Wednesday, September 21, 2022

UFO Advocate: Betty Cash


Betty Cash, UFO Advocacy, and Show Business

A mammoth fiery UFO was pursued by helicopters was seen on the night of December 29, 1980, near Huffman, Texas, according to Betty Cash (51), her friend Vickie Landrum (57) and her grandson Colby Landrum (7). The witnesses did not report the incident until four weeks later, prompted by Betty Cash’s lingering medical problems which they speculated caused her illness. Once it was out, the story became a media sensation, and in time, a classic UFO case. 

They alleged that the presence of military helicopters during the sighting proved the U.S. government was involved, and therefore responsible for their physical ailments. The suspense generated by their pending lawsuit kept the story in the news, but the case was dismissed without a trial in 1986. As far as the media was concerned, the story was over. Betty Cash was deeply disappointed. Since the story broke, she had participated in mainstream television interviews, but other than cooperating with investigator John Schuessler, she was not involved with the UFO scene and its subculture. There were a couple of documented exceptions, though.

Betty Cash’s car was shown in “UFOs: What's Going On?,” the 1985 HBO documentary America Undercover episode. Since her experience, she’d added a bumper sticker to the auto: “U.F.O.’S Are Real... The Air Force Doesn’t Exist!” Also, Betty responded to Steuart Campbell’s skeptical letter about the C-L story in the MUFON UFO Journal, June 1986.

Something changed around 1988. Betty Cash took an proactive role in ufology, speaking as an advocate on UFO radio shows, attending conferences, and even petitioning the U.S. government. 

Whatever It Takes

OMNI magazine October 1988 featured an article by Dennis Stacy and Kevin McKinney, a collection of strange events titled, “Lee County’s Lizard Man and other Unsolved Mysteries.” Half a page was devoted to the Cash-Landrum story and legal effort, “The Case of the Fiery Diamond,” and included quotes from Betty Cash:

"Even if the government didn't know what the object was then, it does now," she says. "Those helicopters were there, and for the judge to throw the case out, not even hearing us, is a sad decision," She adds that she'll "do whatever it takes" to bring attention to the dismissed case. "I'll fight until they lay me in my grave," she says. "I want people to know how our federal judicial system works."

Betty’s first step in her battle may have been her appearance on an infamous UFO television special.

UFO Cover-Up?... Live was broadcast on Oct. 14, 1988, from Washington, DC, a 2-hour live syndicated television special from Seligman Productions. It was built around taped footage from Bill Moore and Jaime Shandera of two alleged government UFO insiders, “Falcon” and “Condor” who claimed to reveal big secrets about MJ-12, crashed saucers at Area 51, aliens dining and entertainment favorites, and so on. The bulk of the show was live interviews with ufologists and witnesses, but the producer chose to have everything scripted. The participants read their lines from cue cards, and most of their performances came off as clumsy and artificial. There were segments on both historical cases and current events such as segment on the Gulf Breeze UFO story in Florida.

Betty Cash and Vickie Landrum appeared to tell their story and Betty said, “I'm mad, I'm mad as hell and disappointed with the government of our United States.” While they listened a pre-taped statement of Richard Doty in silhouette as “Falcon,” was played, where he claimed that the UFO they had seen was a joint venture between aliens and the US military.

“The Cash-Landrum incident - the craft that was observed was an alien craft piloted by military aircraft pilots. Although they had been trained and were somewhat familiar with the craft, they found that the aircraft did not respond to certain controls. They radioed that they thought the craft was going to crash — standard procedures for the military in any situation where an aircraft was going to crash — the military would send up search-and- rescue helicopters. The helicopters were following the craft. The craft experienced severe problems. It was thought that the craft was going to crash. However, this craft did not crash.”

Betty Cash nodded approving as Doty mentioned the helicopters, as if to say, “I told you so!”

The tabloid National Examiner Feb. 14, 1989, ran a story quoting Betty from UFO Cover-Up?... Live.

Ufologists were optimistic that the TV special would lead to greater public awareness and have a positive impact. The day after the show, the Fund For UFO Research sponsored a brunch meeting to discuss how to move forward. Betty Cash attended and said the medical field needed to be educated on the UFO subject.

UFO Cover-Up?... Live
had featured a phone poll for a Congressional hearing on the UFO topic. Betty Cash was excited by the prospect, and she petitioned for government involvement. 

UFO Brigantia, March 1989

In early 1989, advertisements debuted for The UFO Phenomenon book from the 33-volume series on the paranormal from Time-Life, “Mysteries of the Unknown.” The ads appeared widely in newspapers and magazines through 1989 to 1990 prominently featuring an illustration of the Cash-Landrum case. 

“Was it just an illusion? Or did Betty Cash see a UFO. In December of I980, Betty Cash, Vickie Landrum and Vickie's small grandson sighted a blazing diamond-shaped object hovering above a Texas road.”  

The book opened with the Cash-Landrum story, two pages summarizing the case followed a 2-page color illustration of the sighting.

C-L illustration by Alfred T. Kamajian

In February, UFO sightings in Fyffe, Alabama, made news and Betty contacted the witnesses to offer her support. This led to Betty being interviewed again about her own story. 

Birmingham Post-Herald, Feb. 18, 1989

An Associated Press story in the Times Daily (Alabama) Feb. 18, 1989, reported, “She said that Sen. Howell Heflin, D-Ala began working to obtain a congressional hearing after calls of support came in during an October television special…”

The Birmingham News, Feb. 29, 1989, also published a story on Betty, a telephone interview stating, “Mrs. Cash's experience has become one of the most celebrated and sensationalized UFO sighting in the recent years. She said it has left her in poor health, in debt and questioning credibility of the U.S. government.”

The Birmingham Post-Herald, March 15, 1989 ran an interview that provided some rare details of Betty’s personal life. “Divorced from her first husband in 1979, Mrs. Cash married again several years ago and moved into the mobile home by [Logan Martin Lake].” That was partly inaccurate. Betty’s first husband was (Earl?) Howard and they had two kids, Bill (Toby) and Mickey Joyce. After their divorce, Betty was married to James F. Cash from 1958 to 1980. Despite the legend that she was disabled, around the time of this article, Betty “worked for many years as a private nurse.”

There was a paranormal talk show in Montgomery, Alabama, “In Touch,” hosted by Chris Stevens on WACV Talk Radio. Betty was a frequent guest on the show talking about her own experiences and other UFO events like the Fyffe sightings.

The Montgomery Advertiser, Oct. 16, 1989

Betty Cash at Gulf Breeze

Jumping ahead a bit, “O.H. Krill” made crackpot claims about a lot of things including the Cash-Landrum UFO case:

“Bill Moore says it was the U.S. flying an alien craft. One of the women involved thinks that the aliens are Satanic and said so recently in a full-page ad in the Gulf Breeze, Fla. Sentinel.” 

It sounds outrageous, but it may be a distortion of actual events. Betty Cash was visiting Florida for UFO conferences and making UFO business contacts there. One of them was Michael R. Wales, Director of Radar Evidence, UFO, IAC Center. (IAC was an abbreviation for Identified Alien Craft.) In a March 1989 advertisement in the Gulf Breeze Sentinel, Wales referred to himself as Michael of  the "Free Confederation of Planets in service of the Infinite Creator."

The Sentinel, March 16, 1989

Wales is quoted as proclaiming: 

"Certain highly enlightened Starseed Angelic Forces have been simultaneously contacting Gulf Breeze ... and Fyffe, Ala., to battle the serpents and awaken the population of the world. It is high time to inform yourselves and demand an end to the governmental cover-up regarding both the angelic and demonic extraterrestrial activities." 

Wales said the UFOs are visiting Gulf Breeze because the U.S. government won't release information on alien visits. He said they are taking their case to the people.

"They don't want to force themselves on a planet against its wishes. If enough people on a planet want to know about them they may be able to make contact in a more open way," Wales said.

Wales’ ad and position may have been confused by “Krill” as being connected to the Cash-Landrum case. There was a connection, though. Mike Wales knew Betty Cash and presented her at a UFO conference. Pensacola News Journal, March 11, 1990, “Observers: Seeing is believing,” by Bill DiPaolo and Craig Myers.

Betty Cash was one of the guests at Mike Wales’ 1-day UFO convention, “UFOrum: The True Story of the UFO,” on June 9, 1989. Pensacola News Journal, June 7, 1989.

Pensacola News Journal, June 7, 1989.

The Sentinel, June 8, 1989

Pensacola News Journal, June 10, 1989

Betty was not mentioned in the Pensacola News Journal, June 10, 1989, but it was described as having over 100 attendees. One of them was Anna Foster, a psychic, who operated the New Age Shop in Gulf Breeze and active in the local UFO scene. The Sentinel, June 15, 1989 had a more complete report including photos of speakers Betty Hill and Betty Cash.

The Sentinel, June 15, 1989

When Betty was in Florida, either on this visit or the next year, Wales took Betty Cash to meet Duane B. Cook, the Sentinel editor and publisher, who was instrumental in covering the Ed Walters UFO story in Gulf Breeze.

Wales extremist antics led to some friction. The Miami Herald, Aug. 6, 1989, ran a story about controversial figure Ed Walters, that ended with a mention of the arrest of Mike Wales:

“Ex-con or no ex-con, Gulf Breeze is adjusting nicely to its status as a UFO spaceport despite the mayor’s complaint about what the notoriety is doing to his town. Not long ago, the cops busted one strange fellow from Palm Beach, a member of the ‘Free Confederation of Planets,’ allegedly for trespassing at the high school. That’s where the UFO once landed, says a defendant. It deposited a bubbling, extraterrestrial chemical and kill the patch of grass, he says.”

Wales said he left Gulf Breeze in October 1989 [returning to Palm Beach] after being ridiculed and ostracized by Gulf Breeze officials and fellow UFO researchers. But [Police Chief Jerry] Brown and other city officials said Wales alienated himself in his search for aliens. Pensacola News Journal March 11, 1990.

Betty Cash was back in Florida for the MUFON Symposium held in July of 1990, "UFOs: The Impact of E.T. Contact Upon Society," held in Pensacola. This was during the heyday of the publicity surrounding Ed Walters’ Gulf Breeze UFO tales and photographs. Walters himself was a guest, along with folks such as Budd Hopkins, Bruce Maccabee, and Don Schmitt. Betty wasn’t listed as a guest, but she was joined by her friend Vickie Landrum who also attended, possibly attracted by the lecture, "The Fyffe Alabama Experience" by Carey H. Baker, or to network and pursue support for their story. Thanks to Michael Christol for sharing a photograph below, which shows MUFON director Walt Andrus, Jeanne Andrus, Betty Cash and Vickie Landrum. 

Also attending was the symposium was psychic Anna Foster, who would shortly be making UFO-related news of her own. See the Aug. 1990 MUFON Journal article for coverage of the symposium.

One Degree of Separation from the Gulf Breeze Six

Arriving in Gulf Breeze just after the MUFON symposium ended were six US military intelligence analysts AWOL from their post in West Germany. On July 14, 1990, the police stopped their van for a broken tail light, which led to the entire group being arrested. They became known as "the Gulf Breeze Six," on a bizarre quest that involved prophecy from a Ouija board about the Antichrist, the Rapture, exposing the government UFO cover-up and much more. The person who had inspired them was Anna Foster, a psychic, had attended Mike Wales’ “UFOrum: The True Story of the UFO” on June 9, 1989 and also the MUFON Symposium. 

Anna Foster and the Gulf Breeze Six were featured in a segment in the Sightings episode from Feb. 12, 1993, “Searching the Skies/Ouija/Phobos II Update.”

Betty Cash, Mike Wales, and the Sentinel Editor

In the Sentinel, (Gulf Breeze, FL) July 19, 1990, UFO conspiracy theorist Mike Wales asked Mayor Ed Gray and Duane B. Cook, Sentinel editor and publisher questions about Betty Cash being a victim of an alleged mind control UFO conspiracy connected to the Gulf Breeze Six: 

Mike Wales asked, “Do you feel that Paul Bennewitz, Gabe Valdez and Betty Cash have been able to speak freely to the press, without gross and unfair pressure from the U.S. Intelligence community, and ‘Operation Crystal Ball,’ UFO Coverup Security, and mind control tactics being employed?”

Duane Cook answered, “I don't know anything about Bennewitz or Valdez, but Betty Cash was able to speak as freely as she pleased with The Sentinel when you brought her to my office, Mike.”

The Palm Beach Post from July 22, 1990, concerning the Gulf Breeze Six, which included quotes from Mike Wales. The article described the arrest of the group. “…four of the soldiers were staying at the home of Anna Foster, a Gulf Breeze woman who had befriended one of the men a year ago.”

“Some UFO advocates speculate the six soldiers came on a military 'mission… They could be perfect lookouts, UFO advocates say. ‘If they felt UFOs should come to Gulf Breeze because there's been so much activity in the past, it'd be a perfect place to be conducting an experiment,’ said Michael Wales, a UFO enthusiast who lives in Palm Beach but has studied sightings in Gulf Breeze.”

(Later… one of the six was Kenneth Beason, age 26.)

[Anna] Foster reportedly met Beason last year while working at the New Age bookstore in Gulf Breeze. "On the advice of my attorney, I have no comment," she-said. Neither will she confirm nor deny whether she is a Rapture disciple. But Wales, who gave a lecture on UFOs recently in Gulf Breeze, said Foster attended and "talked about her interest in the Rapture then." 

Cash-Landrum: the Motion Picture 

Betty Cash’s Gulf Breeze connection resulted in a new legal counsel, Attorney Clay V.  Ford, Jr. UFO Magazine, Sept./Oct. 1990, quoted Ford as saying, “Whether the craft was alien or not, the government is responsible.”  

UFO Magazine, Sept./Oct. 1990

The Houston Chronicle
, Sept. 15, 1991, reported
“Their attorney, Clay Ford of Gulf Breeze, Fla., wants to reopen the case by showing government officials lied about record-keeping procedures during pretrial proceedings. Meanwhile, he is negotiating the sale of his clients' movie rights.”

The Cash-Landrum movie never happened, but the case continued to be prominently featured in the media.

Betty Cash in Books, Radio, and Television

On Nov. 18, 1990, Betty Cash, Colby and Vickie Landrum were guests on 21st Century Radio Show hosted by Dr. Bob Hieronimus, “UFOs Today with Bob Oechsler.” The witnesses were interviewed by phone while Betty was in Texas for the filming of their Unsolved Mysteries episode. It was most notable for having (teenaged) Colby Landrum give his account of the sighting, but otherwise it was Vickie and Betty mostly repeated the familiar details. Betty sounded confidant and persuasive, and when asked about the origins of the UFO she said, “I really don’t believe - I mean, it might be something from outer space. but I ...the government knows something about it, and they shouldn’t lie to us about it.”

Airing shortly after the tenth anniversary of the case the hit NBC show, the Unsolved Mysteries episode on February 6, 1991, included the segment “Texas UFO.” It featured interviews with Betty Cash, Vickie Landrum, John Schuessler, Dr. Bryan McClelland, and L.L. Walker, and a dramatic and imaginative re-enactment of the case with the witnesses portrayed by actors. Betty was still focused on getting help and information.  “If it’s a top-secret object that’s protecting the United States, then I could say I could forgive them for that. But at least they owe us to tell us exactly why we were burned, and what type of radiation that we were exposed to and how much.” The show gave the case a lot of exposure and the episode was rerun at least once, frequently replayed ever since after the series was packaged for syndication.

Jenny Randles’ 1987 book The UFO Conspiracy: The First Forty Years contained a two-page summary of the Cash-Landrum case. In 1990 Betty Cash’s daughter, Mickey Gesinger, read the book and wrote a letter by to Randles who she asked to help get additional coverage to her mother’s story in hopes it would prompt a financial settlement from the U.S. government. (Published in UFO Times May 1990.) This connection led to an invitation to a convention the following year. Betty and Vickie Landrum were announced at guests at the 6th International UFO Congress in 1991 in England. 

However, the plans apparently didn’t work out, and they did not appear for the convention.

Despite the publicity from the Unsolved Mysteries episode, the stardom of the Cash-Landrum case faded, and it was seldom mentioned outside of UFO fandom. There was no movie deal, and if Betty Cash was still an advocate, it wasn’t making the papers. Thanks in part to the debut of the television show The X-Files in 1993, UFOs became newsworthy again.

Encounters: The UFO Conspiracy, was a television show aired on Fox Feb. 22, 1994. It included Betty Cash in their opening segment on a US government cover-up. 

Betty appeared at 6:26 and was in about four minutes of the show, saying:

“I don't trust our United States government, and I don't mean to be short or ugly, but that's exactly the way I feel. And if they want to do anything with me, let ’em do it”

If Betty Cash’s efforts to petition Congress for a hearing on UFOs had any effect, it went off course. In February 1994, the General Accounting Office (GAO), an investigative agency of Congress, initiated an audit to ascertain “the facts regarding the reported crash of an UFO in [1947] at Roswell, New Mexico.” What resulted from that was a report published in July 1994, later revised and expanded in 1997 as The Roswell Report: Case Closed. It looked no further than Roswell, so was helpful in no way to Betty’s cause.

The X-Files Book of the Unexplained was a 1995 book by Jane Goldman described as “an in-depth guide to the mysteries of the paranormal and unexplained which are the basis of the fictional television episodes.” It also included 3 pages with a summary of the Cash-Landrum UFO case with photos of Betty Cash and Vickie Landrum.

In mid-1998 John Schuessler self-published the book, The Cash-Landrum UFO Incident. The A&E Network broadcast The Unexplained episode, "Close Encounters" from July 9, 1998, written and produced by Kevin Barry. The episode featured an extended segment on the C-L case and included interviews with Betty Cash, Vickie Landrum, John Schuessler, Dr. Bryan McClelland, attorney William Shead, and Ken Storch. Betty Cash’s said: 

“They've ruined my health, they've ruined my life, so what else what else is there that they can do other than kill me” And they probably would love to do that, but I'm so stubborn and hard-headed that I'm gonna show ’em. I'm gonna be around to fight just as long as there's a fight left in me.”

The Unexplained was Betty Cash’s last televised interview. In November Betty was hospitalized for a stroke and she died on Dec. 29, 1998 at the age of 69.

. . . 

For Further Reading on the Gulf Breeze Tangents

For Mike Wales, see War of the Words: The True But Strange Story of the Gulf Breeze UFO by Craig R. Myers, 2006

James Carrion shared A 117-page PDF on the Gulf Breeze Six published by Jack Brewer and at The UFO Trail published in his Feb. 12, 2017 article, “Revisiting the Gulf Breeze Six.” The file was from MUFON's "Pandora Project.” The Gulf Breeze Six: Media Coverage and Correspondence

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