The idea of mysterious flying saucers piloted by extraterrestrials had, by the 1950s, been popularized to such an extent that even Time magazine’s Circulation Department wanted in on the fun. The magazine itself was less inclined to dabble in science fiction or conspiracy theories, but a letter sent out to potential subscribers nevertheless reported on the activities of a Martian ambassador seeking information in Washington D.C.
The mailing was tongue-in-cheek, but at least one reader took it more seriously. A young man named Gray Barker, who was then just beginning his career as a science-fiction writer and publisher, responded to Time’s circulation director saying, “You may have hit upon more truth than you intended.” In the course of asking permission to use the ad’s illustration in his amateur magazine, he explained how the International Flying Saucer Bureau was in fact looking into the possibility that “saucerians” had already infiltrated the government.
Robert Fisler, Time’s circulation promotions manager, seemed to be charmed by the response and granted permission for his Martian to appear in Barker’s publication The Saucerian. “I hope I haven’t spilled any military secrets,” he joked in his letter to Barker, apparently unaware of any investigation into the possibility that beings from another planet might have been lurking in our nation’s capital.
According to Barker’s book They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers, he had joined the International Flying Saucer Bureau in November 1952, about three months before writing his letter to Time. In the fall of 1953, however, the IFSB would be abruptly and mysteriously shut down. Barker wrote that the organization’s founder, Albert K. Bender, was approached by three “men in black” who frightened him into silence.
Is it possible that Fisler knew more than he was letting on? As a former World War II pilot and member of an internationally connected news organization, maybe he did have access to military secrets, and if any of those secrets had to do with UFOs, could there have been more at stake for him than an amusing advertisement? Surely, if Time Inc. was part of a conspiracy to cover up the existence of flying saucers, the truth will be found in the Time Inc. Records. . . .
This post is by Luis Rodriguez, Collections Management Librarian.