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When the U.S. Government Quietly Watched a Man Who Said He Met Aliens

Having shared with you the story of how and why the FBI took an interest in the antics of Contactee George Adamski, I thought I would give you the story of how the FBI took interest in another famous Contactee, George Van Tassel. Born on 12 March 1910 in Jefferson County, Ohio, George Wellington Van Tassel maintained that he experienced face-to-face contact with very human-looking alien entities following a claimed encounter in August 1953 near his Yucca Valley home in California. The complete history of Van Tassel’s exploits with apparent extraterrestrials is highly bizarre, involving weird accounts of meetings with imaginatively named aliens, including Numa of Uni; Ah-Ming of Tarr; Rondolla of the Fourth Density; and Zolton, the Highest Authority in the Sector System of Vela. According to the now-declassified records of the FBI on Van Tassel, before moving to Yucca Valley in 1947, he was employed by the Douglas Aircraft Corporation in Santa Monica; and Hughes Aircraft, where he worked in an assistant capacity to Howard Hughes. He also worked – the FBI learned – for both Universal Airlines and Lockheed. Exactly what it was that prompted Van Tassel to uproot his family and transfer them to Yucca Valley is something now lost to history. However, along with his wife and children, Van Tassel soon settled into his new surroundings: his famous (or perhaps infamous would be a better description!) cave under Giant Rock – an area leased from the Government.

The image of a 20th Century family living in a cave situated beneath a sixty-foot-high rock, twenty-eight miles from Joshua Tree, California, cannot fail to conjure up the scenario of a prehistoric family struggling to live in less-than-friendly conditions. Always resourceful, however, the Van Tassels soon began to earn a comfortable living from an airstrip they rented – the Giant Rock Airport – and a small restaurant. As time passed, Van Tassel began to improve the family’s living facilities and the cave became a friendly environment. Fully furnished, it was equipped with electricity, had its own supply of water, a large library, and, as the journalist Ed Ritter noted in 1954, “a comfortable living room where [Van Tassel] studies and entertains guests.”

George Van Tassel

As a result of his alleged August 1953 encounter, Van Tassel compiled the first issue of what he titled The Proceedings of the College of Universal Wisdom, a small journal that served as a mouthpiece for not only Van Tassel but for his supposed cosmic friends, too. In the first issue, Desca, like Rondolla, also of the Fourth Density, urged Van Tassel’s followers (whose number would very quickly reach four figures) to “remove the binding chains of limit on your minds, throw out the barriers of fear [and] dissipate the selfishness of individual desire to attain physical and material things.” In the edition of the Proceedings dated 1 December 1953, Van Tassel stated that, less than a month previously, a “message was received from the beings who operate the spacecraft,” with orders from Ashtar, “the Commandant of Space Station Schare” (pronounced Share-ee) to contact the office of Air Force Intelligence at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio. Van Tassel went on to advise the Air Force that: “The present destructive plans formulated for offensive and defensive war are known to us in their entirety…the present trend toward destructive war will not be interfered with by us, unless the condition warrants our interference in order to secure this solar system. This is a friendly warning.”

Were Van Tassel’s contacts genuinely of unearthly origin? Were they the rants of a sadly deluded mind? Or were they possibly a part of a sophisticated Communist-inspired intelligence operation designed to disrupt the internal security of the United States? This third possibility was definitely of concern to a Yucca Valley resident who on 5 August 1954, wrote to the FBI suggesting that Van Tassel be investigated to determine if he was working as a Soviet spy. Seriously concerned that Van Tassel was either a witting or an unwitting player in an ingenious, but subversive, Communist plot, the FBI sought to ascertain the full picture. On 12 November 1954, Major S. Avner of the Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations met with N. W. Philcox – who was the FBI’s point of liaison with the Air Force – to discuss the growing controversy surrounding Van Tassel. Three days later, Avner re-established contact with Philcox, and advised him that the Air Technical Intelligence Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base “has information on Van Tassel indicating that he has corresponded with them regarding flying saucers.”

Giant Rock, California

Very probably this was a reference to the letter that Van Tassel wrote to ATIC at the request of the mysterious Ashtar, who had offered a “friendly warning” with respect to plans formulated for offensive and defensive war. As a result, and not surprisingly, the Air Force offered, “to furnish the Bureau with more detailed information.” One day after Major Avner of AFOSI spoke with Philcox, two Special Agents of the Los Angeles FBI office met with Van Tassel at his Giant Rock home. In a memorandum to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover dated 16 November 1954, the agents wrote: “Relative to spacemen and space craft, VAN TASSEL declared that a year ago last August, while sleeping out of doors with his wife in the Giant Rock area, and at about 2.00 a.m. he was awakened by a man from space. This individual spoke English and was dressed in a grey one-piece suit similar to a sweat suit in that it did not have any buttons, pockets, and noticeable seams. This person, according to VAN TASSEL, invited him to inspect a spacecraft or flying saucer, which had landed on Giant Rock airstrip. VAN TASSEL claimed the craft was bell shaped resembling a saucer. He further described the ship as approximately 35 feet in diameter and is now known as the scout type craft. Aboard this craft was located three other male individuals wearing the same type of dress and identical in every respect with earth people.”

The FBI continued: “VAN TASSEL claims that the three individuals aboard the craft were mutes in that they could not talk. He claimed they conversed through thought transfers, and also operated the flight of the craft through thought control. He stated that the spokesman for the group claimed he could talk because he was trained by his family to speak. The spokesman stated that earthmen are using too much metal in their everyday work and are fouling up radio frequencies and thought transfers because of this over use of metal. According to VAN TASSEL, these individuals came from Venus and are by no means hostile nor do they intend to harm this country or inhabitants in any manner. He declared they did not carry weapons, and the spacecraft was not armed. He mentioned that a field of force was located around the spacecraft which would prohibit anything known to earth men to penetrate. VAN TASSEL claims this craft departed from the earth after 20 minutes and has not been taken back since.”

Van Tassel added that, “through thought transfers with space men,” he had been able to ascertain that a third world war was on the horizon, which was likely to be “large” and “destructive;” that much of this correlated directly with certain biblical passages; that the war would not be “universal;” and that the “space people are peace loving and under no circumstances would enter or provoke a war.” And to illustrate their benevolence towards humankind, the aliens, Van Tassel told his FBI visitors, had bestowed upon him some remarkable data, including information relating to the way in which the human lifespan could be extended to anywhere between three hundred and fifteen hundred years. “This principle was not developed by Van Tassel,” said the FBI. Van Tassel then described his newsletter to the FBI agents, as J. Edgar Hoover was informed:

“In connection with his metaphysical religion and research, he publishes bi-monthly a publication in the form of a booklet called PROCEEDINGS OF THE COLLEGE OF UNIVERSAL WISDOM, YUCCA VALLEY, CALIFORNIA. He declared this publication is free and has grown from an original mailing list of 250 to 1,000 copies. VAN TASSEL stated that he sends his publication to various individuals, Universities, and Government Agencies throughout the world. He declared this publication is forwarded to the Federal Bureau of Investigation at Washington, D.C. He stated that he has donated 10 acres of his ranch holdings to the college. He mentioned that many of the buildings will be made free of metal; which will be keeping within the request of the spacemen.”

Particularly eye opening was the FBI’s concern about who was funding Van Tassel’s operations, on what was certainly a large scale: “[Van Tassel] declared that for the most part he secures money for his needs of life, for the furtherance of his religion, research, and college through the generosity of certain individuals, number about 100. He failed to identify any of these people. He also mentioned that he derives income from his airstrip and a very small restaurant which is located at Giant Rock. VAN TASSEL voluntarily stated that he is not hiding anything nor is he doing anything against the laws of this country in his research at Giant Rock. He voluntarily mentioned that he is a loyal American and would be available at any time to assist the Bureau. VAN TASSEL did not volunteer the names of any individuals whom he was soliciting for funds except his statement above that he sent his publications to various individuals, universities and Government agencies and also the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Washington, DC.”

At the conclusion of the interview, the two agents secured copies of Van Tassel’s Proceedings that were then forwarded to Washington for study and became the subject of a confidential report, that in part stated: “One of the pamphlets contains an article by Van Tassel claiming that Jesus Christ was born of space men and that the Star of Bethlehem was a space craft that stood by while Jesus was born.” As a result of his growing reputation as someone with detailed knowledge of alien intelligence, Van Tassel became increasingly in demand on the lecture circuit, where he espoused at length on his dealings with extraterrestrials, their intentions for the human race, and their overall philosophy. On 17 April 1960, Van Tassel gave a lengthy speech at the Phipps Auditorium, Denver, Colorado, having been invited by the Denver Unidentified Flying Objects Investigative Society. To ensure that the lecture was a success, the society took out advertising time on local radio, that caught the attention of the Denver FBI, who subsequently directed a special agent to attend and report back the details of Van Tassel’s talk, which he did and in great detail:  “The program consisted of a 45 minute movie which included several shots of things purported to be flying saucers, and then a number of interviews with people from all walks of life regarding sightings they had made of such unidentified flying objects. After the movie GEORGE W. VAN TASSEL gave a lecture which was more of a religious-economics lecture than one of unidentified flying objects.”

From then on, Van Tassel was only watched on a few occasions – and in relation to matters of no particular interest. He died in 1978.

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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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