A couple of weeks ago, Ancient Aliens brought up the unusual but not entirely interesting case of Dorothy Kilgallen, a gossip columnist and sometime reporter who published an article on the UP (now UPI) newswire on May 22, 1955 in which she claimed that a British source had confessed to her that UFOs were real alien spacecraft. The article began this way:
British scientists and airmen, after examining the wreckage of one mysterious flying ship, are convinced these strange aerial objects are not optical illusions or Soviet inventions, but are flying saucers which originate on another planet. The source of my information is a British official of Cabinet rank who prefers to remain unidentified. “We believe, on the basis of our inquiry thus far, that the saucers were staffed by small men—probably under four feet tall. It’s frightening, but there is no denying the flying saucers come from another planet.”
No one has ever been able to verify the identity of the British official, and given Kilgallen’s background in celebrity gossip, it is more than probable that the story is the result of a wild exaggeration someone told at a cocktail party or even an outright hoax. It doesn’t really matter, though, except for the fact that the existence of this article helped associated Kilgallen with UFO secrets and with celebrities, a combination that brought her into connection with another growing conspiracy, the allegation that the CIA assassinated Marilyn Monroe to keep her quiet about the plot to overthrow Fidel Castro.
The claim shows up in ufologist Steven Greer’s new documentary Unacknowledged, and Greer posted a clip to YouTube the other day:
This claim, odd as it is, is grounded in the speculation that John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy shared classified information about CIA anti-Castro operations with Monroe while engaging in sexual relationships with her. The CIA itself collected dozens of news accounts of the conspiracy theory when a private detective publicly accused the spy agency of murdering her and her diary had been found to be missing, and in 1982 the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office reopened the investigation into Monroe’s death because of these claims. The inquiry was concluded in December 1982 and determined that Monroe had committed suicide or died of an accidental drug overdose.
It did not take long for the inquiry to fold into the growing UFO conspiracy. In 1995, an alleged CIA memo appeared on the internet that claimed to be a CIA transcript of a wiretapped 1962 phone call in which Kilgallen alleged to Hollywood agent Howard Rothberg that Monroe had been in on the UFO conspiracy and knew all about flying saucers because Jack Kennedy had given her the scoop. The memo was revealed by Milo Speriglio, a longtime Monroe conspiracy theorist whose credibility was already suspect, and he said it came from Timothy Cooper, the ufologist who is believed to have fabricated at least some of the MJ-12 documents, according to Philip J. Klass. The CIA has, so far as I know, never confirmed or denied the authenticity of the memo, and even ufologists treat it warily. Some ufologists claim that the CIA indirectly confirmed its authenticity when they accepted an appeal by ufologist and Monroe conspiracy author Donald Burleson, who sought to use the memo to compel release of audio recordings of Monroe. The CIA did not release any recordings, but some ufologists say that by not immediately dismissing the memo as a fake, the CIA indirectly admitted its authenticity.
For what it’s worth, the memorandum doesn’t look like the genuine telephone conversation memoranda or wiretap summaries from the period that the CIA has released through FOIA. It looks at first glance like a document that was typed or printed onto a copy of a genuine memorandum on a wholly different subject. But since we have only digital scans of poor quality copies, this line of inquiry is not particularly helpful.
The document has all the trappings of a fake, but what is most interesting is the way it was designed to bridge the gap between the 1982 conspiracy allegation and the 1990s X-Files-inspired UFO mythos. In the document, Monroe threatens Bobby Kennedy, but look at the way details from the above accounts have been plucked from the news and inserted into the memo in ways that real life is unlikely to have seen:
1. Rothberg discussed the apparent comeback of subject with Kilgallen and the break up with the Kennedys. Rothberg told Kilgallen that she was attending Hollywood parties hosted by the "inner circle" among Hollywood's elite and was becoming the talk of the town again. Rothberg indicated in so many words, that she had secrets to tell, no doubt arising from her trists [sic] with the President and the Attorney General. One such "secret" mentions the visit by the President at a secret air base for the purpose of inspecting things from outer space. Kilgallen replied that she knew what might be the source of visit. In the mid-fifties Kilgallen learned of secret effort by US and UK governments to identify the origins of crashed spacecraft and dead bodies, from a British government official. Kilgallen believed the story may have come from the New Mexico story in the late forties. Kilgallen said that if the story is true, it would cause terrible embarrassment for Jack and his plans to have NASA put men on the moon.
Paragraph 1 contains info directly from the opening paragraph of Kilgallen’s 1955 article, one that in real life she never followed up on or seemed to have had any further interest in. Paragraphs 4 and 5 are claims from the 1982 CIA-Monroe murder conspiracy theory. The opening of paragraph 1, however, goes back to the X-Files version of American history, and the claim that the U.S. government had a secret UFO research program. It mentions the Roswell coverup (as “the New Mexico story”), which is highly irregular for 1962 since the Roswell story had not developed into an epic of a crashed flying saucer until after 1978, when Stanton Friedman, Charles Berlitz, and others took a minor newspaper flap and turned it into a pop culture event. Prior to that, Roswell was almost never mentioned except, as in the Report on the UFO Wave of 1947 from 1967, only to list it as one of many minor UFO news reports from that year. In the original news accounts, should Kilgallen have been aware of them, the disc was described as small enough for individuals to move most of it by hand. The Report even correctly guessed that the military did engaged in a coverup, but of a secret balloon, not of alien craft.
The idea of a celebrity hearing about UFOs from presidents is pretty close to a carbon copy of the fictitious 1983 National Enquirer story that alleged that Richard Nixon had taken comedian Jackie Gleason to Homestead Air Force Base in 1973 to see a crashed UFO.
Nothing in the memo could not have been fabricated from news accounts and UFO books current in 1995, and that alone is enough to make the memo suspect, since in real life people tend not to produce exact copies of publicly available documents in their private conversations.
Anyway, the document is back in circulation thanks to Greer, and it looks like we’ll have another round of claims that Marilyn Monroe was privy to UFO secrets that mere commoners ought not to know.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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