Showing posts with label misinformation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label misinformation. Show all posts

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,


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

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

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

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

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

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

Expanded Account of the Medical Treatment 
After the sighting, she felt revitalized, for a short time, until discovering a strange rash covering her face and front part of the body, accompanied by a considerable loss of weight over a relatively short period, which gave rise for concern. Jessie sought the advice of her Doctor, who was well aware of the UFO incident and intimated there was something wrong with her mental health.Offended by this suggestion, Jessie contacted a Psychiatrist - Dr. Wilson, who confirmed, after a medical examination, there was nothing wrong with her mental state of health. “He asked me if I had been given a chest x-ray and blood tests. When I told him this had not been done, he personally escorted me to hospital, where a chest X-ray was taken but found to be clear. Unfortunately, blood tests showed the blood count was very low. The haematologist said to me, ‘If it didn’t sound so ludicrous, l would say you have been exposed to a massive dose of radiation’. I was given injections of iron, twice a week, which caused all sorts of problems before the correct dosage was established.”
A short clip of Jessie Roestenberg when aged 90; recorded in 2015 by John Hanson and Dawn Holloway of Haunted Skies.

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


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 Fry.com)

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

There was an excellent discussion of the case by Kandinsky from Dec. 2011, on the site Above Top Secret (ATS) that provides a good background on the Roestenburg events. 

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. (https://youtu.be/58R7JAQm_yQ?t=37s)

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

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


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

General John A. Samford's 1952 UFO Disclosure

The new blog, The Saucers That Time Forgot  presents "the cases that UFO historians either missed, or would like to keep buried." This piece was originally written for STTF, but since it's not exactly about a saucer case, and is more about UFO history, culture and the media, it's appearing here at BBL.


Major General John A. Samford

Major General John A. Samford, July 29, 1952 

Most people know the Air Force's Major General John A. Samford from his historic July 29, 1952 press conference given after the Washington, D.C. radar incidents, where he talked about the small but troubling percentage of UFO reports "from credible observers of relatively incredible things." Captain Edward Ruppelt in the notes made in preparation for his 1956 book, The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects,  described Gen. Samford in his entries on the key figures involved in the Air Force's Project Blue Book:

An earlier draft of Ruppelt's notes.
Samford, Major General John 
General Samford never committed himself one way or the other on the subject of UFO’s. He was always very much interested and gave me the utmost in cooperation, but he never said much. He used to ask many of the other people at meetings what they thought and there were a lot of “pro” answers but he never agreed or disagreed with anyone. The only time that I ever heard him say anything was when Col Porter got real nasty about the whole thing one day and began to knock ATIC, UFO’s, me and everything associated with the project. Then the General said something to the effect that as far as he could see, I was the first person in the history of the Air Force’s investigation that had taken a serious approach to the investigation and that he didn’t see how anyone could decide until I’d collected more data.
At the present time the General is the one who is so rabid on the fact that nothing will be released. He got “burned” real bad on the press conference in July 1952. His statements were twisted around and newsreel shots of him were “cut and pieced” to get him saying things that he didn’t. He wanted to play along with the writers but they misquoted him so badly that now he is saying absolutely nothing. Donald Keyhoe keeps writing about the “silence group” in the Air Force, those who want to clamp down on UFO news.  Gen Samford is the silence group and friend Keyhoe can take all of the credit for making him that way. 
 (From "Figures Associated With Project Blue Book")

Samford's Dynamic Disclosures in See Magazine


No mention of saucers on the cover.
See magazine, dated March 1953

See was a bi-monthly magazine, sort of a more sensational version of Life, but featuring a heavier emphasis on entertainment. See's covers featured beautiful buxom women, making it look more like a girlie pin-up magazine, but they did cover news and current events. In their last issue for 1952 See made news for its coverage of the flying saucer controversy in an exclusive interview with General Samford of the USAF.

"It would be foolhardy to deny the possibility that higher forms of life exist elsewhere," reported the general just as it would be "unreasonable" to deny that we may already have been visited by beings from outer space. Regarding the, unexplained phenomena, and the possibility of the presence of an alien intelligence, General Samford added, "We believe that all of this eventually will be understood by the human mind, and that it is our job to hasten the understanding." 
 - - -

In Loren Gross' UFOs: A History 1952 November—December,  he summarizes the same interview from See, but emphasizes different points than the newspaper article.
See talks to General Samford.
The November issue of See magazine featured an interview with Chief of Air Force Intelligence General John A. Samford by the periodical's Washington editor Serge Fliegers. The General, for the most part, repeated what he said during the big press conference at the end of July. He acknowledged that 25 per cent of UFO reports were made by military personnel, rejected professor Donald Menzel's theories, and insisted that evidence of visitors from space was lacking. Have UFOs been seen over Russia, asked Fliegers? The General replied that the U.S. Air Force didn't know. The Air Force, according to Samford, also lacked satisfactory proof of the supposed "ghost rockets" reported in 1946. Before Flieger left Samford's comer Pentagon office overlooking the Potomac, he questioned the General about the possibility Communist agents were spreading flying saucer reports to put fear into Americans about Russian secret weapons. The General answered: "We cannot discount that possibility. It is under investigation." 
Indiana Evening Gazette, Dec. 26, 1952

Says Space Visitors Possible

NEW YORK -- It is definitely possible that intelligent beings from some other world have been able to visit our planet, or at least to travel within our atmosphere, Major General John A. Samford, Chief of Air Force Intelligence now investigating the Flying Saucer mystery, said today, in an exclusive interview in the current issue of See Magazine, just released.

"It would be foolhardy to deny the possibility that higher forms of life exist elsewhere," reported the general just as it would be "unreasonable" to deny that we may already have been visited by beings from outer space. Regarding the, unexplained phenomena, and the possibility of the presence of an alien intelligence, General Samford added, "We believe that all of this eventually will be understood by the human mind, and that it is our job to hasten the understanding."

In commenting upon the 20 percent of flying saucer reports which remain mysteriously unexplained, General Samford declared the saucers' behavior indicates they "either have unlimited power or no mass." Many "credible people have seen incredible things," he asserted, "some of which have later been satisfactorily explained, while others so far have defied explanation."

General Samford said that the Air Force is keeping nothing from the public regarding Project Flying Saucer. The only information not disclosed is names of those reporting saucer sightings and the method used by Air Force Intelligence to investigate and evaluate these reports.

A Harvard professor's theory that flying saucers are caused by reflected light has not yet been proved, General Samford reported. Even if it were true, he stated, "It would not account for all reports, by any means."

The general branded as false the rumor that jet pilots have had orders to shoot at saucers. "We have thousands of letters and telegrams begging us to rescind this 'shoot-on-sight order. But no "such order was ever given."

The theory of the late Secretary of Defense, James A. Forrestal, that flying saucers were related to this country's experiments with "man made moons" -- platforms that could be suspended in the atmosphere for defense and observation -- was categorically denied by General Samford. "Saucers are in no way related to these moons," he said.

Here's a partial transcript of the See magazine article itself:

Flying Saucers- the last word!

SEE presents an exclusive interview with the worlds best informed military man – Major General John A. Samford – on the worlds most exciting modern mystery 




Frequent Queries Answered Below
What do flying saucers look like?
Why did they make no sound? 
Are they really caused by reflected light? 
Does mass hysteria explain them?
Do they contain visitors from space? 

No other mystery has so inflamed the imagination of The 20th century man as the Mystery of the Flying Saucers. And no one else among us knows more about the flying saucer stand Major General John A. Samford, a tall quiet gentleman with penetrating eyes and a crack record as a fighter pilot, who sits in a corner Pentagon office overlooking the Potomac. General Samford is Chief of Air Force Intelligence. As such, he is head of Project Saucer, which has been investigating the enigmatical objects which have streaked across our heavens.

Last summer, when another rash of saucer sightings spread from coast to coast, General Samford how they press conference to quiet public furor. But that conference left a number of points on answered or unemphasized. Hence, in an effort to fill the gaps in public understanding of the subject, the questions which appear below were put to General Samford by Serge Fliegers SEE's Washington editor, who has followed saucer report from Stockholm to Seattle.

Q: General Samford, what do flying saucers look like? 
A: There is no single pattern. Unidentified aerial objects, as I prefer to call them, have been described as having cone shapes, disc shapes, ball shapes. Reports have them going and incredible speeds. 

Q: When did the reports start coming in? 
A: Here in the U.S., the Air Force started investigating such reports in the fall of 1947. On December 30, 1947, it directed its Air Force Material Command, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio to set up a project to evaluate all facts concerning them. 

Q: How many reports of come in since then?
A: Serious reports analyzed by Dayton center total about 1500. Sixty-odd percent come from the civilian population. About eight per cent come from civil airline pilots, and about twenty-five per cent from military personnel, including military pilots.
 
Q: But doesn't that destroyed the "mass hysteria" explanation of saucer signings? After all, most pilots are pretty reliable man. 
A: The Air Force has never believed that all reports on unidentified aerial objects are caused by hysteria. But careful evaluation by our Dayton center showed fully 80 per cent of the reports concerned natural, explainable occurrences. 

Q: What is your reaction to that Harvard professor's (Dr. Donald Menzel) theory that flying saucers are caused by reflected light? 
A: The theory is appealing, but has not yet been proved. Therefore the Air Force cannot yet accept it as a satisfactory explanation. Furthermore, it would not account for all reports, by any means. 

Q: Violent headlines have declared that jet pilots had orders to shoot at the saucers. Is that true? 
A: We have thousands of letters and telegrams begging us to resend this "shoot on sight "order. No such order ever was given. I repeat, the Air Force never ordered it to pilots to shoot down any of these so-called "flying saucers." The pilots had orders to find and find out what they were all about. 

Flying Saucers Not Hostile 
Naturally, if a jet fighter pilot sees an object approaching at great unknown speed,  heading, say, for New York City, he is going to try to contact it. Then, if it proceed against his warnings and its actions appear hostile, he will try to intercept it. 

Q: Has the Air Force any reason to believe that these unidentified aerial objects may be a danger to us, or may be trying to harm us?
A: None whatsoever. 

Q: You say that 80% of the sources reported could be explain naturally. What about the other twenty per cent? 
A: The Air Force is still trying to answer that. 
 - - -

Something Was Not Right. Fake News?

The part about Gen. Samford saying it was unreasonable "to deny that we may already have been visited by beings from outer space" was a pretty spectacular claim to be coming from the United States government. In response to the See article, the Air Force issued a press release to correct the record. We've been unable to locate the document, but have the fragments from it carried in newspaper articles.

Oil City Derrick, Dec. 29, 1952
"As limited as man is in his knowledge and understanding of the universe and its many forces, it would be foolhardy indeed to deny the possibility that higher forms of life existed elsewhere. 
It would be similarly unreasonable to deny that intelligent beings from some other world were able to visit our planet, at least to travel within our atmosphere. 
"However, the Air Force desires to reiterate emphatically that there is absolutely no evidence to indicate that this possibility has been translated into reality."
According to Donald Keyhoe's Flying Saucers from Outer Space, the See interview was a fake:
"I saw the AP story on it," I said. "But the Air Force is a little sore about that article. (Al) Chop told me they didn't interview General Samford directly—it was supposed to be labeled a hypothetical interview based on public statements he'd made."

Who was Serge Fliegers?

Mike Wallace (L) interviewing Serge Fliegers (R) in 1962.
 "Serge Fliegers See's Washington editor..." was best known as a European correspondent for Hearst newspapers. A mini bio of him appeared in The Freeman magazine, April 1953:
Serge Fliegers was brought up in Switzerland, educated at Cambridge and Harvard. As a correspondent he has traveled in Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, speaks eight languages, including Arabic. Between covering the United Nations for the Inter Continental Press and writing magazine articles, he manages to find time for his special interest- opera and instrumental music.
In 1964, Fliegers' name came up during the Warren Commission's investigation into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Word got to them that Fliegers claimed that an anti-Khrushchev, pro-Chinese group in the Soviet Union had trained Lee Harvey Oswald to assassinate the President. Investigating the credibility of Fliegers and his sources, investigators contacted Dan Brigham, an editor of the New York Journal American newspaper. Brigham was able to give them Fliegers' location for questioning, and reported that Fliegers was "one of the biggest fakers in the business and anything he says has to be taken with a large grain of salt." 

Warren Commission Exhibit No. 1444
https://www.history-matters.com/archive/jfk/wc/wcvols/wh22/pdf/WH22_CE_1444.pdf

When Fliegers was questioned about the source of his assassination information,  he said that his source may received this information from another source who, in turn, may have received the information from contacts in Russia. Pressed for the identity of his source  Fliegers was evasive and said it was impossible for him to contact him by telephone. The information went nowhere, and turned out to be rumors and speculation repeated by a reporter as if it were facts.

Silenced

Was the See interview an example of what Ed Ruppelt was saying, that Gen. Samford's comments were "cut and pieced” to get him "saying things that he didn’t?" Samford's statements were similar to his remarks from the July 29, 1952 press conference on the Washington, D.C. UFO radar incidents. 

Project Blue Book's files has the AF transcript of Samford's press conference:
https://www.fold3.com/image/1/12428060
Saturday Night Uforia has an easily searchable version of the transcript.
http://www.saturdaynightuforia.com/html/articles/articlehtml/samfordpctanscript.html

If the See "interview" had it's origin there, great dramatic license was taken with Samford's words. Maybe after getting burned by Serge Fliegers in See, Gen. Samford set an example for the Air Force, setting the policy that the best way to handle the press on the UFO topic was silence, "saying absolutely nothing."



Thanks to The Saucers That Time Forgot's Claude Falkstrom for the lead on this article, and to Jan Aldrich for additional details on the AF press release refuting the See article.

. . .


Footnote: Forrestal's Military Man-made Moons

The man-made moons comment in the See story was referring to data discussed in this story from Mechanix Illustrated, Apr, 1949 :
Secretary James Forrestal disclosed recently that his department is working on a “satellite base” to revolve around the world like a miniature moon, as a military outpost in space.
“The earth-satellite vehicle program, which is being carried out independently by each military service, was assigned to the committee on guided missiles for coordination,” he revealed in his first annual report on the national military establishment.
Mechanix Illustrated, Apr, 1949