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The FBI (Fortean Bureau of Investigation) and High Strangeness

They are one of history’s most famous–and most criticized–intelligence gathering agencies. Their involvement in a number of affairs, ranging from files collected on individuals spanning Gene Autry and Jane Fonda to singer Michael Jackson, to the famous paranoia of their long-time director, J. Edgar Hoover, have led to speculation and intrigue on numerous fronts.

And yet, America’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) also has its history of inquiry into various strange Fortean phenomena just as well. Though often less widely-publicized, the Bureau’s official investigation of UFO phenomenon, as well as psychic abilities and ESP, cattle mutilation, and a variety of other claims are the stuff of legend… and fodder for those with interest in government agencies and their involvement with the unexplained.

The Bureau’s involvement with UFO investigations began around the time of the famous Roswell Crash in New Mexico during the summer of 1947. Initially asked to assist in the Air Force’s official inquiry, the FBI would often merely perform general investigations and correspondences on such matters pertaining to strange saucer-shaped craft, their supposed landings, and other UFO-related phenomenon.

There were a number of individuals that were investigated further due to their claims of association with fringe technology and, sometimes, UFOs and aliens. One was Silas Newton, a man described at the FBI’s collection of files pertaining to Unexplained Phenomenon as “a wealthy oil producer and con-man who claimed that he had a gadget that could detect minerals and oil.”  Newton had been mentioned in UFO researcher Frank Scully’s book Behind the Flying Saucers, where his claims of a UFO crashing on land he had obtained in the Mojave Desert had been related by the author. Newton was, in all likelihood, merely an individual seeking shameless self-promotional avenues, and after close to two decades of monitoring under the FBI, was determined to be essentially a huckster.

But some individuals managed to garner a little more merit to their claims than Newton had. One of these individuals, an FBI Agent named Guy Hottel who oversaw the Washington Field Office, had sent a memo addressed to the FBI Director in March of 1950. He too claimed an informant with the USAF had detailed multiple crashes of disc-shaped objects in New Mexico, resulting from radar systems operating in the area that ‘interfered with the controlling mechanisms of the saucers.” Nonetheless, this memo, rather than confirming the aforementioned New Mexico UFO crashes Scully had written about, instead merely represents how far Newton’s initial horse-crap claims had actually gotten. As outlined at the online Skeptic’s Dictionary, the story was picked up again after nearly half a century, following the release of Hottel’s initial memorandum, later obtained by UFO researcher Linda Moulton Howe. “What she had was a rumor eight times removed from (Silas Newton),” the SD website points out, and that:

“…Eventually (the claims) ended up in a memo written to J. Edgar Hoover. Newton told George Koehler about 3-foot tall aliens and their saucer; Koehler told Morley Davies who told Jack Murphy and I. J. van Horn who told Rudy Fick who told the editor of the Wyandotte Echo in Kansas City where it was read by an Air Force agent in the Office of Special Investigations who passed on the story to Guy Hottel of the FBI who sent a memo to his boss (Thomas).”

However, not all of the information shared by the FBI over the years relates so easily to phonies, frauds and hucksters the likes of Newton. By visiting the FBI’s portal to their investigation of strange phenomenon over the years, one begins to see that, if these documents accurately illustrate the extent of the Bureau’s involvement in such investigations, they not only show that the FBI had minimal involvement in many instances, but that they also often came up short of having answers (this is especially the case with purported “cattle mutilations,” where restraints on FBI activities limited their ability to investigate many incidents directly). In addition to the Air Force’s skeptical conclusions with the famous Project Blue Book, it seems that little evidence for the UFO reality stems from such agency investigations; but this isn’t to say that no such evidence exists at all, of course. If anything, it illustrates the shortcomings of the agencies in question, and their readiness, when faced with elements of an extraordinary presence amidst humankind, to toss the proverbial “flying hubcap and trashcan lid” explanations out there at leisure.

Still, the fact that such claims of UFOs and other phenomenon were ever taken seriously at all garners at least some interest in itself, since (at least at one time) UFOs were considered to be a serious potential threat to national security in the US and abroad. But given the seriousness of claims by modern researchers the likes of Robert Hastings, perhaps there should still be more serious consideration given to the potential dangers associated with UFOs, and what Ufologist Jacques Vallee has in the past described as, “a technology capable of harmful actions.” The decades of wavering between seriousness and silliness with this subject is mind-numbing… let’s just hope the results won’t leave us open to potential future threats which, by all accounts, could very well work to the detriment of humankind.


Micah Hanks is a writer, podcaster, and researcher whose interests cover a variety of subjects. His areas of focus include history, science, philosophy, current events, cultural studies, technology, unexplained phenomena, and ways the future of humankind may be influenced by science and innovation in the coming decades. In addition to writing, Micah hosts the Middle Theory and Gralien Report podcasts.
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