Posted in Wretched Richard's Almanac



It’s a classic sci-fi scenario. A flying saucer lands in Washington D.C. (or substitute your favorite location). A very trigger happy Army battalion immediately surrounds the alien vehicle. A single individual emerges,day-the-earth-stood-still2 looking for all the world like one of us except for his shiny spacesuit. He claims to come in peace but the Army is having none of it. We need to build a wall, everyone agrees.  The space visitor who arrived in theaters everywhere on September 28, 1951, went by the name Klaatu (as in “Klaatu barada nikto”) and was played with alien sophistication by British actor Michael Rennie. The film, as any five-year-old space junkie can tell you, was The Day the Earth Stood Still.

Naturally, within minutes of declaring his peaceful intentions, Klaatu is shot by an over-zealous soldier. Klaatu’s very large, metallic sidekick emerges from the spaceship and quickly turns all the Army’s weapons into so much NRA dust. Klaatu is taken to the hospital where, when no one is looking, he heals himself. He then goes missing to move among the people in attempt to discover just what makes earthlings tick We quickly discover that he is wiser and more reasonable than all of us put together.

Klaatu takes a room at a boarding house, where he meets a widow and her son who become thoroughly entwined in the plot. He also meets an Einstein-like professor who is smart enough to converse with Klaatu on his level. Klaatu explains to the professor in a non-belligerent manner that, even though he has come in peace, that doesn’t mean’s not going to destroy the planet  (unlike the aliens in War of the Worlds who pulverized first and asked questions later). It seems that folks from elsewhere in the galaxy are a little concerned about our playing around with weapons of mass destruction.

Various sub-plots play themselves out as the movie hurtles toward a final showdown during which Klaatu politely tells all the world’s scientists that if they don’t play nice “this Earth of yours will be reduced to a burned-out cinder.”

Klaatu then bids them a fond farewell, and he and his metallic sidekick ride off into space, as one bystander asks another bystander: “Who was that masked man?”



Aunt Nancy’s Burden, Part 3: Adventures of Uncle Ed

“Look, Cinderella,” said Uncle Ed the next morning as Aunt Clara arrived poolside. “Here’s one of your evil stepsisters; wonder where the other one is.”

“Nancy dear,” said Aunt Clara, ignoring him, “you look done in and it’s not even nine o’clock. newsick3Why don’t you take a break, go do something for yourself. I’ll keep Ed company. As a matter of fact, I’ll take him out for a walk.”

“Why, that’s so thoughtful,” said Aunt Nancy.

“Won’t that be nice?” said Aunt Clara, the walrus, turning to Uncle Ed, the plump, endangered oyster.

It took Uncle Ed the entire day to get home from where Aunt Clara left him in the parking lot of a shopping center nearly five miles away. He had had a harrowing day. First, an elderly woman who coveted the parking spot he was occupying nudged his wheelchair out into the street with the nose of her 1985 Buick. Three boy scouts then tried to help him across the Meadowbrook Parkway even though he complained loudly that he didn’t want to cross. Lacking the patience, reverence and other scoutly qualities necessary to put up with his carping, they left him in middle of the Exit 4 ramp. The driver of the truck that came within eight inches of finally pushing him through death’s door was kind enough to bring him home, where he was welcomed as warmly as the cat that always came back. Aunt Joan did, however, take the time to hastily bake him a batch of his favorite oatmeal cookies.

Late the next afternoon, Aunt Joan, surprised to find Uncle Ed sitting at his usual poolside spot, inquired about the cookies.

“Oh, the cookies,” said Uncle Ed. “Reverend Hoffman stopped by this morning to invite us to the church picnic today. I gave them to him.”

Aunt Joan turned white and screamed all the way home. Her frantic phone call revealed that the Reverend and eleven members of his flock had been hospitalized for food poisoning, the source of which had been narrowed down to Selma Mayor’s crabmeat croquettes, Verna Johnston’s sweet potato surprise and the oatmeal cookies the Reverend himself had brought to the picnic.

The village rescue squad had done themselves proud responding to the church picnic crisis, performing professionally and efficiently, and all the suffering diners were expected to be just fine. It would be a busy week for the rescue squad; in fact they would be called to the same house on Hancock Street three times during the week.


Posted in Wretched Richard's Almanac



Twenty years before the Allagash Maine Incident (August 20), some Kentuckians had their own alien encounter. This was a legitimate red state encounter, no crazy New England liberals here.  Just salt of the earth, alien-fearing folk living in a farmhouse near Hopkinsville in Christian County.

     Seven good Christian County residents claimed to have been terrorized by a gang of green creatures – gremlins or goblins or maybe leprechauns – whatever they were, they were foreigners. The infidels were three feet tall, with upright pointed ears, thin wobbly limbs , long arms and claw-like hands or talons. Although the creatures remained outside the farmhouse, they raised a real ruckus, popping up at windows and doorways like whack-a-moles, waking up the children and whipping them into a frenzy.

     The good but shaken farmfolk abandoned the house and hied to the local police station. Returning to the farmhouse with the sheriff and twenty officers of the law, they found it and the surrounding grounds in shambles and could still see strange lights and hear unworldly noises and eerie music. The police finished investigating around two a.m. and departed.  Wouldn’t you know it, as soon as the fuzz was gone, the diminutive devils returned and continued to harass the weary farm folk until nearly dawn. Although they were not hauled aboard a spaceship or subjected to impertinent physical examinations (as far as we know!), they were mightily inconvenienced.

     One more unsolved mystery in the spooky world of extraterrestrial mischief, but sadly there was no television program of that name to give it the As Seen on TV kiss of credence.


Posted in Wretched Richard's Almanac

JUNE 24, 1947: BAD DREAM AT 9,000 FEET


At about three in the afternoon on June 24, 1947, Kenneth Arnold, a recreational private pilot, was heading toward Yakima, Washington. Flying at 9,000 feet, Arnold saw nine objects flying in formation out of the side window of his airplane. He watched them bob, weave, and dart about – showing off at an incredible speed. These strange craft were not your traditional flying machine shape; they had no nose or tail, but rather were perfectly round, metallic and highly polished.  Arnold radioed in his sighting. It must have been a slow news day for when he landed at the Pendleton field in Oregon, he found a full news conference waiting for him. It was there that Arnold used the words that found legs with scary space phenomena enthusiasts everywhere. He said that these strange flying objects looked like saucers skipping across water.

In addition to being the first use of the term ‘flying saucers,’ it is generally considered to be the ShatnerTZ_5046first widely reported UFO sighting in the United States (even though our friend Harold Dahl saw his flying doughnut a few days earlier). Perhaps because there was a corroborative sighting ten days later (although people were now beginning to see UFOs more often than pigeons).  A United Airlines crew also spotted five to nine disk-like objects over Idaho that paced their plane for 10 to 15 minutes before suddenly disappearing. (This may have been the very flight on which William Shatner saw one of the actual aliens chewing on the wing – but that’s an allusion for another day.)

The United States Air Force officially classified Arnold’s sighting as a mirage.

And some ufologists (yes, ufologists) began to express doubts about the psychology of the man when he reported several other UFO sightings in the years that followed, particularly his report of two living transparent UFOs that he characterized as space animals with the ability to change their density.  And a fondness for chewing on the wings of airplanes.


Posted in Wretched Richard's Almanac

November 3, 1957: Texas Haunt ‘Em

It was a dark and stormy night in Texas in the wee hours of November 3 when two immigrant farm workers, Pedro Saucedo and Joe Salaz, excitedly called the Levelland police department to report having seen a UFO. Levelland is a small prairie town not far from Lubbock.

The two men had been driving on a highway just west of Levelland when they saw a blue flash of light near the road. Their truck’s engine died, and a rocket-shaped object rose from the ground and saucercame toward the stalled truck. “I jumped out of the truck and hit the dirt because I was afraid,” said Pedro. “I called to Joe but he didn’t get out. The thing passed directly over my truck with a great sound and rush of wind. It sounded like thunder and my truck rocked from the flash . . . I felt a lot of heat.” Then, as the object moved away, the truck’s engine restarted and worked normally.

The police officer on duty ignored their story. (“I’m gonna believe a guy named Pedro?”) But then just an hour later, motorist Jim Wheeler, a bona fide Texan, called to report a “brilliantly lit, egg-shaped object, about 200 feet long” sitting in the road east of Levelland, blocking his path. His vehicle’s motor died, and as he got out of his car, the object took off. As it moved out of sight, Wheeler’s car restarted and worked normally.

Then a married couple driving northeast of Levelland saw a bright flash of light moving across the sky, and their headlights and radio died for three seconds. Five minutes later, Jose Alvarez met the strange object sitting on the road 11 miles north of Levelland, and his vehicle’s engine died until the object vanished.  A college student, followed by a farmer – two more egg-shaped objects and two more stalled engines. 1 a.m., 2 a.m. 3 a.m. – the calls just kept coming.

Bynow, police officers were investigating the incidents. Among them was the sheriff who saw a brilliant red object moving across the sky and the fire chief who also saw the object and his vehicle’s lights and engine sputtered. Then the sightings ended. During the night, the Levelland police department had received a total of 15 phone calls about the strange object – all 15 with stalled engines and not one of the vehicles was a Studebaker.

The Air Force did a perfunctory investigation, suggesting that “only the saucer proponents could have converted so trivial a series of events – a few stalled automobiles, balls of flame in the sky at the end of the thunderstorm – into a national mystery.” They argued that conditions were ideal for the formation of ball lightning, an atmospheric phenomenon that produces luminous, spherical objects which vary from the size of a pea to the size of a giant pumpkin.  Case closed – just a little too conveniently, say conspiracy theorists and all those folks who have been abducted by aliens.