13 - Phantom Photographers
“How much did Keel pay you to say these things?” a middle-aged man
with a cultured voice demanded over and over again as he
systematically called several of the witnesses named in my
syndicated newspaper columns.
All those long-distance phone calls
must have cost him a lot of money and all he succeeded in doing was
raising the ire of people who had already been plagued by an endless
stream of unwelcome visitors, crank phone calls, and crazy letters.
Some of them forwarded their mail to me, not knowing if they should
answer, or how.
Our UFO enthusiasts are compulsive letter writers. A major portion
of the mail received by witnesses are letters scribbled on sheets of
cheap ruled paper in pencil demanding, “Send me everything you
know.” Others are neatly typed and cover forty or fifty pages.
Threatening letters are not uncommon, some are laborious paste-ups
using words clipped from magazines and newspapers ... “Do not talk
about flying saucers.”
Others are painfully written in block letters
in red ink. Almost unreadable mimeographed forms are sent out by
many of the teen aged UFO investigators who spring up after each
flap, asking such vital scientific questions as:
“Which planet did
they come from?“
Unfortunately, no qualifications are necessary to join the various
nationwide UFO correspondence clubs. Anyone who could scrape up the
five or ten dollars could receive an impressive-looking membership
card which gave them carte blanche to harass local police and
Members of the “little old ladies in tennis shoes” brigade found
instant identity in joining such clubs. Then they trooped about
their state, lecturing on the coming of the Brothers, appearing on
local radio and television as the local “experts,” and, more often
than not, bringing more ridicule to an already ridiculous situation.
Although they are largely a harmless, humorless lot, a few of the
ego-tripping characters in ufology are not above creating a few
hoaxes of their own, placing prank calls, and, of course,
circulating the idiotic rumors. Ivan Sanderson referred to them as “neurots,”
short for neurotics. Dr. Edward Condon of Colorado University
labeled them “obstructionist.”
On several occasions I did find that
some of these card-carrying ufologists had warned witnesses to
report only to them. Members of competing correspondence clubs often
engaged in open battles, trying to reach witnesses first and
accusing each other of all kinds of misdeeds. Donald E. Keyhoe, head
of the Washington-based NICAP, had spent years building and
publicizing his case against the air force. The only tangible result
of his campaign was the quality of the people attracted to ufology,
and to his ideas. Paranoid-schizophrenics and obsessive-compulsive
personalities dominated the field.
Many of these groups collapsed inwardly in a short time because of
the conflicting egos and the excessive paranoia (members often
regarded their fellow members as “agents of the air force”). Even
NICAP, which had been founded in 1956 by a physicist who was hot on
the trail of the secret of frying saucer propulsion systems, came
apart at the seams in the late 1960s. The few qualified members of
its headquarters staff departed in an atmosphere of rancor, taking
choice files and mailing lists with them, and Stuart Nixon, the
office boy during the Keyhoe regime, became director of the
The air force and CIA did not have to try to disrupt the ufological
movement. It is by its very nature a self-disrupting network of
In the spring of 1967, following the publicity that attended Mothman
and the UFOs, mobs of strangers descended on Point Pleasant. Cars
filled with students from neighboring colleges would arrive
unannounced at the homes of witnesses named in newspaper accounts,
often late at night, and expect to be welcomed. Mary Hyre and all
the others were subjected to silly interviews by people who
obviously didn’t have any notion of how to go about investigating
anything. Some of these investigators were tactless and impolite, as
only teen-agers can be, to the point of being offensive.
One by one
the witnesses fell silent, refusing to talk to any more strangers,
so newcomers saw a new mystery—someone had obviously ordered
everyone in the Ohio valley to shut up.
While reporters from all the neighboring cities were flocking to
Point Pleasant and writing extensively about the UFO and monster
sightings, the little local daily, the Point Pleasant Register,
ignored the whole situation. When a girl on the Register staff was
pursued by a UFO one night that spring, Mary Hyre printed the story
in the Messenger. The young editor of the Register remained
steadfastly anti-UFO throughout the fracas.
It was then my policy to publish only reports in which the witnesses
allowed their names to be used. I avoided “blind” items. But as time
went on and I saw what was happening to some of these people, I
realized they had to be protected, not from Men in Black or sinister
government agencies but from the UFO believers themselves. This
unfortunate problem persists, and this is why I have used blind
items here, or, in some cases, altered the names of the witnesses or
This is a common policy in medical books and
scientific literature, but it is sad that it becomes necessary in
studies of this kind.
One Sunday afternoon in the spring of 1967, I was walking along
Forty-second Street and Third Avenue with a lady friend. There were
very few people on the streets at the time. Suddenly a tall, thin
man came around a corner. His face was gaunt and pointed, and he was
carrying a camera. He raised the camera and deliberately took our
picture, then he turned and ran up the street. My friend knew
nothing about Men in Black, and it is not unusual to see tourists
snapping pictures in New York City.
I deliberately refrained from
making any comment.
“That was strange,” she remarked. “And he was such an evil-looking
man. Why did he take our picture?“
I could only shrug. The man, incidentally, was not dressed in black.
He was wearing a sports jacket and slacks but his clothes seemed to
hang very poorly on his thin frame.
A few days later, Dan Drasin phoned me. He was preparing to go back
to West Virginia with a camera crew.
“You know, this probably doesn’t mean anything,” he said slowly,
“but the other day I was walking through midtown Manhattan and an
Indian took my picture. He was even wearing a black suit.“
Dan knew of my concern with the MIB, but he was not well-known to
the UFO enthusiasts (I had tried to tell myself that the
photographer on Third Avenue was a ufo-nut of some kind).
“Probably just a tourist,” I offered.
In West Virginia, Mrs. Hyre was continuing to have problems. A
appeared over her house and projected a powerful beam of light into
backyard. She was not home at the time but her husband and several
it. Then one evening her confused “little man” reappeared on the
Point Pleasant. She was certain it was the same man who had visited
in January. This time he was wearing a khaki-colored uniform but had
on the same thick-soled shoes.
When he saw Mary approaching him he
looked alarmed, took off on a dead run, and leaped into a black car
driven by a very large man.
“By the time I got out in the line of traffic,” Mary said, “he was
gone across the bridge into Ohio. I didn’t get the license number
but the color looked orange.“
Three days later, on May 8, Mrs. Hyre arrived home from a civic
11:30 P.M. Just as she was opening her front door a large black car
squealed to a stop directly outside her house. She stood on her
porch and watched as a man got out of the vehicle, raised a camera
to his face, and snapped her picture.
“His flash gun was very
bright,” she reported. “It blinded me momentarily. While I was
standing there rubbing my eyes he got back into his car and it drove
off. I couldn’t see if there was anyone else in the car.” She
paused. “Now why do you suppose anyone would want to take my picture
Why indeed. Our Men in Black were now engaged in a new game. Or
perhaps the game had been going for years but no one had ever
noticed it before. As if I didn’t have enough trouble already, now I
was chasing phantom photographers all over the landscape.
On a rainy night in April a man from Ohio had been driving along
Route 2 near the Chief Cornstalk Hunting Grounds when a large black
form rose from the woods and flew over his car.
“It was at least ten
feet wide,” he claimed. “I stepped on the gas and it kept right up
with me. We were doing over seventy. It scared the hell out of me.
Then I saw it move ahead of me and turn toward the river.“
Months later, late in October, he returned home from work and found
a prowler in his apartment.
“When I opened the door I saw this man standing in my living room,”
he reported. “I think he was dressed all in black. I couldn’t see
his face, but he was about five feet nine. I started to fumble for
the light switch when he took my picture. There was a big flash of
light, so bright I couldn’t see a thing. While I was rubbing my eyes
the burglar darted past me and went out the open door. I guess I
arrived just in time because nothing was missing.“
Burglars with flash guns!
Sixty miles north of Point Pleasant, a young family in Belpre, Ohio,
was having the full range of UFO-associated problems. The man in the
family, I’ll call bun Ben, had seen a UFO hovering near a chemical
plant on the river. He’d heard you could signal to the objects so he
flashed his car’s spotlight at it The spotlight went out instantly
and later he found that all the electrical systems in his car had
His sighting marked the beginning of all kinds of weird happenings.
First, his telephone went crazy. Like so many others, he had not
reported his sighting to anyone yet he began to receive the beeping
calls, and calls from “metallic voices,” urging him to attend
undefined meetings (he never went). A poltergeist moved into Ben’s
house. Drawers opened by themselves. Objects disappeared. A heavy
cabinet pushed against a window was moved by some force. (Later I
tried to move this cabinet by myself and found it was too heavy.)
Ben’s wife began to notice unusual people in the neighborhood. Ben
received a mild scare that August as he was walking down the Main
Street in Parkersburg and saw two black-garbed Oriental-looking men
who grinned at him broadly as if they knew him. They appeared to be
confused or drunken, he noted, and seemed to have difficulty
walking. Ben knew nothing of the MIB lore, but the men so alarmed
him that he crossed to the other side of the street.
He had more UFO sightings. And more freak phone calls.
troubles to Parke McDaniel ... they worked together ... and Mrs. Hyre and
drove to Belpre. Two weeks before our visit, according to Ben’s
wife, a black
car had stopped in front of their house and a man in a black suit
had apparently taken photos with a large camera. Two of their
neighbors had also witnessed this and corroborated their story. The
photographer did not pay any attention to any of the other houses on
On Long Island, less than thirty miles from New York City, UFOs, Men
in Black, and phantom photographers were all very busy that summer.
Eventually I gathered reports of the photographers from as far away
as Seattle. An aerospace engineer in the Northwest reported:
some three days photographs were taken of our house. We thought they
might^be realtors or someone doing a film on the area. Then began
the telephone interference, mail stoppage and misdirection, etc.“
The engineer, a well-educated man with a responsible position in a
major aircraft company, involved himself in UFO research as a hobby.
At first he assumed the photographers, telephone harassers, and all
were agents of the government.
Then something uncanny attacked his
"Twice a very powerful specterlike influence visited the house which
projected FEAR of an incredible nature,” he wrote. “I am certain
that anyone who did not understand these things would have been
driven in very short order to the state mental hospital. Another
attack was interference with the time Constance of a heart beat. I
would be awakened with a pulse of over two hundred! However, I
always awakened because I sleep with plastic ear stoppers and in
each of about thirty to thirty-five instances the noise awakened me.“
I had heard of this heart-beat phenomenon in Massachusetts and
several other places, and put it down as more psychological than
physiological. When Mary Hyre complained of hearing a loud, pulsing
heart-beat sound late at night I knew she had suffered one severe
heart attack and worried that she was really hearing her own heart
The Linda Scarberry and the McDaniels complained of hearing the same
Roger Scarberry was haunted by something else ... by dreams of a
great eye floating in the sky over Mary’s house. Point Pleasant was
filled with omens and portents. A man and a woman carrying a camera
visited Steve and Mary Mallette, wanting to take pictures of them.
Mr. Mallette took down the license number on their Volkswagen and
when Mary had the police check it out it proved to be nonexistent.
This business with license numbers was repeated over and over, and
in many places. Witnesses would carefully note the plates on the
black Cadillacs and mysterious panel trucks, but when the police ran
a routine check the computers came up with a blank.
When you consider the many millions of licenses issued in the United
States, the odds against your being able to manufacture an unlisted
number are astronomical. Yet our MIB always manage to come up with
unused numbers. (There were more incidents of this type during the
October 1973 wave.)
Phantom photographer reports have been rare in England, but in 1973
two leading British ufologists, Brinsley Le Poer Trench and
Delair, came across an incident involving the Bogart family who live
in a forest near Maresfield, Sussex. The Bogarts’ isolated cottage
has been plagued with apparitions, strange sounds, and poltergeist
And a large number of low-flying luminous objects have
been seen repeatedly in the vicinity.
“On more than one occasion Mrs. Bogart alleges that she has been
find a yellow Volkswagen car (having smoked-glass windows) following
discreetly at a distance,” Delair reports.
“Once this involved
slowly following her down a woodland cart-track leading to Piltdown
Lake, of it
then stopping some distance from her, of two medium-sized
and hurriedly taking photographs of her, and of the individuals
quickly reentering the car and driving off in the opposite direction. On
in Maresfield,. the same vehicle (or one exactly similar) seemed to
crawling’ several yards behind her. Mrs. Bogart has no idea to whom
Volkswagen belongs, or why it should apparently follow her about in
fashion, nor why she should be so mysteriously photographed.“
Awareness, Autumn 1973 (J.B. Delair, ed., 19 Cumnor Road,
Wootton, Boar’s Hill, Oxford, Berkshire, England).
If you review the thousands of UFO contact reports you will find
that many of them begin with the appearance of an entity holding
some kind of “flashlight” which is shone directly at the witness. In
cases in which the percipient was taken aboard a saucer, a light
flashes and he is told his picture has just been taken. In other
instances, some of which have already been described, the entity
approaches the witness and suddenly flashes a light at him which
Woodrow Derenberger was among the very few contact claimants who did
not describe such flashes.
In trying to nail down the exact chronological order of events in
the contactee experience, I found that the witnesses observed the
flash first and then they saw the entity approaching with some kind
of flashlight. A second flash paralyzed them or rendered them
The phenomenon takes yet another form. The witness is stepping out
his door, or getting out of his automobile, when there is a sudden
burst of light “like a flash gun going off.” No photographer or
camera is visible. There is no sudden paralysis or ill effects. The
witness just scratches his head in bewilderment and goes about his
business. However, those who see these flashes have usually had
psychic experiences previously. They have seen a UFO, a monster, or
a ghost, or they are gifted with ESP or precognition.
In 1967, I was living in one of those glass buildings in Manhattan,
part of a huge apartment complex. I was on a high floor facing an
identical building across a small park, but I also had a splendid
view of lower Manhattan. In the evenings while hammering away at my
typewriter in front of a wall-to-wall window, I began seeing sudden
flashes of blue light in the space between the two buildings. A
first I assumed there was a photographer in the other building:
Then I saw the same kind of flashes high in the air, further down
the avenue. I watched them night after night. When friends were in
my apartment the flashes seemed to stop. I thought of them as
“psychic flashes” because very often my phone would ring immediately
after I saw one.
Later I moved to another apartment on the other side of town, with
no real view of the sky, although my study faced a small courtyard
favored by fighting cats and a few scrawny trees hopelessly battling
for survival. There were no more psychic flashes until the summer of
1971 ... just prior to a major change in my life.
were brilliant flashes outside my window, although there were no
photographers, or people of any kind, in the courtyard or across the
way. A couple of times I went down into the courtyard to see if I
could find out what was causing the flashes but there was no
possible explanation. A month later I was called to Washington,
D.C., to serve as a consultant to the Department of Health,
Education, and Welfare. I worked in the Capital for a year, heading
a special project under Elliot Richardson, then-secretary of HEW.
I haven’t seen any of those flashes since.
Were they a part of some subtle
programming process? My life has gone
through many abrupt changes, and each major change has been preceded
by some form of inexplicable phenomena. In observing other
witnesses, this also seems to be true in their lives.
things clues to a psychic force which controls us all?