Little Bits of History

January 7

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 7, 2017

1948: Something strange is seen over Kentucky. Thomas Mantell, a 25 year old Kentucky Air National Guard pilot, was killed while trying to confirm the sighting. He was an experienced pilot and had been part of the Battle of Normandy during World War II. He had over 2,000 hours in the air, but was relatively inexperienced in flying a P-51, his aircraft on this day. Reports started coming in during the early afternoon. First, a Kentucky Highway Patrol report came in about some unusual entity in the sky near Maysville. The object was said to be about 250-300 feet in diameter. Other reports came in from Owensboro and Irvington. At 1.45 PM, Sergeant Quinton Blackwell, stationed in the control tower of Fort Knox, also reported on something up in the sky. Two more people in the tower corroborated his report of a bright white circular object with some red at the bottom, seen only while using binoculars.

Other observers at Clinton County Army Air Force Field in Ohio also saw something but described it differently. Something was also seen at Lockbourne Army Air Field. Luckily, there were already four P-51 Mustangs in the air from the 165th Fighter Squadron Kentucky Air National Guard. The four planes were instructed to take a closer look and find out what was in the Kentucky sky. They went in pursuit, but one of the planes was already quite low on fuel and soon broke off to return to base to refuel. The other three continued pursuit. There is discrepancy about what Pilot Mantell actually said while communicating with the tower.

Regardless of the words spoken, the three pilots took off in steep pursuit of the anomaly. The pilots were advised to level off and attempt to just get a better look at whatever was up there. Instead, he continued to pursue. Only one of the wingmen actually had an oxygen mask on board and his levels were quite low. The other two pilots abandoned the chase at 22,500 feet but Mantell continued upward. At the altitude of 25,000 feet, he passed out due to lack of oxygen and soon after, his plane began a circling descent and crashed on a farm south of Franklin, Kentucky. He was killed in the crash.

At the time, the Air Force said the pilots had been chasing Venus through the sky. But later study showed that even if Venus had been visible in the hazy daytime sky, it would not have appeared as large and bright as described. It would have been a pinprick. During this time, the US Navy was experimenting with secret weather balloons called Skyhook. On this date, records reveal that multiple Skyhook balloons were released from Clinton County, Ohio and air currents would have moved some into the Fort Knox area. But since they were top secret at the time, the military did not communicate with other branches and not with the towers or other observation stations. It is now believed that what Mantell was chasing was one of these balloon. Even at the time, two observers following the object with telescopes described what they saw as large balloons.

Very white and about one fourth the size of the full moon … Through binoculars it appeared to have a red border at the bottom … It remained stationary, seemingly, for one and a half hours. – report from Fort Knox

Just before leaving it came to very near the ground, staying down for about ten seconds, then climbed at a very fast rate back to its original altitude, 10,000 feet, leveling off and disappearing into the overcast heading 120 degrees. Its speed was greater than 500 mph (800 km/h) in level flight. – report from Lockbourne Army Air Field

Looks metallic and of tremendous size. – debated report from Thomas Mantell

I had always heard a lot of wild speculation about the condition of Mantell’s crashed F-51, so I wired for a copy of the accident report. [It] said that…Mantell’s body had not burned, not disintegrated, and was not full of holes; the wreck was not radioactive, nor was it magnetized. – Edward Ruppelt, head of Project Blue Book

Monster or Meteor

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 12, 2015
Flatwoods Monster*

Flatwoods Monster*

September 12, 1952: The Flatwoods Monster is seen. Also called the Braxton County Monster or the Phantom of Flatwoods, the creature was purported to have made an appearance in the town of Flatwoods, West Virginia. This was an encounter of the third kind. The first two types of UFO experiences are visual sightings of objects less than 500 feet away (the first kind) or a UFO event which has a physical affect on the witness(es) (the second kind). The third kind is when an animated creature is present, and it can be humanoid, robotic, or human in form. This is further subdivided by the location of the entity, only inside the UFO, both inside and out, and outside the UFO. There are other encounter types but they may not be linked to a UFO: an unidentified creature is seen but no UFO is present either with or without other Earthlings having witnessed a UFO and there is a last method where someone claims “intelligent communication” without any UFOs present.

The entity making its appearance in West Virginia on this night was said to be at least 7 feet tall with a black body and a glowing face. The head was described as elongated and shaped like a sideways diamond and having non-human eyes. There was a large hood behind the entity’s head and the body was inhumanly-shaped. It was wearing a dark, pleated exoskeleton which was later described as a shadow. The creature moved so quickly that it was described as having no discernible arms while others reported long, thin, almost skeletal arms sticking out from the front of the body. There were long, clawish fingers. It was not alone and a large, pulsing red ball of light hovered above the entity or rested on the ground near it.

The first thing seen at 7.15 PM by Edward and Fred May (brothers) and Tommy Hyer (a friend) was a bright object cross the sky. The boys, aged 13, 12, and 10 respectively, watched it land on a local famer’s land and went to the May house to speak with their mother. She joined the boys and went into the hills where it was. Three more children aged 10 to 17 tagged along. The eldest, Eugene Lemon, was a West Virginia National Guardsman at the time. His dog ran ahead of the group and began barking and then returned, apparently frightened. The group advanced about a quarter mile and reached the top of the hill. There was a pungent smell and a mist rising. About 50 feet away there was a ball of fire.

They all returned to the May house and Mrs. May called the sheriff and the local newspaper owner. The reporter interviewed many people and returned to the site with Lemon later in the evening. The sheriff and his deputy investigated and found nothing unusual but an odd smell. Some tracks found at the site were later attributed to a pickup truck’s driver coming up to investigate. Other local reports came in and many of the locals who claimed contact with the creature also later complained of sickness. No creature was found and the scientific community dismissed it as a meteor.

I am discounting reports of UFOs. Why would they appear only to cranks and weirdos? – Stephen Hawking

I believe that these extra-terrestrial vehicles and their crews are visiting this planet from other planets. Most astronauts were reluctant to discuss UFOs. – Gordon Cooper

When 25 percent of the population believe the President should be impeached and 51 percent of the population believe in UFOs, you may or may not need a new President, but you definitely need a new population. – Harry Reasoner

The fact that some religious fanatics might support a theory doesn’t invalidate it, anymore than the concurrence of UFO abduction cults invalidates the notion of extra-terrestrial life. – James P. Hogan

Also on this day: Lascaux – In 1940, caves filled with prehistoric art were discovered at Lascaux.
How Do I Love Thee – In 1846, Elizabeth Barrett eloped with Robert Browning.
Bonanza – In 1959 – Bonanza premiered.
Lost at Sea – In 1857, the SS Central America sunk.
Pheidippides – Great Runner – In 490 BC, the Battle of Marathon took place.

* “Flatwoods monster” by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia –

What a Tangled Web

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 8, 2015
Roswell Army Air Field's press release

Roswell captured something

July 8, 1947: Roswell Army Air Field (RAAF) issues a press release. Something had crashed near a ranch in Roswell, New Mexico. The US Army Air Forces were conducting top secret tests and were not able to give out totally accurate information lest they give away their secret Project Mogul. They were testing microphones attached to high altitude balloons. The purpose was to detect sound waves which were generated by Soviet atomic bomb tests. The project began in 1947 and ended in 1949 when a network of seismic detectors and air sampling techniques came into use. They were both easier to deploy and operate and were substantially cheaper.

Public information officer Walter Haut issued a press release from RAAF on this date. It was said that people from the field’s 509’s Operations Group had recovered a “flying disc” which had crashed. They did not want to have to say that it was a nuclear test monitoring device. Later in the day, Commanding General of the Eighth Air Force Roger Ramey  said it  was a weather balloon. Also supplied were debris from the wreckage – foil, rubber, and wood – consistent with the weather balloon description. The story died the next day and the government felt they had successfully hidden Project Mogul and could still monitor Soviet nuclear testing. The event faded from memory – for about 30 years.

Between 1978 and the early 1990s may UFO researchers looked into the crash near Roswell. Many interviews were held with those who claimed to have been witness to or somehow connected to the events which took place in 1947. Hundreds of documents were released under the Freedom of Information Act. Leaks came forth from the mysterious Majestic 12. The UFO experts came to the conclusion that an alien ship and not a weather balloon had crashed in New Mexico. As more claims came to the media’s attention, the interest of the average American increased. By the mid-1990s, the majority of Americans believed an alien ship had landed at Roswell and the government was keeping it a secret.

UFO interest began in 1978 when nuclear physicist Stanton Friedman interviewed Jesse Marcel, the only person known to have accompanied the recovered material from the crash site to Fort Worth. This renewed interest in the case and the first conspiracy book came out in 1980. Charles Berlitz and William Moore released The Roswell Incident which was their third conspiracy book. More books followed and as Americans became more concerned about a cover-up, the General Accounting Office launched an inquiry. The debris was found to be part of Project Mogul. The idea of recovered alien bodies was laid at the feet of psychology and the innocently transformed memories of anthropomorphic dummies used for things like Operation High Dive. UFO proponents fail to believe the government’s claims and remain convinced of alien visitation.

We have no proof, But if we extrapolate, based on the best information we have available to us, we have to come to the conclusion that … other life probably exists out there and perhaps in many places. – Neil Armstrong

Statistically it’s a certainty there are hugely advanced civilizations, intelligences, life forms out there. I believe they’re so advanced they’re even doing interstellar travel. I believe it’s possible they even came here. – Astronaut Storey Musgrove

Unknown objects are operating under intelligent control… It is imperative that we learn where UFO’s come from and what their purpose is. – Admiral Roscoe H. Hillenkoetter Director, Central Intelligence Agency 1947-1950

We all know UFOs are real. All we need to ask is where are they from. – Dr. Edgar Mitchell

Also on this day: The Wall Street Journal – In 1889, The Wall Street Journal began publication.
Con Man – In 1898, Soapy Smith was gunned down.
Bear Market – In 1932, the markets hit their lowest point during the Great Depression.
Our Lady of Kazan – In 1579, an iconic painting was discovered.
The End – In 2011, the Space Shuttle program was retired.

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Majestic 12

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 24, 2013
Harry S Truman

Harry S Truman

September 24, 1947: Harry S Truman did not form a secret society. On July 7, 1947 something crashed in the desert near Roswell, New Mexico. Personnel from Roswell Army Air Field recovered debris from a top-secret research balloon – or an alien spacecraft with possible crew members alive and well. Unidentified Flying Objects (UFO) have been sighted since mankind first looked up into the sky. Some were comets, meteors, or unknown and rarely visible planets. Others were omens, angels, and various other-worldly phenomenons.

It is alleged that the President formed a secret committee comprised of military leaders, government officials, and of course, scientists. Their mission was to gather information and protect the nation from alien harm. It is suggested that Dr. Vannevar Bush and Secretary of Defense James Forrestal were the driving force behind the group’s origin. The 12 core members were all deceased by the time the Majestic 12 was revealed by astute researchers gaining access to the “Top Secret” papers.

The 12 members were said to be helped by other noted scientist of the time – e.g. Oppenheimer, Einstein, and von Braun. The men listed as members of the group did look into various claims of UFO sightings. Several books were written – giving evidence supporting Earthlings creativity and increasing scientific knowledge, but no known contact with alien life forms. They were men who were responsible for the country’s safety and as the arms and space race blossomed, were keenly aware of the disturbances. It was their job to watch the skies (and other possible routes for invasion).

At the time of the “discovery” there was an outcry from the public of government cover-up. Supporting documentation was produced by Jamie Shandera (a ufologist) and William Moore (Roswell researcher). Further investigation by outsiders revealed Moore’s involvement in trying to procure bogus documentation supporting alien existence from various sources – from nuclear physicist Stanton T. Friedman to National Enquirer reporter Bob Pratt. The FBI has examined all documentation provided and due to formatting inconsistencies and errors with dating, have labeled them fraudulent.

“It’s a very typical UFO sighting. Carter said it changed color and, in the physical report, described it as being about the size of the moon. And he saw it with about twenty-five other people.” – Dwight Schultz

“I don’t mind UFO’s and ghost stories, it’s just that I tend to give value to the storyteller rather than to the story itself.” – Robert Stack

“I’ll tell you, too, that’s starting to depress me about UFO’s, about the fact that they cross galaxies, or wherever they come from to visit us, and always end up in places like Fife, Alabama. Maybe these are not super-intelligent beings, man.” – Bill Hicks

“I don’t believe in the UFO mythology but I find it fascinating. Episodically, I find it fascinating.” – Ken MacLeod

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: UFO conspiracy theories argue that evidence of unidentified flying objects as well as extraterrestrial visitors are being suppressed by government entities globally. The “proof” for these accusations is often totally nonexistent or at best very thin. The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry does not subscribe to a cover-up. However, there are some well-credentialed people who do claim there has been a cover-up of intentional dismissal on the subject of UFOs and extraterrestrial visits, at least by the US government. There have been claims that the White House has suppressed, ignored, or marginalized reports from generals, pilots, and other government officials. Some claim this is to facilitate the abduction of humans by the aliens.

Also on this day: Powerful Serve; Best Backhand – In 1938, John Donald Budge became the first tennis player to win the Grand Slam of tennis.
Devil’s Tower – In 1906, this landmark was declared a National Monument.
Byzantine – In 1180, Manuel I Komnenos died.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 24, 2013
Kenneth Arnold with drawing of UFO

Kenneth Arnold with drawing of UFO

June 24, 1947: Kenneth Arnold sees something in the clear blue sky. Arnold was a businessman who founded a company selling fire suppression systems. He was also an experienced pilot with more than 9,000 hours in the air. He spent about half his flying time working with Search and Rescue Mercy Flyer missions. He was also a swimmer and diver and as a young man, he tried out for the US Diving team. He was 32 years old in 1947.

Arnold was on a business trip, flying from Chehalis to Yakima – both in the state of Washington. He was piloting a CallAir A-2. He detoured after hearing about a $5,000 (≈ $46,000 today) reward for a lost US Marine Corps C-46 transport plane that had crashed near Mount Rainer. With clear skies and his experience in search and rescue, he went to find the plane. He was flying at ≈ 9,200 feet altitude. At 3 PM, he gave up the search and flew towards his business meeting.

Arnold changed course eastward and saw a flash similar to sun reflecting on a mirror. Looking carefully to assure himself of clear skies, he noted a DC-4 to his left and about 15 miles behind him. About 30 seconds after the first flash, he saw a series of flashes off to his left. He tried many things to test and make sure the flashes were not somehow a reflection from his own plane. The flashes were in a long chain. As the line moved between Arnold and Mt. Rainier, the objects could be seen as in dark profile against the snow-capped mountain. He saw one crescent-shaped object and eight circular-shaped objects.

Arnold used equipment on his plane to take measurements. The objects quickly flew out of range. When he landed at 4 PM in Yakima, he told a friend about his experience. There was corroboration from a prospector on Mt. Adams and there were many others on the ground in Washington who saw something that day. The pilot of the DC-4 was not one of the witnesses. The story was picked up by the press and by June 27 the term “flying saucer” was being used to describe the objects. The Army Air Force investigated and said it was all a mirage. Even so, the hunt for unidentified flying objects really took off.

“This whole thing has gotten out of hand. I want to talk to the FBI or someone. Half the people look at me as a combination of Einstein, Flash Gordon and screwball. I wonder what my wife back in Idaho thinks.” – Kenneth Arnold, June 28, 1947

“We have objects in the sky. . .they have been spotted millions of times worldwide.” – Joe Firmage

“The least improbable explanation is that these things UFO’s are artificial and controlled. My opinion for some time has been that they have an extraterrestrial origin.” – Dr. Maurice Biot

“At no time, when the astronauts were in space were they alone: there was a constant surveillance by UFOs.” – Astronaut Scott Carpenter (Carpenter photographed a UFO while in orbit on May 24, 1962. NASA still has not released the photograph.)

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: UFO or unidentified flying object is any anomaly in the sky (or near the ground, hovering, landing, or taking off). The term can also be UFOB and was officially created in 1953 by the US Air Force as a replacement for other more popular terms which described the shape of the anomaly, usually “discs” or “flying saucers”. Usually, the Air Force would investigate and be able to satisfactorily identify the object so the term was used only for those left unidentified. The term became more popular as the decade advanced. There have been a variety of studies done by both the government and by civilians and they have reached a variety of conclusions about the threat level of UFOs. Some see them as detrimental and some see them as benign. There are some who adhere to a government cover up concerning UFOs and extraterrestrial life.

Also on this day: The Cynic – In 1842, Ambrose Bierce was born.
Victory Parade – In 1945, a parade was held in Moscow.
Dance Fever – In 1374, St. John’s Dance broke out in Germany.

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