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 witnesses.

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 organization.

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 disoriented people.

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 their location.


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 luminous object appeared over her house and projected a powerful beam of light into her backyard. She was not home at the time but her husband and several neighbors saw it. Then one evening her confused “little man” reappeared on the streets of Point Pleasant. She was certain it was the same man who had visited her office 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 meeting around 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 like that?“

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 burned out.

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.


Finally he mentioned his 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 the street.

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:

“For 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 new home.

"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 beat.

The Linda Scarberry and the McDaniels complained of hearing the same sound.

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 J.B. 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 activity.


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 perturbed to find a yellow Volkswagen car (having smoked-glass windows) following her discreetly at a distance,” Delair reports. (*)


“Once this involved the vehicle slowly following her down a woodland cart-track leading to Piltdown Lake, of it then stopping some distance from her, of two medium-sized individuals emerging and hurriedly taking photographs of her, and of the individuals quickly reentering the car and driving off in the opposite direction. On another occasion, in Maresfield,. the same vehicle (or one exactly similar) seemed to be ‘kerb crawling’ several yards behind her. Mrs. Bogart has no idea to whom the Volkswagen belongs, or why it should apparently follow her about in such furtive 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 causes paralysis.

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 unconscious.

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


t 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.


Suddenly there 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.


Are these things clues to a psychic force which controls us all?

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