Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Blast From The Past, Vol. 1 - The Saturday Review and Behind the Flying Saucers

There were a number of reviews for Frank Scully's Behind the Flying Saucers written in 1950; none, that I've been able to find, from any major news or literary publication, which were favourable.

My favourite was written by Roland Gelatt, and appeared in 23 September 1950 issue of The Saturday Review (pp. 20-21, 36). Here are some choice excerpts:

"Before going any further we should make it clear that Behind the Flying Saucers in and of itself isn't worth much fuss. But as a representative of a growing and singularly unfortunate reversion to medieval processes of thought this repetitious and sloppily assembled volume has considerable significance...

The gist of Frank Scully's information emanates from a supposedly eminent geophysicist, whom he never identifies, and from Silas M. Newton, described in the book as 'one of the great geophysicists of the oil industry,' who has 'made and spent millions...' Our curiousity peaked about Silas Newton, we checked with the American Petroleum Institute and learned that he is neither a member of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists nor of the Geological Society of America. According to our informant, Newton is not the figure in the oil industry that Scully would have us believe....

Despite the unprecedented shroud of secrecy enveloping these discoveries 'Dr. Gee' was allowed to take home souvenirs from the flying saucers. Replying to our request for pictorial evidence, Scully told SRL that 'no photographs of parts will be available to anybody under present tensions.' What a strange paradox! Evidently 'present tensions' allow the publication of a report that the earth is being explored by visitors from other planets but will not allow presentation of corroborating evidence...

The souvenirs included... a radio the size of a pack of cigarettes that had no tubes, no wires, and only one dial. 'Dr. Gee built a special antenna for it, about four inches high, and was able to catch a high C sort of note at fifteen minutes past every hour.' This radio bears examination... observe that it is heard fifteen minutes past every hour. Presumably the radio is tuned to Venus or some other body out in space. But earlier in the book we were told that the flying-saucer people operated on magnetic time, which is slower than earth time. It is odd, then, that this sound should be heard regularly at a quarter past the hour on our clock. A disturbing inconsistency - and aggravated at the end of the book when we discover that the radio has shrunk to 'one-inch square' and that it is used as a 'magnetic radio telephone' by 'Dr. Gee' and Mr. Newton, which implies that a microphone, not previously mentioned, exists. Contradictions of this order abound throughout Behind the Flying Saucers; to chronicle them all would be both tedious and pointless...

No one questions the fact that Frank Scully is entitled to his opinions. The trouble, however, is that he offers considerably more than opinion. If this book appeared as science-fiction, even if it appeared as speculative conjecture, there would be slim cause for objection. But Scully claims to present fact; he wants to set himself up as the supreme authority, to put all snipers out of court. SRL does not take the position that flying saucers are a myth. There have been enough descriptions from such steady observers as airline pilots to put us on our guard... We are prepared to admit that where there is smoke there may be flying saucers. What we take exception to is the irresponsibility of palming off random speculation as fact. What we deplore is the studied exploitation, a la Velikovsky, of a current hankering for superstition. To give substance to our disaproval we shall offer a reward. To the first man from another planet who walks into this office, with or without Frank Scully, SRL will present $100,000."

Fifty-five years ago there were people who saw Scully (who is described by today's Aztec proponents as the "Dan Rather of his day"), and his ridiculous book, for what they were. And yet, all these years later, there are still people (a small group, to be certain) who still don't get it, and who still claim that Scully was right.

And some folks wonder why I call the Aztec case "Ufology's Dracula?"

Paul Kimball


RRRGroup said...


Roland Gelatt (Look) wasn't a disinformation agent for the government, was he?

I'm almost kidding.

And the inconsistencies in Scully's book are damning all by themselves.

You've done your part in defrocking Scully's tale of any credibility, so why do the proponents of it persist?

That's more mysterious than UFOs.

Rich Reynolds

Paul Kimball said...


It does boggle the mind, doesn't it? Then again, there are still people out there who believe that Alternative 3 was real, or that the Holocaust didn't happen (there's a wonderful documentary by Errol Morris called "Dr. Death" that shows one of these latter types, Fred Leuchter, by no means an idiot), and so on.

It must be the water they're drinking!