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A President, a Comedian, and Pickled Aliens

Have you heard the one about the President, the comedian and the aliens? A bad joke? Well, actually, yes, it probably is. It’s dominated by a couple of famous characters and is filled with conspiracy and nothing less than a bunch of dead extraterrestrials. But, is it true? That’s the big question. As for the case at issue, it’s the one which suggests that in 1973 legendary comic Jackie Gleason got to see a bunch of pickled ETs, courtesy of none other than his buddy President Richard Nixon! Really? Nah, but it’s a great story, and one worth addressing – at least in terms of trying to put it to rest, one way or another.

Gleason is probably most remembered for his starring role in The Honeymooners, a hit show from the 1950s, and for his portrayal of Sheriff Buford T. Justice in the Smokey and the Bandit movies. As for President Nixon, it’s without doubt the Watergate affair that he is most associated with. There are two other points that need to be noted: (A) Gleason and the President were friends and often played golf together; and (B) Gleason had a deep interest in UFOs and had a massive collection of saucer-themed books, magazines, journals, etc. Indeed, he often popped up on The Long John Nebel Show to discuss his thoughts on the subject, as well as on certain cases and characters in Ufology.

What we know of the “I saw the aliens” saga came from Gleason’s second wife, Beverly McKittrick. So the story went, Gleason got to see the proof that aliens really do exist on a particular evening in 1973: February 19. As for where the bodies were supposedly stored, the location was Homestead Air Force Base, Florida. Today, it is called Homestead Air Reserve Base.

As for the way things developed, well, let’s say that credulity is stretched to the absolute max. So the tale goes, only hours after the pair enjoyed a game of golf, the President turned up at the Gleason home. It was late at night and Nixon was on his own, no less. He had apparently given the Secret Service the slip and was ready to show Jackie something amazing. No problem! The President would take Gleason to Homestead, flash a bit of ID to the security personnel (or, say something along the lines of, “Hi, it’s me, the President!”), and breeze on into the most protected part of the installation. With the man who would be Buford.

The tale continues that the astonished guards at the gate waved the pair through. Nixon led his friend – who was still in the dark about what was going on – to a certain area on the base. It was a facility that contained the rotting remains of a bunch of dead ETs – whose flying skills were evidently not great and who were found in the wreckage of a crashed UFO. Roswell? Kingman? Kecksburg? No location or year for the incident was ever given. The bodies were stored in containers described as looking similar to “glass-topped coke freezers.” They were not in a good state of preservation: they were damaged, withered, small and gray, with large heads.

Although Gleason finally got the evidence he needed, the whole thing plunged him into states of shock, anxiety and even fear. The trip back to Gleason’s home was made in silence. We don’t know what was going through Nixon’s mind, but Gleason was distinctly uneasy about the whole thing. He told Beverly of what he had seen, but for the most part remained tight-lipped. And that’s about it. So, what can we say about this strange saga? Let’s see…

First, there is the extremely unlikely matter of the President being gone – with no-one in the know as to where he was – and for none of this to have reached the media. The President vanishes one evening, he can’t be found, and the Secret Service is in a state of chaos and concern. Surely, that would have trickled down to the press? There is also the matter of Nixon and Gleason rolling up to Homestead and making a hassle-free way into what, one presumes, would have been one of the most highly protected sanctums on the planet. Unlikely!

Do I think McKittrick lied? No, not at all. In fact, the exact opposite. I would not be surprised if Gleason told Beverly the story, exactly as she remembered it. But, perhaps he told it as a joke. One which was then taken seriously by his wife. Could there be anything else to all this? Probably not: the most likely scenario is that it was a prank on the part of Gleason. The least likely scenario is that against all the odds, the President of the United States completely vanished for a few hours, picked up a legendary comedian, floored the car to Homestead Air Force Base, showed Gleason the decaying proof, and then whisked him back home again.

To quote a massively overused few words from The X-Files: “I want to believe.” I really do. But, you know what? I don’t believe.

But, for those of you who continue to hang onto the story, there is this tiny ray of light which may keep your hopes up. UFO researcher Alejandro Rojas says: “Some find it hard to believe that a sitting president could elude his security to whisk off in the middle of the night. Grant Cameron of PresidentialUFO.com cites a passage from a book written by a secret service man named Martin Venker. Grant Cameron says: ‘In his book Confessions of an Ex-Secret Service Agent [Venker] tells that not only can the President disappear, but it has happened. Venker stated that in the exact year of the Homestead incident with Gleason, 1973, Nixon had tried to cut his secret service protection. Venker also stated that it was not uncommon for Nixon to try to elude his secret service detail. The agents working on the Nixon Presidential detail had been warned about it.'”

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  • Ghostdanser

    I suppose the head scratcher for me is “Why Homestead AFB?” It’s not a spook base, you aren’t going to find subterranean tunnels with buildings going down five stories underground…heck if you dig two or three feet down your going to get water. So no secret hidden facilities. Miami sure wasn’t a technology hub at the time, so there’s little appeal from that angle. It wasn’t on the cutting edge of medical research, so no reason there either. The only thing that might make sense was if the bodies were being transported and Homestead was a layover…but that begs the question of where the ultimate destination would be. If flying from say Wright-Patterson to Area 51, then Homestead is way off course. Transport via Homestead would only make sense if travelling to or from CONUS, specifically to/from the Caribbean or South/Central America. Puzzling.

  • NickRedfern

    I think you are over-thinking this a bit. As I mentioned in my article, the most likely scenario is that it was a prank by Gleason – not a real event. Why Homestead? Well, if Gleason had said Wright-Patterson – which is in Ohio – his wife would clearly realize that he could not have got to Wright-Pat and back again to Florida in such a short time. So, he chose a nearby base to bolster his story and make it seem more plausible: Homestead.

  • Misdirected MÄ“nis

    Gleason went out for a drink or three and told a whopper of a tale to avoid couch surfing for the evening.

  • St Kos

    Thanks, Nick. I had never heard this story before. If by some chance it did happen, can you picture Gleason looking at the aliens and doing a “Hommina, hommina, hommina…” in his classic style?

  • Franco Tramble

    Nick, I’ve followed your work for years, thank you for your perseverance and tenacity, you’ve been out there in the trenches a long time. It seems I read somewhere that Gleason’s wife also said that he had trouble eating for a while (a week,maybe 2?) after this,,, incident. Do you know of this? Back when Gleason and R Pryor filmed ”The Toy” in Baton Rouge, I was an apprentice at a 4 star restaurant. At the end of the shoot we served the entire production crew, including Pryor and Gleason. Jackie ordered a rack of lamb,(rare) didn’t eat 1 bite, and drank a 5th of scotch, (neat) The waiters literally carried him to the limo. So, Gleason was sure as hell no alter boy. It is not at all inconceivable that He and Nixon tied one on, rounded up a couple of short hookers,, with bad skin. Then later, he substituted that horror show for the lesser trauma of seeing a couple of grays. What say you??

  • Ghostdanser

    I have no problem accepting it as a Gleason prank or whopper story. I was actually more confused as to why the story continues to have legs. Take Area 51…it’s easy to see how given the isolation and knowledge they’re working on advanced aircraft technology that someone would state they have alien tech there…it may be true or not, but the military can’t disprove it without 100% disclosure of what goes on out there, and that will never happen, so Area 51 having alien technology has legs that will allow the story to perpetuate. That’s why I was pondering Homestead, it doesn’t add up very well, and yet the story continues (albeit on shaky at best legs.)