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Ufologist Death Conspiracy Debunked!

UFO hoaxer Gray Barker

Many articles have been written about the seemingly mysterious deaths of ufologists and a possible conspiracy link, but precious little has been written offering a logical explanation for the multitude of deaths suffered by those in the UFO community.

The topic of ufologist deaths was first brought to light by comic book writer Otto Binder who, in 1971, published an article entitled "Liquidation of the UFO Investigators," which begins:

Over the past 10 years, no less than 137 flying saucer researchers, writers, scientists, and witnesses, have died -many under the most mysterious circumstances. Were they silenced, permanently, because they got too close to the truth?

Definitely an interesting and provocative article, but do Binder's claims have any basis in fact?

Binder begins by mentioning the case of Frank Edwards, a radio newscaster and UFO aficionado who, according to Binder, was murdered during the 1967 Congress of Scientific Ufologists. Binder alleges that the chairman of the convention, Gray Barker, received letters and a phone call before the convention warning him that Edwards would die, while attempting to make a case that most mysterious ufologist deaths take place on June 24, coinciding with the date Kenneth Arnold made his now-famous sighting of nine flying saucers. Binder writes:

One day after the meeting was convened there was an announcement that Frank Edwards had succumbed to an "apparent" heart attack. How could anybody know that Edwards was going to die, unless it was planned? AND THAT'S CALLED MURDER!

You can forgive Otto Binder's excessive use of capital letters and exclamation points; after all, Binder spent most of his career penning Superman, Captain America, and Mystery in Space comic books. Talented though Binder was, he was a sci-fi writer at heart, not a journalist. He was no Bob Woodward. He wasn't even a Carl Bernstein. This much is evident a few paragraphs later, when Binder writes:

Actually, Frank Edwards died on June 23rd, a few hours before midnight. But the coincidence is still there - as if his death had been timed for that significant date.

Okay, so Frank Edwards didn't die on the 24th? Binder refutes his own conspiracy theory... in his own article making the case for a conspiracy!

Otto Binder

And what of Gray Barker, the sci-fi writer who claims to have obtained forewarnings of Edwards' death? UFO researchers conveniently gloss over the fact that Barker, like Rick Dyer of Bigfoot infamy, was a serial hoaxer. West Virginia's Clarksburg-Harrison Public Library maintains a collection of Barker's personal letters, and the library describes two of Barker's hoaxes on its Gray Barker UFO Collection website:

The Straith Letter was Barker's most notorious hoax. It was carried out by Barker and good friend, James Moseley, in 1957. Using State Department letterhead, they wrote to George Adamski as R. E. Straith claiming that he and other department members had evidence supporting Adamski's experiences. While, it is believed that Adamski knew the letter was fake; he quickly publicized it as evidence supporting his claims. The letter sparked debate over Straith's existence, and spurred a federal investigation in which Barker and Moseley were both heavily questioned. The letter's origins remained a mystery until after Barker's death in 1984.

The Lost Creek Saucer sighting was brainstormed by Barker and James Moseley in early 1966. The idea was to produce footage of a flying saucer. On July 26, 1966, they had John Sheets—one of Barker's researchers—hold a ceramic "boogie" saucer on a fishing pole in front of a car; while Moseley drove, and Barker filmed. Afterward, Moseley played the film during his UFO lectures, and Barker sold copies of the footage via his mail-order film business. Both men continued to claim that Sheets had innocently recorded the saucer landing. In "Whispers from Space," the footage is shown while Moseley discusses its origins.

So, let's look at the evidence so far. You've got a ufologist death conspiracy theory started by a serial hoaxer and publicized by a comic book writer. If that's not credibility, what is? But wait, there's more!

Like any decent writer trying to make a point, Otto Binder begins his article with the most credible example first (Frank Edwards). Binder then mentions the June 24 deaths of other ufologists, such as:

Frank Scully: Binder claims that this author, who once wrote a story in Variety claiming that dead extraterrestrial beings were recovered from a flying saucer crash, died on June 24, 1964. Unfortunately for Binder, this is incorrect. Scully died on June 23, at the age of 74, from totally non-mysterious causes. As for the dead ETs, a decade before Scully's death, San Francisco Chronicle reporter John Philip Cahn reported that Scully had been the victim of a con man named Leo A. GeBauer posing as a scientist.

Willy Ley: This former NASA advisor and rocket scientist did actually die on June 24, of a heart attack at his home in Jackson Heights, New York. The only problem with Binder's claim is that Ley wasn't involved in ufology to any great degree, other than being an avid fan of science fiction novels.

Richard Church: Binder claims that this man, a UFO expert and chairman-elect of the UFOlogy group CIGIUFO, died on June 24, 1967. The problem with this statement? In all likelihood, there never was a Richard Church or a ufology group named CIGIUFO. In fact, the only Google, Bing, or Yahoo search results you'll find for "Richard Church" or for "CIGIUFO" point to articles written by other conspiracy theorists claiming that somebody is killing off the world's ufologists on June 24. We have yet to find any concrete evidence supporting the existence of the Richard Church mentioned in Binder's article- no photographs, no obituaries, no historical newspaper articles, no death records... nada. Mr. Church appears to be just one more character of Otto Binder's imagination.

In all likelihood, Binder had based this UFO "expert" on Richard Church, the famed early 20th century poet and novelist who often wrote about the occult and the supernatural. In fact, Richard Church believed that possessed the ability to levitate and fly through the air. Such a fellow would surely be an inspiration to a man like Otto Binder, who earned his fame by writing Superman comics.

Binder goes on:

Whatever, the fact remains that over the past 10 years, no less than 137 UFO researchers and contactees have died. Many of the deaths were surrounded by peculiar circumstances.

And how did Binder obtain this information? Was somebody keeping a record of dead ufologists all the way back in 1971 when the Binder piece was published? He could've said 284 UFO researchers or 392 or 184. Who was keeping track? Binder fails to disclose the methodology used to reach this number. If there were only 200 UFO abductees and researchers in America at the time to begin with, then Binder's claim would be startling because it would point to an inordinately large percentage of overall researchers and abductees. How many UFO abductees or researchers die in any given 10 year period? Since we have no other figures to compare this to, it's impossible to say whether or not 137 dead ufologists in the course of a decade is cause for alarm.

Binder fails to prove his case by pointing out several other deaths of prominent figures in the UFO community (none of which occurred on June 24). He lists a bunch of scientists who dabbled in aeronautics and astrophysics, even though the majority of these scientists were pretty darn old when they died (on dates other than June 24). Old people dying? Who ever heard of such a thing!

Willy Ley

Another reason why so many deaths in the UFO community seem shrouded in mystery is because, let's face it, the UFO community is comprised of a much larger than normal percentage of whackjobs and folks who live unconventional lifestyles. For instance, Binder mentions the "mysterious" death of Gloria Lee Byrd, the woman who died after going on a fast at the instruction of space men. Many deaths, it seems, also appear to be suicides. This indicates mental imbalance, not conspiracy.

The bottom line is that the June 24 conspiracy is nothing but malarkey. You have a 1/365 chance of dying on June 24, which, mathematically, doesn't seem all that astronomical. Even Binder himself could only list a handful of examples and, of these, some of them didn't actually die on that date and others who did manage to die on that date weren't important figures in ufology.

By the logic employed by those who believe June 24 is doomsday for UFO researchers and abductees, it can also be argued that:

Somebody is killing off politicians on May 16, since that's the dying day of Alabama governor Reuben Chapman (1882), Swiss statesman Louis Perrier (1913), Ottoman ruler Mehmed VI (1926), Vice President Levi Morton (1920), Mali president Mobido Keita (1977), and South Dakota Lieutenant Governor James Abdnor (2012).

Somebody is killing off race car drivers on July 7, since that's the dying day of Kenny Irwin, Jr (2000), Jo Schlesser (1968), and race car engine designer Carlo Chiti (1994).

Somebody is putting the kibosh on soccer players on August 24, since that date marks the deaths of Bulgarian forward Krum Yanev (2012), Brazilian goalkeeper Félix Miélli Venerando (2012), American forward Gerry Baker (2013) and Brazilian defender Nílton de Sordi (2013). And holy crap, they all died in a span of two years! Must be a conspiracy!

Somebody is out to get poets on October 28, since the following poets all died on that day: Jean Desmarets (1676), Friedrich von Hagedorn (1740), Charlotte Turner Smith (1806), Ted Hughes (1998).
Our research also shows that 657 licensed gynecologists have died since 2004. The past ten years have also resulted in the deaths of 282 stand-up comedians, 388 high school gym teachers, 412 spelunkers, and 2,240 amateur folk singers.

It's gotta be the work of those men in black!

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