Our goal in writing a book on the UFO phenomenon, The Day the Earth Stands Still, was not to document the crazy cults that have emerged since the beginning of the modern UFO era in 1947. There are plenty, and you, as a discerning reader, don’t need us to tell you how far removed from reality they are. Some are relatively harmless, and others are not—like the Heaven’s Gate cult that convinced thirty-nine of its members to commit suicide in late March of 1997 in the belief they’d be taken aboard a spacecraft following Comet Hale-Bopp.
It’s more important that we look at how the ancient astronaut/alien meme has influenced our society in more subtle ways. It’s shaping the beliefs of people who have been convinced by media and academia that the Bible cannot be true, so we must look elsewhere for answers to the Big Questions.
As Christians who should understand that we’re in the middle of a war for our souls, this shouldn’t surprise us. And yet it does, because too many churches have been lured by principalities and powers—fallen angels and their demonic minions—into a modernist or postmodernist worldview, either looking to science as the only tool for revealing spiritual truth or buying into the absurd, self-refuting notion that absolute truth doesn’t exist at all.
What should concern American evangelicals is not the role played by UFO researchers in spreading the ETI disclosure meme. That’s why they’re interested in the phenomenon in the first place. We expect that from them. No, what’s bothersome is that the government of our purportedly Christian nation has deployed a variety of agencies and operatives to sell the existence of ETI over the last seventy-five years.
It began early in the modern UFO era. About two weeks before the crash at Roswell, New Mexico made headlines, a harbor patrolman named Harold A. Dahl anchored in Maury Island Bay with his son, their dog, and two crewmen. At 2:00 P.M. on June 21, 1947 (the summer solstice, coincidentally), they spotted half a dozen odd, metallic, doughnut-shaped craft hovering a couple thousand feet above them. According to Dahl, one of the ships seemed to be in trouble, with the other five circling around it as it lost altitude. A small explosion showered Dahl’s boat with hot metal, killing his dog and injuring his son. Dahl beached the boat and took some pictures of the craft, which took off in the direction of Canada.
His boat’s radio was jammed, so Dahl headed back to Tacoma, got treatment for his son’s injured arm, then took his camera and some of the metal fragments to his boss, 27-year-old Fred L. Crisman.
The Maury Island Incident has gone down in the books as a hoax. Whether it is or isn’t is irrelevant. The important point is that more than twenty years later, Crisman, a former officer in the OSS (forerunner of the CIA), was subpoenaed by New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison in the conspiracy trial of businessman Clay Shaw, who’d been charged with being part of the conspiracy to kill President John F. Kennedy. Some thought Crisman was one of the three tramps picked up by Dallas police in the rail yard near Dealey Plaza, although evidence suggests he wasn’t in Dallas that day. In spite of that, Garrison apparently believed that Crisman was one of the trigger men on the grassy knoll.
Here’s where things get even weirder: A few days after the Maury Island incident, Kenneth Arnold of Boise, Idaho, a successful businessman, deputy federal marshal, experienced pilot, and member of an Idaho Search and Rescue Team—in other words, an excellent witness—was flying home from Washington when he spotted a formation of nine UFOs north of Mount Rainier moving at upwards of 1,200 miles per hour. That’s not a speed any known aircraft could reach in 1947.
Fred Crisman, even though he wasn’t a witness to whatever Harold Dahl claimed he saw, reached out to the editor of Amazing Stories magazine, Raymond Palmer. Palmer had already been in touch with Arnold, offering him an advance for an interview about his UFO encounter. After hearing from Crisman, who’d had a pair of letters to the editor published in Amazing Stories in the previous year, Palmer persuaded Arnold to fly from Boise to Tacoma to meet with Dahl and check out the Maury Island incident. Oddly, when he arrived, Arnold found all the hotels in Tacoma fully booked—until he tried the most expensive place in town and discovered a reservation in his name, although no one seemed to know who made it.
The odd series of events apparently gave Arnold the feeling that the situation was a setup, possibly an intelligence op to discredit both him and Harold Dahl. Because of this, he contacted the two Army intelligence officers who’d debriefed him after his initial report, Captain William Davidson and 1st Lieutenant Frank M. Brown. They flew to Tacoma immediately, arriving that afternoon and discussing the case with Arnold and United Airlines pilot Captain Emil J. Smith, who had likewise been invited by Arnold. The two pilots had become friends after Smith and his crew reported five “somethings” over Idaho the night of July 4, 1947, flying wings or discs similar to what Arnold had seen two weeks earlier near Mount Rainier.
After meeting with Arnold, Smith, Crisman, and Dahl, the intelligence officers seemed to think the Maury Island sighting was a hoax, and they prepared to fly back to Hamilton Field in California late the night of July 31 as their B-25 bomber was scheduled to fly in the first Air Force Day celebration the next day.
At the airport, an odd thing happened, one which has plagued UFO researchers for years. Crisman, the man the intelligence officers seemed to think was nothing more than an oddball hoaxer, turned up at the last minute and gave the men a heavy box which he claimed was filled with the debris from the damaged UFO. To Arnold, who was there, the contents looked like a bunch of rocks. The men stowed the box in the trunk of their car and left for the airport, catching their flight. They never made it back to base. Both Davidson and Brown were killed. The enlisted men on board parachuted to safety after the left engine caught fire—according to the report of one of the survivors—and the two officers remained with the aircraft for a full ten minutes before the B-25 bomber crashed to earth. No one has any idea why the two intelligence officers would have remained with the plane and not parachuted themselves; or why they did not radio a distress call.
It’s important to note that Davidson and Brown were preparing to fly their B-25 out of Tacoma at around 2:00 AM. What are the odds that Fred Crisman just happened to be driving by the airport at that time of night?
A report filed by the FBI’s Butte, Montana field office designated SM-X, for “Security Matter X” (real life X-files!), noted that Arnold remembered Crisman calling him and Smith at their hotel in the morning to tell them about the deadly crash, and wondering how Crisman had known who was on the B-25 before the Army had released any information to the press. And as for the press: Reporters for the United Press office in Tacoma were getting reports from someone who sat in the meetings between Crisman, Dahl, Arnold, Smith, and the Army intelligence officers, because bits of conversation were quoted back to Arnold and Smith verbatim.
The big question is this: what was Fred Crisman really doing in Tacoma that summer?
The UFO sightings by Kenneth Arnold and E. J. Smith were only two of dozens in the Pacific Northwest, and literally hundreds across the country, in June and July, 1947. On June 24 alone, seventeen reports of UFOs eventually surfaced in the Northwest from Boise, Idaho to Bellingham, Washington.
Crisman’s behavior after Dahl’s UFO sighting was odd, to say the least. And what path could possibly lead from the first flap of the modern UFO era to the Kennedy assassination?
In 1967, Harold Dahl authored an odd addendum to the Crisman chronicle in a note to UFO researcher Gary Leslie:
There is a TV series running now that I swear is based in the main on the life of F. Lee Crisman. I know him better than any living man and I know of some of the incredible adventures he has passed through in the last twenty years. I do not mean that his life has been that of this TV hero on The Invaders show… but there are parts of it that I swear were told to me years ago by Mr. Crisman… and I know of several that are too wild to be believed… even by the enlightened attitude of 1967.
Dahl made Crisman sound like the mysterious Cigarette Smoking Man from The X-Files. This may have been by design. Crisman may even have written Dahl’s letter himself to divert attention from what he was really doing in the Seattle area after World War II.
[Crisman’s] involvement with Maury Island may have had to do with covering up top-secret radar-fogging discs or the dumping of nuclear waste from the nearby Hanford plutonium reactor. Crisman wanted people to believe the [UFO] scenario, however. In early 1968, he corresponded with well-known UFO researcher Lucius Farish as the contact person for a group he called Parapsychology Research, under the pseudonym Fred Lee. The alias, which only dropped his last name, provided Crisman with a means to discuss himself in the third person, telling Farish: “Mr. Crisman is probably the most informed man in the United States on UFOs and also one of the hardest to find—as the FBI has learned several times.”
Even more bizarre is Fred Crisman’s link to another far-reaching conspiracy dubbed “the Octopus.” This was the name given by investigative journalist Danny Casolaro to a network of shadowy groups that overlapped the intelligence community, global bankers, the military-industrial complex, and the theft of powerful case management software called PROMIS by the Justice Department during the Reagan administration. Central to Casolaro’s investigation was an electronics and computer expert named Michael Riconosciuto, who claimed he’d modified PROMIS at the request of a friend of former Attorney General Ed Meese to allow secret back-door access by the government.
As it happens, Crisman worked for a Tacoma advertising agency owned by Riconosciuto’s father, Marshall, thus linking the earliest UFO sightings of the modern era, the Kennedy assassination, and major figures in the Iran-Contra scandal, the October Surprise, the savings and loan crisis of the ’80s and ’90s, and other global conspiracies too convoluted to get into here.
To give you a hint of the type of games being played: Casolaro was found dead, his wrists brutally slashed, in a motel room in August 1991. His death was officially ruled suicide. Riconosciuto was convicted early the next year of seven drug-related charges and given a minimum twenty-year sentence, despite his claim that the video evidence presented by the prosecution was faked. Riconosciuto was finally released in 2017 after serving about twenty-five years behind bars.
Back to Fred Crisman: As strange as his story is, he wasn’t the only spook linked to early UFO accounts and the Kennedy assassination. You see, the FBI agent who filed the SM-X report on the Maury Island case was Special Agent Guy Banister.
Banister is well known to JFK assassination researchers. He retired from the FBI in 1954 and, after a stint with the New Orleans police department, set up a private detective agency that may have served as a front to supply weapons used by Cuban exiles in 1961’s disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion. Banister’s mistress later said she was present when he advised Lee Harvey Oswald to set up a local pro-Castro Fair Play for Cuba Committee office in the same building as Banister’s agency.
In the 1940s, during the first wave of the modern UFO era, Guy Banister served as the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Butte, Montana field office, which had jurisdiction over several western states. Declassified FBI documents obtained through FOIA requests include several telexes marked SM-X sent by Banister from Butte to Washington, D.C., all related to UFO sightings.
The assassination of John F. Kennedy had the fingerprints of the intelligence community all over it. But what were some of the same operatives doing with UFO reports in the 1940s?
And why have American intelligence agencies—and presumably those of other nations—remained involved in the UFO phenomenon to the present day?
Derek Gilbert Bio
Derek P. Gilbert hosts SkyWatchTV, a Christian television program that airs on several national networks, the long-running interview podcast A View from the Bunker, and co-hosts SciFriday, a weekly television program that analyzes science news with his wife, author Sharon K. Gilbert.
Before joining SkyWatchTV in 2015, his secular broadcasting career spanned more than 25 years with stops at radio stations in Philadelphia, Saint Louis, Little Rock, and suburban Chicago.
Derek is a Christian, a husband and a father. He’s been a regular speaker at Bible prophecy conferences in recent years. Derek’s most recent book is The Great Inception: Satan’s PSYOPs from Eden to Armageddon. He has also published the novels The God Conspiracy and Iron Dragons, and he’s a contributing author to the nonfiction anthologies God’s Ghostbusters, Blood on the Altar, I Predict: What 12 Global Experts Believe You Will See by 2025, and When Once We Were a Nation.