2 - The Creep
Who Came in from the Cold
Friday, December 22, 1967, was bitter cold and the frayed Christmas
decorations strung across the main street of the little West
Virginia town of Point Pleasant seemed to hang limply, sadly, as if
to match the grim, ashen faces of the townspeople who shuffled about
their business, their eyes averted from the gaping hole where the
Silver Bridge had stood only a week before. Now the
seven-hundred-foot span was gone.
Clusters of workmen,
police officers, and assorted officials stood along the banks of the
Ohio, watching silently as divers continued to bob into the black
waters. Occasionally ropes would jerk and a bloated, whitened body
would be hauled to the surface. It was not going to be a merry
Christmas in Point Pleasant.
A few yards from the place where the bridge had been, Mrs. Mary Hyre
sat in her office revising a list of the missing and the known dead.
A stout woman in her early fifties, her normally cheerful, alert
face was blurred with fatigue. She had had almost no sleep in the
past seven days. After twenty years as the local stringer for the
Messenger, recording all the births, marriages, and deaths in the
little town, Mrs. Hyre suddenly found herself at the center of the
Camera teams from as far
away as New York were perched outside her door. The swarms of
newsmen who had descended on Point Pleasant to record the tragedy
had quickly learned what everyone in the Ohio valley already knew.
If you wanted to find out anything about the area and its people,
the quickest way to do it was to “ask Mary Hyre.“
For seven days now her office had been filled with strangers,
relatives of the missing, and weary rescue workers. So she hardly
looked up that afternoon when two men entered. They seemed almost
like twins, she recalled later. Both were short and wore black
overcoats. Their complexions were dark, somewhat Oriental, she
“We hear there’s
been a lot of flying saucer activity around here,” one of them
She was taken aback. The
bridge disaster had dominated everyone’s thoughts for the last week.
Flying saucers were the furthest thing from her mind at that moment.
“We have had quite a
few sightings here,” she responded, turning hi her chair to pull
open a filing cabinet.
She hauled out a bulging
folder filled with clippings of sighting reports and handed it to
one of the men. He flipped it open, gave the pile of clippings a
cursory glance, and handed it back.
“Has anyone told you
not to publish these reports?“
She shook her head as
she shoved the folder back into the drawer.
“What would you do
if someone did order you to stop writing about flying saucers?“
“I’d tell them to go to hell,” she smiled wanly.
The two men glanced at
each other... She went back to her lists and when she looked up again
they were gone.
same afternoon another stranger walked into Mrs. Hyre’s office. He
was slightly built, about five feet seven inches tall, with black,
piercing eyes and unruly black hair, as if he had had a brush cut
and it was just growing back in.
His complexion was even
darker than that of the two previous visitors and he looked like a
Korean or Oriental of some kind. His hands were especially unusual,
she thought, with unduly long, tapering fingers. He wore a
cheap-looking, ill-fitting black suit, slightly out of fashion, and
his tie was knotted in an odd old-fashioned way.
Strangely, he was not
wearing an overcoat despite the fierce cold outside.
“My name is Jack
Brown,” he announced in a hesitant manner. “I’m a UFO
“Oh,” Mary pushed aside the pile of papers on her desk and
The day was ending and
she was ready to go home and try to get some sleep at last. After a
brief, almost incoherent struggle to discuss UFO sightings Brown
would you do—if someone ordered—ordered you to stop? To stop
printing UFO stories?“
“Say, are you with those two men who were here earlier?” she
asked, surprised to hear the same weird question twice in one
“No. No—I’m alone. I’m a friend of Gray—Gray Barker.“
Gray Barker of
Clarksburg was West Virginia’s best-known UFO investigator. He had
published a number of books on the subject and was a frequent
visitor to Point Pleasant.
“Do you know John
His face tightened.
“I—I used to
think—think the world of K—K—Keel. Then a few minutes ago I
bought a—a magazine. He has an article in it. He says he’s seen
UFOs himself. He’s—he’s a liar.“
“I know he’s seen things,” Mary flared. “I’ve been with him when
he saw them!“
Brown smiled weakly at
the success of his simple gambit.
“Could you—take me
out—t—t—take me where you— you and K—K—Keel saw—saw things?“
“I’m not going to do anything except go home to bed,” Mary
“Is K—K—Keel in P—P—Point Pleasant?”
“No. He lives in New York.”
“I—I think he —makes up all these stories.”
“Look, I can give
you the names of some of the people here who have seen things,”
Mary said wearily. “You can talk to
them and decide for yourself. But I just can’t escort you
“I’m a friend of G—G—Gray Barker,” he repeated lamely.
Outside the office a
massive crane creaked and rumbled, dragging a huge hunk of twisted
steel out of the river.
On April 22,
1897, an oblong machine with wings and lights “which appeared much
brighter than electric lights” dropped out of the sky and landed on
the farm near Rock-land, Texas, owned by John M. Barclay. Barclay
grabbed his rifle and headed for the machine.
He was met by an
ordinary-looking man who handed him a ten-dollar bill and asked him
to buy some oil and tools for the aircraft.
“Who are you?”
“Never mind about my name; call it Smith,” the man answered.
The UFO lore is
populated with mysterious visitors claiming inordinately common
names like Smith, Jones, Kelly, Allen, and Brown. In 1897, they
often claimed to come from known villages and cities and were even
able to name prominent citizens in those places. But when reporters
checked, they could find no record of the visitors and the named
citizens disavowed any knowledge of them.
One of the proved hoaxes of 1897 (there were many hoaxes, largely
the work of mischievous newspapermen) concerned an object which is
supposed to have crashed into Judge Proctor’s windmill in Aurora,
Texas. The remains of a tiny pilot were supposedly found in the
wreckage and buried in the local cemetery by the townspeople. The
story was published in the Dallas Evening News. From time to tune,
Aurora was visited by self-styled investigators who sifted the dirt
on the old Proctor farm and marched through the cemetery reading
tombstones, always without finding anything.
The story was revived in 1972, and in 1973 a man identifying himself
as Frank N. Kelley of Corpus Christi arrived in Aurora. He said he
was a treasure hunter of long experience. He set to work with his
metal detectors and instruments and quickly unearthed several
fragments of metal near the windmill site. They appeared to be
something like the skin of modern aircraft, he announced. He kept
some of the pieces and turned the rest over to a reporter named Bill
Case. Analysis showed the pieces were 98 percent aluminum.
Kelley’s alleged discovery created a stampede to Aurora. UFO
investigators descended from as far away as Illinois and battled for
permission to dig up graves in the cemetery.
The story received wide
play in the national press in the summer of 1973.
“When efforts were
made to find Frank Kelley in Corpus Christi it was found that he
had given a phony address and phone number, and that no one in
treasure-hunting circles have ever heard of him. Mr. Kelley was
apparently another one of the impressive but elusive hoaxsters
who haunt the UFO field. The joke was pointless, expensive, and,
sadly, very successful."
The moment I
met Mrs. Hyre’s niece Connie Carpenter in 1966, I knew she was
telling the truth because her eyes were reddened, watery, and almost
swollen shut. I had seen these symptoms many times in my treks
around the country investigating UFO reports. Witnesses who were
unlucky enough to have a close encounter with an unidentified flying
object, usually a dazzlingly brilliant aerial light, are exposed to
actinic rays ... ultraviolet rays ... which can cause “eyeburn,”
medically known as klieg conjunctivitis.
These are the same kind
of rays that tan your hide at the beach. If you lie in the bright
sun without protecting your eyes you can get conjunctivitis.
Whatever they are, UFOs radiate intense actinic rays. There are now
thousands of cases in which the witnesses suffered eye-burns and
temporary eye damage ... even temporary blindness ... after viewing
a strange flying light in the night sky.
One of the most extreme cases of UFO blindness occurred on the night
of Wednesday, October 3, 1973, in southeastern Missouri. Eddie Webb,
forty-five, of Greenville, saw a luminous object in his rear-view
mirror. He put his head out the window of his truck and looked back.
There was a bright white flash. Webb threw his hands to his face,
crying, “Oh, my God! I’m burned! I can’t see!” One lens had fallen
from his glasses and the frames were melted. His wife took over the
wheel of their vehicle and drove him to a hospital. Fortunately, the
damage was not permanent.
What puzzled me about Connie’s case, however, was that she had not
seen a splendid luminous flying saucer. She had seen a giant “winged
man” in broad daylight.
According to her story, Connie, a shy, sensitive eighteen-year-old,
was driving home from church at 10:30 A.M. on Sunday, November 27,
1966, when, as she passed the deserted greens of the Mason County
Golf Course outside of New Haven, West Virginia, she suddenly saw a
huge gray figure. It was shaped like a man, she said, but was much
larger. It was at least seven feet tall and very broad. The thing
that attracted her attention was not its size but its eyes.
It had, she said, large,
round, fiercely glowing red eyes that focused on her with hypnotic
“It’s a wonder I
didn’t run off the road and have a wreck,” she commented later.
As she slowed, her eyes
fixed on the apparition, a pair of wings unfolded from its back.
They seemed to have a span of about ten feet. It was definitely not
an ordinary bird but a man-shaped thing which rose slowly off the
ground, straight up like a helicopter, silently. Its wings did not
flap in flight. It headed straight toward Connie’s car, its horrible
eyes fixed to her face, then it swooped low over her head as she
shoved the accelerator to the floorboards in utter hysteria.
Over one hundred people would see this bizarre creature that whiter.
Connie’s conjunctivitis lasted over two weeks, apparently caused by
those glowing red eyes. At the tune of my first visit to Point
Pleasant in 1966 I did not relate the winged weirdo to flying
saucers. Later events not only proved that a relationship existed,
but that relationship also is a vital clue to the whole mystery.
Max’s Kansas City is a famous watering hole for New York’s hip
crowd. In the summer of 1967 an oddball character wandered into that
restaurant noted for its oddball clientele. He was tall and awkward,
dressed in an ill-fitting black suit that seemed out of style. His
chin came to a sharp point and his eyes bulged slightly like
He sat down in a booth
and gestured to the waitress with his long, tapering fingers.
“Something to eat,”
The waitress handed him
a menu. He stared at it uncomprehendingly, apparently unable to
“Food,” he said
“How about a steak?” she offered.
She brought him a steak
with all the trimmings. He stared at it for a long moment and then
picked up his knife and fork, glancing around at the other diners.
It was obvious he did not know how to handle the implements! The
waitress watched him as he fumbled helplessly. Finally she showed
him how to cut the steak and spear it with the fork. He sawed away
at the meat.
Clearly he really was
“Where are you
from?” she asked gently.
“Not from here.“
Boy, another put-on
artist, she thought to herself. The other waitresses gathered in a
corner and watched him as he fumbled with his food, a stranger in a
A large white
car with a faulty muffler wheezed and rattled up the back street in
New Haven, West Virginia, where Connie Carpenter lived, and Jack
Brown knocked at her door.
“I’m a—a friend of
His strange demeanor and
disjointed questions distressed her and disturbed her husband,
Keith, and her brother Larry. It quickly became obvious that he was
not particularly interested in Connie’s sighting of the man-bird the
He seemed mainly
concerned with Mrs. Hyre and my own relationship with her (we were
professional friends, nothing more).
“What do you
think—if—what would Mary Hyre do— if someone told her to stop
writing about UFOs?” he asked.
“She’d probably tell them to drop dead,” Connie replied.
Most of his questions
were stupid, even unintelligible. After a rambling conversation he
drove off into the night in his noisy car. Connie called her aunt
immediately, puzzled and upset by the visit. He was such a very odd
man, she noted, and he wouldn’t speak at all if you weren’t looking
directly into his dark, hypnotic eyes. Connie, Keith and Larry not
only noticed his long-fingered hands, but there was also something
very peculiar about his ears. They couldn’t say exactly what.
But there was something
“Did you ever hear
of anyone—especially an air force officer—trying to drink
Jell-O?” Mrs. Ralph Butler of Owatonna, Minnesota, asked. “Well, that’s what
he did. He acted like he had never seen any before. He picked up
the bowl and tried to drink it. I had to show him how to eat it
with a spoon.“
Mrs. Butler was
describing the man who had visited her in May 1967, following a
flurry of UFO sightings in Owatonna. He said he was Major Richard
French of the U.S. Air Force although he was dressed in civilian
clothes and was driving a white Mustang. His neat gray suit and
everything else he was wearing appeared to be brand-new.
Even the soles of his
shoes were unscuffed, unwalked upon. He was about five feet nine
inches tall, with an olive complexion and a pointed face. His hair
was dark and very long—too long for an air force officer, Mrs.
Butler thought. Unlike Jack Brown, Major French was a fluent
conversationalist and seemed perfectly normal until he complained
about his stomach bothering him. When Mrs. Butler offered him the
Jell-O she suspected for the first time that something was out of
Richard French was an imposter. One of the many wandering around the
United States in 1967. For years these characters had caused acute
paranoia among the flying saucer enthusiasts, convincing them that
the air force was investigating them, silencing witnesses and
indulging in all kinds of unsavory activities—including murder. When
I first began collecting such reports I was naturally suspicious of
the people making such reports. It all seemed like a massive put-on.
But gradually it became apparent that the same minute details were
turning up in widely separated cases, and none of these details had
been published anywhere ... not even in the little newsletters of
the UFO cultists.
There was somebody out there, all right. A few, like Richard French,
almost pulled off their capers without drawing attention to
themselves. But in nearly every case there was always some small
error, some slip of dress or behavior which the witnesses were
usually willing to overlook but which stood out like signal flares
They often arrived in
old model cars which were as shiny and well kept as brand-new
vehicles. Sometimes they slipped up in their dress, wearing clothes
that were out of fashion or, even more perturbing, would not come
into fashion until years later. Those who posed as military
officers obviously had no knowledge of military procedure or basic
military jargon. If they had occasion to pull out a wallet or
notebook, it would be brand-new ...although most men carry beat-up
old wallets and notebooks quickly gain a worn look. Finally, like
the fairies of old, they often collected souvenirs from the
witnesses ... delightedly walking away with an old magazine, pen, or
other small expendable object.
What troubled me most was the fact that these mystery men and women
often matched the descriptions given to me by contactees who claimed
to have seen a UFO land and had glimpsed, or conversed with, their
pilots; pilots with either pointed features or Oriental countenances
dusky skin (not Negroid), and unusually long fingers.
Scarberry came home from the hospital on December 23, 1967, bringing
with her Daniella Lia Scarberry, her brand-new daughter. She and her
husband, Roger, lived in the basement apartment in the home of her
parents, Mr. and Mrs. Parke McDaniel. It was a modest but
comfortable home and, like Mary Hyre’s office, had been a focal
point for strangers ever since Linda, Roger, and another couple had
seen the “Bird”—the preposterous winged man of Point Pleasant—the
Now there was a steady flow of friends and neighbors stopping by to
look at the new baby, one of the few joyous occasions that bleak
December. When Jack Brown’s noisy white car pulled into the McDaniel
driveway he was welcomed as so many reporters, monster hunters, and
UFO researchers had been before him. He ‘announced himself as a
friend of Mary Hyre, Gray Barker, and John Keel and entered the
house hauling a large tape recorder which he set up on a kitchen
table. It became immediately obvious that he was unfamiliar with the
machine and didn’t know how to thread or operate it.
The McDaniel family was used to reporters and tape recorders, and
answering the same tiresome questions. But Brown’s questions were
not just tiresome. They were vague, detached, and unintelligent. He
obviously knew nothing whatsoever about the complex subject of
flying saucers, and he was totally disinterested in the legendary
“Bird.” His main interest seemed to be me—my present whereabouts and
the nature of my relationship with Mrs. Hyre.
Not surprisingly, he asked the McDaniels how they thought Mary Hyre
would react if someone ordered her to stop reporting flying saucer
Friends and neighbors dropped by all evening to view the new baby.
Although the baby was the center of all attention, Brown totally
ignored the child, not even bothering to show polite interest. When
Tom C., a next-door neighbor, was introduced Brown extended his
thumb and two forefingers for a handshake. He said he was from
Cambridge, Ohio, a small town just outside of Columbus, Ohio. Later
a reporter for the Columbus, Ohio, Dispatch arrived and in the
course of their casual conversation it became apparent that Brown
had never heard of the Dispatch, one of the state’s largest
newspapers, and, in fact, did not even know where Cambridge was.
His general demeanor made everyone uncomfortable. His inability to
converse intelligently and his hypnotic, piercing gaze bothered
everyone. Despite the growing coolness, he lingered for five hours,
leaving about 11 P.M. Early in the evening he denied knowing me
personally. Later on he said he and I were good friends. He seemed
surprised that I had not rushed back to Point Pleasant after the
bridge disaster. Perhaps he expected to find me there.
Among other things, he said “Gray Barker told him that a UFO had
been seen over the Silver Bridge just before it collapsed." Later
when I spoke to Barker about this incident he denied emphatically
knowing Brown or anyone matching his description. Gray had phoned me
the night of the disaster and mentioned hearing
a radio interview in which a witness reported seeing a flash of
light just before the bridge went down. Afterward it became clear
that this was a flash caused by snapping power cables strung along
Jack Brown was never seen again. He did not turn up in other UFO
He just got into his
white car and rattled off into the night, joining all the other
Smiths, Joneses, Kelleys, and Frenches who seem to serve no purpose
except to excite the latent paranoia of the UFO enthusiasts and keep
one set of myths alive.
In room 4C922 of the Pentagon building in 1966 there was an L-shaped
cubicle occupying about fifty square feet of area. A gray-haired,
grim-visaged lieutenant colonel named Maston M. Jacks held forth
there, sitting behind a cluttered desk and jangling phones. His job
in those days was to handle reporters inquiring about the UFO
His opening line was a
“There’s nothing to
it, Mr. Keel. It’s all a lot of hearsay.“
On another desk there
was a large red folder with the words Top Secret emblazoned in big
black letters. While we talked, a secretary entered and put a
newspaper clipping into the folder.
My first conversation with Lieutenant Colonel Jacks quickly turned
into an argument. He parroted the well-known air force anti-UFO line
and I explained gently that I had seen some of the damned things
At one point he pulled himself up and glared at me.
“Are you calling an
officer in the U.S. Air Force a liar?“
Later on the phone rang
and from his inflection it was obvious he was talking to a superior
officer. I discreetly strolled to the far end of the room and stared
out the tiny, prisonlike window.
He mumbled something
about some movie film and then in a very low voice he added,
“I’ll nave to call
you back. There’s somebody here in my office that I’ve got to
After he hung up we
resumed our argument. He had clearly gone through this many times
before. It was all an act. His moods changed abruptly from rage to
politeness to chumminess. Finally he escorted me down the hall to a
library and dumped me.
Jacks told me several times that the air force did not have any kind
of a UFO photo file. A year later, however, a science writer named
Lloyd Malian was given over one hundred pictures from that
nonexistent file. Jacks also informed me that no UFO reports were
stored in the Pentagon. They were all at Wright-Patterson Air Force
Base in Ohio. I didn’t visit Wright-Patterson but Mort Young of the
now-defunct New York Journal-American did.
I asked Mort to write his
experience for this book.
“Records of UFO
reports, I was told at the Pentagon, are all kept at
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio,” Mort explains.
So I went to Dayton.
There I was told that
UFO reports are filed at the Pentagon, and I could have seen them in
Washington. I later learned that not only are UFO reports filed at
the Pentagon and at Project Blue Book headquarters in Dayton, but
are also forwarded to at least two other addresses where,
presumably, they are also filed.
One might hope that at
these other places, the files are in better order than at Blue Book,
where individual sightings are incomplete. Files I asked for were
either handed to me with pages missing, entire parts missing, or the
file itself was missing: the air force having “no information” on
the sighting in question. Some files were in disreputable state:
page upon page jammed into brown folders. The information that was
there would have to be sorted chronologically, at least, before one
could sit down, read it through and come out the wiser. I would
rather try to explain a UFO than make sense out of an air force UFO
Some of the allegations of the UFO believers had merit. The air
force was struggling to keep the issues confused. They did lie, and
on occasion they lied outrageously, to reporters. Photographs sent
to them by well-meaning citizens often disappeared forever into the
maw at Wright-Patterson.
But from my own investigations I could not honestly accuse them of
having a wing of Oriental officers whose assignment was to squelch
witnesses. Other writers such as Lloyd Malian were reaching similar
conclusions. By 1967, Lieutenant Colonel Jacks had retired
and been replaced by Lt. Col. George P. Freeman. Freeman was
a kinder, more tactful soul and gave our reports serious
consideration. On February 15, 1967, a confidential letter went out
from the Pentagon to all commands.
Information has reached headquarters USAF that persons claiming to
represent the air force or other defense establishments have
contacted citizens who have sighted unidentified flying objects.
In one reported case, an
individual in civilian clothes, who represented himself as a member
of NORAD, demanded and received photos belonging to a private
citizen. In another, a person in an air force uniform approached
local police and other citizens who had sighted a UFO, assembled
them in a schoolroom and told them that they did not see what they
thought they saw and that they should not talk to anyone about the
All military and
civilian personnel and particularly information officers and UFO
investigating officers who hear of such reports should immediately
notify their local OSI [Office of Special Investigations] offices.
Hewitt T. Wheless, Lt. Gen. USAF
Asst Vice Chief of Staff
Project Blue Book was formally shut down in December 1969. But
the “Men in Black” have not retired. They were busy again in the
wake of the October 1973 UFO wave. And in January 1974 they even
appeared in Sweden, using the same tactics that were so
Even the gasoline shortage failed to deter those
black Cadillacs from their mysterious rounds.