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“A Ravishing Woman Commandant,” UFOs, a Racist Nutjob, Aliens and the FBI

Not long ago I wrote an article here at Mysterious Universe on the increase in the number of UFO files the FBI is now placing on its website, The Vault. It’s an excellent source for accessing previously classified documents on all manner of things. With that said, I’m pleased to say that the FBI has now placed its files on Truman Bethurum online at The Vault. If you aren’t familiar with Bethurum, here’s a bit of background material for you. Born just a couple of years before the 20th century began, Truman Bethurum was a man who had problems keeping a regular job. He was also someone who was hardly a success when it came to the matter of marriage. He was married and divorced twice and spent his old age with his third wife. Bethurum also happened to be one of the more well-known of the so-called “Contactees” of the 1950s. Bethurum claimed that while working as a maintenance mechanic on a new stretch of Nevada highway in the early 1950s, he met an über-babe from the stars named Aura Rhanes. She was the captain of the star-ship which descended before Bethurum on Mormon Mesa, in Nevada’s Moapa Valley. The home-planet of the ETs was Clarion, about which Bethurum learned a great deal. And Bethurum didn’t just meet with his space-chick once, but on more than a dozen occasions.

Aura Rhanes

Bethurum’s entertaining experiences increased, as did his relationship with the flirty Captain Rhanes. For a significant period of time, Bethurum and Rhanes had clandestine meetings, usually late at night. They generally occurred in isolated desert locations in Nevada, where, after Rhanes’ huge ship landed, the pair had long and deep conversations about the state of the Earth, the Soviet threat, and the captain’s home world – to which she promised to take Bethurum, one day. While Bethurum did not explicitly say so, there are a few nuggets of data in Bethurum’s collective work that suggest on a couple of occasions the pair might have had just about the closest and most intimate encounters of all. It’s hardly surprising, then, that many UFO researchers outright dismiss Bethurum’s story as a hoax, or as a fantasy born out of Bethurum’s unhappiness with his private life. It wasn’t long before Aura left for her home-planet. Bethurum never saw again. He was crushed.

That’s the story of Bethurum as a Contactee. But, what about the FBI’s interest in the man? Well, the first thing I should stress is that unlike such Contactees as George Adamski and George Van Tassel – whose FBI files ran to in excess of 300 pages each – Bethurum’s file is only 13 pages in length. Nevertheless, the file does contain some interesting nuggets of material. The documentation makes it very clear that the reason why the FBI took notice of Bethurum was because a man named Thomas Eickhoff, of Ohio, wrote to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover asking if Bethurum was legit in his claims about meeting Aura Rhanes. Eickhoff’ noted that Bethurum was charging people money ($2.00) for his (Bethurum’s) lectures.  The FBI stated: “To identify Truman Bethurum, Mr. Eickhoff had with him two copies of the magazine ‘Valor,’ which he stated he got from Bethurum, this magazine being self-identified as the ‘Golden Times Weekly,’ published by Soul Craft Chapels, Post Office Box 192, Noblesville, Indiana. The two issues which Mr. Eickhoff had with him were numbers 15 and 16 of volume 6 of the publication, the number 15 being dated February 6, 1954 and number 16 being dated February 13, 1954.”

In case you don’t know, Soulcraft was the (ahem) “work” of a real piece of racist shit by the name of William Dudley Pelley. The North Carolina History Project gets it right: “William Dudley Pelley (1885-1965) was a notorious American fascist who lived for a decade in Asheville, North Carolina. As leader of the Silver Shirts, Pelley preached a toxic brew of anti-Semitism, nationalism, and mysticism.” This makes it very clear that Bethurum was a supporter of Soulcraft and, as a result, of Pelley. That the FBI has a huge file (now-declassified) on Pelley, suggests that the FBI might have come across Bethurum’s name on other occasions – whether before or after 1954, and whether in relation to UFOs or politics. Both, maybe. Things get a bit strange now: the FBI describe Aura Rhanes in their official files as “a ravishing woman commandant.” Then, there’s a bit of background on Pelley, too. There’s not much more of an intriguing nature to be said; but that we now know Bethurum had ties to Soulcraft demonstrates the growing number of “real pieces of work” that were connected to the UFO subject in general and the Contcatee issue in particular in the 1950s.

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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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