For Frank Scully the story of the saucers began with a mysterious lecture on May 8, 1950 at the University of Denver, heard by 350 students and faculty and presented by an unnamed speaker who was shepherded into the hall and then spirited out after 50 minutes. Scully called the lecture "the most sensation since Galileo." Before the X-Files, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, ET's, the 1978 release of the book The Roswell Incident, and books from the 1950s and '60s from authors such as Donald Keyhoe and former Bluebook officer Edward Ruppelt, the word UFO was uncommon, and things seen in the sky were named "flying saucers."
Magazine articles in Look, Life, and Time before 1950 relied on government assistance in the proper attitude to take in articles about flying saucers, and the field of speculation was wide open. The great flying saucer movie of 1950 was The Thing From Another World, a far cry from the gentle, intelligent extra-terrestrials believed in by current New Agers.
Frank Scully was a columnist for the national entertainment periodical Variety, and his 1950 work Behind the Flying Saucers was one of the first serious treatments of the saucer phenomenon. As we read Scully's work, we are inclined to think that the public knows little more today about flying saucers than it knew in the late 1940s, despite the avalanche of movies, books, and mass "abductions."
The mystery lecturer at the University of Denver made the definitive statement that a flying saucer had landed in 1947 "within 500 miles south of here." Scully was told that the crash was at Aztec, New Mexico in the northwest canton of the state. He was encouraged in this belief by mass sightings in the nearby town of Farmington, N.M. in 1950. Check the Farmington Daily Times microfilm for March 18, 1950 and discover that virtually every citizen of Farmington saw metallic disks in the sky in the daylight during those days and described them as a "huge saucer armada."
After this revelation, Scully makes a book of discussing many reputable sightings, the destruction of Capt. Mantell's P-51 on Jan. 7, 1948 while "chasing Venus" in the afternoon, and many evocative stories of recovered technology and bodies. He includes chapters on astronomy and magnetic wave theory, reminding us that Einstein had definitively linked gravity and electromagnetism as early as 1905. Scully said he was certain that magnetic lines of force were the secret of saucer propulsion.
Scully was provocative and believable in many areas, but his book was open to criticism because of his credulity in several areas. For example, he accepted Prof. George Adamski's pronouncements about the saucerians, not realizing in those early years that Californians can be notoriously nutty. Two years later, Adamski was going for rides with space brothers from Venus and founding his contactee cult that met at the great rock as mentioned by Chuck Ivie. Ivie would also chuckle at Scully's quote of an astronomer who supposedly watched through a telescope, viewing a flying saucer "headed straight for Venus," as though any vehicle could reach another heavenly body by employing straight line flight.
Scully's list of captured or landed flying saucers is subject to the credibility of anonymous scientific and government sources who fed him the information, yet he is remembered for having described in his book a flying saucer crash site at Aztec. What nobody figured out at the time was that the lecturer spoke of a crash 500 miles south of Denver, and Scully was led to the Aztec location after hearing of the Farmington flap at a time when New Mexico was a popular tourist location for saucers. What nobody considered at the time was that the area north of Roswell, N.M., fit the anonymous lecturer's directions almost exactly.
The most valuable part of Scully's book is the appendix wherein he lists many major recorded sightings beginning with Kenneth Arnold's baseline definitive sighting on June 25, 1947, and continuing through April 30, 1950. Some are classic accounts, while some have since been discredited, such as the Circleville, Ohio Rawin radar target that was so described even in contemporary newspaper stories. July 1947 sightings at White Sands Proving Grounds are tantalizing, but most important for today's readers is the fact that the Roswell incident is not mentioned in Scully's exhaustive account. Indeed, the most famous saucer story of our age was so thoroughly squelched that it was buried until 1978 when Berlitz and Moore brought it to prominence.
Scully's book was a pioneering effort, written two years even before Kenneth Arnold's 1952 recounting of his adventure in the privately published hardbound book The Coming of the Saucers.
If you want to know how flying saucers affected the public from the end
of WWII until 1950, this book is a fascinating story that shows the mixture
of fact and fancy that convinces us that, even 53 years later, we may never
know the real story. Used copies of Scully's book are still available on
Amazon.com for those who want to immerse themselves in that world when there
were still wonders and mystery to be discovered in our own backyard.