To the editors:
[Re: “UFO Hunters,” September 25]
Did Ray Palmer, three days before the event, put Ken Arnold up to hoaxing his famous #1 “flying saucer” report?
Better question: did John Keel really write so poorly Vicki Quade got this idea from him?
Actually, Arnold’s sighting: 24 June 1947.
Mid-July 1947: Arnold got Palmer’s request for an account. Arnold (never having read Amazing Stories) obliged.
Palmer then offered expenses if Arnold (who flew around selling fire-control equipment) made a side trip to check out Harold Dahl’s claim: an aerial object dropped fragments on his Tacoma harbor patrol boat on 21 June.
29 June 1947: Arnold went. He decided Dahl and his alleged boss, Fred Crisman, weren’t even harbor patrolmen. But odd events–someone reported every conversation in Arnold’s hotel room to a newspaper, but nobody could find the bug; two Air Force Intelligence officers died in the crash of a plane, a box of Dahl’s “fragments” aboard, though they could have parachuted; just f’rinstance–spooked Arnold, and he stayed spooked.
Arnold’s accounts: his and Palmer’s The Coming of the Saucers (1952); and in the Proceedings of the 1977 International UFO Congress. Quade can find ’em in the CUFOS library.
Ray Palmer: an odd, tough (much surgery, much pain) little man. Way I figger, he conducted empirical experiments with the minor mythologies “explaining” anomalies–even in Amazing Stories days–mostly by interpreting rather than inventing “data” himself. In ’47, he was pushing the “Shaver Mystery,” a paranoid ancient-astronaut thing–Air Force blamed him morally, for providing the market Dahl and Crisman aimed at. (Oh, D&C confessed.)
A historian not too snooty to research Palmer’s calculated antics might learn something.
Point of this: Arnold’s first sighting was of nine flat, reflective objects. They flew with an exaggerated fluttering, skipping motion “like a saucer, if you skipped it across water.” They were constant in number. Arnold was always hesitant about catching their exact shape as they fluttered; eight had semicircular leading edges and blunt, squatly pointed trailing edges. One was a crescent with a little “peak” between the horns.
They were seen against sky, snow, forest, rock–and they flew before some landforms and behind others, which nails the distance down. Arnold timed them from Mount Rainier to Mount Adams; the shortest (peak-to-peak) distance means of speed of (1947 gasp!) about 1,300 mph.
Lemme tell you what they were:
1 was a mirage. 2 was a hallucination. 3 was snow blowing over ridges. 4 was a conventional aircraft. 5 was a weather balloon. 6 was a reflection in Arnold’s window. 7 was a “floater”–a spot in his eye. 8 (the crescent) was a hoax. 9 was a glowing plasma (generated by seismic processes).
All these have been seriously proposed as the explanation of Arnold’s sighting–but since correcting #8, I’m beginning to doubt the others.
Which shows the value of CUFOS gathering and preserving.
Even that symbol, the “first” sighting still asks us: what the goddamnhell’s going on?
Frank John Reid