Monday, 29 March 2010

The Aztec UFO Crash Mystery

Several of the reports about crashed “flying saucers”, as they were then termed, go back to the later 1940s, so it is important to bear in mind that this was a time when people’s attitudes were rather different from those of today. For a start the whole subject of UFOs, or flying saucers as they were then called, was new. Although the early reports were creating a sensation in some areas and among some sections of society, others had not heard of the phenomenon or if they had took no interest. Even those who were interested were not yet thinking in terms of aliens. The strange craft might be Soviet missiles, secretive experiments by reclusive billionaires or some bizarre natural phenomenon. Nobody knew, few had any clear ideas. The saucers were a weird and unexplained puzzle - nothing more.

One early case that was written off as a hoax and subsequently largely lost to UFO researchers was the Aztec Crash. As with the Maury Island Incident, there has recently been renewed interest in the Aztec Crash by researchers less willing to accept statements from official sources than were researchers at the time.

The story first became public in March 1950 when a man named Silas Newton gave a lecture at the University of Denver. Newton was in the oil business and claimed to have got his information from a man he called “Dr Gee” (a pseudonym), a scientist who had been called in by the USAF to help them study a crashed flying saucer.

The report was picked up by Frank Scully, a well respected newspaper columnist. Scully spent some time interviewing Newton, “Gee” and other witnesses to produce a book entitled “Behind the Flying Saucers”, published later that year. Scully later claimed that he had interviewed eight of the men who had been involved in the recovery of the crashed saucer, and had used the cover name of “Dr Gee” to hide their identities. The fact that he chose not to divulge the names of his sources devalued Scully’s story in the eyes of some. Others thought that the need to keep secret the names of the witnesses merely emphasised the likely hostile reaction of the US government to the facts being published.

According to Scully’s version of events, the crash had taken place at Hart Canyon, near Aztec in New Mexico in March 1948. The saucer was tracked on military radar as it came streaking down from the sky to impact in a remote area of near desert. At this point, the military did not know what had come down and sent out a squad to have a look. They reported back that the downed object was a silver-coloured disc of great size that was lying intact. The military then sealed off the area from the public and put together a team of scientists and technicians who were sent out to Hart Canyon.

The initial examination of the saucer showed it to be 99.99 feet in diameter. The skin of the saucer was composed of a completely smooth sheet of silvery metal with no signs of any rivets, welding or other joints. Set into the hull were a number of transparent portholes, which fused directly into the silver metal without any sign of a join. There was no sign of a door, so technicians tried drilling into the metal with diamond tipped industrial drills. They had no effect. Nor did blow torches or other tools.

Then one of the investigatory team spotted a tiny hole in one of the portholes. A thin rod was worked through the hole and used to prod a number of levers and buttons that could be seen inside. When one lever was pushed it caused a previously hidden hatchway to spring open.

Warily the team clambered into the saucer. They found that the craft was entirely undamaged, apart from that small hole in the window, but that the crew of 16 humanoids were all dead. The three feet tall figures all appeared to have been charred or burned. It was theorised that some object had perforated the window, and that this had somehow killed the crew. Whether the hole had been created in airless space or within the Earth’s atmosphere was unclear. The bodies were taken away for further study.

There then followed a detailed study of the craft. It turned out to have a central section about 18 feet in diameter which contained the crew’s control rooms, sleeping quarters and other chambers. The outer areas of the saucer could not be accessed at first, though it seemed that they were free to rotate around the central section. After some days of fiddling and prodding, the investigators managed to dismantle the outer ring of the saucer, which transpired to be composed of a number of sections that fitted closely together.

The various pieces of the saucer were then transported by road to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base for further study. Wright-Patterson, near Dayton in Ohio, was and remains a top security military base where new equipment is tested under conditions of the utmost secrecy. It is also the base where captured Soviet weaponry and equipment was taken to be studied during the Cold War, so it would have been the natural place for a crashed saucer to be studied.

One of the scientists handed over to Scully a few pieces of metal recovered from the saucer. Scully had them subjected to a string of scientific tests, but apart from revealing that the pieces were composed of a complex alloy of metals, some of which could not be identified, the tests revealed nothing.

Scully’s claims caused something of a sensation. Even those researchers, such as Donald Keyhoe, who were inclined to dismiss the story as a hoax began to take an interest. The book based on the Aztec crash was selling well, when suddenly the story fell apart.

A man named Leo Gebauer was arrested for fraud. Gebauer had set up a company to explore for oil and had persuaded several wealthy men to invested thousands of dollars each. The company claimed to have device that could detect oil and other minerals through thousands of feet of solid rock. The device, it was said, had been stolen from the saucer crash at Aztec by one of the scientists who had been called in to investigate the alien technology.

Police were called in when one of the investors became suspicious. Investigations soon proved that the “alien technology” was nothing more than perfectly normal mining gear put together in unusual ways. It was quite incapable of detecting oil in an oilcan, never mind through miles of rock. Police then discovered links from Gebauer to Newton, who was also arrested for his part in the swindle. At the trial, Gebauer was named as “Dr Gee”. Both men were convicted of fraud.

Scully and all other UFO researchers rushed to distance themselves from the two fraudsters. Sceptics used the case to undermine the whole subject of flying saucers, claiming that Gebauer and Newton were the tip of the iceberg and that while they had been caught out the other saucer hoaxers had merely been luckier. The attacks by sceptics drawing on the alleged Aztec Crash did much to discredit the early UFO researchers and the other incidents that they sought to highlight.

Scully, however, continued to maintain that he had interviewed eight scientists involved in the study of the saucer, none of whom had been Gebauer. Moreover, it is worth noting that Gebauer and Newton had been convicted of perpetrating a fraud based on a false claim to have obtained equipment from the crashed saucer. Whether or not the saucer had ever existed played no part in the trial nor their crime.

Some 40 years later, investigators William Stinman and Scott Ramsey independently decided to go back to Scully’s original claims to see if they could find any corroborating evidence. Between them they have turned up some interesting facts and witnesses.

Over 100 people who had been living in the area at the time of the alleged crash were interviewed. Most could not recall anything of any interest, but four could. One man remembered that he had seen a UFO flying low overhead, but could not recall which date or even the year when it had occurred. His description of a large silver disc with a few windows matched that given by Scully. Intriguingly the witness said that the craft appeared to be in trouble, wobbling in flight and sending out sparks. He last saw it diving down in the direction of Hart Canyon. The man said that he phoned a nearby USAF base to report an aircraft in trouble, but never heard any more about it.

Two other witnesses recalled being sent out to fight a brushfire north of Aztec, near Hart Canyon, in the spring of 1948 - subsequent investigations revealed that this major fire took place on 25 March. Both men recalled that the gangs of men fighting the fire reported seeing what looked like an unusual crashed aircraft on the ground, again in the direction of Hart Canyon. One of the witnesses, Doug Nolan, said that he had walked toward the object and was convinced that it was disc-shaped.

A final witness was Fred Reed, a retired operative for the OSS, later the CIA. He said that he had been sent out to a site near Aztec sometime in 1948 in charge of a team with orders to clear up a site. He had orders to remove any metal fragments, remove any tyre tracks that remained and to do his best to make the site look undisturbed. He said the site had been accessed by way of a newly laid gravel track and that a large concrete pad had stood nearby. The track and pad are both still there, though much overgrown.

Several people recalled a story about a flying saucer appearing in the local newspaper, the Aztec Hustler, at about the time of the alleged crash, but memories varied as to what the story had said. A contemporary account from the Aztec area printed before Newman delivered his lecture would have proved invaluable. However the Aztec Hustler was bought out by a larger newspaper a few years after the alleged crash and all archive copies were burned.

It is difficult to know what to make of the Aztec Crash. Were it not for the witnesses who came forward in the 1990s, the evidence would point to the fact that the entire story had been invented by the two conmen and fed to Scully as a way to provide useful background to their claims to have obtained alien technology. On the other hand, Gebauer may have invented the supposed oil locater to take dishonest advantage of the genuine story of a crashed saucer.

The stories told by the witnesses would seem to indicate that something large and unusual crashed in the approximate area of the alleged saucer crash. However, the statements were made more than 40 years after the event. Most witnesses could not recall the year to which their recollections dated. Perhaps they were all talking about 25 March 1948, perhaps not. At this distance in time it is impossible to say.

This is an extract from UFOs  Rupert Matthews.

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