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Mayor David McCauley remarks at Gray Barker World UFO Day

Welcome to this afternoon’s remembrance of the great Gray Barker (1925-84), the prolific science fiction writer & 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 & 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, & 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 today is simply to exploit the connection to one of our celebrated, former own- Gray Barker, to the science fiction & 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 foreward to “They Knew Too Much,” then President & 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, & 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, & 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.”

“Personally I feel that a consummation of such research will result in findings to prove that the mystery objects are the results of misinterpretations of natural objects, or natural phenomena of undiscovered origin.”

“Mr. Barker is a most successful businessman.  He is engaged in the operation of a large theatrical film, buying-booking concern, and is able to spend little of his time, I understand, in this research.  Prior to organizing his business he served as a visual education consultant for Lovett and the industry. Mr. Barker is well qualified in the literary field.  He has contributed articles to educational & motion picture technical publications. He was also head of an English department in a Maryland school system, prior to giving up his career in education to form his own business.”

“I am not in the least disrespectful when I add that in my opinion Mr. Barker’s interest in the “flying saucers” is most unusual in view of his qualifications in other more accepted fields, though perhaps this is an indication, considering the seriousness with which he is attacking the research, that there is something very real about the phenomena & that more individuals should make sincere efforts to resolve this mystery in a scientific manner.”

And in case you had any doubts about the extraordinary writing ability of Gray Barker- last year I read a passage from chapter one, indulge me for but a couple minutes more as I read a page or so of his celebrated “They Knew Too Much” work- chapter two is entitled- Flatwoods, West Virginia- 

“I have carefully investigated the hilltop where seven people may have seen something out of space, & I have taken measurements.  Whatever they saw was viewed from a short distance.”

“Nunley, from whose tape-recorded account I am taking much of this narrative, noticed the thing when he & Lemon, leading the party, had just stepped through the old gateway.  Events described here must have taken place in a matter of seconds. Nunley, however, was able to relate the sequence with apparent accuracy.”

“The first thing they saw was a huge globular mass down over the side of the hilltop, to their right, about 50 feet away.  ‘It was just like a big ball of fire,’ Nunley said, which seemed to dim & brighten at regular intervals. He didn’t know how large it was; some of the others said it was ‘big as a house.’  It is not clear whether a complete sphere was seen, or a hemisphere, resting on the ground.”

“Nunley heard no noise.  Others said it made a low thumping or beating sound, ‘like someone hitting on canvas,’ & there was another noise, half-way between a hiss & the noise made by a jet plane.”

“It must be pointed out that the time you consume in reading these descriptions bears no relation to the length of the experience itself.  You can see many things in one second, things you might need an hour to describe. I make this comment so that you will not assume a period of observation longer than the facts indicate.”

“Not everyone saw the globular shape.  This can be understood when one considers that the others were behind Nunley & Lemon, & that their positions might not have afforded them a view down over the hillside.  And what they next saw might have been so terrifying it eradicated memory of the globe.”

“Distracted by the globular mass Nunley did not see a huge figure standing to their left.  Lemon said he thought he saw animal eyes in the tree & flashed his light on them.”

“Fifteen feet away, towering over their heads, was a vast shape something like a man.  The face, everyone agreed, was round, and blood red. No one noticed a nose or mouth, only eyes, or eye-like openings, from which projected ‘greenish-orange’ beams of light.  These light beams pierced through the haze pervading the scene. In the excitement some of the group thought the beams of light were focused upon them, but Nunley was specific that they were not.  “They went out over our heads.”

“Around the red ‘face’ & reaching upward to a point was a dark, hood-like shape.  The body was seen only from the ‘head’ down to the ‘waist.’ It appeared dark & colorless to Nunley, though some said it was green, & one child drew a picture with an outline of fire.  Mrs. May said it lighted up when the flashlight beam touched it as if there were some source of illumination inside it. She also saw clothing-like folds around the body, & terrible claws.  No one is sure whether the shape rested on the ground or was floating.

“The ‘monster’ could not have been more than fifteen feet tall, for it was under the overhanging limb of a tree, & the limb was of that height.”

“Originally the group said the strange, nauseous odor resembled burning metal, or burning sulphur.  Under questioning none could remember having encountered anything similar. It was finally described only basically, as sickening, irritating to the throat & nasal passages.  ‘It seemed to grip you in the throat & suffocate you.’”

*****

“The dog had shown no greater bravery.  They found it crouched under the porch, trembling & whining.”

Gray Barker was highly gifted.  Today & every July 2 from now on- we’ll remember his extraordinary talents- his writings, his storytelling, & his entrepreneurial spirit.  Long live the colorful character who once walked among us here in Buckhannon- Gray Barker! 

–Mayor David McCauley

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