Sunday, August 14, 2016

Cash-Landrum UFO case in American Myths, Legends, and Tall Tales

 American Myths, Legends, and Tall Tales: An Encyclopedia of American Folklore (Vol I) edited by Christopher R. Fee and Jeffrey B. Webb is a new book described as, "A fascinating survey of the entire history of tall tales, folklore, and mythology in the United States from earliest times to the present, including stories and myths from the modern era that have become an essential part of contemporary popular culture." It's a hardcover book, weighing in at 1138 pages.

It also features a few entries on UFO matters, such as the Ancient Aliens notions popularized in Chariots of the Gods by Erich von Däniken, aliens & abductions, Area 51, the Hopkinsville Goblins and others. 

The Cash-Landrum case is also discussed on pages 199-201, in an a section by Curt Collins.

The book (including the full Cash-Landrum entry) can be previewed at the listing on Amazon.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Cash-Landrum File: Civil Action No. H84 348

UK historical researcher Isaac Koi posted on ATS:

"I am now pleased to be able to share a further collection of material – about 30 booklets of documents produced by Quest Publications (some of which are over 100 pages long). ...thanks to Russel Callaghan and others in the Birdsall family, the under-appreciated “Archives For the Unexplained” ("AFU") in Sweden has now scanned nearly 30 of the collections of documents published by Quest Publications."

Of particular interest, is 101-Cash_Landrum_File-Civil_Action, a collection of legal documents relating to the Cash-Landrum UFO encounter. Below is a link to the ATS article:

Direct link to the booklet:
The Cash-Landrum File: Civil Action No. H84 348

I do not believe a complete collection of legal files exists, but between this, the CUFON collection and John Schuessler's book, almost everything has been disclosed.

Many thanks to Isaac Koi for preserving this, and many other UFO historical records.

Friday, March 18, 2016

The $20 Million Cash-Landrum UFO Story

The Cash-Landrum UFO case publicity made a splash in 1981, but had a second wave starting in 1983 after the filing of the lawsuit against the US Government for 20 million dollars in damages. The suit stuck to the details of original incident, avoiding later embellishments such as the legend of the scorched road being removed and replaced by men in unmarked trucks. 

Despite the resolve of Betty Cash and Vickie Landrum, there was not sufficient evidence to take the case to trial, and as attorney Peter Gersten later revealed, it was a bluff: 
The lawsuit was brought in hope that behind the scenes the government would say, `Lets keep this quiet, well take care of the medical expenses and make sure nothing else happens."Houston Chronicle, Texas Magazine, Page 8, 2 Star Edition, 11/17/1996 

See this earlier article for more on the lawsuit: Cash-Landrum UFO Case: Legal Rumors

Tabloid News

The article below on the Cash-Landrum lawsuit was sent to me by Martin Kottmeyer from his clippings of UFO stories from the 1984 period. It's typical of the coverage at the time and likely came from the tabloid National Examiner. It’s a good summary of the story, but has a few notable variations from canon. Quotations in newspapers, especially tabloids can’t be trusted for fidelity, but it’s interesting that Vickie refers to helicopter searchlights, something absent from earlier accounts. Betty Cash had breast cancer,  but said, “The doctors told me radiation definitely caused my cancer.” The tests run during her  original hospitalization were negative for radiation exposure.

The other point of interest is Vickie’s reference to the “Pentagon man,” which eventually evolved into a veiled death threat: “He questioned me and I answered him, and then he told me that people had died for less than what I was trying to do.” Vickie Landrum from her appearence on Sightings TV episode, segment: “Physical Effects,” July 31, 1992.

The Cash-Landrum case occurred at the same time lore surrounding Roswell was being developed, and distrust of the Government and the belief in a “Cosmic Watergate” UFO cover-up was central to them both. Without a villain to explain the lack of evidence, about all that is left are stories. 

Also pictured, UFO sketch by Betty Cash.

Click here for larger version.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Flying Saucer: A Manufactured Concept by Herbert Hackett

The Flying Saucer
A Manufactured Concept

Herbert Hackett
Ohio Wesleyan University 

(From Sociology and Social Research, May- June, 1948.)

It is interesting to examine the making of public opinion in the matter of the "flying saucer." Public opinion is, of course, not a thing, but the mixture of responses of a number of people to similar or related stimuli. This mixture takes form as a stereotyped, verbalized concept which is, for all practical purposes, a thing and thus used as the basis for action.1 The flying saucer is an excellent subject in that it is almost wholly a manufactured concept, lasting a short period of time and, so, easy to study.  It is, in addition, not too closely tied to the emotional colorations of prejudice and habit which would distort a similar study of opinion on Russia, vivisection, or the home. 

It was of little immediate interest when a pilot in Idaho “saw” a flying saucer. The wire services carried the story, tongue in cheek, and, having little news in the area, kept it alive from day to day with recapitulations of the original. Early the stereotyped concept was suggested; the term “flying saucer” was simple, so homely that everyone could visualize it. It was at once given authority by its appearance in the press. "There must be something to it. I read it in the paper.”

Later, we will see, the concept was strengthened by repetition, repetition by variations, “scientific" evidence and speculation, photography, analogy, wit, denial, apology. Newspapers, through juxtaposition, headlining, and suggestion, soon related it to other concepts, to well-established stereotypes and slogans — “the greatest air force in the world" and universal military training to protect "the American way of life" from "the menace of red- Fascism." Other events were soon reported which fitted the general pattern of the first story of early June 1947. A pilot "saw" one of the "what'sits" at 10,000 feet, going at 1,200 mph. When next “seen" the saucers had already acquired common, if vague, attributes of shape, size, speed, and altitude, and in a day or two had added "a blue, fiery tail," or "two tails like a comet." They came out of the West. 

So far there had been only a groping toward a plausible concept, with a gradual elimination of less easily grasped characteristics such as "disintegration," lateral and/or vertical revolution, and a "blister" for the pilot. Seemingly, however, the picture was about complete, for the wire services and editors the country over began to “lay” the story, concentrating all news of the event in one place, featuring the story by headlining and position, dramatizing it through pictures, invoking every “expert" in the land for pontification.

If we take Los Angeles as an example, it is interesting to note the lack of "live" news at the moment. The sensational Overell murder case had become involved in legal technicalities. There had not been for some time a sex crime where the “partially clad body" of a beautiful, young woman had been found.3 At the national level, John L. Lewis had been “good” for several weeks, coming to terms with the big steel companies, and the Russian”front" was still stalemated.

In the week of the saucer story St. Louis was concerned with the threat of flood and Chicago was involved in bitter discussion of rent control, but these were matters of local interest. In most of the nation it was a “ low” week, from an editor's viewpoint.

The scarcity of news was thus a large factor in the rapid increase of interest in the story. This increase is shown by a table, based on the Los Angeles Times
Date Total Inches   Page One Inches 
July 4 
July 5  28 
July 6  92  36 
July 7  136  32 
July 8  95  18 
July 9  57  13 
July 10 
Samples of flying saucer headlines

The Los Angeles Herald Express, on July 7, devoted over half the front page to the story, putting it in the same class as V-J Day and the "Black Dahlia" sex murder. The national coverage is somewhat less than the Los Angeles average. The Chicago Sun, not a “yellow" sheet in the usual sense, devoted 194 inches, 60 on the front page, on July 8. The story was displayed with two “end of the world" headlines, an 84-point and a 72-point streamer, both 8 columns.5 This is little less than the V-J Day display. 

The Cleveland Plain Dealer was more representative of the conservative press, with a  peak of 68 inches and a maximum of 18 inches on page one. The St. Louis Post Dispatch, recognized for its sense of news values, did not go above 55 inches, and never displayed the story higher than the fold of the front page. Both papers tended to treat the saucer as a human interest feature and not as news. 

Any such discussion by the press is, of course, a repetition of the concept. Whether the story is based on “ acts" or not, whether it is "true" or not, does not matter; for public opinion is often based not on a thing, measurably objective, but on a picture of a thing, repeated. It is better, perhaps, as Hitler demonstrated with his “big lie,” that the basis of the concept be not easy to demonstrate, allowing for the creative imagination of the teller and the lazy credulity of of the hearer. 

It follows, then, that the use of variation in report is an obvious strengthening factor. The skeptic is deceived by this lack of dogma, saying to himself, “ of course the stories are fantastic, but they have something in common; some common experience produced them." He thus maintains his sense of objectivity and can discuss the matter "rationally." In a sample mass-observation interview 6 it was found that few denied the simple concept, the majority merely attacking details which seemed to weaken the validity of the whole : e.g., “ as big as a five-room house,” "it disintegrated before my eyes." 

Another function of variation is that the individual is not inhibited but can exalt himself by observing some new features of the saucer. The conservative individual, too, is not unduly offended. He may accept the older, “proved” parts of the  concept and reject the new, perhaps more specific in detail.
Such repetition, in all its variations, and the endorsement by the authority of the press are the two basic “causes” of public opinion about the flying saucer. Other forces, however, were at work. 

“Scientific" evidence and speculation were soon brought to bear on the subject, strengthening the authority of the press. A “savant" "sees" one and, headlined, achieves authority far beyond that usually invested in a dairy inspector, which he was. Other “experts” report their observations: a meteorologist seems to give credence to the man-made aspect of the phenomena by denying that they are meteors; an engineer, who turns out to be only a pilot, chases one of the objects, discussing it later in terms of a plane spotter, another form of “expert” ; a priest finds something in his back yard, still hot, and takes three days to admit it is a hoax; the FBI, stereotype of accuracy and dependability,  investigates; physicists explain that “all rapidly moving bodies look elliptoid.”

The photographer presents his "factual" evidence, a series of blurs on a negative. Artists reinforce the concept with Buck Rogers pictures. Historians discuss the appearance of saucers in past years — the strange missiles over Sweden in 1946, something in San Francisco a few years ago. The air force admits one “flying wing," which might look like a saucer but it is still on the ground. 

With few exceptions the experts do not say that the discs exist: The spot on the film might be; the drawing could represent; the shape is possible; history has recorded something. In fact, usually buried deep in the story, is the statement or inference that the expert does not credit the stories at all. But the denial is in terms of the things it denies. 

Such denial merely serves to instill the picture more firmly in the public mind For it is obvious that a denial is as much a repetition of the concept as is an affirmation.8 Especially strong is the denial by the air force, so firmly stated that it must conceal “top drawer" secrets. 

Wit, too, is a denial, making homely the unusual. The homely we can accept. Ridicule also strengthens our belief, clearing away our doubts with the acid of emotion.So we find the saucer joke, the saucer gag, and clever ridicule working with the "straight news" story to make familiar the unusual. The concept having been fixed, interest in it is maintained at a strategic level by relating it to the public tensions of the moment. One newspaper displayed the story between news of Russian aggression and features on compulsory military training. 

Such juxtaposition is, of course, accidental in most cases, but a glimpse at the less responsible press will show how editors can build tension merely by relating other tensions. Such news as that of the atomic bomb, Russia, and our "shell of an army, a handful of 1,500,000 men" is soon read with eyes "big as saucers." By suggestion the public is led to see dangers which may not in fact exist, for example, the chaos which will result if the discs are part of a "foul plot of the Reds," -who are "out for world domination." By juxtaposition the press can suggest without a grain of evidence. By innuendo concept is related to concept, each reinforcing the other, wheels within wheels.10 The deliberate display techniques used by many papers, three of four in Los Angeles, is sound "journalism" perhaps, if weak logically.

We have seen how the concept was developed, how through repetition and the authority of the press and "experts" it became accepted. The pattern has much in common with the creation of Hitler's "Jew" or the manufacture of a stock "Communist." It is the die by which un-American activity committees mold the stereotype "un-American." It is the blueprint of the unsemantic world  of unreason. 

If, as the President's Commission on Civil Liberties has stated, we are in for a period of ogres, of witch hunts, and of jousting with the straw men built of hate, then it seems wise that we study the method by which they are introduced to the public. It might be useful when someone tries to prepare the way for a man on a White Horse. 


1 See Sofia/ Distance, a Syllabus, University of Southern California.

2 (Citation missing. Deals with story receiving authority solely due to being covered by the press.)

3 During the short span of the saucer story Los Angeles seems to have solved the problem of the "sex-fiend." Cf. Lincoln Steffens, Autobiography of Lincoln Steffens, p. 285 ff., the chapter entitled, “I Make a Crime Wave." 

4 Papers studied closely include those of Los Angeles, St. Louis, Chicago, New York, Columbus. A quick survey of Atlanta, San Francisco, Dallas, Cleveland, and Cincinnati papers showed no significant differences.

5 72 point equals 1 inch.  

6 Redlands, California, July 10. 

7 Cf. our ideas of "One World," a concept which most accept because it has the authority of age, 8 or 10 years, and because of its generality, which each can interpret. Many, however, reject the details of such a concept, which are its logical projection.

8 "Coca-Cola does not refresh" is almost as effective as "Coca-Cola, the pause that refreshes." Cf. the kidding of product and sponsor on some radio shows. 

9 Cf. the use of wit in anti-Semitism and the deliberate manufacturing of the “darky,"  happy-go-lucky, shiftless. Magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post have well-known formulas for Negro characters. Cf. also the force of ridicule in building the self-stereotype of minority groups as "God's chosen people." 

10 Cf. from the congressional debate on the Atomic Commission : Lilienthal was born in Lithuania; Lithuania is now part of Russia; so, it is suggested but not stated, Lilienthal is a "Red."

About the Author

Herbert Lewis Hackett, 
as a boy in 1929 

At the time of the article, Herbert Lewis Hackett was Assistant Professor of Journalism, Ohio Wesleyan University Delaware, Ohio. He was an instructor in the department of journalism and English, and also taught writing skills training into the framework of an introductory course in sociology. He was the author of several books on writing.

Here's a brief biography by his grandson, Ethan Daniel Davidson:
My grandfather was Herbert Lewis Hackett, born 16 January, 1917, Rangoon, Burma. He ended up back in the States, by the outbreak of WWII. After having earned his PhD in Linguistics from University of Michigan, he was drafted into the Army, commissioned as a Captain, given the assignment of teaching English to German POWs at a camp in Shamrock, Texas. He seems to have gotten into a fight with his CO after hearing of his father's death, and was ultimately discharged; it's my understanding he was a very reluctant conscript anyway. It was while working at the camp that he met the daughter of an itinerant preacher: Sarah Wilborn. Herbert and Sarah moved frequently, as Herbert was a college Professor: Arkansas, Salt Lake, Lansing, Buffalo. Herbert died of a heart attack in Buffalo, 1964.
Herbert L. Hackett, 1957

He didn't seem to have much else to say about UFOs, but used them as an example in his 1957 book on writing clearly, Understanding, and Being Understood:
"Is the report on the facts consistent within itself? This question implies that facts should not contradict themselves. An early report of the flying saucer, for example, stated that it moved at two thousand miles an hour, and that it had a "blister" in which two or three men were observed; yet that speed would make it impossible for an observer to note such details.”

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Book Review: Bad UFOs by Robert Sheaffer

Bad UFOs: Critical Thinking About UFO Claims by Robert Sheaffer

Robert Sheaffer has been covering the UFO beat a long time, reading the literature, attending conferences, corresponding, debating with the players, and has become a part of its history. In the book,"Bad UFOs: Critical Thinking About UFO Claims," Sheaffer covers a range of UFO cases, topics and personalties from the dawn of the era, up to recent events. Frankly, some of which read like a hall of shame,  and it could have been titled, UFOlogy’s Greatest Misses.” I can picture some scoundrels in UFOtown tearing through the pages, praying that their products and names aren’t in it. Sheaffer does mention a few good eggs along the way, “UFO realists,” but as the title suggests, he’s focused on the bad ones. 

Robert Sheaffer, meanie. That’s what some UFO buffs have heard, and skeptics and debunkers are supposed to be attacking the very existence of UFOs, close-minded to the point of denying the truth, and rumor has it that some of them are even discrediting witnesses and evidence. Trace those tales to the source, and you’ll see they originated with phonies who didn’t want their carnival act exposed, people like Silas Newton, George Adamski and Jaime Maussan. The truth is more complicated, but then, that’s why so few people bother with it. 

What many UFO/ET proponents fail to appreciate about skeptics and debunkers is that the devils are observing the same kind of claims about extraordinary things on a range of other topics, not just UFOs. There’s more in common with UFOs, Ghost, Bigfoot and Nessie than the ET camp would like to admit, and it lies in the seeker. It’s about the quest for something extraordinary, with belief driving the investigation. The big problem there is that they regularly accept insubstantial evidence if it bolsters their beliefs. Witness testimony is subject to great problems ranging from accuracy to authenticity, and the record of photo and physical evidence shows an alarmingly high tolerance for counterfeits. Sheaffer sees the absurdity and humor in the UFO circus, something the field seems incapable of seeing about itself. Worse, they seem incapable of dealing with frauds, and policing themselves. Like disgraced televangelists, if they have an apology or excuse, proven UFO scoundrels are welcomed back into the fold.

Table of contents from Bad UFOs

One recurring theme in Sheaffer’s book is that a UFO claim surfaces, gets  embraced by the ET camp, and then is fiercely defended against not only challenges to its authenticity, but even logical questions about it. They get sour when it falls flat, but they are willfully ignoring their own statistics. According to MUFON, 80 to 90% of UFO reports crumble after being investigated, the remnant serving to keep hope alive, designated as “unknowns.”  By cherishing UFO stories before all the facts are in, frequent disappointments are assured.

Sheaffer holds up a mirror to the UFO circus, and many in it won’t like the picture.  Where I disagree with Sheaffer is over the conclusion that the study of UFOs is futile. My personal opinion is that it ufology should work towards co-operating with existing astronomical and meteorological projects, instead of trying to re-invent or duplicate them.  Sheaffer convincingly makes the case that the current value or purpose of UFO study is only self-perpetuation, promoting UFO beliefs: that there’s a mystery and behind it is ET visitation.

The book discusses several key cases, some in detail, others in passing, including famous sightings from Kenneth Arnold to Kenju Terauchi’s report of a giant spaceship to recent cases. In these, he points out the recurring problems with the evidence or the interpretation of it. So often, it comes down to stories, and looking at the alien abduction accounts from Betty and Barney Hill to Emma Woods, these incredible tales emerged through hypnosis. In other stories, like those of Roswell alien bodies and the conflicting claims at Rendlesham Forest, Sheaffer shows that many of the heavily-promoted UFO tales have plot holes, big black plot holes, big enough to swallow planet Nibru. 

Chances are, if you are seeing this, you’ll read a UFO book or two this year, and “Bad UFOs” should be one of them. If you are used to taking UFO stories on faith alone, you may want to throw it across the room a few times. Instead, take one of the cases discussed and look up the documentation for it, and to see for yourself if the facts back up the legends you’ve been told about it. The cases that hold up to the challenges of skeptics are the one really worth pursuing.

About the UFOs being spacecraft, Sheaffer also reintroduces some hard scientific facts that many ET proponents don’t know, or choose to ignore about the overwhelming physical impracticality of interstellar space travel. Even folding or warping space seems out of the realm of possibility, and to make it work, something like magic must be needed. Just how are the visitors getting here? Perhaps believing is the key to seeing. Dr. Steven Greer can lead you through meditation to summon and communicate with ETI spacecraft. Sometimes, you won’t see them at first, but with patience, Greer can teach you how- for a price. 

Sheaffer thinks that behind all the UFO stories, there’s nothing but cases of mistaken identity, wishful thinking and fraud. I hope he’s wrong, and that there is a rare, genuine phenomenon, whatever it is. I do agree, however, that the problems he discusses are severe and until UFOtown polices itself, it’ll remain a ghetto- or a ghost town.

Robert Sheaffer
Bad UFOs: Critical Thinking About UFO Claims
Trade papeback
292 pages $18.95