Over the decades there have been a number of fictional tales of faked alien invasions. One of the more intriguing is Bernard Newman's 1948 novel, The Flying Saucer. It tells of a secret group of scientists who fake three UFO crashes (one in New Mexico, no less - shades of the Roswell affair), as a means to convince the people of Earth that aliens are invading. In reality, it's a big ruse. The reason: to try and unite the world and turn it into a (hopefully benevolent) New World Order-type future. H.G. Wells' novel, The War of the Worlds, inadvertently provoked fears of an alien invasion when, in 1938, Orson Welles made a radio version of Wells' classic 1898 book, which led some late listeners to the program to believe that a real extraterrestrial invasion was beginning.
In the real world, Annie Jacobsen's 2011 book - Area 51 - included a story given to her by an elderly man named Alfred O'Donnell. The story told to Jacobsen controversially suggested that a strange and sinister plot between Joseph Stalin and crazed, deranged nut, Joseph Mengele was initiated in the late-1940s. The idea was to try and convince the United States that aliens were invading. And, how were they set on achieving it? According to O'Donnell, Mengele physically altered a number of children (so they would look "alien"), and who were remotely flown in a futuristic-looking UFO-type aircraft, all the way to the U.S. The plan was that when the craft was - again remotely - landed and the terribly mutated children climbed out, the U.S. would be plunged into a state of hysteria. It's not unlike the Wells-Welles situation in 1938. But, so the story went, the craft didn't land. Rather, it allegedly crashed in the wilds of Lincoln County, New Mexico, and - as a result - the U.S. government chose to hide what O'Donnell claimed really happened. It should be noted that UFO researchers have suggested that O'Donnell himself had been fed disinformation (knowingly or not), as a means to further hide the truth of whatever happened at Roswell. All of which brings me to an early 1960s-era show that just might have been the ultimate "faked alien invasion" saga.
It all revolves around a 1963 episode of the cult-classic sci-fi show, The Outer Limits – which, along with The Twilight Zone, defined 1960s-era, on-screen science-fiction. The episode in question is titled “The Architects of Fear” and it was broadcast on the night of September 30, 1963. It starred Robert Culp, Leonard Stone and Geraldine Brooks. In the story, the world is a very dangerous place. That much is obvious from the opening words of the show: "Is this the day? Is this the beginning of the end? There is no time to wonder. No time to ask why is it happening, why is it finally happening? There is time only for fear, for the piercing pain of panic. Do we pray? Or do we merely run now and pray later? Will there be a later? Or is this the day?"
Not only is the world a dangerous place, but it appears that an all-out nuclear Armageddon is right on the horizon, and with no return from the brink of destruction. Or is there? Just maybe there is. Cue the plans of a group that undertakes classified work for a variety of government agencies. Its name: United Labs. The highest echelons of the company plan to save the people of the world – and the world itself – by creating a faked alien invasion. In other words, if the Human Race can be deceived into thinking that an alien attack is looming large on the horizon, it will provoke the United States, Europe, China and the then-Soviet Union to combine their efforts to defeat the alien foe. The result: a world as one, rather than as a planet filled with nations that seem almost desperate to destroy each other.
Unbeknownst to the rest of the world, the people at United Labs have found evidence of alien life on a faraway world they call Theta. The staff even have one of their Thetans, which is held secretly in the company’s facility. The United Labs people have no idea of the real agenda of the Thetans: are they friendly, hostile or somewhere in between? The questions are many. The answers are nowhere in sight. So, a decision is taken to turn the Thetans against us, the Human Race, in a very strange and alternative way. Such is the advanced nature of the technology at United Labs, they have the ability to surgically alter a human being and transform them into the identical form of a Thetan. The plan, then, is to have one of the employees surgically altered, to resemble a Thetan, and then reveal the Thetan to the world – and the plans that the aliens have for our world: destruction. Of course, no-one knows if the Thetans really are hostile, but making it look like that is the primary goal.
The secret, manipulative program begins when the highest echelons of United Labs get together to decide which one of them will be the man to undergo the radical surgery to turn him into something less than human – or maybe even more than human. Upon drawing lots, the man for whom life will never be as it was, is Dr. Allen Leighton (played by Culp). A great deal of planning goes into the project. Dr. Leighton – a physicist – is naturally crushed by the bleak fact that the time will come very soon when he will never see his wife, Yvonne (actress Geraldine Brooks), again. That much is very clear: the top secret project requires for Dr. Leighton to be killed in a plane crash. Of course, there is no plane crash. Rather, that is the cover story which is given to Yvonne and the press. Now, behind closed doors, the mutation of Dr. Leighton can begin without intrusion – or so it seems, at first.
Dr. Leighton is subjected to a series of bizarre medical procedures – some of which will physically alter his appearance to a significant degree. Other aspects of the plan to turn a man into an alien involve grafting alien tissue onto and into Dr. Leighton. There is, however, a terrible side-effect: Dr. Leighton’s mind begins to change, too. His normal, human thought processes – even his very character – start to fragment and he becomes far more like a real Thetan than he does a member of the Human Race. Add to that the fact that Yvonne astutely comes to realize that there is something profoundly suspicious about the nature of her husband’s death and we quickly get to see how things are in danger of unraveling. On top of that, Yvonne finds herself pregnant, something which Dr. Leighton – or what is left of him – quite understandably cannot forget. So, the plan has to go forward – and quickly so, if it is to work and prevent the destruction of the planet by the super-powers.
The United Labs staff create a high-tech vehicle which, they hope, will be assumed by the governments of our world to be an alien spacecraft. In reality, though, it’s one of ours. The plan is for the “alien spaceship” to land outside the United Nations headquarters in New York. Dr. Leighton – by then – will be completely alien in appearance and character. He will also be armed with a highly destructive weapon. The team hopes that when Leighton makes it clear to the elite of the U.N. that war with the Thetan race is all but inevitable, all of the powerful countries of our world will come together as one and fight the alien foe. It’s a brilliant idea – and a brilliant ruse, too. Unfortunately for United Labs, it doesn’t work as it should. In fact, it all ends in complete and utter disaster. The craft is not quite as reliable as the scientists assume. The result is that it crashes back to Earth and very near to the United Labs. And, nowhere near the United Nations. Dr. Leighton – in alien form – exits the crashed craft and stumbles through the surrounding woods, in which he is attacked and shot by a trio of terrified hunters. Severely injured, he makes his stumbling way towards the place where the whole, sinister plot began: United Labs. Yvonne, perhaps using a more than liberal degree of psychic power, still suspects that her husband did not die in a plane crash, makes her way to the labs, demanding to know the truth of what really happened to him.
As fate would have it, both Yvonne and what was once Dr. Allen Leighton arrive at the labs at pretty much the same time. As Allen Leighton dies in the lab, Yvonne realizes to her eternal horror that the alien monster before her is actually her beloved husband. One man is dead, a wife is in a state of turmoil, a secret project has quite literally come crashing down, and the threat of nuclear war is as likely as it was before the strange operation was initiated.