine, June 1994 that: 

“the Watts story has been excommunicated from the ufological canon. Nevertheless we see many features which will crop up in later stories, and the construction of a new group of beings a step further towards the Greys: smaller than the Hills’ abductors and kitted out in Socorro-style white coveralls instead of the Hill’s sailor-suits.”

Did Watts’ exposure by polygraph cause Dr. J. Allen Hynek to put undue trust in them? In Hynek’s 1972 book, The UFO-Experience, he said when assessing the credibility of a UFO witness, “It would be most helpful in the Probability Rating assignment if ‘lie detector' and other psychological tests were available.” Discussing the 1973 Pascagoula Abduction case of Charles Hickson and Calvin Parker, Hynek said, “I saw how Charlie behaved under hypnosis and finally the lie detector test. All those things convinced me that he was not making it up.” (Quoted in The Close Encounters Man by Mark O'Connell.) A few years later, Dr. Hynek appeared on Geraldo Rivera’s ABC talk show, Good Night America on June 9th, 1977. Discussing the Travis Walton story, Hynek said, “They took lie detector tests and passed them. We have some two dozen similar abduction cases currently being studied. Something is going on!”

In the late 1980s, Ed Walters’ series of Polaroid pictures of UFOs caused a sensation. When Walters was later exposed as a hoaxer, it caused all the many other sightings by Gulf Breeze residents to be forgotten. Watts had established the precedent years earlier. There were UFO sightings in the Wellington area before Carroll Wayne Watts’ story, and at least one credible report afterwards. None of the other sightings had independent case files, and after Watts’ story went down in flames, so did all the sincere reports by other witnesses.

 . . .

Acknowledgements

My local paper carried the Carroll Wayne Watts story as front-page news in Feb. 1968, but if I saw it at the time, the memory is long gone. Coming across accounts of it in 2012, I became interested and began collecting newspaper articles and references to it in UFO literature, and I have periodically returned to the search over the years. A big thanks goes out to the following people and organizations who were key sources in finding documentation on the story.

John DeBaun, who along with Carroll Wilson first reported on the Watts abduction story in 1968. John provided clippings of the original newspaper articles and his memories of interviewing Watts.

Isaac KoiRobert Barrow, and Louis Taylor for sharing scans of UFO documents, periodicals, and literature over the years on this and other cases.

The Archives for the Unexplained (AFU), thanks Clas Svahn and his associates for additional newspaper clippings.

David Houchin, curator of the Gray Barker UFO Collection at the Clarksburg-Harrison Public Library in West Virginia.

The files of Dr. J. Allen Hynek, from:
The Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS), with help from Barry Greenwood and David Marler.
The J. Allen Hynek Papers at Northwestern University.

The Holland McCombs Papers at the University of Tennessee at Martin’s Paul Meek Library.

Claude Falkstrom, for providing archived newspaper articles on this and scores of other historical UFO cases.

Thanks also to those who provided biographical information and papers from Dord Fitz:
Amy Von Lintel, Professor of Art History at West Texas A&M University. 
The Dord Fitz Papers at the Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries, Norman, Oklahoma.


The Carroll Wayne Watts Files

See these two collections of files:

File One: Newspaper Articles, including an account of Watts’ first encounter in his own words, and coverage of the hoax being confessed – and the retraction of the same.


File Two: Project Blue Book reports of Watts’ first three sightings - these are copies from Dr. J. Allen Hynek files and include his underling and annotations. Also included is Watts’ letter of reply to Hynek, and his completed Project Blue Book UFO sighting form.

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