Larry Lowe is a veteran UFO investigator, respected journalist, TV host and radio guest who is dedicated to truthful UFO disclosure. His work is featured at Examiner.com and is re-printed here with permission.
A 60 year old routine FBI memo that has been available to the public for over three decades -- which some say is at the end of a chain of custody of the truth that began with a lecture by a con-man who would later be convicted of fraud -- is suddenly the latest news in UFO "disclosure."
A week after the FBI website released a revamped document access system a wave of Facebook postings has propogated an inaccurate concept: That the FBI has released proof of an alien spacecraft crash near Roswell, New Mexico in 1947 -- and that this constitutes disclosure of UFO reality.
On April 1, 2011, the Federal Bureau of Investigation released a news story at the www.fbi.gov website announcing "a revamping of our electronic reading room—renamed 'The Vault' — which contains more than two thousand documents that have been scanned from paper into digital copies so you can read them in the comfort of your own home or office."
The Vault, hosted at vault.fbi.com, included a category for 'unexplained phenomenon' a single page with a handful of entries, one of which has triggered in the last two days a tsunami of misinformation and excitement among UFO reality advocates who don't have a firm grasp of UFO event history.
Whether or not the initial story release and the December 6, 2010 planting of the Guy Hottel memo was a subtle form of April Fool's joke on the part of the IT department at the FBI, the result was textbook example of why good information is so hard to come by in the field of UFO studies--it is too easy for bad information to circulate uncontrolled.
The menu for the Unexplained Phenomenon (oddly presented in the singular) page reads as follows:
Dec 06, 2010 Guy Hottel
Guy Hottel was a Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Washington Field Office. The information concerning Mr. Hottel is in regard to a March 22, 1950, memo he sent to the Director concerning flying saucers.
Dec 06, 2010 Majestic 12
Dec 06, 2010 NICAP
Dec 06, 2010 Roswell UFO
Dec 06, 2010 Animal Mutilation
Dec 06, 2010 Extra-Sensory Perception
Nov 30, 2010 UFO
Nov 30, 2010 Project Blue Book
It's well known the FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover had an interest in the UFO phenomenon. Googling the string "J. edgar hoover ufo" nets 81,200 results. Eighty-eight of those come from within the fbi.gov domain, according to Google advanced search.
Putting the string "UFO" into the search engine at vault.fbi.gov produced curious results: 215 items match the search term, the majority of them PDF files. Picking one at random, "J. Edgar Hoover Appointment and Phone Logs Part 7 of 44" results in a PDF document with the term 'UFO" embedded in white text behind the scanned documents inside the PDF file on four of the 121 pages. None of the pages have any content related to UFO's although the term 'WFO' does appear in the scanned content.
Why the string UFO is embedded in a secretive manner inside PDF's of no relevance is its own mystery, however the controversy raging as to the content and intent by the FBI in releasing the Guy Hottel memo is sufficient for the purposes of this article.
Within a week of the FBI announcment, mainstream media began to run stories on the FBI release as if it was news. On April 8 the Salt Lake Tribune ran a story with the headline: "New FBI ‘vault’ discusses Utah UFOs, other secrets", discussing items of interest to Utah residents, notably the September, 1947 sighting near Logan Utah where "numerous witnesses told the FBI they saw “flying discs” in formation that were “circling the city at a high rate of speed.”"
The article continues: "Most interestingly, on March 22, 1950, Guy Hottel, the agent in charge of the Washington Field Office, sent a memo reporting that an Air Force source said that flying saucers had crashed near Roswell, N.M., and had been recovered."
In an article last updated on April 9, the website for the British tabloid "Daily Mail" ran a story under the headline "The memo that 'proves aliens landed at Roswell'... released online by the FBI." The story begins by saying "A bizarre memo that appears to prove that aliens did land in New Mexico prior to 1950 has been published by the FBI". The piece includes a copy of the Hottel memo, photographs of the infamous 'Alien Autopsy' hoax perpetrated by Ray Santilli, and a memo from the 'Roswell' section of the vault.fbi.gov dated July 8, 1947, in which the reporting agent recounts the USAF cover story that a 'high altitude balloon with a radar reflector' was recovered near Roswell on that date.
All of this would lead one to believe that the release of the Guy Hottel memo was news, that the FBI was investigating the matter in 1950 and that it proved that aliens had landed at Roswell in 1947, none of which is true.
Dated March 22, 1950, the memo from Guy Hottel, SAC, Washington to Director, FBI states that:
The following information was furnished to SA [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 three feet tall, dressed in metallic cloth of a very fine texture. Each body was bandaged in a manner similar to the blackout suits use by speed flyers and test pilots.
According to Mr. [redacted] informant, the saucers were found in New Mexico due to the fact that the Government has a very high powered radar set-up in that area and it is believed that the radar interferes with the controlling mechanism of the saucers.
No further evaluation was attempted by SA [redacted]concerning the above.
The 'news' took on a life of its own and soon desktop UFO investigators were posting links to the vault.fbi.gov address on Facebook and via email breathlessly announcing the FBI had disclosed the reality of the UFO phenomenon.
This is not the case.
A thread began at the Above Top Secret website on April 9th now runs to 7 pages of debate on whether or not the Document is authentic, what it will take for Disclosure to be believed, what the FBI's motivation would be to release either a fake document or a real one, and what the document actually says.
Reaction and debate is an illustration of the intangibility of the issue and how perception is colored by one's preconceptions. UFO disclosure optimists point to the increasing release of government documentation as 'proof' that there is a reality to disclose and consider the FBI Vault information release a form of disclosure with a small 'd'. UFO disclosure pessimists point out that the whole thing may be a set-up, hoping to flush out 'true believers' who will then be discredited when the document is later declared fraudulent and released by accident.
By April 10th, the Godlikeproductions website started a thread with the title "FBI Releases Proof of Aliens" with a posting containing the text of the Daily Mail report. The ensuing debate between the poster, who was convinced that the event was 'new news' and those aware of the 'old news' aspect of the memo is a classic he-said, she-said debate that has little value, complete with baseless assertions on both sides.
Soon even Michael Cohen, noted for sensationalistic and widely inaccurate reporting of UFO sightings and frequent predictions of imminent UFO disclosure by Barack Obama was in the act. Under the headline "Roswell UFO crash: Remarkable new disclosure" a posting at his AllNewsWeb blogincluded a photograph of a painting of an ET stumbling away from a crashed saucer and the following:
As some-one previously cynical of the Roswell UFO crash account, this, for me at least, changes the game in a big way. Firstly, the wording is hardly ambiguous: The memo clearly refers to crashed flying saucers. More importantly, small beings are mentioned along with their exotic attire: A first as far as verified documents dating back to not long after the event are concerned.
Sources within the government have informed this publication that a 'soft' or 'back-handed' UFO disclosure is the strategy the US heads of intelligence have chosen rather than a big statement that leaves the public dazed. This new evidence is remarkable and seems like a hint dropped on the road to open contact.
It was apparently Cohen's web page and Facebook link that ignited the tsunami of Facebook cross postings that flooded personal Facebook feeds on the 9th and 10th.
What neither Cohen, the initial posters at Above Top Secret and Godlike productions websites or the Daily Mail realized was that the memo has been public knowledge for three decades and is intricately connected to a completely different event--a crash/retrieval event located at Aztec, New Mexico in 1948.
The 1948 Aztec crash/retrieval event has never had the popular recognition that the 1947 Roswell crash/retrieval/coverup event has had, but it shares the same convoluted history of misinformation and conflicting accounts.
The Aztec crash began life as a story by mainstream reporter Frank Skully and over the years a pitched battle as to the authenticity of the event has taken place. To some the event is called the 'Skully Hoax' and investigation. Skully's 1950 book 'Behind the Flying Saucers" presented a fictitious "Dr. Gee" as a confabulation of 8 different witnesses. Skully, one version of the story goes, was the victim of a con job by a couple of scammers who were later convicted of fraud. Scott Ramsey investigated the story in 1999 and found evidence of high-powered radar sights in the area. It is largely his work that has revived the credibility of the Aztec incident.
Physicist and mathematician Dave Thomas is president of the science group New Mexicans for Science and Reason http://www.nmsr.org, and also is a scientific/technical consultant for CSICOP (Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal), the publishers of Skeptical Inquirer.
At the NMSR website page on Aztec, Thomas offers the following:
On May 31st and June 1st, 1998, on the nationally-syndicated radio programs Dreamland and The Art Bell Show, noted UFO researcher Linda Moulton Howe described a secret FBI memo from March 22nd, 1950, written to J. Edgar Hoover himself. Memo author Guy Hottel, of SAC, described an investigator's report of a flying saucer recovery in New Mexico, with mention of three saucers, three-foot tall bodies, metallic cloth, and bandaged alien bodies. The crash was supposedly due to interference from high-powered radar. But all of these elements (saucers, aliens, cloth and tape, radar site) have been firmly traced to the yarns spun by our two swindlers!
William Moore even traced how the story got from Silas Newton to J. Edgar Hoover: Newton told George Koehler (employed at radio station KMYR in Denver), who told Morley Davies, who told Ford dealers Murphy and van Horn, who told auto dealer Fick, who told the editor of the Kansas City Wyandotte Echo. By that time, Koehler had become "Coulter," just like a game of "gossip" (or a game of "pi")!
This article was picked up in the news, where it caught the interest of the OSI. The OSI agent passed the story on to Guy Hottel of the FBI, and he gave the 8th-hand story to Hoover.
The origin of the contents of the memo would seem to be a lecture given by Silas Newton in Denver, on March 8. Newton was part of a confidence game to swindle oil industry investors out of money with a device allegedly derived from alien technology. Newton provided information to Frank Skully.
Newton delivered the lecture anonymously before a "Basic Science" class at the University of Denver. According to the William S. Steinman, Newton was invited to give the lecture by the class instructor, Francis F. Broman. The purpose of the lecture was to provide the students with an assertion against which they could apply the critical thinking methods Broman was teaching.
Newtons story was picked up by several people and news organizations and got to the OSI who then told the FBI. Newton's story may have been based in rumors of crashed craft or completely made up.
However, there is a problem with this story being authentically based on the Aztec crash. Traditionally the Aztec crash involved one saucer with 16 occupants and the Hottel memo describes three saucers with three occupants each.
According to an email from Dr. Bruce Maccabee the memo has been available to the public since the FBI released it to him in the spring of 1977. Maccabee wrote about the memo in his book "UFO/FBI CONNECTION". In Maccabee's estimation it was the result of a ruse perpetrated by Silas Newton that has been called the 'Skully Hoax'. Maccabee says that the memo has been in the Freedom of Information Act section of the FBI website for at least 10 years.
Noted Roswell Researcher Don Schmitt, in an email to UFO information conduit Victor Martinez, has even stronger reservations about the authenticity of the memo. According to Schmitt:
We had released a copy of this alleged FBI memo back in 1997. At that time, due to the inconsistencies of the data with the eyewitness testimony from Roswell we concluded the document was early disinformation. Also, the format of the memorandum is not consistent with such documents of the time.
For example, longer than usual indentations at the beginning of each paragraph was the rule. This paper has no paragraph indentation at all. Also it is missing the internal department check-off box in the upper right-hand corner of the piece.
The initials at the bottom would indicate that it was not typed by Guy Hottel which would also suggest internal compartmentalization. None is indicated. The typeface is correct throughout, but unless anyone can provide anything new as to the pedigree of this document, it will remain bogus in our book.
UFO/Nuclear researcher Robert Hastings concurs that the memo is being wildly over-interpreted. Hastings says:
I got my copy of the March 22, 1950 FBI memo from the Fund for UFO Research in 1983 and began discussing it in my UFO lectures in 1984. Of course, it has nothing to do with Roswell, probably relates to the Aztec case and, alas, "proves" nothing. A lot of credible analysis on the memo took place years ago. Some of that is online.The "events" described in the FBI memo do NOT even remotely resemble what the key insiders like Exon say took place [at Roswell].
With rare exceptions, the media was misquoting my commentary on the memo from the outset. Now, a new layer of [confabulation] about the Hottel memo has been added to the pile.
I wish that UFO enthusiasts would do their homework and verify the origins, history and relative merits of these documents before shooting-from-the-lip about them in cyberspace. All of this factual inaccuracy, unwarranted enthusiasm and hyperbole only makes things harder for serious researchers who are attempting to get the facts straight so that a credible case for UFOs can be presented to the media and the public in every country.
The hall of mirrors regarding the Hottel memo provides us with an opportunity to reflect on our inability to believe anything without triple checking and the speed with which false versions of the truth can go viral.
We are left with the following possibilities:
- The Aztec crash/retrieval never happened, and the whole story, along with the beginnings of what would become, eighth-hand, the Hottel memo was part of a scam by two con artists out to separate the more gullible members of the oil industry from their hard-earned cash.
- The Aztec crash happened, but elements of it were folded into a version of the aforementioned con job.
- The Aztec crash happened, but the government propagated the con-job story in order to discredit Skully and make the notion of crashed flying saucers unacceptable public discourse, but not before a version of the story found its way to Hottel, who duly wrote up a memo relaying the info for the record, declared no further investigation would be undertaken and went about his job.
- The OSI officer who contacted Hottel was putting in place a cover story that could be 'debunked' when the time came.
- Hottel never typed the document and it is indeed totally fradulent in its own right, part of the disinformation campaign aimed at leaked documents regarding government investigation and management of the UFO problem.
Assuming for the moment that the chain of custody of the 'truth' is as Moore describes, the OSI officer may have been merely doing his job and unwittingly passed along a confabulated version of what he had learned from reading the Kansas City Wyandotte Echo. Which allowed Hottel to do his job.
But the same basic effect of degradation of information when passed haphazardly from one source to another, famously depicted on a Look Magazine cover by Norman Rockwell, has been amplified by the speed at which you can add a link to a Facebook page and the huge numbers of people interested in UFO's who don't have a working knowledge of the field. As one poster to Above Top Secret put it: "you can't go from private to general overnight."
The FBI release of the memo can serve several possible functions and has several possible origins:
- Announcing the Vault on April Fool's day, the FBI may have been making a subtle joke of the whole area of interest broadly dismissed as 'conspiracy theory', with the intent to off-load the work of responding to information requests to a web-server, freeing up agents to do more valuable tasks.
- By releasing some credible information with easily discounted information the FBI may be trying to use guilt by association to discredit sensitive information already in the public domain. The entire MJ-12 briefing document released at the Vault is rather blatantly over-written with the word 'BOGUS' in bold strokes. There is considerable evidence, however that MJ-12 -- or something like it -- did exist: Ryan and Bob Wood have devoted an entire website to authenticating the various documents that have surfaced over the years.
- By releasing what appears to be a 'new' document and attracting web traffic as the news is passed from facebook page to facebook page, the FBI may be trying to assess interest in the subject matter and gather data on where the requests are coming from by tracking incoming IP numbers.
- Perhaps as the UFO optimists would like to believe, this is one more small step towards conditioning society for an eventual open understanding the there is some reality to the UFO phenomenon that science, mainstream academia, government and the media have yet to comprehend or acknowledge.
- The FBI does not realize the document is not an authentic FBI memo.
So we are left with this:
In 1950, SAC Guy Hottel may or may not have written a report to the Director of the FBI passing along some information given to him by an officer of the OSI for reasons unknown, the veracity of which is unprovable and considered the matter closed. The existence of this memo has been public information for at least three decades.
But thanks to a British Tabloid and Michael Cohen the meme that the FBI has posted proof of aliens at Roswell has become the falsehood du jour, following in the footsteps of the recent Jerusalem 'Dome of the Rock' video fabrications, the British Jets chase UFO down the M5 YouTube video fabrication and an endless stream of predecessors.
Uncritical acceptance of tabloid journalism and viral propagation of inaccuracies have made the sensible investigation of UFO claims harder than ever.
Even as the noise to signal ratio increases almost exponentially, truly phenomenal events are being recorded and reported almost daily. It's up to each individual to practice open-minded discernment.