High Strangeness: Little Green Men -- Part V

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Little Green Men -- Part V


Kelly-Hopkinsville becomes a "cold case"; then an unexpected letter gets Dr. Hynek involved in the investigation...




It took nearly a year for Dr. Hynek to become involved in the Kelly-Hopkinsville incident, and when he did it came about in a manner that seemed both entirely random and yet entirely predestined.
By the time of the events on the Sutton farm, Project Blue Book had settled into an efficiently low-key operative mode, humming along beneath most everyone’s radar. In part this was because, in 1953, the program had received what Captain Ruppelt described as “a badly needed shot in the arm”[1] with the formation of a new Air Force unit, the 4602nd Air Intelligence Services Squadron (AISS). While this was far from its only function, AISS was in a perfect position to be the eyes and ears of Blue Book: With units stationed at bases throughout the country, AISS could send out agents to conduct timely investigations of UFO sighting reports, screen out the unreliable cases and then send the “important” cases on to Blue Book for further investigation.
            On paper, it was a brilliant approach: it ensured that more UFO reports could be investigated while the trail was still fresh, it gave the AISS agents unique opportunities to hone their investigative skills, and it enabled Blue Book to concentrate on cases of scientific significance. In practice, however, it meant that decisions about which cases to investigate were being made by officers completely unfamiliar with the UFO phenomenon, and it meant that “Blue Book slowly became more and more irrelevant”[2] as fewer cases came its way.
            It was the perfect set-up for Air Force Intelligence to intercept the very best UFO cases before they ever reached Project Blue Book.
            By March, 1954, Lt. Olsson was gone and Captain Ruppelt, finally retired from the Air Force, was working on a book about his experiences as project chief of Project Blue Book. Captain Charles A. Hardin, the new project chief, was particularly adroit at maintaining a low profile, and he impressed no one with his approach to Project Blue Book. Ruppelt’s impression was that Hardin was anti-UFO, stating that “They bore him.”[3] Hynek’s take on Hardin was similarly dismissive: “(he) had ambitions to be a stockbroker.”
            Hynek grew comfortable with the slower pace, however, and enjoyed his regular visits to the Blue Book offices. “I knew all of these men quite well, lunching with them regularly on my visits to Dayton, sometimes at the Officers’ Club and sometimes at nearby restaurants,” he recalled. “Occasionally, when one of the junior officers or a secretary had a birthday, I joined in celebrating it with a longer lunch than usual. But I knew my place; I was a consultant, not a director or policy setter.”[4]
            Hynek was in no hurry. “I bided my time,” he said of this interlude. “Meanwhile, my attitude continued to change.”       
            “As time went on and reports accumulated, so that my data base was far more extensive than it had been in the Project Sign days, I came to realize that inherent in the better UFO reports there was much more than ‘fooled the eye or deluded the fool.’ There was a phenomenon consisting of new empirical observations that demanded far more attention that Blue Book was giving it.”[5]
            During this period of relative inactivity, and still several months before the Kelly-Hopkinsville events, the Doctor received a letter from an admiring fan. “My dear Dr. Hynek,” the April 17, 1955 letter began, I have recently had the good fortune to find your article, ‘Unusual Aerial Phenomena’... It is such an unusual discussion of the subject of ‘flying saucers’ that I am prompted to write you about it.”
            The admirer, an amateur UFO investigator from New York City named Isabel L. Davis, got right to the point: “Ever since 1947 I have been seriously disturbed by the attitude that seems to prevail among scientists generally, the superficial character of their investigation and criticism, and the tone of patronizing mockery with which they tend to dismiss the reports. Your statement, ‘Ridicule is not a part of the scientific method and the public should not be taught that it is,’ expresses my feelings exactly.”[6]
            Davis had since 1950 been cataloguing UFO reports on her own, and she wanted to know the exact dates and locations of ten of the cases Hynek had discussed in his paper. Hynek, as the notes written in the margins of the letter reveal, handily knew the details of each case; they had all occurred in the timeframe of 1951-1952, in locations from Jacksonville, Florida to Albuquerque, New Mexico. That Hynek was willing to share even a modicum of information from Blue Book files with an amateur investigator suggests a growing comfort level with the idea of operating ever so slightly outside the purview of the Air Force.
            Clearly, Hynek was impressed by Davis, whom he later described as, “one of the most sincere and dedicated UFO investigators I have met.”[7] She had immediately earned his trust, and their cordial professional relationship would, in time, become crucial to the investigation of the Kelly-Hopkinsville incident.

            Before the pieces could be assembled, however, another connection needed to be made, and it would have to wait for several more months, when Hynek took on a scientific project of national significance.
            In January, 1956, Hynek took a leave from his duties at The Ohio State University to accept a position with the Smithsonian Institution Observatory at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The new position (which we will examine in detail in the next chapter) represented a giant leap in visibility and prestige, and left Hynek, in his own words, “with very little time for UFO investigations.”[8] Ironic, then, that in the course of performing his new duties, Hynek had the occasion to hire a talented electrical engineer from Hopkinsville, Kentucky named Andrew B. “Bud” Ledwith III.
            “Purely fortuitous,”[9] was how Hynek described the events that followed. Recognizing their mutual interest in the Kelly-Hopkinsville incident, Ledwith shared his interview transcriptions and composite sketches with Hynek, and by the following summer, Ledwith had consented to share them with Isabel Davis as well.

            Hynek’s fascination with the case is evidenced by the amount of space he devoted to its discussion in his books “The UFO Experience” (1972) and “The Hynek UFO Report” (1977). Even though Hynek described the case as one that “no sober scientist would care to be caught within ten feet of,”[10] few cases garnered as much attention from the him in one of his books, let alone two, and it is worth looking at both passages in detail:
            “The Kelly-Hopkinsville case, if considered entirely apart from the total pattern of UFO sightings, seems clearly preposterous, even to offend common sense,” Hynek wrote in “The UFO Experience.” “The latter, however, has not proved a sure guide in the past history of science. Blue Book records on this event are sketchy, and little or no investigation was conducted. Still, the case is carried in the Blue Book files as ‘Unidentified.’ That much it certainly is.”
            “I would not have given the Kelly-Hopkinsville case this much attention were it not for the fact that I know the principle investigators, Ledwith and Davis, well,” he went on, “particularly Ledwith, since he was in my direct employ for nearly two years on the satellite tracking program.
            “There is an even greater reason: the ‘humanoids’ are themselves a prototype that has occurred again and again throughout the years, going back, as (Dr. Jaques) VallĂ©e so convincingly points out in ‘Passport to Magonia,’ to the myths and legends of many cultures. It is highly improbable that the Suttons, ‘who did not have telephone, radio, television, books, or much furniture,’ were aware of UFO lore and could have known that many times in the past creatures like those they had delineated had been described. The resemblance to the ‘little people’ described by many cultures is striking.
            “We are not, of course, justified in concluding that the Kelly creatures stemmed from the imagination alone or, conversely, that the source of ancient legends lies in the actual appearances of such creatures in the past or that real humanoids were seen. As in other aspects of the entire UFO phenomenon, the call is clearly for more study.
            “The Suttons themselves were convinced that they had had a real experience, a pattern of reaction I have found consistently. Let the report of Isabel Davis underscore this:
            ‘Finally, the Suttons stuck to their story. Stubbornly, angrily, they insisted they were telling the truth. Neither adults nor children so much as hinted at the possibility of a lie or mistake – in public or to relatives; there was no trace of retraction.’
            “Davis further remarks on the absence of ‘protective rationalization’ used by UFO sighters, who, though personally convinced, wish to remain in the good graces of their fellows by saying something such as, ‘Of course, it must have been an airplane… I could have been mistaken’ – accompanying their disclaimers by an embarrassed laugh or giggle. As she states:
            “‘The Suttons seem never to have been tempted to recant and get back in the good graces of society…Their costly refusal to give an inch to skepticism may not prove anything about the truth of their story, but it does tell us something about them.’”[11]

To Be Continued...


[1] The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects, by Edward J. Ruppelt, Captain, USAF, 1956, Doubleday
[2] UFOS & Government, by Michael Swords, Robert Powell, et al, 2012, Anomalist Books
[3] The UFO Book: Encyclopedia of the Extraterrestrial, by Jerome Clark, 1997, Visible Ink Press
[4] The Hynek UFO Report, by Dr. J. Allen Hynek, 1977, Dell
[5] Ibid.
[6] Letter to Dr. J. Allen Hynek from Isabel L. Davis, dated April 17, 1955, from the CUFOS collection
[7] The UFO Experience, by Dr. J. Allen Hynek, 1972, Henry Regnery Company
[8] Ibid.
[9] Ibid.
[10] “UFOs 1960” speech by J. A. Hynek to Hypervelocity Impact Conference Banquet, on April 27, 1960, at Elgin Air Force Base
[11] Ibid.

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