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The Origins of Majestic 12?

One of the biggest problems surrounding the famous Roswell event of July 1947 is the almost complete lack of documentation to support the claims that anything (UFO, balloon, V2 rocket, or something else) crashed or landed in the wilds of New Mexico on that long-gone day. In 1987, however, the situation changed drastically. It was in that year that UFO investigator Timothy Good’s best-selling book, Above Top Secret, was published; one of the most controversial aspects of which was the discussion of a document that allegedly originated with a classified research and development group established by the U.S. Government in 1947 to deal with the incident at Roswell and known variously as Majestic 12 or MJ12.

Classified “Top Secret/Majic Eyes Only,” the document can essentially be broken down into two parts: the first is a 1952 briefing prepared by Admiral Roscoe H. Hillenkoetter (the first Director of the CIA) for President-elect Eisenhower, informing him that an alien spacecraft was recovered at Roswell and briefing him on the MJ12 group, its activities and membership (which supposedly included Rear Admiral Sidney Souers, the first Director of Central Intelligence; Doctor Vannevar Bush, the head of the Joint Research and Development Board; and General Nathan Twining, Commanding General of Air Materiel Command). The second is a 1947 memorandum from President Harry Truman to Secretary of Defense James Forrestal, authorizing the establishment of MJ12.

Shortly after Timothy Good published copies of the MJ12 documents in May 1987, additional copies surfaced, this time in the States, having been released by the research team of William Moore, Stanton Friedman and television producer, Jaime Shandera. Moore had been working quietly with a number of intelligence insiders who had contacted him in the wake of the publication of the 1980 book he co-authored with Charles Berlitz, The Roswell Incident, and from time to time and under distinctly cloak-and-dagger circumstances, official-looking papers would be passed on to Moore by his Deep Throat-like sources; the implication being that someone in the Government wished to make available to the UFO research community material – including pro-UFO data on Roswell – that would otherwise have remained for ever outside of the public domain.

Needless to say, controversy raged with regard to the nature of the documents and the circumstances under which they surfaced. Some favored the idea that they were official documents, secretly leaked by insider sources connected to the intelligence community. Others, however, cried “Hoax!” While some suspected that the documentation was possibly government-orchestrated disinformation designed to muddy the already dark waters of Roswell even further. In the near-quarter of a century that has now passed since the documents surfaced, the MJ12 saga continues to flourish.

Although he is loath to go into too much detail lest it “identifies players that I don’t want identifying,” Al Barker – a former key player in the Intelligence world of the 1950s and early 1960s – claims to know the origin of the term “Majestic 12” as it appears in the controversial documents made available by William Moore and Jaime Shandera in the 1980s.

According to Barker, the MJ12 documents are nothing but hoaxes designed to steer people away from what he believes is the truth behind Roswell: namely, a dark and dubious military experiment in which human guinea-pigs were used. In other words, Barker sees Roswell as having nothing to do with aliens, and everything to do with a classified aircraft program of a very terrestrial – rather than extraterrestrial – nature.

The term “Majestic,” says Barker, was in reality an “inside joke with the Intel boys” that was inspired by a newspaper account from 1947 that hit the headlines and that, interestingly, referenced crashed UFOs, and even incorporated the word “Majestic” in the account.

As evidence of this, Barker supplied a copy of the following newspaper report from the 14 July 1947 edition of the Yonkers, New York Herald Statesman newspaper. Titled Gadget Found Stuck in Hedge Is Taken To Police Who Believe It Is Work of Practical Prankster, it reads:  “Eastchester came up with its own version of a flying disc on Saturday night, but whether the gadget flew into town under its own power or was placed here by a practical prankster was still being investigated today by Eastchester Police. On his evening constitutional on Saturday, Lawrence Castellucci of 69 Homestead Avenue, noticed a shiny metal object stuck in the hedge bordering his front lawn. This ‘what’s it’ has since been described by various persons as (1) ‘a cookie can cover,’ (2) a ‘pie plate’ (3) a ‘cracker tin cover.’

“Equipped With Tube: Flying or otherwise, the disc carries on its surface a clutter of mechanical contrivances including a radio tube, a transformer, a condenser and another gadget, which police describe as a ‘radio speaker unit.’ If that adds up to a flying machine, Eastchester may have a flying disc. The disc is about ten inches in diameter and is surrounded by a rim about one inch high. The condenser and the transformer have Japanese markings and are unquestionably of Japanese origin. The radio tube is a ‘Majestic G-38.’ The joker on the contraption is a white label with red trimming on top of the disc. It bears the admonition in English, ‘Finder, please return to Tokyo Rose, Japan.’”

It ultimately transpired that this entire affair was nothing more than a prank. According to Barker, however, it was never forgotten: nearly forty years later and “with a kind of cruel humor in mind,” the term “Majestic” was lifted from the story and employed in the documents that surfaced from Moore and Good, as an in-house “cruel, spook joke.”

The final word on Majestic 12 I will leave to Barker: “Intel had one goal and it worked perfectly: the plan was to give the space alien writers something to believe in and use to support their theories and to give their opponents something to fight against. So, while both are fighting [for] years and spending money researching over if these are real [Majestic 12] files, no-one is looking where they should be looking: the human experiments. A wonderful plan that still works today.”


Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.
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