The genesis of Project Magnet can be largely traced
back to a memorandum of 21 November 1950 that Wilbert B. Smith,
an official with the Canadian Government’s Department of
Communications (and who held a B.Sc. and a M.Sc. in Electrical
Engineering), wrote to the Department of Transport.
who had a personal interest in
UFOs and had studied the subject, stated in his proposal that
the Canadian Government should be prompted to establish an official
UFO investigation project; and
that he was on the track of
something that would lead to an understanding of both how UFOs
were powered and the development of new technological advances on
According to Smith:
"The existence of a different technology is
borne out by the investigations which are being carried on at the
present time in relation to flying saucers."
advised the DoT that, having made a number of
discreet inquiries at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC, he had
learned the following from a Dr. Robert Sarbacher:
The matter is
the most highly classified subject in the United States government,
rating higher even than the H-bomb.
Flying saucers exist.
Their modus operandi is unknown but concentrated effort is
being made by a small group headed by Dr. Vannevar Bush.
The entire matter is considered by the United States
authorities to be of tremendous significance.
On receipt of the
memorandum, the Canadian Department of Transport quickly approved
Smith's proposal to officially investigate UFO reports;
and on 2 December 1950, Project Magnet - a classified
government project - swung into action and a number of high-quality
UFO reports caught the attention of Magnet staff.
On 10 August 1953, Smith submitted the following report:
"It appears then, that we
are faced with a substantial probability of the real existence of
extraterrestrial vehicles, regardless of whether they fit into our
scheme of things. It is therefore submitted that the next step in
this investigation should be a substantial effort toward the
acquisition of as much as possible of this technology."
Three months later, at
Shirleys Bay, Ontario, a station for investigating and detecting
UFOs was established; and on 8 August 1954, the equipment "went
wild," recalled Smith later.
All of the available evidence suggested
that a UFO had flown in close proximity of the
station. Regrettably the entire vicinity was bathed in clouds and no
visual sighting was made; the instrumentation, however, did record a
major disturbance. Two days later, the DOT
announced that Project Magnet was being shut down.
speed with which the project was shut down has led to allegations
that a decision was taken to continue studies at a far more covert
It is intriguing to note, too, that in the early 1980s Dr.
Robert Sarbacher reaffirmed his knowledge of secret U.S.
UFO investigations overseen by Vannevar Bush and admitted
that he was aware that the U.S. had in its possession both crashed
UFOs and alien bodies.
Wilbert Brockhouse Smith died on 27
December 1961, at the age of 52.
Project Magnet was an unidentified flying object (UFO) study
program established by the Canadian Department of Transport (DOT)
on December 2, 1950, under the direction of Wilbert B. Smith, senior
radio engineer for the DOT's Broadcast and Measurements Section. It
was formally active until mid-1954, and informally until Smith's
death in 1962.
The ultimate goal of the project was to apply any findings on the
subject of geomagnetism to the possibility of exploiting Earth's
magnetic field as a source of propulsion for vehicles. Smith and his
colleagues in government believed that UFOs, if real, might hold the
key to this new source of power.
A small-scale undertaking, Magnet used DOT facilities, with some
assistance from personnel at the Defence Research Board (DRB) and
the National Research Council. Smith eventually concluded that UFOs
were probably extraterrestrial in origin and likely operated by
manipulation of magnetism.
Smith had been interested in UFO reports for since about 1947, when,
according to a friend, he first claimed to have received "mental
messages from space people." 
While Smith attended a radio engineer's conference in Washington
D.C. in September 1950, two books on UFOs came out, one by Variety
magazine columnist Frank Scully called Behind the Flying Saucers,
about crashed New Mexico saucers and recovered alien beings, and
another by U.S. UFO researcher Maj. Donald E. Keyhoe, The Flying
Saucers are Real, accusing the U.S. Air Force of concealing vital
information about flying saucer reality.
Smith had some theories about how the
saucers might obtain their energy and propulsion through magnetic
means, but before committing any time or money first wanted to know
if the saucers were indeed real. Smith contacted the Canadian
embassy and asked them to conduct inquiries into the matter.
interview was arranged by the embassy military attaché with Dr.
Robert Sarbacher, a U.S. physicist, missile expert, and consultant
to the Defense Department's Research and Development Board.
In Smith's notes and a later memo
summarizing Sarbacher's briefing (plus possibly other unnamed
sources), it was stated that
The saucers existed
The substance of Scully's book
The matter was the most highly
classified subject in the U.S. government, ranking even
higher than the H-bomb
It was considered of tremendous
significance by the government
A small group headed by Dr.
Vannevar Bush was looking into the "modus operandi" of the
Other aspects of the saucers
were being investigated, including possible "mental
This led Smith to lobby his agency for
funding to study UFOs.
Smith's memo of November 21, 1950, also said
he had discussed the matter with Dr. Omond Solandt, head of
the Canadian Defense Research Board, who agreed the work
should go forward as rapidly as possible, and offered full
cooperation of the DRB.
This development led in turn to the creation of Project Magnet,
which was formally approved on December 2, 1950, by Cmdr. C.P.
Edwards, with two major goals:
In June 1952, Smith issued a preliminary
report arguing that UFOs likely came from intelligent,
extraterrestrial sources, and almost certainly manipulated magnetism
for flight. A 1953 report reiterated these same conclusions.
In late 1952, Project Magnet released a large weather balloon
with a bright magnesium flare attached, to see if it might be
reported as a UFO. It was not.
Also in April 1952, the Canadian government established Project
Second Storey, a parallel UFO research project, with Smith also
involved. It consisted of a group of scientists and military
officers who met periodically to consider the UFO question and to
recommend government action.
Smith reported to Second Storey on some of
Project Magnet's findings and conclusions.
Based on his preliminary findings, Smith lobbied for a better
equipped research facility.
In November, 1953, Project Magnet
established what Arthur Bray
"the world's first 'flying saucer sighting station' at
Shirley's Bay, outside Ottawa."
The Shirley's Bay facility contained
some expensive, highly sensitive equipment, including a gamma ray
detector, a magnetometer, several radio receivers, and a gravimeter;
each of these was wired to a graph paper device to record the
fluctuations they might find, and an alarm system to alert personnel
to any notable fluctuations.
Smith also acquired a small staff, though
they all worked on their own time: physicist James Wait and
telecommunications expert John Hector Thompson (both of the
DRB), J.T. Wilson of the University of Toronto, and G.D.
Garland of the Dominion Observatory. The Shirley's Bay station
earned significant mainstream press attention.
At 3.01 p.m. on August 8, 1954, the Shirley's Bay instruments
recorded a substantial gravimetric variation. The day was overcast,
and Magnet's personnel were unable to witness any flying saucers
that might have been flying overhead.
Following unwanted publicity about the incident, DOT officials
formally ended Project Magnet only two days later.
release from the Controller of Telecommunications admitted,
"that DOT had been engaged in the
study of UFOs for three and a half years, that considerable data
was collected and analyzed but it had not been possible to reach
any definite conclusion, and since new data simply confirmed
existing data there seemed little point in carrying the
investigation any further on an official level."
It went on to say that Project Magnet
would be discontinued along with any further study of UFOs, although
Smith would continue to collect future data "on a purely unofficial
basis." A memo was also sent to Smith the same day instructing him
to discontinue the DOT activities.
According to Smith's account, press inquiries into the project had
embarrassed DOT officials and those working on the project.
dated June 1954 indicates that public exposure had already led to
the decision to discontinue Magnet as an official
government-sponsored project, although Smith could,
"continue on his own free time, not
on Departmental time. He may continue to use Departmental
equipment not otherwise in use."
Smith was allowed to use the Shirley's Bay
facilities on his own time, and with his own funding. He did so
until his death in 1962.
Canada's Unidentified Flying Objects:
The Search for the Unknown at Library and
Timothy Good, Above Top Secret;
Arthur Bray, The UFO Connection, 1979;
Bray, Arthur, "Project Magnet",
pages 275-276 in Story and Greenwell
Bray, The UFO Connection, p. 65
ibid, p. 66
In 1950 the Canadian government authorized a short-lived program
designed to study UFOs. Here is the program's report by Wilbert
B. Smith, Engineer-in-Charge, Project Magnet.
During the past five years there has been accumulating in the files
of the United States Air Force, Royal Canadian Air Force, Department
of Transport, and various other agencies, an impressive number of
reports on sightings of unidentified flying objects popularly known
as "Flying Saucers". These files contain reports by creditable
people on things which they have seen in the sky, tracked on radar,
They are reports made in good faith by
normal, honest people, and there is little if any reason to doubt
their veracity. Many sightings undoubtedly are due to unusual views
of common objects or phenomena, and are quite normal, but there are
many sightings which cannot be explained so easily.
Project Magnet was authorized in December, 1950, by Commander C.
P. Edwards, then Deputy Minister of Transport for Air Services,
for the purpose of making as detailed a study of the saucer
phenomena as could be made within the framework of existing
The Broadcast and Measures Section of
Telecommunications Division were given the directive to go ahead
with this work with whatever assistance could be obtained informally
from outside sources such as Defense Research Board and National
It is perfectly natural in the human
thinking mechanism to try and fit observations into an
established pattern. It is only when observations stubbornly
refuse to be so fitted that we become disturbed.
happens we may, and usually do, take one of three courses.
First, we may deny completely the validity of the observations;
or second, we may pass the whole subject off as something of no
consequence; or third, we may accept the discrepancies as real
and go to work on them. In the matter of Saucer Sightings
all three of these reactions have been strikingly apparent.
first two approaches are obviously negative and from which a
definite conclusion can never be reached. It is the third
approach, acceptance of the data and subsequent research that is
dealt with in this report.
The basic data with which we have to work consist largely of
sightings reported as they are observed throughout Canada in a
purely random manner. Many of the reports are from the extensive
field organization of the Department of Transport whose job it
is to watch the sky and whose observers are trained in precisely
this sort of observation.
Also, there are in operation a
number of instrumental arrangements such as the ionospheric
observatories from which useful data have been obtained.
However, we must not expect too much from these field stations
because of the very sporadic nature of the sightings. As the
analysis progresses and we know more about what to look for we
may be able to obtain and make much better use of field data.
Up to the present we have been
prevented from using conventional laboratory methods owing to
the complete lack of any sort of specimens with which to
experiment, and our prospects of obtaining any in the immediate
future are not very good.
Consequently, a large part of the
analysis in these early stages will have to be based on
deductive reasoning, at least until we are able to work out a
procedure more in line with conventional experimental methods.
The starting point of the investigation is essentially the
interview with an observer. A questionnaire form and an
instructional guide for the interrogator were worked out by the
Project Second Storey Committee, which as a Committee
sponsored by the Defense Research Board to collect,
catalogue and correlate data on sightings of unidentified flying
This questionnaire and guide are included as Appendix I
(Webmaster Note: This appendix is not included here), and are
intended to get the maximum useful information from the observer
and present it in a manner which it can be used to advantage.
This form has been used so far as possible in connection with
the sightings investigated by the Department of Transport.
A weighting factor is assigned to each sighting according to a
system intended to minimize the personal equation. This
weighting system is described in Appendix II, (Webmaster Note:
This appendix is not included here).
The weighting factor may be
considered as the probability that the report contains the
truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so far as the
observer and interrogator are aware. It has nothing to do with
the nature of the object claimed to be seen. It is in a sense analagous to the order of precision with which a measurement may
be made, and for the purpose of this analysis this is precisely
the manner is which it is used.
Sightings may be grouped according to certain salient features,
and the combined weight of all pertinent observations with
respect to these features may be determined by applying Peter's
formula, which is a standard mathematical technique for
determining probable error.
(v + v + v + ... v)
n [sq. root of]n-1
1 2 3
...where "ro" is the probable error of
the mean, "n" is the number of observations and "v" is the
probable error of each observation, that is, unity minus the
This method has the advantage of being simple
and easy to use and enables a number of mediocre observations to
be combined effectively into the equivalent of one good one.
The next step is to sort out the observations according to some
pattern. The particular pattern is not important as the fact
that is should take account of all contingencies however
improbable they may appear at first sight. In other words, there
must be a compartment somewhere in the scheme of things into
which each sighting may be placed, comfortably, and with nothing
Furthermore, it must be possible to
arrive at each appropriate compartment by a sequence of logical
reasoning taking account of all the facts presented. If this can
be done, then the probability for the real existence of the
contents of any compartment will be the single or combined
weighting factor pertinent to that single or group of sightings.
The charts shown in Appendix III (Webmaster Note: This appendix
is not included here) were evolved as a means for sorting out
the various sightings and provide the pattern which was used in
the analysis of those sightings reported to and analyzed by the
Department of Transport.
Most sightings fit readily into one of the classifications
shown, which are of two general types; those about which we know
something and those about which we know very little. When the
sightings can be classified as something we know about, we need
not concern ourselves too much with them, but when they fit into
classifications which we don't understand we are back to our
original position of whether to deny the evidence, dismiss it as
of no consequence, or to accept it and go to work on it.
The process of sorting out
observations according to these charts and fitting them into
compartments can hardly be considered an end in itself. Rather,
it is a convenience to clarify thinking and direct activity
along profitable channels. It shows at once which aspects are of
significance and which may be bypassed. Merely placing a
sighting under a certain heading does not explain it; it only
indicates where we may start looking for an explanation.
Appendix IV (Webmaster Note: This appendix is not included here)
contains summaries of the 1952 sightings as investigated by the
Department of Transport. Considerably more data exists in the
files of other agencies, and more is being collected as the
While it is not intended to make any
reference to an analysis of the records of other agencies, it
may be said that the Department of Transport sightings are quite
representative of the sightings reported throughout the world.
The following is a table of the
breakdown of the 25 proper sightings reported during 1952.
NATURE OF SIGHTING
Probably marker light
Bright speck at night,
not star or planet
Bright speck daylight,
not star or planet
Circular or elliptical
body, shiny day
Circular or elliptical
body luminous night
Unidentified lights of
TOTAL NUMBER OF PROPER
With reference to the above table,
of the four cases identified as probably meteors, their weight
works out at 91%, which is the probability that the observers
actually did see meteors which appeared as they described them.
Considering the circular or elliptical bodies together, their
weight works out at 91 % at 91% for the ten sightings, from
which we may conclude that SOMETHING answering this description
was actually observed. Similarly we may consider each of the
other groups of sightings, taking account of the probability
that the observations are reliable.
It is not intended to describe here in detail the intricate and
tedious processes by which the sightings are evaluated, beyond
the fact that the pattern set forth in the charts in Appendix
III (Webmaster Note: This appendix is not included here) is
followed. The cardinal rule is that a sighting must fit
completely under one or more of the chart headings, with nothing
left over and without postulating any additions, deletions, or
changes in the facts reported.
Should there be no suitable heading,
then obviously the charts must be expanded to provide one, in
fact this was the evolution of these charts. Where a sighting
may be fitted under more than one heading an arbitrary division
of the probability of finding it under each applicable heading
The sum of such probability figures must of course
be unity, and the probability for the real existence under any
particular heading is the product of this probability figure and
the reliability or weighting factor for the sighting concerned.
It is apparent that the judgment of the people doing the
evaluating is bound to enter the picture and may produce
substantial numerical differences with reference to sightings
listed under certain headings.
However, since many headings are
automatically eliminated by the nature of the facts available,
the discrepancies are confined to the probability figures for
the distribution under the remaining headings which are
considered eligible, and we end up with definite classifications
for the sightings with SOME probability figure for the reality
of each group.
This has the effect of forcing those who are
doing the evaluating to face the reported facts squarely, pay
meticulous attention to them, and place each sighting honestly
under the only heading where it will fit.
In working through the analysis of the proper sightings listed,
we find the majority of them appear to be of some material body.
Of these, seven are classed as probably normal objects, and
eleven are classed as strange objects.
Of the remainder, four
have a substantial probability of being material, strange,
objects, with three having a substantial probability of being
immaterial, electrical, phenomena. Of the eleven strange objects
the probability definitely favors the alien vehicle class, with
the secret missile included with a much lower probability.
The next step is to follow this line of reasoning as far as
possible so as to deduce what we can from the observed data.
Vehicles or missiles can be of only two general kinds,
terrestrial and extra-terrestrial, and in either case the
analysis enquires into the source and technology. If the
vehicles originate outside the iron curtain we may assume that
the matter is in good hands, but if they originate inside the
iron curtain it could be a matter of grave concern to us.
In the matter of technology, the points of interest are: - the
energy source; means of support, propulsion and manipulation;
structure; and biology. So far as energy is concerned we know
about mechanical energy and chemical energy, and a little about
energy of fission, and we can appreciate the possibility of
direct conversion of mass to energy.
Beyond this we have no knowledge,
and unless we are prepared to postulate a completely unknown
source of energy of which we do not know even the rudiments, we
must conclude that the vehicles use one of the four listed
sources. Unless something we do not understand can be done with
gravitation, mechanical energy has little use beyond driving
We use chemical energy to quite an extent, but
we realize its limitations, so if the energy demands of the
vehicles exceed what we consider to be the reasonable
capabilities of chemical fuels, we are forced to the conclusion
that such vehicles must get their energy from either fission or
With reference to the means for support, propulsion and
manipulation, unless we are prepared to postulate something
quite beyond our knowledge, there are only two groups of
possibilities, namely the known means and the speculative means.
Of the known means there is only physical support through the
use of buoyancy or airfoils, the reaction of rockets and jets,
and centrifugal force, which is what holds the moon in position.
Of the speculative means we know
only of the possibility of gravity waves, field interaction and
radiation pressure. If the observed behavior of the vehicles is
such as to be beyond the limitations which we know apply to the
known means of support, then we are forced to the conclusion
that one of the speculative means must have been developed to do
From a study of the sighting reports (Appendix IV) (Webmaster
Note: This appendix is not included here), it can be deduced
that the vehicles have the following significant
They are a hundred feet or more in
diameter; they can travel at speeds of several thousand miles
per hour; they can reach altitudes well above those which would
support conventional aircraft or balloons; and ample power and
force seem to be available for all required maneuvers. Taking
these factors into account, it is difficult to reconcile this
performance with the capabilities of our technology, and unless
the technology of some terrestrial nation is much more advanced
than is generally known, we are forced to the conclusion that
the vehicles are probably extra-terrestrial, in spite of our
prejudices to the contrary.
It has been suggested that the sightings might be due to some
sore of optical phenomenon which gives the appearances of the
objects being reported, and this aspect was thoroughly
investigated. Charts are shown in Appendix III (Webmaster Note:
This appendix is not included here) showing the various optical
Enticing as this theory is, there
are some serious objections to its actual application, in the
form of some rather definite and quite immutable optical laws.
These are geometrical laws dealing with optics generally and
which we have never yet found cause to doubt, plus the wide
discrepancies in the order of magnitude of the light values
which must be involved in any sightings so far studied.
Furthermore, introducing an optical system might explain an
image in terms of an object, but the object still requires
A particular effort was made to find
an optical explanation for the sightings listed in this report,
but in no case could one be worked out. It was not possible to
find os much as a partial optical explanation for even one
sighting. Consequently, it was felt that optical theories
generally should not be taken too seriously until such time as
at least one sighting can be satisfactorily explained in such a
It appears then, that we are faced with a substantial
possibility of the real existence of extra-terrestrial vehicles,
regardless of whether or not they fit into our scheme of things.
Such vehicles of necessity must use a technology considerably in
advance of what we have.
It is therefore submitted that the
next step in this investigation should be a substantial effort
towards the acquisition of a much as possible of this
technology, which would no doubt be of great value to us.
The following article is posted here
The Disclosure Project:
Webmaster Note: The document we
worked from was a graphical capture of a somewhat poor original.
There are a number of words in the following text that we simply
couldn't make out clearly enough. In those cases we will simply
insert "(unreadable)". I think the remaining text, while incomplete,
is still a very significant document for any student of ufology.
This memorandum was written by Wilbur Smith on November 21,
1950 to the Controller of Telecommunications:
For the past several years we have
been engaged in the study of various aspects of radio wave
propagation. The vagaries of this phenomenon have led us into
the fields of aurora, oceanic radiation, atmospheric
radio-activity and geo-magnetism.
In the case of geomagnetics
our investigations have contributed little to our knowledge of
radio wave propagation as yet, but nevertheless have indicated
several avenues of investigation which may well be explored with
profit. For example, we are on the track of a means whereby the
potential energy of the earth's magnetic field ray may be
abstracted and used.
On the basis of theoretical considerations a small and very
crude experimental unit was constructed approximately a year ago
and tested in our standards laboratory. The tests were
essentially successful in that sufficient energy was abstracted
from the earth's field to operate a voltmeter, approximately 50
Although this unit was far from being
self-sustaining, it nevertheless demonstrated the soundness of
the basic principles in a qualitative manner and provided useful
data for the design of a better unit.
The design has now been completed for a unit which should be
self-sustaining and in addition provide a small surplus of
power. Such a unit, in addition to functioning as a 'pilot power
plant' should be large enough to permit the study of the various
reaction forces which are expected to develop.
We believe that we are on the track of something which may well
prove to be the introduction of new technology. The existence of
a different technology is borne out by the investigations which
are being carried on at the present time in relation to flying
While in Washington attending the NARS Conference, two books (3
words unreadable) "Flying Saucers Are Real" by Donald Keyhoe.
Both books dealt mostly with sightings of unidentified objects
and both books claim that flying objects were of
extraterrestrial origin and might well be space ships from
another planet. (Unreadable) claimed that the preliminary
studies of one saucer that fell into the hands of the United
States Government indicated that they operated on some hitherto
unknown magnetic principles.
It appeared to me that our own work
in geomagnetics might well be the linkage between our technology
and the technology by which the saucers are designed and
operated. If it is assumed that our geo-magnetic investigations
are in the right direction, the theory of operation of the
saucers becomes quite straightforward, with all observed
features explained qualitatively and quantitatively.
I made discreet enquiries through the Canadian Embassy staff in
Washington who were able to obtain for me the following
The matter is the most highly
classified subject in the United States Government, rating
even higher that the A-bomb.
Flying saucers exist.
Their modus operandi is unknown
but concentrated effort is being made by a small group
headed by Doctor (unreadable) Bush.
The entire matter is considered
by the United States authorities to be of tremendous
I was further informed that the
United States authorities are investigating along quite a number
of lines which might possibly be related to the (unreadable)
such as mental phenomena and I gather that they are not doing
too well since they indicated that if Canada is doing anything
at all in geomagnetics they would welcome a discussion with
suitably accredited Canadians.
While I am not yet in a position to say that we have solved even
the first problems in geo-magnetic energy release, I feel that
the correlation between our basic theory and the available
information on saucers checks too closely to be mere
coincidence. It is my honest opinion that we are on the right
track and are fairly close to at least some of the answers.
Mr. (unreadable), Defense Research Board liaison officer
at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, was extremely anxious for
me to get in touch with Doctor (unreadable), Chairman of the
Defense Research Board, to discuss with him future
investigations along the lines of geo-magnetic energy release. I
do not feel that we have as yet sufficient data to place before
Defense Research Board which would enable a program to be
initiated within that organization, but I do feel that further
work of our own organization with, of course, full co-operation
and exchange of information with other interested bodies.
I discussed this matter fully with Doctor (unreadable),
Chairman of Defense Research Board, on November 20th and
placed before him as much information as I have been able to
gather to date.
Doctor (unreadable) agreed that work on
geo-magnetic energy should go forward as rapidly as possible and
offered full co-operation of his Board in providing laboratory
facilities, acquisition of necessary items of equipment, and
specialized personnel for incidental work in the project. I
indicated to Doctor (unreadable) that we would prefer to keep
the project with the Department of Transport for the time being
until we have obtained sufficient information to permit a
complete assessment of the value of our work.
It is therefore recommended that a PROJECT be set up within the
frame work of this Section to study this problem and that the
work be carried on a part time basis until such time as
sufficient tangible results can be seen to warrant more
definitive action. Cost of the program in its initial stages are
expected to be less than a few hundred dollars and can be
carried by our Radio Standards Lab appropriation.
Attached hereto is a draft of terms of reference for such a
project, which if authorized, will enable us to proceed with
this research work within our own organization.
Senior Radio Engineer