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FBI puts UFOs on Ten Most Wanted list. Not so much.

March 25, 2013|By Michael Muskal
  • A single-page March 22, 1950, memo by Guy Hottel, special agent in charge of the Washington Field Office, regarding UFOs is the most viewed document in the FBI Vault, the agency's online repository of public records.
A single-page March 22, 1950, memo by Guy Hottel, special agent in charge… (FBI.gov )

A screaming comes across the sky. Is it Superman? Thomas Pynchon? Or just a meteor en route to Chelyabinsk, Russia, that somehow made a wrong turn and got lost over New Jersey?

Well, if you really want to know, here’s a tip: Don’t ask the FBI.

Whenever there is an upsurge of activity in the heavens, like last week when flashing lights were reported across the skies of the Northeast United States. Keen-eyed observers rush to the obvious conclusion: No, not that it is the logical result of a galaxy full of falling objects. Rather, it is a sign, portent or even an unidentified flying object signifying aliens from outer space are en route, or worse, already among us.

In the wake of the recent tumult in the skies, the FBI over the weekend issued a news release reminding people that it had investigated the UFO phenomenon in the past -- though perhaps not as deeply as Fox Mulder would have liked.

The document, a memorandum written 63 years ago by Guy Hottel, then head of the FBI field office in Washington, D.C., was made public two years ago as part of the Vault, the FBI’s electronic site for records released under the Freedom of Information Act. The file, a one-page memo, dated March 22, 1950, (making it significantly older than Special Agent Dana Scully) has been viewed nearly a million times, according to the agency.

The document recounts ”a story told to one of our agents by a third party who said an Air Force investigator had reported that three 'flying saucers' were recovered in New Mexico,” the agency said.

"They [the saucers] 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 used by speed fliers and test pilots," according to the memo.

The informant claimed that the saucers had been found because the government had "high-powered radar" in the area that had interfered with "the controlling mechanism of the saucers."

For some undisclosed reason the memo ends simply by saying that "[n]o further evaluation was attempted."

Now, those who live in a universe in which Roswell, N.M., really is the center of inter-galactic commerce need no explanation why the FBI took an investigatory pass. Nor do those conspiracy-loving folk who think the recent meteor that was caught on video in Russia was a sign of things to come (literally). As for conspiracy-lovers who are also literary critics (a bit of a redundancy), well, they know about the ins-and-outs of how Pynchon’s 1973 novel "Gravity’s Rainbow," was denied a Pulitzer Prize, despite its famed opening line about screams and skies.

As for UFOs, the FBI notes that it did investigate some reported sightings, but ended the policy in 1950.

"The Hottel memo does not prove the existence of UFOs; it is simply a second- or third-hand claim that we never investigated," the FBI stated. "Some people believe the memo repeats a hoax that was circulating at that time, but the Bureau’s files have no information to verify that theory."

Good to know.

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