Jun 18, 2022 I Nick Redfern

Sinister Skies and Secret Spies: The "Black Helicopter" Mystery

There can be very few people – if, indeed, any – with an interest in UFOs, conspiracies, cover-ups, and strange and sinister goings-on of a distinctly weird nature who have not heard of the so-called “black helicopters” or “phantom helicopters” that seem to play an integral – albeit admittedly unclear – role in perceived UFO-connected events. And one of the biggest misconceptions about this deeply weird phenomenon is that those same mysterious helicopters are lacking in official documentation. Actually not so at all. In fact, exactly the opposite. If you know where to go looking. The FBI’s now-declassified files on cattle-mutilations in 1970s USA make for fascinating reading and demonstrate the Bureau had a deep awareness of the presence of the enigmatic helicopters in affairs of the mute kind. On 29 August 1975, Floyd K. Haskell, Senator for the State of Colorado, wrote an impassioned letter to Theodore P. Rosack, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI at Denver, Colorado, imploring the FBI to make a full investigation into the cattle mutilations, in an attempt to resolve the matter once and for all.

Haskell said: “For several months my office has been receiving reports of cattle mutilations throughout Colorado and other western states. At least 130 cases in Colorado alone have been reported to local officials and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI); the CBI has verified that the incidents have occurred for the last two years in nine states. The ranchers and rural residents of Colorado are concerned and frightened by these incidents. The bizarre mutilations are frightening in themselves: in virtually all the cases, the left ear, rectum and sex organ of each animal has been cut away and the blood drained from the carcass, but with no traces of blood left on the ground and no footprints.”

(Nick Redfern) Sinister spies in the skies

And there was an unmarked helicopter out in force in Colorado too, as Senator Haskell was only too well aware: “In Colorado’s Morgan County area there has [sic] also been reports that a helicopter was used by those who mutilated the carcasses of the cattle, and several persons have reported being chased by a similar helicopter. Because I am gravely concerned by this situation, I am asking that the Federal Bureau of Investigation enter the case. Although the CBI has been investigating the incidents, and local officials also have been involved, the lack of a central unified direction has frustrated the investigation.” He continued: “It seems to have progressed little, except for the recognition at long last that the incidents must be taken seriously. Now it appears that ranchers are arming themselves to protect their livestock, as well as their families and themselves, because they are frustrated by the unsuccessful investigation. Clearly something must be done before someone gets hurt.”

 The loss of livestock, in at least twenty-one states, under similar circumstances suggested that an interstate operation was being coordinated. Senator Haskell closed his letter by urging the FBI to begin its investigation as soon as possible. Senator Haskell forced the issue by issuing a press release, informing the media that he had asked the FBI to investigate the mutilations. This caused the Denver Post newspaper to take up the Senator’s plea on 3 September: “If the Bureau will not enter the investigation of the mysterious livestock deaths in Colorado and some adjacent states then Senator Floyd Haskell should take the matter to Congress for resolution.” Aware of previous FBI statements that the killings were not within the Bureau’s jurisdiction, the Denver Post stated firmly: “The incidents are too widespread – and potentially too dangerous to public order – to ignore. Narrow interpretations of what the FBI’s role is vis-a-vis state authority are not adequate to the need.”

The issue of possible disregard for the law should the Bureau not wish to become involved was also high on the Post’s agenda: “There is already federal involvement. Consider this: Because of the gun-happy frame of mind developing in eastern Colorado (where most of the incidents have been occurring), the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has had to cancel a helicopter inventory of its lands in six counties. BLM officials are simply afraid their helicopters might be shot down by ranchers and others frightened by cattle deaths.” On the day after publication, Special Agents Rosack and Sebesta of the Colorado FBI made a visit to the offices of the Denver Post, where, in a meeting with three Post representatives, Charles R. Buxton, Lee Olson and Robert Partridge, they spelled out the FBI’s position with respect to mutilations: “…unless the FBI has investigative jurisdiction under Federal statute, we cannot enter any investigation.”

One week later, on September 11, Senator Haskell telephoned Clarence M. Kelley at the FBI to discuss the issue of cattle and animal mutilation and the possibility of the FBI becoming involved in determining who, exactly, was responsible. Again, the FBI asserted that this was a matter outside of its jurisdiction. The Bureau noted: “Senator Haskell [said that] he understood our statutory limitations but he wished there was something we could do,” reported an FBI official, R. J. Gallagher. Haskell had additional reasons for wanting the mutilation issue resolved swiftly, as Gallagher recorded in an internal memorandum of 12 September 1975: “Senator Haskell recontacted me this afternoon and said that he had received a call from Dane Edwards, editor of the paper in Brush, Colorado, who furnished information that US Army helicopters had been seen in the vicinity of where some of the cattle were mutilated and that he, Edwards, had been threatened but Senator Haskell did not know what sort of threats Edwards had received or by whom. He was advised that this information would be furnished to our Denver Office and that Denver would closely follow the situation.”

The FBI ultimately determined that the unidentified helicopter issue was also outside of its jurisdiction. Curiously, however, during this same time frame, numerous reports of both UFOs and unidentified helicopters surfaced in the immediate vicinity of strategic military installations around the USA, and there is evidence that someone within the FBI was fully aware of this, and was taking more than a cursory interest in these sightings. Proof comes via a number of Air Force reports forwarded to the FBI only weeks after its contact with Senator Haskell. One report from December 1975 states: “On 7 Nov 75 an off duty missile launch officer reported that unidentified aircraft resembling a helicopter had approached and hovered near a USAF missile launch control facility, near Lewistown. Source explained that at about 0020, 7 Nov 75, source and his deputy officer had just retired from crew rest in the Soft Support Building (SSB) at the LCF, when both heard the sound of a helicopter rotor above the SSB. The Deputy observed two red-and-white lights on the front of the aircraft, a white light on the bottom, and a white light on the rear. “On 7 Nov 75, Roscoe E. III, Captain, 341 Strategic Missile Wing, advised that during the hours of 6-7 Nov 75, two adjacent LCFs, approximately 50 miles south of aforementioned LCF, reported moving lights as unidentified flying objects (UFO). During this period there were no reports of helicopter noises from personnel at these LCFs.

(Nick Redfern) Black Helicopters: A real phenomenon

“This office was recently notified of a message received by security police MAFB, MT., detailing a similar nocturnal approach by a helicopter at a USAF weapons storage area located at another USAF base in the Northern Tier states. Local authorities denied the use of their helicopters during the period 6-7 Nov 75.” It’s curious that these reports should have been of interest to the FBI, given the statements made to Senator Haskell that the unidentified helicopter sightings reported in Colorado were outside of the FBI’s jurisdiction. It is also notable that an unauthenticated document made available to researcher-writer Bill Moore refers to the Northern Tier helicopter and UFO sightings of 1975, and expresses concern that, in view of the fact that the media had picked up on the stories, there was a need on the part of some authority to develop an effective disinformation plan to counter the developing interest that was surrounding the sightings. Today, the controversy surrounding who, precisely, is flying the black helicopters remains. A privately-funded militia-type group? A secret arm of the U.S. military? No-one knows. Except, of course, those who fly the mysterious craft. There is a possible answer, though. Read on...

The late Jim Keith – a conspiracy theorist who died under controversial circumstances in 1999 – was an acknowledged expert on black helicopters and someone who penned two books on the subject. He recalled one incident that demonstrated sightings of black helicopters were occurring well into the 1990s: “On May 23, 1994, at the Big Meadows on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia, a citizen came upon a blocked-off road leading into the Shenandoah National Park. He observed a black chopper coming in for a landing a short distance away, and took photos of the craft. When he asked a park ranger what the black choppers were doing there, the ranger said, ‘They help us with search and rescue.” When the man pointed out to the ranger that the helicopter was equipped with a grenade launcher and added that this hardly seemed to gel with the “search and rescue” comment, the ranger suddenly became noticeably hostile. As to who, precisely, is overseeing all of these classified operations, perhaps the most likely scenario is that which was offered to a long-time UFO investigator named Tommy Blann. In the early 1980s Blann had the opportunity to speak with a confidential, U.S. military source that was willing to share at least a limited amount of solid data on the black helicopter phenomenon. Blann said that his informant told him of “underground installations, as well as isolated areas of military reservations [that] have squadrons of unmarked helicopters, which have sophisticated instrumentation on board, that are dispatched to areas of UFO activity to monitor these craft or airlift them out of the area if one has malfunctioned.” 

One final thing, something that demonstrates the technology behind this phenomenon: The issue of silent (or near-silent) helicopters was one which particularly intrigued Jim Keith. After all, helicopters are known for their deep, thump-thump sound. So, to encounter a helicopter that is near-silent – or, perhaps, even completely silent – would be amazing, indeed. In pursuing the tales of the silent ‘copters, Keith found himself repeatedly pointed in the direction of Nevada. By now, you know the specific stretch of Nevada. In February of 1995, the Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper ran an article titled “Ex-Worker Describes Stealth Copter.” It was written by a journalist named Susan Greene. Commenting on all of this, Keith said: “According to statements of a former worker at Groom Lake Air Force Base, a black budget stealth helicopter was being tested at this facility as early as 1990. The code name for the helicopter was ‘T.E.K,’ which stood for ‘Test and Evaluation Project K.’” Keith continued as follows: “The former worker at Groom Lake reported that the chopper was olive drab, riveted, and angular, with gull wing doors. An account in the Vegas paper quotes experts as saying, ‘Light, quiet and stealthy helicopters could be used for clandestine ‘Rambo-type missions,’ quick-in, quick-out assignments without being noticed.”

Nick Redfern

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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