Although the UFO controversy began in the summer of 1947, it’s a fact that encounters with alleged aliens in that era were all but non-existent. In fact, it wasn’t until the early 1950s when people began to make claims to the effect that they had undergone face-to-face encounters with aliens. In nearly all of the cases, the aliens were very human-like. The only differences were that they sported heads of long blond hair, which, of course, was hardly the style for men in early 1950s-era USA. In that sense, they really stood out. But, trim their hair and they would look just like us. The extraterrestrials soon became known in the field of Ufology as the Space Brothers, while those that encountered the beings from beyond were dubbed the Contactees. Unlike today’s aliens – bug-like, dwarfish, black-eyed things who routinely abduct people in the dead of night and in trauma-filled fashion – the Space Brothers were friendly beings whose main role seemed to be to warn people of the perils of nuclear weapons. Not only that: many of the Contactees claimed that their brothers and sisters from the heavens above were Martians. As a consequence, beings from the Red Planet had been hauled into the growing UFO controversy.
The Contactees claimed that they met the Space Brothers at isolated, lonely locales, such as the deserts of California, New Mexico and Arizona. Not only that, the Space Brothers urged those they targeted for recruitment to go out and spread the words and advice of the aliens. They certainly did that. In no time at all, the Space Brother / Contactee phenomenon became the dominating aspect of early 1950s Ufology. Without doubt the most famous (many would soon say infamous – and many still do) of all the Contactees was George Adamski. His claims of encounters with benign, human-like aliens captured the attention and imagination of the public to a major degree. For example, his first book, Flying Saucers Have Landed, which was co-written with Desmond Leslie, was a huge seller: sales reached no less than six figures.
Following in the footsteps of Adamski were Truman Bethurum, who, in 1954, wrote Aboard a Flying Saucer – an entertaining saga of Bethurum’s alleged encounters with a hot space-babe known as Captain Aura Rhanes. George Hunt Williamson was very much in the style of Adamski, while Orfeo Angelucci was granted flights on alien saucers and became a fixture on the UFO-based lecture circuit. While there were certain differences between the various tales (or the yarns) that the Space Brothers told, there was one theme that really stood out: it was that claim that many of the aliens came from Mars, or had connections to Martians. Regardless of whether or not one buys into the often very tall tales of the Contactees, it was the incredible influence of these admittedly gifted storytellers that led many to look towards Mars for answers concerning the UFO presence on our world.
Even certain elements of the the U.S. military found itself “infected” by such stories. In the summer of 1952, one Commander Randall Boyd, of U.S. Air Force Intelligence, quietly advised N.W. Philcox, who, at the time, was the FBI’s liaison with the Air Force, that: “It is not entirely impossible that the objects sighted may possibly be ships from another planet such as Mars.” Truman Bethurum was a Californian, born in 1898, who spent much of his early years working jobs that never seemed to last. His first marriage both began and crumbled during the Second World War. He entered into a second marriage only several months after the war ended, and ultimately wound up working out in the harsh, hot deserts of Nevada – specifically in the highway construction game. It was while Bethurum was out in the desert, in 1952, and while his second wife, Mary, was stuck at home in Santa Barbara, that Bethurum claimed he had an extremely close encounter with extraterrestrials on Mormon Mesa, a near-2000-foot-high foot high mount in Nevada’s Moapa Valley.
On the fateful night in question, and after the working day was over, Bethurum climbed the mountain, primarily to search for shells, something that Mary particularly enjoyed collecting. The story goes that Bethurum was rendered into a strange, altered state of mind, during which aliens from another world suddenly manifested before him; having arrived in a huge, gleaming, flying saucer that quietly descended to the desert floor. Although only around four-feet-five to five-feet in height, the aliens were eerily human-looking and claimed to come from a faraway planet called Clarion. Not only that, their leader was one Captain Aura Rhanes, a shapely woman that the near-salivating Bethurum described as being “tops in shapeliness and beauty.” All thoughts of Mary – back in Santa Barbara – were suddenly gone from Bethurum’s mind.
Bethurum’s odd story continued and grew at a steady and controversial pace, as did his relationship to the flirty Captain Rhanes. For months, Bethurum and Rhanes had clandestine meetings; usually, late at night. They generally occurred in isolated desert locations in Nevada, where, after Rhanes’ huge ship landed, the pair had long and deep conversations about the state of the Earth, the Cold War, and the captain’s home world – to which she promised to take Bethurum, one day. While Bethurum did not explicitly say so, there are more than a few nuggets of data in Bethurum’s collective work that suggests on a couple of occasions the pair had just about the closest and most intimate encounters, of all. It’s hardly surprising, then, that many students of Ufology outright dismiss Bethurum’s story as either a hoax, or a fantasy born out of Bethurum’s unhappiness with both wife number one and two (eventually, there would be wife number three). There is, however, one particularly fascinating aspect of Bethurum’s claimed experiences that has a significant bearing upon the matter of the Women in Black.
On two occasions, Bethurum said, he encountered Aura Rhanes under circumstances very different to those which occurred out in the desert, with Rhanes’ huge flying saucer and her crew of little men in view. These additional encounters saw Rhanes operating in what can only be termed disguise. In fact, in definitive Woman in Black mode. There was nothing flirty or friendly about these close encounters, however: they were downright hostile. The first occurred around 3:00 a.m. – a time when a wealth of supernatural activity typically occurs – one August 1952 morning. Bethurum and a work friend, Whitey, had just finished their shift and decided to head off in Whitey’s pick-up truck to a favorite, all-night diner in Glendale, Nevada. Whitey was someone who Bethurum had quietly confided in about his experiences with Aura Rhanes. He was also someone who, although fascinated by Bethurum’s claims, was somewhat skeptical of the story. That is, until they entered the diner. Any skepticism Whitey had was very soon to be wiped out. As the pair sat and drank coffee and ate pie, a noticeably quiet Whitey elbowed Bethurum in the ribs and motioned him to take a look at the end of the counter. Bethurum looked up. He was amazed and shocked to see Aura Rhanes, and an equally small male individual, standing there.
“It’s her, isn’t it?” asked Whitey. Bethurum nodded, pretty much in a state of near-shock. Both men watched carefully as Rhanes and her colleague took seats at a window table. In stark contrast to everyone else in the diner, Rhanes was dressed in black: black beret, wraparound black sunglasses, black velvet blouse, and black boots. The only thing that wasn’t black: a “glaring red” skirt. A worried Whitey asked: “What are you going to do?” Bethurum knew exactly what he was going to do. He composed himself, and walk over and talk to them. Whitey, however, was having none of it. He quickly exited the diner, preferring to sit in his truck, in the overwhelming darkness of the desert, rather than confront creatures from another world. Perhaps trying to be a gentleman and tactful at the same time, Bethurum asked: “I beg your pardon, lady, but haven’t we met before?”
Rhanes slowly looked up, glared at Bethurum with a wide-eyed and hostile stare, and uttered just one word: “No.” In private correspondence with fellow contactee, George Hunt Williamson, Bethurum said that Rhanes’ “no” was uttered in a chilling, demonic tone. Almost like a “deadly hiss,” to use Bethurum’s own words. Bethurum wasn’t taking that for an answer: “You very closely resemble a lady I met some time ago out on Mormon Mesa.” The only response was another “No” of a very threatening style. Bethurum evidently didn’t get the message. He blundered on with his line of questions. The answer was the same again and again. All the time, the weird little man with Rhanes – who also sported dark sunglasses – said not even a single word. Bethurum clearly recognized this odd behavior (or, rather, non-behavior) on the part of Rhanes’ comrade: “The man did not give a hint that he either heard me or was even aware of my presence. He could have passed as a blind [and] deaf mute.” As Bethurum walked away, and back to his table, the waitress came over – she just happened to be someone else that Bethurum had told of his otherworldly experiences. She said to him: “They are surely the saucer people you told us about.”
He replied: “I thought so, too. But it may not be. The lady has on dark glasses and the man had a scar on his face.”
The waitress gave a strange response: “I noticed that too, but it is not a scar. It is only penciled on.”
With that, the odd little man motioned for the check. In a few moments, it was paid and the pair headed for the door. The waitress raced over to Bethurum and said: “The lady told me to tell you that she knows you, and that she was sorry and ‘yes’ is the answer to some of your questions.”
It was then that something very strange happened, as Bethurum noted: “I saw them only a step from the door, before I turned to pay my check. When I turned back they were gone. I rushed outside, and there stood Whitey puffing nonchalantly on his cigarette.”
When a dumbfounded Bethurum asked where the pair was, Whitey replied: “They never came out. Honest, Tru; not a blessed soul passed through that door until you came out.” Just a couple of weeks later, on a Saturday afternoon, Bethurum was having his hair trimmed at a barber’s shop in Las Vegas, when he caught sight of Aura Rhanes, yet again. This time, she was walking along the sidewalk outside the barber’s – wearing her same outfit of black sunglasses, black beret, black blouse, and red skirt. Bethurum practically threw his dollars and coins at the astonished barber and raced out of the door.
“Lady! Lady!” cried Bethurum, as he caught sight of Rhanes, about sixty feet ahead of him. She quickly turned, looked directly at him – despite the fact that the street was crowded and the shout could have come from any number of dozens of people on the sidewalk. She slowly shook her head. The stone-cold look on her face was one of pure evil. Bethurum got the message, as Rhanes vanished into the crowd. Nevertheless, it wasn’t long before the nighttime liaisons in the desert were renewed – something which continued until November 2, 1952, when the little people of Clarion finally said their goodbyes. A crushed Bethurum was never to see his beautiful woman from the stars again. Maybe, as we’ve seen, that should be sometimes beautiful, but other times nothing but hostile. “Little people” is a very appropriate term to use, since there are clear and undeniable parallels between Aura Rhanes and the legendary female “fairy-folk” who would enchant men in Middle Ages-era Britain. The sexual aspects of such encounters, combined with notable amounts of missing time, make them the centuries-old mirror-images of today’s alien abductions. Was Aura Rhanes a 20th century equivalent of a fairy-like “elemental?” Perhaps, yes.
Although the story of Truman Bethurum most assuredly stretches credibility to the max, it’s important to note that it’s filled with both WIB- and MIB-themed lore that simply was not in the public domain at the time in question, namely, the early years of the 1950s. In the 1960s, a curious trend began in which the MIB regularly turned up to intimidate people in restaurants and diners – just as black-dressed Aura Rhanes did, way back in August 1952. The matter of Rhanes’ sunglasses-wearing comrade having a painted-on scar mirrors the 1976 saga of a Dr. Herbert Hopkins, who’s unsettling MIB seemed to be wearing lipstick, and whose story plays a key role in the saga of the Women in Black – as will become apparent later on in this book. Other WIB and MIB are often described as wearing make-up, as if to mask their milk-white, pasty skin. Then there is the matter of the disappearance of the strange duo: as they exited the door of the diner, they vanished – as in literally. In no less than dozens of WIB and MIB cases, the black-clad fiends of the night seem to possess the unnerving ability to dematerialize as they exit the homes of those they terrorize.