The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC) says: “Polio, or poliomyelitis, is a crippling and potentially deadly infectious disease. It is caused by the poliovirus. The virus spreads from person to person and can invade an infected person’s brain and spinal cord, causing paralysis.” So, you may well ask, what relevance does that have to the kinds of things that get discussed here at Mysterious Universe? Well, I’ll tell you. It’s a strange story which has its origins in the late 1940s, specifically July 1, 1949. That was the date on which a still-unknown doctor and his wife encountered a UFO of the Flying Saucer kind while they were on vacation in Canada.
So impressed and amazed by what they saw, the pair – whose names are blacked-out in the now-declassified U.S. Air Force files on the affair – decided to contact the military and share their experience. The Air Force stated in its 1949 files, prepared by agent Elbert W. Farris, of Scott Air Force Base, Illinois: “Dr. and Mrs. [Deleted] of Decatur, Indiana, were interviewed on August 15, 1949, and stated that they had seen an unidentified aerial object which they thought to be a flying saucer. The sighting took place July 1, 1949 on Highway 70 about 50–70 miles north of Ft. Francis, Ontario, Canada, and near the east side of Lake of the Woods, Canada.”
That was far from being the end of the story, though. From documentation forwarded to staff at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio, we learn that: “The object was described as silvery gray in color, flying in a westerly direction and was in sight for about 5 seconds. No vapor trails or protruding objects were noted. The object pursued a straight path of flight with an erratic motion comparable to that of an oblong object being thrown through the air. The aerial anomaly appeared to be faster than an airplane. It did not hover and was likened to a small aircraft at two thousand feet. Dr. [Deleted] observed no fins, no vapor trail and heard no sound. After passing across his line of vision, the object was lost from view behind the trees. The day was bright and sunny, and Dr. [Deleted] emphasized that he had definitely observed an object in the air unlike any other known to him. Mrs. [Deleted] corroborated her husband’s statements.“
It wasn’t just the Air Force that looked into the matter. It was the FBI, too. Indeed, the FBI’s office at Indianapolis addressed the issue because the doctor “found himself in the midst of a polio epidemic and that as a result he had read as much literature as possible with respect to polio, its symptoms, diagnosis, etc. Dr. [Deleted] told that in his opinion, the cases which were thought to be polio in the vicinity of Decatur, Indiana, were not polio, but possibly the result of uranium poisoning and that he felt the presence of flying saucers had direct bearing on the polio epidemic.”
Aliens spreading the polio virus? Or contaminating people with uranium? The FBI also recorded: “[The Doctor] pointed out that flying saucers were observed in the Carolinas in 1948 and there was a polio epidemic in the vicinity at that time. Dr. [Deleted] stated he had consulted one of the physicians at the Benjamin Harrison Air Base and had also checked the records with reference to allegations concerning the sighting of flying saucers and had done a little research with respect to correlating the presence of flying saucers and any polio epidemic.”
The documentation shows that personnel at the Indiana University Medical School considered the whole thing to be a waste of time – a huge joke and nothing else. That didn’t stop the Air Force from taking a careful and close look at the available data, however. On this aspect of the story, the Air Force files reveal the following: “Tabulation of flying saucer sightings from the available sources of the Indianapolis Star and the Indianapolis News, reveals that the majority of sightings took place in July and August for the years 1947, 1948 and 1949,” agent Farris recorded.
Farris added: “A responsible medical authority, confidential informant, CI-1, advised that the theory is ‘interesting’ and worthy of further research. [The Doctor] produced membership cards which show him to be a member of the Masons, Scottish Rite, Knights of Pythias, Loyal Order of Moose and the Eagles. He served as a Naval officer for 14 months and also held a commission in the United States Public Health Service. He is an associate member of the Association of Medicine, Bloomington, Indiana, and he is an associate member of the Association of Military Surgeons. He is a physician and surgeon.“
The uranium angle, brought up by the doctor, was also addressed. Agent Farris contacted, in his own words, “a reliable medical authority at Benjamin Harrison Air Force Base, Indiana,” who could hopefully “determine whether the possibility of uranium poisoning, as expounded by Dr. [Deleted] had any basis in fact.” Farris had more to say on this matter: “The authority, who preferred to remain anonymous, is hereinafter known as Confidential Informant CI-1. Informant CI-1 advised the writer that the Polio period extends from April to October, with the peak months of the disease being reached in July and August. Informant CI-1 was doubtful if the answer to the question of uranium poisoning could be readily answered, and he was of the opinion that the possibility and its connection with the Polio epidemic prevalent throughout the United States had never been explored.”
Personnel at the Aero Medical Laboratory Research Department at Wright-Patterson were also questioned by Farris: “Does [the] uranium element produce any physiological reaction in human beings corresponding to symptoms applicable to many of the so-called Polio clinical and sub-clinical conditions?” “Are topographical areas where so-called Flying Disc are predominantly seen (or known uranium deposits) pinpoints of endemic areas of clinical symptoms resembling Polio?”
On October 6, 1949, another Air Force report was prepared, this one revealing the following: “While it is true that some of the clinical symptoms of poliomyelitis may be similar to uranium poisoning, the over-all clinical syndrome is quite different. Progress in the case of uranium poisoning is very dismal, with recovery unlikely. Besides the heavy metal poisoning effect of uranium poisoning, there is also the prolonged and continuous radiation effect of uranium which cane be detected in the broad picture.”
The report adds: “This is quite a distinctive clinical feature of uranium poisoning which any physician should readily be able to recognize. It is also a feature which does not diminish with time and, hence, the patient does not recover. This results because the uranium is a long-lived radioactive isotope, which becomes fixed in the body and cannot be eliminated to any appreciable extent. Because of the above considerations, it is the opinion of this office that there is little, if any, ground for the theory that the annual poliomyelitis epidemics are related to radioactivity in any way. It is also to be noted that the annual outbreak of poliomyelitis during the summer months has been prevalent for many years prior to flying saucers and the widespread use of radioactive isotopes.”
The strange saga of a Flying Saucer, a doctor and his wife, the polio virus and the matter of uranium poisoning, was finally over. The file was closed on what was undeniably one of the weirdest UFO-themed investigations that the U.S. Air Force found itself involved in.