On January 15, 1952, midway between one silly season and another, Albert K. Bender, Jr., of Bridgeport, Connecticut, and two of his friends decided to "establish a formal organization which would delve more deeply into the UFO problem." (1) Bender had been interested in flying saucers and other Fortean phenomena for most of his adult life. In 1952, he got himself in gear. In April he founded and announced in a press release the creation of the International Flying Saucer Bureau (IFSB). His new group met for the first time on May 15, discussing, among other things, the membership applications that had poured in during the previous month. The main topic of discussion at the June meeting was the editorial policy of a forthcoming newsletter to be entitled Space Review.
Event tumbled after event in 1952. On August 29, the editor of Fate magazine, Robert N. Webster, wrote to Bender accepting a position as the first member of the International Council of the IFSB. On September 9, Denis P. Plunkett of Bristol, England, replied to the IFSB, becoming the first to volunteer as a foreign representative of the organization. Around the middle of September, Bender delivered the first issue of Space Review to the printer. Dated October 1952, it went out to members in the United States and Canada on schedule. In November 1952, Bender heard from his most famous and prestigious correspondent, who declined to give an opinion on flying saucers. This was another Albert, last name Einstein.
A second letter that November, from Gray Barker of Clarksburg, West Virginia, would prove far more fruitful. Barker wrote that he had seen Bender's missive in Other Worlds Science Stories (December 1952, p. 156) announcing the creation of the IFSB. "Bender replied enthusiastically to my letter of November 20, 1952," wrote Barker, "[and] was particularly interested in hearing more about the West Virginia 'monster' I told him of investigating." (2) The "monster" of course was the Flatwoods Monster. Although Bender had included a brief item on the sighting of the Flatwoods Monster in the first issue of Space Review, his facts were scarce and his date for the sighting was wrong. Bender wanted to know more and was eager to get Barker on board.
Nineteen fifty-two gave way to 1953. The first month of the new year was full of activity for Barker and Bender. Fate published Barker's story "The Monster and the Saucer." The second issue of Bender's Space Review had more on the Flatwoods Monster, too, in the form of an article by a Reverend S.L. Daw of Washington, D.C. In his article, Daw relayed speculation from the Washington Daily News that what the witnesses had described in seeing the Flatwoods Monster was a misperception of some kind related to a rocketship depicted on the cover of Collier's magazine for October 18, 1952. (3) Neither Barker nor Bender was done with the Flatwoods Monster.
In that second whole issue of Space Review, Gray Barker was listed in the IFSB directory as the representative for the state of West Virginia. That same month, January, Bender called Barker and offered him the position as chief of the new Department of Investigation within the IFSB. It was the first time the two had talked by phone. Barker was already working on his own flying saucer newsletter, The Saucerian, which would not appear until later in the year. Nevertheless, he accepted Bender's offer and received from Bender a packet of business cards which he might hand out in the course of his investigations. One fell into the hands of an FBI agent who questioned Barker towards the end of the summer of 1953 as things started to get really weird with Bender and the IFSB.
So I have here an event for every month from April 1952, when Bender founded the International Flying Saucer Bureau, to January 1953, when Barker was appointed as chief investigator of the organization--every month, that is, except July 1952. And what happened that month in the Barker-Bender saga? Well, on July 30, Bender received in his home a telephone call from an unknown person warning him--telepathically no less--against delving any further into the flying saucer mystery.
To be continued . . .
(1) Flying Saucers and the Three Men by Albert K. Bender (Clarksburg, WV: Saucerian Books, 1962), p. 21.
(2) They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers by Gray Barker (Clarksburg, WV: Saucerian Press, 1956, 1975), p. 67.
(3) In They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers (pp. 30-31), Gray Barker discussed the similarity, however slight it might be, between the spacecraft depicted on the cover of Collier's for October 18, 1952 (shown below), and the first eyewitness descriptions of the Flatwoods Monster. That issue of Collier's would not have come out until after the encounter with the monster, but Kathleen May evidently began insisting that what she had seen was not as she had originally described it. According to Barker, she claimed to have received a letter from "the government" explaining "that the 'monster' was a government rocket ship, propelled by an ammonia-like hydrazine and nitric acid" (p. 30), just like the spacecraft on the cover of Collier's. Thus she seems to have changed her story. A. Lee Stewart, Jr., a local newspaperman and a friend of Barker, was more likely the first person to have shown Mrs. May a publicity release of the cover, thereby--presumably--planting the suggestion in her mind that what she had seen was not a monster at all but a machine.
Original text copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley