For a roughly 10-year stretch during the 1980s and ‘90s, Eric Walker played a weird little game with UFO researchers. The retired Penn State president (1956-70) was rumored to have attended discussions at Wright-Patterson AFB concerning debris-recovery revelations from the alleged 1947 Roswell, N.M., crash. The smartest thing Walker could’ve done was to simply ignore the hounds on his heels. Yet, probably against the better judgement of a man whose most conspicuous public legacy is a PSU science facility bearing his name, Walker left behind a trail of letters and phone conversations no less baffling today than they were 20-some years ago.
You can’t get there from here
You can’t get there from here
|By Billy Cox|
As executive secretary for the Pentagon’s Research & Development Board from 1950-52, Walker had been neck-deep in some of the military’s most successful weapons systems of World War II. We are, however, unlikely to know the full extent of his activities. In the 1980s, for instance, long-time investigator Stan Friedman located a military archive cover sheet from the Department of the Army to the Chairman of the United States Communications Intelligence Board. The heading reads “Indoctrination for Special Intelligence for Mr. Eric Arthur Walker,” but the rest of the document is missing.
At any rate, when researchers began querying Walker by phone and mail at his residences in State College, Pa., and Hilton Head, S.C., they got less — and a lot more — than they bargained for. In a series of bizarre exchanges, Walker alternately confirmed and denied the existence of the controversial and possibly apocryphal MJ-12 ET study group, warned sleuths to “leave it alone!,” returned letters with cryptic margin notes and, in his lengthiest written response, stated Roswell’s crashed UFOnauts “were four very normal individuals, all male” who went on to immerse themselves in American society. “I hope,” he concluded, “that you will let matters lie as they are. The results are completely satisfactory, and nothing is to be gained by further publicity.”
UFOs, Area 51, and Government Informants: A Report on Government Involvement in UFO Crash Retrievals, the just-released book by Grant Cameron and Scott Crain. Sifting through a mind-numbing alphabet soup of military agencies, sorting out disinformation and counterintelligence dispersed by a cast of interlocking and largely forgotten Cold War players, the authors’ quixotic journey is reminiscent of Mark Pilkington’s 2010 journey down the rabbit hole, Mirage Men.
But unlike Pilkington, whose futile rumble with spookworld led him to conclude the UFO mystery is a cover for special operations, the Cameron-Crane project contends the misdirection is an effort to open the cage one screw at a time. The authors say that leaking potential half-truths into the public domain — such as President Truman’s alleged 1952 briefing paper on ETs for president-elect Eisenhower — is a calculated gamble to slowly acclimatize Americans into accepting the reality of an alien intrusion onto our planet.
In fact, they argue that former CIA agent Chase Brandon’s announcement last summer that he’d discovered some Roswell files in the Agency’s archives was a coordinated fabrication in the latest chapter of the ongoing strategy. “Hence Brandon has not been prosecuted for lying about the CIA,” they write. “Hence the CIA did not call him a liar. The Roswell box story is a made-up story with no breaches of security. Brandon and the CIA are a team. This is why nothing was done by the CIA, and nothing will be done.”
No, the Cameron-Crane theory isn’t a new idea. But UFOs, Area 51, and Government Informants took decades of exhaustive research to pull together. It is at once speculative, informed, and inferential; one might easily disagree with its verdict. But in reaching that verdict, what they give us is a forbidding diagram of just how tedious, maddening, arcane and thankless a chore it is to assemble historical contexts to build such a case. It’s the sort of journey that requires the patience of a buzzard or a tree sloth, along with a tolerance for being spun like a top by insiders — retired or otherwise — like Eric Walker.
No doubt you’ll leave this back-channel maze far less naive than the way you entered. The flip side is, it just might serve as a textbook warning to young lions intent on cracking this nut. In fact, you can almost imagine Walker, back in the day, quoting Dante’s Divine Comedy in a plaintive appeal for outsiders to back off: “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”
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