Take a Peek into FBI’s UFO Files

Posted May 6th, 2011 at 1:22 pm (UTC-4)
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It’s just become a little easier to access some of the FBI’s most intriguing files.

The FBI has files on phenomena like flying saucers, Extra Terrestrials and Extra Sensory Perception. And now you can see them for yourself.

The bureau recently overhauled its Freedom of Information and Privacy website.  Among the items that were updated is the bureau’s Electronic Reading Room, which they call “The Vault”.

It contains FBI information on the famous and the infamous. You can read actual FBI records on such luminaries as John Lennon, Al Capone, Malcolm X, Marilyn Monroe and many more.

Since going online, one section of The Vault has generated news and grabbed quite a bit of attention. It’s the section on “Unexplained Phenomenon” which includes FBI records on topics such as UFOs, extra terrestrials and extra-sensory perception (ESP).

Although it was only occasionally involved in investigating reports of UFOs and extraterrestrials over the years, the FBI says citizens would call them regularly to report sightings of the strange and unusual.

The bureau’s involvement with UFOs began around the time of the legendary incident in Roswell, New Mexico.  The “Roswell incident” centered around reports of a UFO crashing near the tiny New Mexican farming and ranching community on July 1947.

According to the unconfirmed reports, the wreckage of a UFO was found on a ranch with the  bodies of aliens discovered nearby. The Roswell incident boosted worldwide interest in the UFO phenomenon.

Throughout the 1940s and ’50s, the FBI checked into reports of flying objects  shaped like flapjacks, saucers, discs and even a large circular saw blade that supposedly hit a lightning rod on top of a church.  While the US military initially sought the help of the bureau, the FBI soon distanced itself.

It released a statement in 1950 that said, “The jurisdiction and responsibility for investigating flying saucers have been assumed by the United States Air Force. Information received in this matter is immediately turned over to the Air Force, and the FBI does not attempt to investigate these reports or evaluate the information furnished.”

Still it’s quite fascinating to look back at what many would consider the beginning of the UFO phenomenon and to read observations such as one dated March 22, 1950.  Guy Hottel,  a special agent in charge of the FBI’s Washington field office, sent a brief (and, to me at least, kind of a skeptical sounding) memo about flying saucers to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

Mr. Hottel reported that, “An investigator for the Air Force stated that three so-called flying saucers described as being circular in shape with raised centers, approximately 50 feet in diameter.  Each one occupied by three bodies of human shape but only 3 feet tall, dressed in metallic cloth of very fine texture.”

Other entries included in the “Unexplained Phenomenon” section include the Roswell UFO, animal mutilation, extra-sensory perception and the controversial Project Blue Book, an 18-year US Air Force study of UFOs.

See for yourself. Visit “The Vault” at the FBI website.


Rick Pantaleo
Rick Pantaleo maintains the Science World blog and writes stories for VOA’s web and radio on a variety of science, technology and health topics. He also occasionally appears on various VOA programs to talk about the latest scientific news. Rick joined VOA in 1992 after a 20 year career in commercial broadcasting.

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