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During the summer of 1947, the skies above the United States were allegedly filled with saucers, discs, and other unidentified flying objects.

“The nation is baffled by ‘flying saucers’ reported seen in 28 states by hundreds of persons,” The Post-Standard reported on July 6, “and conjectures came from scores of named and unnamed sources from across the country.”

A day later, a map on the front page of the Herald-Journal reported that people in all but 10 states had reported seeing something unexplainable in the sky above them.

And that was a day before an Air Force major told a newspaper in Roswell, New Mexico that the airfield there had “come into possession of a Flying Saucer.”

“And with that, we were off to the races,” said Roger Launius, former curator of space history at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, in 2017.

In a July 6, 1947 local radio interview, Dr. Harry Steckel, professor emeritus of psychiatry at Syracuse University, said that people were seeing “experiments by unknown agencies,” but also warned that they had “been seen by too many people, in too many different places to be dismissed so lightly.”

Though there were nowhere near as many sightings in the Syracuse area as there were out west, the area took part in the hysteria.

The “cosmic phenomena plaquing the country” came to Syracuse on the night of July 7, 1947, when 20 people reported having seen flying saucers over the east side of the city.

Joseph Sharp, 17, of Eldorado Street, head a commotion while in his backyard and looked to the sky to see four “mystery discs” moving quickly through the sky towards the southwest.

Thirty minutes later, John Carroll of Nichols Avenue, and his mother saw four saucers. They told their neighbors to come out and look for themselves.

On July 9, Rose Goler of 103 Dyer Court was sitting in her front yard with friends when a “disc-shaped object” appeared from behind a cloud and passed over their heads.

“It sounded as though it had a motor although it wasn’t like the ordinary airplane motor,” she said. “There appeared to be some of light all around it, giving it the appearance of a disc with a halo.”

A night later, a “squadron of three soaring saucers” was reported over Berwyn Avenue, near Oakwood Cemetery.

Everyone it seemed had an opinion about what was going on.

If a “man on the street” interview done by the Onondaga County Courthouse for the July 13 Sunday Herald American is any indication, Syracuse was a skeptical town in 1947.

“I am inclined to think there has been a lot of fuss over nothing,” said attorney Charles Keene. “I wouldn’t be surprised if someone saw a shining plane or something and thought it was a disc and then the idea spread with imaginative people lending a big hand.”

Phoenix civil engineer Richard Coulter disagreed with some who thought it was all a “mass hallucination,” arguing, “So many experiments are being made for scientific purposes that it may be these ‘flying saucers’ are a result of some experimentation.”

When a national industrial firm offered a $3,000 reward for a genuine “flying disc,” a Syracuse doctor submitted his theory.

The saucer craze, Dr. C.W.W. Hoffman said, was the result of “hysterical, overtired and brain-fagged persons looking into the sky and having blood cells or other minute particles reflect on their retinas.”

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“My blood cell theory seems to be the only solution to such widespread and general reports,” he told The Post-Standard. “Add imagination to the physical possibility of seeing floating discs and you have your answer.”

He took two volunteers to the top of the Weiler building on Warren Street to test his theory.

Bob Whitman, who had a head cold at the time, told Hoffman that he saw “sort of grey discs” while looking in the sky, while healthy Virginia Bailey saw nothing.

Hoffman asked that his reward check should be made out to the “Garden Hill Hospital Fund,” a proposed new hospital in Eastwood. Indications are he never received it.

Syracuse newspapers had a field day during that summer with the saucer mania.

Herald-Journal columnist Joe Beamish gave himself a new position at the newspaper.

While trying to catch flying objects with a net or scanning the sky from SU’s Holden Observatory, he was the paper’s “Cracked Saucer Editor.”

Beamish loved the “saucer” wordplay, writing that they made a “sipping” sound when they flew and was allegedly told by a saucer pilot that they just “flew in from China.”

Phone calls to The Post-Standard’s office reporting flying saucers were handled by the “Household Wares Editor.”

In a July 10 editorial, The Post-Standard basically admitted to putting flying saucer stories on its front pages because it offered readers something fun to read about.

“The country, over its morning coffee, was more interested in the national mystery than in coal mines or tax bills,” it said.

“If variety is the spice of life, the press has faithfully given the country a mid-summer respite of a welcome nature, from the discouraging news of a chaotic world.”

(This was no doubt true, Americans may have needed a break in the summer of 1947. For example, the June 30 front page, the first time a flying saucer story appeared there, The Post-Standard had stories about an historic Mississippi River flood which displaced hundreds of people, President Harry Truman’s speech about the federal government’s role in fighting “prejudice and discrimination,” and Albert Einstein’s warning about the “death of our society” if control of atomic energy fell into the wrong hands.)

Local businesses also took advantage of the craze.

Wilsons Jewelers sold cup and saucers for eight cents, promising customers that they had not “seen nothin’ yet until you see Wilsons’ flying saucers.”

An advertisement for Rudolph’s Dependable Opticians told readers that those spots They were seeing were “not flying saucers.”

Ferro’s Restaurant in Auburn promised “out of this world” food and drink and hoped that the “celestial flying earth visitors” would join local diners for a meal.

Their advertisement in the July 12 Herald-Journal included a notice to their “celestial friends,” inviting them “to park your flying YO-YOS on our rooftop.”

Syracuse University’s FM radio station, WAER, hosted a “flying saucer party” on Friday, July 11, inviting anyone who was “interested in scanning the skies.”

Activities included saucer-pitching games, expert interviews, and a pageant to crown “Miss Flying Saucer,” the “sauciest coed on campus.”

George Bilich, the “flying disc jockey,” would be playing music for dancing.


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