Showing posts with label Flying Saucers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Flying Saucers. Show all posts

Saturday, September 23, 2017

UFO Origins: Saucers That Time Forgot & The Outer Limit

There's a companion blog to Blue Blurry Lines, one exclusively focused on the forgotten history, folklore and origins of ufology, The Saucers That Time Forgot.

A five-part series was just completed, at STTF, an examination of "The Outer Limit" by Graham Doar, a science fiction short story from 1949 that deals with an interrupted journey, the test flight of an experimental rocket plane, and features now-familiar UFO case elements, put together for the first time:

A close encounter with a UFO, an alien abduction, missing time, contact with an advanced benevolent extraterrestrial race, telepathic communication, and a dire warning to the Earth about the use of Atomic weapons. At least one adaptation of the story includes the use of hypnotic regression to recover memories of the encounter. It's a prophetic tale of a credible witness of a relatively incredible event, but the colonel in charge chooses not to believe, and there's the strong suggestion that the UFO report will be the subject of a cosmic cover-up.

The series starts with the historical setting of the late 1940s, A-bombs and the arrival of the flying saucers, introduces the story itself, and shows how the tales was further spread through popular culture by being adapted into several radio and television programs, and how it was absorbed into ufology through George Adamski and the Contactees. The finale examines how it was imitated in several movies ranging from The Day the Earth Stood Still to Ed Wood's Plan 9 from Outer Space, and even echoed in much more modern films.

The complete collection, linked for your convenience:

Flying Saucers, the Atomic Bomb and Doomsday: The Outer Limit (Part 1 of 5)
The Outer Limit by Graham Doar: The UFO Parable (Part 2 of 5)
Radio, Television & The Outer Limit Legacy (Part 3 of 5)
Ufology & The Outer Limit Legacy (Part 4 of 5)
UFOs, Hollywood & The Outer Limit Legacy (Finale)

Other articles focus on weird, warped, and sometimes fraudulent UFO cases that were newsmakers in their day, but lost through the cracks of time, forgotten- or perhaps even suppressed- by UFO historians.  STTF is written by Curt Collins, with the support of Claude Falkstrom, backed by the input of UFO buffs - and sages - both known and unknown, of this world and perhaps others.

Fight the UFO cover-up. Read each and every installment of 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 flip to the next page.

Friday, June 16, 2017

John Keel, Witness to the Birth of the UFO Subculture

In the UFO and paranormal field, we'd have nothing without the witness. No matter what you think of the work of John A. Keel, he was there to witness to the birth of the UFO phenomenon, including the subculture that sprung up around it. In a 1992 interview with Andy Roberts, Keel said, 
I read Charles Fort when I was very young, when I was about 14 or 15 years old. I was reading Amazing Stories in those days too, and they were getting letters to Amazing Stories about thing people had seen in the sky – this is before 1947 – and I was writing a newspaper column at that time for my home town newspaper and I did a couple of columns on that kind of thing, lights in the sky and people who saw contrails high over head and thought that that was some kind of spaceship or something... Anyway, I was around when the whole UFO thing broke...
Doug Skinner has a great site, "a tribute to that unique writer and character,  John Keel, Not An Authority On Anything. He talks about Keel's early work:
John published a science fiction fanzine, The Lunarite, in 1946... The first issue appeared on a postcard; the second was a single sheet on light pink paper... Keel fans may be intrigued by his early mention of the “Shaver Mystery” in that first issue. A BEM was a “Bug Eyed Monster,” a cliche scorned by true stfans.
Keel pans the Shaver Mystery in 1946
John Keel was aware of how the pages of Amazing Stories discussed things like mysticism, psychic phenomena, Forteana and science fiction notions of extraterrestrial space visitors as both fiction and fact. Amazing's editor Ray Palmer went on to co-found Fate Magazine in 1948, taking those concepts and presenting them exclusively as fact. The cover story for the famous first issue was Kenneth Arnold's "The Truth About The Flying Saucers." Ray Palmer had been an active part of the subculture of science fiction fandom, and developed similar, overlapping subcultures for the Shaver Mystery and later, UFOs.

John Keel saw this all develop, and in 1973, he wrote an article, "The Flying Saucer Subculture." Doug Skinner description of it from his Keel site:
John Keel published several booklets in the ’90s, under the imprint of the New York Fortean Society...One of these was The Flying Saucer Subculture, from 1994. It contained an article John had written in 1973 for The Journal of Popular Culture (published in 1975)... a thorough history of ufology, detailing its literature, personalities, and theories. John took delight in adding 105 footnotes, as well as a three-page bibliography. His assessment was, as is to be expected, negative: he dismissed most of the literature as “almost totally paranoid and insane,” and a “sea of trash.” He did, however, single out many researchers for approval...I drew the cover for this booklet; John and I had great fun with all the ufological in-jokes."
It's a great piece, and it documents some pivotal moments of history willfully ignored by other UFO authors. The original article: The Flying Saucer Subculture - John Keel on Scribd

A related piece was written by Keel in 1983, an article on Ray Palmer, “The Man Who Invented Flying Saucers,” originally published in the Fortean Times. Although Keel's ideas, observations and opinions were controversial, his role as a witness to the birth of the UFO phenomenon should be recognized and remembered.

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Flying Saucers Are Real(ly Profitable)

This is a fragment of an unfinished piece (one of many) on UFOs, and the focus is on how Kenneth Arnold's 1947 report of flying saucers became the inspiration for industry, from advertising stunts to motion pictures.

Flying Saucer Merchandise

The first to benefit from flying saucers was newspapers and radio networks, and they built the interest up in the public, and then capitalized on satisfying the demand by keeping saucer stories in the news. Other businesses wanted a piece of the action and soon there were flying saucer-themed hamburgers, sundaes, cocktails hats, and more. See UFOPOP's UFO/Flying Saucer Merchandising Gallery.

One of the first commercial stunts was for radio stations to have planes drop paper or foil disks with slogans advertising their station. This started as early as July of 1947, and the photo seen below is from 1951.  
The Telegraph-Herald, Dubuque, Iowa, Sunday, April 08, 1951, page 17.

The fastest way to cash in was to rename an old or recycle existing products, such as Republic did in 1950, taking leftovers from The Purple Monster Strikes to make Flying Disc Man from Mars.

It took longer to get original products manufactured, but in time those appeared with and there were flying saucer kites, toys, arcade games and amusement park rides. Billboard magazine announced  a debut: November 20, 1948. "The Flying Disc is a brand new ride being put out by Bisch-Rocco... a spinning ride and will carry 32 passengers at one time.”  They later renamed it the Flying Saucer. 

There were also coin operated rides for kids that were placed in the front of stores.

Through one of these coin operated models, many years later, novelist Stephen King indirectly received inspiration from Kenneth Arnold:

"I took a trip to the shopping mall. I watched one of those machines that you plug a quarter into and this thing goes around and around. It's a flying-saucer ride made for kids. And I thought, Suppose the kid disappeared. Just disappeared in front of his mother and the people walking around. What would that be like? Now, that interested me very much." Magistrale, Tony. Stephen King, The Second Decade. 1992.

The Flying Saucers Business Today

 The first and most famous non-fiction book on UFOs by Donald Keyhoe was a paperback best-seller titled, The Flying Saucers Are Real. Keyhoe was able to persuade a good many people of that possibility, and gave the topic a big boost incredibility, helping keep it alive into the 1960s when mainstream media discussed the investigation of UFOs seriously. Since then, the scientific side of things has withered, while the fictional and entertainment merchandising of UFOs has thrived, continuing to do big business.

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.”

Monday, January 26, 2015

If you haven't read it, it's STILL news!

UFO News, Again!

I’m sure you saw it splashed over the news, the Air Force recently declassified and released Project Blue Book UFO files, and that for the first time ever, they are available for viewing on the Internet.

All the news that's fit to copy and paste.
This just in...

The files were released long, long, ago.
Here’s a news clipping from The Dispatch (Lexington KY)  Nov. 5, 1974 (UPI):

But they didn't languish in that Air force black vault forever. Die-hard UFO researchers worked with the files on microfilm, but a decade ago, they were presented digitally on your friendly neighborhood Internet. 

Here’s the UFO UpDates notice about the files going online from 2005:
Blue Book Archive Announcement

That site is still alive and well.

In 2007,'s site devoted to military records, Fold3 presented scans of the Project Blue Book files. 
Fold3: Project Blue Book - UFO Investigations

Maybe it's just a remake 

How does the media get things so wrong? Part of it is that there’s a rush to report (or recirculate), and little fact checking is done. That, and some of the reporters were born yesterday. Sometimes, things like this happen; the media suddenly notices something and falls all over it to become an overnight success after 20 years. 

It can happen when an unknown book gets chosen by Oprah, or for a movie adaptation. Sometimes it comes on their radar when a box office bust of a film becomes a hit on video. Worse, sometime they mine a classic and issue a remake for a new generation.

Less than 15 pieces of flare.

Even in the UFO topic, some things become news, over and over. Like the FBI’s memo on the Aztec hoaxed flying saucer crash. In its latest exhumation, it was passed off as proof of Roswell.  

Like Dracula, it won't stay down.

Is this just bad reporting, or a case of them using anything and everything shiny that catches the notice of their open minds? I'd like to blame the Twitter age of news media, but this kind of thing is not new itself. There’s one that goes back to the coming of the flying saucers.

Good Evening, Mr. and Mrs. America, and All the Ships at Sea

We forget the incredible influence radio once had. Radio commentators such as Walter Winchell (and Frank Edwards) had their finger on America’s pulse sometimes reporting the news, other times making it. They also did a lot to introduce and propel the UFO story. Winchell’s show was printed as a newspaper column, and in this story from the July 7, 1947 San Jose News, he said, “The mystery of the ‘Flying Saucers’ is not new.” Then goes on to cite a recent book by R. DeWitt Miller, Forgotten Mysteries.
San Jose News July 7, 1947

R. DeWitt Miller’s book was chiefly a collection of articles on phenomenon from Coronet magazine, and one chapter focused on strange aerial objects. It enjoyed the flying saucer spotlight, but only for about a day. Someone finally noticed that he cited Charles Fort as his inspiration.

Miller noted that there had been speculation "That conscious beings from other worlds have actually reached this earth and navigated our skies in space ships." That speculation was chiefly from Charles Fort, who had collected accounts of strange flying things and speculated that they were interplanetary. 

Fort died in 1932, and had little to do with the Fortean Society, which Tiffany Thayer created in his honor. Thayer kept the torch burning by publishing the Fortean Society’s Doubt magazine.

Snazzy modern edition
It wasn't long before Walter Winchell was quoting R. DeWitt Miller but we know he could have done better than that. As it turned out an Associated Press reporter made the discovery in Chicago's Newberry Library. There the reporter claimed to have discovered a "rare unknown” book, the scarlet colored volume titled The Book of the Damned.
 Thayer howled with laughter when he read about the “great discovery.” Awhile after this "discovery” the news agencies tracked Thayer and the Forteans to their lair to ask: "Who was this guy Fort?" And: "Can we quote such and such?" This was the high- point of the whole history of the Fortean Society and it was sad Fort himself was not alive to take a well-earned bow.  (From UFOs: A History Vol. 1: 1947 by Loren Gross)

Fort provided the backstory!
Major Donald Keyhoe used the Fort foundation to build his article and later book, Flying Saucers are Real, and thereafter, every so often a reporter would “discover” Charles Fort and report that 
“The flying saucer story, you know, is by no means a new one.”

Anyway, the news has a long history of getting things jumbled, even when they are really trying. Sometimes it's corrected, but those notices reach far fewer eyeballs. What's news, will yet be news again... someday.

World's oldest newspaper
If you haven't read it, it's STILL news!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Science Fiction and UFOs: Buck Rogers

The relationship of Science Fiction to UFOs is a complex one. Debunkers are too quick to blame fantasy for influencing Flying Saucer reports, and proponents are too quick too deny it. Old time SF fans wanted nothing of flying saucers, and FS fans felt the same way about SF. 

There's a relationship, to be sure, with ideas form one camp influencing the other. Sadly, most of the discussions of this tend to be heavily biased. The UFO/Science Fiction topic needs further examination.

Buck Rogers

Science fiction, at its best, is examining how new ideas and inventions affect mankind. In effect, it's shining a flashlight into our future. 

If Science Fiction has a name, it's Buck Rogers!

Many people around the world were introduced to science fiction in the form of an enormously popular newspaper comic strip that began in 1929. Science fiction writer, Philip Nowlan teamed up with artist Dick Calkins to create Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. It literally defined science fiction. There was a shorthand term for advanced technology, and it was "Buck Rogers." 

C.R. Smith
C.R. Smith, president of American Airlines:
“When we endeavor to envision the future of aviation, we come to the conclusion that Jules Verne was a conservative man and that Buck Rogers more closely approximates the role of a realist. Some of the potential developments in aviation are so far reaching that they might easily amaze and confuse the hero of the Sunday supplement.”
(American Aviation magazine, 1941.)

 A letter to Astounding Science Fiction 

Spaceship by Paul Orban
Astounding Science Fiction Dec. 1948 

In the February 1949 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, editor John W. Campell printed a letter from an avid fan, W. H. Entrekin Jr. It serves as good examination of the intersection of UFO and science fiction ideas at the time.  The latter half of the letter deals strictly with comment on earlier magazine stories, but I've included it for the sake of completeness. (Note: STF stands for Scientifiction, an elegant and archaic term for science fiction.)

Dear John,

At last technological development has caught up with the science- fiction artists and illustrators. I am not referring to anything else but Paul Orban's' spaceships. Note illos for “The Rull,” et cetera. 

 illustrated by Paul Orban

Also the filler cut of the multi-windowed ship you use frequently. The only sad thing about this development is that evidence lends support to the extra-mundane origin theories of Charles Fort and other dubious adherents, among them members of our own genre of stf authors—needless to say, with the recent crop of wacky theories.

First came the “flying saucers”, or “disks”. Perhaps Phil Nowlan and Dick Calkins could be credited with the idea and cartooned version of the flying disk much, much earlier in the Buck Rogers strip. 
Dick Calkins art from Buck Rogers
Well, Kenneth Arnold of Boise brought science-fiction up-to-date with the first observation of the flying disks. And finally, stf has been caught up with in the form of Orban's ubiquitous, eternal spaceship. 

On Saturday, July 24th, two EAL pilots, Captain Clarence Chiles and Co-pilot John Whitted, on the Houston-to-Atlanta-to-Boston flight, at 2:45 am.(CST), in their DC-3, reported a wingless aircraft that passed them at tremendous speed. They were flying at five thousand feet in the regulation CAA designated airway when they spotted the aircraft, it being almost in their line of flight, headed in the opposite direction, towards Mobile and New Orleans. The DC-3 was about twenty miles southwest of Montgomery, Alabama. 
Dick Calkins art from Buck Rogers

Captain Chiles related: “I hate to say this, but it looked just like a Buck Rogers rocket ship. If I see anything else like this, I think I’ll have to quit flying. We were flying along on the regular airway when we saw ahead and slightly above and to our right what appeared to be a tremendous jet of flame. It flashed down and we veered to the left and it veered to its left, and passed us about seven hundred feet to our right and about seven hundred feet above us. Then as if the pilot wanted to avoid us, it pulled up with a tremendous burst of flame out of its rear and zoomed up into the clouds. Its prop-wash or jet-wash or rocket-wash, take your pick, rocked our DC-3." The pilots describe the ship as about one hundred feet in length, and about four times the circumference of a B-29 fuselage. It had no wings. 

A twenty-five-to-fifty foot red flame was shooting from the rear, and there was a blue, fluorescent glow under the whole length of the fuselage. Captain Chiles further related, “It had two rows of square windows, apparently from an upper and lower deck, and the interior was brilliantly lighted. We saw no occupants. I’d say it was going between five hundred and seven hundred miles an hour." 

The following Sunday morning the story appeared in various Georgia papers, the Atlanta Constitution carrying sketches of the ship by both men. The singularly remarkable thing about the incident, is that the sketches were remarkably similar to Orban's ships.

Well, these things happen every day so to speak. The alarming fact is that no matter what the theory that explains the phenomenon, as infinite numbers of theories do as long as it is a workable theory, the PHENOMENON STILL REMAINS
Whitted, Chiles and their sketches of the UFO

I guess I’ll have to go back through Charles Fort again.

UFORTology's father

(The rest of the letter is about the Aug. 1948 issue of Astounding Science Fiction.)

 As for the contents of the August issue. The cover takes my breath. Canedo is too, too utterly para- or hyper-symbolic. And no story titles to mar the front either. I guess yon J have finally decided that ASF sells itself on its own merits rather than having to resort to standard pulp tactics. Psycho-dynamics applied to the masses. 
Your editorial — simply superb!

Let’s have one tying in Non-Newtonian system of action-by-contact, and the standing confused controversies over quantum mechanics giving us readers the low-down latest discovered subatomic particles and and their relation to our present systems, with probable effect on classical set-up. Oh well, such an evaluation would be quite a thesis for a graduate work much less asking it for the price of two-bits.

Oh yes— the stories. “The Monster” takes first place with the tag van Vogt placed well before the denouement — "This race has discovered the secrets of its nervous system." "Time Trap" grabbed second, I like Harness' new words - Hardtimes (sterechronia).
"Dreadful Sanctuary” has to show. I just couldn't resist his description of the rockets' lifting for their maiden voyage. Thank you Eric and John. After all,  everyone didn't get to see the lift of a Vr-2 at White Sands. Or maybe I'm just a dreamy-eyed fool. (I'll bet I have company on this one.) 

“Smaller Than You Think" was fourth, with "Dawn of Nothing" hitting fifth. Quite an issue. The liquor ads have been bounced and the fans are now happy with the new program of the Fan-ad. 

When do we get some of the unwritten Future History series or does Bob like three to five cents a word better than honor and tradition? However, ya’ gotta eat!

To A. E. van Vogt— "Let's have in Asimov-type yarn concerning corruption of the Galaxy with the unique system of Null-A." 
Time for a Kuttner serial. 

(Address) Unknown. Unknown. UNKNOWN.—W. H. Entrekin Jr., Americus, Georgia

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A bonus Buck Rogers tidbit from the files of Project Sign, a note about Kenneth Arnold.