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When UFO Fiction Mixes With UFO Fact: From Orson Welles to Area 51, Part 1

I’m sure most people people have heard the story of how, when Orson Welles’ version of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds was aired on the Mercury Theatre on Halloween 1938, it caused chaos across the United States. Well, that’s the story. The fact, however, is very different. The real number of people who fell into a state of panic was actually tiny compared to what has been claimed in many quarters. America was not in a total state of coast to coast panic. There is, however, a spin-off from the Welles affair. After the UFO phenomenon began in June 1947, it prompted fiction writers to take to their clunky old typewriters and create stories that, in some ways, paralleled one particular part of the Welles broadcast. It was the issue of faked alien invasions. I’ve heard time and time again from conspiracy theorists that Welles’ production was ordered to be made (by them, of course…) to see the extent to which the public could be conned into believing in a bogus Flying Saucer attack. The reason? To allow for a 1940s-era equivalent of a New World Order to be rolled into view. and the population placed under the likes of martial law, curfews, and so on. History has shown that, in the real world, such a situation has never played out like that. It did in fiction, though. We’ll begin with a man named Bernard Newman.

Orson Welles

Published in Britain in June 1948, Bernard Newman’s novel, The Flying Saucer, was the first in the world to deal with the emotive topic of crashed flying saucers. The book tells the tale of an elite group of scientists that decide to “stage” a series of faked Flying Saucer crashes, with the express purpose of attempting to unite the world against a deadly foe that, in reality, does not exist. The Flying Saucer begins with a series of worldwide “UFO crashes” (involving distinctly terrestrial vehicles built for this specific task): the first in England, the second in New Mexico, and the third in Russia. The “crash sites” are carefully chosen and involve all of the three major powers that emerged out of the carnage of the Second World War. But, the work of the scientists is only just beginning. Not content with creating its bogus UFO crashes, the team takes things one step further and constructs a faked “alien body” that is pulverized in one of the crashes, and is then presented to the world’s scientific community as evidence of the alien origin of the creatures that pilot the craft. As a result of these events – and with remarkable speed – the many and varied differences between the governments of the Earth dissolve under the “Martian” threat and the final chapter of Newman’s book sees practically every international political problem hastily resolved. It’s interesting to note that Newman had deep ties to British Intelligence way back then.

(Nick Redfern)

Another example of all this can be found in 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.

Moving on, there’s the story of Report from Iron Mountain. The late Philip Coppens said: “In 1967, a major publisher, The Dial Press, released Report from Iron Mountain. The book claimed to be a suppressed, secret government report, written by a commission of scholars, known as the ‘Special Study Group,’ set up in 1963, with the document itself leaked by one of its members. The Group met at an underground nuclear bunker called Iron Mountain and worked over a period of two and a half years, delivering the report in September 1966. The report was an investigation into the problems that the United States would need to face if and when ‘world peace’ should be established on a more or less permanent basis.” The report also states: “Credibility, in fact, lies at the heart of the problem of developing a political substitute for war. This is where the space-race proposals, in many ways so well suited as economic substitutes for war, fall short. The most ambitious and unrealistic space project cannot of itself generate a believable external menace. It has been hotly argued that such a menace would offer the ‘last, best hope of peace,’ etc., by uniting mankind against the danger of destruction by ‘creatures’ from other planets or from outer space. Experiments have been proposed to test the credibility of an out-of-our-world invasion threat; it is possible that a few of the more difficult-to-explain ‘flying saucer’ incidents of recent years were in fact early experiments of this kind.” It should be noted that while the report reads well and is definitely food for thought, the fact is it’s a hoax, albeit a very well constructed one. Maybe, a “satire” would be better. Yes, some of the themes in the report parallel what else we see in this article. But, don’t take the report seriously.

(Nick Redfern)

In Part 2, we’ll see some more examples of this intriguing issue.

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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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