The UFO Crash at Hart Canyon, New Mexico: An in-depth look
The Aztec, New Mexico, UFO incident (sometimes known as the “other Roswell”) was a flying saucer crash alleged to have happened in 1948 in Aztec, New Mexico. The story was first published in 1949 by author Frank Scully in his Variety magazine columns, and later in his 1950 book “Behind the Flying Saucers”. In the mid-1950s, the story was exposed as a hoax fabricated by two confidence men, Silas M. Newton and Leo A. Gebauer as part of a fraudulent scheme to sell supposed alien technology. Beginning in the 1970s, some Ufologists resurrected the story in books claiming the purported crash was real. In 2013, an FBI memo claimed by some Ufologists to substantiate the crash story was dismissed by the bureau as “a second- or third-hand claim that we never investigated”.
According to Scully, in March 1948 an unidentified aerial craft containing sixteen humanoid bodies was recovered by the military in New Mexico after making a controlled landing in Hart Canyon 12 miles northeast of the city of Aztec. The craft was said to be 99 feet (30 m) in diameter, the largest UFO to date. Scully named as his sources two men identified as Newton and Gebauer, who reportedly told him the incident had been covered up and “the military had taken the craft for secret research”.
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Scully wrote that the crashed UFO along with other flying saucers captured by the government came from Venus and worked on “magnetic principles”. According to Scully, the inhabitants stocked concentrated food wafers and “heavy water” for drinking purposes, and every dimension of the craft was “divisible by nine”. Science writer Martin Gardner criticized Scully’s story as full of “wild imaginings” and “scientific howlers”.
During the late 1940s and early 50s, Silas Newton and Leo A. Gebauer traveled through Aztec, attempting to sell devices known in the oil business as “doodlebugs.” They claimed that these devices could find oil, gas and gold, and that they could do so because they were based on “alien technology” recovered from the supposed crash of a flying saucer. When J. P. Cahn of the San Francisco Chronicle asked the con-men for a piece of metal from the supposed alien devices, they provided him with a sample that turned out to be ordinary aluminium. In 1949, author Frank Scully published a series of columns in Variety magazine retelling the crash story told to him by Newton and Gebauer. He later expanded these columns to create “Behind the Flying Saucers”, a best selling book that influenced public perceptions about UFOs. Four years later the hoax was exposed in True magazine. After the article was published, many victims of the pair came forward. One of the victims was the millionaire Herman Flader, who pressed charges. The two were convicted of fraud in 1953.
Through the mid-1950s to the early 1970s, most Ufologists considered the subject thoroughly discredited and therefore avoided it. However, in the late 70s, author Leonard Stringfield purported that not only was the incident real, but that the craft involved was one of many captured and stored by the US military. In later years, many alleged ‘first hand’ accounts of the Roswell crash contained the Aztec crash story, with some claiming the craft was made of a material impervious to all heat, while others claiming the craft was damaged by the crash. The supposed humanoid bodies were said to measure between 36 inches (91 cm) and 42 inches (110 cm) in height, and weigh around 40 pounds (18 kg). Ufologists claim that shortly after the craft was downed, the military cleared the area of evidence, including the bodies – subsequently taking it to Hangar 18 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
Scott D. Ramsey has been researching the UFO Incident at Aztec since he first became aware of it back in 1988 while on a business trip to the four corners area. He has been aggressively tracking down witnesses and chasing any and all leads since 1990. He has traveled to 28 states in fourteen years, spent hundreds of hours in various archives, interviewed over 60 credible witnesses tied to the event; he has incurred over $200,000 dollars in expenditures during this ongoing investigation.
[amazon_link asins=’1632650010′ template=’ProductAd’ store=’mtvoice07-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’1f2a1e1d-7ac1-11e7-b8e6-7fcc244fc5b3′]On March 25th, 1948, at approximately 5:00 a.m. an event took place of such great magnitude it’s ramifications would forever change the lives of those involved: Doug Nolan and Bill Ferguson, local employees of the El Paso Oil Company were called-out to a mesa, just off of Hart Canyon road, to inspect a brush fire, sighted near one of the company’s drip tanks; upon arriving, the men discovered “a large disc” lying on the western side of the mesa. “The craft was extremely large,” Doug recalled. I had interviewed him last August at his home in Las Vegas while he was still recovering from a series of recent strokes.
He has told this same story, over the years, to selected people, but now he wanted it on record. Since my research began on the Aztec Incident, I have always been amazed at how this story has been mostly overlooked for fifty-six years. I first started my research after a business trip that took me to the Four Corners area.
A customer I was calling on at that time had employed a large number of Navajo Indians from the local reservation; I overheard them talking about a meeting planned for the following Saturday to hunt for mule-deer near “the old crash site.”
I cautiously asked them, “What old crash site?”
They explained to me that a local story had been circulating in the area for years; that “a flying saucer had landed up on a mesa” off of Hart Canyon road, northeast of the town of Aztec, New Mexico, about twenty-two miles from where I was staying in Farmington, N.M. After I returned from my business trip, I did a little digging into the old Aztec UFO story.
I was shocked to discover that Frank Scully had devoted a book to the incident, in 1950. It was the second book published on the subject of UFOs after the one that Major Donald Kehoe (Retired) had written in the paperback form, the previous year. After locating a copy of the book, I read with great interest about how Frank had been told of an amazing event, complete with “Top Secret” scientists and “Top Secret radar bases,” and how the story soon died a quick death.
Later I read articles by J.P. Cahn, claiming that the story was a big hoax and that Scully’s sources were a bunch of con men. The more I dug into the story, the more nothing really made any sense. How could a popular writer like Frank Scully have been duped by a bunch of con men and have written a book that made it to the best-seller list in the ’50s?
I read more articles over time, which really gave the Aztec case a black eye; but why? It seemed almost fashionable to “discredit” anything to do with Aztec. I decided (since my travels would take me to the Four Corners for business every two to three month’s) that I would do my own research on the “Aztec Incident” as I like to call it. It seems that one area in which Aztec draws criticism is through claims of the lack of eyewitnesses the event.
First, let’s look at who Frank Scully was (for all those that haven’t followed the Aztec history).
Frank Scully was a well-known writer back in the late-Forties up through the Sixties. He wrote for many popular magazines including Variety magazine and was one of the most popular journalists of his day. (Keeping in mind that newsprint and radio were the mainstream media of that time.)
Scully would be compared to the present day Dan Rather, Peter Jennings or Tom Brokaw. In 1949 he meets Silas Newton, an oil prospector who tells of a high-ranking scientist that had allegedly worked on a recovered “flying saucer program” for the U.S. Government. Scully had been approached because of his reputation as a highly respected journalist at the time.
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The “scientist,” as Frank Scully later recalled, was not just one individual, but a group of eight scientists that he refers to collectively as “Dr. Gee.” Scully’s book, Behind The Flying Saucers, devoted a number of pages discussing the mysterious “Dr. Gee.” Many critics have alleged that Dr. Gee was actually Leo Gebauer, a close friend of Silas Newton’s who leaked the story to Frank Scully. As much as Frank Scully’s book was very important to the history behind the Aztec Incident, I will use other methods in providing facts behind the story. Whoever Dr. Gee was, he was very much “in the loop” concerning government projects at the time. I examined several claims made by Dr. Gee in order to see if they could be proven, fifty years later.
This has been the Aztec Story from the beginning. Amazingly the story has remained consistent for over fifty-six years; that on March 25th, 1948, a large craft measuring about 100 ft. in diameter, 6 ft. in height and showing no signs of damage, “soft landed” on a mesa above Hart Canyon road, approximately twelve-miles northeast of the town of Aztec, N.M.
There were from 14 to 16 humanoid bodies, apparently charred or burned, removed from the craft. The bodies ranged from 36 – 48 inches in height. They were wearing navy-blue colored, one-piece jump suits. The craft was first discovered by two local oil field workers, and within hours, the mesa had attracted local ranchers, other oilfield workers, two law-enforcement officers, and then, finally, the military.
After the military arrived, they swore all of the witnesses to secrecy and then reminded them of their ‘patriotic duty.’ After the manner and tone by which the oil field workers and ranchers had been warned, they quietly left the heavily patrolled Mesa and went about their business. In order to remove the craft, an access road had to be cut and a concrete slab had to be poured for supporting a large crane, used to remove the large craft.
The removal process took two weeks. Heavy equipment was also brought in from three to four regional military installations. The hills around the mesa were patrolled by the military and not even the oil field workers could see what was going on! Finally, piece-by-piece the object was removed to some remote government facility.
Now, let’s look at the story and start adding in some facts, eyewitnesses and some good old fashion research behind the Aztec Incident.
Dr. Gee’s Claims of Top Secret Radar Bases
Both in Frank Scully’s Behind The Flying Saucers, and then, Bill Steinman and Wendelle Stevens’ UFO Crash At Aztec, a reference to “secret radar bases” is found. The first mention of this comes from “Dr. Gee” of Frank Scully’s book. Dr. Gee claimed that the U.S. Government had three “Top Secret” radar bases in northern New Mexico that were tracking the errant UFO the morning of March 25, 1948. I also noted the same claim by Steinman and Stevens in their book as well. In July of 1998, I started looking for these alleged “Top Secret radar bases.” I first investigated claims of a radar base located outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that is still in existence but is now used as an F.A.A. navigational radar system. The old base was once a Nike missile installation during the Cold War days. I soon found that they have a base “historian” at the site by the name of Pat McHugh. He was quite happy to sit with me and go over all of the old AC&W bases that he had in his files. Quickly, we both learned that New Mexico did not have a radar base that matched any of Dr. Gee’s claims.
The next step was to round up a group of adventurers and seek out some old USGS maps of New Mexico, and then try to find a logical spot as to where these bases may have been. By January of 1999, we had found our first radar base. It was called the 767th AC&W, located in El Vado, New Mexico, approximately 65 miles north of Los Alamos National Laboratory. After many painstaking hours spent searching the Air Force archives, we learned that these bases were built by The Atomic Energy Commission, back in 1946, as a means of protection for Los Alamos, Sandia National Labs, and Kirkland Air Force Base. The bases were later turned over to the Air Force in 1950, but were closed by 1957-as newer technology had rendered them obsolete. By the end of our sixth trip to Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery, Alabama, we had by then located the other two. Finally, we had identified all three of the bases described by Dr. Gee in 1949.
Finding these bases now puts a feather in Dr. Gee’s hat. Now, we had most of the declassified documents naming the bases and we quickly realized that these were truly “Top Secret bases.” The military had been experimenting with some very powerful, new radar technology that was being tested for the U.S. Navy while protecting the skies above New Mexico. After pouring over thousands of pages of monthly and quarterly reports, we soon learned the importance of these bases for the ‘40s and ‘50s.
Now, back to Dr. Gee. If someone back in 1949 knew about these bases, then they were someone that was “in the know” even then. This is but one of the many claims made by Dr. Gee over fifty years ago that had merit. In the interest of keeping this article short, we will elaborate more on this in the future.
Witness No One:
One argument against the Aztec Incident waged by critics over the years has claimed a lack of eyewitnesses; in our early research into the “Aztec Incident,” we found it very difficult to speak with anyone from the town that might “go on the record”; I was finding myself returning to the Four Corners area about every six to seven weeks, just as I thought I would. Over many weekends I researched the story, looking for an eyewitness to this historical event. Finally, people slowly started to come forward.
Our first witness was K. Farley. When we interviewed Mr. Farley, he was dying of a respiratory disease. He was on bottled oxygen when we met him north of Phoenix, Arizona. As Mr. Farley later described to me during our three-hour interview, he had been in Durango, Colorado on March 25th, 1948, visiting his Aunt as he was traveling to San Diego, California; he was supposed to meet a friend just north of Aztec (New Mexico) and then continue his drive.
As he arrived early that morning at a planned pickup spot near Cedar Hill (a small town just north of Aztec), his “friend” told him about a lot of trucks and a police car, seen going out a small dirt road just south of their position. The drivers of the vehicles seemed as though they were in a hurry according to Mr. Farley. Thinking an emergency was underway, the two of them decided to go out and see what the problem was. Mr. Farley and his friend (anonymous) arrived at the Mesa, now apparently busy with oil field workers and what appeared to have been local ranchers.
Mr. Farley and his friend moved toward the west side of the mesa to get a better look at the large disc that sat silently there. Mr. Farley said there wasn’t “any noticeable damage”; the craft was “perfectly smooth on the outside, without any seams or marking except for around the middle of the craft.”
Mr. Farley also described two police officers at the scene that were talking to the locals. Finally, the one officer walked over to Mr. Farley and his friend and told them that the military had been notified and that they should leave the area at once. Mr. Farley and his friend refused to leave because nobody else seemed to be listening to the officer. Mr. Farley recalls that some of the oilfield workers were climbing all over the damn thing, which he thought was dim-witted given the circumstances; some older folks started yelling at them to get the hell away from it!
Finally, later that morning according to Mr. Farley, the Military did arrive and discussed the incident individually with the people on the mesa. Mr. Farley has claimed they were “threatened with their lives” and “sworn to secrecy.” Since Mr. Farley was not originally from the area, he could not help me identify who the others might have been.
Witness No. 2
Doug Nolan and Bill Ferguson were employed by the El Paso Gas Company; Doug just nineteen years of age, had just picked up his boss, Bill Ferguson, at 5:00 am and Bill told him they needed to get to Hart Canyon rd., as fast as possible due to a bad brush fire that was spotted near a drip tank. As the two arrived, they were greeted by other oil field workers, who explained that the brush fire was under control, but that they needed to see “something else” on the mesa.
As they arrived at the Mesa, Doug said they could not believe what they were looking at; a very large, metallic disc sat silently on the mesa. Doug explained that as they cautiously moved closer, they realized the craft was smooth with no seams, no noticeable rivets, bolts or weld marks. He said that it “looked as if it had been molded.” Doug and Bill climbed up on the craft and looked through a broken porthole. He recalls seeing two bodies slumped over what he thought was a control panel. Other oil field workers were climbing around the craft looking for a way to enter when others started to arrive and advised the men to move away from the craft. A Mr. and Mrs. Knight (local ranchers running cattle out near the mesa) arrived in their pickup truck and began to walk slowly toward the craft. Nearing daybreak (as Doug would recall) a helicopter started to circle the mesa. Doug said this was unbelievable as well because he had never seen a helicopter before! (Keep in mind that helicopters had just recently been introduced to the military at that time).
During my interview with Doug, he recalled that the first law-enforcement officer to show up acted as though he didn’t know anyone. Doug approached the young officer and asked what they should all do? The officer explained that he was from the town of Cuba, New Mexico and that he had followed the low flying disc in the early morning hours, and then, finally, to the area of Hart Canyon road. He also explained to Doug that the town of Cuba had several sightings over those past few weeks. Doug would later recall that a second law enforcement officer also showed up. This officer was well known by most of the local people at the site.
Now, this ties in with Ken Farley’s story about two police officers at the crash site. Doug was able to name everyone at the crash site, with the exception of two young men that stood on the western side of the mesa. He had not seen them prior to or after the incident.
Witness No. 3
While working for the O.S.S. (Office of Strategic Services), Fred Reed and his group were sent to Aztec, New Mexico to “clean up the crash site,” early in April of 1948. [Reed didn’t work for the O.S.S. (he worked for another clandestine organization of the military) this is an “uncorrected error” that was missed in final editing by Scott.] Shortly after they arrived, it was apparent to them that something very large had been removed from the site. Their specialty was to make an area appear as if nothing had transpired there.
Fred revisited the crash site in 1999; I was able to interview him one week later.
In 1948 they were ordered to collect any foreign items they found and then bury them eighteen inches deep; to ‘soft landscape’ any areas where heavy equipment tracks were visible and to do an extensive survey on the entire mesa. He noted a newly cut road and an out-of-place, large concrete pad in the freshly altered and siltey soil, during the cleanup. Reed recalled thinking that they must have poured it to support a heavy structure, like a crane, used to move a large object.
At the time of the cleanup, his group was informed that it was simply a crash site. The entire cleanup was done in the usual quiet manner that they were accustomed to in the O.S.S. [O.S.S. is incorrect.] Years later, one of Reed’s former Senior Officers would explain to him that it was not an aircraft crash, but that of a large metallic “flying disc.”
In my interview with Reed, he commented on how the crash site today looked as they had left it when they had finished. He recalled that the tops of the trees were broken and was fascinated with how they had weathered with time.
Witness No. 3
During our research on the Aztec Incident, we came across a name in several old declassified reports. This person kept receiving all the UFO reports. We figured since this person was getting all the “good reports,” maybe he would know something about the Aztec Incident; trying to keep this article in reasonable length, I’ll skip to the details on our interview after two years of hard research in tracking him down.
When I first contacted him by phone, I explained that I was doing research on his old Air Force group and that I would love to sit and interview him. He agreed and we met at a Hotel lobby bar for a drink on a cold winter night. I brought with me most of the files that I had declassified that talked about his Intel group from back then. I wasted little time in getting to the Aztec questions. He slowly and reluctantly talked about the Aztec Crash as he called it. He admitted that he was not at the crash site, but did read daily Intel reports on the cleanup and progress of the removal.
His job was to keep track of the people at the site and carefully monitor all reports. He was stationed at Walker Field (Formerly Roswell Army Air Field) in March of 1948. He explained to me that everything was very compartmentalized during the recovery operation. His job was mainly to keep Personnel files on everyone involved and make sure that the records would never show them in that part of the country. He did see black and white photos of the “extremely large craft.” He told me during our interview, that after the botched attempt at Roswell, they were getting better at their Intel.” He explained to me that the only person he ever discussed this with was his wife before she passed away. When I asked him on how the Military felt about Frank Scully’s book, he recalled that the Military was not so upset with Frank Scully, but very concerned as to “who leaked the story to Scully.”
He was very good about confirming certain details about some of my questions, but very reluctant on some items. He told me that the work force at the site consisted of about 200 persons during the two-week recovery; “that” he could easily remember, because of the huge paperwork process that he did daily. He provided some clues to the crash-site, not knowing what we had obtained so far; it was great to hear some confirmations from him.
He mentioned a small delay in the first few days of the recovery do to some problems with a fresh cut road. The soil near the crash site was very moist and sandy and created problems moving in some heavy equipment.
He told me to look for some “footers” or “ concrete foundations” that had to be poured in order for the equipment to be stable. He did not remember exactly what equipment, but when I mentioned a crane, he thought that was correct. When asked where this craft was taken, he explained that he would not have been privileged to that information. However, after the recovery he explained, he was responsible for reclaiming some of the equipment that was used. The equipment he recalled, was at Los Alamos.
Witness No. 4
Virgel Riggs was a young man in the Air Force back in the early sixties. He had just arrived at RAF Welford near Newbury, Berkshire area of England. He had been at the base one month when he met a fellow Airman named John Doe. [Name withheld by the author.] Upon learning that Virgel was raised in the Four Corners area of New Mexico, John was very curious to learn if Virgel had ever heard of the “Aztec UFO story.” Virgel responded that he had heard the story growing up as a child; as time went on, and Virgel and John became close friends, John tells Virgel that the Aztec UFO story was not just an old wise tale as some thought it was. When Virgel asked John what he meant by that, John stated that “that he was part of the recovery team in the aftermath of the ‘Aztec Incident.’”
This obviously shocked Virgel but he had no reason to doubt what his good friend was telling him. A year or two, later, John was shipped off to Viet Nam, and Virgel has never seen him since. During the past year, we have been looking for John Doe. By a stroke of luck, as Virgel was going through some records that he kept, he found a copy of some orders that listed John Doe and his AF #. We are currently trying to find John Doe, as it turns out that “John” was his nickname.
So the Aztec story goes on from here. Our research continues as we speak. I have traveled to over 28 states, interviewed 60 credible people, traveled to several archives, and spent over $ 200,000.00 of our own money!!
This article is simply an overview of some of the Aztec research that we have done in sixteen years. The research continues and will continue until we feel that we have looked at every aspect of this Historical Event. Undocumented History has and always will be our driving force in researching this event.