Thursday, April 14, 2005

Blast From The Past, Vol. II - Time Magazine's Review of Behind the Flying Saucers

Excerpts from Time Magazine, 25 September 1950, re: Behind the Flying Saucers.

"For several months the lists of bestselling books have offered multiple proof of man's incurable yearning for marvels. Near the top of the 'nonfiction' section stood Immanuel Velikovsky's scientifically preposterous Worlds in Collision (astromony based on hashed-up mythology). Close below was L. Ron Hubbard's Dianetics (psychiatric home-treatment practiced as a sort of parlor game).

Last week both books were threatened by a new rival in the science-fantasy field. Frank Scully's Behind the Flying Saucers was amazing its staid publisher with steadily mounting sales. Scully... is a Hollywood columnist for Variety, show business' smart-cracking trade sheet. On nearly every page of his solemn book is proof that he may not know much about science but that he is, as they say in show business, an 'operator.'

Author Scully short-circuits his critics in advance by an inverted appeal to 'military-security.' Flying Saucers are real, he states, and of non-earthly origin; at least three flying saucers have been captured in the southwest, along with their scorched crews of extraterrestrial midgets. But all the 'scientists' who examined the craft have been silenced, Author Scully says, by threats from the Government, egged on by the Air Force. 'You've got to believe me,' says Scully in effect, 'all informed denials are official lies.'

Scully got his start as a flying-saucer expert by association with talented Oilman Silas M. Newton of Denver, who, he says, locates oil deposits by their microwaves (microwaves do not penetrate rock). Through Newton, Scully met a mysterious 'Dr. Gee,' who does similar feets by detecting 'magnetic waves' (which do not exist) with a magnetron (a radio transmitter tube, not a detection device). Flying saucers, says Dr. Gee (quoted by Scully), travel among the planets by magnetism...

Measured for scientific credibility, Scully's science ranks below the comic books. Rival 'operators,' including Variety's Joe Laurie, Jr., who reviewed Behind the Flying Saucers, suspect that Scully may be kidding. In any case, his book's quick success is an interesting comment on the public's dazed state of mind toward recent scientific wonders. After accepting atomic energy, radar, etc., presumably the public could swallow anything. Why not believe Dr. Gee's saucer-borne midgets flying in from the depths of space?

The present-day effectiveness of 'military security' (e.g., during construction of the atomic bomb) has made the public suspicious of all official denials. What sort of new, fantastic wonders may be concealed behind the denials? Modern air engines (turbojets, ramjets, rockets) are powerful enough to make almost anything fly. Disc-shaped helicopters with ramjets on their rotor edges are not impossible. They are not midget-manned space ships but their test flights might have provided a base for flying saucer reports.

Theoretically, of course, invading space ships are not imposible. The point is that neither Scully nor any other purveyor of flying-saucer tales has yet produced evidence that they exist. There are no convincing photographs of them. Scully says he has handled metals they are made of (harder than diamond, with a melting point above 10,000 degrees), but no such miraculous stuff has yet been reported by any reputable laboratory.

Last week the Air Force, in a rather tired voice, denied once again that it has ever found any evidence of any space ships or that it is concealing any of its own. Once again, flying-saucer enthusiasts were unconvinced."

Against all logic, both Dianetics and Behind the Flying Saucers continue to have their adherents to this day.

Perhaps Tom Cruise is also an Aztec proponent. Given the story's Hollywood connections, it would only be fitting.

Paul Kimball


RRRGroup said...

Ah, those snide TIMES guys...

Scully's book, as I noted early on at UFO UpDates, was my first High School book report (oral).

I loved the book, and have a paperback copy now.

The story is superficially plausible, and maybe(!) contains an element or two of truth, mixed in with a lot of contrived material.

If Scully did have an extreterrestrial scoop, it just didn't pan out in a way that produced a Pulitzer for him, or any plaudits later in his career or life.

While the whole thing smacks of hokum, I should like to believe that the scenario Scully recounted was based in part on a real event, but mishmashed in such a way that we'll never know the exact truth.

Rich Reynolds

Paul Kimball said...


The key word in your comment is "believe."