Chapter 14: Introduction
On June 24, 1947, at 2 p.m., Kenneth Arnold took off from the Chehalis, Washington, airport in his personal plane and headed for Yakima, Washington. He hadn't been in the air for more than three minutes when to the left and north of Mount Rainier he observed a chain of nine peculiar-looking objects flying from north to south at approximately 9,500 feet. He estimated the size of the objects to be approximately twothirds that of a DC-4, and he timed the objects between Mount Rainier and Mount Adams and determined that they crossed this 47-mile stretch in 1 minute and 42 seconds. This was equivalent to 1656.71 miles per hour.
In an interview subsequent to the sighting, Arnold described the objects as appearing like saucers skipping on water. This description was shortened to "flying saucers" by newspapermen and resulted in the popular use of that term. It was the U. S. Air Force's conclusion that the objects of this sighting were due to a mirage, but for many individuals around the world, the mysterious objects that Arnold sighted that day were extraterrestrial spacecraft.
On the night of July 2, 1947, eight days after Kenneth Arnold's sighting of mysterious unidentified flying objects, another UFO was reported to have crashed on ranchland about 60 miles north of Roswell, New Mexico, and the air force had recovered the wreckage. The next day, however, those startling media pronouncements were suddenly transformed into puzzling accounts that the air force had been mistaken. The supposed UFO was merely the scattered debris from a fallen weather balloon.
For many people reading the stories of the air force's denial of having captured a flying saucer, the matter was ended with a wry smile at the inefficiency of the military. Others, however, wondered how highly trained air force personnel could possibly mistake a few thin sticks and scraps of cloth for any kind of aeronautical vehicle, to say nothing of an extraterrestrial craft capable of traversing the universe. Thus was born the seed of nearly every UFO government cover-up conspiracy theory that still thrives today. From the moment those initial startling headlines of the U.S. Air Force having discovered the debris of a crashed flying saucer, millions of people have remained convinced that humankind is being visited and/or invaded by aliens from outer space.
In many ways, the year 1947 provided the ideal time for such theories to grow. It had been almost exactly two years since the Japanese had surrendered and the days of World War II (1939–45) had at last come to a close amid the fiery destruction of the nuclear bombs that devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Atomic power frightened the great majority of Americans, and many doomsayers were frightening newly attentive audiences with their grim message that the world was about to come to an end. Adding to the stress was the fact that the Soviet Union had erected the socalled Iron Curtain, and the free nations of the world had to start worrying about the Communist menace before they had really had time to recover from the Nazi's Third Reich. In fact, some people said that the flying saucers were a new secret weapon launched against the United States by diehard Nazis hiding in South America. Other people in "the know" claimed that the bizarre circular craft were new weapons that had been created by the German scientists who had been kidnapped by the Soviets during the last days of the war. Paranoia ran rampant and while some scientists laughed at the notion of spaceships, others who seemed to be just as knowledgeable made convincing arguments for an invasion from outer space. It wasn't long before people were seeing alien invaders on the silver screen in such motion pictures as The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), The Thing from Another World (1951), Invaders from Mars (1953), and It Came from Outer Space (1953)—and then they were seeing them in their own backyards.
Kathleen May described the alien being that she and seven other Flatwoods, West Virginia, residents saw on September 12, 1952, as looking more frightening than the Frankenstein monster. May had her attention called to the saucer by a group of excited boys, including her sons, who were at a nearby playground when they sighted a flying saucer emitting an exhaust that looked like red balls of fire. According to the boys, the UFO had landed on a hilltop in back of the May house.
May later told reporters that she kept telling the boys that it was just their imagination, but they continued to insist that they had seen a flying saucer land behind the hill. Finally, a husky teenaged boy found a flashlight and said that he was going to investigate. At the urging of her son, May agreed to accompany him, and the other boys fell in behind them. About halfway up the hill, she began to change her mind about whatever the boys had seen being in their imaginations, for she could see a strange, reddish glow emanating from somewhere near the top. After about half an hour of tramping through the brush, their flashlight beam spotlighted an immense, humanlike figure with a blood-red face and greenish eyes that blinked out from under a pointed hood. Behind the monster was a "glowing ball of fire as big as a house" that grew dimmer and brighter at intervals. The intrepid band of flying saucer-hunters fled in panic from the sight.
Later, May described the monster as having "terrible claws." Estimates of the monster's height ranged from seven to ten feet, but everyone agreed about one characteristic of the alien—it had emitted a sickening odor, like sulphur.
On the evening of August 21, 1955, a UFO touched down in a rural area outside of Kelly-Hopkinsville, Kentucky, and set loose alien invaders on the eight adults and three children who had gathered for some Sunday evening fellowship. Representatives of the air force, local police, and area newspapers conducted an extensive and well-documented investigation of what has become a classic encounter in the annals of UFO research. The adults involved in the incident were found to be rather conservative, reserved individuals, the kind of people unlikely to have invented such a wild and incredible adventure for the sake of sensational publicity.
According to the Sutton family, when their teenaged son, Billy Ray, left the farmhouse that Sunday evening to get a drink from the well he saw a bright object land about a city block away from the farmhouse. Billy Ray's report of the strange aerial phenomenon was met with a pronounced lack of interest by the others until they saw little men, less than four feet tall with long arms and large, round heads approaching the farmhouse. The smallish invaders looked like monsters with their nickel-plated jumpsuits, their glowing, yellow eyes, and their otherworldly appearance.
Fearing for their lives, the farmers picked up the Suttons' rifles and shotguns and began to fire upon the alien creatures. But they told investigators that such a counterattack on the monsters was to no avail. The bullets just seemed to bounce off the little beings' nickel-plated armor. Although the Suttons and their neighbors were positive that they had made direct hits on the creatures, the little monsters just jumped right up and ran off into the darkness, only to regroup for another charge toward the farmers in the house. According to the farmers' observations to various investigators of the shootout, the alien beings' extremely large eyes appeared to be very sensitive to light. In retrospect, they all felt that it had been the farmhouse's outside lights, rather than the farmers' bullets, that had truly prevented the invaders from advancing into the home.
The Suttons and their neighbors battled the seemingly invulnerable little monsters for nearly four hours before they managed to get into their motor vehicles and drive in panic to the Hopkinsville police station to get reinforcements. Chief Greenwell was convinced by the hysteria of the three children and the obvious fear of the eight adults that they had definitely been battling something very strange out there in the country.
With Chief Greenwell in the lead, more than a dozen state, country, and city law enforcement officers arrived to investigate the farmers' claims and, if necessary, do battle with the alien invaders. On the way to the farm scene, the officers noticed what appeared to be a peculiar shower of meteors coming from the direction of the Sutton farmhouse. One officer later said that the meteors had made a "swishing sound" as they passed overhead.
Although the small army of law enforcement officers found no traces of extraterrestrial aliens or their spaceship, they found several "peculiar signs and indications" that something mighty strange had taken place that evening on the Suttons' farm. For one thing, the teetotaling, conservative Suttons and their neighbors had thought that whatever they perceived to be real was threatening enough to cause them to put bullet holes in the walls of every barn and outbuilding on the place. Sutton claimed that he had blasted one of the beings point-blank with his shotgun, only to have the creature simply do a somersault and roll off into the darkness. Taylor, one of the other men at the Sutton place that night, told investigators that he had used up four boxes of shells on the little men.
Stories such as these fueled the fears of men and women across the United States that they would be powerless in the face of an alien invasion from outer space. In the late 1960s, Harold D. Lasswell, professor of law and political science at Yale University, offered his speculations on what would happen if human civilization were to be confronted by extraterrestrial aliens. If that alien culture were technologically superior to human culture—which it would be if it had successfully conquered space to land on Earth—Lasswell stated that the human race would be in the same relationship to another planet that folk societies in human history had often occupied when faced by an industrialized nation of western Europe or an empire that possessed advanced weaponry. He went on to say that human religions, arts, and sciences would be judged inferior to whatever doctrines and formulas were held by the invaders, and in such an event as an extraterrestrial invasion, there would be the grim possibility that the superior culture might select the brightest, healthiest, and most promising Earth children and separate them from their families so they might be reared in the aliens' greater intellectual and technological environment. However, such a culture might also be somewhat benign and paternal and force humans to abandon all aggressive pursuits and devote their time to aesthetic endeavors.
If the invading extraterrestrial culture should be generally comparable to human culture in scientific advancement and technological development, perhaps superior only in the area of space flight, for example, then Lasswell saw earthlings in a situation similar to the Cold War rivalry, as various Earth nations would strive to win the favor of the new dominant civilization on the scene. If the extraterrestrial invaders arrived on Earth as unified and powerful, Lasswell concluded, then earthlings would be at a great disadvantage.
Millions of fearful men and women around the world feel that humans are at a great disadvantage when it comes to dealing with the strangers in the skies. Although there is no proof that any of the mysterious craft seen by these concerned people originate from an extraterrestrial source, a large percentage of the population believe that alien invaders circle the planet Earth.
In June 1998, a CNN/Time poll found that 27 percent of all Americans believe that aliens have already visited Earth, and 80 percent maintain that the government is conducting a cover-up to keep the truth of extraterrestrial visitation from the general population. On June 8, 1999, a National Institute of Science/Roper Poll surveyed a nationwide sampling of men and women and found that 25 percent believed UFOs to be alien spacecraft and another 12 percent thought them to be vehicles of a secret government agency. When the pollsters asked the respondents how they felt the general public would deal with the matter if it were proved that UFOs were extraterrestrial craft, 25 percent felt that the majority of people would panic; 10 percent feared their fellow citizens would behave irrationally; 14 percent guessed the general public would act in strange ways; 36 percent believed that vast numbers of citizens would be concerned about the prospects of an imminent alien invasion; and only 13 percent estimated that most U.S. citizens could deal with the confirmation of alien visitation in a calm and rational manner.
Thousands of men and women are handling the prospect of alien visitation by insisting that they have been abducted and physically examined by extraterrestrial beings. In the opinion of many UFO researchers who believe that such abductions are truly occurring, the aliens are attempting to use their advanced technology to accomplish an intergalactic experiment in species crossbreeding. The beings responsible for such physical examinations are referred to as the "Grays," and are smallish beings somewhat reptilian in appearance. The abductees and contactees who have encountered these UFO-nauts stated that they stood between four and a half to five feet tall and their skin color was gray or greenish-gray. Their heads were round, large, disproportionately oversized by human standards, and their facial features were dominated by large, lidless, staring eyes, often with reptilianlike pupils. They had no discernible lips, and where one might expect to see a nose, the witnesses cited only nostrils, nearly flush against the smooth texture of the face.
In addition to the fear of invasion or abduction by extraterrestrials, many individuals fear the terror on the ground, the infamous Men in Black (MIB), threatening strangers who appear to have a great deal to do with the UFO mystery—but nothing to do with the humorous motion picture series starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. In many instances, those individuals who have been witnesses of UFO activity have claimed to have suffered a peculiar kind of personal harassment. At first, there are often sinister voices that whisper threats on the telephone and warn researchers and witnesses of unusual phenomena to terminate specific investigations or to forget entirely what they have seen. Those who have taken photographs or videos of UFOs or obtained any kind of physical evidence of paranormal phenomena have been called upon by rather mysterious men dressed in black—often claiming government affiliation—who confiscate the pictures, the negatives, the videotape, or whatever proof the witnesses may have had of their sighting.
In the majority of such instances, those who received an "unwelcome" from the MIB described their inquisitors as rather short men, often five foot six or less, with dark complexions and somewhat Asian features. When pressed for more complete descriptions and details, the witnesses have stated that the MIB usually wore dark glasses, but if the glasses were ever removed, they had large eyes that were noticeably slanted, but slanted in a manner somehow different from Asians.
Beginning in 1947, shortly after the alleged UFO crash outside of Roswell, New Mexico, and continuing into the twenty-first century, thousands of UFO witnesses, investigators, abductees, and contactees claim to have been visited by ominous strangers dressed in black who made it frighteningly clear that they represented a powerful and everywhere-present "someone" who would violently enforce their orders to discontinue research or to surrender all artifacts, videotapes, and photographs. Often such threats have been punctuated with the allegation that such cooperation was essential for "the good of your family, your country, and your world."
While some investigators of the UFO mystery and a good number of skeptics believe such accounts of alien invaders, extraterrestrial abductors, and Men in Black to be fanciful folklore made fearful by human paranoia, the question of invaders from outer space very much belongs in the examination of the unknown and the unexplained.
Bowen, Charles, ed. The Humanoids. Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1969.
Edwards, Frank. Flying Saucers—Serious Business. New York: Lyle Stuart, 1967.
Fawcett, Lawrence, and Barry J. Greenwood. Clear Intent: The Government Coverup of the UFO Experience. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1984.
Good, Timothy. Above Top Secret—The Worldwide UFO Coverup. New York: William Morrow, 1988.
Story, Ronald D., ed. The Encyclopedia of Extraterres trial Encounters. New York: New American Library, 2001.