In the wake of
gripped the nation.
The Month It Rained Flying Saucers
The Roswell Incident In Its Historical Context
by Scott Allen Munro
Special to ParaScope
On July 1, 1947, the San Antonio Light reported that Troy Pendergrass of Hot Springs, New Mexico, chased a flying saucer until it landed. When it landed, it was discovered to be a piece of foil, five inches by eight inches.
The San Antonio Evening News of the same date reported that a saucer had been "captured" in Texas.
On July 2, 1947, the San Antonio Express reported that a priest in Grafton, Wisconsin called the FBI after he heard a whirring noise and a thump and went outside to find a metal object in his parish yard.
The San Antonio Light of July 2 carried a picture captioned "IS DISC IT?" The picture showed an Ohio woman holding up pieces of a weather balloon. [Note 1]
On July 7, F.G. Harston found a sixteen-inch disk in Shreveport, Louisiana. The disk was equipped with two radio condensers, a fluorescent light switch, and copper tubing.
On July 7, pilot Vernon Baird claimed that a "pearl-gray, clam-shaped airplane with a plexiglass dome on top" had gotten caught in the prop wash of his plane and been knocked down. There is no supporting evidence and Baird's boss announced the next day that it was a hoax.
Also on the busy day of July 7, 1947, Lloyd Bennett of Oelwein, Iowa, announced that he had found a small steel disk and intended to claim the $3,000 in rewards that was being offered from flying saucer evidence. [Note 2]
On the morning of July 8, 1947, the San Antonio Express printed the following headline: "TWO FLYING DISCS FOUND IN TEXAS." One of the "discs," found near Houston, reportedly bore U.S. military markings. The other was said to be partially melted and was discovered near Hillsboro. [Note 3]
Also on July 8, the press office at Roswell Army Air Field announced the recovery of a "flying disc." The next day it was announced that the "disc" was a weather balloon. An interview with the rancher who found the "disc" indicated that it was made of "tinfoil, paper, tape, and sticks" which when gathered up "made a bundle about three feet long and 7 or 8 inches thick." "Smoky gray" rubber was also used in the construction; it "made a bundle about 18 or 20 inches long and about 8 inches thick. In all, he estimated, the entire lot would have weighed maybe five pounds." The rancher denied that it was a weather observation balloon. [Note 4]
On July 11, Sig Hanson said that he found a flying saucer on the Jackson County, Wisconsin fairgrounds in Black River Falls. The saucer was made of plastic, and was shaped like two soup bowls fastened together. It contained a radio tube and had two small propeller blades.
Also on July 11, a saucer found in Twin Falls, Idaho was turned over to the FBI. The saucer was a little over thirty inches in diameter and looked like the cymbals on a set of drums. It was gold on one side and silver on the other, and had a metal dome on top which appeared to be held in place by stove bolts. [Note 5]
In retrospect, this incredible yet largely ignored wave of "saucer crash" reports seems inevitable. America was in the grip of saucermania after the June 24 Kenneth Arnold sighting brought "flying saucers" to national attention. Anything even slightly unusual seen in the sky might be reported as a "flying saucer." And because no particular theory had come to dominate the issue, anything even slightly unusual on the ground might be reported as a "crashed flying saucer." Anything.
A pair of plastic soup bowls. A bolted-together hi-hat from a drum kit. Or a balloon.
This is the context in which the Roswell Incident occurred. The times change, and we change with them; if we fail to recognize that, we are like the lady who didn't like Hamlet because it's so full of cliches.
The only difference between Roswell and the other "saucer crashes" reported in the same month is that UFO researcher Stanton T. Friedman heard about Roswell thirty years after it happened. No one reported alien bodies or spaceships involved in the Roswell Incident in 1947. It was only decades later, when people became interested in Roswell, that tales of spaceships and dead aliens began to emerge. This snowball effect was inevitable. If Friedman had become excited about the Wisconsin priest or the Ohio weather-balloon lady, the effect would have been the same.
But no one in 1947 reported a "crashed alien spaceship." They reported "crashed flying saucers."
1. This and preceding references are to Robert Kolarik, "UFOs invade San Antonio newspapers," San Antonio Express-News Web site.
2. This and preceding references are to Kevin Randle, A History of UFO Crashes, New York: Avon, 1995, pp. 181-2.
3. Kolarik, op.cit.
4. "Harassed Rancher Who Located 'Saucer' Sorry He Told About It," Roswell Daily Record, July 9, 1947, p.1.
5. This and the preceding reference are to Randle, op. cit., p. 183.
(c) 1997 Scott A. Munro
All Rights Reserved -- reprinted with permission of the author.