Friday, May 4, 2018

1954: If you haven't read it, it's still Saucer News

The Pittsburgh Press Dec 29, 1954 featured a story on President Eisenhower's position on flying saucers and included comments from several prominent ufologists of the day. Leonard Stringfield, James W. Moseley, Max Miller and Meade Layne gave their views on the saucer status quo.
Leonard Stringfield and James W. Moseley

Max Miller and Meade Layne

· Wed, Dec 29, 1954 – Page 17 · The Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) ·

For Further Reading

Although these pioneering ufologists are gone, much of their work has been archived by UFO historians

Leonard Stringfield’s CRIFO (Civilian Research, Interplanetary Flying Objects) published the newsletter Orbit, and several issues are hosted at CUFOS.

Meade Layne’s group BSRA (Borderlands Science Research Associates) published Round Robin, which can be found at the organizations site.

Max Miller’s FSI (Flying Saucers International) published Saucers, and issues are archived at AFU, the Archives for the Unexplained.

James W. Moseley published Nexus later renamed Saucer News, and the first 10 issues, 1954 - 1955 are hosted at CUFOS.

STTF salutes the above organizations for preserving and sharing this and other historic UFO literature. 

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Engineer Who Saw a Flying Saucer... Lecture

Today, it's hard to find a good UFO story in the news, but in the 1950s, almost any flying saucer tale was worth printing, even if it was only second-hand. The Syracuse Herald-Journal from Syracuse, New York, in their June 15, 1954 issue reported that one of their ex-citizens, Thomas Mercurio saw a flying saucer lecture. The speaker was a "mechanic, whose name he did not recall." Mercurio heard the incredible tale of the man's ride in a flying saucer, his meeting the occupants, and the first close encounter with a female spaceship captain. But the man's name? That, he forgot.

A bit short on the journalistic basics of "Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How," but a fascinating report:

Syracuse Herald-Journal, June 15, 1954

The investigative team here at The Saucers That Time Forgot has been able to identify Mr. Mercurio's mystery mechanic as experiencer Truman Bethurum, the author of Aboard A Flying Saucer, and the female spaceship commander as the lovely Aura Rhanes.

From "Saucer story flew for a time," by Josh Grossberg from the Daily Breeze:

Truman Bethurum from Redondo Beach captivated crowds in the 1950s with his tales of riding in a spaceship and its exotic occupants... And its captain, Aura Rhanes, promised to take Bethurum to visit Clarion in the near future...
Capt. Rhanes was a beautiful woman who had a "slender Latin-type face" and wore a radiant red skirt, black velvet short sleeve blouse and a black beret with red trim...
Coming at a time when flying saucer mania was riding high, Bethurum's tale of olive-skinned, black-haired aliens, quickly captured the nation's attention. He enthralled a capacity (and paying) audience at the aptly named Neptunian Club in Manhattan Beach and, within a few years, was on the lecture circuit, entertaining enthusiasts with tales of intergalactic visitors. He spoke to Lions Clubs, and appeared on radio and television programs. He was especially popular with the Unidentified Flying Object Club of Sacramento and visited them several times. And in 1954, he wrote a book, Aboard a Flying Saucer. Even today, his allure continues to resonate...
Captain Aura Rhanes

A 1954 newspaper advertising one of Bethurum's many lectures promoting his saucer story:

San Mateo Times July 17, 1954

Truman Bethurum died in 1969, but fortunately, fragments of his lectures has been preserved for the ages. He, Like George Adamski told of how the aliens wanted to bring peace to our planet. From the Long Beach Independent, September 28, 1954:
Scientists the United States are now prying into the secret of flying saucer power – “some kind of anti-magnetic or antigravity force “– but will not be able to gain this knowledge "until we all lose our desire to fight with each other," “Bethurum said. 
"As soon as the fighting is over between us and the Rooshians and the Arabs and the Egyptians and everybody else we will have the secrets." 
Thomas Mercurio may not have remembered Truman Bethurum's name, but the sensational saucer story he heard from him was unforgettable.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Saucer Scares, 1954: Real Things Seen in the Skies

There is no doubt that many balloons of all sorts contributed to reports of flying saucers. General Mills was launching scientific experiments since 1947, but weather balloons had been aloft in the skies since the 1890s. There were also balloons being flown by the US government of of a more secret sort. Before spy planes and satellites took over the job, balloons were used by military intelligence to collect data on our enemies, and even as a means to distribute propaganda leaflets.
Some of these balloon flights, covert or otherwise were reported by witnesses as unidentified flying objects.

The Times News (Idaho) ran a story on April 20, 1950:
Wyoming Ranch Hand Discovers- "Saucer" Unreal
Other papers used headlines for the same story such as: "Western Flying Disc Turns Out To Be A Balloon" and "Cowpuncher Finds 'Flying Saucer' Just Navy Balloon"
DOUGLAS. Wyo.. April 30 (UP)— A Wyoming cowpuncher thought he had latched onto a real flying saucer but learned the object was merely a balloon for measuring cosmic rays. Ranch Hand Everett Fletcher sighted the object In the sky 32 miles north of here and followed it to the ground. "It scared me," he said. "I thought it was an honest-Injun saucer.” Stamped on a nameplate was 'This scientific apparatus is the joint property of the US. Navy and the University of Minnesota.” A telephone call to Minneapolis  identified the ball as a  navy instrument apparently used for measuring cosmic rays."Don't open it," a navy officer warned. "Don't fool with the thing. Ship it here Immediately." The air force and other defense agencies have said repeatedly their investigations have found no evidence on the existence of so-called “flying saucers.” 

Saucer Scares: 1954

Holland Evening Sentinel, May 26, 1954 

Jefferson City, MO Daily Capital News June 2, 1954

 Mckinney Daily Courier Gazette June 3, 1954

The Army's Flying Saucers

The Yuma Sun July 3, 1954 carried a feature, "Test Weather Station Bureau Operates Around the Clock." As an aside, it mentioned that the Army  balloon launches were sometimes mistaken for flying saucers.

BALLOON OR FLYING SAUCER? — Many re­ports of flying saucers across the country have actually been these Army weather balloons, shown in closeup here with Pvt. Robert F. Kennedy (left) and Lt. John Schwartz. The two weathermen are inflating; the white six-foot rub­ber balloon which may go as high as 20 miles above the earth.  

READY TO FLY — All the  recording data goes up into the stratosphere in the little radio boxheld here by Pvt. John Schwartz (right). Pvt. Robert F. Kennedy and Sgt. Gerald Levy pre­pare to launch the balloon. (Meteorology photos: all U.S. Army photos by Pfc. Paul Caponigro).
Note: No, this was a different Robert F. Kennedy, not the politician, but the Army photographer Paul Caponigro became famous, when he turned to other subjects after leaving the service, and has made a success of it.

THAR SHE BLOWS — Taking off on its 20-mile-high flight, the rubber weather balloon, filled with hydrogen, is released in the Research and Development area at Yuma Test Station. A radio transmitter hanging from the balloon keeps the ground crew informed of its where­abouts at all times.

Reports of Strange Craft from Outer Space 

Lowell Massachusetts had a population of 95,000 in 1954, and about 275 of their citizens made phone calls to the newspaper one August night to report an unidentified flying object.
Lowell, MA Lowell Sun, Aug 19, 1954
A voice of authority always helps to calm things down. Harry A. Bullis, General Mills' chairman of the board, was quoted to explain the strange things seen in the skies.

Bakersfield Californian Oct. 5, 1954

Cedar Rapids Gazette Oct. 17, 1954

As aerospace technology advanced,  the dependence on balloons for scientific experiments  diminished. Likewise, satellites and planes eventually eliminated the need for so many spy balloons. 
What happened to those who had so dutifully worked to construct these magnificent balloons? Some must have been assigned to other duties, but undoubtedly some were out of a job.
. . .

For further reading on balloons as UFOs, and the associated controversy, see: 
Exotic Balloons and the UFO Phenomenon – An Intertwined Puzzle by Joel Carpenter.

Friday, March 23, 2018

UFOs, Weather Balloons and Witnesses

Weather balloons were nothing new in the 1940s, and had been flying since the 1890s without causing much trouble - until the flying saucer fever of the 1940s. 

(Photo by Metropolitan News, 1935)
Pilot R. J. McNown of Northwest Airlines, watching Betty Burt release the 10,000th balloon for the Weather Bureau at the Chicago Municipal Airport, while government meteorologist E. D. Knarr prepares to follow the balloon's flight through the Theodolite instrument. 

In March 1953, Captain Edward Ruppelt prepared "Project Blue Book Special Briefing For Air Command," a lecture on the status quo of the Air Force's UFO investigation.  It included balloons in a section discussing common generators of false saucer reports. Some sightings were indeed balloons, but an AF study showed that during two months of peak "saucer fever," only about 14.5% of balloons launched had generated UFO reports.  
Project Blue Book Special Briefing For Air Command (Fold3)
The following is a collection of news clippings from 1952-3. All these flying saucers reports were explained as balloons - before being reported to the Air Force.

Dubuque Telegraph Herald Oct. 24, 1952
Radiosonde balloon release. U.S. Army photo
What these stories can tell us is that these Identified Flying Objects-to be can sometimes generate some reports with some unearthly sounding characteristics.

Jefferson City News and Tribune Nov.16, 1952

Clovis News-Journal, Nov. 16, 1952
1952 Radiosonde launch. Bracknell, Berkshire UK
Morning Avalanche Jan. 28, 1953

Bakersfield Californian, Jan. 31, 1953

In a follow-up piece, we'll take a look at the reports and excitement from what was flying in 1954.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Earth vs the Flying Saucers: Airboy #88, June 1951

Airboy #88, June 1951 features a little-known UFO story, "The Great Plane From Nowhere!" The 13-page story features no credits, but it's believed 
to be illustrated by Ernest Schroeder. You don't need to know much to get started. Adventurer Davy Nelson, aka Airboy, was the son of an aviator. His miraculous plane was named Birdie. In our summary we've renamed some of the characters just for fun.

The story begins with Professor George Adamski observing a spaceship from his observatory in atop Mount Palomar, California.

Captain Thomas Mantell is sent in pursuit of the object, but it is too high.

Airboy is called in by the Pentagon, and after they modify Birdie for the high altitude flight, he approaches the strange high-flying craft. He's pulled into it. Abducted!

Airboy becomes the first Contactee. He learns they fly the saucers and have come here after a natural disaster destroyed their world. Their ship is a flying city, Argus. He has been chosen to deliver a message to our world from the visitors, that they come in peace and are bearing gifts.

After the nations of the world decide to welcome the people of Argus, a landing site is chosen and Argus begins to descend. Earth's fleet of planes sent to escort them, but without warning or explanation, Earth attacks!

Airboy sides with Argus and gives them military advice on how to use their unarmed saucers to defend against the military aggression of the people of Earth. 

Argus is saved. Perhaps realizing that 1950s Earth was not ready to accept extraterrestrial immigrants wearing dresses, the people of Argus make other plans. Airboy goes back home, but we aren't shown the consequence of him siding with the aliens. All's well that ends well.

This story was published in 1951, a year before George Adamski's Nov. 20, 1952 close encounter with Orthon from Venus, another benevolent visitor here to share wisdom, peace and knowledge from beyond.

The full story is online at Comic

Friday, March 2, 2018

Explosive Tendencies: Fireball or Flying Saucer? Oct. 17, 1952

1952 was the year that put flying saucers on the map, but it was so busy that many reports were never investigated by Project Blue Book. The morning of October 17, 1952, a brilliant flash was seen in the sky in parts of Louisiana and Mississippi, and reports from witnesses came in of a mysterious fireball zig-zagging in the air, or an exploding airplane, or an attacking flying saucer.

The event made news, especially in the two states where it had been seen. From the Mississippi coverage:
The Daily Herald (Biloxi, MS), Oct. 17, 1952

On the Louisiana side of the Mississippi River, about 30 miles north of Natchez. Miss.. Deputy Sheriff Rosy Massony of Tensas Parish said "an awful jar shook windows in St. Joseph and Waterproof." The Tensas Parish sheriff's office is in St. Joseph. "Some of our boys told us pots and pans were rattled in kitchen shelves" Massony said. Massony said others who said they saw the flash were two Negroes driving an early morning grocery truck near St. Joseph. They said they stopped the truck when it looked as if the fireball was heading toward them. Massony said they ducked under the dashboard. In New Orleans an airport porter declared "the flying saucer" chased him to the sea wall.
Meanwhile, the meteorite had the spotlight. Radio Station KALB at Alexandria. La., said it had received reports from over Louisiana of an explosion or flash. One person told the station that he heard an explosion that "sounded like the blowing of a safe," and another said there was a "blue vapor trail" at about 14,000 feet. Sounded a bit like flying saucer stuff! 

Coverage of the story varied, depending on the information each paper had at the time the story went to press or the editor's appetite for sensationalism. 
The Orange Leader October 17, 1952

October 17, 1952 The Monroe News-Star from Monroe, Louisiana

The earliest story to get a good handle of the facts was from Alexandria, Louisiana.
The Louisiana Alexandria Daily Town Talk, October 17, 1952 - Page 1

Identify Mystery Light
Meteorite In Southern Sky Stirs Frenzy
Meteorite Excites Dixieland. A brilliant flash appeared in southern skies early today and authorities, here probably was caused by a meteorite. The bright light was seen by witnesses as far away as Shreveport, in the north- west, of Louisiana; and another report came from an air-line pilot who said he saw the flash while flying 50 miles north of Mobile, Ala. Buildings were reported lightly shaken at Natchez and Summitt, Miss. A long-distance operator in Jackson, called to ask if there were any reports of an explosion said the aerial explosion occurred about 4:10 a.m., approximately the same time buildings trembled in the two Mississippi cities. Persons saw the flash In Louisiana felt no concussion, however, and police said no sound was reported. 
Dr. Joseph F. Thompson, associate professor of astronomy and mathematics at Tulane University, said "the phenomenon probably caused by a meteorite" with "explosive tendencies." Dr. Thompson explained "burn up when they enter, the atmosphere and terrific heat stirs up inside the meteor core, When these gases certain temperature, their pressure can be enough to explode the meteor, causing terrific brightness." 
Local descriptions of the fireball varied from "it sounded like someone blowing a safe" to a report from Overton street where a woman reported she thought "the moon done slipped." C. Dupuy, of Poland, said a "light of great intensity" flashed over the area about 15 miles high. He said the light was so bright "I could have picked up a pin off the floor." Mrs. W. T. Franklin of Alexandria said she saw the trail of light near an explosion. The blast was followed by smoke-like colored rings, she reported. Other residents in the area reported seeing the flash and "colored smoke rings" in the sky after the fireball disappeared. Mr. and Mrs. Roy Caubarreaux, of Cocoville, between Marksville and Mansura, said they were awakened by the bright light. 


Once the facts were in, the excitement died down, but the story had a last gasp, as a treasure hunt for meteorites.
The Greenville, MS Delta Democrat-Times, Oct. 22, 1952

As with so many of the most interesting UFO cases featured here at The Saucers That Time Forgot, Project Blue Book has no file on this incident.

Friday, February 23, 2018

A Flying Cucumber Comes to Kansas, Sept. 1954

Before the term UFO for Unidentified Flying Object took hold, every flying weird thing was called a Flying Saucer - at least by the newspapers. John Jacob Swaim, though only age twelve, was found to be credible. He reported seeing a "cucumber ship," but also referred to it as a "saucer." What makes the story more remarkable is that Swaim the sighting included a small humanoid, and the fact that physical traces- tiny foot prints- were left behind to be examined by authorities.

First, the story as discussed in The Belleville Telescope from Belleville, Kansas, November 11, 1954.

A story appearing in the September 8 issue of the Wichita Eagle by Don Pinkston, reporter, concerning a 12-year-old Coldwater boy, John Jacob Swaim seeing a "flying saucer and a little man" was sent to The Telescope by Mrs. Clara Blakeloy of Scandia, a great-aunt of the boy. The boy's story seemed to be backed up by odd-looking footsteps found in the farm field of his father, John Swaim, the next morning by the county sheriff and other spectators. The news story indicates that John Jacob's "little man, and the saucer he flew away in. is the biggest topic of conversation in Coldwater and the surrounding community these days." Mrs. John Swaim, the boy's mother, is a niece of Mrs. Blakeley. More people read the Telescope than any other paper in North Central Kansas
Here's the story that had them talking:

Hutchinson News, Herald KS, Sept 15, 1954
On the editorial page of the Arkansas City Traveler, where it was noted that a Government investigation of the incident was unlikely. They close the article by defining their policy on printing saucer stories, "The reader is left to judge for himself..."

The Arkansas City Traveler, Sept. 20, 1954

Often misspelled as "Swain" in the few places that mention the sighting.

Gray Barker later covered the Swaim sighting story in Saucerian #6, Spring 1955, pages 12-13

The Lincoln Star coverage had the most detailed description of the unusual small footprints found at the sighting scene of this early close encounter of the third kind.
The Lincoln Star, Sept. 24, 1954

Another Cucumber

Project Blue Book has no file on this incident, however their files do carry a report on an earlier flying cucumber- one carried on the roll as "unidentified," Incident #252, dated  27 Jan 1949:  

Witness sketch by Capt. Sannes, USAF
A UFO sighting by a military witness AF Captain Eckerman Sannes and his wife Dorothy, between Cortez and Braderton, Florida.

Are these two cucumbers connected or coincidence? "The reader is left to judge for himself..."

The Professor's Message from Space

In 1952, UFO reports seemed to indicate an impending invasion by monstrous aliens: June 1952: News of Oskar Linke’s 1950 sighting of a lande...