“I have spent years of research, thousands of dollars of expense and thousands of hours compiling and writing, but now my project is finished.”
This sentence was contained in a short note I received along with Loren Gross’ final publication, The Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse: UFOS: A History, July-December 1963. This is the culmination of a remarkable work, a collection of nearly 10,000 pages spanning over 100 booklets covering UFO history from 1896 to 1963. As Loren put it:
“I checked every frame of BLUE BOOK film for the years 1947-1963,... there are many ‘Information Only’ cases in the records. Also, I might add, there are news clippings, magazine articles, and items from civilian UFO publications in BB files. Over the years I was able to compare BB files with many other sources (APRO, CUFOS, NICAP, Dr. James McDonald’s papers, Ruppelt, various newspaper clipping collections like Gribble’s, and every UFO book available, etc., etc.). There is little overlap except for well-known incidents. AF explanations are a joke. I paid little attention to them but I didn't use every case when compiling my UFO histories — just the ones I thought were the best. I reviewed tens of thousands of sighting reports.”
Loren‘s approach to the UFO phenomenon was not one of deductive analysis attempting to “solve” each sighting. Rather, much like the observational nature of 19th century natural history studies, the focus is on what the witnesses reported seeing. Most efforts, even official, are basically collecting data with some less-than-rigorous analysis of the reports. As such, it invites a wide variety of opinions and beliefs, especially since the subject itself is marginal and considered fringe. Gross manages to skillfully balance his presentation, treading through the material carefully and with purpose, as one might negotiate a mine field.
The History series is not just a chronological ordering of events. At times Loren includes minute by minute accounts of events, detailing the actions and reactions of military, official and scientific bodies, as well as the culture of popular journalism to the mystery of the unidentified flying object.
Nearly everyone has opinions about UFOs, expressed both at the time of events and in retrospect. Literally thousands of published accounts are available on the subject. There is an equally vast body of amateur literature which contains various theories and opinions. While much of this material contributes little to our understanding of the underlying phenomenon, it exists as part of recorded history. Gross mined these resources in great detail, revealing previously unexplored aspects of the multi-layered and complex nature of the phenomenon.
The History series contains details of pranks and hoaxes – of both individual and journalistic origin – as well as the circus-like atmosphere that can arise during times of increased UFO sightings. Mystics and fringe religious adherents sometimes invented otherworldly belief systems to incorporate the UFOs into popular culture. Many conspiracy theories were spawned alongside government and academic vacillations between interest, indifference and occasional involvement, both open and covert.
In addition to extensive research in various libraries examining newspaper collections of UFO articles in magazines and small circulation journals, Gross undertook a massive effort to collect and compile UFO-related material from around the world.
One of his earliest acquisitions was the library of original newspaper clippings from author Vincent H. Gaddis. Gaddis wrote articles and books on mysterious Fortean events, and his collection contained original clippings covering “ghost rockets” and the early UFO era.
The compilation effort included the 1952 UFO clipping service contracted by the USAF, and the holdings of several private individuals. Two notable examples were the huge contribution of Dr. Leon Davidson, now on microfilm at Columbia University, and Robert Gribble’s files spanning decades.
During the years that Gross was writing his UFO History series, well over 100,000 pages of official UFO documents from the US and other governments were released. Personal reports from various UFO organizations from around the world contributed even more material that Loren needed to file, digest, edit and write.
Early in the writing of his series, a number of booklets were offered for sale. As new information became available, updated editions of older books were produced. The 1946 booklet, for example, was revised and updated three times. As the pace of new material becoming available increased, corrections, new additions and insights were added as supplements to existing volumes.
About midway through the writing of “UFOs: A History” Gross decided to change its name to “The Fifth Horsemen of the Apocalypse” referencing a cryptic 1950’s quote from Dr. Lincoln La Paz, head of the University of New Mexico's Institute of Meteoritics, that “UFOs are the Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse”.
Loren determined that one last booklet, for 1959, would complete his series. In a telephone conversation with him, I suggested in an off-hand manner, that most people did not consider that the 1950s ended with the commencement of the new decade, but really ended with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Many major changes occurred in the early 1960s, but popular culture’s evolution accelerated after Kennedy’s death. Gross considered this and went on to produce eight more booklets for 1960-1963, an era which is generally considered to be “a desert” for UFO reports. Finally, a last supplement covering new material found for 1947-1959 completed his epic work.
But Loren’s devotion to the field didn't end there. He continued to collect interesting newspaper clippings on UFOs that covered the years after his history series ended and annotated them with his comments. The result of this effort is a “work in progress” that represents Loren’s proven, dedicated method of filing and editing material for a History.
With the author’s kind permission, Project 1947 presents this last partial work of some interesting UFO items from later decades, Some UFO Notes By Loren E. Gross.
- Jan L. Aldrich