Flying Saucer Pipe Dreams
A few months before Townsend Brown loaded his family onto the Matson liner “Lurline” and headed for Hawaii, a business man and pilot by the name of Kenneth Arnold was flying over the Cascade mountains in Washington when he observed “a formation of very bright objects” through the cockpit window of his small, single-engine airplane. For this observation, Kenneth Arnold, who died in 1984, has achieved a measure of immortality in one of the most unique fields arenas of human interest .
Kenneth Arnold was an unlikely candidate for such recognition, but he has found a enduring place in the annals of UFO mythology. Not only was he one of the first pilots to report a credible sighting of unidentified flying objects, but he is remembered as having been the first to describe them as “flying saucers.” Except that he didn’t really call them that.
Kenneth Arnold was an experienced pilot. Starting in 1940, Arnold owned and operated the Great Western Fire Control Supply Company, making his living by selling and installing all types of fire fighting equipment in an enormous territory that spread across five sparsely populated states. Already a licensed private pilot, in 1943 Arnold acquired his little private plane in order to more efficiently service his scattered clientele. He also supplemented his living by serving on Ada Country, Idaho, Sherriff’s "aerial posse," and as a U.S. Marshall, had flown prisoners to a Federal Penitentiary.
In any given month Arnold spent from forty to one hundred hours flying his CallAir A-2, a light weight craft specially designed for taking off in high altitudes where the air is thin, and landing in outlying areas with no actual airstrips. Indeed, Arnold’s flight logs included more than eight hundred take-offs and landings “from cow pastures and mountain meadows” — in all those flights recording only a flat tire as his greatest mishap. The kind of flying Kenneth Arnold did required, as he himself put it, “a great deal of practice and judgment.”
So clearly, Kenneth Arnold was no crackpot, nor was it any accident that that on June 24, 1947, Arnold was in the air somewhere between Chehalis and Yakima, just north of the Columbia River between Washington and Oregon; He was surveying the landscape, looking for the wreckage of C-46 military transport plane that had disappeared near Mount Rainier during the previous winter. Arnold was hoping to find the remains of the lost plane and claim the $10,000 reward offered to the first person who could locate it.
Arnold had just leveled his plane out at approximately 9,200 feet, flying just above the tree tops over the plateau west of Mt Rainier, in a sky he later described as smooth and “clear as crystal…when a bright flash” reflected off his cockpit window. Startled by the flash and fearful that he might be flying to close to another aircraft, Arnold scanned the skies around him until he “observed a chain of nine peculiar looking aircraft flying from north to south at approximately 9,500 foot elevation.”
Observing their rapid approach toward Mt. Rainier, Arnold assumed at first that he was seeing one of the new jet-powered aircraft that were just beginning to appear in the skies over America in the late 1940s. The only problem was, as he squinted his eyes against the glare, Arnold was startled to discover that he could not see any tails on these aircraft, no rudders or aerilons. In fact, the more Arnold observed the craft as they flew between Mr. Rainier and Mt. Adams, the less they looked like airplanes. “When the sun reflected from one or two of these units,” Arnold reported, “they appeared completely round.” And, after making some calculations against the clock in his instrument panel, Arnold concluded that they were also moving very fast.
Arnold returned to his search for the missing transport plane, but could not get what he’d seen out of his head. He was certain that he’d seen “some type of airplane, even though they didn't conform” with any kind of conventional aircraft that he was familiar with. Nevertheless, Arnold was confident that, after he landed, “there would be some explanation” of what he’d seen.
After landing at Pendleton, Oregon later that afternoon, Arnold told some of his pilot friends what he’d seen. None of his colleagues derided or scoffed at his story. One thought Arnold might have seen some kind of guided missile. Another, a veteran of the war in Europe, claimed to have been briefed before going into aerial combat over Germany that he might see flying objects similar to what Arnold described, and assured Arnold that he wasn’t “dreaming or going crazy.”
Arnold tried to report his story to the FBI in Pendleton, but finding their office closed, talked instead to Bill Bequette, a reporter for the East Oregonian newspaper. Bequette’s story appeared under the fold on the first page of the next day’s paper, with the headlines:
Boise Flyer Maintains He Saw 'Em
Kenneth Arnold Sticks To Story of Seeing Nine Mysterious Objects
Flying At Speed of 1200 Miles An Hour Over Mountains
The text that followed seems to shed doubt on Arnold’s story:
Kenneth Arnold, a six-foot, 200-pound flying Boise, Ida., business man, was about the only person today who believed he saw nine mysterious objects – as big as four-engined airplanes – whizzing over western Washington at 1200 miles an hour.
Army and civilian air experts either expressed polite incredulity or scoffed openly at Mr. Arnold's story, but the 32-year-old one-time Minot, N.D. football -star, clung to his story of shiny, flat objects racing over the Cascade mountains with a peculiar weaving motion "like the tail of a Chinese kite."
A CAA inspector in Portland, quoted by the Associated Press, said: "I rather doubt that anything would be traveling that fast."
A few paragraphs later, Bequette reported:
When first sighted, [Arnold] thought the objects were snow geese.
"But geese don't fly that high – and, anyway, what would geese be going south for this time of the year?"
Near the end of the story, Bequette quotes Arnold as having described what he saw as “saucer-like.” But nowhere in this initial account does the expression “flying saucer” appear.
In the lore that surrounds this earliest of post-war UFO sightings, it is fairly common to see Kenneth Arnold quoted as having said that what he saw moved through the skies “like a saucer would if you skipped it across the water.” But like the expression “flying saucer,” this description also does not appear in the original East Oregonian account.
As it turns out, it was not Bequette’s initial, published account that would assure Arnold’s place in UFO mythology; rather, it was what Bequette did after running his story in the East Oregonian that sealed Arnold’s fate: Bequette sent the story to the Associated Press and United Press International, the national wire services.
Still, it is impossible to find any reference to Arnold’s supposed description of “a saucer skipping across water” or the phrase “flying saucer” in any of the subsequent accounts of Arnold’s encounter published from the wire services.
It was not until later in the summer of 1947, as Arnold’s report was echoed by reports of other, similar sightings in the skies over the northwest and upper Midwest states that a new expression entered the lexicon. Somewhere during this period, the phrase “saucer-like” morphed into the now commonly used phrase, “flying saucers.” And whether he ever said it or not, that expression is widely believed to have first emerged from the lips of Kenneth Arnold, the fire-fighting pilot and bounty hunter from Boise, Idaho who saw something that looked like a formation of fast-flying geese in the skies over Mt. Rainier.
Three years later, in the fall of 1950, the term “flying saucers,” and the mythos of Unidentified Flying Objects that took hold in the popular imagination of the day, gave Townsend Brown precisely the means of expression he needed to launch the “wounded prairie chicken” routine that would forever thereafter be the foundation of his public persona.
* * *
By the time of the infamous “Pearl Harbor Demonstration,” Townsend Brown and his family were no longer living on Kauai. Sometime in the summer of 1950, Josephine took her teapot down from its perch in the hut in Wainiha Valley. When she unpacked it, she was living in a cottage near Waikiki Beach in Honolulu that was part of an apartment hotel complex called the San Souci.
Linda Brown would have been not quite five years old, but she remembers well “a large hotel on the beach, at the base of Diamond Head with cottages behind it, and we had one of those cottages. We could walk along the seawall to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. I’m fairly certain this was the time that Dad was at Pearl, because this was near the end of our Hawaiian adventure.”
The San Souci was a gracious older building that was built long before giant high-rise hotels overwhelmed Waikiki and blotted out the views of Diamond Head crater. The main building housed an enormous lobby with overstuffed furniture. The Brown’s cottage was white, with ‘plantation style’ shutters. “And there were all kinds of big hibiscus bushes in full bloom all around,” Linda said. “I can remember going nuts over all of the flowers, picking armloads of them. I wore the blossoms in my hair, of course.”
Before the move to Oahu, when the family was tucked away in that remote valley on Kauai, Linda “hadn’t had the opportunity to meet too many other children, so it was a revelation to me to be in school there. We stayed there long enough for me to graduate from first grade, and I made my first girlfriends there.”
However, despite the change of domicile, and the apparent proximity to her father’s workplace — at least they were all living on the same island — the family saw little more of their father on Oahu than they did while they were all living on Kauai.
“None of my early childhood memories include him,” Linda recalls, “except for swimming on the beach at Kauai. I have no actual memory of Dad at San Souci, except just before we flew away from the island he brought me my first pet, a little green parakeet. I had it in a small wooden box for the trip on the plane. Come to think of
it, that bird was with us for a long time. Mother called him “Heso” – as in ‘He’s So’ — so of course his last name was ‘Sweet.’”
Linda recalls another life-changing experience that occurred while they were living at the San Souci. “The park across the way had polo matches. That’s when I saw my first horse, actually saddled up and DOING something. Aesop, the old horse we’d had at our camp on Kauai just sort of grazed around doing his own thing. Joseph had tried to ride him, but Aesop bucked him off and Joe broke his arm. After that Mom freaked out when she found out I was trying to sneak rides on the thing and sometimes getting away with it. But the concept of being an actual RIDER never really hit me until I saw a grey polo pony racing across the field, and instantly I thought ‘I can do that!’ My life-long horse bug bit me right there.”
Linda was not the only one suffering from the loss of her father’s good company. Her brother Joseph was struggling with the new environment as well.
Joseph was fourteen when the family first settled into the life of the “Swiss Family Brown” on Kauai. “It must have been quite the adventure at first,” Linda says, gazing fondly at photos of her big brother climbing a coconut tree, or showing off an enormous pineapple.
“Joseph graduated from the local high school,” Linda recalls. “He was tall and blonde, the only ‘haole’ in the class. Mother told me later that made him VERY popular with the girls — but the local guys didn't like him all that much. Eventually he found a kid who loved baseball, so he made himself a buddy.”
During that senior year, Joseph took a job in one of the nearby pineapple fields, working alongside a team of locals. Walking behind a harvesting conveyor, wielding a machete, he would grab the pineapples, cut them off their stems and toss them onto the conveyor belt. The job required constant motion, the workers all dressed in thick clothing and heavy gloves — despite the tropical sun — in order to protect their skin from the sharp spines of the pineapple leaves. “It was hot, dangerous work,” Linda said, “and Mother worried about him working too hard. But as soon as he was off work, he’d come home and grab his mitt and take off to play baseball with his friends.”
As it had for Josephine, the isolation of the retreat on Kauai had also given Joseph a chance to reconcile his differences with his grandmother. “Mom told me that Joseph and Grandmother Brown used to snip at each other all the time,” Linda recalls. “She was always very demanding in Ohio. She had very strict standards of conduct and expected Joseph to tow the mark. But the move to Hawaii changed things. Grandmother was without her big house and familiar surroundings. She didn’t have neighbors, she didn’t have to worry about social expectations. That gave Joseph a chance to see the real woman, and to understand that, in her own right, she was OK.”
The situation on Kauai may also have given Joseph the most quality time he would ever have with his father. “The weeks spent rebuilding the shack and putting in the gardens was possibly the best time that Dad and Joseph ever had together,” Linda said. “It must have been hard on Dad knowing that he would soon have to leave — and stay gone — but for a while we were really a family.” Little Linda got to dig post holes, while her brother and father ferried wooden poles atop a raft from a grove upstream to the campsite, where and they all joined in to thatch it all together. “It was a lot of work,” Linda says, but it all got done before the rains really started — and then Daddy had to leave.”
Joseph must have been keenly aware of his father’s frequent and prolonged absences. “I just can't imagine how tough it was for Joe not having Dad around at all during those years,” Linda said. “He basically grew up without Dads influence other than the occasional visit.”
When Townsend did take a direct hand in his son’s upbringing, it was through benign neglect as much as anything.
“Joe had a reading problem,” Linda learned much later. “Mom read a lot while we were on Kauai, and I think she just assumed that Joe was learning to read properly at whatever school he was attending but that wasn't the case.”
The schools in Hawaii during the territorial years were hardly pillars of academic achievement. That might explain Josephine’s belated discovery that her son had what we now call a “learning disability.” For years, Joseph had been "faking it" — and getting away with it. It was not until he was about to graduate from high school that Josephine realized her son was functionally illiterate. The only thing that ultimately saved him was his passion for building big balsa wood model airplanes.
“It’s kind of funny, when you stop and think about what was going on,” Linda said. “Joseph was building these big model airplanes — the big ones you could fly at the end of a tether. So he was building these model planes that could fly around in circles at the same time that Dad was starting to demonstrate his flying saucers that could do the same thing.”
Josephine realized her son had a reading problem when he asked her to read the instructions for the model airplanes to him. When his father learned what was going on with Joseph, he told Josephine to stop reading the instructions to him, figuring that if Joe wanted to build anything he was going to have to read the instructions on his own. “I guess that Joe got all bitter about it,” Linda said, “but he did start learning to read and actually never stopped reading after that. And she adds, “Josephs idea of an exciting evening as an adult was reading in bed until he got too tired. Luckily, that’s what his wife enjoyed doing too.”
* * *
But, of all the people close to him who felt the effects of Townsend Brown’s prolonged absences from his family, it was Josephine who felt them the most acutely.
After all the time she’d spent on Kauai, mostly alone with an adolescent, a toddler, and her elderly mother-in-law “being left behind by Daddy,” as Linda puts it — Josephine hoped that she would see more of her husband once they were both living on the same island. But Linda says, “My recollection is that Dad helped us move, but once we were set up in the new place, he was gone again.” So it comes as no surprise that Josephine’s heart began to contemplate drifting.
Josephine formed a friendship with a lady artist who lived at the hotel, who introduced her to another artist, a gentleman who went by the nickname of ‘Red.’ “I remember him as being sort of tall and not bad looking,” Linda recalls. “he had a boat and one day he took Mom and Joseph and me for a tour of Pearl Harbor. It was a lobster boat so it was a little fragrant to start with and all he had to drink was tomato juice. And it was hot!! I was a thirsty, sea sick little kid.” To this day, Linda still can't drink tomato juice, “But Red forgave me for throwing up on his boat and was a good sport.” What Linda would learned — about ten years later — was that Josephine was seriously considered taking Red as a lover.
Josephine never said anything to Linda about how close Red almost came to becoming her stepfather until a day ten years later when Linda found an old photo from the San Souci days and asked her mother about it. “I don't know whether things got really physical between them but she was quickly coming to the conclusion that she had been the abandoned wife long enough, and she was going to leave Dad and make a new life with this fellow.”
“I guess Dad eventually got wind of what was going on,” Linda continues. “I know it was after the Pearl Harbor demonstration. We were living in that cottage near Diamond Head, and I remember that Dad was not living with us. I have a picture of me standing with Red. I believe that Mom was trying to make up her mind…”
But soon enough, Townsend returned to assess the situation — and reclaim his family. Josephine warned Red that he shouldn’t even talk to her husband. “Don’t talk to him,” she said, “he is very, very persuasive and he will talk you right out of my life — and me right back into his!” Josephine knew from her own experience that Townsend could talk her into almost anything — which is precisely what he proceeded to do.
“Maybe that’s what happened with that divorce in 1937,” Linda said. “It might have started out as a real divorce, but then I think Dad morphed it into something entirely different. I can almost hear him saying, ‘Jo, sweetie…. I’ve been thinking…’”
Now Townsend returned to his family in the wake the fateful demonstration for Admiral Radford and his colleagues — after the mole was discovered, after the security surrounding his experiments at Barber’s Point had been breached, and after he’d begun orchestrating his “wounded prairie chicken” routine. Now he had to explain to Josephine just what lay before them in the years to come.
“Dad laid everything out on the table to Mom, and told her that the choice was entirely hers to make,” Linda said, “but he fully expected that the next ten years at least were going to be some kind of living hell, and she should be prepared for that. He told her that he would completely understand if she decided to divorce him and stay in Hawaii. He gave her that option. I don't know what else he told her, nor did she ever tell me what Daddy said to Red, but whatever it was, Red graciously headed for the exit, and Mother got on the plane bound for California with me, Joseph, Dad and that little parakeet.”
* * *
The family arrived in California in the fall of 1951. They flew from Honolulu to San Francisco, where Linda remembers seeing her first television — a coin operated model in the lobby of the hotel where they stayed. Joseph — now nineteen years old to Linda’s seven — was instantly captivated by televised professional wrestling, featuring such stars as Gorgeous George, and kept feeding quarters into the set in the lobby until Josephine finally relented and rented a set for their room. “Joe didn’t really have much use for a seven year old sister,” Linda recalls, “but I was good for one thing: He would watch very carefully all of the wrestling moves on the TV, and then try them all out on me!”
The family stayed briefly San Francisco, where Linda — who knew nothing of urban life, having spent her first conscious years in a remote tropical valley — encountered such modern marvels as cable cars. Then they all drove down the coast to Los Angeles. Along the way the family enjoyed the many natural wonders of the Golden State, like their first earthquake, and snow in the Southern California Mountains.
Once the family was settled in, Townsend set about reconstituting the Townsend Brown Foundation in an office at 306 N. Vermont Avenue in Los Angeles. For technical assistance, he teamed up once again with Bradford Shank, the veteran Manhattan Project machinist who had been part of the operations in Southern California before Brown spirited his family away to Hawaii in 1947.
Besides Brown and Shank, the third individual most involved in the Townsend Brown Foundation was a man named Mason Rose, who signed on as the principal promoter of the enterprise. Besides his affiliation with Townsend Brown, Rose described himself as the President of an institution he called “The University of Social Research.”
It was Mason Rose who wrote a white paper — a prospectus of sorts — which purported to explain the basic Biefeld-Brown effect as it was applied to Brown’s tethered saucers, which the Foundation built and demonstrated from their facility on Vermont Avenue. The paper describes how the saucers are levitated and propelled, and offers suggestion as to the basic course of further research:
Through the utilization of the Biefeld–Brown effect, the flying saucer can generate an electrogravitational field of its own which modifies the earth’s field.
This field acts like a wave, with the negative pole at the top of the wave and the positive pole at the bottom. The saucer travels like a surfboard on the incline of a wave that is kept continually moving by the saucer’s electrogravitational generator.
Since the orientation of the field can be controlled, the saucer can thus travel on its own continuously generated wave in any desired angle or direction of flight.
Since the saucer always move toward its positive pole, the control of the saucer is accomplished simply by varying the orientation of the positive charge. Control, therefore, is gained by switching charges rather than by control surfaces. Since the saucer is traveling on the incline continually moving wave which it generates to modify the earth’s gravitational field, no mechanical propulsion is necessary.
Once we understand that the horizontal and vertical controls are obtained by shifting the positive pole which turns the field, then we are in a position to extrapolate a finished saucer design.
With this explanation, the Townsend Brown Foundation started inviting visitors to see a demonstration of their flying saucers — and began soliciting infusions of private funds for the venture.
* * *
On March 24, 1952, Air Force Major General Victor E. Bertrandias — at the time a flight-safety officer stationed at Norton Air Force Base near San Bernardino, California — placed a phone call to Lieutenant General H.A. Craig, the Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Materiel. Bertrandias had startling news for Craig.
“It sounds terribly screwy,” Bertrandias said excitedly, “but Friday I went down with Lehr, a man named Lehr, to a place called the Townsend Brown Foundation and, believe it or not I saw a model of a flying saucer!”
General Craig registered his disbelief in a one word response: “No.”
Bertrandias went on: “Yes, this is going to sound very screwy to you, but I thought I should report it. Now, I can’t tell you much about the background, but this Townsend Brown Foundation has been working on this flying saucer development for a long while. There was a lot of objection to my getting in there by the party that took me and there were several in there who identified themselves… and some scientist, etc. and the thing frightened me – frightened me for the fact that it is being held or conducted by a private group. I was in there from about 1:30 until 5:00 in the afternoon and I saw these two models that fly and the thing has such a terrific impact that I thought we ought to find out something about it – who these people are and whether the thing is legitimate in development in this country or the formula is such that it is being conducted privately. If it ever gets away I say it is in the stage in which the atomic development was in the early days.
Craig remains circumspect: “I see.”
Bertrandias continues, “It was quite frightening. I made the inquiry whether the Air Force or the Navy knew anything about it and I as told –no. But I tell you, after hearing it and all the other things that I had heard, I was quite concerned about it.
“Well,” Craig says, “we will certainly take a look at it, Vic.”
Years after this phone conversation took place, Nick Cook, the respected aerospace journalist, would write in Hunt for Zero Point that Bertrandias had “stumbled upon…Project Winterhaven — the distillation of all Brown’s ideas into a blueprint for a manned antigravity fighter, built in the shape of a disc and capable of Mach 3, twice the speed of the leading jet-powered interceptor of the day.”
Actually, what Bertrandias stumbled on was the public face of the post-Pearl Harbor disinformation campaign, the beginnings of Townsend Brown’s carefully orchestrated effort to publicly discredit himself that he embarked on after returning to the mainland from Hawaii in the fall of 1951.
The apparatus that General Bertrandias found so alarming was a demonstration of what we call the “tethered saucers” — or what the FBI would later call the “toy carnival ride.” But the ‘man named Lehr’ that he mentioned on the phone was actually a man named ‘Lear.’ In the 1920s William Lear — better known as Bill — invented the first practical car radio and founded the company that built them, Motorola. An accomplished pilot, Lear then used the proceeds from the sale of his patents to start Lear Developments in Santa Monica California, where he produced all manner of aviation communications, guidance, and autopilot gear before building the eponymous private jet for which he is most remembered today, the Lear Jet.
While he was prominent in the field of aviation by the time he dragged General Bertrandias to 306 N. Vermont Avenue, exactly how Bill Lear came into the orbit of the Townsend Brown Foundation in Los Angeles in the early 1950s is one of the more enduring mysteries of this story. It is entirely plausible that Bill Lear was brought in by Mason Rose, in which case Lear became an unwitting accomplice in a venture that only Townsend Brown knew was a not-so-subtle form of subterfuge. Thus Bill Lear was effectively called upon to draw on his extensive contacts in the aviation industry to further promote the exotic new technology Townsend Brown was now showing to the world.
Rose found an opportunity to take the whole enterprise to another level in the spring of 1952, when he saw the cover of the April 7 edition of LIFE Magazine. There, just above the bare left shoulder of a saucy picture of Marilyn Monroe, a headline reads
“There Is A Case for Interplanetary Saucers.”
Inside, the accompanying story takes its lead from the controversy arising from an August, 1951 UFO incident called the “Lubbock Lights,” in which a V-shaped formation of lights appeared in what LIFE says were “considered by the Air Force the most unexplainable phenomena yet observed.”
The article traced almost the entire post-war history of UFOs, beginning with an account of Kenneth Arnold’s encounter with “saucer-like things... flying like geese in a diagonal chainlike line” in the skies over Mt Rainier in the early summer of 1947. The article cites a “Top Ten List” of UFO encounters over the intervening years, offering an evaluation of each incident.
That kind of exposure in the popular media provided just the kind of opening a snappy promoter like Mason Rose could take advantage of — and put Townsend Brown right into the middle of the world’s growing fascination with UFOs, invading space aliens, and government cover-up conspiracy theories.
On the heels of the LIFE article, Mason Rose invited members of the Los Angeles press core to the offices of the Townsend Brown Foundation to see some flying saucers for themselves. Whether or not anybody could explain the actual origins of the encounters people were having with mysterious aerial phenomena, Mr. Rose informed the press that he was going to demonstrate to the world just what makes saucers fly.
The invitation was surprisingly well received, and the demonstration apparently so impressive that on April 8, 1952, no less an icon of journalistic integrity than the Los Angeles times ran an article above the fold on the front page of the second section with the headline…
“Flying Saucers Explained”
The article is accompanied by a photo of three men — from left to right Bradford Shank, Townsend Brown, and Mason Rose — standing beside a twelve-foot pillar; atop the pillar, there is a horizontally arm, and suspended from either end of the arm are two disc-shaped devices that look for all the world like a flying saucer. The article below the photo describes…
Two metal-plexiglass disks, suspended from a central pylon, swung through slow circles in a darkened room yesterday as spokesmen for a new university sought to convince newsmen that they have solved the flying saucer mystery.
“We have hesitated to divulge our findings,” said Mason Rose, president of the University for Social Research,” because they read to much like science fiction….”
Substance of the alleged discovery, credited to inventor Townsend Brown, is that saucers operate in a field of “electro-gravity” that acts like a wave with the negative pole at the top and the positive pole at the bottom.
“The saucer travels like a surf board on the incline of a wave that is kept continually moving by the saucers electrogravitational generator,” explained Bradford Shank, third spokesman for the group claiming knowledge “almost to sensational, to spectacular.”
The article attempts to cast some aspersions on the demonstration in the final paragraphs by noting the trio’s questionable credentials:
At one point Shank was asked if he had a degree.
“No, he acknowledged, “I’m free of those encumbrances. That’s why I find it so easy to talk in these new terms.”
The article in the Los Angeles Times stops well short of dismissing the demonstration as some crack-pot scheme. But a far more detailed — and skeptical — account appeared in the Canyon Crier, a local weekly circulated primarily through the Hollywood Hills. Being a much smaller and more local paper than the Times, the Canyon Crier did not feel it was obligated to adhere to the same high standards of journalistic objectivity that a paper like the L.A. Times would be expected to follow. Along with its reporter, the Crier sent along its own Cal-Tech physicist, Dr. Stanley Frankel, a resident of those same Hollywood Hills that the paper catered to. Consequently, The Canyon Crier offered a much more subjective account in its April 10, 1952 edition than what had appeared two days earlier in the Times:
Hill Scientist & Crier Investigate
Secret Behind The Whirling Disks
Bug-eyed at the recent article in Life magazine about the possibility of extra-terrestrial visitors from outer space hovering mysteriously over the earth in bright flying saucers…we accepted with somewhat quaking enthusiasm an invitation to attend a flying saucer demonstration last week at 306 N. Vermont Ave., right here on earth…
We marched into a handsome suite of offices which read “Townsend Brown Foundation” …. and were escorted with some 20 other members of the press to seats in a room with… two aluminum saucers.
In one corner, a sinister looking 5-foot tall device with two arms stood. Struck us as maybe an extra-terrestrial personality for a moment, but Dr. Frankel pointed out its Model T-type condensers and murmured calmly that it seemed like a harmless balance device.
Just as we were beginning to find the suspense unnerving, a husky, dynamic looking chap stepped up to the blackboard and introduced himself as Dr. Mason Rose, who turned out to be president of a “University of Social Research.”
“With proper development,” said Dr. Mason Rose, piercing us with an intent look, “the discoveries of the Townsend Brown Foundation can be applied so that man will be able to travel in space possibly within ten years.”
How much money was needed, asked a reporter.
Dr. Mason Rose said he thought about a half-billion would do it, and even as little as two and half to three million could build a gravity-free laboratory right now!
We clutched the fifty-cent piece in our pocket and settled back thoughtfully.
The article continues with a slightly tongue-in-cheek explanation of the science, the Biefeld-Brown effect, and the now-familiar “propel an object with no machinery, no moving parts.” As Rose goes on with his explanations, the paper’s resident physicist, Dr. Frankel, becomes “even more bemused” — especially when Bradford Shank comes forward, “a scientist who was unfettered in his thinking by any degree.” Finally,
A man in a blue suit got up next. Turned out to be Townsend Brown himself, who invited us affably into the other room. “Come see them fly with your own eyes,” he said simply.
We went next door into a room which was bare except for a pole with two arms about seven feet high from which hung two metal disks with plastic rings around them, suspended by electric wires.
We felt a chill. Here we were — in on the very first public demonstration of what makes flying saucers fly. A historic moment. “What hath Brown wrought,” we cackled nervously.
Shank said we would now see the disks propelled by electrogravitational force, just as they believed the observed flying saucers in the heavens to be propelled, and that they believed themselves to be the first ever to provide this motivation, on earth that is. “Don’t come within one foot of the disks!” he warned earnestly. They’re loaded with 100,000 volts of electricity.”
As the lights gradually dimmed, an unearthly green glow started to emanate from the disks. “The corona effect,” breathed Shank.
“Smell the ozone,” sniffed our physicist from Cal-Tech.
Our scientist companion, Dr. Frankel, suddenly pushed out a hand after a disk had passed. “Quite a little electric wind observable,” said he politely.
Mr. Shank said that, uh, he’d never observed electric wind before.
Dr. Frankel thrust his hand out behind a disk as it flew past again. “Definite electric wind,” he smiled courteously, and snatched his hand back, whispering reassuringly to us, “I’m afraid these gentlemen played hooky from their high school physics classes….”
Frankel then asked Shank a question, the gist of which will be entirely obvious to anybody who is familiar with the “lifter” experiments being conducted around the world today:
“Have you ever tried your demonstration in a vacuum?”
“Oh no,” replied Mr. Shank. “Too expensive. Take a hundred thousand dollars.”
Dr. Frankel leaned toward us. “Last I heard, vacuum pumps were selling for a couple hundred dollars….”
The lights went on. The disks stopped whirling. We snatched a sandwich courteously provided by the Townsend Brown Foundation and went down into the street.
“Electric wind,” said Dr. Frankel. “It’s a regular demonstration in every high school lab in the country,. The corona discharge heats the air and the resultant wind propels the object.”
You mean hot air?” we asked incredulously.
“Hot air,” smiled Dr. Frankel.
Despite the derisive tone of both Dr. Frankel and the (unnamed) author of this article, this account serves a valuable purpose for those of us investigating the path of Townsend Brown’s life. In its details, in its dismissal of “electric wind,” the story provides an indispensable insight into “bait and switch” tactic which was at the heart of Townsend Brown’s disinformation campaign in the early 1950s.
What is unspoken so far in all of this intrigue is that there are (at least) not one, but two applications of the Biefeld-Brown effect. If indeed there is an “electrogravitic” effect — a coupling of electricity and gravity — then it is manifest in devices like the capacitor — that are built around a solid dielectric material. The gravitators that Townsend Brown started building in the 1920s exhibited such a construction.
But what has been described here — these ‘electric wind’ generating, tethered saucers — demonstrate the result of the Biefeld-Brown effect when it is applied in a fluid dielectric. In this case, the fluid is air. And Dr. Frankel was entirely right: where the effect is applied in a fluid dielectric, it is all about “electric wind” and “hot air.”
Which brings us to the absolutely critical question in this entire discussion: Just what was demonstrated to Admiral Radford and the others at Pearl Harbor in 1950? Was it a genuine electrogravitic device built around solid dielectrics, or was it a fluid dielectric device — the technology that Dr. Brown himself would actively promote throughout the 1950s as “Electro-Hydro-Dynamics”? That variation lies at the heart of the fan/precipitator and loudspeaker that preoccupied Dr. Brown during the early 1960s.
Given the first question above, we hasten to add a second, equally important question: Just what did this “mole” at Pearl Harbor really see? It’s entirely possible that what he saw was the substitute — the ‘EHD’, electric-wind device, under the guise, as it was later in Los Angeles, of an “electrogravitic device.” And that raises the further possibility that something truly electrogravitic was also demonstrated, and put completely under wraps, either before or after the demonstration that caught the mole — meaning that an “electric wind” experiment was put on display for the explicit purpose of ferreting out the mole.
If that was the case, then it begins to make sense that Townsend Brown spent the next ten years bolstering what the mole had seen at the same time that he was delicately undermining its actual credibility. You can almost hear the mole’s superiors at some point going, “oh well, it’s just electric wind….hot air.” And never looking any further behind the curtain.
* * *
This is idea of a “bait and switch” tactic between true E/G technology and EHD is further borne out in the investigation of Townsend Brown that was prompted by General Bertrandias panicky phone call to General Craig in March of that year.
Called simply “An Investigation Relative to Thomas Townsend Brown,” the report was compiled by Willoughby M. Cady of the Office of Naval Research (ONR) in Pasadena, California and so is commonly referred to as “The Cady Report.” The report was completed on September 15, 1952 and immediately classified, but that classification was cancelled by authority of the ONR Special Investigations Division on the October 1. Apparently, whatever was in the report needed to find its way into circulation more than it needed to be kept under wraps. And that, more than likely, was by design.
The Cady Report is clear in its opening paragraphs that it is investigating Brown’s claims as they pertain to a fluid dielectric, not solid. “Mr Brown claims to have discovered several new physical effects,” the report begins, “and considers them to be interrelated. We will be concerned here with those relating to the force upon and between electrically charged bodies in air or under oil.” Again, here we see the fundamental definition of a fluid dielectric.
The Cady Report also makes one other important notation regarding the other component of Townsend Brown’s technology that was demonstrated at Pearl Harbor.
There as been briefly inspected a third electrical device, purporting to be a communication equipment operating on waves related to the electrogravitic effect….
The report then spends offers a technical description of the apparatus, finally concluding:
The relation between the communication device and the mechanical effects which form the topic of this report appears to be so remote that no further mention will be made of the former.
There are many people today who believe strongly that the communications aspect of Brown’s discoveries are infinitely more important than the propulsion applications. If so, then he was doing a bang-up job of diverting any official interest in device, in the same way that he was using a different technology to discredit the propulsion system.
Indeed, the Cady Report has very little positive to say about the technology that worked poor general Bertrandias into such a lather. To the contrary, the Cady Report seems to side categorically with the observations of Dr. Frankel and the reporter from the Canyon Crier. Far from proving any kind of ‘electrogravitic coupling,’
The writer (Cady) proposes that the origin of the observed phenomena is the electric wind… Such forces have long been the subject of observation and mathematical theory, and are discussed accordingly in such works as W.R. Smythe’s “Static and Dynamic Electricity.”
The experiments by Mr. Brown… were carried out in a partially conducting medium, i.e. air or oil. In such a medium the simple laws of electrostatics are not applicable. It is true that in the air or oil the conduction of electricity is usually so slight that the departures from the laws of electrostatics are negligible. When, however, large voltage gradients are involved, the density of ions is very greatly increased for well known reasons, and the conductivity of the medium increases commensurately…We will show that, so far from being forbidden, the Townsend Brown effects are actually predicted in the presence of a coronoa discharge.
All the well documented effects disclosed by Mr. Brown appear to be explained as caused by ionization of the air or oil in which the apparatus is immersed.
Mr. Brown claims that a gravitational anomaly exists in the neighborhood of a charged condenser. This effect has not been well documented by Mr. Brown nor has the writer undertaken to refute it.
The thrust developed by the model flying saucers has its origin in the well-known phenomenon of the electric wind.
However, the idea that what Cady had observed was a somehow deliberately impaired version of Townsend Brown’s discoveries given additional credence by other, later investigations.
Paul LaViolette is one of the most vocal contemporary advocates of Townsend Brown’s discoveries (it was LaViolette who first disclosed in the 1990s that the B2 bomber employs an electrogravitic effect in its wings). In a paper entitled “Sub-Quantum Electrokinetics,” LaViolette took a closer look at the Cady report, and offered his own assessment of what was really going on back in the 1950s:
As seen here, the ONR investigator took the voltage up to a maximum of 47.3 kilovolts DC (average) at which point, with a dissipation of 15 watts of power, the discs propelled themselves at a speed of only 2.8 miles per hour. Careful study of the ONR data indicates that Brown may have purposefully modified his test set up so that it would not give an overly spectacular performance in that test. The data indicate that he had chosen a variable transformer that saturated easily thereby preventing his power supply from yielding more than 47 kilovolts.
In other words, whatever Brown was out there demonstrating for the public, for the press, ad for potential investors during the 1950s, was at best a sandbagged version of what he’d demonstrated at Pearl Harbor in 1950. At worst, it was a completely different technology — ElectroHydroDynamics in a fluid dielectric as opposed to ElectroGravitic technology using a solid dielectric.
In any event, if indeed the Navy ultimately wound up dismissing the technology, then it is reasonable to conclude that that is precisely the result that Townsend Brown was striving for.
* * *
Of course, the press and the ONR were not the only institution that was curious about Townsend Brown and his whirling electric disks. As we know, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was also keenly attuned to the curious goings-on at 306 N. Vermont Avenue in Los Angeles. The Bureau, it appears, was trying to determine if the whole undertaking was some kind of fraudulent enterprise.
Brown had been on the FBI’s radar since as far back as 1943, when, a few months after his sudden resignation from the Navy, his mail on Wonderland Avenue in the Hollywood Hills was ‘covered’ by the Bureau. At the time, there was some question as to whether the unscheduled discharge of a man “reported to know more about Radar detection than any individual in the U.S. Navy” posed any kind of risk to the security of a nation in the midst of a war. The Bureau concluded that despite such defects of character as being an ‘impractical dreamer’ who ‘traveled with a group which did considerable drinking’ and running around ‘with other women while married’ that there was “no information of a derogatory nature with respect to Subject’s Americanism” and the case was closed.
But the FBI started to take an interest in Brown again while he was in Los Angeles again in the early 1950s, and the principal cause of the investigation this time was allegations of fraud by the Townsend Brown Foundation.
A synopsis of the investigation filed on May 29, 1953 offers this these insights into what the Townsend Brown Foundation was up to in 1952:
Two wealthy Los Angeles men concede loss of more than $60,000 invested in Townsend Brown Foundation for scientific research. Support withdrawn when promised efforts failed to materialize and investors’ suspicions aroused that principals lack sincerity. Investment broker refused to participate in raising one and one-half million dollars for Townsend Brown Foundation experiments because “the people looked like a bunch of gyps and the shpiel was too good.” A financier effused to invest when he realized h was being high-pressured, although claims and predictions made to him were never investigated. Another prospective investor admittedly lacked enough electronics knowledge to evaluate claims made by BROWN and [blacked out] but reasoned that if true, financing would hve been readily gained from the government or other responsible institutional type source.
The synopsis goes on to speak of the “luxurious, aesthetic offices of the Foundation, engraved stationery,” and titles of “Doctor” that were all designed “to entice wary, credulous persons.” Among the questionable claims the Bureau says that Brown and/or his colleagues were making…
That the Ford Foundation, Hughes Aircraft Co., Bing Crosby Enterprises, and other organizations were interested, that Electro-Culture is successful, that the device is capable of defying gravity, that communication, including TV, through mountains and oceans is possible with application of BROWN’s device, that the device is capable of self-propulsion.
Followed, again, by the familiar, damning conclusion:
A group of experts from Fletcher Aviation Co. describe the device as “nothing more than a static wind machine as is exhibited in any college physics laboratory."
Once again the names are all blacked out, but one of the promoters, presumably Mason Rose, is described as
too glib…and a real huckster. An engineer who consulted for months with the subjects left them because of their unscientific, unbusiness-like, selfish attitudes.
Of the Foundation’s business practices, this FBI synopsis says:
Foundation bills for equipment, supplies, and services settled to the detriment of creditors in 1952 despite sufficient funds supplied by investors.
And then in an apparent reference to things to come, the report goes on:
BROWN, in February 1953, claimed the General Electric Corp. was desirous of becoming the prime contractor in dealing with the Defense Department of the Governement. Prospective subcontracets he named include Brush Develoment Co. of Cleveland, Lear, Inc., of Los Angeles; and Radio Corporation of America.
An attorney visitor to the Foundation headquarters believes subjects are either frauds or security risks. His reasoning — they discuss their business openly with strangers who might invest, yet claim discoveries of secret and vastly important military significance.
The rest of the one-hundred-plus pages of the FBI’s report goes into considerable detail about specific instances where the Foundation entertained prospective investors and offered insights into its perilous finances.
As of May 1952 [blacked out] said he was practically out of the picture as far as the Townsend Brown Foundation is concerned. He said that in May 1952, however, he twice gave BROWN $100 “eating money.” He said that in September 1952 [blacked out] informed him that they might have to liquidate the Foundation because of its bad financial straits. He added however that [blacked out] “bailed them out at that time.”
And so it goes, this pitiful litany of demonstrations for prospective investors and dire financial straits, unpaid accounts and impatient creditors.
By the end of 1952, Townsend Brown’s work in Los Angeles — such as it was — was done. As the FBI files make abundantly clear, the deliberate smokescreen of the “fraudulent enterprise” in Los Angeles worked perfectly as far as the rest of the world was concerned then (and is concerned for the most part now). According to one inside source, “Everything you see in operation here was part of a master plan carefully designed by someone who was willing to put his own life on the line to pull it off. He looked suddenly like a victim of the establishment, but actually he was the master.” And our source offers some real insight into the motivations behind all the subterfuge when he adds, “All eyes turned away from that ‘model boat’ toward what is now being built in basements all over the world. It was a wonderful stroke, well executed.”
And years later, the names of the two agents who were principally responsible for compiling the FBI report would be revealed: Whatever their real names might have been, they are known to us now as “Puscheck and Spirito.”
* * *
In January, 1953, Josephine, who had been living with Linda and Joseph at the Roosevelt Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard, once gain packed up her little green tea pot. When she unpacked it again a few weeks later, it would be only a few miles from its original location.
Despite the apparent lack of funds, the family boarded the luxurious Santa Fe Super Chief and headed east, back to the place that Townsend and Josephine new all to well. Despite the ill will turned their way in the wake of his having abandoned his mother just prior to her death, the Brown family prepared to return to Zanesville — where the tale of failure and insolvency would add another chapter.
Linda was seven years old now, old enough to have strong memories of the ride aboard the gleaming, diesel-powered train. “Dad had taken the last Pullman compartment on the train,” Linda said, “so the observation car was right behind us. He got me to walk all the way to the front of the train and persuaded the engineer to let me up in the engine room so that I could see what was really pulling the train. I had been totally freaked out by all of the sights and sounds and was nervous about the train leaving before we were even on board. He showed me the engine and I can remember him telling me, ‘When you don't understand something, Sweetie, just go to the front and you will find out what is the real thing. You can always find out about things that scare you by just going and taking a good hard look.’ Frankly I have hated enormous engines ever since but guess it was a good lesson.”
But the hardest lessons of the entire experience would soon fall on young Joseph Brown. While Josephine was pretty much in on the masquerade, and Linda was still too young to really grasp what all was going on, once they all returned to Zanesville, the full burden of the deception would be felt most acutely by Joseph.
For starters, Townsend didn’t really have any place for the family to stay, nor sufficient funds to secure a suitable rental. He pretty much made it look like he was returning to Zanesville in order to impose upon the goodwill of his remaining family there.
The February 8, 1953 edition of the local newspaper heralds the return of Zaneville’s prodigal — if not overtly successful — son, with a photo of a smiling Josephine and Linda, standing beside a rather forlorn looking Townsend. Like an echo of more prosperous times, the story reads:
The Townsend Browns have returned to Zanesville to make their home, bringing back a name once prominent in Zanesville affairs. Townsend Brown, pictured above with his wife, the former Josephine Beale, and seven year old daughter, Linda Ann, is the grandson of the contractor who built the Schultz opera house, the court house, the Clarendon, the county infirmary, and many more local buildings. The Browns are living at Sharongate on the South River road, home of Mr. Brown’s aunt, Mss Sybil Burton.
Mr. Brown came home to the refuge of Sharongate to do writing on his electronics research carried on through the Townsend Brown Foundation, a family trust. He has done experimental work on the west coast and in the Hawaiian Islands and his entire life has been spent in electronics research.
The Browns have a son, Joseph, who has just entered Ohio University at Athens. He is a graduate of the University of Hawaii high school. Linda is a pupil in the second grade at Duncan Falls School.
As the newspaper account suggests, Joseph Brown was no longer living with his family. He was now living on the campus of Ohio University, where he was not having an easy time of it. Instead of luxuriating in the largesse of his once affluent family, attending classes fulltime and devoting all of his time to his studies, Joseph Brown, two generations removed from the great Townsend and Brown family fortunes, was instead working his way through his freshman year in college with a job in the school cafeteria.
But, as Linda recalls, the worst of Joseph’s experience during this period came at the hand of his Zanesville cousins.
“I may be wrong,” Linda surmises, “but during this period a rift developed between my brother Joseph and my dad which was never healed. Being back in his hometown again, Joseph was also surrounded by cousins from both sides of his family and I am sure he picked up on their pinched attitude toward Dad, how much of a failure he must have been. ‘After all,’ they’d say ‘look at all the money his parents had.’ And now, because of his father’s silly flying saucer pipe dreams, the enormous fortune that Joseph should have stood to inherited was long gone. Joseph developed a bitter attitude that remained always just beneath the surface.”
Her memories of Joseph fade some after they all moved back to Zanesville and Joseph went off to school, at least until years later when he began to make his own life and would occasionally visit his parents on Catalina. “There was twelve years difference in our ages anyway,” Linda laments.” Joe was usually at college, then joined the Air Force and was stationed in Europe. So, it was like growing up an only child.”
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