There are some “banner years” in UFO history. 1966 was one of them.
It was a threshold year, leading from the classic UFOlogy of the 1950s and early 1960s to something new, which has left its mark on our culture to this day.
March, 1966: a rash of UFO sightings in Dexter and Hillsdale, Michigan. Air Force UFO expert J. Allen Hynek explained the mysterious lights as “swamp gas”–and was hooted down for it all over the country. Congressman (later President) Gerald Ford and others demanded an investigation. And so the University of Colorado UFO Project of 1966-68, better known as the “Condon Committee,” came to be.
The Condon Committee’s conclusion: UFOs are hot air. Taking a hint, the Air Force dismantled in 1969 its 17-year-old “Project Blue Book.” End of an era. Almost since UFOs were first spotted in American skies in 1947, there’d been an official Air Force project charged with investigating them, more often debunking them. Now the Air Force had left the UFO business for good.
Meanwhile astronomer Hynek himself came out of the closet–not as a UFO believer, exactly, but as an open-minded scientist who argued that witnesses to the extraordinary should not be dismissed with a horse-laugh. It was Hynek who, among other things, devised the UFOlogical taxonomy of “close encounters” of the first, second, and third kinds–an achievement that won him a cameo role in a 1977 movie by Steven Spielberg, the name of which I surely don’t need to mention. (But I do, in the caption to the picture below and to the left.)
This was the small stuff.
The real UFO action of 1966 happened not in the sky but in the publishing world. In its issues of October 4 and 18, Look magazine ran a two-part series entitled “Aboard a Flying Saucer,” by John G. Fuller. The Look articles, excerpted from Fuller’s 1966 book The Interrupted Journey, told the story of a New Hampshire couple named Betty and Barney Hill.
Five years earlier the Hills, returning from a vacation in Canada, had been stopped on the road in the middle of the night and taken aboard a UFO. There they underwent bizarre medical or pseudo-medical procedures, and afterward were made to forget what they’d endured. Only under hypnotic regression, in a psychiatrist’s office, did their memories return–and Barney became so terrified that the psychiatrist was afraid he’d throw himself out the window.
In other words, UFO abduction.
UFO abductions have become so familiar that we forget that until 1966 no one ever heard of them. It was Fuller’s book, and still more his Look articles, that brought them to the national consciousness. I recall reading that the October 4 and 18 issues of Look outsold all issues before or since–and somehow I doubt if the cover picture of Elizabeth Taylor was entirely responsible.
Not that the UFO abductees–for Betty and Barney had hundreds, perhaps thousands, of successors–were the first humans to be taken aboard UFOs. The 1950s were the golden age of the “contactees,” who claimed to have met the UFO people. Your average contactee might be given rides on flying saucers, taken on visits to Venus and other planets, lectured by golden-haired “space brothers” about how we humans must abandon our wicked warlike ways. From time to time there might even be an interplanetary fling, like that of contactee Truman Bethurum with a gorgeous 500-year-old brunette, Aura Rhanes from the planet Clarion. (Mrs. Bethurum, filing for divorce, supposedly named Aura Rhanes as co-respondent.)
But the abduction stories were something new, scarier, more essentially alien. Also more convincingly true. There’s little doubt that most if not all the contactees were charlatans, playing on people’s gullibility for their own profit. Whereas some at least of the abductees, starting with Betty and Barney, were evoking something genuine and terrifying from within themselves–something that normally had strong sexual overtones, dark and grisly, compared to which Bethurum’s affair with Aura Rhanes was strictly PG. (And one more distinction: the contactees were almost all men, the abductees predominantly women.)
So what does all this have to do with Outtakes of a UFO Investigator, the third chapter of which I’m making available for download from this page?
This: When I initially wrote Journal of a UFO Investigator, my goal was to weave the personal odyssey of Danny Shapiro into the not-quite-world-wide web of the UFO myth. I kept this goal as I trimmed the manuscript, from its original 1500 pages to the 304 pages that it ran in the Viking Press hardback edition. But I had to trim the tapestry, as it were. I kept, as background to Danny’s adventures, some of the prominent features of the 1950s UFO scene: the Three Men in Black, the Philadelphia experiment. (Or, as we used to call it, the “Allende mystery.”) But the chapters in which Danny participated in the UFO world’s transformation in the middle 60s–these ended up on the cutting room floor.
Here they are back, in this and the next few chapters of Outtakes of a UFO Investigator.
In Chapter 3, which you can download by clicking here or on the picture below, Danny gets his first hint of the Hills’ uncanny experience from a man who’s learned about it from the author of the Look articles. He defends his investigation of the marks left on the ground by a landed UFO–a “close encounter of the second kind,” in Hynek’s terminology–near the town of Scofield, New Jersey.
(“Scofield,” though fictional, is based on an actual incident in Glassboro, NJ, the date of which I shifted in Chapter 2 of the Outtakes from September 1964 to April 1965. You can read the true story on the timeline of my Facebook Fan Page, https://www.facebook.com/JournalofaUFOInvestigator, for September 12, 1964.)
And Danny tries to answer the question of what Ezekiel saw, when “Ezekiel saw the wheel.” Unfortunately he doesn’t get very far, before he’s overcome by the spirits he’s drunk as part of his initiation into the “Nationwide UFO Consortium,” whose conference he’s traveled to New York City to attend.
In other words, our teenage “UFO investigator” has sallied forth from his suburban Pennsylvania home to become part of the UFO world of the mid-1960s. If by some chance you also were part of that world, you may recognize some of it.
Enjoy! And let me know what you think, here or at my Fan Page.
Would you like to have these Outtakes as podcasts–free of charge? Let me know! I’ll see what I can do to provide them.
by David Halperin
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