Robert Todd Carroll
Aztec (New Mexico) UFO Hoax
The Aztec UFO Hoax was the work of Variety columnist Frank Scully who was hoaxed by two con men, Silas M. Newton and Leo A. Gebauer. Scully liked the hoax so much he wrote a book based on it: Behind the Flying Saucers. Scully claimed that a UFO had landed in Hart Canyon 12 miles northeast of Aztec in March of 1948 and sixteen humanoid bodies were discovered at the crash site inside a metal disk that was 99.99 (not 100) feet in diameter. A conspiring military secretly removed the craft and the bodies for their sinister research. No one in the area noticed the crash or the military activity, however. With no witnesses, Newton and Gebauer could play wildly with the truth.
Newton and Gebauer were involved in oil exploration finance schemes. Their hoax was perpetrated to get investors. They claimed they had built a machine that would find oil and natural gas deposits using alien technology. J.P. Cahn of the San Francisco Chronicle had some of the "alien" metal tested and determined it was aluminum. Cahn's account of the phony alien ship appeared in True magazine in 1952. Several people who had been swindled by Newton and Gebauer came forward. One of their victims, Herman Glader, a millionaire from Denver, pressed charges and the pair was convicted of fraud and related charges in 1953. (They had charged $18,500 for a "tuner" which could be bought at surplus stores for $3.50 at the time.)
The Aztec story was revived in 1986 by William Steinman and Wendelle Stevens in their privately-published book called UFO Crash at Aztec. It was revived again in 1998 when Linda Mouton Howe, a UFO and Art Bell mainstay, claimed she had government documents that proved the Aztec crash. What she had was a rumor eight times removed from the source, Silas Newton, that eventually ended up in a memo written to J. Edgar Hoover. Newton told George Koehler about 3-foot tall aliens and their saucer; Koehler told Morley Davies who told Jack Murphy and I. J. van Horn who told Rudy Fick who told the editor of the Wyandotte Echo in Kansas City where it was read by an Air Force agent in the Office of Special Investigations who passed on the story to Guy Hottel of the FBI who sent a memo to his boss (Thomas).
The citizens of Aztec have seen how Roswell has turned UFO mania into a profitable tourist attraction and have followed suit. In March of 2000 they celebrated their 3rd annual Aztec UFO Festival. The festival was started as a way to raise money for the town's library. There must be a better way.
"The Aztec UFO Symposium: How This Saucer Story Started As a Con Game," David E. Thomas, Skeptical Inquirer, Vol. 22, No. 5, September/October 1998, pp. 12-13.
Pflock, Karl T. "What's Really Behind the Flying Saucers? A New Twist on Aztec," The Anomalist: #8 Spring 2000.
Robert Todd Carroll
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