World UFO Day

BUCKHANNON — On July 2, the City of Buckhannon celebrated World UFO Day at the Colonial Theater on Main Street. Once the home of Gray Barker, an American writer best known for his books aboutUFOs and other paranormal phenomena, the theater seemed the most appropriate place to celebrate World UFO Day.

Barker’s 1956 book, They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers, introduced the notion of the Men in Black to UFO lore. Though his books advocated the existence of UFO’s and extraterrestrials, was privately skeptical of the paranormal. His sister Blanch explained that Barker only wrote the books for the money, and his friend James W. Moseley said Barker “pretty much took all of Ufology as a joke.”

Barker occasionally engaged in deliberate hoaxes to deceive UFO enthusiasts. In 1957, for example, Barker and Moseley wrote a fake letter (signed “R.E. Straith”) to selfclaimed “contactee” George Adamski. The letter, supposedly sent by the United States Department of State, claimed it was pleased with Adamski’s research into UFOs. The convincing letter was written on “official” State Department letterhead.

According to Sherwood’s Skeptical Inquirer article “Gray Barker: My Friend, the Myth-Maker”, Barker is said to have greatly embellished the facts of the Ufology, and Sherwood revealed that in the late 1960s, he and Barker collaborated on a brief fictional notice alluding to the Men in Black. In the story, Sherwood (writing as “Dr. Richard H. Pratt”) claimed he was ordered to silence by the “blackmen” after learning that UFO’s were time-travelling vehicles. Barker later wrote to Sherwood, “Evidently the fans swallowed this one with a gulp.

In its Gray Barker Room, theClarksburg-Harrison Public Library holds a collection of Barker’s writings, as well as files of correspondence between Barker and notable figures of the UFO field from the 1950’s to the early 1980’s, such as George Adamski, Howard Menger, and James Moseley.

In its Gray Barker Room, theClarksburg-Harrison Public Library holds a collection of Barker’s writings, as well as files of correspondence between Barker and notable figures of the UFO field from the 1950’s to the early 1980’s, such as George Adamski, Howard Menger, and James Moseley.

A native of West Virginia, Barker graduated from Glenville State College in 1947. In 1952, he worked as a theater booker in Clarksburg, WV when he began collecting stories about the Flatwoods Monster, an alleged extraterrestrialreported by residents of nearby Braxton County.

Over the next two decades, Barker continued writing books about UFO’s and other paranormal phenomena. One of these was 1970’s The Silver Bridge, which linked the collapse of the Silver Bridge in Point Pleasant, WVwith the appearance of an alleged paranormal creature known as Mothman. Before dying in 1984, Barker wrote a final book about the Men in Black, called MIB: The Secret Terror Among Us. 

Mayor McCauley made the following statements at the Colonial Theater on Tuesday: “Welcome to this afternoon’s remembrance of the great Gray Barker (1925-84), the prolific science fiction writer and arguably the most famous Ufologist in history, who from 1971-80, managed our very own Colonial Theatre. Two years ago, on what would’ve then been his 92nd birthday, our City celebrated Gray Barker with the dedication of the placard on the facade of our theatre that he once managed. Today is the perfect day for the third time now, to remember Mr. Barker, because today is recognized as World UFO Day to celebrate the anniversary of the most famous event in UFO history, that is, the Roswell, New Mexico incident occurring on July 2, 1947 - 72 years ago today - that spawned the litany of science fiction works about Area 51 as well as the conspiracy theories about government cover-ups over the retrieval and keeping of extraterrestrial bodies recovered from a flying saucer crash site. Mr. Barker wrote the books that led to the movies: The Philadelphia Experiment, Men in Black, and The Mothman Prophecy. The Men in Black brand was all about secret government officials who allegedly coerced witnesses against talking about their sightings of UFOs.”

The World UFO website states that the purpose in recognizing today is “to raise awareness of the undoubted existence of UFOs and to encourage governments to declassify their files on UFO sightings.” Our purpose in celebrating this day was simply to exploit the connection to one of our celebrated, former own - Gray Barker, to the science fiction and UFO lore that he spent a lifetime writing about. Undeniably, Gray Barker was one of the most colorful characters ever to walk our streets. Mr. Barker wrote the monthly magazine The Saucerian for decades. In 1956, he wrote They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers, which was published by University Books in 1956.

In the foreword to “They Knew Too Much,” then President and Publisher of the Clarksburg News, Inc., H.G. Rhawn, wrote this letter to Mr. Barker’s publisher, University Books, “In response to your communication of recent date in reference to Mr. Gray Barker, of this city, this is to advise that although I can in no fashion commit myself to belief in aerial phenomena referred to popularly as ‘the flying saucer’, I am pleased, however, to offer a brief summary of Mr. Barker’s background.”

“Mr. Barker occupies in the same building with our Clarksburg News, and I quite often have the pleasure of brief talks with him. It was not until recently that I learned he was engaged in research on the so called ‘flying saucer’, because evidently, he is reticent about discussing this phase of his interests. As I recall, I had stepped into his office and was discussing a proposed municipal project with him when I noticed a photograph of an aerial object on his desk. I asked him, in a somewhat skeptical manner, if that was a picture of the ‘flying saucers’ about which I had heard so much.”

“I was surprised to learn that he was most serious in his reply. He informed me that he had become interested in the investigation of the phenomena, and occupied a great deal of his spare time in an attempt to determine whether or not certain theories were valid concerning visitations from another planet.”

“Previous to that I had considered the ‘flying saucers’ to represent a sort of hoax and the result of certain psychological manifestations. However, after Mr. Barker pointed out some of the results of his inquiry, I must admit that I was impressed with this information to the extent that I am now of the opinion that serious research into this question should be instituted.” Mayor McCauley accordingly proclaimed Monday, July 2, 2019 to be “GRAY BARKER WORLD UFO DAY” throughout our City of Buckhannon.


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