Friday, December 7, 2018

Skeptoid Challenges the Cash-Landrum UFO Incident



On December 4, 2018 Brian Dunning presented an episode of the Skeptoid Podcast,  The Cash-Landrum UFO Incident, a skeptical evaluation of the case. Dunning does a fair job of examining the case, and he’s clearly done a lot of reading on the case. The printed version of his program includes a list of Dunning’s sources, which includes documents hosted at Blue Blurry Lines.

Brian Dunning reaches the conclusion that the medical problems reported by the witnesses were not due to radiation poisoning from a UFO, and he suggests the witnesses were made some false or exaggerated claims. He also charges the primary UFO investigator of the case, John Schuessler, with cherrypicking data presented as evidence, saying he included “the bits of reports that supported his thesis... and ignored the bits of reports that did not...” Dunning’s argument is worthy of an examination, and a response.

Dunning’s summary of the sighting by Betty Cash, Vickie and Colby Landrum itself is good, as it reflects how the case initially presented. He stumbles a bit when describing how the witnesses reported the case, but that’s understandable. It’s an interesting detail, and the delay in the start of the investigation may be the reason behind why evidence and answers are so elusive in the C-L case. A short summary of how it began:

 Betty Cash and Vickie Landrum said they didn’t immediately connect their illness with the UFO, and were afraid of being called crazy, so they didn’t report their sighting.  At the end of January 1981, once the UFO story had been revealed to Betty’s doctors, Vickie Landrum reported the story to her neighbor, Dayton Police Chief Tommy Waring. It took Waring two or three days to locate the number for the the National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC) in Seattle, Washington. Vickie reported the sighting on Feb. 2 to Robert Gribble, who passed the information on to UFO organizations, but problems arose, and it was several weeks before an investigation began. John Schuessler, then the deputy director of the Mutual UFO Network, also ran a Houston-area group, Project VISIT (for Vehicle Internal Systems Investigative Team). Schuessler began investigating the Cash-Landrum case on Feb. 21, 1981 after getting a call from Betty Cash, then by visiting the sighting location a week later with Vickie and Colby Landrum. 

Photos of witnesses displayed on Hangar 1

Photograph of Betty Cash's back, showing cellulitis.
Dunning next discusses the alleged radiation injuries, and talks about how Dr. Gary Posner had seen the C-L case presented on the 1981 episode of NBC’s That's Incredible! 
where “Betty's arms [showed] discrete, round, sunburn-type rashes...” Dunning says Schuessler never mentioned these particular injuries in his book, but that’s not unique. Betty Cash’s alleged radiation burn to her finger beneath her wedding ring was not mentioned by Schuessler in the book, and not in the hospital reports reproduced there or anywhere else. Dunning’s right though, about the hospital diagnosis. While Betty’s combination of symptoms did seem to puzzle her cardiologist and the Parkway Hospital doctors, the diagnosis was of earthly ailments.
See the BBL report, Betty Cash’s Medical Records for further details.

Weekly World News, March 24, 1981
Dunning also mentions Vickie Landrum’s complaints, and notes that her hair and fingernail loss were not documented with photographs. That’s true. There are drawings of Vickie’s fingernails, but no photos, and the pictures of her closest to the incident do not reflect significant hair loss. 

Dunning also cites the letter from Dr. Peter Rank to John Schuessler, stating:
I think it is important to assure Betty that on the basis of the medical information you have provided me, that there are no signs of serious injury to date. You may also reassure Vicki that her cataract was probably a pre-existing condition and not necessarily related to her incident.  
Dunning’s use of the quote by Dr. Rank is damning, but it cuts both ways. Yes, Dr. Rank was a radiologist, and Schuessler’s primary source supporting radiation burns in the case. However, Dr. Rank only examined Betty Cash’s medical records and looked at photos of the witnesses, he never conducted a physical examination of Betty Cash, or of Vickie and Colby Landrum.

Rank, P. "Personal correspondence to John Schuessler." The Cash-Landrum UFO Case Document Collection. Blue Blurry Lines, 29 Apr. 1981. Web. 29 Nov. 2018. https://app.box.com/s/zvelar3gubgiee5zwgi3
Drawing signed by Betty Cash & Vickie Landrum
Dunning discusses Betty Cash telling the Air Force that the helicopters she had seen carried military markings, while in earlier interviews she said she had seen none. When interviewed as Bergstrom AFB on August 17, 1981, Betty was asked to draw a picture of the UFO, and write out the markings she claimed to see on the helicopters. She printed the words, "United States Air Force." Interestingly, the Bergstrom interview is downplayed by Schuessler, and only mentioned in a negative way, that the witnesses were treated unkindly and mocked. The transcript of the interview does not reflect that, and instead has value as direct testimony from all three of the witnesses away from UFO investigators. 

Dunning does not try to tackle the issue of the UFO itself (or the associated helicopters), and I can’t fault him too much for that. In fact, he was a bit too soft. Despite the claims that the sighting occurred in a remote area, it was by no means unpopulated. There was at least one trailer home nearby, and there were other homes down the road in both directions. After the initial sighting, the witnesses drove by a fishing camp, a church, then thorough Huffman, and claimed to be able to see the UFO and helicopters from several points along the way. With the sights and sounds they claimed, it’s difficult to understand how many more people were not alarmed.

Map of the Cash-Landrum sighting route
In his conclusion, Dunning seems sympathetic to the witnesses, and allows that they may have indeed seen something that night, but does to believe it to have been extraordinary, just another of many sincere, but mistaken reports of UFOs. It’s his opinion that they wrongly connected their health problems with the experience, and sincerely believing they were wronged, exaggerated their story. And he includes the possibility they went further, such as faking sunburn from the UFO.

It could be. Having a UFO terrifying experience could have been so stressful that it worsened existing health problems in the witnesses. If we want to examine a hoax scenario, a more plausible scenario might be that Betty Cash was genuinely ill and that Vickie Landrum faked her injuries in order to support her friend and try to get her help, including financial support. Betty Cash was a cardiac patient, she’d had surgery a few years before and was taking several medical prescriptions to manage her health. She’d recently been divorced, and as she told the officers in the Bergstrom interview, her business had failed and was closed. Before the UFO, Betty Cash was going through a very rough patch. 

Brian Dunning noted that “Most of what's known about this story stems from the efforts of John Schuessler,” and that’s been the cases’ biggest asset and liability. Schuessler campaigned to get the story covered by the media and supported the legal case suing the US government for damages related to its alleged involvement in the UFO incident. Due to Schuessler’s role as the gatekeeper of the case, he shaped the information released and took a central role in how newspapers and television shows portrayed the story. It caused a simplified, one-sided version of the story to be told one with heroes and villains, the witnesses as poor victims, the government as the evil keeper of secrets, and the valiant UFO researcher bravely fighting for justice. As Dunning says, “a legend.”

The documents presented here at Blue Blurry Lines are intended to strip away the mythology of the Cash-Landrum case and allow for an unbiased examination of the events. We may never know exactly what happened, but we can at least get closer to the truth. 





Wednesday, October 24, 2018

UFOs and Alien Monsters from Outer Space

(Originally published May 29, 2018 at Adventures In Poor Taste as "UFO monsters: 10 species of terror.")
Soon after the first report of flying saucers in June 1947, Unidentified Flying Objects took the place of Sea Serpents as the the great mystery of the unknown. The belief spread that UFOs were spacecraft from other worlds, and shortly thereafter, people began reporting encounters with their occupants. Most of the aliens were described as being spacemen, not all that different from humans, however, some of the reports sounded more like the bug-eyed monsters of early pulp science fiction.

At The Saucers That Time Forgot, we usually look at the weird stories and events of UFO history, but here we’ll look at some of its myths of those extraterrestrial creatures.

Mars Attacks

1897: Planet Earth
Long before there were flying saucer reports, there were stories of creatures from other worlds, and the most famous and influential one was H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. His invading Martians were inhuman, octopus-like creatures. The story had a huge influence on UFO lore as did Orson Welles' 1938 radio adaptation of it for Halloween. The War of the Worlds set the industry standard, and its imitators from - print to motion pictures - almost always presented space aliens as invading monsters.


The Deros of the Shaver Mystery

March 1945: Beneath the Earth (and in the pages of Amazing Stories)
Before the Flying Saucer wave of 1947, Richard Shaver was telling tales of abductions by Deros, the hideous dwarfed degenerate offspring of ancient extraterrestrials. They lived beneath the surface of the Earth, and used their alien technology to torment and torture mankind from ancient times to today. Shaver’s Deros were said to be the basis for legends; witches, goblins and the monsters of myth - and perhaps Satan himself.


The Saucer and the Scoutmaster

August 19, 1952: Palm Beach County, Florida
D.S. DesVergers, “Sonny,” was driving three Boy Scouts home when he stopped to investigate strange lights. Armed with a flashlight and a machete, he headed alone into the woods where he encountered a UFO. He said the hatch opened and blasted him with a ball of fire singeing his cap, arms, and a patch of nearby grass. Afterwards, pressed by reporters for more details, he said, "It's better for me not to go any further for the public good because it might cause panic." In an exclusive interview the next year for The American Weekly, DesVergers admitted he had seen a “creature” inside the saucer, but refused again to go further, giving the distinct impression that the alien was just too horrible to describe.

The Little Men
March, 1948: Aztec, New Mexico When flying saucers started appearing in 1947 and people speculated about the occupants, some thought they might be men from Mars. But not like Wells’ Martians. Men, not monsters. But since the saucers appeared to have little headroom, they must be small. Frank Scully wrote the 1950 book Behind the Flying Saucers, based on Silas Newton’s story of the military's capture of a crashed flying saucer and the alien bodies inside. The little men from Venus were identical to humans, just smaller, “Dr. Gee says they measured between 36 and 42 inches and were 30 to 40 years old. Otherwise he found nothing unusual about them.” The story was proven to be a hoax, but decades later, ufologists salvaged it by retconning and recycling it into the Roswell crash story.

The Visitor from Venus

November 20, 1952: In the California desert near Mount Palomar George Adamski became known as the first “Contactee,” but since the late 1920s had been preaching a variant message of Theosophy until the flying saucers entered the picture. He retooled the message with space men at the center of it, which helped draw believers, but he topped that in 1952 by making first contact. Adamski told how he encountered a landed flying saucer and met a man from Venus who sounded more like an angel than a monster. The alien was a bit shorter than average, but not a “little man,” about five feet, six inches in height with flowing blonde hair. Adamski said, “The beauty of his form surpassed anything I had ever seen.” The Venusian brought a warning of how Earth would destroy itself unless we renounced our atomic bombs and warlike ways. Curiously, the message was ideologically identical to what Adamski had been teaching for decades. Adamski had many imitators, but he was the first, and most famous Contactee, the number one ambassador for the Space Brothers, sharing their platitudes of peace and love.

The Flatwoods Monster

September 12, 1952: Flatwoods in Braxton County, West Virginia
The Charleston, West Virginia Gazette reported that after seeing a fiery object seem to come down in the hills, a group of seven people, mostly kids, went to look for it. They saw flashing lights and smelled a horrible sulphur odor, then saw a "10 to 12-foot tall monster with a face of fiery red, protruding eyes, a green body and a spade-like tail." They fled in terror and notified the police, who investigated the scene, finding “a strong, sickening burnt metallic odor still prevailing, but there was no sign of the monster.”

Hairy Dwarfs Attack

November 29, 1954: Petare, Miranda, Venezuela
Gustavo Gonzales and his employee, José Ponce, were on a pre-dawn business drive when they saw a large metallic or luminous sphere hovering above the road. Stopping, they saw a hairy dwarfish being, 3 feet tall, with claws and glowing eyes, approaching. Gonzales took hold of it picked it up, but found that the alien dwarf was strong and fought fiercely back. Gonzales pulled a knife and stabbed at it, but his blade glanced off its tough hide. During the fight, Ponce ran to the police station for help. Two more of the creatures appeared, and one blinded Gonzales with a bright light before they returned to their craft and flew away. Gonzales went to the police station, where he found Ponce trying to bring help. No evidence was left behind except for a deep scratch in Gonzales’ side from the fight.  

The Goblins from Outer Space

August 21, 1955:  Christian County, Kentucky
As the story goes, one of the family at the Sutton farmhouse saw a mysterious flying object land in the woods nearby. There were about a dozen people at the house, and when he tried to show someone the direction of it, they found that “little men with big heads and long arms were approaching the house… having huge eyes and hands out of proportion to their small bodies...” Fearing an attack, they returned to the house and armed themselves with a shotgun and a pistol. The creatures approached the house and the Suttons fired on them, but their shots didn’t seem to harm the aliens, only knocked them down. The siege went on for hours, but during a lull, the family piled into to two vehicles and reported the attack to the police in Hopkinsville. Checking it out, the police saw the evidence of gunfire, but no intruders. After the cops left, the goblins returned in the early morning, but retreated for good before daybreak. In later retelling the aliens were little green men, but were not described that way by the original witnesses.

The Hypnotic Aliens of Betty and Barney Hill

September 19, 1961: near Lincoln, New Hampshire
Betty and Barney Hill saw a UFO on a long drive home and afterwards had recurrent fearful nightmares. When hypnotized by a psychiatrist, they told a story of being abducted and medically examined by short men with big eyes. The Hills had been treated by a medical professional, Dr. Benjamin Simon, and that gave their story added credibility, which helped their case become famous, the subject of a best-selling book, and later a 1975 TV, movie, The UFO Incident. The Hill’s story served as a transition between the Contactee stories and the nightmarish abduction encounters that took their place.

The Alien Robots of Cisco Grove
September 4, 1964: 28 year-old Donald Shrum was bow hunting in Cisco Grove, California, but got lost in the woods. When the signal fire he set to attract help seemed to attract a UFO instead, he took refuge in the lower branches of a tall pine tree. Two silvery-clad human-like beings approached, strange men with bulging eyes, no necks, and they came after him, trying to dislodge Shrum from the tree by shaking it. Then it got weird. A third alien, a robot, joined the attack. Shrum fired arrows, hitting the robot once, which momentarily stopped it. After that, the robot released a noxious gas or vapor from its mouth, causing him to black out temporarily. Shrum recovered, climbed higher, and strapped himself in with his belt. He fought back throughout the night, throwing objects, lit matches and burning pieces of his clothing at the aliens. A second robot appeared, and Shrum was gassed again, but when he awoke in the early dawn, he was alone. Despite Shrum being able to produce a dented arrowhead as evidence, the Air Force investigators considered the incident a hoax.

The Winged Monster of Point Pleasant

November 12, 1966: Point Pleasant, West Virginia
This famous case involved a year-long series of sightings of a large menacing bird-like creature, part of many strange happenings. Gray Barker covered the story in his book,  The Silver Bridge, but its best-known from John Keel’s The Mothman Prophecies. The Mothman is not really a proper spaceman from a UFO, it's more a part of the school of ufology that connects all weirdness to the paranormal. The frustration over the lack of physical evidence for flying saucers prompted some ufologists to look elsewhere for answers.

Bigfoot, UFOs and the Paranormal

October 20, 1967: Bluff Creek, California (filmed)
Bigfoot has seldom seriously connected with UFOs, but presents the same problems in regards to physical evidence. This has lead to some people hunting Bigfoot to put their faith into the paranormal instead, suggesting that the creatures are of a magical or inter-dimensional origin. For an exploration into the paranormal side of Bigfoot, there’s probably no better or worse book to mention than, The Psychic Sasquatch and Their UFO Connection by Jack Lapseritis. It's just one of many novel theories, but perhaps the most entertaining explanations was found in The Six Million Dollar Man 1976 two-part episode, "The Secret of Bigfoot.” Without spoiling the entire story, it’s revealed that Bigfoot was created by aliens to serve as their guardian.

The Abduction of the Fishermen

Oct. 11, 1973: Pascagoula, Mississippi
Charles Hickson and Calvin Parker had their night fishing trip interrupted when they were caught by aliens. There were three of them, about five feet tall and bipedal, but otherwise nonhuman, and the creatures didn’t walk, but floated through the air, ghost-like. Their bodies seemed to be covered with pale gray wrinkled skin, and they had very long arms with crab-like pincers for hands, and their stocky legs ended in elephant-like feet. There was no neck, and the heads were bullet or dome-like, no eyes were visible in the wrinkled faces. In the place of a nose and ears, they had short pointed carrot-like protuberances, and where the mouth should be, there was only a small slit. They took the fisherman aboard their oval-shaped ship, examined, then released them unharmed. After reporting the terrifying experience, the witnesses came to believe that their captors had been some kind of robots, and Hickson thought they were controlled from afar by some peaceful alien intelligence.

The Greys and Alien Abductions

In the 1950s, the Contactees went on joyful saucer trips with angelic aliens, but that fell out of fashion in the 60s. UFO researchers began to using the hypnotic regression on witnesses as an investigative tool to search for hidden memories. Unlike in the famous 1961 Betty and Barney Hill case, often these attempts were conducted by amateurs, not physicians. These untrained hypnotists were able to produce stories from their subjects, and more often than not, the nightmarish stories echoed that of the Hill’s; being helpless, and at the mercy of a medical examination by small humanoid aliens. In the 80s, those big-eyed little men came to known as “the Greys,” eventually taking over as the industry standard of what UFO occupants were expected to look like.

The Changing Faces of the Aliens

Descriptions of aliens have changed over time, from men, to monsters and angels, and back again. There have always been stories of weird and wonderful things, but we tend to pay more attention to those that match our expectations - or seem to confirm what we think we already know. The middlemen who usually bring us the stories, such as UFO investigators and media reporters, serve as editors or filters. For the most part, they are telling us what we want to hear, and reinforce stereotypes. The final factor is the role of emotion and imagination influencing the witness at the moment of the experience. Someone awestruck with wonder may come away from a UFO encounter with a tale of a benevolent visitor, while a terrified witness may tell the story of a horrible invading space monster. Much of it comes down to what's in the mind and the eye of the beholder.

. . .

Friday, October 19, 2018

Jessie Roestenburg’s 1954 UFO Encounter and Beyond



Jessie Roestenburg’s Oct. 21, 1954 encounter with a UFO might have been forgotten had it not been chronicled by Gavin Gibbons in his 1956 book, The Coming of the Space Ships. I provided the basis for almost all the subsequent accounts throughout ufology. Charles Bowen based his entry in the Flying Saucer Review Special: The Humanoids, 1966, on it, and the short version below is all that most people know of the story.

Bowen  compounded an error, calling the witness Jennie, instead of Jessie, and misspelled the location of Ranton. Gibbons had spelled the family name RoestenBERG, but it should have been BURG. Most UFO literature since has followed his version. Throughout, we’ve corrected quotes using “Roestenberg” to the proper Roestenburg.

It’s a famous sighting, one of the best-known early UK cases, but few know that her family experienced at least six UFO sightings, with Jessie being involved in all but one. Like her first, most of the additional sightings involved multiple witnesses. 

L, drawing by Cherry Hinkle of the Ranton humanoid type.
R, art by Mike Rogers based on the abduction story by Travis Walton.

The Original Incident: Eye Contact

In 1954 Jessie Roestenburg, her husband Tony and three young children lived in a cottage at Vicarage Farm, Ranton, Staffordshire, England. It was an old house three and a half miles from Stafford, and without the modern conveniences like electricity or indoor plumbing. It was almost like they were quietly living in the past, but that all changed on October 21, 1954. 

Vicarage Farm
Mrs. Roestenburg was inside with her two-year-old daughter, Karin, and her two sons, eight-year-old Anthony and six-year-old Ronald were just home from school and playing in the garden.
The time was 4:45 p.m.

The Wolverhampton Express and Star Oct. 22, 1954: 
Midland Woman says flying saucer terrified her
Ranton, near Stafford, A woman today told the “Express and Star” that she and her two children had been terrified by a flying saucer, carrying “two long-haired human-like creatures in tight-fitting jerseys.”
The machine landed in the garden, she stated.
When she heard a noise like a crashing aircraft, yesterday, Mrs Jessie Roestenburg, of isolated Vicarage Farm, ran out into the garden. 
She found her two children lying prostrate and terrified. 
The next house to Vicarage Farm is about two miles away.
Above the children was a huge, saucer-like object with a dome, the front part of which was transparent, stated Mrs. Roestenburg.
Staring at the children from the machine were two “unsmiling, human-like creatures, with long faces and long hair.”
Mrs. Roestenburg told our reporter that she ran to the back of the house in fright. The object then  moved over the house, hovered for about 15 seconds, and then shot off at high speed.
From another section of the story, she’s quoted as saying the object was "about 15 to 20 feet in diameter.”
Captions from the Wolverhampton Express and Star:
This is a sketch, made today by Mrs. Roestenburg, of the object that she states she saw in her garden, It appeared to be of “a dull silver metal,” and the outer rim seemed to be revolving.

Mrs. Roestenburg, with her two sons keeping close beside her, points to the place where, she says, she saw the flying saucer hovering above her home.

UK flying saucer researcher Gavin Gibbons wrote a report for Flying Saucer News, Winter 1954/55, "Full Report on the Ranton Affair," which included the above illustration.


The Coming of the Space Ships

Gavin Gibbons’ 1956 book, The Coming of the Space Ships, covers the flap of UFO sightings that began in June of 1954 in the Stafford area, and devotes two chapters to the story of the Roestenburgs, which he regarded as the “the most informative and, in some ways, astounding of all the sightings...” Although Gibbons provides the best documentation on the story, he was a linguist and scholar, not a journalist, and with his own UFO experience approached things as one of the awakened. As his title suggest, Gibbons regarded flying saucers as extraterrestrial space ships, and was persuaded by the reports from the Contactees. Wishing to retire the phrase “Flying Saucer,” Gibbons preferred the Atlantean/Sanskrit term “vimanas” (chariots of the sky) for disc-shaped scout craft. He invented other UFO terms to match, such as vunu for cigar-shaped spaceships.


Based on his interviews with the family, Gibbons gave a more detailed account of the Roestenburg story and what was seen:
...they looked very like Earthly men, with white skins and long hair down to their shoulders. Their foreheads seemed immensely high, with the features almost entirely in the bottom half of their faces. Their heads were enclosed in what appeared to be some sort of transparent helmet and they were dressed in clothes of turquoise blue that resembled ski suits that Mrs. Roestenburg had seen.
The saucer’s exit:
It was hovering over the house! Very low and completely silent, a queer round thing was standing in the air immediately over the little cottage... Their heads were in a whirl... As Jessie Roestenburg watched, appalled, the vimana began to move, flashing a purply blue light from the front of it as it did so. At an angle of 45° it started to ascend, making no sound as it moved, but continuing the flashing the whole time. With a gasp of relief Jessie ran into the house, intent on finding pencil and paper to sketch what she and the children had seen. As she looked for the stub of a pencil, the boys called out again from the garden. With fear returning once more to her heart she ran outside to see the Saucer coming back again, this time from north to south. It circled the house in an anti-clockwise direction one and a half times and then streaked skywards. It had gone at last.

The section of Gibbons book describing the sighting was excerpted as an article in Model Aircraft magazine, March 1957, “Space Ships ‘a Coming.” It’s archived, found on page 39 of the PDF, at

However, like most accounts, it only covers Oct. 21, not the subsequent events or the other UFO encounters of the Roestenburg family.

The Rest of the Story

Gavin Gibbons was not a detached journalist or scientific observer - he became part of the story. Gibbons spoke Mr. Roestenburg’s native language, Dutch, and it drew them closer, and he became friends with the Roestenburgs, making frequent visits to their home, educating and advising them on the topic of UFOs. In the narrative, he introduces Mr. Roestenburg first and regards it as Tony’s story, not Jessie’s. 

2nd Sighting: Tony’s Cigar

The second sighting was around 2:30 on the next Sunday, Oct. 24, 1954. The Roestenburg’s had a friend visiting, man whose name was not given. According to Gibbons, Tony thought there was a slight possibility that the saucer had dropped something on their roof. “He had a queer hunch, too, that it was his turn to see something.” From an upstairs he made his way to the roof, but found nothing, but remained to scan the skies.
“Suddenly he caught his breath and stared hard at the sky towards the south-west. His premonition was right after all. There, flying slowly along in a great semi-circle, was an enormous, cylindrical, sausage-shaped object.”
Tony called for Jessie and she and their guest  ran out to see “the huge machine looming in the sky, not more than a mile away, and watched with him as it carried on its curved course, eventually disappearing into a bank of cloud to the north.”
Mr. Roestenburg came down and asked Jessie if it was what she’d seen, but she said, no, that this was colossal, the saucer-shaped machine she’s seen was much smaller. the three discussed the sighting, but at first the friend said that he had thought that he had seen dark patches where wings might have been, but after careful thought he withdrew this idea.  Gibbon reports that Tony “became intensely interested in the subject of U.F.O.’s and kept a careful watch from then on, scanning the sky at every possible moment he could spare and hoping with all his heart to see another visitant.”

Gibbons was of the opinion that Jessie had seen a disc-shaped scout ship and aliens just as George Adamski had described, while Tony had seen the massive cigar-shaped mother ship.

3rd Sighting: Tony’s Fireball

Another hunch.  On or about December 15, 1954, Tony’s skywatching paid off. He saw a ball of fire slowly, silently moving at an angle of about 45° above the horizon. It was about two or three inches across when measured at his arm’s length, but when he went around to the other side of the house to follow its path, “It was now about eighteen inches at arm’s length!” It seemed to be moving lower and slower until it was almost stationary. As he watched, he heard the sound of an airplane coming from the east, and as the plane got closer,” the fireball suddenly moved, shooting northward at incredible speed and disappearing from sight within a few seconds... He had seen another Flying Saucer!”

The Family’s Transformation

The aftermath of the sightings on the family is discussed in chapter 8, Gibbons’ book. Jessie told him that afterward, her daughter Karin seemed to cry constantly and the two boys had become unruly and disrespectful. “I can see a tremendous change in them. Whether it’s a reaction after their fright or what, I don’t know, but they are much naughtier now than they ever were before it happened.”
Jessie herself was stressed, and had a blotchy rash on her skin, “It’s on my face and arms and I don’t know what it is.”
Her condition had developed sometime after the sighting, and Gibbons asked if she knew the cause.
“Just nerves. The same as my edginess and bad temper.”
Gibbons noted, “nervous strain will do peculiar things to the human body. I hoped that these bad after-effects would soon wear off, for, as I explained to Mrs. Roestenburg, I was sure that the men in the saucer had no intention of frightening her and the children.”

Jessie made no mention of having any other symptoms or of receiving any medical treatment.

When Gibbons visited the Roestenburgs in their new home southern edge of Stafford in March and May of 1955, he found them all changed for the better. He asked Mr. Roestenburg what had made the difference, and Tony almost sounded like they were fleeing a haunted house.
“That old cottage,” he answered without hesitation. “Ever since that U.F.O. hovered over it, something snapped there and almost made us snap, too... The move has made a different family of us and that’s a fact!”
Asked if he’d seen any more UFOs, Tony replied, “Not since that last one, but I’m still looking.”

Gibbons could see no motive for a hoax, and he was convinced of their sincerity.
“I have gained some new friends. I often visit them in their new home and we talk over the happenings of the day when the Saucer came. The children, and it is best so, have forgotten the incident, but for Jessie and Tony Roestenburg... it is a good memory. Now that the fear has gone and they are....almost beginning to wish that the vimana would pay them a second visit. Almost, I think they said, almost....”
Caption from Gibbons' book:
Mr. and Mrs. Roestenburg and their children,
May 21, 1955, seven months after they had seen the vimana.


1956 - 1957: More Flying Saucers 

Gavin Gibbons briefly returned to the Roestenburg case in his follow-up book, They Rode in Space Ships (1957), but continues the story, describing the lesser-known aftermath and further sightings by the family.

“Tony Roestenburg could hardly be said to court notoriety - he got more and more weary of references to his experiences... He certainly did not seek money-he and his family have gained nothing from an experience now largely forgotten by the children.” 

After summarizing both the original sighting, Tony’s rooftop sighting of the cigar-shaped UFO, Gibbons states, “He was to see another Space Ship later on, probably a vimana, but this has no direct bearing on the argument.” An asterisk leads to a footnote about three further sightings by the Roestenburgs, even after they moved from Ranton to Stafford. In the first one, the Roestenburg’s daughter instead of the boys, takes on the role of sounding the summoning cry:

“Sightings in the Stafford area are still taking place. On 5 December, 1956. Mrs. Roestenburg was called into the garden of their Stafford home by Karin. A bright orange disc, probably a vimana or scout ship was overhead! Seen by neighbours, it disappeared in the direction of Seighford. On to January, 1957, an orange glowing cigar-shaped vunu was seen by many people flying northwards over Stafford towards Stoke-on-Trent. Witnesses included Tony, Jessie, and Karin Roestenburg and Mrs. Daniels, wife of Wilfrid Daniels, the Stafford U.F.O. expert. On 13 May, 1957, a silvery vunu was seen over the west of Stafford by Mrs. Roestenburg, a near neighbour, Mrs. Violet Wilding, and several other witnesses in the area.” 

See appendix, the chronology: Roestenburg Family Sightings

Spiritualism, Psychic Powers and ESP

Gibbon’s second UFO book contrasts the Roestenburgs with someone he did not find credible, George King of the channeler of the cosmic being Aetherius. Gibbons disapproved of mixing spiritualism with UFOs, saying, “But the greatest danger is that spiritualism so easily leads to involuntary fraud or to misrepresentation by people who are themselves quite honest. Although a lot of people, including several well-known public figures, believe in spiritualism, there are many others who turn from it in disgust. As many of these latter believe in Flying Saucers, George King is doing a disservice to the Space Ship movement by associating spiritualism with Flying Saucers.”

Gibbons makes no mention of Mrs. Roestenburg’s psychic powers and experiences in his books. There’s just the tingling in her nose prior to the first sighting, and her husband’s hunch or premonition prior to the second one. Reading between the lines, there’s some suggestion the  Roestenburg’s felt there was something almost haunted at Vicarage Farm, and they were happy to be away from it.

                                                    
Wilfrid Daniels 

At the same time Gibbons was working the case, so was another. Wilfrid Daniels was a UFO researcher living in Stafford. He reported on the local sightings and interviewed Mrs. Roestenburg and was the first to disclose her psychic or ESP claims in Flying Saucer Review Vol. 1, No. 3, July-Aug. 1955 (page 16), “Flying Saucers and the Psychic” by Wilfred Daniels. Here’s a summary of it by UFO historian Loren Gross:
According to UFO researcher Wilfred Daniels, Mrs. Roestenburg had for years felt she was a “psychic,” and that for a number of hours prior to the “space ship appearance,” she had a “queer feeling” something was about to happen, at least that was her peculiar claim. Years before during a seance a medium directed a comment to Mrs. Roestenburg, pronouncing her a psychic of considerable ability, a compliment she never forgot. While denying she was a full-blown spiritualist, Mrs. Roestenburg said she did experience on one occasion a “spirit manifestation of the spectral sort.” Her aunt, she admitted, was a practising “psychic healer.” 
In Gibbon's mind, and to any UFO buff worth his salt, the possible flaw in the “strange affair at Ranton” was that it had a George Adamski smell, the American who at that time was the darling of England's occult society. 

Gross took Mrs. Roestenburg's claims of having psychic powers and supernatural before her sighting as a negative, but in the FSR article he quoted, Wilfrid Daniels thought it might be just the opposite. He speculated that these were exactly the kind of earthlings the spacemen wanted to visit:
But could it not be that just because of their peculiar powers of mental perception, spiritualists, and those with “psychic” sensibilities, maybe the very people better equipped than anybody else to be sought out, or inspected at close quarters, but alien visitors in flying saucers?
Gibbons worked closely with Daniels on the Stafford sightings and must have known about Mrs. Roestenburg's psychic stories. Due to his distaste of missing spiritualism with saucers, it appears he chose to censor it from his account of the Roestenburg case.


Jessie’s story became part of UFO literature, especially in the volumes devoted to Contactees and close encounters. Jessie had made contact with aliens - only eye contact, but still historic. However, for many years, her tale just circulated by repeated versions of Bowen’s 1966 short summary of the encounter.

The 1970s UFO Revival

The public’s interest in UFOs after the Pascagoula Abduction story caused a revival of media coverage, and that included reviewing old cases. 


The comic book, UFO Flying Saucers No. 7, August 1975 published by Gold Key (Western Publishing Company, Inc.) featured a brief adaptation of the first Jessie Roestenburg sighting,  “The Unsmiling Men,” a four page story illustrated by John Celardo.  It’s chief departure from the original account is in the depiction of the saucer occupants, drawn here as weird aliens, not the beautiful angelic astronauts Jessie described. One interesting thing the story does well is to demonstrate is the peculiar angle the saucer would have to tip forward in order for the occupants and witnesses to be able to see each other.

TV Coverage

In 1976, Hugh Burnett was preparing a UFO documentary for the BBC, and he approached Charles Bowen and Gordon Creighton of Flying Saucer Review. They gave him the contact information for Jessie Roestenburg. The documentary was titled Out of this World, and it was first broadcast May 10, 1977 on BBC 1. It’s largely responsible for reviving interest in the case, and today, most people are probably familiar with Jessie Roestenburg’s story via the YouTube clip of her from the program. It’s often shared with comments noting how genuine, sincere and credible she appears. 



She describes the saucer as looking like a Mexican hat, and says occupants, says were beautiful people with long golden hair, wearing  coverings over their heads like a “transparent fishbowl.”
“They just looked, and I was absolutely paralytic with fear. I couldn’t move, although my mind was taking over. And they seemed so sympathetic that I was mesmerized, seemed to be - oh, ages, but it could have only been seconds. After checking on her boys, “I looked up and it was gone.” 
Asked about the size of the object, she says it was “massive,” that it was larger than the roof of the house. She said they saw the object again in the distance, that it circled them three times then it shot off.
A spaceman in a fishbowl helmet, as seen in The Man from Planet X, 1951
More fishbowls from The Net, 1953
Mrs. Roestenburg appeared in another UFO program a few years later, and told her story again on the episode, “U.F.O.s” of Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World, which was broadcast Nov. 4, 1980. It’s interesting to contrast it with her previous clip from the 1977, Out of this World. Her description of the events are very similar,  sometimes word for word. In both she's quite animated, but here she’s far less emotional, and perhaps convincing. 

She describes discovering the flying saucer:
“To my amazement there, suspended on the top of the roof of this old farm, was this object that I can only describe as a huge Mexican hat. It was that shape, without the bobbles. It must have been fifteen to twenty yards from where I stood. It covered the roof, so in circumference it must have been about sixty feet, it was enormous.  The people in the space-craft were just looking out, I could see them from the waist to the top of their heads. They were very beautiful people. They had long golden hair... (but no mention of the fishbowl helmets). and they just looked at us. Their eyes - the expression in their eyes - were full of compassion.”
“And then all of a sudden, I felt the tension leaving me and I felt movement, and I turned around to touch my children and when I looked again it was gone.” Moments later, her younger son pointed it out then, “it circled round the farm three times, then it just shot straight up and away.”
“U.F.O.s” episode of Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World  (link)

How Big was the UFO?  

The account from the two shows differ from the original version documented by Gavin Gibbons on several details, and none of the other subsequent events or sightings were discussed. The part about Jessie seeing the saucer ascend, then running inside to look for a pencil was dropped, and instead she remains outside for the entire sighting. Also, when seen again, the saucer makes not 1 /1/2 circles, but 3 around the farm on its exit, but perhaps that’s an unimportant difference. 


The biggest difference seems to be the size of the UFO. The figure Jessie gave for the saucer’s size in the first account was, "about 15 to 20 feet in diameter,” which matches the drawing she made for the newspaper. In her sketch, it depicts the saucer as room-sized, not house-sized. In the Jul-Aug 1955 FSR, investigator Wilfrid Daniels gave the size as “a 25-ft. saucer.” In her later television interviews the spaceship was described to be enormous,  large enough to cover the entire roof of the cottage. 


Thirty Years Later, New Details Emerge

Excepts from Jenny Randles’ Abduction (aka Alien Abductions), 1988, pages 68-70, Chapter 5, “Alien Abductions - The British Catalogue”
Type II: Contact Cases 
21 October 1954 - Ranton, Staffordshire This case is legendary in UFO circles, having featured in several books during the 1950s, but no one seemed to have looked at it recently, so on 6 August 1987 I interviewed the chief witness, Mrs Jessie Roestenburg. She was in her late twenties in 1954 and had two children, Anthony (aged eight) and Ronald (six). They do remember the events, but only vaguely. Jessie had felt 'tingles' all day, prior to 4:45 p.m., when the incident occurred. (Recap of sighting.)
“It felt like hours passed, but it must have been seconds. Time was suspended. I was also paralysed. It was like I was in a vice. But my mind was working overtime.” 
“...nothing Jessie said indicated to me that she was familiar with UFO cases...”Since then she has often thought about it: 'This was something absolutely marvellous. The saddest part to me is that I have never been able to fully understand the greatness of this thing.'
However, she says that she has since had a 'great, almost extreme, development of ESP. I know things about people. I understand situations. All this probably sounds crazy, but it is true.' Some of the things that have happened include seeing the aliens again in her house '. . . out of the corner of my eye .... But I think it could be a "thought thing". It could be my imagination'. 
These contacts have implanted feelings into her mind about the aliens: 'I think they'll be here when I need them .... They are surveying us. They're afraid that we might panic. But some of them are living amongst us.’
Jessie Roestenburg impressed me because she had not become a 'UFO nut' and had seemingly read no books on the subject since 1954. She had seen the Spielberg film Close Encounters of the Third Kind but in typical fashion said about it, ‘I remember thinking whoever did this film has a good understanding of the subject. But when those little funny aliens came on I almost stood up and shouted, "They're not like that!" I don't believe in little green men. Not after what I've seen." 

Excerpts from the interview were carried in an article in The Star, Feb. 29, 1988,


1998
Timothy Good’s  Alien Base, 1998, contains an interview with Jessie Roestenburg that offers details I’d not found documented elsewhere, health problems following her first sighting.

Jessie‘s health began to deteriorate. ‘I went to see my doctor, who had read about what happened,’ she said, ‘but he thought I was round the twist. I insisted on seeing a psychiatrist and he said: “There’s nothing wrong with your mind but you do you need to go to hospital.” He took me himself and they did a blood count. [It] was so low they couldn’t understand how I was still alive. They said they wouldn’t be surprised if I was suffering from radiation sickness. For a while, I was in a terrified mess but gradually got better.

Good quotes Jessie from the news story by reporter Neil Thomas in the Staffordshire Newsletter, August 30, 1996, which gives her name as “Jessica Roestenburg.” She said, “To this day I don’t know what they were, I don’t believe they wanted to do us any harm. They are far more intelligent than we are.”

2011 (probably from 2006)
Sadly, Jessie Roestenburg passed away on May 12, 2017. Luckily John Hanson was able to interview her a few times in her later years for Haunted Skies.

From John Hanson 2006, Haunted Skies-Vol. 1. Photo by David Sankey
Excerpts from the Haunted Skies blog by John Hanson and Dawn Holloway
“Special Blog to celebrate Volume 3”

Jessie’s religious disclosure
“I seemed to be in some way drawn, or compelled, to the top of the garden - almost as if I was being manipulated by an outside influence, of which I had no control. I glanced around and saw the amazing sight of this flying saucer shaped object hovering 40-50 feet above the roof of the house. Inside the ‘saucer’ I could clearly see what looked like two humans, wearing long golden hair down to their shoulders. I felt a mixture of emotions - amazement and fear run through my body, followed by the thought, ‘God will wipe away all tears’. Immediately, all the tension left me, (something I have never disclosed to anyone before because of its religious significance). I turned to my sons and asked them if they had seen the ‘flying saucer’. They replied, ‘yes’.”

Expanded Account of the Medical Treatment 
After the sighting, she felt revitalized, for a short time, until discovering a strange rash covering her face and front part of the body, accompanied by a considerable loss of weight over a relatively short period, which gave rise for concern. Jessie sought the advice of her Doctor, who was well aware of the UFO incident and intimated there was something wrong with her mental health.
Offended by this suggestion, Jessie contacted a Psychiatrist - Dr. Wilson, who confirmed, after a medical examination, there was nothing wrong with her mental state of health. “He asked me if I had been given a chest x-ray and blood tests. When I told him this had not been done, he personally escorted me to hospital, where a chest X-ray was taken but found to be clear. Unfortunately, blood tests showed the blood count was very low. The haematologist said to me, ‘If it didn’t sound so ludicrous, l would say you have been exposed to a massive dose of radiation’. I was given injections of iron, twice a week, which caused all sorts of problems before the correct dosage was established.”

A short clip of Jessie Roestenberg when aged 90; recorded in 2015 by John Hanson and Dawn Holloway of Haunted Skies.

Although the Roestenburg children were involved in several of the UFO sightings, they were treated as bystanders in the news coverage and UFO literature. Gavin Gibbons played with the children in his visits with the family and talked to them about the events. At the time, Karin was two and inside, but Anthony Jr. , eight, and Ronald, six, were outside and as close to the spacemen in the UFO as Jessie. A year or so later, somewhat incredibly,Gibbons noted it was “an experience now largely forgotten by the children.” If they’ve commented on the family’s UFO sightings as adults, I’ve been unable to locate a credible source. Beyond Gibbons book, there seems to be nothing recording Tony Roestenburg’s sightings. Only Jessie’s story really lives to carry on.
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For readers who'd like more information on the Roestenburg story, check out the sources below and the BBL page of additional material, including:


Epilogue: The Forgotten Witness 

Appendix:
Roestenburg  Family Sightings 

Bad UFOlogy: Jennie and Apocrypha

Jessie Roestenburg’s 1954 UFO Encounter and Beyond: The Extras


Online Sources and Links to Further Information

They Rode in Space Ships by Gavin Gibbons, 1957 (Online at Daniel Fry.com)

The Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse: UFOs: A History 1954 October by Loren Gross
“The Roestenburg case” (pages 75 - 76)

There was an excellent discussion of the case by Kandinsky from Dec. 2011, on the site Above Top Secret (ATS) that provides a good background on the Roestenburg events. 
“BBC Out Of This World Program (1977) Re: Staffordshire 1954 Sighting”

Flying Saucer Review  Vol. 1, No. 3, July-Aug. 1955 (page 16)
“Flying Saucers and the Psychic” by Wilfred Daniels

Flying Saucer Review  Vol. 3, No. 1, Jan.-Feb. 1957 (page 9)
“Flying Cigar at Stafford”

Flying Saucer Review, Sept./Oct. 1957. Vol. 3, No. 5.
“World Round Up,” Europe, Great Britain. (pages 5 & 6) 
‘’Stafford in the news again.

Flying Saucer Review, Vol. 38, No. 1, 1993 carried an article recounting the case, “The Roestenburg Story (1954)” by Gordon Creighton. (pages 6 -9)

Out Of This World - UFO Interview - My Body Language Analysis. Staffordshire 1954 CJB
Craig James Baxter, the author of Unmasked: A Revealing Look At The Fascinating World Of Body Language made a video examining the clip of Mrs. Roestenburg from Out of this World.
His analysis is interesting, and he seems to believe she was sincere. However, his conclusion that there’s a tear shed at the close of the video seems to be in error. Compare the scene with a clip from the original program. No tear is evident. (https://youtu.be/58R7JAQm_yQ?t=37s)

UK newspaper story from 1954 - fragment the Wolverhampton Express and Star Oct. 22, 1954

Stafford and Mid-Staffs Newsletter, 5/2/5?, “Staffordian’s Opinon on Flying Saucers,” a profile on Wilfrid Daniels, who discusses investigating the Roestenburg sighting.


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