Last week, while I was doing late-night radio, the host got onto the matter of Kenneth Arnold's UFO encounter of June 24, 1947 and how Arnold - in almost single-handed fashion - gave birth to (and championed) the so-called ETH, the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis. Well, that's not exactly correct, as I explained to the host. There is no doubt at all that it was Arnold's sighting of a squadron of unidentified vehicles flying near Mt. Ranier, Washington State that caused so much excitement and hysteria. In part, Arnold said: "I observed a chain of nine peculiar looking aircraft flying from north to south at approximately 9,500 foot elevation and going, seemingly, in a definite direction of about 170 degrees. They were approaching Mt. Rainier very rapidly, and I merely assumed they were jet planes. Anyhow, I discovered that this was where the reflection had come from, as two or three of them every few seconds would dip or change their course slightly, just enough for the sun to strike them at an angle that reflected brightly on my plane. These objects being quite far away, I was unable for a few seconds to make out their shape or their formation. Very shortly they approached Mt. Rainier, and I observed their outline against the snow quite plainly."
Arnold continued: "I thought it was very peculiar that I couldn't find their tails but assumed they were some type of jet plane. I was determined to clock their speed, as I had two definite points I could clock them by; the air was so clear that it was very easy to see objects and determine their approximate shape and size at almost fifty miles that day. I remember distinctly that my sweep second hand on my eight day clock, which is located on my instrument panel, read one minute to 3 P.M. as the first object of this formation passed the southern edge of Mt. Rainier. I watched these objects with great interest as I had never before observed airplanes flying so close to the mountain tops, flying directly south to southeast down the hog's back of a mountain range. I would estimate their elevation could have varied a thousand feet one way or another up or down, but they were pretty much on the horizon to me which would indicate they were near the same elevation as I was. They flew like many times I have observed geese to fly in a rather diagonal chain-like line as if they were linked together."
Few people realize (or don't bother to address the matter) that Arnold actually changed his views on the UFO phenomenon - and changed his views radically, too. For example, in the November 1962 edition of Flying Saucers (which was published by Ray Palmer) Arnold stated the following, eye-opening words: "Since my original observations and report of the so-called phenomenon Flying Saucers, June 24, 1947, literally thousands of pilots and Radar Technicians from nearly every country in the world have been well aware that man is not alone flying the skies of this earth. After some 14 years of extensive research, it is my conclusion that the so-called unidentified flying objects that have been seen in our atmosphere are not space ships at all, but are groups and masses of living organisms that are as much a part of our atmosphere and space as the life we find in the depths of our oceans. The only major difference in the space and atmosphere organisms are that they have the natural ability to change their densities at will."
This, of course, very much mirrors the controversial but intriguing theories of the late Trevor James Constable. Constable’s conclusion was that some UFOs are not nuts-and-bolts craft from distant worlds, but living creatures that inhabit the higher levels of the Earth’s atmosphere. While many UFO investigators scoffed at Constable’s undeniably unique ideas, none could deny that his theory was well thought out. Constable believed the creatures to be unicellular and amoeba-like, but having metallic-like outer-shells, which gave them their flying saucer-style appearances. He also believed they varied in size from extremely small to lengths approaching half a mile – which, admittedly accords with what UFO witnesses tell us: the assumed alien craft that people have reported do indeed vary from a few feet to massive “mother-ships.”
So, yes, Kenneth Arnold was indeed the guy who kicked off the UFO enigma in the summer of 1947, but, as the years went by, he veered far away from nuts and bolts craft to something very different.