Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Guest blogger: Kenn Thomas



By Kenn Thomas

Fred Lee Crisman witnessed the Maury Island UFO in 1947 and was later subpoenaed as part of the 1968 investigation of the JFK assassination. The prosecutor of that case, Jim Garrison, thought that Crisman was the infamous grassy knoll shooter, the actual trigger man. When Hollywood last turned its full attention to JFK, with Oliver Stone's 1991 movie, it was about that case, although Crisman's name never comes up in the film. Perhaps the UFO angle added a credibility burden to a movie already challenged on that score by many critics, although few people remember Maury Island. Garrison's case and the movie centered on the figure of Clay Shaw, the man Garrison felt he had the most on to bring to trial, and many peripheral figures fell by the wayside.

However, the director's cut of JFK includes scenes of Garrison attempting to show a photograph of Crisman to Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show. Carson would have none of it, of course, and cut to a commercial. Garrison had a well-known photo of three hobos being arrested in the railyard behind the grassy knoll. One of them Garrison suspected was Crisman--but that was as close as it got to letting a national television audience in on it.

Jim Garrison
Or was it? Garrison's appearance on the Tonight Show happened on January 31, 1968. Since the preceding January a television show about UFOs, conspiracies and covers-up had been appearing weekly on the ABC television network. The Invaders had as its premise the episodic adventures of a man who knew about a secret alien invasion trying to convince others of it, including the government. The protagonist, architect David Vincent, failed every time. 1967-68 was a time of heroes failing on TV. Another program called The Prisoner had a secret agent, played by the same actor who starred in the Secret Agent series years before, who failed to escape an island prison every episode.

Fred Crisman thought that the man in The Invaders was him. In correspondence with UFO investigator Gary Leslie from August 22, 1967, someone writing as Crisman's fellow Maury Island witness Harold Dahl had this to say: "There is a TV series running now that I swear is based in the main on the life of F. Lee Crisman. I know him better than any living man and I know of some of the incredible adventures he has passed through in the last twenty years. I do not mean that his life has been that of this TV hero on The Invaders show...but, there are parts of it that I swear were told to me years ago by Mr. Crisman...and I know of several that are too wild to be believed...even by the enlightened attitude of 1967." The real Harold Dahl had long stopped discussing Maury Island and UFOs after a visit from a Man In Black brought him to bad fortune, so many suspect that Crisman wrote this letter himself. Another such letter, signed "F. Lee" commented that Crisman had received "a copy of one of the current TV series "The Aliens' [sic]" suggesting the connection but that "it was my understanding that Mr. Crisman was not disturbed or angry." Again, the letter seems likely to have originated from Crisman.

Fred Crisman
The provenance of these letters supports the notion that Crisman was a con man and a publicity hound as his critics often claim. He disappeared into the military after Maury Island, however--a WWII vet reactivated for Korea--and otherwise had stayed out of the limelight prior to 1968. His assertions in these private letters happen at the same time Jim Garrison was coming after him as the grassy knoll killer, making it certainly not the best time to seek publicity. The CIA maintains claim on over 300 JFK assassination files that it says still would threaten national security if released. This even long after Oliver Stone's movie started an effort that resulted in the release of the majority of such files. A former Washington Post reporter is now suing for the release of these documents, which cover the anti-Castro Cuban milieu that Garrison thought Crisman belonged to, and to which obviously Crisman would not want to bring attention.

So the show business and saucer business connection is mixed up also with the parapolitics of the JFK assassination. Another mystery wrapped within an enigma. Did it exist anywhere other than in Fred Crisman's imagination? Quinn Martin Productions created The Invaders. Producer Quinn Martin rose through the TV ranks first working for Desi Arnez in The Untouchables, a "procedural" crime show like Dragnet only with violence. The best known Quinn Martin Production was a procedural called The FBI. After the death of a man named Mark Felt, now known as "Deep Throat" in Woodward and Bernstein's Watergate investigation, his job as a consultant to The FBI series became known. So it was true that spooks like him were connected to shows like that. That may seem like a weak argument but it was buttressed later when it was learned that Felt held a job with the real FBI in the late 1940s overseeing background checks for applicants at the Hanford nuclear plant in southeastern Washington state. Fred Crisman's job application at Hanford is among the documents on him recovered through Freedom of Information Act requests. So Mark Felt does have a documented connection to both the production company of The Invaders and to Fred Crisman.

The Dealey Plaza hobos
Crisman's story should be made into a movie itself, right? After all, the Maury Island incident involves a sighting of six saucers, one of which spewed a weird substance that fell on witnesses. The celebrated Kenneth Arnold was hired to investigate. Two Air Force investigators died in a fiery crash of their plane after loading it with samples of the weird substance given to them by Crisman. And Jim Garrison believed that Crisman shot from the grassy knoll at the behest of an aerospace military-industrial complex distraught over JFK's handling of the TFX, a tactical fighter. The TFX eventually was sold to Australia via a funding corridor that helped create Pine Gap, the downunder Area 51. Lee Harvey Oswald's life had many interconnects with the U2 spy plane, developed at the original Area 51. A better, more true-to-life science fiction story has yet to make it to the silver screen.

Kenn Thomas wrote JFK & UFO: Military-Industrial Conspiracy and Cover-Up from Maury Island to Dallas, recently published by Feral House. An excerpt can be found here: feralhouse.com/jfk-ufo/ Thomas can be reached via his web site at steamshovelpress.com Steamshovel Press also has a facebook account and page. Thomas has written a number of books on various conspiracy topics, including NASA, NAZIS & JFK and The Octopus: Secret Government and the Death of Danny Casolaro.

No comments:

Post a Comment