From the bar stools to the message boards, conversations about aliens seem to follow a pretty basic pattern. For one, believers always seem convinced of the existence of an alien race because of 'those science shows on cable' in which the vastness of the universe is put on full display in all its CGI-induced glory. The scientific community does its part of making alien contact seem like its nothing more than a waiting game. Consider this latest announcement from the Russian Academy of Sciences Applied Astronomy Institute:
"Russian scientists expect humanity to encounter alien civilisations within the next two decades, a top Russian astronomer said on Monday.
"'The genesis of life is as inevitable as the formation of atoms ... Life exists on other planets and we will find it within 20 years,' said Andrei Finkelstein, director of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Applied Astronomy Institute, according to the Interfax news agency.
"Speaking at an international forum dedicated to the search for extraterrestrial life, Finkelstein said 10% of the known planets circling suns in the galaxy resemble Earth.
"If water can be found there, then so can life, he said, adding that aliens would most likely resemble humans with two arms, two legs and a head.
"'They may have different colour skin, but even we have that,' he said.
"Finkelstein's institute runs a programme launched in the 1960s at the height of the cold war space race to watch for and beam out radio signals to outer space."
In other words, the programme was part of Russia's PR program concerning the space race during the Cold War. And the difference between public relations and propaganda is...
Another feature is the belief that popular culture is being used to condition the populace to the existence of the aliens because if word were to get out now, before the conditioning was completed, society would simply end from the shock.
And perhaps that may have been true over 40 years ago, but in 2011? I've lived in the South for most of my life and in all honesty I probably know more people convinced of the imminent arrival of the Star People than the Second Coming. If anything, the conditioning has been so effective at this point that few can accept that UFOs can be anything other than hoaxes, military air crafts, or extraterrestrials. If you really want to see shock amongst John Q Public, suggest that UFOs are piloted by fairies or elves from Magonia. That's not something they're apt to see on cable.
Finally, while many extraterrestrial researchers acknowledge that the United States government has been willfully engaged in a cover-up (typically in league with the aliens themselves) of the phenomenon, there still remains a persistent belief that when the time is right Uncle Sam will finally bring all that is hidden to light. The notion that the United States government is almost solely responsible for creating and maintaining the modern UFO phenomenon is yet another avenue that will rarely be addressed on cable.
Yet the modern UFO movement at times reads like a who's who of assorted black opts assets from its very inception. Simply consider the players in the legendary Maury Island incident:
"On June 21, 1947 -the summer solstice -six unidentified flying objects were seen over Maury Island in Puget Sound in the State of Washington. The observers were Harold A. Dahl, a harbor patrolman who was avoiding bad weather by anchoring in Maury Island Bay, his two crewmen, his teenaged son and a dog. The objects were doughnut-shaped and were hovering at about two thousand feet over the boat, according to Dahl. One of the six seemed to be in trouble, as it was losing altitude and was being circled by the other five. The objects seemed to be metallic, with a hole in the center (hence the idea they were 'doughnut-shaped') and with portholes around the outer circumference. Each of the objects seemed to be about one hundred feet in diameter.
"There was a small explosion, and one of the objects rained hot metal all over the boat, killing the dog, damaging the boat and injuring the teenaged son. Dahl quickly beached his craft and began taking pictures of the objects, which soon took off and headed towards Canada. Dahl tried to radio for help or to make a report, but his radio was jammed. Instead, bewildered, he headed back to Tacoma. He got some treatment for his son's injured arm, and then took his evidence -the camera, the film and some samples of the metallic slag -to his boss, am an known as Fred Lee Crisman.
"This is a seminal event. No matter on what side of the Kennedy assassination one finds oneself -a believer in the Warren Report, or a believer in a conspiracy -the Fred Crisman element strains credulity. More than twenty years after this event, Crisman will be subpoenaed by District Attorney Jim Garrison as a suspect in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Crisman, a former OSS officer, a man with a CIA file, a man friendly with Clay Shaw... in at the birth of the twentieth century's UFO experience?..
"Crisman wanted to investigate the site where Dahl's boat was damaged, but the previous night a stranger visited Dahl at his home and advised him to forget the whole thing. The man was dressed in black, and what was unusual was the fact that the incident had not yet been reported outside of Dahl's and Crisman's circle. Regardless, he next day -on June 23, 1947 -Crisman went out to Maury Island and found what appeared to be molten glass or metal and foil, but not before another UFO passed overhead. Crisman returned to Tacoma, not knowing what to do at the moment with the information and evidence he had acquired, or so it seemed. So far, the UFO sighting was a localized event, a small town anomaly."
(Sinister Forces Book One, Peter Levenda, pgs. 168-169)
Further, one of the key figures in the Maury Island incident was Fred Crisman, a former OSS man and long suspected CIA asset with links to the Kennedy assassination. In fact, one of the truly bizarre threads of modern American history that this researcher has encountered is the crossover between the UFO phenomenon and the Kennedy assassination. As we shall see, Crisman was not the only player to be involved in both events. I've already tackled some of this overlap before in a blog on the Nine, which provides some more details on this bizarre thread.
Anyway, on to the Kenneth Arnold sightings. I will allow those unfamiliar with the Arnold sightings to follow the prior Wiki link for details. I am primarily concerned with Fred Crisman's role in the affair. Continuing with Levenda:
"His [Crisman] relationship to Raymond A. Palmer, the editor of Amazing Stories, is full of answered questions. Why this former OSS officer and harbor patrolman would be involved with a man who published fantasy tales of underground civilizations, weird military experiments (such as the Philadelphia Experiment, in which it was claimed the military had developed a device that could dematerialize a ship and then re-materialize it somewhere else on earth, a story that was later believed to be true by an astonishing number of persons), and mischievous aliens from other worlds, is not clear. Like fellow OSS officer Peter Tompkins after him, Crisman may simply have been fascinated by the paranormal and by speculative history. Or his interest may reveal a slightly more sinister agenda. Speculation is rampant that Crisman's role was that of a disinformation specialist, and that his ultimate purpose was to devalue the UFO reports, or, failing that, to erase all traces of the evidence.
"Crisman contacted Palmer in writing concerning the Maury Island incident; Palmer himself contacted Arnold about the Mount Rainier sighting, offering a two hundred dollar advance for his story. These were only two of a large number of UFO sightings that were taking place that month and into July."
(ibid, pgs. 170-171)
Note the early overlap with the entertainment industry. Sci-Fi geeks reading this piece will already know that the magazine Amazing Stories had an enormous early influence on the gerne -both George Lucas and Steven Spielberg would claim it as a major inspiration. This is one of many overlaps between the intelligence community and the science fiction that we shall encounter. As noted in the blog on the Nine, Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, would also rub shoulders with some curious figures as will several other Sci-Fi legends we shall encounter in the course of this series.
Anyway, back to Arnold, Dahl, Crisman, and the rest of the merry band:
"Meanwhile, Kenneth Arnold arranges to meet Harold Dahl in Tacoma, Washington at the request of Raymond Palmer. The date is set for July 30, 1947...
"Once arrived in Tacoma, Arnold discovers that all the hotels are fully booked. Discouraged, he tries the most expensive place in town and finds, incredibly, that a room has been reserved for him by name although no one knows who made the booking.
"The next day, he meets Dahl. Dahl, however, is still unnerved by his visit from the 'man in black' the previous month and is hesitant to talk to Arnold. Arnold, motivated in part by the two hundred dollar advance from Palmer and partly by his own curiosity about the sightings taking place, presses Dahl for more information.
"Dahl finally breaks, and tells Arnold the same story he told Crisman. Dahl's photographs are gone, of course: he has given his camera and his film to Crisman. He did, however, manage to keep back a few pieces of the 'slag' that fell from the damaged UFO. He showed Arnold a piece of what seemed to be volcanic rock, not a very suspicious-looking fragment. Dahl also told Arnold about a letter he had received, which stated the UFOs were piloted by aliens who had become visible due to US atomic explosions, and that they were visiting the earth to help protect it from unspecified enemies. The letter writer was anonymous, and one can't help wondering if Crisman was behind this, as well...
"...it was reported that United press International had received verbatim transcripts of their interviews and discussions, the ones held at Arnold's mysteriously-booked hotel room! Suddenly, it was all becoming clear. Arnold's presence in Tacoma had been part of a larger plot; his room was selected in advance and bugged; the information he extracted from Dahl, and his conversations with Smith, were sent to the news agency (for what purpose can only be imagined). It seemed as if there was an operation underway to discredit the Maury Island UFO report and to do that with Kenneth Arnold, a much more credible witness than either Dahl or Crisman. Two birds with one stone?
"...Arnold called the men who had debriefed him after his own UFO sighting, Lieutenant Brown and Captain Davidson. They agreed to fly out to Tacoma immediately to see what Arnold had. They arrived later that day, talked with both Arnold and Smith, seemed to dismiss the whole affair as a hoax, and returned to the airport for their ride home. Arnold was nonplussed. It appeared to him as if they had already dismissed the story in advance of their arrival. If so, then why bother coming out at all?
"At the airport, an odd thing happened, one which has plagued UFO researchers for years. Crisman, the man the intelligence officers seemed to think was nothing more than an oddball hoaxer, turned up at the last minute and gave the men a heavy box which he claimed was filled with debris from the damaged UFO. To Arnold, who was there, the contents looked like a bunch of rocks. The men stowed the box in the trunk of their car and left for the airport, catching their flight.
"They never made it back.
"Both Davidson and Brown were killed. The enlisted men on board parachuted to safety after the left engine caught fire -according to the report of one of the survivors -and the two officers remained with the aircraft for a full ten minutes before the B-52 bomber crashed to earth. No one has any idea why the two intelligence officers would have remained with the plane and not parachuted themselves; or why they did not radio a distress call. The emergency fire-fighting equipment was inoperable, so there was no chance to save the plane. According to Major George Sander of the US Army Air Corps, the plane was carrying classified material. Was that a reference to the box of rocks carried on board by Davidson and Brown?"
(ibid, pgs. 171-173)
It was several days after the Arnold sighting that one of the Holy Grails of UFO culture first surfaced publicly, namely the legendary Roswell crash. But this incident, much as everything else we have seen so far, is not what it first appears to be.
"The alleged crash of a flying disk at Roswell, New Mexico, in early July of 1947 is the creation story of the American UFO lore, the moment when the scales fell from the American government's eyes and the reality of our place in the universe became clear. According to the myth, the capture of an extraterrestrial vehicle and its occupants was an event of such calamitous consequences that a deep-level cover-up was established, one that remains in place six decades later.
"The reality is that the Roswell story as we know it began to take shape only in the late 1970s, and was cemented into place by the publication, in 1980, of The Roswell Incident by William Moore and Charles Berlitz. Until then the incident existed only as two or three days worth of news headlines generated by a press release from Roswell Army Air Force Base, transmitted on 7 July 1947...
"The story spread quickly around the world, but by the evening of July 8 -the day that most papers ran the story -officers at Fort Worth Air Force Base in Texas had identified the remains as those of a 'weather balloon' and its radar-reflecting kite, which were promptly photographed in the hands of base Intelligence chief Major Jesse Marcel. The 'flying disc' story was retracted, the world's press having no reason to suspect that this was anything but the truth, and that was the end of that for at least thirty years.
"If the Army Air Force's behaviour in issuing the 'flying disk' press release and then retracting it seems strange to us in hindsight, bear in mind that it did succeed in closing the lid on the story for three decades. This may have been all that was intended, especially if what came down was an item of sensitive, though human, military equipment, even if it wasn't quite the ordinary weather balloon that the Army Air Force's initial retractions would have us believe. Perhaps the most damning pieces of evidence against anything extraterrestrial taking place in Roswell are, ironically, two formerly classified internal documents, one from the FBI, the other from the newly formed US Air Force. The FBI memo, dated 8 July 1947, describes the wreckage being transferred from Fort Worth to Wright Field (now Wright Patterson AFB). The critical section reads:
"The disc is hexagonal in shape and was suspended from a balloon by cable, which balloon was approximately twenty feet in diameter. Major Curtain further advised that the object found resembles a high altitude weather balloon with a radar reflector, but that telephonic conversations between their office and Wright Field had not borne out this belief.
"The next item is an internal US Air Force memo sent on 23 September 1947 by General Nathan Twining at Air Material Command, who was responsible for Air Force weapons and technology. Written before the Air Force investigations into the UFO sightings had got under way, it is the first official Air Force statement on the subject and demonstrates that at the highest level of control over America's skies, nobody knew what the hell was going on. After stating that the 'phenomenon is something real and not visionary or fictitious' the memo ends with three points for consideration:
"(1) The possibility that these objects are of domestic origin -the product of some high security project not known to... this Command.
(2) The lack of physical evidence in the shape of crash recovered exhibits which would undeniably prove the existence of these subjects.
(3) The possibility that some foreign nation has a form of propulsion possibly nuclear, which is outside of our domestic knowledge...
"What this internal report, written at the very highest level of the Air Force's command structure and kept secret for many years, doesn't say, is that an alien spacecraft had been recovered at Roswell."
(Mirage Men, Mark Pilkington, pgs. 38-40)
Further, much of the story surrounding the Roswell incident would seemingly have its origins in an earlier alleged UFO crash site, this one in Aztec, New Mexico.
"Crashed flying saucer stories have always circulated within the UFO community, but were rarely taken seriously until the late 1970s when a number of reports were leaked to UFO researchers via anonymous Air Force sources. The publication of Charles Berlitz and William Moore's The Roswell Incident in 1980 was the culmination of that process and the progenitor of the seemingly endless flow of books, magazines, films and merchandise, only a fraction of which were filling the Laughlin conference dealers' room.
"However, the origins of the Roswell story don't lie in Roswell itself, but about 350 miles north-west in the small town of Aztec, New Mexico. In 1950 the popular and outspoken Variety magazine columnist Frank Scully published a non-fiction book, Behind the Flying Saucers, which centred on a bizarre lecture given on 8 March 1950 at the University of Denver, Colorado. In what sounds more like a market research experiment than an academic lecture, ninety science students were asked to attend a presentation on flying saucers by an anonymous lecturer. Word quickly spread around campus and on the day the hall was filled to capacity. In the fifty-minute presentation, the mysterious expert announced that not only were the flying saucers real, but that four of them had landed -not crashed -on Earth and three of these had been captured by the US Air Force.
"One of the larger craft, 100 feet across, had landed near Aztec, New Mexico; both the disc and its dead occupants were ferried off to Wright Patterson Air Force Base for examination. In fact this was not a new story: aviation historian Curtis Peebles dates it back to a prank account published by the Aztec Independent Review in 1948, which mentioned a saucer crash and little men from Venus. According to Frank Scully, the three captured craft contained the bodies of thirty-four alien beings. These looked much like humans but were smaller in stature, 'of fair complexion' and lacked beards, though some of them had managed to cultivate 'a fine growth resembling peach fuzz...'
"Following the Denver lecture, attendees were asked whether they believed the presenter; 60 per cent said they did. Within hours, many also found themselves being questioned by Air Force Intelligence officers. Scully notes that a follow-up questionnaire was carried out among the students, and that the number who believed the presentation had fallen from 60 to 50 per cent, which was still considerably higher than the national average who believed that flying saucers came from Outer Space (about 20 per cent according to Scully). The message from the lecture was clear: exposure to a convincing source of information encouraged even bright college students to believe the improbable.
"On 17 March the mystery lecture was unveiled by the Denver Post as Silas Mason Newton, proprietor of the Newton Oil Company, based in Denver, while in his book Scully revealed the source of Newton's saucer information to be 'Dr. Gee,' a composite name for eight scientists who needed to protect their identities on national security grounds. However, the truth about Newton and Dr Gee turned out to be a little less melodramatic, though no less intriguing.
"Gee was exposed as Leo Arnold Julius Gebauer, a man of many aliases and an FBI file thick enough to contain them. Gebauer, who at one time worked in the labs of the Air Research Company in Phoenix Arizona, had come to the FBI's attention in the early 1940s for his outspoken comments about Adolf Hitler, whom he described as a 'swell fellow', and for announcing that President Roosevelt should be shot and replaced with someone like the Fuehrer. Gebauer had told Newton that he worked with government agencies retrieving technology from downed flying saucers, including the one at Aztec. Whether or not Newton actually believed him is unclear, but this didn't stop him from promoting Gebauer's tales to the students in Denver.
"In his diaries Newton wrote that after his identity was revealed by the Denver Post he was approached by two members of a 'highly secret US government entity' who told him that they knew his UFO crash story was a hoax, but that he should continue to tell it. If he did then 'they and the people they worked for would look out for me [Newton] and for Leo [Gebauer]. Were these mystery men figments of Newton's devious imagination, Air Force Intelligence agents, FBI or CIA officers, or, perhaps, Navy men out to cause more trouble for the US Air Force? We can only wonder, but they got what they wanted. Scully's book was rushed out in 1950 and sold around 60,000 copies, making it a bestseller of its day and further cementing the details of the flying saucer myth in the American imagination. Newton had done his job well. And perhaps Newton's mysterious government men also upheld their side of the arrangement: when, in 1952, Newton and Gebauer were convicted of fraud for trying to sell advanced mining equipment based on back-engineered alien technology, both received only suspended sentences.
"Despite the success of Behind the Flying Saucers, the Aztec saucer crash would be almost entirely forgotten within a few years until, nearly three decades later, its key elements -the craft, the dead pilots, the Air Force recovery operation and the back-engineering programme at Wright Patterson -would form the basis of the Roswell story. In the early 1980s, Aztec itself became part of AFOSI's disinformation campaign against the UFO community, leading to the publication of another book promoting the crash as a genuine event.
"So, in the span of half a century, a story that began life as a newspaper prank became a reality, was dismissed as a hoax, was resurrected and promoted by the US Air Force and UFO researchers in the 1980s before finally being laid to rest (we hope) as a non-story in the early twenty-first century. If nothing else, this proves that flying saucers are highly recyclable."
(ibid, pgs. 68-71)
Finally, it must be kept in mind that the primary source in creating the Roswell mythos, namely the book The Roswell Incident, is not from the most reliable account.
"Who were the authors of this interesting piece of deliberate confusion published ten years ago under the title The Philadelphia Experiment? None other than Charles Berlitz and William Moore, the two men who would again collaborate a few years later in a similar work of disinformation, the work that gave UFO research a sinister 'spin' into the realm of alien bases and secret autopsies, a book called The Roswell Incident."
(Revelations, Jacques Vallee, pg. 188)
It's quite interesting that the same two authors would be involved in two of the most persistent myths of the modern era. I will again remind the reader that the so called 'Philadelphia experiment' has been widely decried as hoax by, among others, William Moore himself. More information on this scam can be found here.
A few other interesting points I'd like to make from the whole Aztec/Roswell flap: If nothing else, the University of Denver lectures surrounding the Aztec non-event show just how gullible people can be for authority figures, even college students in scientific disciplines in the 1950s when conditioning for extraterrestrial life was just beginning. The choice of venue for the lecture, namely the University of Denver, is interesting as well. It was at this university that Aldin Sears would conduct experiments in the psychological warfare applications for hypnosis for the CIA in the mid-1950s, a few years after the Aztec lecture:
"Sears, who later moved his CIA study project to the University of Denver, worked with student subjects to define the nature of hypnosis. Among many other things, he looked into several of the areas that would be building blocks in the creation of a Manchurian Candidate. Could a hypnotist induce a totally separate personality? Could a subject be sent on missions he would not remember unless cued by the hypnotist?"More information on the applications of hypnosis, as well as its connection to the creation of the modern UFO mythology, can be found here and here.
(The Search for the 'Manchurian Candidate', John Marks, pg. 199)
Finally, I'd like to make an X-Files connection. The author of Behind the Flying Saucers, clearly a key early disinformation book in the UFO field, was a man named Frank Scully. Scully is also the last name of Special Agent Dana Scully, generally one of the two leads on the X-Files TV series. Whether this was an intentional reference or not is difficult to say, but the X-Files has its own odd overlap in this chain. In fact, our final subject was involved in the FBI's own real life 'X-Files', in addition to the Kennedy assassination. How's that for a synch? It all comes to a head in the enigmatic figure of Guy Banister.
"Guy Banister's name is well -known among conspiracy aficionados as another one of the men implicated by New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison in the Kennedy assassination. It was Guy Banister -by this time a former FBI agent -who rented office space at the same location stamped on Lee Harvey Oswald's 'Fair Play for Cuba Committee' flyers. Banister was running an anti-Castro Cuban operation from his investigator's office, an operation that attracted the likes of former Eastern Airlines pilot and assassination suspect David Ferrie. Oswald was running a pro-Castro Cuban operation from the same address, an anomaly that could only be explained if one understood that Banister and Oswald were working together, and that the pro-Castro operation was a front for some other, even more nefarious, purpose. Further, while Banister was FBI Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the Chicago field office during World War II, one of his FBI subordinates was James McCord of Watergate 'plumbers' fame, and another was Robert A. Maheu: the man who would later become head of his own investigative agency and an employee of Howard Hughes, the man whose agency was started by money won from James McInerney, the assistant Attorney General who was involved in the Jack Parsons investigation. Maheu would go on to become the man in the middle between the CIA and organized crime in the assassination plots against Castro.
"Banister was -during the time of the Arnold sighting, the Maury Island affair, Roswell -an FBI Special Agent assigned to the Butte, Montana field office, which was responsible for several western states, including Idaho (where Kenneth Arnold resided). A look at recently declassified FBI files for that period in 1947 show a number of telexes from Banister, some with his initials 'WGB.' all pertaining to UFO phenomena, as well as other FBI documents with the designation 'Security Matter -X' or simply 'SM-X,' the origin -the author supposes -of the 'X-Files,' which at least in 1947 did exist at the FBI and was concerned with UFOs (as well as with the federal investigation of Wilhelm Reich, the pioneer psychoanalyst whose 'orgone therapy' had run afoul of the medical establishment and who himself was a firm believer in the existence of UFOs).
"Usually, when Banister is referenced in connection with the Kennedy assassination, he is mentioned as having been with the FBI in Chicago for many years, which is undoubtedly true, but the period in Butte put him in the middle of the seminal UFO event of the twentieth century.
"Thus, the 1947 UFO sightings attracted two men -Crisman and Banister -who both would come under suspicion twenty years later for their supporting roles in the Kennedy assassination. The odds against this happening must be astronomical. It is the constant appearance of 'coincidences' like these that leave most amateur conspiracy theorists apoplectic, speechless with disbelief and gazing on the world around them with haunted, suspicious expressions, as if reality itself were written over each other, all on the same page.This blog has already speculated here, here, and here that the FBI is just as concerned with covering up certain crimes as it is in investigating them. One suspects that Special Agent Guy Banister's work on 'SM-X' was quite different from that of Special Agent Fox Mulder on The X-Files. Or did Files creator Chris Carter have a far deeper understanding of Banister and the purpose of his work than few fans have ever suspected? Stay tuned for further installments...
(Sinister Forces Book One, Peter Levenda, pgs. 173-174)