High Strangeness: Scully, Scully, Scully!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Scully, Scully, Scully!

So, we all know how the name Scully is associated with UFO lore.

There's FBI Special Agent Dana Scully, a made-up person, the skeptic-in-residence on the classic TV series The X-Files.

Then there's Daily Variety writer Frank Scully, a real person, who pretty much created the UFO industry with his bombshell 1950 book "Behind the Flying Saucers."

The book that started it all... for better or worse.
Scully's book sold like hotcakes, in large part because it told of the alleged recovery by the government in 1948 of not one but three downed flying saucers in Arizona and New Mexico, with accompanying alien corpses. The story was revealed as a hoax in short order, but by that time the damage was already done. "The fact that ("Behind the Flying Saucers") was a loudly bad book was beside the point," wrote a reviewer in the September 1952 issue of True Magazine. "It affected, in some degree, one way or another, the thinking of millions of people."1

We all know how that ended up.
Now, for most UFO fans, the Scully story ends there. But, wait: there's more!

There is, in fact, a third Scully associated with UFO lore, but to find him, we have to go all the way back to the 1890s, the time of the Great Airship Mystery. For several months in 1896-1897, inexplicable, impossible airships were spotted in the skies above Sacramento, San Francisco, Omaha, Chicago and Milwaukee. The aerial ships, seen by thousands, took the appearance of flying cigars, elongated ovals, eggs, giant cones or great balls of light. They were noisy contraptions, powerful enough to fly with considerable speed into the wind and to illuminate the ground below them with brilliant electric light. One was even said to have kidnapped a cow.

And then, in April 1897, one of the mystery airships crashed in Aurora, Texas. According to a news report in the April 19, 1897 Dallas Morning News, the craft exploded after hitting a windmill, and the wreckage was scattered over several acres. In due course, the disfigured remains of the pilot of the craft were recovered, but there was something odd about the body. The dead pilot was identified, without a doubt, as a Martian, and buried in the Aurora town cemetery, where, as far as anyone knows, he still rests in peace.

Was the Aurora crash a hoax? In 1967, seventy years after publishing the report of the craft, the Dallas Morning News revisited the story, and proposed a fascinating hoax theory: the new narrative said that the Aurora crash story was dreamt up by a scrupulously honest employee of the Texas & Pacific railroad company named... wait for it... Joseph “Truthful” Scully.

Scully allegedly concocted the story of an airship crash on a lark and found a most efficient way of spreading the tale by word-of-mouth among the vast nationwide brotherhood of railroad brakemen. Frank Tolbert, columnist for the Morning News, theorized that the hoax succeeded precisely because it had been propagated by a man known for and actually nicknamed after his integrity.2

So, there you have it: three Scullys, two of them alleged UFO hoaxsters and one of them a die-hard skeptic. Isn't UFO trivia fun??

1 "The Flying Saucers and the Mysterious Little Men,” by J. P. Cahn, September, 1952 True Magazine

2 “Tolbert’s Texas” by Frank X. Tolbert, January 4, 1967, Dallas Morning News

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