John Greenwalde, Jr. of The Black Vault published an unredacted copy of a March 22, 1950 FBI memo about space aliens revealing for the first time how the head of the Washington, D.C. FBI bureau, Guy Hottel, came to write to J. Edgar Hoover that the Air Force had recovered a crashed flying saucer with three dead bodies. However, the unredacted version makes it much clearer than ever how this information came to the FBI and why it is false.
The unredacted text makes for rather humorous reading:
The following information was furnished to SA R. H. KURTZMAN by KARL HOWE, Special Investigator, Sex Squad, Metropolitan Police Department:
So, you might wonder, why is a vice cop reporting space aliens? The answer to that question must be conjectural for now, but the likely answer, based on hundreds of similar police interactions with the FBI, is most likely as follows:
On March 8, 1955, Silas Newton, an oil man and con artist, gave a lecture anonymously in Denver expanding on false claims about captured flying saucers and dead aliens that he had fed to Variety columnist Frank Scully in the fall of 1949. Scully had published these claims in Variety (!) and was working with Newton on a book due out later in 1950. According to Scully, the Air Force had begun investigating his January 1950 article (on newsstands in December 1949) about the recovery of dead space aliens, and as a result, Air Force investigators and the FBI took an interest in Newton’s lecture. When Newton claimed to be revealing classified information about government programs, the military attempted to identify Newton and sought information about him.
The FBI was not fully aware of this until March 31, 1950, when the chief of the New Orleans field office wrote to J. Edgar Hoover to tell him that the brother of one of his field agents, an advertising executive, had been at the Denver lecture and recognized him as Newton, a prominent oil man. (The name is redacted in the released memo but easily identifiable from the FBI’s own website on Newton.) He also summarized the lecture as follows. Newton, he said,
... is claiming that he leased land in the Mojave Desert in California and that on this land a flying disc had been found intact, with eighteen three-foot tall human-like occupants, all dead on it but not burned. Further, that the disc was alleged to be of very hard metal and near indestructible.
Newton, the brother continued, had made the claims before Scully’s article and boasted about being the source for Scully and his rival, Donald Kehoe.
This is important because the information is substantively identical to Hottel’s version, except for claiming not eighteen three-foot aliens but nine aliens, and not in California but New Mexico. The confusion is understandable since both reports are secondhand, from people who didn’t care that much. I could only guess, but I would lay even odds that many blue collar East Coast men in 1950 would not have known that California had a desert, to judge by the many cartoons and nature reels that treated it like a surprise. When one of the Ten Most Wanted was killed in the Mojave Desert in April 1950, news reports were all careful to specify that the Mojave was in California, apparently not considered universal knowledge at the time. In 1949, a Mississippi paper even ran a short explainer identifying the desert for readers and providing factual information about it, including its location.
The key to remember is that the FBI didn’t know about Newton until March 31, though Scully says most in Denver had figured it out by March 17.
So what happened in Washington?
Well, Karl Howe was a vice cop who shows up in the newspapers of the time busting men, including military men, for sodomy. In early 1950, a panic over gay sex swept through Washington, with Congress pushing through a strict anti-sodomy law and members demanding that the head of the Metropolitan Police drive homosexuals out of Washington. “It is a well-known fact that several restaurants, clubs and other establishments get most of their support from these sexual perverts,” Rep. Arthur Miller wrote to the capital’s police commissioner on April 4. “Frequent raids, with sufficient publicity, will send the homosexuals into new territory.” On the flood of the House, he condemned “fairy parties.” On March 8, anti-gay hearings had begun in the Senate.
D.C. cops routinely went undercover to arrest men for gay sex, and cops routinely set up sting operations when neighbors reported handsome young uniformed men visiting the houses of bachelors alone. That happened to Thomas Heinze, a salesman, and James Dykes, a civilian Pentagon employee, when their neighbors called police after seeing young soldiers visiting their homes. The Air Force itself sent officers to gay bars to take pictures of anyone in a uniform going in.
Given Howe’s job and the “crimes” then being prosecuted, it is very likely Howe had busted an airman for solicitation or another act of gay sex and was working with the Air Force, as typically happened when servicemembers were caught up in anti-gay raids, to turn over evidence and secure a dishonorable discharge. The Air Force “investigator” he worked with was most likely an investigator of homosexuality, not UFOs. We can only speculate why they would talk about Newton’s Denver lecture, but it was the talk of the military in the weeks after March 8. FBI files are filled with memos from cops who passed on any and every tidbit of information about a topic of interest to the FBI, and it is very likely that Howe passed on what he heard from his Air Force friend about Newton’s lecture, in a somewhat garbled form. Whether he knew the FBI was interested due to the national security claims I couldn’t say. Cops, especially D.C. cops, liked to get in good with the FBI.
Guy Hottel copied Hoover on everything, and his memo most likely reflects that practice, as well as the FBI’s interest in gaining intelligence about Air Force investigations, since FBI documents make plain that the Air Force had largely stopped cooperating with the FBI despite having requested the FBI do its legwork and verify UFO sightings. Hoover ended the FBI’s UFO investigation and any remaining cooperation with the Air Force in July 1950. Because the March 31 memo identified Newton and unraveled Scully’s claims, the FBI saw no need to further pursue Howe’s secondhand information.
So, in short, the March 22 and March 31 memos are most likely two accounts of the same event, a lecture in Denver by a con artist, slightly garbled in the telephone-game transmission.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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