Frank Scully: Behind the Flying Saucers
Frank Scully: Behind the Flying Saucers
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Flying Saucers and Frank Scully
In the late 1940's, "flying saucers" were being widely reported in the U.S. They got called saucers because of a pilot named Kenneth Arnold who described something he saw as moving "like a saucer." The name "flying saucer" was quickly adopted although it was a misquote. The objects seen were described as flying disks.
This was the time immediately after World War II. The Cold War was just getting under way. Anything unknown flying around was, of course, of great interest to the U.S. military, so the Air Force set up a project to study the saucer phenomenon. They evaluated several hundred reports before closing down the project; apparently nothing substantial could be proved.
The story you are about to read is true. The names have not been changed because the parties involved were not innocent.
In September of 1950 a new flying saucer book, Behind the Flying Saucers, hit the market. Produced by Hollywood Variety writer Frank Scully, this little book claimed to have the real answers about the flying saucers. Scully's explanations most definitely did not agree with those released by the Air Force. The publisher's note recognized this, saying "However, we are as convinced as any thoughtful publisher can be that Mr. Scully has approached his subject with probity and has interpreted the facts and figures given him with care and caution. In writing this book he has had extensive interviews and assistance from scientists and other experts in such fields as magnetic energy, astronomy, and aerodynamics - men who are reputedly high in their profession but some of whose names, as will be apparent in reading this book, must be kept anonymous."
In the Author's Preface (6 1/2 pages), Scully wrote "Though I have not the slightest interest in what the military may or may not say about this book, I want my readers to understand my position. I have never seen a flying saucer. I have never had a hallucination that I have seen a flying saucer. I have never joined in any mass hysteria on the subject, and to the best of my knowledge and belief I have never participated in the perpetration of any hoax on flying saucers. I have talked to men of science who have told me they have not only seen them but have worked on several. I have tried to the best of my ability to find flaws in their stories. But to date I have not succeeded in placing them in any of the three categories laid down by the Air Force." The three categories, as explained in Chapter 1, are
1. Misinterpretation of various things including astronomical objects,
2. Some kind of mass hysteria,
This gives some indication that hoaxes were beginning to be a problem even then.
Some of the references we found indicated that the book sold well. We found a reference that indicated 60,000 hardbound copies were sold at $2.75 as well as additional 25-cent paperbacks. There is a bit of evidence for that in the fact that used copies of it are readily available today via internet booksellers.
The book has 17 chapters as follows.
1. The Mystery of the University of Denver
2. What the Scientist Said
3. Some Personal History
4. Theories in Collision
5. The Lunar Fringe
6. Hoaxes and Saucers
7. The Air Force Reports
8. From Fort to Fate
9. Added Starters
10. As Astronomers View them
11. An Aerodynamic Correction
12. Inside Flying Saucers
13. From Lodestone to Einstein
14. Some Magnetic Definitions
15. Why Saucers Landed Here
16. The Question Box
17. Some Air-Conditioned Conclusions
Summary of the Book
I am going to give a brief summary of the book in order to make later analysis more meaningful. We'll go chapter by chapter. The book is written in the first person, as a narrative by Scully. Style is informal and contains many put-downs of the Pentagon and the military for their "handling" of the flying saucer matter. Some of the chapters have scientific-sounding BS so deep that the reader will want hip boots and a shovel.
Chapter 1 - The Mystery of the University of Denver
This chapter introduces the two principal characters beside Scully. The first appears as an unidentified lecturer giving a 50-minute lecture on flying saucers at the University of Denver on March 8, 1950. Great secrecy surrounded this affair; the event was not announced and the speaker's identity was not revealed. He explained that he would have to leave out names and dates as some of the scientists involved were still working on classified projects and were not free to talk about the flying saucers that they have examined. The audience later described the talk as "startling," "sensational," "spellbinding," "electrifying," "absurd," "ridiculous," and "unbelievable." The reception was obviously mixed, but at least 60 percent of the audience indicated that the lecturer knew what he was talking about. A later poll reduced the number of believers to 50 percent.
The story goes on to relate attempts by the military to find out who the mystery lecturer was. The attempts did not immediately succeed. However, by March 17 everybody involved believed that they had figured out who the lecturer was - one Silas Mason Newton, president of the Newton Oil Company and a graduate of Baylor and Yale. Scully described him as "...a man of substance as well as science and as American as apple pie." It appears that Scully had known Newton for several years.
Another important event appears in Chapter 1 - the flying saucers that "crashed" near Aztec, New Mexico. Aztec is not far northeast of Farmington, in the northwest corner of the state. It is in the context of the Aztec story that the second principal character appears - a mysterious "Dr. Gee." He is described as "a colleague of the lecturer" described above and is never identified further. He was supposed to be a scientist who "had been in government service on top secret defense projects for seven years and had played a part in 35,000 experiments on land, sea, and air, involving 1,700 scientists." Very impressive.
Chapter 2 - What the Scientist Said
Here is a recounting of what the mysterious lecturer said at the University of Denver. Scully says that the best report of the lecture came from the Summerside Journal from Price Edward Island, Canada. "This newspaper obviously got its story from a Denver correspondent,..." but Scully considered it better than a transcript, which did not exist.
The lecturer claimed that four flying saucers had landed on Earth. "Three of the four, he added, had been captured and had been inspected by men with whom he was currently identified in geophysical research. Thirty-four men, measuring between thirty-six inches to forty inches in height had been found dead in three of the saucers discovered." That was quite a revelation. The story went on: "The saucer not only didn't appear to come from any part of this earth, but the question of where it came from still remained unsolved. The best speculation, he added, was Venus, but he continued to stress the point that it was still a wide-open question." This was two decades before the 800 degree surface temperature and crushing carbon dioxide atmosphere of Venus were known.
The measurements of the disks were interesting. The first one was 99.9 feet in diameter. Its cabin was 72 inches high. The second ship was 72 feet in diameter and the third one was 36 feet across. All dimensions were divisible by nine, "which may have been a clew that they used our system of measurement." Only 4 pages into the chapter and it's already getting deep. Consider the fact that the measurements will divide by nine ONLY in our measurement system. The theme of magnetism is found all through the book. The lecturer in Denver started it. He claimed that a major research project during the war had made huge advances in this area. "They had come to the conclusion that everything existing owed its shape and being to magnetic lines of force. He explained there are 1,257 magnetic lines of force to the square centimeter. That is to say, about a half inch." Hang in there - there's more. "Much of the magic, the scientist explained, which has baffled both trained and untrained observers, is not magic at all. A good deal of what is claimed to have happened to ships in the air, such as disintegration, suspension for a period of time, immobilization of their instrument boards, and such can be duplicated in the laboratory. Mantell's plane and every portion of his plane from the motor to the tips of the wings hung together by reason of magnetic frequency. This was true of even Mantell himself. Therefore all that a flying saucer had to do to disintegrate Mantell's plane, the lecturer revealed, was to demagnetize it." ( Get those hip boots!) By the end of this chapter, the reader has been subjected to a barrage of some of the wildest magnetic BS imaginable.
Chapter 3 - Some Personal History
This chapter had a significance not known when the book was written. It reveals that, for some years, Scully had known Silas Newton, who was likely the mysterious lecturer. The descriptions of Newton are quite glowing. "He was one of the great geophysicists of the oil industry, with a record of successful exploratory operations that was surpassed by none." Sounds good. "He hunted for oil with instruments which had cost a fortune and were a closely guarded secret. With them he had rediscovered the Rangely oil field years after the major oil companies had written it off as a failure." Newton seemed to have developed some very interesting methods for finding oil.
Newton had figured out some secrets nobody else in the oil business knew. "...he had made thousands of surveys in the Mojave Desert and had just about decided to drill some test wells. All the big oil companies were convinced there was nothing in the area, but by instrumentation he was sure there was. 'Petroleum in place', he contends, 'radiates magnetic energy and this is measurable.' The trouble was, how much? How deep did the wells go? Petroleum deposits hidden deep in the earth were constantly broadcasting through magnetic microwaves, he believed, what had been trapped in the various fault zones. The only handicap was that they could come within inches of telling him where oil could be found but could not tell him how much." (Where, oh where, is that shovel?)
Here we learn more about Dr. Gee. "In the summer of 1949 he met Dr. Gee, a magnetic engineer who had been released in July after seven years of government servitude an all sorts of top-drawer projects. He had become a master of magnetic energy but $7,200 a year was all he could make for his mastery. So he begged off government projects to get back to a more profitable business." Gee explained that "... magnetic waves will not go through oil. They move over and under the petroleum. Thus it would be easy to subtract the difference and tell you how much volume there was in a given oil deposit." Slick, eh?
Scully finally got to meet Dr. Gee; Newton invited him to go along on a trip to Mojave to check on an exploratory operation. Dr. Gee would be there. During the trip, Dr. Gee told Scully about the flying saucers he had examined near Aztec, New Mexico. He answered questions quite knowledgeably. The description of Dr. Gee paints him as a brilliant genius who is far ahead of the rest of the world in the study of magnetic energy.
Chapter 4 - Theories in collision
This chapter is a collection of pseudo-science and outright BS. Scully cites and praises such authors as H.S. Bellamy and Immanuel Velikovsky, who both wrote describing the origin of the Earth, biblical catastrophes, and the capture of the Moon. These books are now considered to be pseudo-scientific hokum, but Scully was convinced.
Chapter 5 - The Lunar Fringe
You might call this chapter "The Lunatic Fringe." It details a number of wacky people and their weird ideas about planets, space ships, and so on.
Chapter 6 - Hoaxers and Saucers
Here is evidence that flying saucer hoaxers were a problem in 1950. "Suspects on the lunatic fringe might presumably be cured of their personal hallucinations or participation in a mass hysteria, but the fabricators of hoaxes belonged understandably on the cold side of the moon, the side we never see." Two things are obvious here - Scully didn't like hoaxers and he also didn't know that the far side of the Moon is NOT always cold.
The chapter relates some interesting historical hoaxes.
Chapter 7 - The Air Force Reports
The Air Force's Project Saucer was intended to study the mushrooming flying saucer reports and make some sense out of them. The Air Force was obviously interested in things that flew around in the manner ascribed to the saucers. Scully relates some supposedly inexplicable "incidents" of encounters with flying saucers. The Air Force was supposedly unable to assign causes to some number of the sightings. Project Saucer was reported closed down in 1950 but may have continued to operate at a lower level.
Chapter 8 - From Fort to Fate
The "Fort" in the chapter title refers to Charles Fort, an interesting character who lived from 1874 to 1932.
Lots of flying saucer stories appeared in Fate magazine, which was a small magazine concerned with science fiction and weird things. An article there in the spring of 1948 contended that the flying saucers were mysterious only to the Air Force and that everybody else who was working on figuring out the saucers already knew what they were.
Chapter 9 - Added Starters
Fate wasn't the only magazine publishing flying saucer stories.
Chapter 10 - As Astronomers ViewThem
Scully laments that no well-known astronomer has "come out as an eye witness to flying saucers." Those few that would comment thought the whole idea was nonsense. "Professor George Adamski of Palomar" is cited as thinking that the saucers might be real. Note that Adamski was NOT an astronomer. He did write a best-selling book called The Flying Saucers Have Landed in 1953. He was a prominent flying saucer proponent, but his reputation faded after he announced that we would be attending a meeting on Saturn. He is now remembered as a crackpot and a hoaxer. Adamski was not the best reference for Scully to use.
The chapter goes into a bit of detail about the Solar System and its planets. There is a summary of the current (in 1950) knowledge of Venus, and Scully does a fairly decent job with it. Astronomers did, in fact, think that life on Venus was a possibility. We don't think so now, but the 1950 astronomers didn't know about the hellish surface conditions on the planet. There was even a television space adventure called Tom Corbett Space Cadet; one of the cadets, named Astro, was supposedly from Venus.
Scully does cite the work of such pioneers as Willy Ley, Hermann Oberth, Walter Hohmann, and artist Chesley Bonestell. In 1923 Oberth wrote a book about the possibilities of traveling in space. Hohmann proposed a means of getting from Earth to other planets; this type of orbit is now called a "Hohmann Transfer" orbit. Ley was a German rocket pioneer and Bonestell was an artist whose paintings inspired visions of space travel.
Chapter 11 - An Aerodynamic Correction
This short chapter relates some discussions between Scully and a fellow named Jacques Fresco, an aircraft designer. Fresco claimed that disk-shaped aircraft could actually work. His ideas involved craft powered by jets or rockets. He was interested in what the "magnetic research men" had found out. A brief exchange about magnetic metals ended with "I told him the magnetic engineers say a meteor travels on magnetic lines of force and the reason they land here now and then is because they have struck a magnetic fault zone in our atmosphere." (Boots, please...) This is wacky! Meteoroids orbit the Sun like everything else in the Solar System. On occasion, the orbit of one brings it into collision with Earth.
Chapter 12 - Inside Flying Saucers
Here is the real inside scoop. Scully says that "In the summer of 1949, while consorting with men engaged in magnetic research in the Mojave Desert, I met a man of science whose contemporaries rated him the top magnetic research specialist of the United States. He had more degrees than a thermometer and had received them from such diverse institutions as Armour Institute, Creighton University, and the University of Berlin. He is the scientist I have called Dr. Gee." In this chapter we are going to learn the real story of the saucers.
We emphasize that the reader of this book needs to be constantly alert for the next blob of BS which may come sailing by. This chapter provides a stern test. The BS blobs blend together into a fantastic story about the flying saucers.
The flying saucers had "crashed" but were not significantly damaged. All members of the crews had somehow been killed. They were were 36 to 42 inches tall and were dressed in a style that was supposedly "the style of 1890." Their skins were somehow charred to a dark chocolaty color. All dimensions of the ships divided evenly by 9. The control panels featured only push-buttons - no dials. The ships contained booklets, undecipherable of course, which were turned over to the Air Force. The best guess for their origin was Venus.
The crew had timepieces that seemed to run on the "magnetic day," which was 23 hours and 58 minutes long. The only food was in the form of little wafers. The smallest ship seemed to have no toilet facilities, from which Dr. Gee had concluded that its trips were so short that such facilities were not needed.
Dr. Gee promised to obtain permission for Scully and Newton to actually examine one of the saucers. Before the approvals came through, the saucer had been dismantled and shipped to Dayton. All Dr. Gee had to show for all his work was "a tubeless radio, some gears, some small disks, and other items that could be carried in one's pocket. He was granted these baubles for research."
After absorbing all of the above story, the reader will require extra diligence to spot the next blob of BS. "...the saucer-like construction is the most ideal type of vehicle to move in the air. The fact that the saucer whirls is only for the purpose of balance, because there is not any thrust insofar as the wing surface is concerned. There is not any thrust by reason of any propeller, either, because there are no propellers. What actually happens is that, even though the wing part is whirling, the saucer actually crawls forward from one crossed magnetic line of force to another. Now, when you consider there are 1,257 lines to the square centimeter and no two cross, we have the problem of combustion or propulsion, or power created when they are crossed under control. The successive crossing of these magnetic lines of force under control makes possible the speeding up of the whirling action of the plate or wing part of the saucer, because the saucer is attempting to get to the next succeeding line of force; or perhaps we could say, seeking to get back in balance. In other words, the ship is trying to get away from itself, or trying to get away from the position it finds itself in, when combustion power is created by the crossing of magnetic lines of force." (Aaarrgh!)
Chapter 13 - From Lodestone to Einstein
This chapter actually contains some straight history of magnetism and magnets. Scully recounts how magnetic rocks, known as lodestones, served as compasses for navigation. There are a number of credulous remarks about the "Saucerians" and their spaceships, but the BS level is generally low.
Chapter 14 - Some Magnetic Definitions
Scully gives a decent list of terms regarding magnetism. The reader learns about magnetic inclination and declination, flux, field and hysteresis. You encounter "Helmut's" coil, which is likely a misspelling of Helmholtz.
Chapter 15 - Why Saucers Landed Here
The chapter supposedly tells you why the flying saucers landed here, but never really does it. After a blast at the military, the BS gets thick. (Get the hip boots again) Here's one. "Don't they know that everything on this planet, and, indeed, in the entire solar system, operates on magnetic frequencies, from a pencil to an Air Force general, and that anybody who has mastered this knowledge could demagnetize and destroy anything he desired?" Scully was convinced that everything was based on magnetism. He mentions "magnetic engineers" a lot. How about this? "When the Earth shifts a fraction there is a magnetic disturbance around the poles and that's all the Aurora Borealis is. These magnetic lines of force go as deep as the skin of the Earth, which is 32 miles. It is assumed that the Sun supplies its other planets with this energy as it does us. It is assumed that they are all positive forces and thus repel each other and so keep in magnetic balance. Anybody who can effect a negative current can get from one positive planet to another positive planet." (Where's that shovel?) Wait - there's more. "The assumption is that the Saucerians have developed their own ships to where they can create a magnetic flux and move at any speed - from zero to 282,000 miles per second. In fact, once out of their atmosphere, or ours, where no resistance operates, they could move at 1,000,000 miles per second."
Chapter 16 - The Question Box
On January 11, 1950, Scully sent the "Pentagonian desk generals" a set of twenty questions about flying saucers. He writes as if he thinks the military people are absolute idiots. The twenty questions are priceless. If your hip boots are at hand, here are a few of them.
"5. Weren't all the saucers found on the western hemisphere magnetic rather than jet jobs?"
"9. What has happened to the remains of the 16 men found dead in one of the large saucers and the two in a smaller flying disk?"
"13. Did you ever see a radio like the one which was on the flying saucer that landed on a ranch in New Mexico?" (reference to the Aztec story)
"16. What do you know about magnetic fault zones in certain areas on this Earth, notably in Oregon?"
"17. Do you know how magnetic waves emanate from the Sun, revolve around the Earth, continue on to the Earth's moon, come back to the Earth, and return from there to the Sun? Do you know that magnetic waves following a similar course travel between the Sun and Venus? If you don't know much about this, why did you insist on tearing everything open that might have helped the magnetic scientists into determining if a saucer magnetically controlled could hop from one magnetic zone to another?" (Getting deep here...)
Chapter 17 - Some Air-Conditioned Conclusions
This chapter implies that the people of the Air Force are incompetent dodos. Scully cites a supposed Air Materiel Command report: "There was never better proof that a dull mind hides behind many a smart uniform." There follows immediately a note about a very significant invention. "It reminds me of Lee Bowman and his ship, which he designed during the war. Because high octane gas was at a premium, he designed his ship to fly on carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide was cheap. It couldn't explode or burn. Roscoe Turner tested an X model and pronounced it well worth developing." Carbon dioxide has its uses, but those uses do NOT include fueling anything. Carbon dioxide is already oxidized and will neither burn nor support combustion.
From publication through 1950, 1951, and into 1952 the book apparently sold well. The publisher was making money, Scully was making money, the book was getting a lot of notice and everybody was happy. There was only one little problem: the book was a complete hoax and Frank Scully didn't know it! Scully wrote that he didn't like hoaxes, but he was an unwitting part of one.
There are a few things that we can fairly safely take as facts.
1. Scully knew Silas Newton.
2. Newton knew Dr. Gee.
3. Scully was a writer for Hollywood's Variety magazine.
4. Scully had NO background in science or engineering.
5. Scully was accustomed to getting his stories from people telling him things.
6. The book is LOADED with scientific-sounding BS. Scientific concepts are scrambled and distorted beyond belief.
7. Neither Scully or the publisher did any checking of the story. In 1950 relatively few people were scientifically literate enough to recognize the outrageous BS in the book, which sold well. A savvy reader might wonder why Scully would write such stuff. Where did he get it? Why didn't the editors catch the outrageous claims?
Everything was going fine for Scully and publisher Henry Holt and Co. Both were making money on the book. At least they were until the September 1952 issue of True hit the streets. It featured an article titled The Flying Saucers and the Mysterious Little Men.
Working on a special assignment for True, San Francisco Chronicle reporter J. P. Cahn (we don't know what the initials stand for), spent four months tracking down flying saucers, looking for the real answers. In his words, "They'd come out of the sky in flying saucers. My job was to bring their story down to earth. I got it - their full inside story. And although I didn't find the dead Venusians, I uncovered same rather fantastic living characters..." The story is 13 pages long, written in the first person as Cahn describes his hunt for the truth.
Cahn set out to find out the truth about Scully's book. If it was really true, it would be extremely significant. If it was a hoax, everyone would be better off if it were exposed. The book actually wasn't very good. In Cahn's words, "The fact that it was a loudly bad book was beside the point. Reviewer's opinions ranged from amusedly tolerant to stinging, with a few reaching indignation. With a pitchman's shallow glibness, Scully garbled scientific concepts, contradicted himself in details, and committed rudimentary errors that would shame a high-school freshman. Yet the impact of his staggering story and its basic implications were there."
What was going on? Was the book a joke, a hoax, or really true? Cahn felt that this tale of little men from Venus could be neither laughed at or ignored.
To start with, Cahn knew three names - Frank Scully, Silas Newton, and the mysterious Dr. Gee. It seems that Dr. Gee's identity had to be protected. Cahn did the obvious and started with Scully, hoping for some assistance. Scully was not helpful:
"Stoutly maintaining that he was pledged to secrecy, he refused to name his chief source of information, Dr. Gee. He had promised Dr. Gee not to reveal any more of the story than he had set down in his book, and by God, he wasn't going to break that promise." Scully also would not provide any information about how to find Silas Newton. Checking with some people in the oil business turned up nothing - none had heard of Newton. Cahn's challenge was to find out more about these elusive individuals.
Surprisingly, Scully himself arranged for Cahn to meet Newton at the Scully home. Newton had never seen the a flying saucer himself; all the stories came from Dr. Gee. He told the stories in the same terms used in the book, but he made them sound good. Some of Scully's errors were explained away as the result of doing the book in a hurry. Cahn met Newton several times subsequently. At dinner one time, Newton produced two small gears and two metal disks, all purported to be pieces from a flying saucer. Later, in his hotel room, Newton produced a thin rod of clear material that he claimed was made of a volcanic ash called Perelite. It was supposedly almost indestructible. Newton claimed that it was being used for aircraft cockpit canopies.
It got deeper. Newton claimed that Dr. Gee was working on a magnetic disintegrator, the same as mentioned briefly in Scully's book. "It had taken better than a year, Newton said, just to work out the mathematics necessary to make certain the disintegrator would only operate in a one ten-thousandth-of-a-second flash. Even so, in that brief moment, the disintegrating beams had shot out twenty miles and spread a swath of total destruction on the desert proving grounds two miles wide. The big brass planned to set a chain of these disintegrators around the United States and point them skyward to form an impenetrable screen of destruction through which no enemy plane could pass. But there was a hitch in the plan. The beams of the magnetic disintegrator, if left on, would reach out and destroy the entire universe."
What Cahn did was thorough reporting; whenever one of the principals made some sort of statement or claim, Cahn checked it out with sources he was sure would know the truth. Most of the claims Cahn checked out turned out to be false. By this time he had concluded that none of the three were going to tell him the truth.
Cahn's plan of attack now included finding out who Dr. Gee was, getting his hands on one of Newton's disks of so-called alien metal, and continuing to check out Newton, all the while not letting Newton and the others know what he was really up to.
Getting one of the disks was challenging. Newton would never give Cahn one; he claimed that further lab testing was not necessary as his labs had performed over 100 tests and found that the metal withstood 10,000 degree temperatures. To shorten a story, Cahn got a magician he knew to train him in some sleight of hand. After a failed attempt when the magician accompanied him, Cahn managed, in a later meeting, to get Newton to let him examine one of the disks. Cahn was carrying some substitute disks a friend had made for him. He chose the most likely one from his pocket, then used the magician's training to pull off the switch. He palmed Newton's disk and switched it for the fake. Newton never noticed. In very short order the disk was at Stanford Research Institute, where a Dr. Hobson gave it the works. It turned out to be a common aluminum alloy used for making pots and pans and it melted at a cool 657 degrees. Some much for alien metal. Cahn now knew the story was a hoax.
Regarding checking Newton, "It's not in the glamorous Dick Tracy detective tradition to mole through old newspaper files, but sometimes it pays off." It sure did. Cahn found a New York Times story about Silas M. Newton being arrested and charged with selling a fellow $25,000 of worthless stock. Later he was sued by a man who claimed Newton bilked him out of $28,000. He was also investigated in two incidents of stock fraud. Also, an oil company exploration superintendent in California DID know about Newton. "'...Sure, I remember old Newton,' he said. 'He used to come out to Rangely with some kind of doodlebug outfit - one of those black boxes with a lot of dials on it nobody ever gets to look inside of. He tried to tell everybody we were way off on the geology. He even picked up some leases down there where his doodlebug said the oil was supposed to be. Turned out he was the one that was way off on the geology. He used to bring a lot of people out there in those big cars of his. But as far as rediscovering Rangely, that's a lot of baloney.'" Cahn figured out that nothing else of Newton's stories was to be believed either.
While checking out Newton, Cahn turned up the first solid lead to Dr. Gee. "I won't go into the method of delving here. Let's say simply that the telephone is a great invention, and Newton is a great telephoner. A checkup revealed that he phoned often to Phoenix, Arizona. He spoke there with a Leo GeBauer. Phoenix was the locale of Dr. Gee, according to Scully's book, and to the statements of Newton himself. The pseudonym "Gee" and the name "GeBauer" certainly seemed to be kin." Cahn had correctly identified the elusive Dr. Gee. He was NOT the superscientist Newton made him out to be, but he did have some technical knowledge about electronics. He was also the proprietor of a radio and television parts store in Phoenix. Cahn obtained a photograph of GeBauer thanks to a reporter for the Phoenix Gazette, who arranged to do a story about GeBauer for the business section. That way, GeBauer would not suspect anything. It worked. Further follow-up checking with the Better Business Bureau yielded some biographical data on GeBauer. "From 1943 to 1945, while he was supposed to have been heading up 1,700 scientists doing 35,000 experiments on the land, in the sea and air, and spending one billion dollars in a top-secret government magnetic research program, GeBauer allowed he was merely chief of laboratories at the AIResearch Company in Phoenix and Los Angeles." He wasn't a scientist at all - he just managed the laboratories. He was also VERY creative when it came to flying saucer stories.
Cahn visited GeBauer at his store and confronted him with the proposition that he was Dr. Gee, which GeBauer strongly denied. Cahn also noticed a box of brown rods which looked exactly like something that the hoaxers had claimed was super-strong stuff made of Perelite. They were actually television antenna separators.
Scully reneged on a promise to confirm Gee's identity if Cahn produced it, but Cahn had it right.
Scully's book was a monumental hoax; the investigations of the principal characters had made that clear. Cahn was left trying to figure out why Scully had done it, and not succeeding. "I'm sorry that I don't know the answer. I don't know it because I think there is no single answer. Beyond the immediate and obvious one that the book was highly profitable lies a tangle of intangibles - the motives of the various individuals who were involved in fostering the story. I believe that Frank Scully allowed himself to trust sincerely what was told him by others, although I'll agree that takes some believing about Scully." He goes on to note that Scully might simply not be good at checking stories, or that he let a man he'd known for years pull one on him. In any case, the only winner in the book is "...that wizard among ore and oil explorers, the scientist whose geophysical acumen as described by author Scully would certainly merit any investor's interest, Silas Mason Newton."
All was not over for Newton and GeBauer. The August 1956 issue of True carried a 6-page followup story by J.P. Cahn titled Flying Saucer Swindlers. In the years since the 1952 article, Cahn and True had collected enough information to figure out the answer to the question Cahn couldn't answer earlier: Why did Scully write that book?
According to Cahn, "Digging into the story of the bogus flying saucers, I learned that two men - Silas M. Newton and Leo A. GeBauer - had manufactured the hoax and fobbed it off on a gullible author. When we broke the story, True and I had some pretty good ideas why Newton and GeBauer had dreamed up their yarn, but we couldn't prove our suspicions. And what you can't prove you don't print. So we said what we could and hoped for the rest. Thanks to True's vast readership, we got the new leads we were hoping for, and now we can give you the wrap-up story on as slippery a pair of swindlers as ever came down the pike." As a side note, look at the journalistic ethic "what you can't prove you don't print." That seems to have been lost a long time ago.
The two guys were what oil industry people called "doodlebuggers," which meant that they would impress prospects with arcane devices which supposedly could infallibly locate oil underground. They could then sell the "investors" (who knew nothing about oil) worthless oil leases. Newton was the front man with his Newton Oil Company in Denver. GeBauer was the genius who developed the wonderful oil-finding devices.
Newton needed material to convince the prospects, so he wrote articles on his geophysical theories that were loaded with pseudo-scientific gibberish. These got printed in petroleum industry trade publications. Oil professionals, reading these articles, quickly dismissed them as the ramblings of a goofball and continued to other material. Newton's challenge was to get his message out to a larger audience, one that did NOT know anything about oil.
Frank Scully was just the ticket. "The book about flying saucers was the answer. Si Newton is the kind of salesman who could peddle a steam calliope to a funeral parlor. The story he palmed off on the man who actually wrote the book set Newton up as a world-famous geophysicist and multimillionaire. It gave him a perfect background to operate from." Now we understand why Newton was the real winner in the book.
Cahn continued "The flying saucer yarn was bait. When you got through reading the book, you might still have your doubts about the saucers, but you believed Newton was a genius when it came to locating oil - unless you happened to know something about the subject. And Newton wasn't interested in people who knew anything about oil." The hoax brought victims to Newton and GeBauer, who fleeced them of something like $400,000 total. The book worked like a charm;"Newton was able to build up a sucker list that was a con man's dream."
The rest of the article details Cahn's efforts at finding people who had been swindled by Newton and GeBauer. He was trying to find a victim for whom the 3-year statute of limitations had not run; such an individual could file charges and get the swindlers prosecuted. Herman Flader was just that person; Newton and GeBauer had taken him for $231,432.30, which was a LOT of money in 1950. Cahn went on to describe the details of the swindle, the filing of charges, the arrest of the two, and the trial in Denver.
There's one particularly funny note. The swindlers sold Flader an oil-finding device like their own for $18,500. During the trial, the District Attorney introduced an absolutely identical device which he had purchased for $3.50 at a local surplus store. The doodlebugs were really surplus tuning units from surplus Army radio transmitters. They still carried their Signal Corps identifying plates. After World War II, a lot of surplus equipment was sold by the government. Many a ham radio operator got on the air using converted surplus WW2 radio gear. Prof. Cotton is one of them.
It took the jury less than 5 hours to convict the two. They applied for, and received, probation.
So what's the moral, if any, in this story? In one of the most successful hoaxes of the 20th century, two swindlers conned a gullible writer into producing a book about a completely bogus flying saucer story. Scully's breathless ravings about the saucers, his polemics about incompetent people in the military (the "Pentagonians"), and his accounts of working with Newton and Dr. Gee would catch the reader's attention. The underlying purpose of promoting Newton was not observed. Apparently even the book's harshest critics didn't figure that out. Newton won.
For a writer, the moral is probably to check out everything. Cahn was able to check out the claims in the book and found them to be phony. Scully either was not up to it or didn't bother. The articles do not record what happened to Scully's reputation after the hoax was exposed.
Finally, some of the BS in the book is so bad that one wonders why the editors at Henry Holt publishers didn't catch it. Cahn's description of the book as "loudly bad" is certainly right on target.
This summary was written from original sources. We were able to obtain a copy of the book (a 1st edition) as well as copies of the two True magazines.