The story you are about to read is true. Some of the names have been changed to protect the incorrigible.
It's May 1957. Giant Rock Airport is in Southern California near Landers not far from Twenty-nine Palms and the military bases there. George Van Tassel and his wife live at the Giant Rock airport and operate the Giant Rock Cafe. Giant Rock is famous for two things, Mary Van Tassel's superb pies and their annual flying saucer conventions.
Every May, George, his wife, and some unusual friends host a convention devoted to the study of flying saucers, alien visitations, extraterrestrial technology, pyramid power and similar wonderful things. This year the gathering promised to be especially successful with over ten thousand people expected to show up to participate in the festivities.
George's publication "The Proceedings of the College of Universal Wisdom" is printed more or less monthly and is sent to subscribers all over the world. It contains descriptions of flying saucer technology, interviews with members of flying saucer crews and letters from subscribers, many of whom have been given flying saucer rides. It's a marvelous read.
I had been to several of the previous conventions and was looking forward to this one. I had finished with college and gotten a Job at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena. The place was filled with flying saucer enthusiasts so it took little prodding to arrange a delegation to the convention.
About twenty of us finally went. Some of us were actively working, designing nuclear tipped missiles that would save the world from atomic holocaust while others were still in school, mostly at Cal Tech, learning to do the same thing.
We decided to make a three day weekend of it. It was easy to get off work, the cold war could wait for at least one day, and we were convinced that something of great value might be learned at a convention devoted to space drives and other such magical concepts.
We turned off the pavement onto a well-traveled dirt road that led to the airport. The road led past the "Integritron" which was under construction. It was a large dome shaped building that was supposed to house some sort of time machine when completed. George had been given the plans by the Captain of one of the "Crystal Ships" that visited Giant Rock on a regular basis. The Captain assured George that the machine would perform some very useful functions so George secured the finances from some of his more well healed supporters and started to build it.
We joined a long train of vehicles. Sports cars, trucks, sedans, even a bus or two. We were all pilgrims headed to the holy shrine of UFOdom and George Van Tassel was its high prophet.
We arrived at the convention from the south end of the airport. There were probably over two thousand cars parked along side the runway and at least twice as many people. Something short of the promised ten thousand but impressive none the less. Well, the weekend was young and the crowd was still gathering they might meet the goal of ten thousand acolytes yet.
Some people had set up booths next to their cars and trucks. One man had a dog that he had picked up on Venus. It looked like an ordinary dog but the man said that was deceptive and that Venus dogs and Earth dogs look a lot alike. This dog was unusual in a number of different ways. Its hair for example was hollow! This remarkable fact was made all the more astonishing when he informed us that the hole down the center of each hair was so small that it was invisible to any human instrument. To prove this, he had set up a moderately powerful laboratory microscope with a dog hair in its slide. We all looked and sure enough, we could not see the hole. The microscope simply was not powerful enough.
Having proved the remarkable nature of the dog hair by rigorous scientific methods he offered to sell sample hairs for a dollar each. I bought one. I also paid twenty five cents for the privilege of taking a picture of the dog. It seemed like a bargain at the time. The dog hair came in a small glass tube with a cork in the end. You could look through the glass and see a hair from another planet! The tube came with a mimeographed certificate of authenticity. The certificate was written in both English and Venusian. It's interesting that Venusian looks a lot like Egyptian hieroglyphics. The man said this was no accident. The people from Venus had visited Earth years ago and had taught the Egyptians how to read and write, build pyramids and how to embalm people.
While talking to the man with the dog I discovered that one of the other people in his audience was a young woman that was actually from Venus! She said she was really four hundred and seventy six years old but she didn't look a day over twenty five. She verified the dog hair story and then explained that she had been sent here as part of an experiment that had been arranged by some scientists back at her home on Venus. It seemed that the people of Venus wanted to know if mating between Venusians and Humans would be possible and she had been sent here to find out. We all thought this was a wonderful idea and volunteered, to the man, to help her with her experiment. She thanked us for our generosity of spirit and said she would think about it and get back to us later in the day. I don't know how it worked out for the others but, sadly, I never saw her again.
Then we went to the Giant Rock. It is a huge rock at the north end of the runway and a large space has been hollowed out beneath it where meetings are held. The space is big enough to hold seventy five to one hundred people.
George was explaining that the rock had been placed in its particular place by people from Urgana. Urgana is a planet that orbits a star millions of light years away and is not visible from earth. For reasons understood best by the Urganans the rock focused rays of "eloptic radiation" and this made the space under the rock and ideal location for communications by means of telepathy. I later looked up eloptic radiation and found some obscure references to something called a Heyronomous machine. It was all gibberish to me. I was beginning to be very concerned about the things we were not taught at Caltech.
For three days we listened to lectures on how to live in an advanced society, talked to many people that had been given rides in flying saucers and looked with amazement at demonstrations in antigravity and magnetic propulsion.
One of these demonstrations consisted of a glass tube with two cylindrical permanent magnets in it. The magnets were arranged so that like poles were facing each other and magnetic repulsion caused the upper magnet to float above the lower one. This, we were assured, is how flying saucers do what they do. One pole is the flying saucer and the other is the Earth's magnetic field. We had either gone to Caltech or were still students there. We were amazed that we weren't taught these things. It seemed that Caltech wasn't as advanced as we thought.
After three days of getting an education in off world science we were disappointed in one thing. No flying saucers had made an appearance. A flying saucer convention without flying saucers seemed somehow incomplete.
Caltech students and JPL engineers and technicians are nothing if not innovative. It was clear that something had to be done. We could tell that George van Tassel was disappointed so we began to think of ways that next year's convention could be made more exciting.
We entered into the project with all the enthusiasm that we put into building atomic missiles. Saving George's flying saucer convention was at least as important as saving the world.
We needed something unmistakably alien. Our resources couldn't provide a flying saucer landing that would pass scrutiny but we probably could have a flying saucer crash that would leave a lasting impression. One thing was certain, it had to be impressive. We figured that the most impressive thing would be a crash followed by a large explosion.
We began designing our project and rounding up the materials necessary for its completion. One of us, Bob Withers, offered to make some black powder. He figured four or five hundred pounds of the stuff ought to do the trick. He set to the task with a gas powered concrete mixer in his back yard in El Monte. As he mixed charcoal, sulfur and saltpeter in the cement mixer the rest of us maintained a respectful distance, about five miles. We figured that if something went wrong there was little point in being at ground zero of an explosion that would probably level half the town.
Vic Masters, grad student, worked at Caltech in a biology lab. He was able to get some Rhesus monkeys that had given their lives to science. They were stored in large drums of formaldehyde and were really quite disgusting. Ordinary monkeys wouldn't do so we dyed them bright green and set them aside for future use.
Phil Gizo was another grad student and did a lot of work carbon dating soil samples. He was able to get several pounds of mildly radioactive dirt, presumably the tailing from a uranium mine, which we added to our collection.
We added metal filings and shavings of magnesium, aluminum, cobalt, chromium, beryllium, and even some molybdenum. We had several drums of this stuff that had been scavenged from various machine shops at JPL and Caltech.
Finally I was able to acquire some dynamite. I owned a mining claim near Big Bear and had a license to purchase the stuff. I began accumulating cases at the rate of about two a month. By the time May rolled around again I had twenty five cases of 60-40 Hercules.
A week before the Convention our advance survey team went out to find the best location for the crash site. There was a low hill between the airstrip and the place they picked. The ground showed no indication of foot or vehicle traffic, it was perfect.
The rest of us showed up a couple of days later having made various excuses allowing us to put a temporary halt to the lords work of making atomic missiles.
We dug a pit several feet deep and about ten feet on a side. My twenty five cases of 60-40 fit in nicely. I wasn't sure how much we might need so I brought it all just in case. Good thing I did. We used every bit of it.
Next we put fuses into the dynamite and laid them out on the ground around the pit. On top of the dynamite we put about a foot of dirt with the radioactive soil mixed in. We topped all this with the black powder, and the metal shavings. Finally and with great reverence, we removed our alien crew from their canisters and placed them on top of the powder. The fuses leading to the dynamite were then raked into the powder so that when it began to burn they would be lit.
We were now ready for our spacecraft. Bob Fuller brought out several large tanks of hydrogen and a large weather balloon that he had picked up at a surplus store in Pasadena. Mike Fisk produced his pride and joy, a framework with several red and green flares attached to it all connected together with fuse.
It was now dark and time for the great event. Bob and his flight crew inflated the balloon and attached the flare frame to it. They then released the balloon after lighting a thirty minute time delay fuse. The balloon was connected to a thousand feet of wire that was on a spool located in the center of the pile of gunpowder. After we assured ourselves of a safe liftoff we returned to the convention site. We came dribbling in by two's and three's so as not to attract attention. That was unnecessary as everyone was watching "The Day The Earth Stood Still" on a large outdoor screen. Nobody paid any attention to us. George had told his audience that the folks that made the movie had inside information.
Suddenly, a number of red lights appeared above the screen they were arranged in a pentagon, and then a green light became visible at the center. The whole thing was rotating slowly. It was magnificent!
Everyone forgot about the movie so the projectionist
shut it off. People were crying, some were praying, some were trying to
contact the space ship by mental telepathy, a
Suddenly the ship seemed to break apart. The pentagon of red lights began to descend while the green light remained aloft. The star of red lights slowly rotated as it came down. Everyone went crazy. Men and women were screaming, crying, praying, and a few were scoffing but not very convincingly.
What had really happen was that the cord holding the framework to the balloon had been burned through by one of the flares and the whole thing began to slide down the wire to the waiting pile of gun powder below.
As the ship approached the ground it became apparent that it wasn't slowing down but was going faster and faster. Finally it went behind the little hill and disappeared. Nothing happened for a few seconds then there was a red glow followed a series of bright yellow, green and red flashes. Finally the whole landing site was ablaze.
"Oh my God, It crashed! It crashed. This is terrible." As with one voice the faithful reacted to the tragedy. Here these kindly aliens were coming to the aid of mankind and they suffered some sort of calamity.
As the fire grew in intensity we could see the gunpowder begin to burn. The dynamite couldn't be long now.
Not having any education in industrial explosives, none of us had any idea what to expect. The biggest dynamite explosion I had ever seen was a couple of sticks and that was impressive enough. I began to wonder if maybe we had gone to far when the dynamite went off.
It was like the end of the world! The explosion started as a brilliant flash followed by a huge fireball that expanded to a diameter of a couple thousand feet! Bits of burning debris were flying everywhere. We could see the magnesium burning brightly as chunks of it tumbled through the air. Then the shock wave hit! The ground heaved, cars rocked violently from side to side all, we heard several windows shatter. Everything was illuminated by the inferno in the sky. Then we saw the mushroom cloud, the ultimate symbol of the atomic age. It was lit by the fires below and rose at least five thousand feet into the sky above the "crash site".
Pandemonium! Everyone was screaming, crying, and praying with new conviction. The most terrible thing imaginable had happened.
Oh Shit! I said, not alone. At that moment, I knew we were in serious trouble.
During the night, a number of the convention goers packed their things and left hurriedly. Some of us stayed to see what would happen next.
By morning, the crash site was crawling with marines and soldiers from the bases at Twenty-nine Palms. They arrived in jeeps, trucks and even helicopters. The soldiers had put up a cordon of ropes all around the site and wouldn't let anyone within a thousand feet. Men with hazardous materials suits were collecting things from the ground. A couple of bystanders saw small green bodies being quickly stuffed into black body bags. Others with Geiger counters clicking were surveying the area looking for hot spots. Men with long metal tongs were picking up bits of debris and putting it into metal canisters. The explosion left a crater about one hundred feet in diameter and over thirty feet deep at its center. Several people in protective suits were down inside the hole.
The soldiers and marines wouldn't say anything except "Keep Away" By noon they had picked the area completely clean and except for a couple of jeep loads of officers, had left taking everything they found with them.
Rumors began immediately. "Did you see the green bodies?", "How about the radio activity?", "Why is the military hushing all this up?", "You know the government knows what's going on!", "The marines took the spaceship parts away!"
We packed up all our things and left as quietly and as unobtrusively as possible, all the while expecting some marine or soldier to "put the cuffs" on us. But for some reason, nothing ever happened.
As time went by, the story of the flying saucer crash in the desert made local, national and even international news. Life magazine ran an article on the event and left it up to the reader to decide if it was a real space ship or an elaborate hoax by some college students.
I suspect the statute of limitations has run
out long ago on things like this. Some of the original group has died,
many have retired, and some have simply disappeared. I am one of the surviving
members of the "Great Flying Saucer Hoax of '58". There may
be a few others but we have all lost track of each other. But no matter
where they may be I suspect that, when they think about it and hear rumors
of "Hangar 18" and "Area 51" they, like me, wonder.