Barker, Gray. They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers. Jung, C.G. Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies. Scully, Frank. Behind the Flying Saucers. Those were the three books under the subject heading “Flying Saucers” in the card catalog—remember card catalogs?—of the public library of Levittown, Pennsylvania, in the fall of 1960, when a friend and I decided to write a joint paper on UFOs for our eighth-grade science class. I read all three.
I couldn’t make much of Jung. I don’t suppose most twelve-going-on-thirteen-year-old boys can. (I sometimes wonder if it would have been easier if I’d had someone to explain to me the key point: that when Jung spoke of flying saucers as a “myth,” he wasn’t trying to disparage them.) Gray Barker was another matter. Jung wrote about myths; Gray Barker created them.
They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers was published in 1956, four years before I made its acquaintance. The book made it to the best-seller charts, though apparently rather briefly. (I never met anyone outside the UFO field who’d ever heard of it.) It opens with a warning: you can read it with unruffled mind as long as you’re convinced there are no such things as flying saucers. But if you’re perhaps inclined to doubt the government’s assurances on that score, “you just might be scared.”
And scared I was. Terrified, more like it, as I made my way through the fantastic pages of They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers. I remember praying to my eighth-grade God for protection against the Things described there.
And what Things they were! A glowing spherical mass that landed one evening on a hilltop, mistaken at first for a fallen meteorite. (Shades of The War of the Worlds.) Standing next to this object, a seven foot tall “monster that walk[ed] like a man, a creature from the blackest memory of your fears,” with blood-red face and shining green eyes. And this didn’t happen just “one evening,” like the “once upon a time” in a fairy tale. It took place the specific evening of September 12, 1952, a date that might have come out of a history book. In the vicinity of Flatwoods, West Virginia.
There were other events of this sort, all tied to dates and places, witnessed by individuals with names like yours and mine. Near Lantana, Florida, on August 19, 1952, a scoutmaster named J.D. “Sonny” Desvergers stumbled out of a palmetto thicket, babbling in terror (“I’m coming … I’m coming”) after an encounter with a dirty-gray object made of metal that hovered directly over him, “so near he could have hit it with his machete.” His arm was reddened from the encounter, the hair on it singed. Five days later, one Bill Squyres had an equally close encounter with a metallic object like “two turtle shells …. joined together,” that hovered ten feet above the ground. This happened near Pittsburg, Kansas, where Squyres was driving to his work at radio station KOAM.
In school, somehow, they never got around to teaching us these things.
But all these stories, for Barker, were mere overture to his main theme. This was what happened in September 1953 to a Bridgeport, Connecticut, UFOlogist named Albert K. Bender, who somehow had stumbled upon the solution to the flying saucer mystery. And soon afterward received an unwished-for visit from …
“Three men in black suits with threatening expressions on their faces. Three men who walk in on you and make certain demands.
“Three men who know that you know what the saucers really are.
“They don’t want you to tell anyone else what you know.
“The answer had hit you like a flash. … You wrote [it] down and sent it to someone. When the three men came into your house one of them had that very same piece of paper in his hand.
“They said that you, among the thousands working on the same thing, had hit pay dirt. You had the answer! Then they filled you in with the details.
“After they got through with you, you wished you’d have never heard of the word, ‘saucer.’
“You turned pale and got awfully sick.
“You couldn’t get anything to stay on your stomach for three long days.”
(More on Barker, and on what’s come to be called the “Bender mystery,” in next week’s post.)