Some months ago my wife was babysitting for a married couple of our acquaintance. The man was an officer in the Army reserve, holding a high security clearance which rendered him privy to various military and intelligence secrets. He worked as a research scientist at a major university.
He regularly confided some of these secrets to his wife, who then confided them to my wife, who then told them to me. Beyond recalling that all these presumed secrets were sensational in nature, I have forgotten most of them. Of those I remember, one – related in the midst of the Iranian hostage crisis – was that our government knew that the Iranian militants had executed several of their American captives. My informant also said that on a particular date the United States would invade Iran. You get the idea.
I never believed any of this, needless to say, but I couldn’t resist the temptation to ask him – tongue firmly embedded in cheek – if, as a man well versed in hidden truths, he knew if there were any substance to those stories about crashed saucers and pickled aliens purported to be in the Pentagon’s possession. He immediately assumed a stern, official-looking expression and declared that that was something he couldn’t talk about. Not long afterwards, however, he added that the truth, if he were to confide it, would shock me. On two or three subsequent occasions he brought up the subject and let it be known that if I pressed him at all, he would tell me the whole story. For obvious reasons I never bothered.
I mention this as a cautionary tale. Remember, the man has impeccable credentials. he is a military officer; he does have a high security clearance; and he is a research scientist at a major university. And he is also, it is clear, a spinner of yarns. Next time you read a story about a crashed saucer told by a man with similarly impressive credentials, remember him.
In fact, there is a whole branch of modern folklore waiting to be seized upon and catalogued by scholars of popular culture. These are what I call Soldiers’ Tales, or, the Horrendous Secrets I Learned in the Service . We ufologists hear them all the time. A few even purport to be firsthand accounts describing involvement in retrievals of crashed spaceships, the taking of spectacular UFO films, the witnessing of a fatal encounter between an aeroplane and a UFO, and so on. Such stories – or at least those with enough specific detail to permit follow-up investigation – seldom check out.
I can only speculate on the motives of the yarn-spinners, but it’s not unreasonable to theorise that for many people the most important period of their lives was the time they spent in the military, when in fact some may well have been privy to secret information. All human institutions, including intelligence agencies, have rumour mills through which stories may circulate. The environment in which such fantasies are related may give them a false authority. Those individuals who pass into civilian life, may repeat the rumours in good faith. Other persons, not acting in good faith, may simply place themselves inside the rumours to impress girl friends, wives and acquaintances.
Wise words, and ones we should bear in mind when confronted by yet another aging serviceman with amazing tales of what he learned in the military. -- John Rimmer