Thursday, June 6, 2024

Frank Edwards: Making UFOs Newsworthy

Dr. J. Allen Hynek on UFO literature (in The Edge of Reality, 1975): “If I were to recommend anything in the popular category, I would choose one of Frank Edwards’ books.”

Frank Allyn Edwards (August 4, 1908 – June 23, 1967) had a long career in radio broadcasting, but things really took off for him when he was hired by the Mutual Broadcasting System in 1942. The job brought him national recognition, even more so in the late 1940s when flying saucers were often part of Edwards’ news coverage. 

In his UFOs: A History series, Loren Gross wrote about how “newsman and radio commentator Frank Edwards helped “blow the UFO story wide open” in 1949, and become a major advocate for the topic.

“Edwards was a persuasive showman and had an access to the media that would give him influence far exceeding the value of his personal research and conclusions. Books later authored by Edwards on the UFO subject would achieve best seller ranking. They would be done in a popular writing style which breezed to sensational conclusions, but one has to seriously credit him with generating public concern about the UFO problem over a period of many years when other newsmen looked down their noses at the whole business.”

Edwards became one of the earliest UFO celebrities, frequently publishing articles in Fate magazine, where he was a contributing editor. He was also the author of several bestselling books on the paranormal, two of them focused on UFOs, and lectured on the same topics. In 1956, he was appointed a member of the Board of Governors of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena. (NICAP), the UFO organization led by Donald Keyhoe.

The following collection of pictures, quotes, and article clippings provides some texture to Frank Edwards’ long and remarkable involvement on the topic of UFOs and aliens. 

1949 -1959

In late 1949, Frank Edwards received an advance copy of a hot article sent to his office by mistake. In his April 28, 1956 in New York he said:

“One night in December. a package came in… and it was a rough copy of True magazine with a lead article by Major Donald Keyhoe called "The Flying Saucers Are Real.” …I wanted to use the story right away; I had only a few hours before I went on the air, so I called Ken Purdy. the editor of True…got him out of bed. I had a hard time getting his agreement, because he'd already made arrangements with Walter Winchell. but I insisted until he said, ‘Go ahead.’ I broke the story, and it made the news wires the next day all over the country.” 

Southern Illinoisan, Dec. 22, 1949

In his 1956 book, My First 10,000,000 Sponsors, Edwards told what happened afterwards:

“A few days after my broadcast Winchell and Lowell Thomas picked up the story from True and the flying saucer controversy was off for another round. A great deal of criticism has been leveled at the Air Force over the manner in which it has dealt with the public on the subject of Unidentified Flying Objects. Some of that criticism is warranted, I think, for it is my opinion that the Air Force has bungled this particular assignment badly.”

The Morning Herald Mail, (Hagerstown, MD) Jan. 10, 1950

“Frank Edwards, Mutual Broadcasting System expert on current affairs... has been discussing the flying saucers frequently on his regular program, emphasizing the theory that the mysterious objects come from other planets.”

The Daily Tribune, Feb. 13, 1950

The Green Bay Press-Gazette, April 25, 1952, featured a story by Coral Lorenzen story discussing Edwards’ UFO broadcasts.

“Hate Monger” was the title of the column in The Daily American, November 27th, 1952, “Spotlight for the Nation,” reprinted from U.S.A. The Magazine of American Affairs, Nov. 1952 by Victor Lasky. It was a scathing profile on Edwards, that opened with a quote, “These are sad days for the congressmen who are friends of the common man... Monopoly is king, and the nation's small businessman and wage earners are the forgotten men.” Lasky went on to say:

“Such wild charges are the usual stock and trade of commentator Frank Edwards, who brings to his job of news ‘analysis’ a lively imagination, fortified by a bellicose mood towards big business, conservative members of Congress, and all others who refuse to conform to the line laid down by the nation's labor politicians.”

“Edwards commentary, which costs the AFL close to $750,000 a year and is carried on 150-odd stations, has a relatively simple format. An announcer opens the 15-minute broadcast by saying, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, 8 million Americans bring you Frank Edwards and the news … sponsored by the 8 million men and women who make up the American Federation of Labor, your friends and fellow citizens are working for better conditions in America for all of us.’”

“… Throughout his radio time, he flits back and forth between straight news reporting and editorializing... In addition to reciting the news and slamming business, he has a few special preoccupations which his listeners have long since become used to. The chief of these is certainly flying saucers, about which Edwards takes a characteristically radical view. Experts in their Air Force and out of it who tried to explain away the saucers with relatively simple explanations about light reflections and weather balloons generally get short shrift from Edwards. He makes a point of digging up the most baffling saucer items he can find, and flinging them in the teeth of the experts - to the apparent delight of his audience. It is not saucers, however, or his sense of humor, which have made Edwards a controversial radio name; It is his repeated assaults on business. Secure in his AFL sponsorship, he has no hesitation about mouthing the most wildly irresponsible charges about businessmen, Congress, editors and others bold enough not to toe the official labor line.”

Lasky blasted away for another dozen paragraphs, and concluded by saying, “Perhaps it's about time for labor - or at least Frank Edwards - to learn that business, too, is a respectable calling, and the commentators have a responsibility to deal honestly with it.”

The River News and Twin State News-Times, Aug. 7, 1952

The Vancouver Sun (BC) Sept. 9, 1952

 The Star Tribune, Aug. 13, 1954 

After his dismissal from Mutual, Edwards continued working in radio, mostly at smaller local stations. He created and hosted a syndicated radio program and newspaper column, Stranger Than Science, which discussed UFOs, Forteana, the supernatural, and other phenomena.

Frank Edwards article, "Spies From Other Space," appeared in Real (the exciting magazine for men), Nov. 1954.

“What Do You Think?”  was the title of the pilot for a half-hour debate show by 1955 Hullinger Productions filmed in Washington, D.C., It was moderated by Frank Edwards, and the episode was “What are the Flying Saucers?" 

Donald Keyhoe and UFO witness William B. Nash argued the extraterrestrial position, while rocket scientist Willy Ley and the science editor of Time magazine, Jonathan Leonard, took the skeptical point of view. The program was never broadcast, which Edwards blamed on government censorship. He subsequently showed the film during at least one 1957 lecture appearance. 

Thanks to Shepherd Johnson for these images taken from the film at the Library of Congress.

Pensacola News, June 3, 1956

On April 28, 1956, Frank Edwards lectured at a public meeting hosted by the UFO research group, Civilian Saucer Intelligence New York. Their bulletin carried a condensed version of his talk, “Flying Saucers – In, On, And Off the Air.” Long before Stanton Friedman and Bill Moore, Edwards was talking and writing about Roswell.

Edwards wrote a biographical bookMy First 10,000,000 Sponsors, here's a link to a review of it by Bill Ladd. Later in the year, his second book was published, a non-fiction book about phenomena. Ed Klinger’s review in Evansville Press, Dec. 21, 1956, of  Edwards' Strangest of All noted that the author was a collector of tales of the unusual. “Frank Edwards has been for years an avid reader of the findings of other collectors - Charles Fort... Edwards is a member of the famous Fortean Society in New York. … Mysterious rains of rocks, animal demonstrations of senses beyond those of humans, flying saucers - these are all grist for the Edwards mill.”

The legend of Edwards’ firing by his network became another UFO cover-up myth, one he helped create, as seen in his article for Fate magazine, June 1957, “The Plot to Silence Me." 

Facebook post by Jeff Knox with the complete article.

The Logansport Press, July 23, 1959

The Enterprise-Journal, Nov. 6,  1959

The 1960s

The Park City Daily News, Feb. 21, 1960

Evansville Press, Nov. 16, 1961

Oakland Tribune, March 18, 1962

The Springfield Leader and Press, June 28, 1962, featured a profile on Edwards and his career, and included details of his own UFO sighting from 1961.

The Springfield Leader and Press, June 28, 1962

The News and Observer, May 31, 1964

Editorial: "Extraterrestrial Scoop" from the Toledo Blade, Nov. 20, 1964

Sioux City Journal, May 8, 1965

The Pittsburgh Press, Dec. 6, 1965

It looked and sounded like a Frank Edwards book, but he only wrote the introduction. Strange Fate Compiled by the Editors of Fate Magazine, 1965.

The Reporter-Times, Feb. 15, 1966

The Kokomo Morning Times, March 18, 1966

Flying Saucers – Serious Business was published in mid-1966. The book became a bestseller, reaching a mainstream audience and was a big influence on public opinion.

The Daily News, June 10, 1966
The Cincinnati Enquirer, May 30, 1966

The Chicago Tribune, June 7,1966

The Los Angeles Times, June 10, 1966

The Lincoln Star, July 7, 1966

The Miami Herald, Aug. 7, 1966

The Miami Herald headline and photo below from Aug. 9, 1966

The Star Press, Aug. 21,  1966

The Los Angeles Times, Sept. 4, 1966

The Kokomo Tribune, Nov. 4, 1966

Edwards had his critics. “The Truth About ‘Serious Business’" by Coral E. Lorenzen from APRO Bulletin September-October 1966:

“All in all, Edwards' presentation of the Socorro (24 April 1964) case contained at least 12 errors. Some of the things which did not happen but which Edwards presents as the truth… It must be remembered that Mr. Edwards is a writer and radio announcer, and that his efforts are mainly entertainment-oriented and not research-oriented. The above information is only a sample of the inaccuracies in Mr. Edwards' book, which is catastrophic to researchers who deal with facts.”

Roswell was mentioned again by Edwards in Flying Saucers – Serious Business, 1966:

Roswell in the 21st Century by Kevin D. Randle, 2016, acknowledged its place in history.

“Frank Edwards did mention the Roswell case in a book published in 1966. He got almost all the details wrong, but he did report, accurately, that something had fallen. His mention didn't provide anything other than the location and there wasn't much of a way to follow up on his claims. All it showed is that the story was out there, somewhere.”

In Dec. 1966, a record album was released,  Frank Edwards Presents Flying Saucers - Serious Business

Listen at this link:  Frank Edwards Presents Flying Saucers - Serious Business

The Pittsburgh Press, April 6, 1967

The Kokomo Tribune, Nov. 4, 1966

While at the peak of his literary career, Edwards' life was cut short by a heart attack.

Evansville Press, June 28, 1967

The Boston Globe - Ask the Globe, Oct. 15, 1967

“Death of Frank Edwards” appeared in the NICAP bulletin, UFO Investigator, Oct. 1967

Edwards' final book was published after his death, and it too was a bestseller.

Newspaper ad, May 5, 1968

Frank Edwards was possibly the most successful UFO advocate of all time, becoming a household name and bestselling author. Half a century later, we haven't seen anyone else come close.

Former President Harry S. Truman with Frank Edwards.

. . .

Books by Frank Edwards

My First 10,000,000 Sponsors, 1956.

Strangest of All, 1956.

Stranger Than Science, 1959.

Strange People, 1961.

Strange World, 1964.

Flying Saucers – Serious Business, 1966.

Flying Saucers – Here and Now!,1967.

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