On the last day of March news began to spread around online UFO circles that John Lear, one of the most controversial figures in the field in the last 35 years, passed away during his sleep on March 29th at his home. He was 79 years old.
Even before he made a splash in the UFO scene, Lear had already had a most sui-generis career: The disowned son of aircraft designer Bill Lear –founder of the Learjet company– as an aviator he broke numerous records and even ran clandestine missions for the CIA during the Vietnam war (the movie Air America is a fictionalized story of that era). By the 1980s Lear established himself in Nevada (where he remained until his death) and it was then when he became very interested in the UFO phenomenon; particularly, in the stories that began to proliferate among American researchers after the story of the (alleged) crash of a flying saucer in Roswell, New Mexico had resurfaced from public opinion thanks to the work of Stan Friedman, Bill Moore and other investigators.
It was then that UFOlogy began what it could arguably be considered its most paranoid phase, because unlike their predecessors from the 1950s and 60s who also kept insisting the US government knew a whole lot more about UFOs than they publicly admitted through their PR campaign with the Air Force’s Blue Book project, UFOlogists in the 80’s were now not only convinced the government kept whole squadrons of crashed saucers and their pickled occupants hidden away in heavily secured military bases like Area 51 –whose existence was still officially denied despite the fact the Air Force was grabbing more and more public lands to keep it safe from curious eyes– and under the control of a secret cabal known as ‘Majestic 12’, but that the government was also aware of the harrowing experiences narrated by ‘abductees’ who claimed to be submitted to painful medical and gynecological procedures at the hands of emotionless beings with cold, black eyes; and that either they were powerless to stop the aliens from kidnapping innocent civilians from their very homes –hence the reason for the coverup and official denial– or, even worse, they were in cahoots with the Martian Mengeles through a dark pact that not only threatened the freedoms of American citizens, but the entire fate of mankind itself.
It was into all this menagerie of disinformation that Lear dove in, and merrily helped to crank the lever of the rumor mill through ‘data dumps’ uploaded into the nascent world wide web via bulletin board systems (BBS) and Usenet groups, in which he poured in his theories of how every unsubstantiated story he came across fit together into the ‘big picture’ of the alien presence in our planet. So even if you are relatively new in your interest in UFOs and have never even heard of the name ‘John Lear’, his impact is still indelible in the field to this day through the permanence of mythologies involving underground alien bases, nefarious genetic experimentation on abductees to create human-alien hybrids, and even the enduring public fascination with Bob Lazar and his claims of reverse-engineering programs of extraterrestrial technology –the fact that Lazar was open about his friendship with Lear when he was interviewed for a position inside the Groom Lake testing ground (something his would-be employers seemed to have already know) not only not hindered his candidacy, but it seems to have been one of the reasons why he got the job in the first place. Was someone counting on Lear to ‘spill the beans’ as he was fond to do?
Last year our good friend and collaborator Adam Gorightly published the book Saucers, Spooks & Kooks through Daily Grail Press, which delved deep into this wacky era of UFO history. So as a special treat to our readers, we’re including a small excerpt from the book which might help you get a sense of just how influential John Lear was in the shaping of modern UFO narratives –for better or for worse.
Grailers are welcomed to check out the many recordings of radio appearances Lear made over the years in shows like Coast to Coast AM with Art Bell or Dark Matters Radio with Don Ecker –although listeners are advised to take EVERYTHING coming from his mouth with a huge bucket of salt. I would also strongly encourage you to give a listen to the episodes on Aaron Gulyas’s The Saucer Life in which John Lear’s involvement with the OH-KRILL papers and his relationship with Bill Cooper are discussed.
Godspeed and farewell to you, o Baron Munchausen of Saucerdom. You weaved webs of lies and fantasy so sticky you ended up trapped by them yourself, but without you UFOlogy loses much of its chutzpah. May you manage to evade the soul-catching machines on the Moon.
Chapter 21: The Crestone Manifesto (Excerpt)
Although Paul Bennewitz lit the initial Dulce Base fuse, it took the better part of a decade for the story to go viral when John Lear burst on to the scene with his hair on fire. Lear—who seemingly added some measure of credibility as a Dulce Base promoter— was an airline captain and former CIA contract pilot, as well as the son of William Lear, inventor of not only the Learjet, but also the eight-track tape player.
On the June 11, 1994 edition of Don Ecker’s UFOs Tonight radio program, Bill Moore stated that the bulk of John Lear’s Dulce Base information came courtesy of Paul Bennewitz, including the term “Greys” that first appeared in Bennewitz’s “Project Beta” report, describing the aliens who had entered into a secret treaty with the U.S. government. According to Moore:
Many people out there have heard these little aliens referred to as ‘Greys’—that term was invented in the Bennewitz counterintelligence affair. They made it up. They dumped that in Bennewitz’s lap and he proceeded to repeat it to all kinds of people in the UFO community and today it’s standard word of mouth. And it’s crap!
In early November 1987, a mini-conference, comprised entirely of UFO researchers, was organized by Tom Adams and held in Crestone, Colorado. Among those attending were John Lear, Linda Howe, Christian Lambright, David Perkins, Gary Massey, Lockheed engineer John Andrews, and Jim Speiser, founder of the ParaNet Bulletin Board System (BBS).
It was at this Crestone “meeting of the minds” —according to Bill Moore—that the Dulce Base story was fleshed-out using Paul Bennewitz as the primary source of information, or at least that was the scenario that Moore laid out in his interview with Don Ecker. What Moore was most likely referring to as the “Dulce Base story” later evolved into “The UFO Cover-Up”, a controversial seven-page document that Lear posted to ParaNet in December 1987. During the Crestone conference, Lear suggested that the group put their heads together and come up with a joint statement addressing the current state of ufology. Initially everyone was receptive to this idea, and on the second day they gathered in a meeting room to come to a consensus as to what this group statement would say. As the discussion progressed, everyone seemed in agreement that some form of unidentified aerial phenomenon was involved with the cattle mutilations, but John Lear wanted to take it several steps further and definitively declare that Earth was under attack from an alien race. As David Perkins recalled:
I was horrified about where Lear wanted to take our statement, but I was trying to be polite, and I said, ‘I can’t quite get behind that one, John. I’m not signing my name to that.’ And from there this whole idea of putting out a statement quickly fell apart. Lear got miffed; he thought he could come away from our conference with this Crestone Manifesto, and it didn’t happen—so he was kind of pouty the rest of the day, as I recall—and then later that evening he and Linda Howe suddenly decided to take off and go on a road trip together, leaving the conference early. And I said to her: ‘What? You can’t leave now, we still have another day.’ And she said, ‘Well, we have to go right away to Roswell to see Clifford Stone. It’s very important. He has some information for us.’ And that really seemed out of character for Linda, and raised a few eyebrows, because she never left anything early. She’d stay to the bitter end if there was some sort of gathering happening. And we thought it must be really damned important whatever Clifford Stone had to tell her.
On their way to Roswell, Lear and Howe had a stop-over in Albuquerque where they “had dinner with Col. (Ernie) Edwards who kept track of Dr. Paul Bennewitz for the Air Force and met with Condor (Robert Collins)…who showed us some transcripts regarding EBE3, one of the living aliens sequestered from the Roswell crash. One of the messages said, ‘EBE3 wants to see the ocean. We had better comply or he’ll disappear again.’”
Howe and Lear’s next stop was Roswell where they met up with another spooky ex-military type, the aforementioned Sgt. Clifford Stone, who claimed that as a child growing up in Southern Ohio he had encountered extraterrestrials, and that these encounters had come to the attention of the U.S. government, who monitored Stone throughout his youth and into adulthood.
During the Vietnam era, Stone enlisted in the Army and in short order (or so Stone claimed) he was whisked away to a top secret movie-screening room at Fort Belvoir and shown a film of a UFO retrieval, then afterwards placed on a special military team assigned to crash-retrievals, during the course of which Stone identified no less than fifty-seven different alien races.
In the summer of 1986, Stone had been in correspondence with Paul Bennewitz, receiving what could best be described as two rather lengthy and rambling letters in which Bennewitz went into exhaustive detail about the different alien races at Dulce, perhaps comparing notes about the different aliens that Stone himself had allegedly encountered during his crash-retrieval assignments. It was Stone’s involvement with Bennewitz that appears to have been at least one of the factors that motivated Howe and Lear to skip out early from Crestone to rendezvous in Roswell with Stone. All of these peculiar peregrinations seemed have the singular focus in mind of finding out more of what Bennewitz knew about the ETs and the alleged Dulce underground base.
Not long after his road trip with Howe, Lear returned to Albuquerque to meet with Bennewitz. According to Christian Lambright:
Sometime in 1987, or possibly 1988, John Lear went to meet Paul [Bennewitz] at Paul’s home. I found out later that John spent several days there, though to the best of my knowledge it was the first time they had met in person. A few days after John’s departure, I got a call from Paul. He was extremely angry about something involving John and, from the strong words he used, it was very clear that he did not care to see John again.
Following his interactions with Lear, Bennewitz changed his phone number and withdrew from the front lines of ufology. Lambright suspects that the cause behind Bennewitz’s self-imposed ufological exile had something to do with his meeting with Lear, not to mention that by this time Bennewitz was teetering on the edge of a psychological meltdown.