Proponents of theories and ideologies are always looking for that knockout punch – the smoking-gun evidence that proves their beliefs in a single stroke. Most theories are too complex to be established by a single piece of evidence, and require multiple independent lines of evidence to establish them. But there are often cases in which a single solid piece of evidence can push a theory over the line to general acceptance.
For many pseudosciences the lack of such smoking-gun evidence calls the claims into serious question. There are no artifacts from Atlantis. There is no bigfoot corpse or live specimen. And there are no crashed alien spaceships or, you know – aliens. Incidentally this is not the case for truly paranormal claims, like ghosts, because by being “paranormal” they would require a large set of rigorous evidence to establish a new phenomenon. But one actual bigfoot would do it.
So it is no surprise that from time to time we hear claims that “final proof” has finally come to light of one pseudoscientific claim or another. Just such a claim is now circulating regarding an FBI document from 1950 – a report regarding the recovery of three “flying saucers” in New Mexico. Here is the full text of the document, dated March 22, 1950:
“The following information was furnished to SA (redacted) by (redacted).”An investigator for the Air Forces stated that three so-called flying saucers had been recovered in New Mexico. They were described as being circular in shape with raised centers, approximately 50 feet in diameter. Each one was occupied by three bodies of human shape but only 3 feet tall, dressed in metallic cloth of a very fine texture. Each body was bandaged in a manner similar to the blackout suits used by speed flyers and test pilots.
“No further evaluation was attempted by SA (redacted) concerning the above.”
This is very provocative. To someone predisposed to believe in the Roswell incident and the whole government cover-up of recovered aliens, this might seem light smoking-gun evidence. But let’s break it down a bit.
The memo comes from the FBI vault (which seems legitimate, since only the government can have a .gov URL) and is made available through a freedom of information (FOI) request. Guy Hottel is described as in charge of the Washington field office. The memo seems like the routine reporting up the chain of information coming into the office. I searched on “Guy Hottel” on the vault site, but no other relevant documents came up.
The date of the memo places it three years after the Roswell incident in 1947. The Daily Mail reproduced the document claiming it as “proof” of aliens at Roswell (although Roswell is not mentioned by name in the memo). They also reproduced another document from the FBI, this one from 1947 which does reference Roswell, claiming that the sighting of a:
“disc is hexagonal in shape and was suspended from a balloon by cable.”
The memo author concluded that the object was a high altitude weather balloon, which fits with the current explanation that the crash at Roswell was in fact a spy balloon from Project Mogul.
The new memo, from three years later, must therefore refer to a separate incident. If the report can be believed, there were then three separate crashes of flying saucers all in the New Mexico area. Maybe the aliens were having problems with drunk flyers at the time. These alleged three further crashes did not appear to be witnessed, and once again there is no physical evidence to back up these claims.
Let’s also be clear about what the memo is – it’s hearsay. It is not a report from the investigator himself, and it contains scant details. It is little more than a rumor. The name of the informant was redacted, but it does not sound like the informant is the investigator himself. This memo seems like nothing more than the background noise of reports that any intelligence agency receives.
The body of the report is also very telling. The flying saucers are described as looking exactly like flying saucers looked from 1950s science fiction. This is the ship from Forbidden Planet. The aliens themselves are clothed in shimmering metallic fabric – again, right out of contemporary science fiction. This is three years after Roswell, and clearly the mythology had already evolved a bit. There was a rash of “flying saucer” reports at that time, and it’s no surprise that intelligence agencies were paying attention (especially in light of the growing cold war with the Soviet Union).
The final line of the report is also very telling – the SA did not feel that any further investigation was required. It certainly seems as if they did not take the report very seriously. This is the kind of report that we would expect to emerge from the pop culture of flying saucer fascination in 1950. It’s not the kind of report we would expect if there were a serious investigation into real alien encounters and cover-ups by the government. One might argue that the FBI were out of the loop (at least at the level of the Washington Field office), but that also would mean that this memo does not emerge from any privileged information or access and again is just rumor.
No matter how you slice it, this memo is nothing but rumor being passed routinely up the chain, without any indication that it was taken seriously. It reflects the popular culture of the time, and provides no real evidence or insight. This is not the smoking-gun that UFO enthusiasts have been hoping for.