Saturday, March 05, 2005

The Aztec Incident & The Mysterious Dr. Gee

The Aztec UFO case has been resurrected in the past few years, largely due to the very extensive work of researcher Scott Ramsey. I played a small part with my 2004 film Aztec 1948, the first documentary about the Aztec case. I also spoke about the Aztec case at the 2004 Crash Retrieval Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. In both the film and the lecture, I took no position, one way or another, as to whether the alleged Aztec incident was real, or a hoax perpetrated by con men Silas Newton and Leo Gebauer. I simply maintained that it deserved a second look, particularly in light of Scott's efforts.

Part of giving the case that "second look" is to re-examine the role of Silas Newton and Leo Gebauer. Were they really just a couple of con-men on the make, or is there more to them, as the proponents of Aztec suggest, than meets the eye? I will focus first on Leo Gebauer, Newton’s partner in crime, who was identified in J.P. Cahn’s 1952 True Magazine article as the "Dr. Gee" cited by Scully as his primary source for the details of the Aztec incident. The key question is whether or not "Dr. Gee" really was Leo Gebauer. If he is, then the whole story - at least as told by Frank Scully and found in Behind the Flying Saucers - falls apart from the inside, because, while Leo Gebauer was many things, including a convicted con-man, a fascist sympathizer, an anglophobe, perhaps a participant in the white slave trade, and a man who went by many different aliases, he was certainly no super-scientist.

When Cahn interviewed Scully for his article, he asked Scully to reveal the identity of "Dr. Gee." Scully declined. According to Cahn, Scully stoutly maintained that "he was pledged to secrecy… [and that] he had promised Dr. Gee not to reveal any more of the story than he had set down in his book, and by God, he wasn’t going to break that promise. If the government cracked down on Gee, it wasn’t going to be Scully’s fault." Eminently noble, but was it accurate?

Cahn claimed that Scully eventually admitted to him that Gebauer was "Gee," after Cahn had figured it out for himself:

"Scully promised if I could prove to him that I knew who Dr. Gee was, he would admit the identification was correct. .. I told Scully the Phoenix address I had for Gebauer. "You’ve got the man, all right," Scully said. "Gebauer, isn’t it?" I asked. "Yes, Dr. Gebauer," he said. I couldn’t have felt better if I had pulled off a merger between Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward.

According to Cahn, Scully agreed that Cahn would approach Gebauer, and if Gebauer refused to admit being Dr. Gee, and would assert his denial in writing, then Scully would "join forces with me and find out what Newton, who was plainly the moving spirit behind the little men story, was really up to."

Cahn got his written statement from Gebauer. It read:

To whom it may concern: I have been asked by J. P. Cahn of the San Francisco Chronicle if I were the Dr. Gee in Scully’s book. I am making this statement to all concerned: I am not the Dr. Gee mentioned in the book Behind the Flying Saucer [sic]. I have no knowledge of the flying saucer other than what I have read...

But Gebauer did not stop there:

I have in no way any connection with Frank Scully, his books or statements, nor did I at any time give Frank Scully authority to infer that I might be Dr. Gee. (signed) L. A. Gebauer

The claim that Gebauer did not have any connection to Frank Scully was patently false. It was readily apparent to Cahn, as well, who returned to Scully with the written statement. According to Cahn, Scully at this point reneged on his commitment:

First I called him on the telephone and told him what had happened. Scully wouldn’t even listen to me. I had the Gebauer statement photostated and I mailed him a copy by registered mail. His only reply to that was a violent letter and a phone call that should have short-circuited the entire Bell system. Scully maintained that I was persecuting him, just as everyone else connected with the saucer story was being persecuted, and that he would probably sue someone. To date no one has showed up to serve any papers.

Corroborating evidence that Dr. Gee and Gebauer were one and the same came from other sources. Researcher William Moore, for example, interviewed Gebauer’s widow in 1985. According to Moore, she told him the term "Dr. Gee" had been bestowed upon Gebauer as a sort of friendly nickname by the owner of a trucking firm who had gotten to know him well.

Is there other evidence, however, that does not depend on either Cahn or Gebauer’s widow that shows Gebauer and Gee were the same person?

Yes, despite the fact that Scully went to his grave maintaining that "Dr. Gee" was not Gebauer, but in fact a composite of eight different scientists, and that he had simply created the moniker "Dr. Gee" to protect their identities. These scientists had supposedly divulged various details of the Aztec incident to Newton and Gebauer, who in turn had divulged the details to Scully.

The problem with this hypothesis is that is inconsistent with the original account presented by Scully in Behind the Flying Saucers, where it is very clear that he is referring to a single person when he talks of Dr. Gee. Nowhere in the book does Scully refer to Gee as a composite of eight scientists. Instead, he writes, "In the summer of 1949 [Newton] met Dr. Gee, " who Scully identifies specifically as "a magnetic engineer who had been released in July after seven years of government servitude on all sorts of top-drawer projects." Later, he recounts how he, Newton, Gee (whom Scully refers to as "the geophysicist who was the top man in magnetic research", clearly referring to Gee), and Hollywood cameraman Peverly Marley made a specific trip into the Mojave on 8 September, 1949. "Marley and the magnetic scientist," wrote Scully, "sat in the back; Newton and I in the front." Where did Dr. Gee hail from? As Cahn correctly noted, Phoenix, Arizona, a specific reference made by Scully to the residence of a specific person.

In another reference to Dr. Gee, Scully notes, "Si Newton... was closest to Dr. Gee... since he was both a partner in geophysical research and independent of any Pentagonic ties, past or present." Again, a reference to an individual, not a group of eight scientists. This time, however, there is also the specific reference to the fact that Newton and Dr. Gee were partners in "geophysical research," which, of course, was the case with Newton and GeBauer, at least as far as the central story behind their con game was concerned.

Further, there is the article Scully wrote for Pageant in February, 1951, a full year after his book had been published. With controversy already beginning to swirl as to the identity of Dr. Gee, Scully wrote:

"Several letter-writers were sure they knew who Dr. Gee was. I, alas, have yet to name mine. As I told John K. Hutchens of the New York Herald Tribune, Dr. Gee isn’t a secret to the Air Force. Let them come out and name him. I know they know who he is and they know I know!"

Nowhere in the book, or this follow-up article, is there any reference to "Gee" as a pseudonym for eight scientists. It is telling, too, that in his press release issued immediately after he received an advanced copy of Cahn’s True Magazine article which clearly identified GeBauer as Dr. Gee, Scully made no attempt to deny the charge. Indeed, he made no reference to the allegations at all. Further, for those who subscribe, against all logic, to the "eight scientists" explanation, it is worth asking: if the Air Force already knew who "Dr. Gee" was, as Scully now claimed, what need was there to protect the "eight scientists" further?

The whole matter becomes obvious when one reads Behind the Flying Saucers carefully. There is indeed a reference to eight scientists as being the leaders of the recovery group at Aztec:

"When [The Air Force] found [the flying saucer], it was in a very rocky, high plateau territory, east of Aztec, New Mexico. They immediately threw a guard around it. Then Dr. Gee and seven of his group of magnetic scientists were called in to examine this strange ship." [Emphasis added]

The problem for the proponents of the Aztec case comes from the fact that "Dr. Gee" was clearly distinguished as one of eight, a critical distinction that they seem to have overlooked.

In fact, the first public reference to the Gee being a pseudonym for "eight scientists" by Scully seems to have come over a decade later, in 1963 with the publication of his autobiography, In Armour Bright. "Dr. Gee is a composite character of eight men who have given me pieces of this story," wrote Scully in 1963, although he claims then that this was in response to a Warners representative who wanted to buy the rights to the story back in the early 1950s. Scully had made this claim in private to a number of people, including UFO researcher James Moseley in December, 1953, but not in public, even though his reputation and credibility as a journalist was being attacked, and even though he stated publicly that the Air Force already knew who the scientists were.

With all the opprobrium that had been heaped on Scully, Newton and Gebauer in the intervening months since the True Magazine article had been published, why not make this claim public, in their defense, either then, or earlier with his press release?

Instead, Scully went after Cahn and True Magazine. In a withering rebuttal to Cahn’s first article, Scully issued a press release in July, 1952, in which he referred to Cahn as an "unemployed San Francisco newspaperman" who had embarked on an "unholy crusade" to discredit Scully and Behind the Flying Saucers. According to Scully, Cahn had approached him and said "he could get back on his old paper [San Francisco Chronicle] if I approved of him as a liaison and would give his paper whatever new material we dug up on flying saucers." When Scully refused, explaining to Cahn that he had "exhausted the subject of flying saucers for the time being, and in any case the subject had exhausted me," Cahn quickly moved to Silas Newton. After uncovering the con aspect of Newton’s story, Cahn returned to Scully and allegedly offered him $25,000 if he would write an "I have been duped" story. Scully replied, "I told him I would write it for nothing if it were true, and money couldn’t buy it if it wasn’t."

Scully was fighting back, but with character assassination and ad hominem attacks instead of evidence, accusing Cahn of being an unscrupulous reporter on the make, trying to latch on to the undisputed success of Behind the Flying Saucers and, when Scully would not play ball, of working to discredit the story.

Who to believe?

As it turns out, Scully was correct, in one respect at least. Cahn was a reporter eager to get his hands on a flying saucer story. In March, 1951, he wrote to New Mexico newspaperman Lincoln O’Brien about the Farmington Armada (more on that later). "As I told you on the phone," Cahn stated, "we are interested in any recurrence of the saucer phenomena that can be documented by a reliable newsgathering [sic] organization such as your own." Further, in April 1951, a United States Air Force memo recorded that Cahn had approached Harry Kimball, the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s San Francisco field office, inquiring about a man who claimed to have information about flying saucers.

However, rather than paint Cahn in a poor light, this merely shows him to be an enterprising reporter, in search of a good story. It hardly adds credence to Scully’s attacks on his character, which simply do not ring true once one takes a closer look at Cahn’s life and work.Cahn had a distinguished career as a reporter and author (including the television series Alfred Hitchcock Presents). He was a war veteran. He also had a strong social conscience, at least judging by the subjects he tackled. In 1948, only three years removed from the Second World War, and long before it became politically correct to do so, Cahn wrote a stinging, four thousand word piece called "What Made Kato Fight?" in which he questioned the morality of a nation that on the one hand had incarcerated its Japanese citizens during the war, while on the other hand had sent Japanese Americans, in this case Joe Kato, off to get killed in the war against Germany. Kato, Cahn wrote with passion, "like some 33,000 other Japanese American soldiers, indulged in the remarkable inconsistency of defending a country that had, among other indignities, clapped his friends and family behind bars in flagrant disregard of the very Constitution he was fighting to uphold." He died, wrote Cahn, for a country "that openly singled out his people for discrimination yet greedily accepted the economic benefits of their skill, thrift and industry." At the time, it took some pretty strong intestinal fortitude to take a stance like this. It speaks well of Cahn’s character and objectivity that he did.

Far from being an "unemployed newspaperman" desperate to get back in with the San Francisco Chronicle, the editors of the paper thought so much of the story’s promise that they gave him three years to get to the bottom of it. Indeed, decades later, the paper still took pride in Cahn’s work, noting after his death in 2004 that the investigation was highlighted by "a sleight of hand rarely seen in modern journalism," namely Cahn’s clever ploy of making some fake discs, meeting with Newton, asking to examine one of Newton’s discs, and then switching them without Newton’s knowledge so that the discs could be tested independently. They were, and proved to be made of normal, terrestrial materials. Again, an enterprising reporter, determined to get at the truth of the story, is revealed.

Scully also accused the publisher of True Magazine of being a "Pentagonian stooge," a charge that does not ring any truer than the attacks on Cahn when one considers that True, in the same year it published Cahn’s article, also published an article by Major Donald Keyhoe, and in 1950 had published one by Commander Robert McLaughlin of the US Navy, which both accepted that flying saucers were real and extra-terrestrial, hardly a conclusion that would please the Pentagon, if it was indeed involved in a cover-up.

Unfortunately for the proponents of the Aztec case, all of this seems to indicate more about Scully’s credibility than that of J. P. Cahn or True Magazine. Why would Scully take this tack, rather than reveal what was purportedly the truth about Dr. Gee, namely that he was these "eight scientists"?

The answer seems simple. If Scully had made the claim that Dr. Gee was a composite of eight scientists - indeed, if he had claimed that Dr. Gee was anything other than an individual - anytime soon after Behind the Flying Saucers had been published and was still fresh in the public’s mind, it would have been easily exposed as contradictory to what he had written in the book. Ten years later, however, how many people would make the connection to this one critical reference to "Gee plus seven"? How many people would even bother to look?

Those who claim that Gee was not Gebauer bring up the fact that about half of Gebauer’s large FBI file is still classified, some of it on the grounds of national defense. Would a con man, they ask – no matter how sophisticated – have an FBI file that is almost four hundred pages in length? As author Nick Redfern noted in Aztec 1948, there is no doubt that Gebauer was engaged in some "questionable" activities, but these activities – whether they were cons run with Newton, or anti-American, pro-Hitler statements made in the early 1940s - hardly seem to warrant the continued classification of significant parts of his file, decades later, on the grounds of national security. In Redfern’s opinion, "It’s a big leap for someone to be a con artist, then to find the FBI considers them a threat to national security. So, this begs the question - do the withheld documents contain far more on the Aztec case than has been published and put into the public domain by the FBI?"

Even Karl Pflock, who has consistently argued that the Aztec incident was just a hoax, admitted that "it’s possible there’s something in there that would bear on [the Aztec story], and give us some answers, and maybe they would prefer, for reasons which may or may not be legitimate, to keep that quiet."

Still, none of this has any bearing on the question of whether GeBauer was Gee. The truth is, we do not know what is in the unreleased portions of Gebauer’s FBI file. It could be about some elements of the Aztec case, or it could be about something else, probably - given Gebauer’s shady past - something which is totally unrelated to Aztec. Any conclusion which goes beyond this is speculative at best. It certainly does not counter the central point that Gebauer and Gee were one in the same. In fact, it is just as likely that the documents support this conclusion than rebut it.

There is an FBI connection, however, that does provide further compelling evidence that GeBauer and Gee were one in the same, and that the whole flying saucer story was just a con cooked up by Gebauer and Newton. In November, 1949, actor Bruce Cabot, perhaps best known for being a close pal of John Wayne, called the FBI District Office in Los Angeles (who passed the information along to the Air Force Office of Special Investigation later that month) to report a strange conversation he had overheard from a man who he met while golfing. This new acquaintance of Cabot’s - name withheld, but undoubtedly Silas Newton - purported to be in the oil business, and had claimed to be in possession of a magnetic radio which had come from a flying disc that had crashed in New Mexico. Further, he claimed that he and an unnamed scientist (unquestionably GeBauer) were using the radio as a "doodle-bug" to find oil deposits in the ground, that several of the flying discs had recently crashed in New Mexico, Arizona and Maine, that the discs had contained men and that he had bits of cloth at home from the clothing of these men. Again, we have Newton and a single "scientist" of his acquaintance, not eight, spinning a con story about crashed flying saucers.

As it turns out, Scully was right about one thing - the Air Force did indeed know who Dr. Gee really was, as early as January 1950. This is revealed in another Air Force Office of Special Investigation memo dated 23 January, 1950, which goes into some detail about the various flying saucer stories circulating in the southwest at the time, and traces them all back to a "Dr. [Name Withheld]" of Phoenix, Arizona. The mysterious "Doctor" was unquestionably GeBauer. What is the most interesting part of this memo is the fact that, besides GeBauer, one of the informants, Morley Davies, claimed that he had been told there were "four" other unnamed scientists (not eight) mentioned who were also sources of information. Davies, like the memo’s other informants, Jack Murphy and L. J.Van Horn, had heard the story from Denver radio man George Koehler, who in turn had heard it from his pal Silas Newton (it was Koehler who set up Newton’s University of Denver lecture). Newton and GeBauer had clearly refined their story since Newton’s golf game with Cabot two months earlier.

If there were indeed these eight scientists (or four - it is interesting to note that it seems to have changed over time, and with each re-telling), and Newton, GeBauer and Scully knew that their pals had told the AFOSI about them, as they certainly would have (as is clear from Scully’s Pageant article) why the need to maintain publicly that "Dr. Gee" was one person? Why not just come out and say, "hey, he’s an amalgam of (pick a number) scientists, and the Air Force knows it?"

G. E. Hutchinson got it right at the time in his review of Behind the Flying Saucers. "The supposed need for anonymity is entirely specious," he wrote. "The principal person so protected, if he had been guilty of official impropriety, would have been immediately identifiable to those authorities whose duty it would be to take action against him; he would probably be identifiable to any person with access to a large reference library and with sufficient time and patience." In short, concluded Hutchinson, "he is merely protected from the casual reader."

Finally, Scully himself admitted, publicly, that Gee was Gebauer, although this was not his intent. In his 1952 press release responding to the original True Magazine article, Scully stated that the article attempts to discredit Behind the Flying Saucers by:

"belittling the private character and professional standing of two of the hundreds of authorities I cited in the book" [Emphasis added].

Leave aside for the moment the fact that Scully did not cite "hundreds of authorities in the book. Clearly, Scully is referring to Newton and Gebauer, who were the two men that the article focused upon. But - and this is the critical point - Scully himself pointed out in his later rebuttal to James Moseley that Gebauer is not mentioned in Behind the Flying Saucers by name. If Gebauer was a source cited in the book, as Scully stated, it could only be as Dr. Gee.

But, one might reasonably ask, if Gebauer was "Dr. Gee" - the only conclusion that makes any sense, given the totality of the evidence - and there were no "eight scientists," with the undeniable con aspect of the story long since exposed by Cahn, why would they continue to play the game, particularly Scully, who had absolutely nothing to gain from it?

A combination of embarrassment and pride?

Perhaps. After all, Scully wouldn’t have been the first person in human history to deny making a mistake, to avoid confronting the truth. No one likes to admit they were duped.

There is another factor, one that is immediately apparent to a lawyer. Faced with the knowledge that Gebauer and Newton had pulled a fast one, not only on him, but on a lot of other people as well, and that some of those other people had given a great deal of money to the two con men based on their tales, which Scully had repeated both in private and then in public on a massive scale with the publication of his book, Scully might have decided that, in order to avoid being implicated in any fraud, it would be better to continue insisting that Gee and Gebauer were different people. Considering that Newton and Gebauer were convicted of fraud shortly thereafter, this would have been a sensible precaution to take on Scully’s part.

There is also the possibility that Scully believed the greater good demanded the continued defense of the Aztec story, which was, after all, only part of Behind the Flying Saucers. Perhaps, confronted with the reality that he had been duped by Newton and Gebauer, Scully decided to tough it out, in the belief that other information contained in the book (such as the Thomas Mantell incident, which a great many people - including Donald Keyhoe and Wilbert Smith - believed at the time to be the result of a confrontation with an alien spacecraft), which was not dependent upon them, was still valid, and that to admit the majority of the book was based on fraudulent testimony would destroy the credibility of this other information.

Scully may also have truly believed that he, Newton and Gebauer were the subject of a massive campaign by the government (the "Pentagonians" in Scully-speak) to prevent the truth from getting out. In other words, he may have still believed, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that Newton and Gebauer had been straight with him. Like Wilbert Smith, he may have been blinded by what Karl Pflock has termed, in reference to another famous crash retrieval case, "inconvenient facts and the will to believe."Or he may have been in on the con from the beginning, the pay-off for Scully being the money made off of book sales.

Perhaps he did have "something to gain" after all.

A closer look at Frank Scully may provide some clues...

Paul Kimball


RRRGroup said...


This Aztec "report" is a primary example of excellent reportage.

And as watchers of media for over 15 years, I can say that.

We may not seem UFO credentialed by some in the "flying saucer" community but we do know what is good and what is not good in media, and your Aztec material is primo journalism.

Rich Reynolds (and the RRRgroup)

Paul Kimball said...


Much obliged.

What exactly are UFO credentials, anyway :)?


RRRGroup said...


UFO credentials are given by those who maintain they're the elite in "ufology."

One has to show these credentials at the door of conventions and other UFO meetings in order to get in (and get some paté for lunch).


Anonymous said...

Check out The Farmington Armada, an evening of plays and monologues based on the 1950 newspaper article.

Originally performed in Aztec, New Mexico in 2001.

Andy said...

As a UFO "witness" (1952) I follow the subject with great interest. For those of us who KNOW we have seen alien craft in our skies, we can get so desperate to find proof of what we know that we may be inclined to grasp at any story which may vindicate us. For after all no-one cares to believe us unless we can produce that elusive physical evidence. I am not a "believer"... I know what I have seen. These sightings are devastating to one's belief system. They change us forever. None of us know what they are here for, except perhaps, the Pentagon spooks, who I believe have known since the late '40s. Whether or not an Aztec crash, or a Roswell or a Corona crash ever occurred, these craft are as real as an Abrams Tank. I believe there is a real story buried deep in Scully's book, beneath the endless efforts to prove or disprove every detail; and that is, in the late '40s one or more alien craft landed in some remote area of the Southwest, that the military arrived soon afterward, cleared the area, gathered up everything, took it "underground," and all that remains are rumors, disinformation and vague memories. Scully et al. may have got the exact details wrong, but they got the essence right.