Showing posts with label Donald Keyhoe. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Donald Keyhoe. Show all posts

Monday, December 23, 2019

Remembering Donald Keyhoe and the Birth of Ufology

The end of December marks the anniversary of the Cash-Landrum case, which we traditionally remember this time each year. Betty Cash, Colby and Vickie Landrum reported a terrifying UFO encounter that they said changed their lives on Dec. 29, 1980. 

Without the field of Ufology, the Cash-Landrum sighting might have have been forgotten and the story never revealed or investigated. Without Donald Keyhoe, there might never have been Ufology. This year, we look at the 70th anniversary of the article that established the foundation for the civilian study of UFOs.


Beliefs about extraterrestrial visitors goes back much further than the flying saucer wave of 1947, but it was mostly a matter for the fringe, from spiritualists and Forteans to crackpot science fiction fans. That began to change in December of 1949, when the news was abuzz over an article, "The Flying Saucers Are Real" by Donald E. Keyhoe in True magazine, cover dated January 1950. The article prompted a negative reaction by the Air Force.

Associated Press story, The Carbondale Southern Illinoisan,  Dec. 27, 1949
Donald Keyhoe was a retired Marine Major who had been writing professionally since the 1920s, everything from nonfiction aviation to pulp fantasy and science fiction. True magazine had been working on an article on flying saucers, but was stumped. Editor Ken Purdy assigned the job to Keyhoe, knowing his aviation background and military contacts would allow him to dig deeper. It did. 


Keyhoe was able to get factual information on cases, and also to get opinion and speculation on flying saucers from military engineers. Despite lacking physical evidence, some of them were persuaded that saucers were aircraft of an unknown design, and the reported performance of this craft exceeded the technical capabilities of anything that could be made on earth. Ergo, flying saucers came from another planet.

Donald Keyhoe’s article helped coalesce several saucer beliefs into a plausible package. His position was: The flying saucers are real, and are interplanetary spaceships. His secondary principle was that the US government knew about UFOs and that they were keeping it secret, in other words, there was a government UFO cover-up.

The military’s policy of secrecy, coupled with their confusion over the UFO situation fed into the suspicion and even paranoia of saucer buffs. The newly-formed Air Force was able neither to explain or control the saucer problem, and they’d tried hard to avoid talking about. When they did, there were often contradictory statements and explanations that just made matters worse. It may have been more of a foul-up than a cover-up.

Some of Keyhoe's UFO books over the decades.
With the phenomenal success of the article, Keyhoe expanded it into a paperback book released in May of 1950. Much of the flying saucer sensation was fueled by hoaxes, rumors and speculation, but Keyhoe did what no one else could, and he tenaciously focused on real incidents and documentation instead of hearsay. It’s true that his pulp writing style added some drama to the way they were presented, and also some speculation. The Air Force’s Capt. Edward Ruppelt would later offer a left-handed compliment saying, “Keyhoe had based his conjecture on fact, and his facts were correct, even if the conjecture wasn't.”

Keyhoe’s book is more well known today than his article that launched it all. It’s worth remembering an rereading the True magazine piece, where it all the excitement started. 

As long as UFOs are discussed, Keyhoe's story will live on.

True magazine January, 1950, "The Flying Saucers Are Real" by Donald E. Keyhoe
(Hosted at the site, PROJECT 1947, founded by Jan L. Aldrich)

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For more UFO history, join us at our companion site, The Saucers That Time Forgot



Friday, June 23, 2017

1954 UFO Whistleblower: Frank E Keely

From Kenneth Arnold to UFO crashes, Keely tells all.


Publisher Bill Gaines' EC Comics produced a number of comic book series, best-loved for their anthologies of science fiction and horror stories, the most (in)famous of which was Tales from the Crypt. EC is remembered for their outstandingly sophisticated stories and art, and for their O. Henry-type surprise endings, similar to what Rod Serling would later do on television in the Twilight Zone.

Weird Science-Fantasy #25, Sept. 1954

Not Keel, It's Keely

Weird Science-Fantasy #25, (EC, Sept. 1954) featured "Flying Saucer Report" written by Al Feldstein and illustrated by Wally Wood. It's a fictional story, but cites quite a bit of genuine UFO history through the eyes of "Frank E. Keely," a composite character based on Major Donald E. Keyhoe and Frank Scully, the best-selling authors of The Flying Saucers are Real and Behind the Flying Saucers.


A non-believing skeptic confronts Keely

The story must may have been a practice run. The following issue, EC tried something even more ambitious. Bruce Lanier Wright in Strange Magazine said: 
"The most memorable UFO comic ever, though, has to be EC's Weird Science-Fantasy #26 of December 1954. In contrast to the light-hearted, sardonic tone of the earlier saucer stories, this issue was a serious treatment of actual UFO sightings based on the writings of Donald Keyhoe, a respected investigator of the era. Keyhoe spent an entire day with the EC staff, who constructed a series of accounts featuring actual names, dates and quotes from Keyhoe's files. The book received a good deal of national publicity and became a sellout." 
Weird Science-Fantasy #26, Dec. 1954
More about the special non-fiction Weird Science-Fantasy issue in a later BBL posting.

Keely's Flying Saucer Report

Getting back to Feldstein and Wood's "Flying Saucer Report," it's interesting not only for covering UFO cases like Kenneth Arnold and Thomas Mantell, it also provides an interesting cultural perspective on the "UFO cover-up," how the military denials and skeptical scientific explanations were perceived by the public circa 1954. Roswell, of course, was not mentioned, but Silas Newton's Aztec saucer crash story (made famous by Frank Scully) was. There's even what may be the first visual depiction of a secret military recovery of an ET body from a UFO crash for an alien autopsy.

Many of the details in the story seem to have been pulled from Donald Keyhoe's then-current book, Flying Saucers from Outer Space:
"... Scully reported that two flying discs from Venus had crashed in the Southwest. In the wreckage, according to Scully's informants, investigators found the bodies of several little men. The Air Force, said Scully, had spirited the bodies and the discs away for secret analysis."
Keely published the first crash retrieval story.

The Original Art for the Story

Jim Halperin is an active collector of rare comic books and original comic art. His site presents scans of the original artwork for "Flying Saucer Report," the 8-page story, reproduced large enough for it to be read in its entirety online.


Visit this link, click on the story page, then click on the art again to move on to the next page.