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



The Allagash incident was the Big Daddy of alien abductions, celebrated not only by UFO groupies but on television’s Unsolved Mysteries (and we all know As Seen on TV is the ultimate bona fides).

The Allagash Waterway is a scenic 65-mile long river flowing through the North Woods of Maine, celebrated by Henry David Thoreau.  It was August on the Allagash allagash(that’s got to be a song, composers), and four young men, students of the Massachusetts School of Art, were in Maine to do a little canoeing and fishing. There were Jim and Jack who were twin brothers and their friends Chuck and Charlie who were not. They had paddled to a remote lake where they intended to spend the night. The fishing was lousy during the day, and they were low on food (being artists they didn’t trouble themselves with proper provisions), so they determined to try some night fishing. They built a huge campfire to guide them back to shore, then headed out in their canoe.

After a time on the lake, the four suddenly saw a light, a luminous sphere too big to be a star, too far above the trees to be their campfire. The sphere moved toward them, changing colors as it approached.

As it came closer, they saw that this flying sucker was over 80 feet in diameter, and they began to worry about its intentions. A brief debate on what to do next resulted in frantic paddling toward shore. The sphere was having none of it; it sent out a shaft of light beckoning them into its ghostly glow. When they didn’t respond, it just gobbled them right up.

The next thing Jim/Jack, Chuck and Charlie knew, they were standing on shore, staring at the sphere, as it gave them a goodbye wave of its beam, and disappeared with a Cheshire Cat grin into the nighttime sky. All this within a matter of minutes. But wait, their once roaring fire was now nothing but ashes, and the light of dawn was erasing the darkness. How could this be?

They evidently chalked it up to the beer or perhaps the pot, because each man went back to his own normal world. But then came the nightmares. Strange beings with long necks, large heads, and lidless metallic eyes that glowed performed inappropriate physical examinations, their insect-like hands with four fingers poking here, there and I beg your pardon! Each dreamer, Jim/Jack, Chuck or Charlie, had the same dream, and each being an artist, rendered a depiction of the encounter, though each presumably in his own medium.

Psychiatric examinations showed Jim/Jack, Chuck and Charlie to be mentally stable (as stable as an artist can be), and they all passed lie-detector tests. Did something from “out there” come down here on August 20, 1976? Will we ever know? And what about that night a few years later when Jim (or Jack) was parking with his girl friend in the Allagash woods and the next morning discovered a hook caught in the door handle of his car?


I believe alien life is quite common in the universe, although intelligent life is less so. Some say it has yet to appear on planet Earth.  – Stephen Hawking


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.

Posted in Wretched Richard's Almanac

September 12, 1952: The Flatwoods Monster

Flatwoods_MonsterTwo brothers, Eddie and Freddie, along with their friend Tommy, were outside on September 12, 1952, a typical Flatwoods, West Virginia, evening when they witnessed something that was not typical — a bright object streaked across the sky and came to rest on a neighbor’s farm. The young teens ran to the brothers’ home and reported their sighting to the brothers’mother, Kathleen May. Mrs. May accompanied the boys back to the farm, along with a few extra hangers-on they picked up along the way.

As they approached the site, they saw something staring at them from a distance. They all pretty much agreed that the something that would become known as the Flatwoods Monster was about seven feet tall with a black body and a dark glowing face and evil eyes or eight feet tall with a face shaped like a sideways diamond with non-human eyes: its body did not have the shape of a human or it had the shape of a monk wearing a hood: it had no arms or it had long, stringy arms with long claws.

It hissed at them.

Upon returning home, Mrs. May contacted the local sheriff and the local newspaper. Investigators visiting the site saw no sign of the monster, but a nasty burnt, metallic odor remained. The following morning, they found elongated tracks in the mud and traces of a gummy black liquid.

Other reports began to trickle in. A mother and her 21-year-old-daughter encountered a creature with the same appearance and odor, upsetting the daughter so much she was hospitalized for three weeks. Another woman’s house had been shaken violently and her radio cut off for 45 minutes. The director of the local Board of Education claimed to have seen a flying saucer taking off the morning after the creature sighting.

Years later, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, a paranormal investigation group, concluded that the bright light in the sky that September 12 was most likely a meteor, that those muddy tracks were made by a 1942 Chevy pickup, and that the alien creature was an owl. Spoil sports.

off the morning after the creature sighting.

Years later, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, a paranormal investigation group, concluded that the bright light in the sky that September 12 was most likely a meteor, that those muddy tracks were made by a 1942 Chevy pickup, and that the alien creature was an owl. Spoil sports.