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AFFA Sends a Message


On August 23, 1954 the technology magazine Aviation Week and Space Technology released a story that created quite a stir in the American population. It also angered Pentagon officials who were trying desperately to keep the story secret. The short one paragraph article in the AWashington Roundup@ section stated:

Pentagon scare over the observance of two previously unobserved satellites orbiting the earth has dissipated with the identification of the objects as natural, not artificial satellites. Dr. Lincoln LaPaz, expert on extraterrestrial bodies from the University of New Mexico, headed the identification project. One satellite is orbiting about 400 miles out, while the other track is 600 miles from the earth. Pentagon thought momentarily the Russians had beaten the U.S. to space explorations.@

The next day the New York Times, basing their story in part on the Aviation Week story, wrote their own version telling of the discovery of the two objects orbiting the earth. In a matter of days the story was all over the country. Not all people, however, believed the objects were natural, as the chances of capturing two asteroids by the earth=s gravitation field was almost impossible.

Many in the public simply assumed that the two objects were artificial and might have been tied into the close approach of the planet Mars which always seemed to bring with it many more UFO sightings that the norm.

On the evening of November 28, 1954, at radio station WGN in Chicago, the two satellites were the topic of conversation. The radio host Jim Mills, and his guest for the day UFO researcher John Otto (referred to in CIA documents as Athe villain in our story@ and Athe scoundrel@), got an idea to try and communicate with the orbiting satellites. The plan of action was carefully planned and kept secret until the day of the plan.

At exactly 11:15 during the radio show, Mills made an announcement that they were going to attempt to send a signal to the orbiting satellites, and get the aliens to send back a message for the radio listeners. Mills announced that in ten minutes - at 11:25 they would prompt the aliens to send their message with the words ACome in Outer Space.@ Only 10 minutes warning were given to prevent someone in the audience from getting a truck with the proper radio equipment and broadcasting a signal.

Mills announced that once they had prompted the space men to talk they would shut off the microphones in the studio for fifteen seconds. They would, however, continue to broadcast their signal to the Chicago audience. The aliens were expected to tap into the WGN transmitter, and send their signal to the radio listeners. All the radio listeners were encouraged to run and get a tape recorder so they could record the signal if it did come through.

When 11:25 arrived, Mills uttered the words ACome in Outer space@ and turned off the microphones. The two men had a radio in the studio so they too could hear the alien message. They sat and waited the appointed fifteen seconds but hear nothing coming over their own radio. The show ended and the two men left the studio.

Mills and Otto were away from the studio when the calls began to come in. There were four calls in total coming from people who claimed that they had heard the alien message. They were from varying places around the radio listening audience. Later, CIA documents revealed that five Chicago ham radio operators also claimed to have taped Athese wired coded messages from outer space.@ (One listener in Wisconsin stated they too had made a tape recording of the message but it was never recovered.)

One of the callers who claimed to have received a message were two older sisters who lived north of the studio. The two sisters, Marie and Mildred Maier phoned and were upset about the joke the station had just played on the listeners. They stated that it was not funny to be playing jingle bells pretending it was a message from space.

They were told that jingle bells had not been played, and arrangement were made to visit with the ladies. John Otto met with the women to get their story, and was able to make a copy of the tape. The tape was then played a number of times over the air. It apparently did sound like jingle bells with some sort of strange telex noise in the background.

In early 1955 the Maier sisters reported on their UFO experiences, along with the story of the message from space in the Journal of Space Flight. The Office of Scientific Investigation at the CIA saw the article and contacted the Scientific Contact Branch to recover the tape.

Two men from the Chicago Contact Division, Chief George O. Forrest and officer Dewalt Walker, met with the sisters to recover the tape. Because the CIA was openly claiming that they had no involvement in the UFO phenomena, beyond their short involvement with the 1953 Robertson Panel, they could not tell the Maier sisters they were from the CIA.

What they did to overcome this problem was to dress up as Air Force officers to make the Maier sisters believe they would be dealing with the Air Force. They did this as the Air Force was publicly known to be working on UFOs. The CIA had always publicly denied they were involved in the investigation of UFOs, so any involvement by the CIA had to be hidden.

Their first attempt to recover the tape from the two women was unsuccessful. The women were impressed that the government was interested in their tape, but they would not part with it. In the second visit the two intelligence officers were able to get a copy of the tape. They forwarded a copy to CIA headquarters.

Forrest wrote that he felt the case was not a hoax. AIn all seriousness,@ he wrote. AWe don=t think that the sisters themselves are trying to fake anything.@ He then wrote that he hoped the Chicago office would be informed if  there should be an answer.@

It was over until 1957, when NICAP researcher Leon Davidson, talked to the Maier sisters and decided that he would like to talk to the Air Force officer who had recovered the tape. Furthermore he was very interested to see the analysis that the Air Force had done on the tape.

Davidson wrote to the address that Dewalt had given the sisters, and received a reply from Walker stating that he had forwarded the tape to the proper authorities and had not further information.

Not satisfied and now assuming Walker might actually be CIA he wrote to Eisenhower=s Director of Central Intelligence Allen Dulles demanding the results of the tape analysis, and the real identity of Dewalt.

Dulles did is what the CIA normally does in such cases. Firstly, he reported Davidson to the FBI as a possible subversive, and secondly he created a new lie.

The Air Force was contacted by the chief of the Chicago Contact Division and told to write a letter to Davidson falsely telling him that Dewalt was in fact an Air Force officer and that the tape had shown only identifiable Morse code from a known U.S. -licensed radio station.

Next J. Arnold Shaw, assistant to Allen Dulles, wrote Davidson on May 8, 1957 with a carefully worded statement which deflecting involvement away from the CIA to the Air Force. AA survey of the intelligence community has resulted in the determination that the tape in question was analyzed by another agency of the government,@ wrote Shaw. AWe believe you will receive another communication shortly from the Air force which will answer your query as to the nature of the recording.@

Armed with this new information Davidson again contacted the CIA demanding to know the identity of the Morse code operator and the name of the agency that had done the analysis claimed by the Air Force. As the CIA had claimed the tape was not analyzed they were in a situation where they didn=t know what to do

CIA officers under cover contacted Davidson and promised to try and get him the name of the Morse operator and the identification of the transmitter if possible. This, of course, was just a stall tactic.

When this did not pacify Davidson, the CIA again dressed up an intelligence officer who met with Davidson in person in New York City, and this officer tried to talk Walker out of pursuing the case any longer. He told Davidson that the Air Force could not Adisclose who was doing what.@ Davidson would not accept the argument and pressed on. The officer then agreed to see what he could do.

The general rule for the CIA seemed to be Akeep lying till you get it right.@ When confronted with a letter from Congressman Joseph Karth related to Davidson=s claims that he was being lied to by the CIA, the CIA chose to lie outright to the Congressman. Karth was told that other than a brief involvement with the Robertson panel, the ACIA has not participated in any flying saucer activities and has referred all correspondence to the Air Force.@ As to Mr. Davidson=s charges the CIA wrote to the congressman;

Mr. Davidson= belief that this agency is involved in the >flying saucer furore= and is using this as a tool in psychological warfare is entirely unfounded. His indication that CIA is misguiding persons in leading them to believe in Flying Saucers is also entirely unfounded.

The next lie in store for Davidson involved a CIA officer who had dressed up as the Air Force officer phoned Davidson back and told him a thorough check showed that the signal had been of U.S. (not outer space) origin, and the tape and notes had been destroyed to conserve space.

Knowing now that he was getting the runaround by the CIA, Davidson warned the agent that Ahe and his agency, whichever it was, were acting like Jimmy Hoffa and the Teamster Union in destroying records which might indict them.@

This statement led to a funny series of messages inside the CIA. People dealing with Davidson were warned that he had already been given too much information, and too many names. No one was allowed to answer anything from Davidson unless the letter was registered. They were reminded that they were under no legal obligation to answer questions from the public.

Strangely, this technique of simply ignoring Davidson actually worked. Eventually, Davidson seemed to give up on the case, and the tape from outer space was forgotten until 1997 when the CIA retold part of the story in their 1997 report AA Die-Hard Issue: CIA=s Role in the Study of UFOs, 1947-90" which was published in AStudies in Intelligence@ in 1997.

Note: This author has spent over two years trying to recover the documents used to footnote AA Die-Hard Issue: CIA=s Role in the Study of UFOs, 1947-90" related to the Maier case.

bulletThe first FOIA gained a couple documents from the numerous footnotes.
bulletAn appeal brought forward a number of new ones, but some were still missing.
bulletSearches on the CIA website searching "Davidson" and "radio code" turned up others that had not been released to me.
bulletI then filed for the entire file on the Maier sisters which brought an end to the meager CIA cooperation I had received to that point.
bulletThe CIA demanded that I now pay for search fees as a new search would be required, and the material would not add to understanding about how the government operated.
bulletAn appeal to that decision was filed, and ruled against by the CIA. 

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