Thursday, May 25, 2023

Einstein, the Evangelist and UFOs

There’s always more to the story than we hear. The article below has pieced together new information, but there’s undoubtedly much that was never published in newspapers or public documents. 

Einstein, the Evangelist and UFOs

Decades before flying saucers, Albert Einstein believed there was something out there. The London Daily Mail, January 31, 1920, printed his thoughts about the possibility of radio signals coming from the planet Mars.

“There is every reason to believe that Mars and other planets are inhabited,” answered the professor. “Why should the earth be the only planet supporting human life? It is not singular in any other respect. But if intelligent creatures do exist, as we may assume they do elsewhere in the universe, I should not expect them to try to communicate with the earth by wireless [radio]. Light rays, the direction of which can be controlled much more easily, would more probably be the first method attempted.”

Albert Einstein 1878-1955

In early July 1947, the press reached Albert Einstein in Princeton, New Jersey, to ask for his thoughts about the flying saucer controversy. He hadn’t heard about it, and Einstein had nothing to say on the topic.

The Democrat and Leader, July 8, 1947

The professor had other problems on his mind.

Alliance Times-Herald, July 4, 1947

There were some goofy tales circulating in 2021 that Einstein’s “no comment” was a cover-up. Instead, Einstein and a teenaged female student supposedly traveled to Roswell, NM to examine aliens from a crashed UFO. Enough of that. Let’s talk about some Einstein UFO-related business that actually happened. 

Dec. 27, 1949 – Newspaper front pages carried headlines about Einstein and flying saucers, but not together in the same story. Einstein had announced his “generalized theory of gravitation,” and in True magazine, Maj. Donald Keyhoe had sensationally stated that “The Flying Saucers are Real.”

The exchange didn't receive media coverage, but in late November, a boy asked Einstein about UFOs, according to The Ultimate Quotable Einstein, edited by Alice Caprice:

Speaking of science fiction...

Einstein was also busy promoting peace and advocating a one-world government. In 1950 he appeared on television warning against the dangers of poisoning from atomic war, saying, “…there beckons more and more and more general annihilation.”

The danger of atomic war annihilation was at the heart of the classic 1951 film Day the Earth Stood Still, where a flying saucer landed with a warning from space. Klaatu sought the help of “the smartest man on earth,” physicist Dr. Jacob Barnhardt, played by Sam Jaffe, whom reviewers noted was “obviously based on Prof.  Albert Einstein.” Months later, someone consulted the real-life Einstein about flying saucers. 

UFOs and the Gardner Evangelist Crusade

Louis Albert Gardner was from Eugene, Oregon, and worked as a weaver before serving in World War II, “under the command of General Douglas MacArthur.” His 1940 documents show his employment as a ship fitter, but after the war he found a new career. The 1950 Census shows he was living in San Francisco at the time, age 38, unmarried, employment: Evangelist.

The South Gate Press, Aug. 23, 1951

Gardner said he was with the Baptist Evangelist Church in Portland, Oregon, but most of his preaching was in California. He called his one-man traveling ministry the Gardner Evangelist Crusade. Gardner’s advertising said he “puts America’s news in sermon,” and one of the topics he chose to exploit was flying saucers, which was peaking in 1952.

At this point, we’ll let Gardner tell the story himself. He was among the many speakers at “the World' s First Flying Saucer Convention” held by Flying Saucers International on August 16-18, 1953, at the Hollywood Hotel in California, and his lecture was printed in Max Miller’s, Saucers, Dec. 1953:

My Opinions on Flying Saucers by Rev. Louis A. Gardner

WE HAVE OFTEN HEARD WORLD leaders, statesmen, politicians, writers, journalists and television and radio commentators refer to Joseph Stalin, of the Soviet Union, as an "enigma inside a riddle wrapped up in a mystery" because of his mysterious nature and past finding out. This description is certainly applicable to the mystery surrounding the "Flying Saucers" that have been seen by scores of competent observers in mass flight in the skies over Mexico and the length and breadth of the U.S.A. since 1947.

While in the United States Navy stationed in Japan, under the command of General MacArthur, I saw first hand what the Model 'T' A-bomb did to the city of Naggasaki, Japan. I made up my mind then and there that anything the human brain was capable of thinking up is possible.

I now believe flying saucers are more than a remote possibility and could conceivably come from outer space, that is, other worlds such as Mars or Venus, which along with the Sun, Moon and other planets, comprise our solar system.

If these sightings had been made only during the War with Japan, when Japan was sending their deadly balloons across the Pacific to our West Coast, we could lay the flying saucer dilemma to war phobia, optical illusion, or general fear. But when these objects 1n the sky have been in mass formation and flight almost three years after cessation of hostilities - no wonder the major newspapers, periodicals and magazines have devoted millions of dollars worth of space trying to arrive at a satisfactory explanation of the flying discs.

JULY OF 1952 I WAS preparing a talk dealing with the controversial flying saucers. I was seeking the best scientific knowledge. I thought of Dr. Einstein, but again thought it futile to write such a prominent scientist.

At long last, I have learned that the only sure way to get needed information and material is to go to the very top authority. I could never understand telling some secretary my problem, only to have the secretary answer with a silly grin: "Well he is busy for the day " or "Will be back next week" when you know full well that he is sitting just inside the door.

So I went to the top. I wrote to Prof. Einstein, Advanced Study of Higher Mathematics, Princeton University. July 23rd, '52, I received an air mall letter, on Dr. Einstein's own letter head, and signature, verifying that those people saw something. Of course I regarded it quite an honor and privilege to receive any kind of answer from such a renowned and eminent scientist as Dr. Einstein.

Here are the exact excerpts or the questionnaire I sent Dr. Einstein:

“Do they originate in outer space?"

"Do they come from other worlds, such as Mars or Venus?"

“Do they come from our military rivals?"

“Are they the product of our own Air Force experiment?”

HERE IS DR. EINSTEIN'S letter to me, a letter that was printed perhaps in the newspapers of every civilized city and town in the world. Columbia Broadcasting System's television show, It's News To Me, thought the Einstein letter of such interest that they used it on their entire television hookup, including Los Angeles, California, which was viewed by millions of TV fans.

Here is the Professor's thoughts on the subject of flying saucers:

"July 23, 1952

"Dear Sir:

Those people have seen something. What they saw I do not know and I am not curious to know.

Sincerely yours, Albert Einstein

Mr. Louis A. Gardner

911 West 7th Place

Los Angeles 14, Cal."

AUGUST 1ST, 1952, I WAS walking along Broadway in downtown Los Angeles, with an associate of mine, Miss Frances Coyne, who is associated in the Gardner Evangelistic Crusade. I was telling her about the Einstein letter, and the publicity that the television, radio and newspapers were giving the subject, when I happened to look up at the moon, and near it I saw what appeared to be a huge red ball. I called it to the attention of those on the street. It seemed to linger near the moon and then just move back in the depths of space. I was reluctant to call the press, because of the publicity I got earlier that week, when I asked but didn't get an explanation on the flying saucers from Dr. Einstein.

However what I saw was so real, that in about five minutes I called the newspapers to report what I had seen. And sure enough five minutes before my report a young amateur astronomer, Frank Acuna, saw the same object as he was studying the moon through his telescope at the same place at the same time 8:15 p.m.

. . .

What became of Einstein and the Evangelist Afterwards?

The story of Gardner’s letter from Einstein made a big splash in the news, just as he said.

The press characterized Einstein’s reply as him being unconcerned or uninterested in flying saucers. Perhaps the professor just didn’t want to get involved in the controversy.

Einstein couldn’t be bothered by saucers and continued to work on a unified field theory up until his death in 1955.

Editorial from The Herald (Rock Hill, SC) March 18, 1953

As for Rev. Gardner, his claim of seeing a UFO in California skies on Aug. 1, 1952, was reported in the media at the time. Reports of UFOs in the area were made by other witnesses and were filed to Project Blue Book.

Los Angeles Mirror, Aug. 2, 1952

Gardener spoke for four nights in Spokane, Washington, on topics including, “The Truth to Date About Flying Saucers” and on the danger of the H-bomb, “America Wake Up or Blow Up.”

The Spokesman-Review, Aug. 30, 1952

Rev. Gardner had achieved some minor fame due to his reply from Einstein. He’d also became a UFO witness, included saucers in his sermons, and was a lecturer at the big Hollywood convention in 1953. Gardner could have easily developed a lucrative career as a UFO lecturer and author. Instead, he was busy with distractions that earned him a rap sheet with the FBI. 

Hitting the Skids

Gardner continued his Evangelism and had written and copyrighted at least two publications. He was married around this time, and had he ambitions to take the Gardner Evangelist Crusade. In 1954, when Gardner was arrested for stealing donations for the blind, and the police search uncovered dozens of items he’d shoplifted from drugstores.

From The Daily News, April 27, 1954:

Evangelist Arrested on Theft Count

The Rev. Louis A Gardner, 42, an evangelist who conducts church revival meetings hereabouts on the theme, “Strike It Rich,” yesterday was arrested on a charge of stealing charity donations for the blind. Reverend Gardner was captured by Inglewood police officers William Sidall and Charles Devereaux, and waitress Pauline Alexander after a three-block chase from King's Restaurant, 200 N. Market Street. During the Sprint the Reverend Gardner threw away a box containing the donations for the blind which he had allegedly taken from the cashier's desk of the restaurant after having a cup of coffee there. At the police station the Reverend Gardener's pockets were found to contain $242 along with 25 ballpoint pens, 14 packages of razor blades and numerous newspaper clippings telling of revival meetings he had conducted in Los Angeles churches. He lives at 911 7th Pl., Los Angeles.

Another paper's coverage: 

 Los Angeles Daily Times, April 27, 1954

There was no record of a court date or conviction, so Gardner may have only paid a fine at the worst. To avoid the bad publicity, he preached for a while as Rev. L. Albert Gardner and moved away from Los Angeles, relocating to an apartment in Berkley, CA. Not much else is documented on him until he was arrested for theft in Oakland. 

“The minister’s downfall came when he ordered a milkshake in a restaurant at 5492 College Ave. then allegedly snitched a March of Dimes can as he left. Mrs. Bee Stair, the restaurant proprietor called the police. Before a police car caught him two blocks away, the Rev. Mr. Gardner had stolen a second polio fund can from the Chimes Market [down the street].”

The San Francisco Examiner, Feb. 9, 1956

The strange thing was that Gardner had $2,041 in money orders and cash in his wallet from lectures and Bible sales. Gardner pleaded for mercy saying he needed the money to buy a tent for his ministry. “I never did anything like this before. Absolutely never. I don't know why I did it. I walked in there. The can was there. I just took it.”

There were other crimes that did not make the papers: “…a check with FBI officials revealed Gardner’s partial record includes burglaries and mail theft as well as minor offenses.” This time, Gardner went to jail. The story was picked up by the Associated Press and carried in many papers throughout California.

Oakland Tribune, Feb. 10, 1956

Gardner "told police at the time that he stole because he lost $14,000 in the uranium market." Some other UFO-related folks that took big financial hits in the uranium market were Richard Shaver and Kenneth Arnold. There is no record of them turning to criminal behavior, however.

After Rev. Gardner was punished in California, he left the state. From then on, either he stopped stealing, didn’t get caught, or his crimes didn’t make the newspapers. He lived for a short while in Chicago, Illinois, then moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota. Besides his evangelistic preaching, he kept busy with soliciting donations, distributing Bibles, and the occasional publicity stunt.

Chicago Tribune, May 20, 1960

Star Tribune, Sept. 14, 1963

The Minneapolis Star, Jan. 25, 1964

The Minneapolis Star, March 7, 1964

Minneapolis Tribune, March 8, 1964

Minneapolis Tribune, April 16, 1964

We were unable to find any further trace of Rev. Gardner, but if he was still alive and preaching in 1966, he would have almost certainly included flying saucers in his sermons during the public’s outrage over the “swamp gas” fiasco. Nevertheless, Gardner’s name still comes up frequently in UFO literature for Einstein’s reply to his 1952 letter. 

Einstein and Beyond

Albert Einstein was never closely associated with flying saucers, but in the 1977 film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the aliens return people they’ve abducted over the decades, all as young as when they were taken. A scientist notes, “They haven't even aged. Einstein was right.” The team leader replies, “Einstein was probably one of them.”

NASA honored the professor in a 2003 publication relating to space science and exploration. From Einstein and Beyond: “A century ago, Albert Einstein began creating his theory of relativity -- the ideas we use to understand space, time and gravity.”

Getting back to UFOs. It is documented that the professor was asked twice about flying saucers but chose not to be drawn into the controversy. This perhaps proves that Albert Einstein was indeed the smartest man on Earth.

We’ll close with an imaginative painting from Hajime Sorayama.

Albert Einstein & UFO, 1975

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