Science: Visitors from Venus

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The flying-saucer yarn was much too good to die young. Last week the U.S. was abuzz again with rumors about mysterious aircraft flitting around the sky. Latest rumor, presented as truth by the current issue of True magazine: "For the past 175 years the planet Earth has been under systematic close-range examination by living, intelligent observers from another planet." True's article set out to prove that the flying saucers carried interplanetary scouts who may have studied the earth's customs.

Hundreds of newspapers repeated this fascinating Trueism; Frank Edwards,Wal-ter Winchell, Lowell Thomas and other radio commentators trumpeted it over the air. Denials from Washington had little effect, though an Air Force spokesman stated: "Air Force studies of 'flying saucers' lend no support to the view that they may come from another planet."

The gaudy rumors were already well launched before True came into the picture. Four months ago, Los Angeles heard that rocket tests at White Sands Proving Grounds were being watched from above by interplanetary interlopers. Repeated from mouth to mouth with amplification and new twists, the story got fancier.

Unearthly Tongue. Some time ago, according to one version, a large space ship crashed in flames in New Mexico. Its 15 crew members were burned to a crisp, but luckily some of its instruments remained intact. One was a radio receiver, over which at short intervals came cryptic messages in an unearthly tongue.

While U.S. observers were studying the wreck, the story went, a second space craft crashed near by. Both of its two occupants were killed, but one of their bodies, thrown free, was found in good condition. The interplanetary visitor was about three feet tall and a bit primitive, even monkeylike, in appearance. His body was rushed to the Rosenwald Foundation in Chicago for expert examination.

Pressurized Prisoners. This fanciful tale was hardly in circulation when a bigger & better version caught up with it. The space ship's space men were not dead at all. Fifteen of them had been captured alive. They would not, or could not talk (as earthbound creatures know talking), but one of them obligingly drew a map of the solar system and pointed to the second planet from the sun. Thereupon, at the suggestion of a smart Earthling, all the prisoners were hastily placed in a pressurized chamber filled with carbon dioxide to simulate the atmosphere of Venus.

The Air Force did not bother to deny this fantastic story. It repeated vehemently that no reported flying saucer had ever proved genuine. And it disbanded its Project Saucer, a group with headquarters at Wright Field, Ohio, that had been investigating all flying-saucer reports. Apparently its continued existence encouraged the growth of rumors by suggesting that there might be something back of them, after all. It was announced last week that Project Saucer's files including pictures (none of them genuine flying saucers) would be placed on public exhibition in the Pentagon. From now on, said the Air Force, its only similar activity would be the conventional military watch for unidentified flying objects which might enter the U.S. air from some other earthly country.