The Federal Bureau of Investigation's newly-revamped online "Vault" gives the public easy access to formerly-secret documents that detail everything from counter-terrorism investigations to rundowns on prominent individuals and potentially "subversive" national organizations.
It's a fascinating resource. For example, we were able to discover that the U.S. government spent actual time and money investigating the mid-1960s make-believe band, The Monkees. The curiously heavily-redacted Monkees dossier summarizes the pretend bands' television show as "four young men who dress as 'beatnik types' and is geared primarily to the teenage market." During a Monkees performance, a (name-redacted) source reports that an onstage screen flashed subliminal "left wing innovations of a political nature."
But the Bureau isn't all about keeping tabs on fake boy bands, assessing threatening letters sent to Colonel Sanders, or probing Carl Sagan's tenuous connections to Central American terrorists. They also launched numerous investigations into crazy supernatural stuff! The Vault's features previously secret FBI documents looking into phenomenon usually reserved for Hollywood-style escapism. Here's a look at some of the most fascinating real life X-Files.
Mysterious Cattle Mutilations
As early as the 1960s, ranchers throughout several western states reported the mysterious deaths of stray cattle whose mutilated corpses were found butchered with near surgical precision and drained of their blood. Here's some gory details from a 1979 letter between state officials:
[Officer] O'Dell said the steer's scrotum and penis had been removed with surgical precision — a feature common to all previous mutilations — and indicated that patches of hair around the carcass seemed to indicate that the steer had been dropped or bounced — another feature common to all previous mutilations. The steer's intestines had been removed through the hole where the scrotum had been cut out, but were not disturbed.
Slowly, the strange phenomenon — which evidently occurred with some frequency — began to move beyond ranching circles into media and public at large. Rumors spread of helicopters and UFOs hovering over locations shortly before the mutilated bovines were discovered.
As early as 1974, there was some collaboration between the FBI and state investigators looking into the mutilations. But the record shows that by mid-decade local officials grew tired of ineffectual local investigations and began petitioning the FBI to take the lead. These correspondences largely consist of local press clippings detailing the bovine slayings backing up urgent appeals from senators and representatives. The FBI, for its part, seemed mostly reticent to launch an investigation into this spree of mysterious — but decidedly non-Federal — crimes. A 1975 letter from Colorado Senator Floyd Haskell to the Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the investigation epitomizes the urgency felt by ranchers in his state:
...The bizarre mutilations are frightening in themselves: in virtually all the cases, the left ear, left eye, rectum, and sex organ of each animal has been cut away and the blood drained from the carcass, but with no traces of blood left on the ground and no foot-prints.
In Colorado's Morgan County area, there has also been reports that a helicopter was used by those who mutilated the carcasses of the cattle, and several persons have reported being chased by a similar helicopter.
After lamenting the disorganized and un-serious investigations undertaken by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, the Senator also goes on to describe a sort of mass hysteria overtaking his constituents.
Now it appears that ranchers are arming themselves to protect their livestock, as well as their families and themselves, because they are frustrated by the unsuccessful investigation. Clearly something must be done before someone gets hurt.
Apparently, the cattle mutilations became common enough that there was even an official mutilation form:
In 1979, a federal investigation into the mutilations was finally launched under the "Animal Mutilation Project." In March of 1980, we have a record of mysterious "flake" samples sent to FBI lab for examination and identification. The flakes corresponded to "a U.F.O. [that] was reportedly observed by a resident of Taos, New Mexico, reportedly hovering over a pickup truck. The next morning the enclosed powder flakes were reportedly recovered from the roof of the aforementioned pickup." The flakes turned out to be white enamel paint.
Documented cases of animal mutilations largely subsided in the U.S. after the federal investigation began (though similar incidences of "horse ripping" continued into the late-1990s in Europe). Officially, the authorities concluded that the mysterious mutilations were largely the work of natural wild life that would often attack the "soft" parts of deceased cows first, such as the ears, eyes, and genitals. Though, to this day, many aspects of the mutilation phenomenon remains officially unexplained.
Extra Sensory Perception
Declassified CIA documents have revealed that the KGB was investigating the use of ESP (or "remote viewing") until as recently as the early 1990s. While citizens of the Cold War era could sleep better knowing Russian intelligence agency's plans of psychic imperialism didn't go unchecked, who was protecting brave American brainwaves on the domestic front? You may harbor visions of the FBI cultivating a covert Dreamscape team of subconscious commandos with a secret base buried under Mount Rushmore in Franklin Roosevelt's forehead. Unfortunately no super awesome dream warrior base existed.
But, boy, did the FBI want one!
In particular, there was a lot of back and forth regarding the astounding feats of a Richmond, Virginia-area man named William Foos. Mr. Foos used to travel around the mid-Atlantic region giving "demonstrations" of his extrasensory method, which he claimed was both authentic and teachable. Foos could boast some bona fides via past collaborations with Duke University's Department of Parapsychology (the department was the focal point of some ire by established academia in its day and has since divorced from the university and been reincarnated as the independent Rhine Research Center).
Foos, a high-school educated part-time railway employee, never charged admission for his demonstrations, but was actively seeking funding to set up a center which would teach the blind to see. Foos had hopes the proposed center would instate him as the organization's president while hiring various members of his family.
According to the released documents, Foos' presentations didn't do much to sway other government organizations such as the Blind Veterans Association. They did, however, manage to impress at least one agent who took in a demonstration at a D.C.-area American Legion Hall in July of 1957:
Mr. Foos, resident of Richmond, Va., is a high school graduate employed in a minor capacity with the C. and O. Railway. About two years ago he became interested in extra sensory perception (a term probably technically inaccurate) and began experimenting with members of his family. He claims to have achieved amazing success...
Very simply, Foos claims the ability to teach the blind to see: in six months to teach a person without eyes to see sufficiently well to drive an automobile safely. He disclaims any supernatural power and, not being a scientist or physician, has no technical or scientific explanation.
After witnessing Mr. Foos' teenage daughter walk about a room while blindfolded, as well as reading and distinguishing colors "with complete ease," the agent speculates:
Should his claims be well-founded, there is no limit the value which could accrue to the FBI — complete and undetectable access to mail, the diplomatic pouch; visual access to buildings — the possibilities are unlimited insofar as law enforcement and counterintelligence are concerned.
I get the feeling think this special agent's brain might explode if he ever saw one episode of Mindfreak.
As fantastic as this may appear, the actuality of extra sensory perception has long been recognized — though not to the degree of perfection claimed by Mr. Foos.
It is difficult to see how the Bureau can afford to not inquire into this matter fully. [REDACTED NAME], Bureau interest can be completely discreet and controlled and no embarrassment would result.
And then, unfortunately, the Freedom of Information Act came along and now the whole world is clued into the FBI's secret psychic shame. By 1960, the Bureau still kept a skeptical eye on Foos, but seemed willing to kick his particular skill set on over to the CIA or Army Intelligence.
Foos may, of course, be attempting to commercialize on a "fake trick" he and his daughter and the young boy have perfected. On the other hand there is a possibility that Foos does have extrasensory perception abilities. This, of course, is something we cannot afford to overlook in our work but we should not, however, under any circumstances allow Foos the privilege of indicating to outsiders the FBI is interested in his work... It is believed advisable, however, to have checks made with CIA and the Intelligence Division of the Army to determine what reaction those agencies had after witnessing the demonstration as put on by Foos, his daughter, and the young boy traveling with them.
In June of 1960, an FBI memorandum stated that "[Foos'] alleged powers [have] no scientific basis. Other Government agencies such as Veterans Administration, Central Intelligence Agency and Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence also checked on Foos and were highly skeptical of his work."
As for the FBI's current research into paranormal showmen, that part of the FBI story remains shrouded in mystery. Penn Jillette is pretty upfront with his anti-government views. Teller remains a bit more mum on the subject.
The majority of the the FBI's unexplained section is dedicated to UFO sightings, and in particular the reported "flying disc" which crashed in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. Roswell has been thrown back into the public's consciousness recently due to the implications in Annie Jacobson's new book about Area 51.
In her book, Jacobson's inside source claims that the Roswell crash did occur and strange child-sized alien-like bodies were recovered from the wreckage. However, according to Jacobson, the "crash" was part of a Soviet plot to disrupt U.S. society and defenses — a plan inspired by the chaos that unfolded in the wake of Orson Wells' War of The Worlds mockumentary broadcast from 1938. Most disturbingly, Jacobson's source claims there were actual child-sized human bodies recovered from the crash that were genetically or surgically altered to resemble extraterrestrials.
Which is almost a stranger concept than visiting aliens.
Here's the text of a 1950 memo from Special Agent Guy Hottel to the FBI Director regarding the Air Force's investigation into Roswell.
The following was furnished to [Special Agent in Charge], [REDACTED TEXT]...
An investigator for the Air Force stated that three so-called flying saucers had been recovered in New Mexico. They were described as being circular in shape with raised centers, approximately 50 feet in diameter. Each one was occupied by three bodies of human shape but only 3 feet tall, dressed in metallic cloth of a very fine texture. Each body was bandaged in a manner similar to the blackout suits used by speed flyers and test pilots.
According to Mr. [REDACTED] informant, the saucers were found in New Mexico due to the fact that the Government has a very high-powered radar set-up in that area and it is believed the radar interferes with the controlling mechanism of the saucers.
No further evaluation was attempted by S.A. [REDACTED] concerning the above.
This stands is some contrast to a 1947 memo from the Dallas FBI office to the Cincinnati branch which stands by the official story that the flying disc was a downed weather balloon.
There are literally hundreds of pages regarding UFO investigations in the FBI's vault. Much of these documents include press clippings in addition to correspondences with private individuals and organizations inquiring about the Bureau's investigations into the phenomenon.
The truth is out there. And by "out there," we mean photocopied and available online. Happy reading!