Category Archives: Jim’s Greatest Hits

James W. Moseley: Flying Saucers and Me

Here’s a rare UFO article by Jim Moseley from 1970, during the gap between him leaving Saucer News and beginning Saucer Smear. It provides a fascinating look at how the ideas and attitudes about UFOs developed over the years, and leaves us wondering about just what has changed since.

Reprinted from Phenomena no. 1, July 1970. The original introduction:

James Moseley, the author of the following article, has been a leader in the more energetic areas of ‘flying saucer’ studies. We felt it would be of interest to our readers to get a glimpse into the mind and life of one of the men behind the news. And future articles Jim will dig his teeth into some of the inside stories, unknown to the public, and what makes up the headlines, and what the people, who have put the ‘sensational’ into saucers, we’re really like, and really thought.

flying saucers and me

by James W. Moseley

Like millions of other Americans, I first became aware of flying saucers on June 24th, 1947, when an Idaho business man named Kenneth Arnold made headlines by seeing a fleet of mysterious objects while flying his private plane in the state of Washington. On that date the flying saucer era was born!

I was still in high school the following year when and even stranger story hit the wire services: an Air Force pilot had been killed while attempting to fly up to a cigar-shaped UFO which was hovering high over a military base in Kentucky. Both pilot and playing it been disfigured beyond recognition in the encounter; and rumor had it that Mantell had been purposely blown up by the supposed occupants of the mystery craft.

I guess I always had an attraction to the Unknown — these events which are beyond the present ability of science to explain. I remember being highly impressed by these and several other unsolved UFO cases of the late 1940s. However, I doubt if I would ever have chosen UFO research as my lifetime hobby had it not been for a chance meeting in 1953 with a rather fabulous character named Ken Krippene.

Krippene was one of the that vanishing breed of soldiers of fortune who travel from country to country living by their wits. He was among other things, a writer of yarns about buried treasures. Learning of my latent interest and saucers, and realizing the topic was becoming “hot” on the non-fiction book market, he decided that we should collaborate on such a book I supplying the raw material and he applying the finished product.

By this time I had finished high school, dropped out of Krippene’s urging, I took it upon myself to make a 10,000 mile automobile trip alone across the United States, interviewing saucer sighters and whoever else could make any worthwhile contribution to a solution of the UFO mystery.

I prided myself, as I still do, on having an unusually objective approach to all matters involving the separation of fact from opinion. When I began my three-month trek around the country, I honestly believed I could quickly establish whether or not flying saucers really exist, and if so, where they come from. Now, nearly 16 years later, I wonder how I could have been so naive!

Moseley interviewed the witnesses to the Lubbock Lights.

In the course of my travels, I interviewed almost all the “great names” in the UFO scene of that era — author such as Frank Skully, Gerald Heard, Morris K Jessup, Edward Ruppelt, George Adamski, Donald Keyhoe, and many others. These are the people — many of them now dead — who wrote the early saucer books, most of which were best sellers in their day.

At the end of a long trip my conclusions were: Witnesses reporting UFOs in the sky are generally sincere and reputable. Although they sometimes make mistakes, a lot of them have seen genuinely unexplainable objects. On the other hand, “contactees” such as George Adamski who claimed To have spoken to space people on the ground or ridden in their ships, are solely profit-seekers and therefore not to be believed. As for the origin of the saucers, they were probably interplanetary, though their precise point of origin cannot yet be determined.

As I look back now, I can compare these conclusions to my neat solutions for nearly all the world’s political and social problems, which I arrived at by the end of my first year in college. Although my UFO views have not changed radically over the years, and I have never lost my objectivity for very long, I would now seriously question every one of the statements I took to be self-evident in that early period.

Perhaps my first and most severe disappointment was to find Ken Krippene really had no interest whatsoever and then honest book about flying saucers. As I was to learn many times later, there is very little market for truth or even honest reporting at lower levels of the non-fiction field. Although I had assembled hundreds of pages of notes and had painstakingly obtained the most comprehensive survey of the UFO subject available at that time, Krippene wanted such additions as a disembodied head from outer space floating across the front cover— or else no book!

Saucer News, when it was named Nexus

By that time I was already becoming well known in the UFO field as a rather mysterious newcomer, but I was totally unknown in the publishing world, and felt (perhaps erroneously) that I could get nowhere without collaborating with an established writer. So I rather sorrowfully abandoned the idea of the book. Instead, in the summer of 1954 I began publication of a monthly mimeographed magazine for flying saucer fans. At first called Nexus, then Saucer News, it underwent many changes over the years in frequency, size, quality, and format; but essentially, it was an attempt to give an honest presentation of my own views as they evolved, together with straight news stories about current UFO sightings and articles of his opinion about other “leaders” in the field of flying saucer research.

Because my views and those are my contributing writers seldom coincided with the opinions of most other UFO buffs, the magazine never grew to anything larger than a money-losing hobby. I didn’t mind, because I enjoyed setting the editorial policy to suit myself, and because I never expected to make money from the enterprize.

But I did find it interesting to gradually learn another “great truth”: Readers of flying saucer journals (and no doubt the same as equally true in other fields) do not want their preconceived notions to be seriously challenged. They do not even want to be made to think. Rather, they seek confirmation of opinions they already hold; and if they fail to find his confirmation in one UFO magazine, they will simply drop it and turn to another which properly mirrors their own ideas.

Specifically, I learned that the great majority of people who buy semi-professional UFO magazine such as mine, are ardent believers in the “contactees.” These readers are already convinced, through faith alone, that interplanetary saucers are a proven reality. They now seek a new religion based on the messages these space visitors have allegedly given to various “contactees” over the years.

In response to this persistent pressure from my readers, I eventually dropped my anti-“contactees” articles from Saucer News, and started giving the UFO buffs more nearly what they wanted. This helped circulation only a little, for by then I had established a reputation as a skeptical or negative thinker within the field.

Finally, in recent years, I took a hard second look at some of the “contactees” stories, myself and came to form my present opinion that these stories and their proponents are probably far more complex than I had thought back in the 1950s. It is apparently not just a simple case of deciding whether or not these men are lying. Quite possibly, they are telling the truth as they know it, yet have never taken the saucer flights they claim. Perhaps they and the people who believe them, are purposely being confused and misinformed by a mysterious group of extraterrestrials or others. Whatever the right answer may be regarding the “contactees,” the solution to the saucer mystery lies in a correct interpretation of their reports. I might add that this solution is eluded all UFO researchers, including myself, for over twenty years!

Here we are, entering the third decade of the UFO era, still lacking proof (as opposed to mere evidence) that flying saucers exist: that lacking proof as to their origin, purpose, etc. Without the benefit of the blind faith that most of the fans indulge in so lavishly, no solution of the mystery seems possible. Whatever the saucers are, they do not seem to abide by the laws of physics as we know them, nor are they susceptible to the kinds of proof and logic which we apply to normal fields of inquiry. This realization, resulting quite obviously in frustration, has done much to dampen my enthusiasm for the entire subject.

On the other hand, while these answers have continued to elude all of us, public interest and acceptance of UFOs has increased tremendously in recent years. The way this came about was quite unexpected, and tells us something about the strange ways in which public opinion is formed.

Going back as far as the early 1950s, there had been stories of crashed saucers with dead “little man” found inside them. There were also hundreds of sightings of live “little men” in isolated areas all over the world. There have been dozens of “contactee” type stories, plus many hundreds of accounts of landings and near-landings, and last, but not least, there are the close UFO observations made over the years by literally hundreds of thousands a reasonably sane citizens, including pilots, scientists, and college professors. Yet, the public in general was neither convinced by all this nor even very interested.

Then, in late March, 1966, a series of sightings occurred in the state of Michigan which was to transform the whole UFO picture as far as the public was concerned. The irony is that the signings were neither very detailed, nor very close, compared to the thousands of previous observations of UFOs. It is likely that most of the dozens of incidents involved nothing more extraterrestrial than bright stars or planets. Yet the wire services carried so many of the accounts within such a period of time that the country was stirred up to fever pitch.

Still, it would have died down in a few more days had not another event occurred: The Air Force sent their chief scientific consultant, Dr. J. Allen Hynek, to the scene, and gave him scarcely enough time to do a thorough investigation before scheduling a press conference for him. Pressed for an explanation of the Michigan sightings at the now-famous Detroit press conference, Hynek suggested marsh gas as a solution.

The first obvious purpose of Hynek’s visit, from the Air Force point of view, was to quiet the public clamor. In the past, similar tactics had often worked, and that sensational UFO cases had been squashed by prosaic explanations. But this time the tactic backfired. The press ignored the fact that Hynek had quite properly qualified his statement by saying that marsh gas was a possible answer. He had not made a categorical statement of any kind. But the public assumed that he had; and, since the ‘marsh gas’ had dived at a police car in at least one instance, and had been seen to have definite shape and structural details in other instances, the public howl grew louder than ever!

One direct result of the ‘marsh gas’ fiasco was a flood of mail by outraged citizens to their Congressmen, demanding to know what had really been seen in Michigan. This led to a few months later to the formation of the Condon Committee at the University of Colorado. There, a half million dollars of tax money and two years of scientific work were required to produce, finally, an official report that in essence merely reassured the public that there really isn’t anything to get excited about, after all, in regard UFO sightings in Michigan.

A second direct result was that saucers finally became ‘respectable.’ For many years, my Saucer News office had been listed in the New York City phone book with nary an inquiry from television or major newspapers. Suddenly, within a couple of days after the ‘marsh gas’ incidents began, I was called upon to do, radio and TV spot-news interviews for the major networks, since I was the nearest authority they could lay their hands on.

After so many years of quiet obscurity, an identified form in the Michigan sky had pushed me into the spotlight. Within a few weeks I was receiving thousands of letters from in-depth television interviews; I was suddenly invited to write books and even make phonograph records; I was signed by one of the country’s leading lecture bureaus to make UFO lectures at colleges and engineering societies all over the United States; and little Saucer News office, where I had always worked alone, became overflowing with secretarial help I had to hire to keep up with the routine work.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the attention. I fully realize that there was no connection whatsoever between solving the UFO enigma on one hand, and public interest in the UFOs on the other hand. Yet I was determined to take full advantage of my unexpected good fortune, and from that point onward I made the UFO research a full-time occupation.

It was not long afterwards the decided to culminate my newfound fame by sponsoring what would be the largest and most ambitious indoor flying saucer convention ever held— and the first ever to be held in cynical New York City. As a publicity angle, I chose the date June 24th, 1967, the exact twentieth anniversary of Kenneth Arnold sighting.

1967 NYC Convention

With the convention, I finally went to the full circle— from exposing the “contactees” as frauds in early issues of Saucer News to actually sponsoring them by paying their expenses to New York from various parts of the country. I did so quite frankly, not because of my renewed interest in their stories, But simply because I was quite correctly convinced that the only way to fill a huge convention hall was to give the public exactly what they wanted.

My philosophy paid off— not financially, as the expenses were so high that I barely broke even in spite of a full house. But the New York news media covered us fully, just as we had hoped; and a pre-convention press conference was attended by an impressive assortment of reporters including representatives of the largest magazines in the country.

What did it accomplish? Probably only add further confusion to an already confused subject. A good time was had by nearly all who attended, although I doubt that anyone really learned much, if anything. I myself self learned a lot about the do’s and don’ts of how to run a convention, but absolutely nothing new about flying saucers.

Since then, things have died down quite a bit. I continued to lecture around the country and sponsor saucer personalities (including “contactees”) as guest speakers at monthly lecture series in New York City. However, the nationwide rash of books, TV specials and magazine articles generated by the Michigan signings has finally run its course.

Gray Barker, center, purchased Saucer News

I sold Saucer News to another publisher near the height of its popularity, to give myself more time for lecturing and on-the-spot investigations of UFO cases. The lecture I give is always about the same — a summary of the history of UFO sightings throughout the ages. The questions that follow from the audience or almost the same everywhere, and the answers I give represent a calculated middle ground between skepticism on one hand and fanatical belief on the other.

As for the field investigations, I hardly expect to learn anything new from them, and we all know by now the physical, tangible proof of the existence of flying saucers is an endlessly elusive commodity. For whatever reason may be, flying saucers will, I believe, long continue to be just a bit too “real” to be dismissed is fiction, and too “unreal” to be provable.

So the research goes on. Some are in it mainly for the money, others because of the preconceived religious or philosophical notions they’re trying to expound. A few, like myself, maintain at least a semblance of objectivity and integrity.

Where will it all end? Unless the saucers treat us to a landing at Central Park in full view Of a assembled scientist and television cameras, we will have to wait till our own technology reaches the level of detailed exploration of the moon and nearby planets. Only then can we intelligently start to narrow down the list of possible points of origin. If it turns out that our entire solar system is devoid of alien space travelers, then we weirder explanations will have to be seriously considered. Perhaps the saucers come from another dimension, or from a source so complex as to be completely beyond our present level of understanding.

Whatever the answer  I still feel that this field is as intriguing as it is frustrating.

For me, as for the rest of the interested mankind, this is just the beginning of exploring and understanding the phenomena of the unknown.

. . .

Jim’s unfinished book was eventually used to form the early part of his flying saucer memoirs co-written by Karl Pflock, Shockingly Close to the Truth : Confessions of a Grave-Robbing Ufologist, published in 2002.

Jim Moseley, August 4, 1931 –  November 16, 2012

Grave Robbing for Fun and Profit

 In the 1950s I spent a lot of time treasure hunting in Peru, and was quite successful. – James W. Moseley

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Jim Moseley planned another volume of memoirs to follow Shockingly Close to the Truth: Confessions of a Grave-Robbing Ufologist ( James W. Moseley and Karl T. Pflock Jul 1, 2002). The title for the second book was to have been Grave Robbing for Fun and Profit, but sadly, Karl Pflock’s death thwarted those plans.

As much as Jim enjoyed the wild world of UFOs, his fondest memories were of his 1950s treasure hunting exploits in Peru. This article can in no way substitute for Jim’s unwritten memoir, but it helps point to places where more details can be found.


In SCTTT, Jim wrote, “I first met with Ken Krippene on October 5. We talked about possible future projects Krippene had in mind and how I might participate. I ended up signing a contract with him, under which he would take me on a Peruvian jungle expedition beginning in Feb. 1954.”
Krippene was also responsible for launching Jim more seriously in UFO research: he’d planned an exploitation book, which Jim was supposed to research, and Krippene would lend his more famous name to assure better sales. It fell through, but while working on it, Moseley met some very interesting people, and found himself deeply drawn into the topic.
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Ken Krippene
For the next several years, Moseley divided his time between the US,  Saucer News and Peru treasure hunts. Jim’s absences were a mystery to the flying saucer fans and Saucer News readers, and the subject of much speculation, and helped fuel fanciful rumors that he was a Jim was a saucer spy! Also, while in Peru, Jim found time for both some real saucer work and also some mischief, see The Case of the Smoking Saucer, and the hoaxed saucer landing site below.
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You can’t make this stuff up. Oh, wait…
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Some sample loot from one dig.
Over the years, Jim did write a bit about his South American adventures, and discussed them on some radio programs.
FATE Magazine – May 1957 “Curse Of The Quishuarani Treasure”, by James W. Moseley
Argosy June 1964, “Inca Treasure- by the Ton!” by James W. Moseley

In Ray Palmer’s Flying Saucers magazine,  Gray Barker had a column, Chasing the Flying Saucers.  In the May 1959 issue (page 19),  Barker relates an epic trip to New Jersey to meet with the whole Saucer News gang and its mysterious publisher, Jim Moseley.  Barker jazzed it up a bit, as he had already been good friends with Moseley for years. But it does give a bit of insight on how Jim’s travels were perceived by the saucer fiends at the time.  See the article at Scribd: Flying Saucers magazine May 1959

Rare Jim Moseley Recorded Interviews
On the Long John Nebel Show WOR radio from 1958 or so, Jim took a break from saucer talk to share details of his other career:

There’s a fair amount about his travels and excavations at Peru, including some discussion of the Nazca Lines.

Jim Moseley also spoke about his treasure hunting adventures in Peru in this rare interview with Bob Zanotti’s Coffee Klatch:

Jim Moseley on Coffee Klatch with Bob Zanotti 1963 (link to audio)

Life brings down the hammer

All good things must come to an end, and in pages 150 -152 of SCTTT, Jim tells of how a story in LIFE magazine brought the curtain down on his fun.

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Life Magazine June 1, 1959

Life Magazine, June 1, 1959 US edition Vol. 46, No. 22 (Life Magazine: June 15, 1959 Spanish edition)

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Gold in the Americas edited by Hélène Dionne page 191
(A similar mask)

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SCTTT, page 152That put Jim out of the tomb robbing and smuggling business, but freed up that energy for him to put into the study of flying saucers and the people who love them.


The Case of the Smoking Saucer

by Curt Collins, © 2014

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Peru: May 1954
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James W. Moseley, circa 1954

Jim Moseley’s early flying saucer days were interrupted by frequent visits to Peru for treasure hunting, or vice versa. During a trip there in May 1954, Jim met a man, Pedro Bardi Zeña, who had  a dramatic story and a unique photograph of a flying saucer. Bardi told him of a UFO that left a distinctive trail of vapor or smoke as it streaked across the jungle sky.

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Flying Saucer, Madre de Dios section of Peru

Jim’s original report:

Jim Moseley’s original file, from an unpublished manuscript.

The story and photo was first published in the US in the April 1955 issue of Saucer News  (then known as Nexus).

NEXUS, later retitled Saucer News.
NICAP takes a look
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NICAP’s UFO Investigator, Vol.1 #2, Aug/Sept.1957

NICAP (the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena), while reporting on a similar UFO report, checked with Jim on the Peru photo and the details behind it:

“Smoke Trailing Disc Reported Over New Zealand Similar to 1952 Peru Case”

NICAP believes members may be interested in the accompanying picture supposed to have been made of a smoke-trailing object over Peru in 1952. The photograph and extracts from the sighting report are reproduced with the kind permission of James Moseley, editor of SAUCER NEWS.

In a letter dated August 10, 1957, Mr. Moseley gave NICAP the following account of the incident:

“In Lima I met Señor Pedro Bardi, who is an agricultural engineer. On July 19, 1952, while on a farm in the Madre de Dios section of Peru, he and others saw a saucer. It was about 4:30 p.m. and they were talking to Lima by radio.

“Suddenly, according to Bardi, the radio went dead. They looked out the window and saw a round object going by at high speed. (The witnesses included Pedro Arellano, owner of the farm.) The object such had passed; it was at an estimated 100 meters altitude and was a little smaller than a DC-3, according to Bardi. It made a buzzing sound as it went by.”

The object’s speed, Moseley explains, was determined by a report that it was seen four minutes later near Porto Maldonado, 120 kilometers distant. This speed was computed at 1117 miles per hour.

The photograph was secured from a customs administrator named Domlngo Troncosco, who said he had taken it as the object flew near the port. Though the photo shows a cigar-shaped object instead of the round shape Bardi described, this could possibly have been due to an elongated effect caused by speed.

“It seems obvious to me,” Moseley told NICAP, “that the photo is genuine. Incidentally, I (strongly doubt) if this particular saucer was anything but earth-made.”

Though NICAP has no reason to doubt the picture’s authenticity, we are unable to make an accurate analysis without the negative. NICAP’s UFO Investigator, Vol.1 #2, Aug/Sept.1957

Project Blue Book

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What Jim and NICAP did not know, was that Project Blue Book already had a file on this case. Jim accurately repeated information given to him, but some details he had were inaccurate. There was a newspaper story on it, and even some degree of official investigation.

The photo was not from 1952, but taken in July 1951. The  report by Col. McHenry Hamilton Jr., states that the Peruvian Air Force mentions a total of three photographs, supposedly taken by different individuals, and that it was their opinion that it was hoaxed with “a fairly clever attempt at trick photography” for “commercial reasons.”

That’s very interesting for several reasons, but chiefly for the mention of additional photos, which have not been seen since.

Page 3
Report by Col. McHenry Hamilton, Jr. See link below for full file.

Project Blue Book case file on Peru UFO, July 19, 1951

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El Comercio (Lima), August 15, 1951. as reproduced in Project Blue Book
A Hoax?

Did Jim get conned? Bardi had heard of Jim’s interest in flying saucers, which is the reason he sought him out and brought the story and photograph to him. Jim was given no reason to doubt Bard, the picture, or the details of the story. He went on to present the material just as he’d received it, and few have ever given serious question to the authenticity of the photo itself.

The Legacy

The biggest exposure the photo received was in the Flying Saucers Look Magazine Special, 1967. The full page photo appeared with only a brief caption in tiny print, where it credits Saucer News for the picture. This magazine was a mainstream publication that reached millions of readers.

Flying Saucers Look Magazine Special, 1967

The picture has continued to receive exposure world-wide, frequently reprinted, often  without attribution, and in a cropped form. It’s been seen in countless UFO books, publications, websites and documentaries.

The story picked up some twists over the years. The smoky trail behind the UFO had evolved into something more exotic. In an Open Minds article by Antonio Huneeus, Jim was disturbed to find references to “angel hair,” the silky ephemeral substance that was once associated with flying saucers. Jim wrote me, “The photo with commentary, is in the December – January 2012 Open Minds. In all these years, I have not heard of any other source of info on this photo except me. Yet their commentary contains additional material that I am quite sure is false!”

It was this “angel hair” article that prompted Jim to ask me if I could track down additional information on the photo. The report I prepared for him ultimately became the foundation for this article.

A Sour Note

Jim was insulted in 2012, when Michael Swords, in  trying to sort out the photo’s history,  questioned its authenticity due to Jim’s reputation as a prankster over the years:


This picture seems to have reached the American public via James Moseley. That fact is almost enough to make you quit bothering right there. Moseley, however, nice a guy he may or may not be, has spent a life fouling the waters of UFOlogy with hoaxes, misrepresentations, rumors, misplaced “humor” … it has been an almost wholly unhelpful “career” to the field.

Apparently, Swords’ prejudice against Jim prevented him from making any attempt to contact Jim to find out more about the photo. Jim considered responding to Swords’ sore-headed misrepresentations and rumors, but decided to quit bothering right there.

The Smoking Saucer Flies On

“My picture,” is what Jim called the Peru saucer photograph, and he was proud to have introduced it to flying saucer study. He always thought the photo was genuine, but that it was likely just pictured an aircraft of earthly origin.

I think Jim would have been happy to know that there’s still interest in the photo, and that more information on it is coming to light.

– – –
Chronology of Publications and Examinations

Special thanks to Vicente-Juan Ballester Olmos for the information on which this list is based.

Wendelle Stevens & August Roberts, UFO Photographs Around the World, Vol 2, 1985, p 135.

El Comercio (Lima), August 15, 1951.

Project Blue Book,, and

James W. Moseley, unpublished manuscript, page 124

Nexus, April 1955, cover. (Saucer News,) 1st US publication, includes Moseley’s desc.

The UFO Investigator, Vol I, No 2, August-September 1957, pp 12-13, quoting James Moseley letter to NICAP, August 10, 1957.

Jimmy Guieu, Black out sur les soucoupes volantes, Fleuve Noir, 1956, plate 10.

Richard Hall, The UFO Evidence, NICAP, 1964, p 88.

Recap of NICAP article- brief listing.

Epoca (Milano), September 4, 1966, pp 32-33.

Flying Saucers Look Magazine Special, 1967. Photo only, no details, credits Saucer News.

Max B. Miller (ed), Flying Saucers Pictorial, Arizill, 1967, p 55.

L. Kettlecamp, Investigating UFOs, Ronald Stacy, 1972, p 49.

Guillermo Roncoroni & Gustavo Alvarez, Los OVNI y la evidencia fotográfica, Cielosur, 1978, p 207.

Wendelle Stevens & August Roberts, UFO Photographs Around the World, Vol 2, 1985, p 135.

Loren Gross, UFOs: A History. 1951, 1983, p 35; and UFOs: A History.

1952  June-July 20th. Supplemental Notes, 2001, pp 54-55.

Giuseppe Stilo, Ultimatum alla Terra, UPIAR, 2002, pp 487-488, quoting Gazetta di Parma, July 6, 1952.

Michael Hesemann, UFOs. Besucher aus dem Weltall, Könemann, 2001, p 45.

James Moseley & Karl T. Pflock, Shockingly Close to the Truth!, Prometheus, 2002, pp 140-142.

Larry Robinson (2002). Dismisses as hoax: “Montage: Toy balloon, cotton, scene.”

Temporal doorway site by Mark Cashman circa 2004 

Kentaro Mori, Ceticismo Aberto, “Puerto Maldonado,” 2009   Includes comparison to “roll cloud”

Angels’ Hair Reports Index Page July 19, 1951. Puerto Maldonado, Peru

Open Minds Magazine article by Antonio Huneeus Dec-Jan, 2012

James W. Moseley, Saucer Smear, 444, September 15, 2011, p 8. (Presents Moseley’s manuscript notes with additional comments. )

Michael Swords, Can we learn anything from UFO Photos?

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

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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.

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
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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
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.”

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.”

YouTube: 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.

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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:

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.

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December 1976 UFO Report

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

YouTube: 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

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.

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.

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:”

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.

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.

[sz-youtube url=”″ caption=”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.”

Saucer News presents: the George Adamski Exposé

George Adamski presents Orthon’s vehicle from Venus

Moseley is best known as the editor of Saucer News and its successor Saucer Smear, the former a magazine, the latter a newsletter, specializing in controversy, gossip, and even— once in a while— serious investigation. Together the two periodicals comprise an invaluable record of an evolving social movement based on beliefs about UFOs and flying saucers.

Jerome Clark, The UFO Encyclopedia Vol. 2, 254-255

Jim Moseley got started in the UFO business with the intent to co-author a book with Ken Krippine. Jim had invested much time and effort and had travelled cross country meeting prominent UFO figures. The plan was for Jim to do all the work and put Krippine’s name on it, but things fell through.  Jim’s interest in the flying saucer field deepened during his research and he met many new friends, but he also came to a realization.

Serious is boring.

“In short, I had discovered I wasn’t cut out to be a Serious Ufologist, unless of course one was to count the work I did exposing Adamski and, as time went on, certain other fakers and frauds.”

Shockingly Close to the Truth! page 119


George Adamski, on top of the world!

George Adamski became a major flying saucer celebrity after the release of his 1953 book, Flying Saucers Have Landed, where he told the story of encountering and communicating with Orthon, the pilot of a landed extraterrestrial spaceship. Better still, he had an abundance of evidence: multiple witnesses, physical traces and photographs! He later took movies of the saucer and continued to have contact and adventures with the visitors from space and share their message of peace and love with the people of Earth. 

Not everyone swallowed the stories. Upstart flying saucer magazine publisher James W. Moseley had interviewed Adamski in 1953, and while he found the “Professor” interesting and charismatic, had not been convinced.   He published critical articles in  Saucer News, and in  Oct. 1957 published a “Special Adamski Expose Issue” that collected articles by Moseley, Irma Baker and Lonzo Dove. It included correspondence with some of Adamski’s supporting witnesses, who admitted that Adamski’s story and photographs were untrue.

Link to the historic October 1957 Special Adamski Exposé” Issue of Saucer News

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Saucer News Oct. 1957, the  George Adamski exposé issue.

Jerome Clark again on Moseley’s work on the Adamski case:

“But the first serious investigation by a critic of Adamski’s claims was conducted by James W. Moseley in the mid- 1950s and published as a special issue of his magazine Saucer News (Moseley, 1957). Moseley found that the “witnesses” to the first contact were close associates and that, moreover, at least one, Alfred Bailey, had retracted his testimony, saying he had seen neither spaceship nor spaceman and doubted any of the others had either. Jerrold Baker, a young man who had lived at Palomar Gardens between November 1952 and January 1953, told Moseley he had heard a tape recording of “what was to transpire in the desert, who was to go, etc., several days before the party left Palomar Gardens” for the celebrated contact.”

“Moseley’s debunking of Adamski’s claims remains the definitive one, but in subsequent years further negative evidence would come to light.”

Jerome Clark, The UFO Encyclopedia Vol. 2, page 6


Still, Adamski had his followers and many of them chose to ignore the data that disproved their beliefs. A letter of support arrived just in time from an unlikely source. See: The Straith Letter Saga: George Adamski, R.E. Straith and the Seven Letters of Mischief

NOTE: A special thanks goes to Lance Moody for providing the copy of the original Saucer News issue.

Strangers From Space!

In preparation for the big June 1967 NYC convention, James Moseley arranged to have some merchandise there. One was Jim Moseley’s Book of Saucer News, a collection of  fine articles from his magazine, and the other was a LP record album, Strangers From Space, featuring UFO discussions between Jim and radio talk show host Long John Nebel.

Somehow, Nebel wound up receiving sole billing on the record, and also was the key focus on the article in Flying Saucers and UFOs 1968, which was essentialy a big ad for the record and convention.









Click to enlarge


Strangers From Space! The Incredible Flying Saucer Mystery


The record is hard to find, but pirate copies can be found on   amazon and at the UFO store.


Thanks to Randel Smith for the magazine scans!