Was what happened in 1948 flying saucer incident a cover-up? A hoax? Or something else entirely?
SPECIAL TO DGO
The site of the 1948 UFO crash just north of Aztec, New Mexico is not an easy place to find. It’s hidden inside a desert, barren landscape with nothing but rugged dirt roads, eerie rock formations, and arid shrub life along County Road 2770.
The Aztec UFO incident is a story we’d never even heard tale of until the last couple of months. In March 1948, a 100-foot saucer is believed to have crashed just north of Az-tec. Unlike the Roswell crash, which took place only eight months previously, the Aztec UFO is believed to have landed mostly intact with its occupants killed by the impact. The government is believed to have descended upon the isolated site and swept its contents up into a black hole of red-taped secrecy.
It takes us two trips to Aztec to search for the crash site and even then we are unsuccessful. During our first drive, we arrogantly don’t think to look up the directions ahead of time and get so confused that, in fear of popping a tire or getting stuck, we return home, defeated.
Our second trip we plan more carefully, printing out a map and paying more attention to the roads we pass. We are at least successful in finding the parking area and take a scraggy mountain bike trail through the shrubbery. The rocky trail is hard to pinpoint at some instances during our walk toward what we hope is the direction of the crash site. We keep an eye out for a plaque commemorating the site; alas, we are unsuccessful and the sun is quickly disappearing behind the mesa. We head back to the car, disappointed.
We agree while driving down the windy, dirt roads and passing a rock structure that could pass as a sphinx in the quickly oncoming darkness, that of all the places we’ve traveled in the Four Corners region, if we were going to encounter a UFO, it’d be here.
A meeting of the minds
The 1948 Aztec UFO crash incident is a controversial topic amongst those who discuss the extra-terrestrial. There are all kinds of theories and talk of cover-ups and hoaxes.
However, perhaps none are more qualified to talk about this specific incident than Scott and Suzanne Ramsey and Frank Thayer – co-researchers and authors of their book, “The Aztec UFO Incident.”
The Ramseys, who now live in North Carolina, have spent more than 30 years and $500,000 researching this event and it’s hard to imagine finding anyone more dedicated to the Aztec UFO crash. In fact, Scott and Suzanne even met through their interest in the event.
Suzanne was a child living in South Dakota when she first heard of Aztec ten years after Variety magazine columnist Frank Scully published his 1950 book, “Behind the Flying Saucers,” on the crash.
“My parents moved to Aztec, New Mexico. … My mom actually wanted to move there because of the incident and was grossly disappointed when she got there that nobody talked about it.”
Eventually, Scott guested on her local news talk radio show, For Your Information. The rest, as they say, is history.
The trio was drawn to the Aztec story because of the level of documented proof in favor of the incident occurring.
“I guess I was intrigued because I thought, ‘How did something spectacular happen, and all the spotlight was put on Roswell, and this is much more documented,’” Scott said.
“I’ll speak for all of us, but none of us picked it. We did not pick it. It picked us,’ Suzanne said. “It isn’t like we sought out to prove it. Like I said, we’re doing it because it’s something we want to document or prove one way or the other. It’s almost addictive. You talk about 30 years of research and none of us picked it. There’s a hook there.”
Decades of research
The Ramseys and Thayer, who is a professor emeritus at New Mexico State University, will sometimes spend years dissecting sources to ensure their cred-ibility. They’re painstakingly scientific in their approach and are not amused by those who look to sensationalize the Aztec story. Indeed, it even takes us a phone call and a couple emails back and forth to convince them we were not interested in turning their research into a tabloid cover.
“When we get a lead, it sometimes takes us two years to document that one lead. That’s why it takes so long,” Suzanne said. “For one thing, life goes on, you have to work around that. But also, you can’t just take someone’s word for
it. There’s all types of documentation. … This is not a passing thing and certainly, we do not just pull it up on the internet because, you know as well as we do, that anybody can put anything on the internet and they can falsify it and they don’t even have to use their real names. So that’s never something that we do. It’s always archival.”
For example, they were trying to identify the group of scientists where Scully got his information from. Scully, who never revealed their identitied, refers to them collectively as Dr. G.
The Ramseys and Thayer spent two or three years research-ing who these scientists could have been based on Scully’s descriptions. Eventually, they ended up at the University of Minnesota in their archives and, with the help of the university’s archivist, unsealed boxes on a doctor. The boxes had been sealed when the doctor died in 1950 and had never been opened.
“And in there was an amazing col-lection of stories about how he had been in the southwest of the United States in March of 1948 and he hated flying and he drove their station wagon out there because something horrific happened that he needed to get there,” Scott said. “And that’s the kind of thing we do.”
The research team is currently chasing down a lead from a man who claims that while at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, he was privy to information on the Aztec crash in the 50s, early 60s.
“And to verify his story, we go and pull the tax records. We pull the school records,” Scott said. “Anybody can tell you anything. But when you have a copy that they paid the real es-tate tax in the dates that he claimed he was living there, well, that’s kind of moves you on to the next step. So we do a very, very exhausting back-ground check on everybody that tells a story.”
A hoax or a cover-up?
The journey of the Aztec UFO crash incident has not been an easy one.
In 1949, the account was published by Scully in his Variety columns. A year later, he published the book “Behind the Flying Saucers.” However, after the book was published, two of the story’s witnesses, Silas Newton and Leo Gebauer, were accused of concocting their accounts so they could sell fake alien technology in a money-making scheme. The public’s faith in the story fell apart after that.
The Ramseys and Thayer, however, through their research, believe that it may have gone down a different way.
“Gotta remember that from 1952 until about 1986, no one would touch the Aztec incident,” Thayer said. “It was poisoned. No UFO researchers would touch it because it was considered to be a hoax hoisted off on the public by con-men. This was taken apart in our book. We realized the government engineered that story to sink Aztec and they were willing to ruin the lives of two, three people, to make sure it got covered up. … You cannot refute the evidence that we have put in this book.”
Documentation from government sources such as the March 22, 1950, Hottel memo, which is the most viewed document in the FBI Vault, have also bolstered belief in UFO stories.
The memo, written by Guy Hottel, the head of the FBI field office in Washing-ton, D.C., reads as follows:
“An investigator for the Air Force stated that three so-called flying sau-cers had been recovered in New Mexico. They were described as being circular in shape with raised centers, approxi-mately 50-feet in diameter. Each one was occupied by three bodies of human shape but were 3 feet tall, dressed in metallic cloth of very fine texture. Each body was bandaged in a manner similar to the blackout suite of speed flyers and test pilots.
According to Mr. ——— informant, the saucers were found in New Mexico due to the fact that the Government has a very high-powered radar set-up in that area and it is believed the radar inter-feres with the controlling mechanics of the saucers.
No further evaluation was attempted by SA ——— concerning the above.”
The memo was addressed to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and indexed in FBI records. While many people origi-nally believed the memo was referring to Roswell, some believe the document was actually in reference to Aztec.
“That is one of many, many, many interesting documents. The only critique it’s had over the years – it doesn’t men-tion Aztec,” Scott said. “And we have many documents that specifically men-tion Aztec.”
One such government documentation they’ve found is of a sting operation that occurred in downtown Denver between the FBI and the Army Counterintelli-gence Division. The agencies set up the sting to buy photos from a man ped-dling photos to an alleged reporter for $2,500.
“Just as the buy was about to go down, the FBI and Army CID – that’s Counter Intelligence Division – stepped in. And they specifically in that FBI re-port say the gentlemen was trying to sell pictures of the Aztec flying saucer.”
“The bottom line on that one is the government took the Aztec saucer very seriously,” Thayer said. “If there was no Aztec saucer they would not be been willing to pony up a bunch of money to buy some photos whether they existed or not.”
Handle the truth
Throughout our talk with the Aztec crash researchers, there’s much discus-sion of government secrecy and cover-ups. A question comes to mind.
“Why do you think the government goes so far and works so hard to keep these incidents as secretive as possible? Do they think that’s helpful in the long run? Do you think that people can even handle the idea that there is other life out there?”
Considering the tense climate at the time, making extraterrestrials a secret at the beginning of the Cold War was important, Thayer said. “And they just never let up.”
“I honestly think in 1948, this is right after World War II. We’re only three years after World War II. The Cold War was going on,” Scott said. “I think our government was absolutely smart in not letting our enemies know that we had recovered one, two, three, maybe four flying saucers. Why would we let the Russians know that that kind of tech-nology was there? We were better off to make it look like a hoax, ridicule the people that saw it. You know, we had to make them the town drunk. We do that and move on. Take the technology and try to figure it out because if we’ve got it, God bless, it’s a lot better than if they have it.”
Suzanne believes that because the government has had to cover up stories like Aztec for so long, it would be a mess once they admitted what was really going on.
“Now this is my personal opinion, if they were to come out now and say,
‘Yep, we lied all along,’ well that would kind of give an opportunity for people to say, ‘Well if you lied about that what else are you learning about?’”