The Flying Saucer Phenomenon

It all began on June 24, 1947 when pilot Kenneth Arnold spotted some mysterious crescent-shaped lights skipping like saucers in the sky while he flew his small airplane. He reported seeing nine of the objects flying in a "V" formation over Mount Rainier, Washington (There was also a little known report in 1947 near a little town in New Mexico called Roswell). In the war years there were reports of "ghost rockets" and "foo fighters," but the tales never really caught public attention. This story however changed all that. The terms "flying saucer"and "flying disc" were adopted.

After reports of the Arnold sighting hit the media, other cases began to be reported in increasing numbers. By early July there was a sudden surge in sightings. Most American newspapers were filled with front-page stories of the new "flying saucers" or "flying discs" phenomenon.

The Way For Mass Invasion

In 1948 and 1949, strange green fireballs were seen exploding over the skies of New Mexico. Many feared they were guided missiles sent by the Soviet Union. The Air Force concluded that they were merely meteors.

1950 introduces the first flying saucer on celluloid, with the movie The Flying Saucer.

The Day the Earth Stood Still
directed by Robert Wise, was released in 1951.

Life on Another World

News stories and magazine articles pop up with topics such as "Some Saucers Still A Mystery," "Little Men Dressed In Blue," "Saucers And Mass Hysteria," and "Visitors From Outer Space?"

The United States Air Force, which coined the new term in 1952, initially defined UFOs as those objects that remain unidentified after scrutiny by expert investigators.


During the summer of 1952 Unidentified Flying Objects were seen roaming the skies over Washington D.C. and the White House.

Purported UFO NewJersey 1952-07-31, photgraphed by a CIA employeeGeorge Adamski allegedly met an alien called Orthon in the California desert November 20, 1952. These friendly visitors warned of the dangers of scientific progress and gave a message for humanity.

In 1955 Fred Morrison sold his flying disc invention to WHAMO, which originally introduced it in 1957 as the "Pluto Platter". Three years later WHAMO rebranded the "Pluto Platter" as the "Frisbee."

In 1957 Brazil, farmer Antonio Villas Boas claimed a space woman captured and "had her way" with him.

Also in 1957 the Canadian aircraft builder AVRO (with considerable funding by the United States Air Force) rolls out its wingless saucer-shaped Y-2 Project, re-named the Avrocar.

In 1961, Betty and Barney Hill reported seeing a UFO following their car the night of September 19. Later, under hypnosis there was revealed a strange story of abduction.

By the end of the decade the saucer craze became an inseperable part of life in the Atomic Era America, and the rest of the globe for that matter: we ate flying saucer wafer candy, we lit our homes with flying saucer lighting, we watched them fly across the movie screen, we read the novelized stories in books, and we could play with an endless array of imaginative space toys. Disney turned them into amusement rides. Song writers composed about them. Architects even designed buildings to emulate them.

Was it all nothing more than swamp gas?

Or a misidentification of the planet Venus?

Does it really matter?

space monsters, originally uploaded by hastingsgraham.

Watch the skies. Always keep watching.

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This Flying Saucer featurette is also published on the blog Atomic Living


The Day Hollywood Stood Still

Baseball, Apple Pie, originally uploaded by Kiel Bryant.

Who couldn't delve into the subject of the Flying Saucer phenomenon in the Atomic Age without referring to the iconic contributions made by Hollywood? And so, here it is . . .

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
My all, all-time fave. I can still remember being huddling in front of our tiny black and white set as a wee youngster, staring wide eyed as Gort makes his appearance down the ramp. Brimming over with one memorable scene after the other.

Stars Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, Hugh Marlowe, Billy Gray and Lock Martin as Gort.

Day The Earth Stood Still-Bernard Herrmann - Gort - The Visor - The Telescope .mp3

Found at bee mp3 search engine

Also see:
War of the Worlds (1953) - Most memorable moment is Anne's encounter, with the creature's hand on her shoulder. Also quite arguably the best saucer design ever seen on celluloid.
War of the Worlds (1953) Trailer

Invasion of the Saucer-Men (1957)
Humorously played with a short appearance by Frank Gorshin. And who can resist the iconic bug-eyed men in this one.
Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957) movie trailer

Earth vs the Flying Saucers (1956)
Hugh Marlowe as a hero scientist. But this movie is flooded with saucer imagery. Most memorable scene(s) is the saucer crashing into the Washington D.C. memorial of your choice.
Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers (1956) Trailer

Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Pods from space take over an unsuspecting town's populace. Not a saucer movie, but definitely an otherworldly invasion flick.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1957) Trailer

It Came From Outer Space
Another hero scientist to the rescue tries to make peace with a stranded menace from outer space. I like the ending when one of the bug-eyed creatures disguised as the lead love interest shoots deadly sparks from her wand.
It Came From Outer Space

Invaders From Mars
I don't know... it seems like the movie runs on about 30 minutes longer than it really needs to be, but it's considered a classic, plus an original storyline told from a child's perspective.

The Blob (1958)
Steve McQueen, an infectious title tune, and a big gob of man-eating space goo.
The Blob (1958) - Theatrical Trailer

This Island Earth (1955)
Not exactly an invasion storyline, but it does go in to quite a bit of detail into the sad story of Exeter and his dying other-worldly race. And there's saucers, the "interocitor", the "mu-tants" and a hero scientist.
This Island Earth (1955) - Theatrical Trailer

The THING (from Another World) (1951)
A giant carrot-man (played by James Arness) from space terrorizes a polar research outpost. My favorite scene is the beginning when the search-party
forms a wide circle around an object they find under the ice, then realize they've found a crashed saucer.
The Thing (1951) movie clip

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This Flying Saucer featurette is also published on the blog Atomic Living


They Came from Out of the Toy Box

With the imminent possibility of an outer space menace threatening to invade American soil, your first priority is to assure your family's survival. “A prudent man foresees the difficulties ahead and prepares for them."

It is with the highest priority that we teach our sons and our daughters these words:

"Watch Out!" "Always be alert" and to "Always be prepared."

Ideally we should begin our children's training at the youngest possible age...

We do this through their toys.

Space Men
Tom Corbett Space men Figures - These two are definitely up to no good

Tin litho Target Game to become a sure-shooting Space Ace

Captain Video space men figures

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This Flying Saucer featurette is also published on the blog Atomic Living

Flight to the Moon, Disneyland

The TWA Moonliner is undoubtedly the most imposing sight at the Flight to the Moon Exhibit at Tomorrowland, Disneyland, in thos photo dated for 1955.

Launch the story of the TWA Moonliner at Wikipedia, and Rocket to the Moon at Yesterland.


Flying Discs on the Turntable

Yes indeedy, the flying saucer men have invaded our country, our lives, and perhaps most shocking of all -- they came, they saw, and they conquered our beloved vinyl. Here's a modest selection for your listening pleasure:

  1. Flying Saucer Rock 'n' Roll by Bille Lee Riley
  2. Beware of the Blob by The Five Blobs (1958)
  3. (When You See) Those Flying Saucers by Buchanan Brothers (1947)
  4. The Boppin' Martian by Dick Robinson
  5. Purple People Eater by Sheb Wooley
  6. The Martian Monsters by Disney Halloween (1964)
  7. Our Favorite Martian by Bobby Fuller Four
  8. Flying Saucer Boogie by Eddie Cletro
  9. The Martian Hop by The Ran-dells (1963)
  10. Rollicking Man From Mars by Scotty MacGregor
  11. The Little Space Girl by Jessie Lee Turner
  12. My Favorite Martian Theme by ???
  13. Flying Saucer Lands by Fibber McGee and Molly (1950)
  14. Man from Mars by Ferrante and Teicher
  15. The Flying Saucer Buchanan & Goodman

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

Some Honorable Mentions

This Flying Saucer featurette is also published on the blog Atomic Living

Business-End of the TWA Moonliner

TWA Moonliner Disneyland, originally uploaded by flimflam1500.

The TWA Moonliner at Disneyland, or rather the business end of this rocket mock-up. It looks like the designers based their dummy engine on the V-2's with the steerable direction vanes jutting directly into the rocket exhaust.


The First of its Kind

Lindberg Flying Saucer

In 1954, History is made... in polystyrene.

The first ever "flying saucer" plastic model kit is produced (and patented) in 1954. In fact, it's the very first space-themed and science fiction kit ever available to the good citizens of Earth. This little hunk of plastic embodies all that America's best and brightest scientific research has gleaned together about these strange visitors from another world.

The Lindberg "Flying Saucer" kit reveals all: the aerodynamic inverted dinnerplate shape, the pair of turbo thrust rockets mounted on the smoothly curved silver hull, the rotating rim studded with jets, the futuristic cockpit bubble... and yes, the presence of a little green man at the controls of the whole unearthly device.


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This Flying Saucer featurette is also published on the blog Atomic Living

May 19, 1960 - the X-15

May 19, 1960 - X-15 (No. 1) flown to 107,000 feet, its highest altitude to date, by Maj. Robert M. White (USAF), at Edwards AFB.


Headlines That Look to the Skies

Mary Ellen Anderson is one of Texas students to organize saucer post

They're Out There

Seaman Shell Alpert, USCG, photographed saucers in formation. The dramatic photo of saucers was made July 16, 1952, at 9:35 a.m. by Coast Guard.

Women Love a Man Who See Objects in the Sky

Captain E. J. Smith describes saucer he saw near Boise, Idaho, to stewardess Toni Carter

Has anyone seen the missing hubcap from my Olds?
South California, 1951

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All images taken from the Fawcett publication "Mysteries of Other Worlds Revealed" published in 1952.

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This Flying Saucer featurette is also published on the blog Atomic Living


The Flying Saucer Reader

It's any day in the 1950's.

There's trouble brewing underneath the calm optimistic exterior of America.

The question lurking in the back of many people's minds - "Are we under the threat of being invaded?"

An invasion not just by unfriendly forces overseas, but quite possibly by beings from another world.

Flying Saucer Paperbacks
Like the title of the book says, flying saucers were serious business back in mid-century American culture. Flying Saucer Occupants was published in 1967, Flying Saucers-Serious Business in 1966, and The Flying Saucer Reader in 1967.

Flying Saucer Newsletter
The ORBIT Newsletter, was put out by Leonard H. Stringfield, founder of CRIFO (Civilian Research, Interplanetary Flying Objects) - just one of the many saucer enthusiast groups to spring up in the 1950's and 60's. General news accounts of glowing orbs seen in the sky were faithfully published each month for the membership. This issue dates from Februry 3, 1956

Flying Saucers from Other Worlds Pulp
Thick pulp magazines were very popular reading back in the day. The publishers however didn't necessarily try to stick to "just the facts ma'am." There was a fair amount of speculation and fanciful story-telling mixed in with the supposed news items. As for me, I like the collage-style art, with the cut out of the United Planets Cruiser C-57D from the movie Forbidden Planet on the cover. The pulp publication Flying Saucers From Other Worlds is for June 1957.

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This Flying Saucer featurette is also published on the blog Atomic Living

May 17, 1950 - XS-1 Rocketplane

May 17, 1950 - The XS-1 (an upgraded version of the X-1), with NACA test pilot John H Griffith at the stick, reaches Mach 1.13 at 12810 miles. It's the 35 flight of the rocket plane.

Skyrocket Drop from Mothership

X-2, originally uploaded by amphalon.

The swept-winged rocket-powered Douglas Skyrocket (incorrectly identified as the Bell X-2) drops from its mothership on it's way to another record-breaking flight.

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