One particular 1950 document seems to be taking on a viral life of its own. Written by FBI agent Guy Hottel and sent to the bureau's director, J. Edgar Hoover, it relates how "flying saucers had been recovered in New Mexico. They were described as being circular in shape with raised centers, approximately 50 feet in diameter.
"Each one was occupied by three bodies of human shape but only 3 feet tall, dressed in metallic cloth of a very fine texture," etc., etc.
In most of the stories published this week about the alien encounter, only a handful have made a big deal of the fact that this is not a "newly released" document or that the story is a hoax.
"It was one of the documents I got in the first bunch of documents out of a total of 1,600 that were released by the FBI way back in the late 70s," said retired U.S. Navy optical physicist Bruce Maccabee.
Maccabee actually obtained the document from the FBI via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in 1977 and even wrote about it in his 2000 book, "UFO-FBI Connection" (Llewellyn Publications).
Maccabee is a renowned investigator of UFO photographs and visual evidence.
"First of all, the document was in this official FOIA release, so I have no doubt that the document is true," Maccabee told AOL News.
As to the contents of the document, "it appears this was the result of a story told by (oil scam artist) Silas Newton, during a lecture at the University of Denver on March 8, 1950 (two weeks before the document was written)," Maccabee explained.
"Newton tried to convince some potential oil company investors that he had secret alien technology that could be used to locate underground oil.
Maccabee says the story kept getting passed from person to person and believes "an Air Force Office of Special Investigations man picked up on it and told the FBI guy, who then sent a memo to Hoover."
This wasn't unusual, Maccabee continued, because around the same time, in 1947, "the Air Force initially asked the FBI to investigate witnesses to find out if there were any possible Communist subversive activities going on, generating spurious stories to make the American public fearful that our own military couldn't handle Soviet aircraft in our skies."
Even though nothing came of this investigation, Maccabee says it at least established a connection between the FBI and the Air Force, especially about UFOs.
"Back in the late 40s and 50s, no one expected the Freedom of Information Act 20 years later," Maccabee added. "Basically, the FBI was told by Hoover, 'If you come up with UFO information, do not investigate, send it to the Air Force.' But, nevertheless, they would sometimes send memos back to headquarters."
And that's apparently how this whole 1950 crashed flying saucer with dead aliens memo evolved, with a little bit of con artistry kicked in.
If there's a moral to the story it's this: You can't trust every document you read, even if it's a genuine document. To get at the truth, you need to really dig into it. How did it germinate? Are the people involved reliable, and is there a high or low credibility factor associated with it?
The truth is always out there, but it often requires investigators to use the correct filters to weed out the good from the bad.
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