The strange story of the alleged UFO crash at Aztec, New Mexico in March 1948 – and the recovery of a number of dead “little men” at the site – is a real hotbed of lies, disinformation, and shady characters. Most of those same characters were best avoided by those with dollars to spare. The tale was made infamous in the pages of Frank Scully’s 1950 blockbuster, Behind the Flying Saucers; it was a book which turned out to be a huge seller. Today, the Aztec affair is seen by some ufologists as Roswell’s “little brother.” As its “skeleton in the cupboard” might be a far more apt description, however. Many researchers of the UFO phenomenon dismiss the Aztec incident as nothing but a hoax; one which was perpetrated by a shady businessman/conman named Silas Newton. His less-than-shining FBI file can be accessed at the FBI’s website, The Vault.
When it came to stories of aliens from faraway worlds, making money was always the goal for Newton. And the only goal. Along for the ride with Newton was Leo Gebauer. He was the Igor to Newton’s ego-driven Dr. Frankenstein. There is, though, a very interesting and extremely odd aspect to the Newton/Aztec story. It serves to demonstrate how the UFO phenomenon was becoming the tool of manipulative disinformation specialists in the intelligence community. And not just of the Soviet Union. The United States was getting into the strange game, too.
Back in 1998, the late Karl Pflock, ufologist and CIA employee (sometimes at the same time…), was approached by a still-anonymous source who had something very interesting to say about the Aztec caper, and about Newton too. It was a decidedly weird series of revelations that Pflock surely never anticipated receiving. To his dying day, Pflock refused to reveal the name of his informant in the shadows – rumors, however, were that the person may have been a nephew of Silas Newton – but, Pflock did say that all of the lunchtime meetings with his source occurred between July 11 and September 24, 1998 and took place in a restaurant in Bernalillo, New Mexico.
So the story goes, Pflock’s informant had in their hands twenty-seven pages taken, or rather torn, from an old and faded, lined journal. No prizes for guessing who that journal had belonged to. That’s right, sly, old Silas Newton. Pflock was told that Newton had kept multiple journals and diaries not just for years, but for decades. They were jammed with entertaining tales of sexual conquests, of Hollywood starlets, of the fleecing of the rich and the gullible, and of wild adventures across the United States. The outcome of all this? Newton decided, around the turn of the 1970s, that it was right about time for him to write-up his version of the Aztec controversy. It would surely have been a definitive page-turner. Death, however, inconveniently intervened in 1972, when Newton passed away in his mid-eighties. What happened to all of those journals is anyone’s guess.
As for those few pages that Pflock was allowed to see – and to transcribe word for word – they tell a tale of undeniable weirdness. By his own admittance, and a couple of years after the Aztec story surfaced in Frank Scully’s book, Newton was clandestinely visited by two representatives of “a highly secret U.S. Government entity,” as Pflock carefully and tactfully described it. Those same representatives of the government told Newton, in no uncertain terms, that they knew his Aztec story was a complete and bald-faced lie. Utter bullshit, in fact. Incredibly, though, they wanted Newton to keep telling the tale to just about anyone and everyone who would listen. This caused Pflock to ponder on an amazing possibility: “Did the U.S. Government or someone associated with it use Newton to discredit the idea of crashed flying saucers so a real captured saucer or saucers could be more easily kept under wraps?”
Far more intriguing, though, , is the next question that Pflock posed: “Was this actually nothing to do with real saucers but instead some sort of psychological warfare operation [italics mine]?” With the Newton revelations in hand, Pflock, no later than 1999, came to believe that back in the early fifties someone in the government, the intelligence community, or the military of the United States – and maybe even a swirling combination of all three – wanted the Aztec story further circulated. The purpose: as a means to try and convince the Russians that the U.S. military had acquired, or captured, alien technology. When, in reality, it had no such thing in its possession at all.
For the record, in 2002, when Pflock and I were corresponding regularly on the matter of these particularly curious revelations, he told me that he had been able to confirm who the two men that approached Newton worked for and specifically when their meeting with Newton occurred. The time-frame was late March 1950 and the pair of spooks came from a small group within the CIA. Slightly more than a year later, Pflock learned, that very same group was absorbed into the Psychological Strategy Board. The PSB was…”established by Presidential Directive on April 4, 1951 ‘to authorize and provide for the more effective planning, coordination, and conduct within the framework of approved national policies, of psychological operations.’ An abbreviated version of the Presidential Directive was released to the public on June 20, 1951.”
Having digested the words above, it can be said with a high degree of certainty that those predecessors to the PSB, which Newton was confronted by, would have been the perfect people to have enlisted Newton into their operation mind-fuck. Not only that, in November 1998 Pflock secured a copy of Newton’s will. Having earlier seen Newton’s “scrawling, sprawling” writing up close at that Bernalillo restaurant, Pflock said: “The will unquestionably is in Newton’s hand, and while I’m certainly not a handwriting expert, the comparison left no doubt in my mind that he wrote the journal, too.”
I know just how fascinated Pflock was when it came to the Aztec crash and the claims of Newton and that “highly secret U.S. Government entity.” Pflock and I had been corresponding as far back as the late 1990s, but, I didn’t meet him in person until 2003 – at a UFO gig in the city of Aztec itself. For a number of years, the conference was an annual event. But, no more. When Pflock and I finally met, he near-immediately suggested that we should write an Aztec-themed book. Pflock’s reasoning was that he knew the story very well, and, via the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, I had uncovered hundreds upon hundreds of pages of material – chiefly from the FBI – on the Aztec controversy and the players within it. He thought that we would make a good team. Particularly so now that I lived in the U.S. – and specifically in Dallas, Texas, which (in terms of the road-trips that I regularly undertake) is not at all far from New Mexico, where Pflock resided and where the 1948 crash supposedly happened.
As I listened, Pflock told me that his idea was, essentially, to make the book a biography on Newton, but with the Aztec affair being the main thrust of it all. I thought it was a very good idea. Pflock suggested that he prepare a synopsis for his literary agent (this was around a year before I first met my longstanding agent, Lisa Hagan), which is exactly what he did. The book was going to be called Silas the Magnificent: A True Tale of Greed, Credulity, and (Maybe) Government Chicanery and Cover-up in 1950s America. Sadly, the idea collapsed when Pflock fell seriously ill with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. He unfortunately died from the effects of ALS on June 5, 2006, at the age of just sixty-three.
Pflock is gone, but the printed synopsis still exists, as do several printed chapters, including one on the matter of the Psychological Strategy Board aspect of all this. It would have made a good book. And, very possibly, it just might have revealed more of the fabricated story of how – and with the help of Silas Newton – American intelligence led the Russians on a wild goose chase and had them believing that U.S. scientists were secretly studying a recovered UFO and its advanced technologies and weapons-systems. If such a plot successfully terrified Soviet intelligence, for the U.S. government it was a job well done.
There’s one more thing that needs to be highlighted on this controversy-saturated saga of a crashed UFO and Silas Newton. On June 24, 1964, Frank Scully, whose 1950 book, Behind the Flying Saucers, placed the alleged incident firmly under the spotlight, passed away. As the New York Times noted in its obituary on Scully, one day later: “Mr. Scully was labeled a Communist by Congressman Martin Dies, head of the House Un-American Activities Committee. After a stormy two-hour session with the Committee, Mr. Scully was cleared of the charge.”
Yes, Scully was exonerated. It is a fact, though, that sometimes – to use a U.K. term – “mud sticks.” For at least some, including those in the intelligence community, Scully was still seen as a closet communist, regardless of the fact that he had been completely absolved of any kind of guilt. Maybe, those spooks and spies who paid Silas Newton a visit in 1950 were concerned by the possibility that Scully was in cahoots with the Russians. This is, admittedly, speculation and nothing more. But, as I note in my new book, Flying Saucers from the Kremlin, we see flying saucer enthusiasts, communism, and secret government activity rolled into one.