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Dead Aliens or Special-Effects?

As someone who spends a lot of time digging into stories of the distinctly strange kind, I find myself on the receiving end of a lot of correspondence from people that read my articles and books. Very often, people want to share their stories (or those of families and friends). More often than not, this process opens a lot of doors and offers greater insight into the subject at issue – whether the UFO phenomenon, Cryptozoology, or the field of conspiracy-theorizing. Sometimes, however, I find myself on the receiving end of a very different category of story…

That category is, for me at least, quite possibly the most vexing one of all. The reason being that it is filled with great and intriguing stories, but ones that I have never been able to get to the bottom of, and which languish in a realm that might accurately be titled: “Fascinating But Frustrating.” And, so, I thought I would share with you my personal favorite, one that (A) really caught my attention; (B) has eluded every single attempt to resolve it;  but (C) still make me think there is something to it.

In 1997, the U.S. Air Force published a report that suggested the “alien bodies” seen sprawled around the Foster Ranch, Lincoln County, New Mexico in the summer of 1947 were dummies used in parachute experiments. We are, of course, talking about Roswell. But there is another angle to the “alien dummies” saga.


A decade or so ago I spoke with a guy who claimed his grandfather, from the 1930s to the 1960s, worked in the world of Hollywood – specifically in the field of special-effects and model-making for horror and sci-fi movies. The grandfather also had another string to his bow: namely, a connection to the secret world of government. And that same connection surfaced in an intriguing fashion.

In 1945, the acclaimed film-maker Billy Wilder – who died in 2002 – directed the English language version of a documentary called Death Mills, which was produced by the U.S. Department of War’s Psychological Warfare Department. It was a harrowing, but acclaimed, production that graphically revealed the sheer, horrific extent of the Nazi holocaust of the Second World War.

The Pentagon describes psychological warfare as: “The planned use of propaganda and other psychological actions having the primary purpose of influencing the opinions, emotions, attitudes, and behavior of hostile foreign groups in such a way as to support the achievement of national objectives.”

It transpired that plans were afoot for Wilder to make a similar production for the PWD on the atrocities undertaken by Japan’s Unit 731 during the Second World War. It was, however, a documentary that ultimately did not come to fruition. It transpires that my source’s grandfather worked on Death Mills with Wilder and, as a result, came to know some of the PWD personnel.

Almost certainly as a result of his work alongside the PWD on Death Mills, in 1955 the special-effects expert in question was contacted by psychological warfare planners in the U.S. Air Force and offered a lucrative contract: to use his cinematic skills to create what can best be described as faked alien bodies.

Given the time-frame (namely, the mid-1950s), it would be reasonable to expect that the Air Force would want something to reflect the pop-culture of the day: the bug-eyed aliens of This Island Earth variety; the Krell of Forbidden Planet; or the “Martian mutants” of Invaders from Mars. But not so.


The man was asked to design and create exactly eight “alien bodies.” There was just one proviso: they all had to be very life-like, dwarfish, hairless and topped off with huge heads. Reportedly, so the grandson told me, his grandfather was paid very handsomely for approximately three months of work, all of which was undertaken in a specially modified trio of rooms at a military base “in southern California.”

It doesn’t take a genius to guess that the man asked why on earth the Air Force wanted him to fabricate a number of extraterrestrial corpses. He could understand the military taking an interest – and a very deep interest – in real alien bodies, but faked ones constructed by a Hollywood special-effects expert? What was the point? Well, the point, it seems, was a fascinating one.

“Scuttlebutt” and rumor that reached the man’s attention suggested a fantastic operation was at work. In fact, it was an operation that was two-fold in nature. First, there was a bizarre plan for the military to photograph the “bodies,” strategically laid out on gurneys or slabs, and then have the images sent anonymously to the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

Along with the photos would be a long and winding fabricated letter – one supposedly written by a communist sympathizer in the U.S. military, warning the Soviets that the U.S. Government had got its hands on alien bodies and technology.

In other words, it was a strange example of Cold War-era psychological-warfare proportions, an example designed to scare the hell out of the Russians and have them waste their time chasing down what were really non-existent aliens. There was, however, a second part to the story.

There were suspicions, at the time, that at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio, several employees were selling secrets to the Soviets, particularly secrets born out of the work of Wright-Pat’s Foreign Technology Division (FTD). So, a plan was formulated: carefully expose those same commie-loving characters to a couple of “alien bodies,” strategically placed in a vault or bunker, and have them believe Uncle Sam has recovered a crashed UFO, or several, along with their deceased crews.

Then, it was a case of keeping an eagle-eye on all of those under suspicion and see which of them – if any, of course – might be prompted to do something out of the ordinary, such as make a phone call to a man named Ivan, or meet in a local park with a trench-coat-wearing character with a foreign-looking appearance. It was, then, a program designed to ferret out Soviet sympathizers in the military by exposing them to a huge secret that, in reality, was a huge ruse.

Now, as I said at the beginning, I have been unable to prove any of this (the Billy Wilder/Death Mills/Unit 731 issue aside). But, while it all sounds rather bizarre, if you think about it carefully, it also makes a lot of sense. After all, what better way to mess with the Soviets – and to root out dastardly Reds in the United States – than by (a) dangling a startling carrot of the fabricated kind; and (b) reeling in the enemy without any real secrets ever being compromised?

If true, this saga may help explain some of the controversial stories where military personnel have reportedly been exposed to alleged alien bodies in underground rooms (the Hangar 18 legends), and under “convenient” circumstances that many skeptical researchers think are just to good to be true. They just might be. But not for the reasons that the skeptics think.

Megadeth - Hanger 18

Megadeth – Hanger 18

The reason: the eyewitnesses may have been set-up as a test of their loyalties. It may have been intended all along for them to see the “bodies” (or, more correctly, the dummies). If they kept quiet about what they saw, they were good soldiers and trustworthy. If they told their wives 0or girlfriends, they were potential security risks and perhaps needed to be watched carefully in future. And if they ran to a Soviet handler, it was jail-time.

This, of course, leaves us with a highly thought-provoking question: if the story told above it 100 percent accurate, does that mean all the stories of “alien bodies in the morgue” are born out of this long-gone Cold War operation/deception? Or, does the government have real extraterrestrial corpses on ice, and, if so, is it using the “dummy” angle just to confuse things even more? I wish I knew.

And one final thing for your consideration, something which takes us back to Billy Wilder. In 1970, Wilder’s movie The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes was released. In the movie, the British Government creates a faked Loch Ness Monster to hide the fact that the military is conducting secret submarine tests in the loch. The reason: to keep German spies in the dark regarding what was really afoot.

So, we have one man claiming to have made alien bodies to fool the Soviets and (in a fictional setting) we have a government creating a monster to fool the Germans. There is a Billy Wilder tie to both issues (in the sense that the source of the above-story worked with Wilder, and Wilder himself directed, produced and co-wrote The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes), and both Wilder and the man behind the “alien dummies” ruse worked with the Psychological Warfare Department on Death Mills.

Somewhere, in this convoluted saga, I suspect, there is a big secret just waiting to be uncovered…

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  • Todd Phillips

    It doesn’t account for Jesse Marcel Jr’s assertion about handling light, indestructable shape-memory alloy, though.

  • hannabellmer

    Damn interesting…I’m now going to show death mills to my high school students when we do the lesson on WWII and propaganda. That and the Disney anti hitler cartoon.

  • dhodge


  • Dan []

    SPOILER: I just saw that Private Life of Sherlock Holmes movie a week ago, and while it was a good movie, I found the fake Nessie thing highly improbable in that specific case. Because what’s more conspicuous, a thin metal breathing tube/periscope, or a huge plesiosaur head and neck? Why draw certain attention to your project? Just paint the thin breathing tube to match the water, and no one will probably notice. Then there’s the fact that this “Loch Ness Monster” can be seen retiring to the covered port of a castle every night.

  • Dan []

    Or all the purported close encounters. I wouldn’t doubt the craftiness of people who practice deception for a living. But it brings to mind that Sufi proverb, “there would be no fool’s gold if real gold did not exist.”

  • Alien Gray

    Hogwash. Gray Aliens are real and watching us. Get your claws off me you damb dirty aliens!

  • Dean J

    so is Nancy Grace part aardvark or part gray alien???

  • RogerKnights

    If the govt. admitted to this sort of mind-messing once, its future mind-messings would be discounted–as would its “honest” proclamations.

    The allies didn’t admit that they broke the German’s Enigma machine until 30 years after the war. Govts. like to keep secrets if they can.

  • meatwad_SSuppet

    That one is pure home grown loony tunes. The seething hatred that fumes from it is sickening.

  • NickRedfern

    Some people are clearly confused over what I said. My article has nothing to do with whether the Grays exist or not. Of course, there is a genuine UFO phenomenon, and we are clearly being visited by something, from somewhere, whether ET-based, inter-dimensional, multi-dimensional, time-travelers etc. And clearly the phenomenon interacts with us, the Human Race. The whole point of the article is to show how, back in the 1950s, the UFO phenomenon was used to try and smoke-out a Soviet spy-ring – and that is ALL the article is about. The article does NOT say that the UFO phenomenon (or the Gray phenomenon) is garbage. It merely states that the military has, on occasion, used the subject for a purpose that doesn’t actually having a direct link to the UFO phenomenon. There is nothing odd about that. Disinfo programs only work well when the enemy target is fed a certain amount of info that the enemy can verify, and that is one of the important issues that often sees the target fall for the ruse. So, that the military may have constructed alien dummies to try and identify Russian spies and traitors in the US, doesn’t mean there aren’t real alien bodies – there may well be. But, for those who think I’m saying that there are NO alien bodies on ice and they are ALL special-effect dummies, I recommend you go back and read the article carefully. I am focusing on one specific series of disinfo ops that went on in 1955 – and that is all. None of this can explain the Roswell bodies, or abductions, or Gray encounters. What I think it DOES show, and shows accurately, is that as well as being a real mystery, the UFO phenomenon is ripe for exploitation by those that are experts in the field of disinfo.

  • NickRedfern

    Why wouldn’t they say so? Simple: because it would open the floodgates to how the UFO subject has been used in other disinformation programs, maybe dozens, maybe 100s, over the last 70 years or thereabouts.

  • NickRedfern

    No, it doesn’t account for the Marcel story. But why should it? My article makes it clear that this particular operation didn’t even begin until the 1950s! So, in that sense, there may well be real alien bodies which have been kept on ice since 1947. But, in the 1950s, someone tried to smoke out a Soviet spy op with faked imagery of dead aliens. The would hardly show the Soviets photos of the real bodies (if such exist), but something that could get the Reds all stirred up (and which, if necessary, could be shown to be fake), still allows for the real bodies to remain hidden and denied.

  • White Falcon

    Just a thought on Roswell. Lets not think about it anymore…
    How much longer do we need to talk about it before we move on? How much are we learning about the UFO phenomenon by talking about Roswell year after year after year? And Rendlesham too, for that matter? Boring… Yawn…
    It all seems very reminiscent of a magician saying “concentrate on this red ball in my left hand” meanwhile with his right hand he’s stealing your watch.
    With everyone putting so much energy into thinking about Roswell, like its the most important thing in “ufology”, our attention is being distracted from the vastly more important stuff, such as the contact experience.
    All these UFO shows on TV are more than happy to endlessly pontificate on Roswell and Rendlesham, but they rarely go near the contact experience, particularly those of a less abduction kind, where someone feels like what they’ve experienced has somehow benefited their life, maybe even expanded their consciousness. Television doesn’t want you to think about an expansion of mind, it wants to keep you in a very small box.
    By the same token, I bet there are disinfo agents out there who are absolutely overjoyed at this constant re-hashing of Roswell and Rendlesham, keeping everyone completely distracted and focusing their attention on lights in the sky or silver discs. Big deal. Let’s move on. Let’s step out of our tiny little”ufology” box.
    Sometimes I think Terrence Mckenna was right when he scathingly referred to the field as “uFOOLogy”. Quite apt if all we’re doing is focusing on one event that happened like 70 years ago. It’s so tiresome, and counter-productive. We’re like little lobotomized poodles chasing our non existent tails. I’m so bored of this.
    By the way, this wasn’t a diss of the article. Nick Redfern is a God. 🙂

  • Bruce Duensing

    You might recall my post of some time ago that you referenced, that recounted the parallel espionage events and communist hunting as well as the stealing of atomic secrets by the Soviet. This is the most probable scenario. It has not been disclosed because it worked. You are on the money my friend.