PSYCHOLOGY OF DREAMLAND
How Secrecy is Destroying Public Faith
in Government and Science
Terry Hansen © 1995 -- page 1
"Out here on the perimeter there are no stars!" - Jim Morrison
Topographic maps of Groom Lake, Nevada, available for a modest
fee from the United States Geological Survey, show little more than
scattered mountain ranges, a dry lake bed, and assorted unimproved
roads running this way and that across the parched, high-desert
terrain. The Las Vegas Sectional Aeronautical Chart, published by
the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for navigation
purposes, offers no indication of landing strips or military facilities
on or near the lake bed.
These maps are official cartographic lies, part of a coordinated
strategy among various federal agencies to deceive people about
what the U.S. government is doing out there in its sprawling, top-secret
desert test range northwest of Nellis Air Force Base. Yet even the
most bungling and ill-equipped spy can get a pretty good look at
the clandestine Groom Lake facilities by examining commercially
available satellite photos. In sharp contrast to U.S. government
maps, the photos reveal an elaborate complex of buildings and what
is perhaps the world's longest runway cutting diagonally across
the western edge of the dry lake.
This suggests that the government's efforts at cartographic deception
may be aimed more at the American public than foreign intelligence
agencies. If so, it would not be unprecedented. CIA spy planes such
as the U-2 and A-12, designed at the legendary Lockheed Skunk Works,
flew for years over the Soviet Union, China and other foreign countries
whose air-defense agencies often knew quite well what was going
on. It was the American public that was successfully kept in the
dark until these operations were exposed or declassified.
Though the Cold War is over, the U.S. military, with the generous
assistance of our congressional representatives, continues to work
very hard to keep us ignorant of where many of our tax dollars go.
By various estimates, tens of billions of dollars disappear each
year into so-called "black projects" whose purposes we are not allowed
to know. How this happens has been outlined by Pulitzer Prize-winning
reporter Tim Weiner in Blank Check: The Pentagon's Black Budget
(New York: Warner Books, 1990).
One of the most widely propagated explanations for where much
of this money is vanishing is that it's being used to develop and
fly stealthy, high-speed aircraft such as the rumored "Aurora" hypersonic
spy plane and the TR-3A "Black Manta." (See, for example, the March
1993 Popular Science.)
Seldom mentioned in such accounts, however, are far more sensational
R&D projects said to employ technology that is quite literally out
of this world. Although these bizarre and troublesome reports clearly
are difficult for mainstream journalists to get their minds around,
the evidence that otherworldly projects are under way in the Nevada
desert is at least as good, and often much better, than the evidence
for the much-publicized Aurora. Aside from the screaming headlines
of sensationalist grocery-store tabloids, though, the subject is
carefully avoided by major national newspapers and TV networks.
As every astute editor knows, news, to be taken seriously, must
be plausible - even if it's wrong.
History has demonstrated, however, that the truth has occasionally
been unbelievable. So set aside your heart-felt prejudices and incredulity
for the moment, and come along on an epistemological adventure into
the tangled and shadowy jungle of officially forbidden knowledge.
Here, rational analysis can no longer be considered a reliable guide.
This is a realm ruled by the high priests of the intelligence community
who simply do not like us poking our noses into their business,
even though we're footing the bill for it. They have posted life-threatening
signs warning us not to take pictures, much less set foot on their
turf, and they've unleashed their wizards of disinformation to confound
our investigative progress. Any hopes for certainty must be left
behind at the outer boundaries of consensus reality, for we are
about to explore the enigma of Dreamland.
Closing Freedom Ridge
In October of 1993, nearly nine years after the Air Force illegally
seized some 89,000 acres of public land surrounding the high-security
Groom Lake test-flight facility in Nevada, the Air Force asked the
Interior Department to close the last publicly accessible sites
from which the base is visible. Included among them were two often-visited
areas--White Sides Mountain and Freedom Ridge--that the Air Force
had missed in its initial land grab due, apparently, to a surveying
As with most of what goes on around Groom Lake, also known as
"Area 51" and "Dreamland," the reasons for the Air Force's sudden
need for heightened secrecy were never made public. When hauled
before a congressional committee to explain its actions in late
1984, an Air Force spokesman would say only that the Air Force did
have the authority to take the land but would not reveal the source
of that authority or its reason for doing so in open session.
Claims by a maverick, self-described physicist Robert Lazar, first
televised by Las Vegas CBS affiliate KLAS in March 1989, that government
flight tests of alien spacecraft were taking place at a secret facility
south of Groom Lake had attracted swarms of curious observers to
the area, including a number of television crews. Clearly this unwanted
attention had proven irritating to the Air Force which no doubt
wishes to keep secret its stealthy fleet of costly vehicles that
have begun to exhibit, in the words of Aviation Week & Space
Technology, "exotic propulsion and aerodynamic schemes not fully
understood at this time."
Possibly the most thorough and well-documented account of the
sensational Robert Lazar affair is offered in Timothy Good's recent
book, Alien Contact (New York: William Morrow and Co., 1993).
For dramatic impact, though, it's hard to beat Lazar's own videotaped
testimony about what he claims to have witnessed at a secret facility
near Papoose dry lake known as S-4. UFOs: The Best Evidence,
a series of TV reports produced by George Knapp for KLAS, contains
the original Lazar interviews and a copy can be obtained from the
UFO Audio-Video Clearinghouse (P.O. Box 342, Yucaipa, CA 92399),
an organization that exhibits a distinctly cavalier attitude toward
intellectual-property laws. Knapp later produced an extended, one-on-one
interview with Lazar for KLAS's On the Record, broadcast
in December of 1989. (This, too, can be garnered from the UFO A-V
Stories of alien spacecraft in the hands of the U.S. military
are legion and date back at least to 1947 when Lt. Walter Haut,
public information officer at Roswell Army Air Field, issued a press
release stating that the Army had recovered a crashed flying saucer
from the New Mexico desert. The release made reporters around the
world sit up and pay attention. Although the Pentagon soon made
a concerted effort to squelch this story, military authorities were
never quite able to kill it off.
The official cloud of denials and disinformation did manage to
force the case into epistemological limbo until 1978 when first-hand
witnesses to the crash recovery began to surface. Detailed accounts
of these now legendary events comprise the subject of several books
including Crash at Corona by Stanton T. Friedman and Don
Berliner (New York: Paragon House, 1992) and UFO Crash at Roswell
by Kevin D. Randle and Donald R. Schmitt (New York: Avon Books,
Hard-headed skeptics who prefer to believe that such tales are
merely exercises in creative fiction targeted at a gullible public
might have their minds pried open a just crack by viewing videotaped
interviews with first-hand witnesses to the Roswell incident. Recollections
of Roswell, Part II, a videotape available from the non-profit
Fund for UFO Research (P.O. Box 277, Mt. Ranier, MD 20712), contains
a compelling body of testimony from 26 of the over 100 people who
have now come forth to tell what they saw or know about the affair.
Why did they wait so long? Some of the witnesses say they were told
at the time by military personnel that they and members of their
family would be killed if they ever talked about what they had seen.
For those who place more faith in official government sources
than eyewitnesses, there are also thousands of pages of UFO-related
documents extracted from various reluctant branches of the U.S.
military-intelligence community with the help of the Freedom of
Information Act (FOIA). These documents, which indicate a large-scale,
ongoing interest in UFOs by military-intelligence authorities long
after the Air Force closed its Project Blue Book, were first published
in 1984 in the book Clear Intent by Lawrence Fawcett and
Barry J. Greenwood (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1984).
The book has since been renamed as The UFO Coverup. Although
government censors deleted much information prior to releasing the
requested documents, a few relevant tidbits managed to sneak through.
For example, a 1950 FBI memo from agent Guy Hottel reported that
he had been told by an Air Force investigator of three flying saucers
that had been recovered in the New Mexico desert, complete with
Much of the American public--and nearly all of the American press
- seems to have swallowed the Air Force cover story that what had
been recovered was merely a weather balloon. Advisers to Soviet
dictator Joseph Stalin apparently did not. According to former KLAS-TV
news reporter Bryan Gresh, who visited the Soviet Union with George
Knapp in March of 1993, Valeriy Burdakov, once a scientist at the
Moscow Aviation Institute, said he was told by one of Stalin's top
scientific advisers that the Soviet leader had asked for an assessment
of the Roswell UFO situation. Stalin was reportedly informed by
his advisers that the recovered UFO was real and not something manufactured
in the United States.
Recently, however, the General Accounting Office has begun to
investigate certain aspects of the Roswell case at the request of
Rep. Steven Schiff (R-N.M.). Schiff says he's been frustrated in
his attempts to get more information about the recovery operation
from the Defense Department. "Generally, I'm a skeptic about UFOs
and alien beings, but there are indications from the runaround that
I got that whatever it was, it wasn't a balloon. Apparently, it's
another government coverup," he told the Washington Post
in January of 1994.
Faced with mounting evidence of a deception, the Air Force in
September of 1994 finally admitted it had lied to the public about
the Roswell events. In place of the weather balloon cover story,
however, it quickly introduced a new explanation for the mysterious
crash/recovery episode--a secret Project Mogul balloon launched
to detect Soviet nuclear-weapons tests.
The new Air Force account was duely reported by William J. Broad
of The New York Times in a story picked up by many other
major daily newspapers around the nation. In an obvious departure
from basic standards of responsible journalism, Broad defended the
Air Force deception, characterizing it as "a white lie" and dismissed
the hundreds of military and civilian witnesses who contradict the
Air Force account as "flying-saucer fans and cover-up theorists."
Yet, a comparison of the new Air Force story with eyewitness testimony
leaves nearly as many unanswered questions as before, as various
critics were quick to demonstrate.
Robert Lazar's fantastic story about his experiences reverse-engineering
alien gravity-propulsion hardware at S-4 is not without important
gaps and inconsistencies, although reporter/producer George Knapp,
who has probably spent more time cross-examining him than anyone,
says he thinks Lazar may be telling the truth about the essential
facts. But even if Lazar turns out to be a sophisticated con artist
or government disinformation agent, Knapp, who has spent years chasing
this story, says other sources in the Las Vegas area confirm that
alien technology is being stored and tested near the Groom Lake
"The story about alien technology in Nevada did not begin with
Bob Lazar nor does it end with him," Knapp told a Triad UFO-research
conference held July 17, 1994, in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue.
"Similar information has been floating around in Nevada since before
Bob Lazar was even born."
"UFO files bulge with testimony from former military men who say
they have seen disks or alien material, or even alien bodies, at
various military facilities around the country," Knapp said. "Residents
of Lincoln and Nye counties report seeing flying disks and other
UFOs in and around these military facilities since the early 1950s."
Knapp went on to recite a long list of mostly named sources, many
of whom he says he had spoken with directly, who claimed knowledge
of alien materials kept in Nevada. Some of these sources work for
companies funded by the U.S. government, so they're not about to
go public as Bob Lazar did. Doing so would mean loss of their incomes,
jail time, or worse. Knapp said some of his sources said they had
been threatened after he had talked with them.
Knapp ended this list of testimonials by describing "a highly
credible source" from a "very prominent Nevada family" who has verifiable
credentials demonstrating he has worked on classified programs since
the early 1950s. (Unlike Bob Lazar, a more problematic character
whose records and credentials seem to have nearly disappeared, a
fact Lazar attributes to his former employers in the intelligence
world.) Knapp said he stalked this source for about two years before
the source would even talk. But when he finally did, the source
related the following details: (1) alien technology has been stored
and tested at the base since the early 1950s; (2) research on the
technology is carried out by civilian contractors, paid in cash,
which provides an extra buffer to any security breaches; (3) in
the beginning, the people running the program did not know what
the disks were made of and had little success in trying to fly them,
at least up until the 1960s; and (4) a live alien had once been
held by the military on the Nevada base. Knapp said this source
"has agreed to provide a videotape deposition to be released after
Knapp also said this source told him the alien hardware was brought
to Nevada in 1952 or 1953 from a military base in Ohio and was initially
stored at a Nevada facility known as Indian Springs. (Sources who
claim knowledge of the Roswell crash-recovery effort said the recovered
material had been flown by several bomber aircraft to Wright Field
near Dayton, Ohio, now known as Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
Former Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater has said he once tried to
get access to examine UFO evidence alleged to be kept at Wright-Patterson
but was turned away for lack of appropriate security clearance.)
One source cited by Knapp claimed the military-intelligence community
is afraid to release such information because it might cause the
"disintegration of our social institutions" and that people might
stop paying their taxes.
Whatever you make of such tales it may be hasty to simply write
them off. Even the aerospace trade publication Aviation Week
& Space Technology, acknowledged in its Oct. 1, 1990, issue
that some very odd things are being spotted in the skies over Nevada
these days. A few key details apparently were left out of the Aviation
Week story, however. As described in Timothy Good's Alien
Contact, the author of the Aviation Week story reportedly
later told researcher William Hamilton III that the "exotic propulsion"
systems being tested could be some sort of antigravity system. Good
also quotes an FAA radar operator who said that whatever is being
tested often hovers in one place for up to fifteen minutes.
This is the age of the video handicam and, not surprisingly, attempts
have been made to capture some of this unusual aerial activity on
videotape. Robert Lazar and others have made night-time videos of
glowing objects moving around in the Nevada sky. A far more compelling
sighting was captured in broad daylight and broadcast on Fox TV's
Sightings: The UFO Report. The segment shows a group of glowing
objects hovering and looping rapidly around the sky in a most unaircraftlike
manner. Whatever they are, an F-16 fighter would be no match for
Further evidence for the captured-alien-spaceship story comes
from a controversial document leaked anonymously, in the form of
an undeveloped roll of 35mm film, to movie director Jamie Shandera
in December 1984. When developed and printed, the film was found
to contain images of a briefing document seemingly prepared for
then-incoming President Dwight D. Eisenhower on behalf of President
Truman. This document, bearing the date of 18 November 1952, is
known among UFO researchers as the "MJ-12," or "Majestic 12," document.
It describes the recovery of a crashed UFO and alien bodies in New
Mexico and says that a "covert analytical effort" organized by General
Nathan Twining and Dr. Vannevar Bush had been set up to investigate
Among the twelve members of the Majestic-12 group was noneother
than the late Harvard University astronomer, Dr. Donald Menzel.
This was surprising to UFO researchers because, in the 1950s and
'60s, Menzel had been one of the most outspoken critics of UFO research.
He even wrote three anti-UFO books in an attempt to debunk the subject.
The idea that Menzel had maintained a covert relationship with the
U.S. intelligence community, and had even participated in a top-level
UFO research effort, was a piece of the puzzle many UFO investigators
concluded simply could not fit. Or could it?
A CIA panel convened in early 1953 had concluded that the continued
reporting of UFOs by the American media posed a threat to national
security for various reasons. The "Robertson Panel," as it is now
known, recommended that the continued reporting of UFOs should be
actively discouraged through a covertly exercised mass-media program
of "training and debunking." One of the methods discussed at the
time was the use of high-profile scientific authorities to explain
away the phenomenon. (For an account of the Robertson Panel and
its affect on public opinion see The UFO Controversy in America
by David M. Jacobs, now a history professor at Temple University.
The book was based on his doctoral dissertation.)
Until the Majestic-12 document appeared, there was no solid evidence
to support the view that Menzel was playing the role of CIA disinformation
agent, even though his explanations for UFO sightings often seemed
irrational and inconsistent with the reported facts. It was only
in the course of trying to poke holes in the MJ-12 document that
physicist and UFO researcher Stanton Friedman discovered Menzel's
hidden intelligence career, a fact apparently unknown even to Menzel's
wife. The story of this and other discoveries are related in Friedman's
Final Report on Operation Majestic 12, available from the
Fund for UFO Research.
Even within the UFO-research community, the authenticity of the
MJ-12 document is hotly debated. Friedman, who conducted a thorough
investigation of the document with the help of a $16,000 grant from
the Fund for UFO Research, concluded there was no evidence indicating
it could not be genuine. Other investigators are more skeptical.
As Friedman explained, though, whoever prepared the MJ-12 document
could only have done so with an insider's knowledge of some very
esoteric historical details--such as Menzel's clandestine intelligence
career, for example, and other minutia about White House operations
in the 1950s. In short, if the MJ-12 briefing document is disinformation,
it is highly *sophisticated* disinformation, almost certainly prepared
by someone within the intelligence community.
If the MJ-12 document is a fraud, it presents still another paradox
in a field already rich with them. Why would the U.S. intelligence
community prepare a fake document designed to convince us that undeniable
evidence for the existence of UFOs is in government hands when the
Air Force had spent many years attempting to convince the public
that UFOs are mythological? One suggested reason would be to suck
civilian UFO investigators into accepting the authenticity of MJ-12
and then obliterate their credibility with the media and scientific
world by exposing the document as a hoax. After all, a similar thing
seems to have occurred back in the 1950s following publication of
a book about a crashed UFO and alien bodies called Behind the
Flying Saucers written by Frank Scully (New York: Henry Holt
and Co., 1950). Was history about to repeat itself?
Perhaps the boys in U.S. counter-intelligence had decided UFO
researchers were getting a little too close for comfort and needed
to be cut down a notch. If so, however, this only provides further
evidence that something very important is being covered up by the
intelligence community. Anyway you look at this issue, something
doesn't add up--unless, of course, the document is genuine.
Spy Versus Spy
What is known about the CIA's involvement with the UFO controversy
could by now fill a substantial book but, for the purposes of this
article, a few choice examples will have to suffice. I've already
mentioned the Robertson Panel's recommendation that media reporting
of UFO sightings should be covertly suppressed, as well as the fascinating
case of Donald Menzel's secret life in the U.S. intelligence community.
The Robertson Panel made other recommendations as well. One of them
was that the two major UFO research groups existing at the time,
the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO) and Civilian Saucer
Intelligence, should be "watched because of their potentially great
influence on mass thinking if widespread sightings should occur."
The CIA's conclusion that UFO groups needed to be watched apparently
was taken to heart. One of the most influential private UFO research
organizations in the 1960s, the now-defunct National Investigations
Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP), was literally crawling with
CIA or former CIA personnel. In fact, it is hard to escape the impression
that NICAP was being actively managed (or, more appropriately, mismanaged)
by the CIA for its own inscrutable purposes. The history of the
NICAP-CIA connection was detailed by researcher Todd Zechel in the
January 1979 issue of Just Cause, the newsletter of Citizens
Against UFO Secrecy (CAUS), one of the organizations that successfully
sued the Agency under the Freedom of Information Act for release
of classified UFO-related documents.
Shortly after NICAP was founded by space-propulsion researcher
T. Townsend Brown in October 1956, at least two CIA covert agents
worked their way into key positions in the organization. Nicholas
de Rochefort, an employee of the CIA's Psychological Warfare Staff
became vice-chairman of NICAP in late 1956. The second was Bernard
J.O. Carvalho who became chairman of the group's membership subcommittee.
According to Zechel, Carvalho, among other things, had been a cut-out
(go between) man for CIA proprietary (privately owned) companies
such as Fairway Corporation, a charter airline used by CIA executives.
In 1957, Roscoe Hillenkoetter, the CIA's original director (from
1947-50), joined NICAP's Board of Governors. As stated earlier,
the authenticity of the MJ-12 briefing document is a subject of
dispute, but it is nevertheless worth noting that Hillenkoetter
was listed in that document as a member of the Majestic 12 UFO investigation
team, along with Donald Menzel.
Another NICAP board member was Col. Joseph Bryan III who, from
1947-53 had been the founder and original chief of the CIA's Psychological
Warfare Staff. In addition, former CIA briefing officer Karl Pflock
was chairman of NICAP's Washington, D.C., subcommittee during the
late 1960s and early 1970s, according to Zechel. Pflock, who has
researched the Roswell case under a grant from the non-profit Fund
for UFO Research, was author of the theory that the alleged Roswell
UFO crash was really a secret Project Mogul balloon, an idea the
Air Force endorsed in its recent press release. Pflock vigorously
ridicules any suggestion that he has a hidden, CIA-inspired agenda.
(See "I was a Ufologist for the CIA..." UFO Magazine, Vol.
8, No. 6, 1993) There are other CIA connections, as well, but I
will not belabor the point.
NICAP began to run into financial problems following the release
of the University of Colorado UFO "study" which portrayed the potential
for UFO research in a very negative light. (More about this shortly.)
Under the tenure of president John L. Acuff, NICAP's financial difficulties
grew steadily worse, largely because most of the money the organization
was raising wound up in Acuff's pocket. Membership dropped off further
after Acuff sold NICAP's membership list to the Nazi Party. Prior
to his NICAP appointment, Acuff had been head of the Society of
Photographic Scientists and Engineers, whose membership included
many Defense Department and CIA photo analysts.
When NICAP's money finally ran out, Acuff resigned and was replaced
by Alan N. Hall, another retired CIA employee.
Todd Zechel summed it up best: "To come right out and say it was
all a conspiracy would either be leaping to conclusions or stating
the obvious--take your pick. But in the final analysis, the results
speak for themselves. And the results are that if [the CIA] wanted
to destroy the leading anti-secrecy organization of the 1960s, they
couldn't have done a better job if they'd tried...."
reprinted with permission