Could Project Blue Book‘s astronomer J. Allen Hynek and Air Force captain Michael Quinn be so oblivious that despite all their UFO research, the proof of extraterrestrial visitation was right under their noses?
One of the final episodes of History Channel’s now-canceled docudrama series, “What Lies Beneath,” makes oblique references to the legendary Hangar 18, a supposed repository for flying saucer crash debris at Dayton, Ohio’s Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, which has gone on to inspire movies, video games, and a kick-ass thrash metal song. And yes, it’s said to exist on the same base where the real Project Blue Book Air Force investigation into UFOs was headquartered.
In their defense, no one was talking about Hangar 18 by the time Hynek and Air Force captain Edward Ruppelt (the real-life Michael Quinn) had their work ended in 1969, following Edward Condon’s Air Force-funded University of Colorado UFO Project, which concluded that after 17 years of finding not much of anything, continuing Project Blue Book would likely be a waste of resources. Even hardcore UFO believers didn’t take the stories of saucer crash/retrievals seriously (not even Roswell), until respected researcher Leonard Stringfield started to latch onto them in the mid-’70s.
Spurred on by information related from nameless sources through science fiction author Robert S. Carr, Stringfield dug up the long-debunked hoax of a flying saucer crash in Aztec, New Mexico, which supposedly took place only a year after the Roswell report (I guess that dry heat is bad for alien spaceships). The tale grew in the telling, as Carr told Stringfield that debris and aliens bodies (first said to be human-like, but more like the modern “greys” according to Carr), had been shipped off to a particular storage area at Wright Field (now Wright-Patterson Air Base).
Stringfield was vocal about all the crash stories he’d go on to investigate, so much so that the rest of “ufology” couldn’t help but notice, realizing that the thought of real, hard evidence could revive interest in UFOs, and the waning belief in their extraterrestrial origin. Charles Berlitz and Robert Moore’s 1980 book, The Roswell Incident, also asserted that the Aztec story was true, but the facts were muddled — the report was ACTUALLY referring to the Roswell crash of 1947! The authors weaved most other crash stories into Roswell, too, including the storage facility at “Building 18-A,” and a modern legend was set in motion.
Hangar 18 became such a pop culture touchstone that Leonard Nimoy’s seminal “unexplained” TV series In Search of … dedicated an episode to it, and Arizona senator Barry Goldwater asked a colleague for a look inside. Later in the ’80s and into the ’90s, though, the public became infatuated with Nevada’s Area 51, and a lot of the Hangar 18 talk subsided. Many people even conflate the two places now, thinking the story is that the Roswell debris was originally brought to Area 51 for reverse-engineering.
Of course, not all “UFO debris” has been shifted in the public’s mind from Hangar 18 to Area 51. In 1961 in Eagle River, Wisconsin, Joe Simonton said a UFO landed on his chicken farm, and after he supplied the occupants with water, they repaid him with some greasy, pockmarked pancakes Simonton saw them cooking on a flameless grill. Investigator George Wagner says one of the interplanetary breakfast delights is still on display at Wright-Patterson.
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