Chapter 13:

Notes from the Rabbit Hole #3: "He Made Things Up"

There is a flip side to Townsend Brown’s self-imposed reclusion that became evident when I finally contacted Denison University about Townsend Brown in October of 2004. In the vacuum left where the details of Brown’s life should be found, it is easy for others to cast aspersions upon his character.

In preparation for an impending research expedition to Zanesville and Granville, I called the library at Denison University and asked Heather Lyle, the school’s archivist, what she could tell me about Townsend Brown, his academic career, and his relationship with Dr. Paul Biefeld. Apparently, I was not the first to call with such questions, and Heather didn’t hesitate to express a rather dim view of the subject of my inquiry:

“He made things up,” she said.

“How’s that?” I asked.

“Well, we have files on him,” Heather explained. “This inquiry comes up constantly from people, because, you know, apparently he was not very truthful in things that he said about himself, and gave the impression of a lot contact here at Denison. He even claimed to have been faculty or staff here when he really wasn’t even a student and claimed to have worked with Professor Paul Biefeld, who hardly even knew him. I mean, he just made a lot of claims that were false.”

She certainly had my attention. This was not the first time that I’d encountered implications that Townsend Brown might not have been entirely forthcoming in some of his dealings. But this was the first time I’d heard a potentially important source come right out and accuse him of being downright deceptive.

“People are constantly contacting us on the basis of these claims,” Heather continued, “so we have a whole file ready to refute these claims.”

I asked if the file was something she could copy and send to me.

“Oh no,” Heather said. “It’s pretty extensive, so I’m not willing to do that.” At which point we started making plans for me to visit Granville at the end of the month to inspect the file myself. Then I pressed her a little further on the content of the file:

“The Effect that Brown discovered, he named it the “Biefeld Brown Effect…”


“But you’re telling me he had little contact with Biefeld?”

“Well, he made up a lot of things” Heather commented, giggling as though she was sharing a secret previously kept among her girlfriends. “That’s the impression that we all have. There is a kind of a detailed history of the various scams that he pulled based on various letters and people that were ripped off by him and that sort of thing.”

“And that’s all in your file?” I asked.


“Well I can hardly wait to see that….”

* * *

About three weeks later I arrived with my entourage — my wife Ann and my research assistant, Elizabeth Helen Drake — at the archives on the top floor of the Denison University library, where Ms. Heather Lyle cheerfully supplied us with the school’s “extensive file” on Thomas Townsend Brown.

The file begins with a letter circulated around the Denison campus by e-mail in November, 1999 by Cara Gilgenbach, a former archivist to the Denison reference libraries. Ms. Gilgenbach wrote:

Those of you who have been here for some time may have already run into reference questions involving

• T. Townsend Brown (purportedly a student at DU in the 1920s);
• Dr. Paul A. Biefeld (physics faculty member at DU, 1911-1934, resident astronomer during that period;
• “The Biefeld-Brown Effect,” (supposedly a joint research project between the two men conducted at DU, which resulted in a significant discovery about anti-gravity.

This year I’ve received three requests for information on this topic, two of them in the past week. I asked the Physics Dept. for help since the archives yield little on Biefeld, nothing at all on T. Townsend Brown, and nothing at all on this so-called Biefeld Brown Effect.

I want to let you all know that the Physics Dept. feels that Brown’s credentials as a physicist are suspect. They also cannot find any documentation linking Biefeld and Brown either at Denison or outside of Denison. There are no known published papers or monographs within the scholarly arena on the Biefeld-Brown Effect. I am compiling the few popular/alternate press accounts I can locate.

Also, I was unable to find any evidence that Brown ever attended Denison. I found lots of information on him on the Internet (mostly on UFO sites), including a biography I believe to be bogus.

The reason I’m telling you all of this is so that you can deal with researchers who come asking about the topic. According to Mike Mickelson, the Physics Dept. has received hundreds of requests for info. on this over the years, and interest does not appear to be flagging. You could spend a lot of time searching indices and other reference tools on this topic and would find next to nothing useful.

I would suggest that you refer to interested persons to me. I’m compiling a file of relevant info. that might be useful to these people. I’m also planning to write to the Naval Research Lab (where Brown reportedly worked) to see if they have any records.


I don’t know what “bogus” biography Ms. Gilgenbach is referring to here, but it certainly does seem that the reference to “UFO sites” on the Internet is intended to dispel any remaining shred of credibility the subject of her invective might have had left. And as for the Naval Research Lab, there was nothing in the file indicating the results of that inquiry. (Perhaps she had the same experience that I had when I filed my own Freedom Of Information Act request with the NRL, of which I will write more later.)

Another letter in the file, an August, 2001 e-mail from an unnamed “former DU faculty member” is apparently the primary source of Heather Lyle’s statement that the file would reveal a “detailed history of the various scams that he pulled…” Once again evoking the specter of “UFO’s” to challenge credulity, this letter describes Brown’s arrival in Meadvile, PA…

…in 1962 or 1963… to start a company making ozone generators and an electronic levitation system. Supposedly for use by satellites (and purported to be one of the possible systems used by UFO’s). He arrived in a shiny black Lincoln equipped with a radio telephone system (very uncommon in those days; this was before transistors!). He dressed in expensive suits and shoes. He visited a number of Meadville’s wealthy citizens, concentrating on the elderly, especially widows. A number of these individuals invested in his “new venture.” Using his presence, he established charge accounts all over town….

The letter then describes the two devices — the ‘ozone generator’ and the ‘levitation device’ (“… like a large pizza dish…”) that Brown demonstrated, apparently for his potential investors, and then concludes,

A short time (maybe a couple of months) after this presentation, [Brown] vanished, leaving bills at all places he had established charge accounts, including over $500 at a small grocery store… I don’t know how hard the stockholders tried to find him, but they were unsuccessful.

Also in the file are a pair of letters from an earlier Denison archivist, Florence Hoffman. Ms. Hoffman corroborates Brown’s academic history at Denison, stating that he was

…a student at Doane Academy (the preparatory school associated with Denison University) in 1922 and 1923. He is listed as a graduate of Doane Academy in June 1923. The Denison University Catalog lists him as a member of the Freshman Class in 1924/25. He did not return the following year and I do not know where he may have completed his education.

Of the relationship between Brown and Biefeld, Ms. Hoffman wrote,

We have never been able to find any evidence of a collaboration by these two men on any project, and Biefeld’s son, (now deceased) told us that his father knew Brown only slightly during the latter’s student days but never worked with him at any time.

That Biefeld’s family had no knowledge of Townsend Brown or the “Effect” that bears their name is apparently derived from correspondence in the Denison file from the 1950s.

In November 1956, a UFO investigator named Leon Davidson (apparently taking an interest in the formation of NICAP, about which more later) wrote to Dr. L.P Biefeld — the son of Paul A. Biefeld — to inquire about his father’s relationship with Townsend Brown. To which Paul Biefeld’s son replied,

My father… never did collaborate with Mr. Brown in a scientific sense. Since Mr. Brown was extremely interested in experimentation in the field of physics and astronomy, he “hung around” the Physics Department and the Observatory quite a bit and talked to Father often. My father was not too impressed with his ideas.

Perhaps even more revealing is a letter written later that same year from Biefeld’s son to the journalist Gaston Burridge* . Biefeld told Burridge,

Your mention of the “Biefeld-Brown Effect” is news to me. I never heard my father speak of this effect. I am very surprised to hear of this, and would be very interested to know where you obtained information regarding this so-called effect.

Such was the evidence of scams and schemes, of relationships and academic records contained in the Denison archives “extensive file.” Wherever we turned, the evidence got thinner and thinner.

But while we were in Granville that Halloween weekend in 2004, we found one more piece of evidence, from an entirely different and totally unexpected source.

* * *

We — Linda Brown and I — had been trying for months to obtain copies of Townsend Brown’s service records for his time in the Navy that started with his enlistment in 1930. The quest to recover those records is a story in its own right that will perhaps be told later. What is pertinent for now is that, whatever monumental challenges we encountered in this seemingly routine request for seemingly routine records, the effort finally bore fruit just before we arrived in Granville. By the time we got there, Townsend Brown’s Navy records — or, rather, those that weren’t entirely classified or even referred to anything classified — were finally in our possession.

We didn’t really have a chance to open the fat envelope with the naval records until sometime after our visit to the Denison archives and our perusal of the material described above, all of which cast aspersions on the character of Townsend Brown and doubt on the strength of any relationship between he and his purported mentor, Dr. Paul A. Biefeld.

So imagine our surprise and satisfaction when we found among the Navy records an affidavit from 1930, filed as part of a patent application, which details a visit to Townsend Brown’s laboratory in his home in Zanesville Ohio in February of that year:

In this affidavit, the visitor describes how he traveled to Zanesville, Ohio in August of 1930 “at the request of Mr. Thomas Townsend Brown… to personally conduct tests and examine certain apparatus and setups thereof and act as witness therefore with respect to the operativeness of said apparatus.”

The visitor then describes equipment that consisted of “two principal or essential parts, a stator and a rotor.” What he is describing was, in effect, a generator-and-motor system based on what is now known as “The Biefeld-Brown Effect.” The visitor also describes a curious phenomenon that accompanies the demonstration:

It is apparent that systematic variations occur in the output of the apparatus which are not to be accounted for and not localized within the system itself… Though the phenomenon is not understood at the present time, it is quite certain, however, that the above named variations are caused by forces external to the system…”

Here, the visitor is describing the effect on Brown’s devices of the fluctuations that he had earlier noticed in his X-ray spectrometer, the effect which led him to conclude that “a radiation (other than light) prevailed in the Universe, independent of our Solar system,” the observation that was the source of his conclusion that “gravity is a push, not a pull.”

Finally, the visitor concludes that what he has observed in the young man’s laboratory

…is novel and valuable; leading to probable identification and measurement of forces hitherto not recognized in physical science or astronomy.

And then the visitor signed the affidavit with his name: Paul Alfred Biefeld.

Next Chapter

*"Townsend Brown and his Anti-Gravity Discs" by Gaston Burridge in Fate Magazine, 1958.


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