Thursday, April 27, 2023

The Legend of the President and the Alien Bodies

The study of UFOs has long struggled with the problem of anecdotal evidence, rumors, and hearsay – and their constant repetition. One such story persists: The tale of the President showing his celebrity friend alien bodies from a UFO crash.

When a scoundrel comes dragging in late one night, his suspicious wife wants to know where he’s been. He tells her the President sent him to a secret lab at an Air Force base to see aliens from a crashed flying saucer. The greatest UFO story of all time, or a rejected sitcom plot?

The original story comes entirely from a single source, not the people supposedly involved. We’ve constructed a chronology of events and profiles of the players to put the story in context. This is a lengthy examination is divided into three main parts to trace the creation and spread of the legend.

The 1983 Original Story by Beverly Gleason.

The 1992 Rewrite by Larry Warren.

The 2003 Mix-up by Beverly Gleason.

The main players in the story: 


First Contact: President Nixon

Richard M. Nixon (1913-1994) was elected the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969-1974. While there are no documented comments of substance by President Nixon on the UFO topic, on July 22, 1969, he did make some remarks about space travel and extraterrestrial life. Addressing 2,000 American Field Service exchange students from 60 countries on White House lawn, he said:

"…I am sure that those in this audience… will agree with me, in the year 2000 we will, on this earth, have visited new worlds where there will be a form of life. I know this will happen… this is the kind of world I would like to see and the kind of exploration of that new world that I know all Americans want."

Richard Nixon had served as Vice President to Dwight D. Eisenhower and ran to succeed him in 1960, backed by Hollywood supporters who formed a “Celebrities for Nixon Committee.” That presidential run failed, but Nixon would try again later. Comedian Jackie Gleason started out as a New Deal Democrat but evolved into an aggressive Republican and publicly endorsed Nixon’s candidacy for the 1968 presidential election.

Before Hangar 18, the 18th hole. Detroit Free Press, Oct. 16, 1968

When he became president, Nixon bought vacation property Key Biscayne (near Miami). On his frequent visits, he’d take Air Force One into Homestead Air Force Base, then go by helicopter to his compound, known as the Florida (or Winter) White House. While there, Nixon occasionally played golf, and a few of those games were with his supporter Jackie Gleason. 

A Student of the Paranormal and UFOs

Jackie Gleason (1916-1987, born John Herbert Gleason) became known as “The Great One,” a beloved television entertainer almost as famous for his lavish lifestyle as for his comic genius. Gleason was a versatile performer of many talents, from slapstick to drama, and lauded for his ability to ad lib before a live audience.

Gleason had a lifelong interest in the paranormal and he voraciously read about psychic phenomena, reincarnation, and related topics. He built a library containing thousands of volumes, and a significant part of the collection consisted of newsletters, magazines, and books on flying saucers. In our examination, we’ll look at quotes from Gleason on his thoughts about UFOs before, during, and after the time of his alleged encounter with extraterrestrials.

“The Latest on the Flying Saucer” was an article in The Saturday Review, Feb. 26, 1956, and it included a section where the magazine asked five writers and prominent personalities in UFOs to answer two questions: “Have you yourself ever seen a flying saucer? What do you believe is the origin and intent of the saucers?” Jackie Gleason replied:

“I have never seen a flying saucer anywhere personally but have read published flying saucer literature. Most of this literature is ridiculous, but amongst the trash are some undeniable points that cannot be refuted even by the United States government.” He concluded by saying, “I am not sure where they originate but it is almost certain that their jumping off place is the moon. I think that their purpose in visiting us is to get geographic information and to find out all they would have to contend with if they decide to make an absolute communication with us.”

During this time, Gleason persuaded CBS to give him acreage and build a mansion with a television studio in Peekskill, New York. The “Round House,” designed by Gleason, and inspired by his interest in flying saucers, was completed in 1959.

Gleason had read and liked They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers, by Gray Barker, but on Nov. 19, 1958, he called into the Long John Nebel radio show and got into a pointed conversation with the author over his sensationalism and exploitation of the UFO topic. In a subsequent show, Gleason called in to challenge the outlandish claims and evangelism of Contactee George King of the Aetherius Society. He asked, “Why do we need a spiritual message from someone in a flying saucer?” Hearsay wasn’t enough for Gleason, and he wanted King to produce concrete evidence. King refused and hung up when Gleason said, “I think you’re a phony!”

In 1961, Gleason was featured in two magazines in connection with UFOs:

The Great One was pictured with a flying saucer on the cover of the March 1961 issue of Harvey Kurtzman’s Help! humor magazine. “Jackie Gleason Says: Why go to Venus? Venus is Here.”

Argosy, March 1961, “’Flying Saucers Are Real!’—Jackie Gleason” written by Long John Nebel, contrasting Gleason’s views with that of the US Air Force. According to the APRO Bulletin, “While it appeared to be an endorsement of the interplanetary theory, the Nebel story was actually a semi-humorous tongue-in-cheek dissertation on Mr. Gleason's interpretations of UFO evidence.”

Gleason subscribed to many UFO publications. When a column by Bob Consadine quoted Jackie on his belief in extraterrestrials, it gave NICAP the opportunity to brag about his membership in UFO Investigator June-Sept. 1963.

A profile on Jackie Gleason and his paranormal beliefs from Exploring the Unknown magazine was reprinted in the Australian UFO newsletter Panorama. As for UFOs, Gleason believed in the probability of life on other worlds, but did not find the Contactee stories credible. Gleason said that if he made contact, the first thing he’d do was ask the aliens for proof he could show others, “or else I would keep my mouth shut.”

Gleason made a big move in 1964. Back in 1957 he’d taken some time off from television and visited Florida and took up golf, developing a passion to be "the best." He was so devoted to the game that he left his New York saucer home behind, and persuaded CBS to relocate him and his television show to Florida in 1964. He lived there for the rest of his days.

Getting back to UFOs, it was not a big part of his public persona, but Gleason occasionally spoke about his interest. The National Enquirer, Aug. 3, 1969, quoted him as saying, "I believe in extrasensory perception, telepathy, clairvoyance, unidentified flying objects, and a lot of other things that cannot be easily explained.” Adding, “I've been interested in the supernatural for about 30 years and I've got over 4000 books on psychic phenomena. I've done a lot of reading on the subject." Beyond magazine, November 1969, “Jackie Gleason Heads the List of Entertainers Who Believe in the Supernatural” by Robert Warner, seems to have been based on the same interview.

The Ex-Wife Files

In 1968, Gleason met Beverly McKittrick, a divorced secretary from Baltimore, 17 years his junior. Gleason had been separated from his first wife since 1954 but she didn’t agree to a divorce until 1970. Immediately afterwards, Gleason married Beverly on July 4, 1970, however, things fell apart quickly. Friends said the two had nothing in common besides golf and drinking, and Beverly was said to be “possessive and consequently mistrustful.”

The other bad news came when The Jackie Gleason Show was canceled by CBS in 1970. Jackie’s next big play would come due to his love for golf.

The Jackie Gleason Inverrary Classic came about in 1972 when developers courted him to lend his name to the golf tournament. He agreed and they furnished him with a magnificent lakeside house on one of the fairways. Once remodeled to Gleason’s specifications with a grand bar and pool room, the home was valued at two million dollars.

Ufologists would later claim that something extraordinary happened with Gleason between 1973 and 1974. With that in mind, let’s look at the documented events of those days. President Richard Nixon made an appearance at the Jackie Gleason Inverrary Classic golf tournament on Feb. 19, 1973. Gleason drove the President in a golf cart to the 18th hole, where Nixon gave a short speech.

More importantly, 1973 saw a romantic reunion. Jackie Gleason had fallen in love with Marilyn Taylor around 1950, but they couldn’t be together since his first wife refused to give him a divorce. Marylin wed George Horwich in May 1962, but he died in 1973. According to Marylin’s son, Craig Horwich, “When he found out my mom was now widowed and living in South Florida… He wooed and reunited with her.” Inconveniently for Jackie, he was still married to Beverly. According to what Beverly would later say, one night in 1973, Jackie was out late one night and came home with an unbelievable story about where he’d been. More on that later. 

Gleason’s Two UFO Sightings

Jackie Gleason from The National Enquirer May 20, 1973 (as quoted in From UFO Research Newsletter June/July 1973):

"I not only believe that UFOs exist. I know they exist. And the U.S. government knows they exist, too, because I was told so privately by a government official back in 1948. I believe we are being studied by visitors from other planets." Gleason also discussed his two UFO sightings, one in London in 1965, and another one a few years later near his home in Florida, both were bright objects maneuvering at a velocity “that would be impossible for any flying object known to man.” 


A Resignation, a Divorce, a Marriage, and a Comeback

President Nixon found himself increasingly busy with the Watergate scandal and resigned from office on August 9, 1974. As a byproduct, a new phrase was coined to describe the alleged U.S. Government UFO cover-up, the “Cosmic Watergate.”

Jackie Gleason wrote the introduction for the 1974 biography by Donald Bain, Long John Nebel: Radio Talk King, Master Salesman, and Magnificent Charlatan. Gleason shared his thoughts on UFOs:

“…it's my belief that we are currently hovering on the edge of probably the greatest story since earth began. I think oceans of bilge have been printed about planetary visitors but I think we are indeed being visited and that there is powerful actually, indisputable-evidence of this. I believe our government is aware of it and is building up greater knowledge about it, but is puzzled and frightened at the prospect of sharing its knowledge. Astronauts have confided to me that they've seen flying saucers; I'm sure they confided it in higher channels, too.”

With Marilyn in the picture, Gleason filed to divorce Beverly in Sept. 1974. After a long contentious year, it was finally granted on Nov. 19, 1975, Beverly wanted the Inverrary house, but Gleason refused. Instead, they finally agreed on her taking some personal property and a lump sum payment. Jackie and Marilyn were married the next month, on Dec. 16, 1975.

Jackie Gleason went back to acting after a long break in 1976, appearing in the first of four Honeymooners specials on ABC. In 1977, Gleason returned to movies, playing Sheriff Buford T. Justice in Smokey and the Bandit. It was a hit, and it revived his career, giving him as much work as he wanted from then on.

Jackie Gleason appeared on the Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder on Feb. 22/3, 1978. Gleason briefly discussed UFOs, according to Donald Dewey’s article in the airline magazine TWA Ambassador, Nov. 1988 (reprinted in The Missing Link April 1989). “UFOs: A Proposal for Thinking about the Unthinkable'' reported that Gleason said "that Washington had absolute proof of the existence of alien beings..." When asked what his sources were, he named ex-president Richard Nixon, Neil Armstrong, and Pentagon officials. Gleason believed the U.S. government insisted on secrecy about UFOs because if the truth were known, “the world economy might go to hell.”

Gleason was watching the skies. Later in 1978, while working on the play The Sly Fox in California, Gleason told director Arthur Penn about his belief in a government UFO cover up, and how he frequently stayed up most of the night searching the sky with a telescope for signs of aliens. Penn said, "He was not in fear of them. If anything, I had the sense that he probably longed for them.”

 

The 1983 Original Story by Beverly Gleason

The Tabloid: She Said He Said

Sensationalist press was once known as yellow journalism, but thanks to the National Enquirer, the term was replaced by tabloid journalism. The paper was the subject of Jack Vitek’s 2008 book, The Godfather of Tabloid, where he said that by the 1980s, the Enquirer “was a pariah to TV and film stars… Celebrity quotes in Enquirer stories were mostly ‘as told to a friend,’ a hearsay standard of truth too sloppy for the mainstream press.” Enquirer reporters’ jobs depended on them delivering a stream of new celebrity scandals, and under pressure, “…some reporters resorted to desperate and dubious means. …many of the paper’s best stories came from fired butlers and maids” who could be paid tens of thousands of dollars. The paper “existed in the legal gray zone between harmless fiction and legally actionable lies.”

1983 National Enquirer 30-second TV commercial

August 1983: Jackie Gleason was back in the news, starring in Smokey and the Bandit Part 3, but one magazine featured him on the cover about something else.

Beverly McKittrick was interviewed for the National Enquirer, Aug. 16, 1983, but it was published as a first-person account by “Beverly Gleason” about a book she was supposedly writing. Her story opened with a scene that supposedly took place sometime in 1973 at their Inverrary home, some ten years before.

One night near the end of their marriage, Jackie was out late, and Beverly was worried. At about 11:30 p.m. she heard him coming in. “I jumped to my feet and asked, ‘Where have you been?” As her story goes, he replied, “I’ve been at Homestead Air Force Base… I've seen the bodies of some aliens from outer space… the President arranged for me to be escorted in there and see them.” He didn’t know their origin. "No one would tell me the full details, but a spacecraft has obviously crashed near here. When I arrived at the base, I was given a heavily armed military escort and driven to a building in a remote area. We had to pass a guard at the door, then were shown into a large room. And there were the aliens, lying on four separate tables. They were tiny – only about two feet tall – with small bald heads and disproportionately large ears. They must have been dead for some time because they'd been embalmed."

The article’s introduction stated: “Gleason declined repeated attempts by The Enquirer to interview him about the book.” In this original version of the story, President Nixon was not present for the events. Nixon’s only role was in arranging Gleason’s trip to the base. There were no claims about seeing UFO wreckage.

We only located one newspaper that took any notice at the time, in Bob Talbert’s chatty column in the Detroit Free Press, Nov. 25, 1983, “Jackie Gleason’s Shock – Dead Aliens.” It was sourced not from the Enquirer directly, but from someone who’d read it, the owner of the new age Mayflower Bookstore in Berkley, Michigan.

Ufologists took note of the Enquirer story. Publications mentioning it included: the MUFON UFO Journal July 1983, Aerial Phenomenon Clipping Information Center (APIC), Aug. 1983, reprinted the article with some photos deleted. Late to the party were Borderland Sciences Research Foundation’s, Round Robin, Nov-Dec. 1983, and Fate magazine in their Jan. 1984 issue.  

The Gleason story appeared in a book the next year, but not one about UFOs. It was cited as an example of tabloid journalism in The Sweeps: Behind the Scenes in Network TV, by Mark Christensen, Cameron Stauth, 1984.

“Nearly as powerful a venue in the television press as TV Guide, the Enquirer is a vital outlaw force that doesn't even have an office in L.A., but depends upon largely anonymous staffers and a vast network of paid informants to bring its readers news they are likely to read absolutely nowhere else. Like the story about Jackie Gleason in the issue that was then on the stands. According to his ex-wife Beverly, the Great One came home one evening in 1973…”

In early 1985, Larry W. Bryant (1938-2020) of Citizens Against UFO Secrecy (CAUS) attempted to find out if the Gleason story was true. He placed this ad in the MacDill Air Force Base newspaper "The Thunderbolt" asking for information from The Tampa Tribune, March 15, 1985:

"Were you stationed at Homestead AFB back in the seventies when Richard M. Nixon allegedly allowed entertainer Jackie Gleason to view a repository of UFO artifacts (including some of their alien occupants). If so we need your testimony in preparation of our suit… about that and other aspects of the Cosmic Watergate."

Larry Bryant

Bryant later disclosed the results of his efforts in the Alexandria, Virginia, Journal, July 9, 1987:

 “I sent a freedom-of-information request to Homestead to gain access to all official records pertaining to the repository and to Gleason’s visit. Word came back… no such records… no record of any visit there by Gleason.” He received no response from his letter to Gleason but said, “I did learn that he had been approached by a third party in the film industry.  At this confrontation, Gleason chose neither to confirm nor deny the story, saying that he’d prefer not to discuss it at all.”

That seems to have been true. There’s no documentation or credible account of Gleason acknowledging the story in any way.

In May 1985, Pocket Books released a paperback book, National Enquirer UFO Report, “based on articles previously published in the National Enquirer.” It contained many tales such as the Eisenhower legend, “Secret meeting between space visitors – and U.S. President!” For whatever reason, the story about Jackie Gleason did not make the cut.

Gleason’s last known mention of UFOs was in conversations with his biographer James Bacon for the 1985 book, How Sweet It Is: The Jackie Gleason Story. Gleason himself wrote the introduction, and Bacon said, “I owe it all to Jackie Gleason himself, who first asked me to write this book. He cooperated graciously and honestly…” Other than a passing reference to the “flying saucer” house, it contained a single page mentioning UFOs.

Bacon wrote, “Gleason believes in these strange lights from another planet.” He quoted Gleason describing a scene at Toots Shor's Restaurant in New York, a conversation with skeptical reporter Bob Considine about the Foo Fighters seen during the mid-1940s:

“‘There would be these little lights traveling at great speeds around our aircraft in World War Two. …Considine and I were having a hell of an argument about this one day. I told him that four presidents of the United States had told me about these UFOs and no one knows what the hell they were. General Rosie O’Donnell [Emmett O'Donnell Jr.], then head of our strategic air Force, overheard us and said, ‘Jackie’s right.’ That’s all he said and it shook up Consadine.” 

The first UFO book we located to address the Gleason legend was a brief twisted account in The UFO Conspiracy: The First Forty Years by Jenny Randles, 1987:

“…according to sources at Muroc Air Force base, [President] Eisenhower went there and saw dead aliens! Comedian Jackie Gleason also later told his wife (and she said he was ashen-faced and seemed to be serious) that his friend Eisenhower had let him in on the truth, and shown him the proof of UFO reality. Stories like these are all very well, but they are just stories.”

Without corroboration, the story about Gleason was being relegated to UFO trivia.

 

The 1992 Rewrite by Larry Warren

Corroboration by Repetition

Death and Tabloids

Jackie Gleason had faced serious health problems since 1978, eventually leading to his death from cancer at the age of 71 on June 24, 1987. He was laid to rest in a mausoleum at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Cemetery in Miami.

The steps say, “And Away We Go.” Photo by Shepherd Johnson

Most media coverage of Gleason’s passing was respectful, however, his death brought a round of UFO exploitation stories in the tabloids.

June 29, 1987: “Jackie Gleason and the space aliens” was the lead feature on “Page Six,” the gossip column by Richard Johnson for the New York Post daily tabloid. It was responsible for the story morphing to include Richard Nixon in a co-starring role – and connecting it to Roswell. Johnson recycled the Enquirer story about “the late, great Jackie Gleason,” but it grew in the retelling. Beverly’s unpublished book was said to describe “a bizarre trip Jackie took with the then-President in 1973… to see what she says were the bodies of four dead space aliens,” which ufologist Mike Luckman said, “were probably the same ones that the Army recovered in 1947 at [Roswell], N.M. We want to establish that link.” Johnson concluded with the line, “We were unable to reach Nixon for comment, and Gleason is doubtless communing with celestial beings who don’t need any UFOs for transportation.”


The Times-Tribune (Scranton, PA) July 5, 1987

A careful reading of the reading of the NYP story shows that it contained no new information from Beverly, it only drew from the 1983 account and added some imaginative or fanciful interpretations, along with wild speculation from a ufologist. The story was repeated or recycled by other tabloids and picked up in some “straight” newspapers as well. It was the cover story of News Extra July 14, 1987:

Richard Johnson’s Post story was also reprinted in The MUFON UFO Journal, February 1988, and mentioned in Fate magazine, Feb. 1988, “What did Jackie Gleason See?” Debunker Robert Sheaffer wryly commented on The New York Post story in his “Psychic Vibrations” column in Skeptical Enquirer, Winter 1978-88:

“It might seem unlikely that a president would take a comedian into an ultrasecret area to gawk at the remains of a flying-saucer crew, but the apparent absurdity of it does not automatically refute the claim. For all we know, at this very moment President Reagan may be escorting Chevy Chase and Pee-Wee Herman into a high-security hangar to view the little bodies.”

Alien Bodies from Roswell?

Connecting the story to Roswell was a fanciful stretch. The Gleason story supposedly took place in 1973, several years before the story of aliens at Roswell surfaced, but only was published afterwards. Tales of embalmed remains or “picked aliens” dated back to 1949/50, but frozen alien bodies were more in vogue since the 1970s. However, the descriptions in the story are a bit off-model compared to most UFO tales of big-headed, big-eyed aliens.


A Kelly–Hopkinsville and the Yellow Kid comic character from the 1890s.

At “only about two feet tall,” these were about the smallest little men ever reported. Their other distinguishing feature was their small heads with big ears. The most famous little men with big ears were from the Kelly–Hopkinsville encounter, but they were described as strange goblin-like creatures. Mentioning Roswell helped sell the yarn. It worked, and the legend was repeated and retold like a UFO campfire story.

Several early 1990s books covered Beverly’s basic story. UK ufologist Jenny Randles included the yarn in her 1990 paranormal book, Phantoms of the Soap Operas...and Other Showbiz Enigmas (but failed to identify the National Enquirer as the source). She also included a discussion of Larry Bryant’s attempts to verify things. Similar coverage appeared in Alien Liaison (aka Alien Contact) by Timothy Good, 1991, and in UFO Encounters and Beyond by Jerome Clark, 1993. 

The Fabulist, or Apocrypha Now

The legend received yet another spin in 1992 due to it being retold in a book, the story of someone who’d allegedly heard the story from the Great One himself. Larry Warren claimed to be a witness to the Dec. 1980 Bentwaters/Rendlesham Forest UFO incident. Under the pseudonym “Art Wallace,” Warren’s account was included in a few pages in the book by Larry Fawcett (1939-2010) and Barry Greenwood, Clear Intent, released in the spring of 1984. Serious doubts about Warren’s credibility arose when others documented to be present spoke up, calling his sensational account (and alleged involvement) into question. Nevertheless, he continued to receive the support of the UFO community.

Timothy Green Beckley (1952-2021) was a publisher of outlandish schlocky paranormal literature and he featured “Jackie Gleason & The Little ‘Men From Mars’" in his 1992 book, UFOs Among the Stars.

It was an account based on Larry Warren’s alleged meeting with Gleason to hear the story in May 1986. “I was living in Connecticut… I was told that Gleason would like to talk with me privately in his home in Westchester County…” After getting acquainted, Gleason supposedly told him about an event, “back when Nixon was in office…” Warren’s tale:

“Richard Nixon showed up at Gleason’s house around midnight... no secret service agents with him or anyone else... Gleason got into the President’s private car and they sped off into the darkness – their destination being Homestead Air Force Base.”

Warren said Nixon showed Gleason “the wreckage from a flying saucer,” then the mangled remains of child-sized alien bodies with “three or four fingers on each hand” stored in “six or eight of what looked like glass-topped Coke freezers.”

Larry Warren’s story contradicted Beverly’s account in several substantial details. It also complicated things by having Nixon sneak away from 24/7 Secret Service protection. Worse, it contained a fatal flaw. Warren supposedly went to Gleason’s Westchester County home in May 1986, but Jackie sold his New York house in 1964 and moved to Florida for the rest of his life.

Nevertheless, this purported corroboration of the story refreshed it, and was the turning point in its transition from tabloid trash into “proper” UFO lore. It began creeping into more legitimate books and publications, then spread unchecked when the public embraced the internet, repeated in thousands of places. We’ll look at examples of the most interesting, significant, or influential presentations.   

During the X-Files and Alien Autopsy Era

Richard Nixon didn't say about UFOs anyway, and never commented on the tale of alien bodies. He died on April 22, 1994, but it had no impact on the transmission of the legend.

On Sept. 9, 1994, John Lear appeared on Coast to Coast AM with Art Bell, retelling Warren's yarn with a few embellishments. Nixon and Gleason "finished their golf game they went over and got in the Presidential helicopter and they went to Homestead Air Force base" to see the alien bodies in "one of the places that they had the cryogenic storage and display for people who are authorized to see the displays like certain world leaders."

The Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO), Aug.17, 1995, published a story on MUFON’s “Field Trip to Roswell, N.M.,” where they said, “In Roswell, rumors persist of alien bodies recovered from the site and autopsied. …The bodies are rumored to remain in a secret location. One legend has it that Richard Nixon got drunk with Jackie Gleason one night and took him to see the tiny corpses.”

At least two books exploiting the popularity of The X-Files television show included Beverly’s version of the Gleason legend without mentioning Warren. X-Rated: The Paranormal Experiences of the Movie Star Greats by Michael Munn, 1996, and The X-Files Book of the Unexplained by Jane Goldman, 1997, which said Gleason, “…chose neither to confirm nor deny it. Spokespersons for Homestead AFB denied everything.”

Jim Marrs, Alien Agenda, 1997, said of the legend, “According to Gleason's second wife, Beverly McKittrick…” Ignoring the inconsistencies between the versions, Marrs said, “This story was confirmed by Larry Warren…”

Beyond Roswell: The Alien Autopsy Film, Area 51, & the U.S. Government Coverup of UFOs by Michael Hesemann and Philip Mantle, 1997, gives three pages to the McKittrick and Warren accounts.

The March 1999 issue of UFO Potpourri, newsletter published by John Schuessler (deputy director of MUFON, science board member of Robert Bigelow’s NIDS) featured a reprinting of the New York Post story from 1987, “Did Jackie Gleason See Dead Aliens?” Schuessler was interested in the story and felt it was worth verifying. “I have heard this story debunked in past years, however, I have never seen any evidence of an in-depth investigation of the story.” Schuessler recommended several lines of inquiry.

Conspiracies, Lies and Hidden Agendas by Mick Farren, 1999, had a section on the yarn, citing Beverly’s story but mentioning Warren’s aliens “stored in refrigerated containers.”

In 2002, UFO historian Jerome Clark shared a refreshingly down to earth anecdote about the Gleason legend at Errol Bruce-Knapp’s UFO UpDates email list. He said that around 1985, an employee from Gleason's office called the CUFOS office and asked Sherman Larsen about the status of Jackie’s subscription to International UFO Reporter.  He said:

“…Larsen couldn't resist asking about the story that Nixon had shown Gleason alien bodies. Gleason's spokesman said that was a fiction that an ex-wife had made up to get attention and sell her book. On the other hand, one of Gleason's biographers claims that it was probably a tall tale JG concocted to tell his wife, to explain away a tryst with one of his girl friends. …the story should be regarded, in my judgment, as little more than yet more saucer folklore.”

UFO UpDates - Jerome Clark, Oct. 9, 2002

The 2003 Mix-up by Beverly Gleason

Corrupting the Record

Only two UFO researchers made significant attempts to verify the story Larry Bryant in 1985, and Kenny Young (1966-2005), who interviewed Beverly McKittrick by telephone in 2003. The below is from Interview with Beverly Gleason” by Kenny Young, July/Aug. 2003 from his site UFO Research.

"Esquire Magazine interviewed me after our separation," she said, "and I talked about how Jackie told me about seeing dead aliens in Florida. I think it was sometime in '74 when this happened. When I said that it was because he told me." She went on to say, "We were on the verge of divorce, but everything was okay until it came out in Esquire." Beverly described how the article was the cover feature, Jackie was picture along with some text regarding UFOs.

Gallery of Esquire magazine covers

She had the sequence of events and the decade wrong, also there was no such Esquire interview, she misremembered the name. The article was published eight years after her divorce from Gleason, the magazine was the National Enquirer August 16, 1983.

Another detail shifted. In Beverly’s sentence recapping the tale, Nixon is along for the ride.

“Jackie had been out very late one night I did not know who he was with. …he said he had been in South Florida with President Nixon to see some dead aliens there and I believed him, he was very convincing.”

With all the discrepancies, we must evaluate the following with equal caution.

“After the interview was published, Jackie was upset about the story being public. He called and said he didn’t appreciate me giving the interview, and that’s when I started to wonder if the story was ‘iffy.’ …I wondered if it was really true, I mean… I believed it the whole time. I bought the story hook, line and sinker. But if it was true, then why did he get so upset about it?”

She said her doubts grew, “…in the years afterward I began to ask myself if any of this could really be true or if he was just telling me that… perhaps having been ‘out’ with someone?”  Beverly’s book was never published because she had abandoned writing it.

Unfortunately, the errors and contradictions in the new interview added to the confusion. Nevertheless, it was widely seen as her confirmation of the old story. Ufologists started quoting the interview and citing the nonexistent 1974 Esquire interview. 

Adding a Date to the Legend

About the same time some ufologists erroneously moved the date of the legend to 1974, a date in 1973 was pinpointed. When a writer focuses on the interactions of U.S. Presidents and the UFO topic, there’s virtually nothing when it comes to Richard Nixon. To fill that void, they turn to the rumor about Jackie Gleason. Grant Cameron posted an article on Nixon at his now defunct Presidential UFO site in 2002, later updated to include the Larry Warren story. In the section, “Jackie Gleason, Richard Nixon, and the Florida Aliens,” Cameron said, 

“In February 1973 President Richard Nixon took a trip to Florida. On February 19, 1973, according to White House Records, the President met on the 18th green at the Inverness Golf and Country Club with Jackie Gleason. … If some rumored stories are to be believed, Nixon also came to Florida in 1973 to show Jackie Gleason bodies that were not from this planet.”

Thereafter, many UFO writers cited the date Feb. 19, 1973, as if it had been established by Beverly as part of the story. The “Presidential Daily Diary” does document Nixon’s brief visit to the golf club as part of his day but suggests nothing more.

Grant Cameron gave the talk on Nov. 16, 2003, in Nevada. Las Vegas Weekly said, “Ryan Wood set up this UFO Crash Retrieval Conference… 200 people showed up… One of the most interesting parts of the weekend seminar was Grant Cameron's rushed presentation about what the various presidents have said or known about ETs.” Cameron summarized the Nixon-aliens yarn and said, “Gleason was shaken up about it." From the text of the lecture at Cameron's current site:

“Three separate people claim to have been told the story by Nixon. (Bill Knell, Larry Warren and Beverly Gleason)… There is very little supporting evidence other than what [they] claimed Gleason told them about the event. In only the last few months Mrs. Gleason has reconfirmed the story she told so many years ago as being true.”

The Mutual UFO Network’s (MUFON) annual MUFON Symposium for 2004 was held July 16-18 in Denver, CO: "Unconventional Flying Objects - The Body of Technological Evidence." Director John Schuessler spoke first and incredibly, the Jackie Gleason legend was cited by three of the twelve speakers. Stephen Bassett and Paul Davids both briefly mentioned Gleason, but Grant Cameron discussed “key witnesses who should be testifying under oath” about UFOs. He suggested Beverly Gleason, summarizing the tale and saying, “Mrs. Gleason has been very open about this… she has stood by her story, first told many years ago.” 

Another Alleged Ear Witness

A less-famous version of the Gleason story surfaced from Bill Knell in the early 2000s, another ufologist with a shady reputation. In Knell’s “Jackie Gleason’s UFO Encounter” he backdates his alleged meeting to hear the story from Gleason to 1982, before the publication of Beverly’s National Enquirer story. In this tale, sometime in 1971 President Nixon arranged things for Gleason, but did not accompany him. Knell gives the location as MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, where Gleason was shown “a large piece of a broken disc just floating a few feet above the floor,” and told, “This material is from Roswell.” Instead of four bodies, in Knell’s version, Gleason was shown the remains of three, “The beings were about four to five feet tall…[they] had large oval eyes, grayish skin and looked male.”

Bill Knell on Coast to Coast AM, July 8, 2008

Like Larry Warren, Bill Knell has been found to have serious credibility problems.

The legend continued to be retold in books, magazines and online features. Sometimes with newly-invented details. Bill Birnes, The UFO Magazine UFO Encyclopedia, 2004, contained an interesting embellishment saying that, “The president arranged for Gleason to be flown by helicopter to Homestead” AFB to see the alien remains.

Larry Warren's version was fused with bits from Beverly McKittrick’s 2003 account in “Jackie Gleason's Trip To The Alien Morgue” by Marty Murray published at the (now defunct) site MortysCabin.net on April 9, 2006. It was widely copied and shared to UFO internet sites.

“Nixon, Gleason and the Alien Bodies” was Richard Dolan’s blending of the tales of Beverly McKittrick and Larry Warren in his 2009 book, UFOs and the National Security State, 1973-1991. The book was well-regarded at the time, considered a highly credible scholarly history of UFOs.

An outright fictional take. In 2010, Jeff Spevak wrote a short story based on the legends, “And Away We Go,” an imaginary conversation between Jackie Gleason and astronomer Carl Sagan.

The Open Minds site published Jackie Gleason says Nixon showed him ETs” by Alejandro Rojas Oct. 12, 2010, and cited Beverly’s imaginary Esquire story and the Larry Warren yarn. They gave the Gleason story got another spin in Open Minds UFO Magazine #9 – Aug./Sept. 2011, “Hollywood Stars and UFOs.”

A.D. After Disclosure by Richard Dolan and ‎Bryce Zabel, 2012. The authors’ introduction states, “The day will come when humanity reviews its history…” Discussing the Gleason-Nixon tale they say, “Events that seem like conspiratorial fantasy in a world without UFOs might seem credible in a world where their reality is confirmed.”

The half-hour UFO television series syndicated by Tribune Broadcasting covered the Gleason legend in a segment in one episode of Unsealed: Alien Files, S1, E12, “Aliens and Presidents,” which aired Feb. 9, 2013. Bill Birnes (publisher of UFO Magazine) recounted the story as allegedly told to Larry Warren. The narrator closed the segment by saying, “The U.S. Presidency holds many secrets. We may never know for sure if the tale of Nixon and alien bodies is true.”

Debunkers seldom acknowledged the Gleason yarn, but a rare skeptical article attempted to untangle the fiction at the Skeptoid Blog in “Richard Nixon, Jackie Gleason and Some Dead Aliens” by Mike Rothschild, April 8, 2013. It’s a good overview based on the facts available at the time, noting, “Where the story really starts to fall apart is Beverly Gleason's interview with Esquire.” Later, “The Larry Warren element of the story is equally problematic.” Sadly, the Skeptoid article couldn’t turn the tide and the schlock kept recycling.

Michael Schratt included the the Larry Warren story (along with imaginative illustrations by John McNeil) in his lectures on Retrievals of Third Kind, Dec. 2013. 

Making History

Hangar 1: The UFO Files debuted on the History Channel on Feb. 28, 2014, allegedly based on case files from MUFON. The tease for the first episode, “Presidential Encounters,” was: “President Nixon shares disturbing evidence of extraterrestrial visitors with a celebrity friend.” Reviews were mixed.

In Jason Colavito’s Hangar 1 review, he said, “How do I even try to dignify this claim? It comes from the National Enquirer, back when it published fake stories later given to the Weekly World News.”

The Legacy of the legend? The Weekly World News

To capitalize on the post-2017 UAP boom, Hangar 1 was repackaged as a collection of History Channel specials, the first episode recycled as UFOs the White House Files, first broadcast. Dec. 6, 2019.

Larry Holcombe's The Presidents and UFOs, 2015, like most published accounts, contains no original research on the story. It presented an unsourced recap of the legend, stating that Beverly had been interviewed by Esquire, then summarized Larry Warren’s version of the yarn. 

Return of the Fabulist

Backing up a bit to 1997: Larry Warren and Peter Robbins co-wrote the book, Left at East Gate: A First-Hand Account of the Bentwaters-Woodbridge UFO Incident, Its Cover-Up and Investigation. The book covered the Rendlesham case as part of Larry Warren’s life story, and it included many incidental anecdotes about his celebrity and UFO-related interactions. However, his alleged meeting with Jackie Gleason was not included. From Left at Eastgate, Warren’s description of the 1983 talk show featuring an author discussing his case:

“On Christmas Eve, my mother and I watched [Larry] Fawcett promote Clear Intent on the Merv Griffin Show. …some of the audience laughed, and Zsa Zsa Gabor feigned surprise.”

That episode actually aired on July 31, 1984. The newspaper listing for that day from the Tampa Bay Times: “Merv Griffin: “Guests: Robert Sam Anson (Exile), Zsa Zsa Gabor, actor Jack Wagner, author Larry Fawcett (Clear Intent).” For Dec. 31, 1983, depending on the market, a rerun of Merv Griffin’s Christmas special aired, or shows with Phyllis Diller, Dirk Benedict, Jane Russell or others. Warren was either mistaken or making things up.

Larry Warren’s tale about meeting Jackie Gleason was recycled for the 2015 book by Timothy Green Beckley, Shirley MacLaine Meets the Pleidians. To promote it, Beckley appeared on Coast To Coast AM with host George Noory on June 16, 2015. Larry Warren joined halfway into the first hour and talked about the story for 12 minutes. His disjointed account was interrupted by Noory and Beckley prompting him to cover details he omitted.

Warren said it started when the publisher of Clear Intent booked Larry Fawcett on a talk show, and he went, too.

“We ended up doing the Merv Griffin show. … I was able to go out to LA [Los Angeles] and do this thing with Merv. …Zsa Zsa Gabor was on the show… But Jackie Gleason was doing a commercial of some sort in this facility… Larry met him during this period… this all connects to the Westchester County UFO overflights… in 1984. … During this period, I don’t know if this was before or after that… Larry invited me to [Gleason’s house] near Briarcliff Manor, which is Westchester County, New York… [Jackie Gleason] wanted to meet me… Not his house in Florida… the circular thing, he had a normal kind of home… And I spent a day with the guy and Larry and some other people... Tim [Beckley] was the first guy, and Peter [Robbins] I told about this, and Larry mentioned it a few times.”

He said Nixon and Gleason were “close friends” and played golf together. “Nixon got away from his secret service” and drove to pick up Gleason at his house, then took him to Homestead AFB. “…something had crashed in Florida… and they had the wreckage and apparently nonhuman beings in temporary… like Coca Cola, the old freezers… to keep these things on ice. And he was shown a dead – a body or bodies of a nonhuman being. He didn’t see wreckage of anything.”

(Unrelated illustration, artist and source unknown.)

Warren said “he was the first to go on record” with this, and the ex-wife’s story came out later in the tabloids, he thought. “[Gleason] died in 1986, though I was on record before that.”

Instead of the private meeting in the 1992 published account, Warren was accompanied by Larry Fawcett and “some other people.” The only part of the story that resembles reality is that Fawcett did appear on the Merv Griffin show on July 31, 1984, however, Warren was not with him.

Afterwards, Beckley wrote an article on the show that was widely circulated over the internet, “And Away We Go… The Night Jackie Gleason saw the corpses of the Little Men from 'Mars.'” Beckley said, “Warren reiterated on Coast to Coast AM – almost exactly what he had said for the pages of my book.” Yahoo News crafted an article based on Beckley’s book on Nov. 27, 2015, “The Movie Stars Who Believe In UFOs.” It stated that when Beverly went public with the story, “it upset [Gleason] so much that he swiftly divorced her. Maybe he was just worried the Men in Black would come after him?” 

The Trouble with Larry

Larry Warren generated controversy over the years, but things came to a head in 2017. Evidence of fraud on several fronts surfaced, and Warren’s coauthor Peter Robbins essentially disowned their 1997 book together (Left at East Gate) saying, “I felt I had proved enough to myself of Larry's account and details surrounding it that he was telling the truth. And I feel now that in part that was not the case and there was an intent to deceive.”

The Mirror, May 30, 2017

The publisher withdrew the book and stopped publishing it. Celebrity UK ufologist Nick Pope had once endorsed it saying, “This book is dynamite.” After seeing the evidence of Warren's “bogus claims of friendships with various celebrities” and “various lies and frauds,” Pope concluded, “The verdict from the wider UFO community is clear: the Larry Warren story is officially dead.”

Somehow, the loss of credibility did not extend to Larry Warren’s version of the Gleason-Nixon-aliens story. Without his "corroboration" and embellishments, the story should have reverted to what it was in 1983, tabloid hearsay. Instead... 

The Legend Lives On

Fortean Times, May 2018, “The Entertainer, the President and the Aliens” was Brain J. Robb’s attempt to straighten out the story. He essentially leaves it an open question: “Why does this tale persist, when it is a house of cards built upon the flimsiest evidence?”

Cover illustration by Alex Tomlinson

Bill Birnes included the Larry Warren story in UFOs and The White House, 2018.

Nick Redfern repeated the tale credulously in Close Encounters of the Fatal Kind, 2014, then skeptically in Cover-Ups & Secrets in 2019, saying, “Did McKittrick lie? No... I would not be surprised if Gleason told Beverly the story exactly as she remembered it, but perhaps he told it as a joke. One that has been taken seriously by his wife.”

Ancient Aliens featured a segment on the tale in the April 18, 2020, episode, “Aliens and the Presidents.” It referenced “an article written by Beverly Gleason,” but all the details were derived from the Larry Warren version.

Stephen Bassett began the tag-team storytelling by saying, “Nixon and Jackie Gleason... they were very good friends…” Bill Birnes said Gleason was shown “alien artifacts, pieces of a UFO and a dead alien in cold storage.” Grant Cameron claimed, “I actually got the interview with Beverly Gleason. We actually interviewed her. She stayed to the story.” The segment concludes with Bassett saying, “This is extremely important, because it indicates that, almost certainly, Nixon was fully briefed on the E.T. issue.” Then the narrator said, “Is it possible that the incredible story is true? UFO historians suggest that Nixon's actions led to a clampdown on the information shared with future presidents and what they were allowed to say publicly.”

On Jan. 31, 2022, Bryce Zabel said in a Twitter poll about Presidents and UFOs: “Now we come to the story that people who study ufology love to tell… [Nixon] shows Gleason a collection of dead alien bodies that are suspended in some kind of liquid solution.” Zabel, who believes “the Gleason/Nixon story is quite likely true,” polled Twitter: “Did President Richard Nixon show a retrieved saucer and alien bodies to comedian Jackie Gleason?” 591 responded, about 250 voting yes, which he said, “gave support to the story’s truth with a plurality of nearly 43%.”

Larry Warren told his Gleason story again in a June 3, 2022, podcast interview, essentially repeating his 2015 tale from Coast To Coast AM., but with a few additional details and revisions. In this version, the Gleason-Nixon event was in 1969, and Warren said the alien bodies were in actual “red Coca-Cola machines… freezers… big red coolers with Coca-Cola on the side.”

"Nixon Showed Jackie Gleason 100% Definitive Proof of Aliens"

UFO filmmaker James Fox was on a podcast interview in Sept. 2022, and told a story about Jeff Sagansky (president of CBS 1990-94, producer of I Know What I Saw). Fox said Sagansky told him that he was friends with Jackie Gleason, and Jackie Gleason told him, “Jeff don't ever believe anyone that tells you that UFOs are not real. I had 100% definitive proof.” Fox said Gleason “was somewhat nebulous as to exactly what happened, but he said… ‘UFOs are real, they're here, it's a fact.’ So [Jeff] said he would always remember that encounter with Gleason.” [Fox repeated the Gleason bodies anecdote.]  “That's probably what Gleason was referring to, I would imagine…he didn't say to Jeff, you know, ‘Nixon showed me the bodies,’ he just said, ‘I had definitive proof.’”

Jackie Gleason: Back in Show Business

Searchlight is a forthcoming short independent film from writer and director Owen Royce, who pitches it by saying, “I came across a story too good to be true, involving Richard Nixon and Jackie Gleason. … I had to make this story into a short film. It gave me characters, drama, comedy, and some aliens to top it off. What more do you want in a film?”

Searchlight trailer 

Agents of Project Blue Book

Thrillorama Films also has a Gleason-related project, and has posted a video on YouTube of: “A sneak preview of the work in progress, ‘Agents of Project Blue Book.’”

Agents of Project Blue Book

The Final Gleason Interview

Jackie Gleason only lived another four years after the tale of him seeing alien bodies was published. Larry Bryant was apparently not the only ufologist to attempt to reach Gleason about the story. Leonard Stringfield (a specialist in UFO “crash retrievals” and pickled alien yarns) also received no reply from him. Gleason’s employee told CUFOS it was fiction. Gleason himself made a few comments afterwards about UFOs, but he never publicly acknowledged Beverly’s National Enquirer story in any way.

Jackie Gleason’s last major interview appeared in the August 1986 Playboy magazine, where he spoke to Bill Zehme. If the topic of UFOs came up, it didn’t make the final cut. Gleason was asked about his epic career as an entertainer, his personal life, and his reputation as a hard-drinking philanderer.

“Well, you never try to buck legends. That's an impossibility. You let them go and they finally die out. But the more you deny a legend, the healthier it gets.”

. . .

 

The Jackie Gleason Collection

The Miami News, Oct. 26, 1988

Marilyn Gleason donated his collection of paranormal literature to the University of Miami Library in 1988. Their site says, “the gathering of these materials represents the life-long accomplishment of an individual who found the scholarly and popular literature of parapsychology a fascinating and entertaining subject. … approximately 1,700 volumes of books, journals, proceedings, pamphlets, and publications… on such topics as: witchcraft, folklore, extrasensory perception (ESP), unidentified flying objects (UFOs), reincarnation, mysticism, spiritualism, mental telepathy, the occult, ghosts, clairvoyance, cosmology, demons, hypnosis, life after death, mediums, psychical research, voodooism, and others.”

 

Jackie Gleason and Aliens on Screen

Jackie Gleason kept his interest in aliens and flying saucers separate from his screen work, but there were at least two exceptions:

In 1951, a Cavalcade of Stars comedy featured Gleason in a skit called the "Son of The Thing" based on the movie, The Thing from Another World. 

The Honeymooners episode, “The Man from Space” on November 5, 1955. Ralph Kramden hoped to win the cash prize for a costume contest.

When Alice is puzzled by the costume, he said:
“What am I supposed to be? The Man from Space! …aren't you up on current events, don't you read the papers, don't you read comic books? That's the trouble with you, you don't know the latest developments.” When Ed Norton was surprised by the costume, he said, “Oh, it's you Ralph. Boy you had me scared… I thought we were being invaded!”


Many thanks to the following for supplying information and resources:

Martin Kottmeyer, Isaac Koi, Danny Miller, Jeff Knox, Steven Greenstreet, Jerome Clark, and Shepherd Johnson.




5 comments:

  1. Not Larry Warren again !! Please lets have something totally new Curt Collins.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This site deals exclusively in the un-new, but does take a fresh look and reveal new details about both genuine and counterfeit UFO cases. Check some of the other articles here, but if it doesn't grab you, thanks for stopping by.

      Delete
  2. Great piece! I've done a blog on this based mainly on Kenny Young's research, but, as usual, you go all out to find as much as you can. The list of ufoologists who've lent credence to this yarn is telling.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The story of Nixon dumping the Secret Service to pal around with Gleason is nonsense. With the assassination of JFK in 1963, followed by the assassination of his brother RFK and Dr. M.L. King in 1968, I guarantee you that Nixon couldn't break wind without the Secret Service knowing about it. Plus, Nixon was up to his ass in alligators with the Watergate scandal 1972-1974

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  4. Great article, thanks for the research and sharing it.

    ReplyDelete

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