Showing posts with label Media. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Media. Show all posts

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

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Ufology's Legacy from Loch Ness

Last year, my friend Claude Falkstrom gave a high recommendation for a book on the Loch Ness Monster. Although it sounded interesting, I took no action, mostly due to feeling that I knew the story already. Recently he virtually forced a copy on me, and I found I’d been wrong. There was more in it new to me than not, and I found the book to be brilliant. As Claude had told me, it also indirectly had much of value pertaining to the study of UFOs. 

The book is A Monstrous Commotion: The Mysteries of Loch Ness by Gareth Williams, 2015. 

The press release for the book provides some biographical data on the author:
“Gareth Williams is Emeritus Professor and former Dean of Medicine at Bristol University. An internationally recognised authority in diabetes and obesity research, he has written 200 scientific papers and authored or edited over 20 medical books…”

With that background, one might fairly expect a scientific evaluation of the evidence, but this is something different, a detailed look at the history of Loch Ness sightings and of the people who pursued the study of the alleged Monster. The book is also heavily illustrated, with pictures of the key figures, maps, and photographs taken by the witnesses.

A Monstrous Commotion's central figure, naturalist Sir Peter Scott,
The Loch Ness Monster story really took off in 1933, getting over a decade’s head start on the flying saucer story, but they are close enough together in time and character to almost be twins when it comes to the matter of pursuing the respective mysteries. Williams shows how the story began in the press, but unlike Kenneth Arnold’s flying saucers, the Loch Ness Monster was slow at the start. Once it emerged, it seemed almost equally contagious, and many other sightings followed the first. Unlike saucers, which could be seen anywhere, the Monster could only be seen  at the Loch. In time, a flood of visitors came to try to catch a glimpse as the legend grew over the decades.

As UFO authors would later do, reporters and investigators dug through historical records for matching reports. Indeed, old reports of mysterious events in the Loch were found, from myths and legends to newspaper stories. Though many of them differed in substantial details, it formed a database of sorts, driven by witness testimony. Some of those witnesses had multiple sightings, “repeaters,” with too much of a good thing. In time, there were a few photographs of varying quality, and a famous one came to be known as “the Surgeon’s Photograph.” It showed the definite form of an animal, taken by a witness, a professional man of unquestionable reputation. 

There were hoaxes, however; phony tracks, monsters and photos, frequent frauds that confused the issue and poisoned the topic in the minds of scientists. The fakes damaged the efforts of those who were pushing for a scientific inquiry. That takes us to another familiar element from ufology we find in the book, the clash between proponents and skeptics. Williams says of the supporters:

“Hoaxers might have taken the Monster’s name in vain, but they had little impact on the rapidly increasing numbers of believers around the world. ”

Regarding the opponents, even in the face of credible witness testimony and quality photographs:

“The vast majority of mainstream zoologists… were still unpersuaded that the Monster was real. They were entrenched in their scepticism, just as the scientific establishment had been since the 1930s. To them, the Monster was not the greatest zoological coup of the century, but a preposterous insult to the intelligence of anyone who understood the basic rules of science.”

Williams’ book is not a dry history, and one of its greatest strengths is making the figures discussed come to life, particularly Sir Peter Scott, the painter and conservationist who was persuaded to become an advocate for the scientific study of the Loch Ness Monster. With Scott’s reputation supporting the effort over the decades, the topic was given an air of respectability.

Illustrations from the book, an alleged photograph and some of the many scientific endeavors.
It was a struggle to have the studies taken seriously, and the scientific establishment seemed fiercely opposed to any effort by the advocates to have the Monster classified as a real animal. As a result, some reputations were damaged. A Monstrous Commotion chronicles at least one scientist who lost his job due to his support of the animal’s reality.

Nessie’s supporters scored several victories in the 1970s, most notably when an underwater photo was taken of the creature’s flipper and placed on the cover of the prestigious Nature magazine. This was an enormous boost for the hypothesis that Nessie was a surviving aquatic dinosaur species, and it encouraged other scientific attempts to investigate.

The book’s finale wraps the story up nicely by revealing some of the parts of the story that were hidden in the early days, the identities of some of the players reporting the news, making sighting claims, and in one instance, taking photographs. In another nice touch, Williams includes a chapter, "The human factor," that tells what became of the key people involved in the story of the Monster. Over the years, not all evidence was presented honestly, and some of the players involved seemed to have covered up some inconvenient facts. In his final chapter, he notes, “Almost all of us want the Monster to exist, whether or not we believe in it.”

William's book provides a perfect case for ufologists to study; to step away from their saucers and to look at how belief and media promotion can give something a mythological life of its own, quite independently of whether or not the underlying subject matter is of substance or not.

A Monstrous Commotion: The Mysteries of Loch Ness by Gareth Williams can be previewed on Google Books, and you’ll find several options there for getting the book in print.

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 BURGMost 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 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 herRanton, 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 from The Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse: UFOs: A History 1954 October (1991):
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 programIt’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,

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.
. . .

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

Online Sources and Links to Further Information

They Rode in Space Ships by Gavin Gibbons, 1957 (Online at Daniel

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. 

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 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. (

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.