Thursday, March 2, 2023

1947: The Unsolved Mystery of Discs Over America

A U.S. dollar in 1947 had some nice purchasing power. A buck could buy a couple of movie tickets, dinner out for one, or a sack of groceries. Another option was to spend it learning about the secret behind flying saucers.

(Photo borrowed from the unrelated Rhodes Photo Case of July 7, 1947.)

An item was widely circulated in newspapers in several states across the USA during August and September of 1947. It looked like a short news article about an organization located in Illinois, but was actually an advertisement.


The most amazing event in history is the appearance of unexplained discs over America. Their explanation is necessary to every Man and Woman in this country. 

The amazing explanation involves not only the discs alone . . . but it answers the greatest and most potent of mysteries,— 

Why do anthropoid apes sit spellbound before two crossed sticks? 

Why do children draw an arc one third of the way up a sheet of paper when confronted with the idea of death? 

What is the meaning of the twenty eight fires that struck at the exact center of the American population? 

The answer to these questions is the most important information you have ever received. Send one dollar now for your copy of the survey “Discs Over America.” Mail to des Arc Foundation, Lake Forest, Ill.  

States where the advertisement is known to have been published.

After the run of that ad, there was nothing else. We were unable to locate a copy of the pamphlet or whatever “Discs Over America” was. The tone of the text sounded like it was from a New Age  religious organization. We’ve contacted UFO historians and religious scholars, but no information on  "des Arc Foundation" has been found anywhere, and there’s no mention of the publication anywhere else. However, some valuable information was located, thanks to TK of the Kook Science Research Hatch, material presented in our next section.

The FBI and the United States Post Office

While the ads were still circulating, Chicago Post Office Inspector T. H. Barkow sent a note to the FBI on September 19, 1947, asking for any information on “[Redacted], formerly of Lake Forest, Illinois, who may also have given a Chicago address at various times," in connection with an "Alleged violation of Section 2350, P. L. & R. by des Arc Foundation, sale of information on flying discs." 

The FBI responded saying they could not help without more data about the suspect. “You are advised that an effective search cannot be conducted... on the basis of the name only. If you are able to furnish the physical description of [Redacted ] or other means of identification... a search will be conducted in an effort to furnish you with the information desired.”

See the FBI file on pages 8-9 of this collection.

The FBI records show nothing else. Postal Statute Section 2350 related to schemes “to defraud or to obtain money by means of false or fraudulent representations.”  

It may be that the U.S. Postal Service stepped in and shut down the “Discs Over America” enterprise for fraud.  Hoping to the Post Office had files with further details, I submitted a FOIA request. Sadly, the response was unfavorable: 

“We regret to advise that any investigatory records which may have existed during the period 1947 regarding the individual in question would have been destroyed in accordance with the prescribed records retention schedule of the U.S. Postal Service.”

The Unsolved Mystery of des Arc Foundation

What was des Arc Foundation? The bit about “anthropoid apes sit spellbound before two crossed sticks” sounds like a dig at Christianity. The part about children drawing an arc “when confronted with the idea of death” sounds like it had a religious or metaphysical message. As for twenty-eight fires “that struck at the exact center of the American population,” we at least know what event was being described, one from June 21, 1940, at Odon, Indiana. The Buffalo Evening News, (New York) Dec. 6, 1941, carried a story on freak accidents, noted, “At Odon Ind., the farm home of William Hackler caught fire 28 distinct times in one day.”

The 2019 story, “The 28 Fires of Odon” by Dale M. Brumfield, has more details about the Hackler incident. Some newspapers reported on Fortean-type speculation that the fires were caused by the house's position in "the center of a strong magnetic field where static electricity prevailed.” The Hackler story was exploited in an advertising campaign by the Travelers Insurance Company, appearing in papers and Collier’s Magazine, April 19, 1941:

Was des Arc Foundation genuinely investigating the flying saucer mystery, and “silenced” by the government? Or was it a bogus organization by a charlatan to capitalize on UFOs to peddle some spiritual hokum? Without more information, we’re left guessing.

If you have any leads on des Arc Foundation, “Discs Over America,” or the person or organization behind it, please contact us at The Saucers That Time Forgot

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