Sep 10, 2018 I Nick Redfern

One of the Wildest UFO Yarns of All

Born in Township, Minnesota in 1908, Daniel William Fry claimed a distinctly close encounter of the alien kind while working at the White Sands Proving Ground, New Mexico: he asserted he took a flight in an extraterrestrial spacecraft - on Independence Day, 1949, no less - to New York and back in barely half-an-hour! So the story went, Fry intended to celebrate the holiday period with colleagues and friends from the base in the nearby town of Las Cruces. Unfortunately, he missed the bus and was forced to remain on-base – utterly alone.

It was, said Fry, a blisteringly-hot night; and given the fact that the air-conditioning system in his quarters was pretty much useless and made the room “unbearably hot and stuffy,” he decided to do a bit of exploring in the vast expanse of desert that makes up what is today called the White Sands Missile Range. It’s highly unlikely that Fry ever anticipated coming into contact with a being from another world while he roamed the isolated area; and yet that is precisely what he said did happen.

WSMR museum Missile Park
White Sands Missile Range Museum

“I headed first in the direction of the old static test stand, on which we were mounting our largest rocket motor,” said Fry. “About two thirds of the way to the test stand, a small dirt road intersects the main road, and leads off to the right toward the base of the Organ Mountains.” He added: “Directly ahead of me, and just over the peaks of the Organ Mountains, an especially bright group of stars seemed to beckon to me as I walked leisurely along. Then, suddenly, the brightest of the stars simply went out…something I could not see was eclipsing the light of the star.” Fry soon found out what that something was. Out of the skies descended “a spheroid, considerably flattened at the top and bottom. The vertical dimension was about sixteen feet, and the horizontal dimension about thirty feet at the widest point…if viewed from directly below it might appear to be saucer shaped, but actually it was more nearly like a soup bowl inverted over a sauce dish.”

As Fry looked on in complete and utter awe (“as a child might stare at the rabbit which a stage magician has just pulled from his hat”), a disembodied voice – that went by the name of A-lan – told the shocked Fry that the fantastic device appearing before him was being remotely-controlled by a “mother-ship” orbiting the planet at a height of around 900 miles. Then there came a truly bombshell-style question: would Fry like to take a ride across the country in the alien craft? Of course, the answer was: Yes! And so – Fry maintained – that’s exactly what he did. He jumped aboard and was whisked across the night-sky to New York and back in no more than half-an-hour. The journey may not have been a long one; but it was said to have been a highly profound one. While Fry was on-board the futuristic flying machine, the voice of A-lan related a wealth of data relative to the forgotten and lost history of human culture:

“Tens of thousands of years ago, some of our ancestors lived upon this planet, Earth. There was, at that time, a small continent in a part of the now sea-covered area which you have named the Pacific Ocean. Some of your ancient legends refer to this sunken land mass as the ‘Lost Continent of Lemuria or Mu.’ Our ancestors had built a great empire and mighty science upon this continent. At the same time, there was another rapidly developing race upon a land mass in the southwestern portion of the present Atlantic Ocean. In your legends, this continent has been named Atlantis.”

According to A-lan, “increasing bitterness” between the two cultures, as well as “their constantly increasing command of destructive energies,” led to a catastrophic war. He explained to Fry: “…the resulting nuclear radiation was so intense and so widespread, that the entire surface became virtually unfit for habitation, for a number of generations.” Before departing (having thoughtfully returned Fry to White Sands), and in a fashion that would become all-too-typical of the Space-Brothers, A-lan gave Fry a message pertaining to the potential for overwhelming atomic disaster that faced modern-day humanity: “As nuclear weapons proliferate among your nations, it should always be remembered that ‘An ounce of understanding is worth a megaton of deterrent.’”

In 1954, shortly after going public with his fantastic story, Fry outright flunked a lie-detector test; and it was later learned that his much-flaunted “doctorate,” bestowed upon him around early 1960, had, in reality, been obtained via a London, England mail-order organization called the Saint Andrews College. But this did not stop Fry from developing a large following of like-minded individuals. From 1954 onward, Fry delivered numerous lectures across the United States, and wrote such publications as Atoms, Galaxies and Understanding; To Men of Earth; Steps to the Stars; Curve of Development; Can God Fill Teeth?; and Verse and Worse.

One year later, he established a group that went by the name of Understanding Inc., and which, in 1959, was described as follows: “From a start of nine members at El Monte, California in 1955, Understanding Inc., has grown into an international organization of more than sixty units and many members-at-large throughout the world. These units and members have sponsored hundreds of lectures and meetings, circulated thousands of books and magazines to reach many people in the spirit of ‘bringing about a greater degree of understanding among all the peoples of the earth and preparing them for their eventual inevitable meetings with other races in space.’”

Such was the interest in Fry’s claims of alien contact that Understanding Inc. went on to publish a monthly newsletter that ran for no less than 23 years: nearly 250 issues were published between 1956 and 1979. Moreover, at its height, in the early 1960s, Understanding Inc. was able to boast of almost 1,500 members, and became the recipient of an impressive 55-acres of land near Tonopah, Arizona that had been donated by a Reverend Enid Smith. The true irony of this was that the buildings, first intended by Smith to act as a religious college, were shaped like classic flying saucers. Understanding, Inc. took full control of the property by 1976; however, with membership of Understanding, Inc. falling by that point, and with Fry’s finances not being what they once were, the site ultimately fell into disrepair: in late September and early October 1978, the kitchen and the library were burned to the ground by an arsonist and were never rebuilt. And further tragedy followed: one year later, Fry’s second wife, Florence, died from breast-cancer – he had divorced wife number-one, Elma, in 1964.

Although Fry’s place within the annals of Ufology was largely over by the dawning of the 1980s, he continued to give the occasional lecture and interview, before ultimately passing on in December 1992 – still standing by his every claim of that strange, long-gone, July 4, 1949 night when he sailed high across the starlit skies of the United States, with nothing but an intergalactic disembodied voice for company.

My view on all this? Fry was a great storyteller. And I do mean stories. His photos and footage of alleged flying saucers were far from being credible. He failed a lie-detector. And his "doctorate" came via mail-order. Time to move on to far more credible things, methinks...

Nick Redfern

Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.

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