The Lost Creek Saucer: Confessions of a Grave-Robbing Ufologist

Screen Shot 2014-06-01 at 1.44.58 PM_2
The Lost Creek saucer

In the mid-1960s, there was a film taken of a “bell-shaped” flying saucer that was widely shown on television, at conferences and college lectures, written about in UFO magazines and books. By 1980, the film had all but vanished, and is largely forgotten today. When it is cited, the details are often wrong with the incorrect year or location given. What are the facts, how was this widely-known saucer film “silenced,” and by whom?

The Road to Lost Creek

Jim Moseley got started in the flying saucer field in 1953 with the intent to co-author a book with Ken Krippine. Jim invested much time and effort, traveling across the USA interviewing prominent UFO figures, as well as some of the biggest fakes, frauds and phonies, such as Frank Scully, Silas Newton, Mikel Conrad and George Adamski. The book never happened as planned, but the trip provided contacts, material and experience that served as the foundation for Moseley’s flying saucer magazine, Saucer News.

5eufo-kn48df35edbec51
Saucer News

In March 1966, there was a new wave of UFO publicity, kicked off by the incident in Michigan where Dr. J. Allen Hynek offered his infamous “marsh gas” explanation. Jim Moseley suddenly was in demand. “Back in New York City, all the major national news organizations were rushing around trying to find an instant saucer expert to interview and quote. Mine was the only listing in the Manhattan phone book under “Saucers” (for Saucer News), so everyone came to me.” 

Moseley received an urgent  call from the American Program Bureau in the spring of 1966. They were “in desperate need of a UFO Expert for an upcoming meeting of the Engineering Society of Detroit. The bureau’s expert, none other than Maj. Donald Keyhoe, had demanded too large a fee, and they had to come up with someone to replace him.” Moseley rose to the occasion, pleased the crowd, and the bureau put him to work. “Over the next eight years, I lectured on  more than one hundred college campuses and at a few other events.” Moseley’s entry-level UFO lecture was an easy sell, and the topic was a perfect draw for campus lectures.“If I do say so myself, it was a good summary presentation of saucer history and events , and given the high level of public interest at the time, all anyone really needed for success. Still, I wished for something a bit more exciting. In late summer 1966 my wish was granted: a new motion picture of a flying saucer.”1

A Flying Saucer is Captured on Film
Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 7.23.03 AM
John Sheets, as seen in the Lost Creek saucer film.

Here’s how Moseley described the film and how it came into his hands, from Saucer News, Winter 1966/1967, Vol. 13, No. 4:

“For the first time in our nearly thirteen years of publication, we have been able to obtain an apparently genuine movie film of a flying saucer. The film, taken with taken with a Bolex camera in 16 mm. color, was made on the afternoon of July 23rd, in a rural area called Lost Creek, located near Clarksburg, West Virginia. The photographer has asked to remain anonymous. At the time of the sighting, he and an employee named John Sheets were driving through Lost Creek in a Chevrolet pick-up truck, on their way to photograph a little league baseball game, as a favor to a mutual friend.

As they were driving along a lonely stretch of road, a strange object began following the truck at very low altitude. The camera was not loaded, and by the time Sheets’ boss loaded it, the object was gone. They stopped the vehicle and waited or several minutes, apparently with some sort of premonition that the object would return. Eventually it did, and several feet of film were shot. During the filming, the object was again at very low altitude. Sheets says that it looked to be about ten feet in diameter, though to o us it appears to be smaller. Trees visible in the background can be used as reference points; and a photographic expert in Clarksburg has declared that the object is at least twelve feet in diameter in his opinion.

In the course of the filming, the photographer kept shifting his camera from the sky to the ground, apparently thinking that the object was going to land. According to Sheets, it did not land, but shot off again, at high speed, making a strange humming sound. Afterwards Sheets was ill for two days, either from the excitement or from some after-effect of the close sighting.

Mr. Sheets, a young man in his early twenties, had worked for saucer researcher Gray Barker part-time several years ago, and knowing Barker’s interest in UFOs, he brought the undeveloped film to him. Barker cooperated with SAUCER NEWS in developing the film and making an extra copy. The latter was sent to us several weeks ago by Barker. . . . “

On the Road
Mosely41967
One of America’s foremost experts on flying saucers…

Moseley was quick to put the film to good use. “In addition to showing the film on New York–area television and at one of the Saucer News monthly lectures, I incorporated it and the story behind it into my American Program Bureau talk.” 1

The film was generally well received by the audience. An article for The Southeast Missourian – Mar 14, 1968, “1967 Flap Over Flying Saucers” by Pete Brown describes Moseley’s lecture at Southern Illinois University.

“He showed a motion picture film taken by amateurs who were on their way to a Little League baseball game when a saucer suddenly materialized, hovered and darted over their car near Lost Creek, Va. Despite the shaky, out-of-focus photography, that thing showed up in good detail, and it surely looks like a Flying Saucer, all right. But saying that, what have you said? Mr. Mosley let the film speak for itself, and it wasn’t a talkie.”

IMG_0820_2
Moseley in 1968 on the Joe Pyne talks show.

Also in 1968, Jim was a guest on Joe Pyne’s nationally syndicated talk show where he was grilled by the caustic host. Jim showed a clip of the Lost Creek film and offered the amateurishness of the camerawork as evidence of its authenticity, “If it were a fake, it would not be done this poorly as far as the technical skill is concerned. That’s my opinion.” Pyne chuckles and mentions a previous guest with a better UFO film that turned out to be fake. Moseley stands his ground and defends his clip. “Let me say that there is some fakery, but not in film- very hard to do.”

Low resolution clip of Moseley presenting the film on TV.

Moseley had his sights on the big time, a major network show with a national television audience. ”I once attempted to get on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show with the Lost Creek film. I managed to make it as far as a viewing for the show’s writers, who watched in bemused silence, thanked me for my time, and sent me on my way.” 1

Within a year, Moseley’s friend Gray Barker had bought Saucer News, and started selling prints of the film, described as featuring an “Adamski-type” saucer, and indeed, the Lost Creek Saucer did seem to be a twin for the Venusian saucer filmed by George Adamski!

Ad from Saucer News Fall 1968:

1001: The Lost Creek Saucer: Saucer follows car as two men return from Little League game. They get some excellent photographs of Adamski-type saucer. Freeze-frame action and slow motion included.

Screen Shot 2014-06-18 at 1.01.30 PM_2
Sensational Saucer Films

“Neither Saucer News nor Modern Film Distributors vouch for the authenticity of any of the three films, but we are making these available to any interested party who wishes to subject them to the most stringent scrutiny and analysis.”

Moseley’s appearances at UFO conferences continued, as did his many college lectures where he maintained the use of the film until the mid 1970s. The Albany Student Press, Sept. 24, 1974, report on Moseley’s lecture on their campus:

“Moseley showed a film that two men in Lost Creek, West Virginia took en route to a little League game. These men caught sight of an object hovering about the trees. While they loaded their camera, the object disappeared from sight, but luckily returned when they were ready and waiting to film.

The most credible aspect of the film is the amateurishness of the photography. Moseley insisted. According to the UFO expert there is a great possibility that these objects were real UFOs because the makers did not try to cash in on the pictures.”

The Lost Creek saucer film was discussed in the newsstand magazine Official UFO in 1975. The next year, noted UFO author Gray Barker had an article in the December 1976 UFO Report magazine, “Invading West Virginia’s Saucer Lairs and Monster Hideouts,” confirming Moseley’s account and providing a few more technical details:

IMG_1117
Gray Barker

On July 3, 1966, John Sheets, a house painter, accompanied his employer who had taken movies of a Little League game in Weston. They left Route 19 near Lost Creek for a short cut to Clarksburg on their way home. Sheets, looking out the car window for deer that abounded in the wild rural area, was puzzled and startled when he spotted a dish-shaped flying object surmounted by a dome with portholes, following them. He shouted for the driver to stop as the object disappeared behind a hill. His employer, remembering he had unexposed footage left in his 16mm Bolex movie camera, reached for it on the back seat. As he did so the object returned and swooped down toward them, then retreated and repeated the maneuver. Despite his excitement and fright, the amateur photographer managed to shoot several feet of film, with many sharp frames, some of which when enlarged display a recognizable antenna, and ball-like “landing gear,” similar to many still photographs taken by other witnesses.

Screen Shot 2014-06-21 at 7.32.57 AM
December 1976 UFO Report

Here’s Gray Barker presenting a different edit of the film:

Gray Barker, showing the Lost Creek saucer film at a UFO convention

Barker’s article was quoted in Redcoats, Redskins and Red-eyed Monsters: West Virginia, Its History and People by E. Lee North in 1979, further spreading the story of the Lost Creek saucer.

Confessions of a Grave-Robbing Ufologist

The true origin of the film was not publicly revealed until 1995, when Ralph Coon’s documentary film on Gray Barker, Whispers From Space spilled the beans. From the bio: Gray Roscoe Barker by David Houchin, Special Collections Librarian, Clarksburg-Harrison Public Library 

IMG_1107
Moseley, demonstrating the magic of cinema.

 

The Lost Creek Saucer sighting was brainstormed by Barker and James Moseley in early 1966. The idea was to produce footage of a flying saucer. On July 26, 1966, they had John Sheets—one of Barker’s researchers—hold a ceramic “boogie” (bogus) saucer on a fishing pole in front of a car; while Moseley drove, and Barker filmed. Afterward, Moseley played the film during his UFO lectures, and Barker sold copies of the footage via his mail-order film business. Both men continued to claim that Sheets had innocently recorded the saucer landing.

The film had been long-retired by then, and the Earth didn’t exactly shake from the news. Rick Hilberg, on how the saucer’s origins first leaked out: “I recall that Gray brought some of his various films of UFO conventions that he attended and whatnot and showed them to some of the local insiders at one of our Northern Ohio UFO Group mini-conventions back in the late 1970s. While enjoying a jar or two watching the films, Jim and Gray both told about the Lost Creek film and how it was hoaxed, therefore it was common knowledge waaay before Coon’s film.”

IMG_1115
The camera always adds ten pounds.

Just as P. T. Barnum had done by creating his own Cardiff Giant to exhibit, Moseley and Barker created a counterfeit film of a George Adamski flying saucer, a fake of a fake.  The choice was a good one, as it had already been imitated by others, including Cedric Allingham and Howard Menger, so it would blend right in as part of the pattern. There was nothing new or revolutionary about it, the film just illustrated a fairly typical close encounter of the first kind of a daylight disk. The fact that it was a model bouncing and swinging on a string didn’t seem to bother those who already believed, and some of them cited the peculiar movements as a “falling leaf motion” typical to saucers’ propulsion system and flight.

Timothy Green Beckley, former Saucer News reporter: “I know the film was used for ‘demonstration’ purposes. If I recall correctly Jim needed something to show during his college lectures. Being that Gray was not beyond doing something creative to help an old friend out… Jim and Gray both thought it was necessary to have a ‘prop’ for when they were invited to appear on television. No one likes just a talking head.”

mvc-392s
Barker’s saucer model, and its reenactment stand-in.

There was another Gray Barker documentary in 2009, Shades of Gray by Bob Wilkinson that also briefly discusses the film, with Moseley describing how film was created with a toy-sized saucer suspended from a string. David Houchin shows the model and Rick Hilberg talks about how Barker and Moseley’s antics kept things interesting and provided new material.  “It was only natural, I suppose that they would get bored now and then- ‘what can we do to stir things up a little bit?’ And besides, some of the things you could write about.”

 

shockingly
Moseley tells all!

In Shockingly Close to the Truth! Confessions of a Grave-Robbing Ufologist , Prometheus, 2002, Moseley (with the help of Karl Pflock) told the story in print for the first time, and in Saucer Smear Vol. 57, No. 5, May 15, 2011, revealed even more, including a “pre-production” still of Gray Barker and John Sheets with their model flying saucer. Discussing his gig as a speaker, he “needed a focal point for (my) lecture.” Moseley explained how he drove the car, Barker filmed from the passenger seat, and Sheets was on the roof dangling the saucer from a fishing pole.

IMG_1105
Barker & Sheets with a bogus saucer, seemingly a larger, different model than the one filmed.

“At the colleges, it was interesting to see the audience’s reaction to the film. Those who really wanted to Believe did so, and among others there was sometimes muffled laughter. But over all, the film was found to be acceptable, and was even picked up (without permission) by a widely-circulated TV documentary in the subject.

What Moseley didn’t say was how or why the Lost Creek Saucer film was retired, but it all seems to relate to his campus lectures coming to an end.  In a 1994 interview with Greg Bishop for the Excluded Middle, Moseley explained his rise and fall as a lecturer.

$(KGrHqZ,!ogFHwGnmTRLBR8HF6mfog~~60_58
Stanton Friedman, Nuclear Physicist-Lecturer

“(Donald Keyhoe) was charging too much, so I started getting his gigs. I would have gone for free just to knock Keyhoe off the lecture circuit. (Stanton) Friedman hadn’t come along yet, and he didn’t push me off the circuit ’till years later. I did over a hundred colleges and got well paid for it for the time. Saucer News circulation shot up to about 10,000 for awhile, and I got on all kinds of shows, etc. I finally had to hire a staff to keep up, including Tim Beckley, who worked there for a couple of years. This was all because of the marsh gas! Then in the early ’70s, Friedman came along and did to me what I had done to Keyhoe. Actually, he was vicious about it. He would find out which colleges I was lecturing at and call them up and try to get them to knock me off and book him. He had the degree and the beard and I didn’t. The colleges kept calling me to inform me what he had been doing–sometimes more than once to the same places.”

So, in effect, Stanton Friedman crashed the Lost Creek Saucer.

 

Examining the Author’s Intent

Moseley came clean about the hoaxed film, but saying he needed a lecture prop just didn’t quite satisfy as an answer for why he’d done it. When asked in Whispers From Space about the antics he and Barker stirred up, Moseley explained:

“The reason we liked to occasionally do a hoax was for our own amusement, but if there was a serious purpose, more to keep the UFO field alive during slack periods hoping the public’s interest, or at least the UFO fans’ interest would not slack off and since I at least felt that there is a serious mystery behind all this, didn’t want to see the field die out, and I thought it was a good idea to  keep it rolling.”

Moseley, explained how Barker came to regard the flying saucer topic as show business:

(Gray Barker) had wonderful sense of humor, and a sense of wonderment (which is a good word for him) about the UFO subject. He stopped being a “believer” very early on, but kept the sense of wonderment. What he got out of it was entertainment for himself, and the audience he wrote for. He thought of himself as an entertainer, not as a scientist or a person dealing in facts. There were “New Age” types long before there was a UFO field, and he knew this audience and what they wanted to hear, so he wrote books and published them as a book business. He also had a theater that he owned and operated, and he started out as a booking agent for films at theaters in the area. So, he was always in the entertainment field and thought of himself as an entertainer. He thought I was too serious, because I believed some of it, and still do, but he didn’t believe any of it. 2

While Moseley was on the lecture circuit,  he too was an entertainer.

Some further insight into Jim Moseley’s thinking can found in his article in Saucer Smear Vol. 32, No. 1, January 10, 1985, just after Barker’s death, confessing his and Barker’s role in the “Straith Letter” sent to George Adamski. Writing in the editorial “we:”

IMG_1108_2
Not all issues are as simple as black and white.

Is your editor sorry for what he and Gray Barker did? Your editor never saw any great harm in it, but we can easily understand why Completely Serious Researchers were offended. Was Gray Barker sorry? Only sorry the Feds turned out to have no sense of humor!

So now with one less mystery than yesterday, let us all Press On now, to a reasonable and hopefully accurate solution to the flying saucer enigma.

The antics had long been over, but not the fun. Moseley was always  the more Serious of the two and his sense of humor was keen as ever, but he focused it in Saucer Smear as ufology’s court jester.  As he said in the first issue:

At times we will be serious, at times we will attempt to be facetious, and at times we will not be certain whether we are being serious or facetious, and you will have to make up your own minds.

 

References (not otherwise noted)

1 James W. Moseley & Karl Pflock, Shockingly Close to the Truth!, Prometheus, 2002, pp 199-201.

2 1994 interview with Greg Bishop for the Excluded Middle

 

A special thanks to Timothy Green Beckley and Rick Hilberg for their background details and comments.

Additional thanks to Isaac Koi and Vicente-Juan Ballester Olmos!

Additional Trivia

Despite the timeframe, and stylistic similarity the Lost Creek saucer film was not inspired by the Patterson–Gimlin Bigfoot film. LCS preceded it by over a year, Bigfoot was filmed October 20, 1967.

benedum68
The Benedum Airport saucer

Gray Barker produced another saucer film that Jim Moseley was not involved in, taken at Benedum Airport, West Virginia allegedly on May 30, 1967. The same model appears to have been used as in the Lost Creek film.

The Bendenum Airport saucer

The Lost Creek saga sounds similar to a later, famous disclosure: an anonymous source provides a roll of undeveloped film with UFO evidence to a researcher serving as a middle man, who then shares it where it be taken public. Shades of MJ-12! Bill Moore often used Gray Barker as a source, perhaps a role model as well!

In 1988, UFO Cover-Up? Live! (a live UFO syndicated TV special) included the film in their discussion of hoaxes, showing clips of the Lost Creek saucer and Benedum together calling them the “Barker Incident.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *