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A Saucer Scam and a Trip to Venus That Wasn’t

Taking into consideration my recent articles on the FBI’s files on George Adamski and George Van Tassel, I figured why not turn it into a “trilogy?” So, that’s what I’ve done. Without doubt, today’s file is the most bizarre of all. It’s a tale of tragic proportions, too. Unlike the files on Adamski and Van Tassel – which run to significant numbers of pages – the dossier in question amounts to only 4 pages. Dated June 10, 1959, it is captioned “Interstate Transportation of Stolen Property.” You may well wonder what on earth a document of such a title could have to do with UFOs and aliens. Read on…

As the FBI noted: “Perhaps one of the most fantastic fraudulent schemes ever to be conceived is the one in which a woman was duped into turning over her considerable assets to an elderly man with an extraordinarily vivid imagination. Current publications contain many articles concerning travel into space and landings on the moon or on one of the planets. Newspapers carry daily stories of new accomplishments in the filed of astronautics and space travel forecasts. Confidence man Harold Jesse Berney, however, as early as 1952 set in motion a scheme involving alleged interplanetary travel.”

Berney, who the FBI described as “a sign painter by trade,” was someone who “had a criminal record which dated back some 40 years. He was last released from prison by court order in 1949 after serving less than a year of a five-year sentence for embezzlement.” The FBI noted that Berney, in 1952, “became active in forming the Alberney Corporation, which was intended to produce television antennae. This company was dissolved in 1953, and a year later Berney incorporated the Telewand Corporation. This company also was allegedly for the purpose of producing television antennae, but it actually served as a front for a more ambitious program its promoter had in mind.”

All of which brings us to a woman named in the paperwork as “Miss Pauline Eva Bock.” The file reveals that Bock met Berney in the fall of 1952, and by early 1953 had “advanced several hundred dollars to Berney and had been made the secretary-treasurer of the Aberney Corporation.” Then, things got seriously weird. In matter-of-fact fashion, the FBI noted: “In the fall of 1954, Berney first began to tell Miss Bock of his trip to Venus.” As one does.

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According to Berney, he took the trip to Venus on a two-mile-long spacecraft, making a stop-off on the Moon (whether for a bathroom break, or for a breath of non-existent air, we are not told), and then hanging out with “certain leading men on the planet.” Berney further claimed he stayed on Venus for around 2 weeks and took a “tour of the major cities.” Life, apparently, was pretty good on Venus: gold was so in abundance that the Venusians used it “in the manufacture of plumbing fixtures,” no less! The buildings on Venus “dwarfed the Washington Monument,” Berney advised Bock.

At this point, a heartless scam was put into place by Berney. Venus’s very human-looking “Prince Uccelles” apparently informed Berney that he (Berney) had been selected to “supervise the manufacture on Earth of certain highly secret items which had been invented on Venus.” The most important “item,” according to the prince, was a mysterious “modulator.” In a ridiculous book that Berney wrote – Two Weeks on Venus – he said of the modulator that, “It not only generates power for light and manufacturing, but manufactures of itself the product known as magnetic flux, that being a source of unlimited power to operate any type of machinery.” The FBI recorded that, “Allegedly, the modulator could softly lift and lower millions of tons in a fraction of a second and could propel planes and spaceships at about the speed of light or hold them motionless in the sky.”

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Now it was time for Berney, the alleged Contactee, to get his claws into poor Pauline. The FBI report says of this part of the story: “Berney told Bock that he was working in conjunction with a large corporation in the East to develop the ‘modulator’ for use by this country. The project was so secret, he said, that the details were known only to the White House and certain top officials of the Government. For this reason, he swore her to secrecy but assured her that when the device was completed any money she had invested in it would be multiplied at least seven times.”

Incredibly, by September 1956 Miss Bock had handed over to Berney “between $38,000 and $40,000.” That’s a hell of a lot of money today. Sixty years ago, it was even more. No-one will be surprised to learn that soon thereafter Berney vanished: he did a runner with the money. The FBI was soon on his trail, however, as the Bureau reveals: “In February 1957, the information regarding Berney’s defrauding operations came to the attention of the FBI and investigation was started under the Fraud by Wire Section of the Interstate Transportation of Stolen Property Statute. In the furtherance of his scheme, Berney had frequently contacted Miss Bock by telephone or letter to have her send more money to him.”

The story continues that when contacted by the FBI, Miss Bock “instantly identified a photograph of Harold J. Berney as the individual who had defrauded her of her money. She said that the only things she had to show, in a material way, from Berney’s schemes were a chair and a couch she got when the Telewand office was closed in 1955. She also had $800 from the sale of Telewand machinery.” The file continues that an extensive search was soon underway to find Berney. It proved to be successful: he was arrested on March 25, 1957 in Prichard, Alabama. He was soon behind bars.

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