The Mystery of the Dissolving Saucer of 27 September 1950: Solved?

How does one tie in flying saucers, history, meteorology, a raging Canadian forest fire, and Steve McQueen and the Blob?

Only here at Misky!

The Blob was a horror movie set in 1957 in the small town of fictional Phoenixville, Pennsylvania and produced by Jack H. Harris. After considering titles such as Molten Meteor and the Glob (previously taken by cartoonist Walt Kelly), they settles on the Blob and tapped Steve McQueen as the star. Irvine H. Millgate is credited with the story. Millgate was a friend of producer Jack H. Harris. He was inspired after reading a 1950 article about a south Philadelphia event. More on that shortly.

Now about that ufo-esoterica story about Four Philadelphia policemen on the night of 26 September 1950. This is an oft repeated flying saucer story among esotericans with many theories abounding. The Misky team proposes an entirely new explanation.

The story appears in several early formats as distributed by the Associate Press based on an original 27 September 1950 Philadelphia Inquirer article. Of course, it was all tongue in cheek. Except to the FBI who was called into the scene.

Only a small portion of the Philadelphia Inquirer story was able to be found:
Pfft – It’s Gone
Flying Saucer Just Dissolves

Four South Philadelphia police officers had a new explanation last night for what happens to those flying saucers people are always seeing.

They dissolve.

That’s what happened last night to the airborne object first seen about 11 P.M. By Patrolmen John Collins and Joseph Keenan. The two officers said they were patrolling in a red car on Vare blvd. Near 26th st. when through the windshield they saw what appeared to be a parachute drifting slowly down from the upper

“The four officers stood a few feet from the object, turned on their flashlights and it gave off a purplish glow, almost a mist that looked like it contained crystals.” When one of the officers reached out to pick up part of the object, “the mass on which he laid his hands dissolved, leaving nothing but a slight, odorless sticky residue.” Within 25 minutes the whole object had evaporated.

The New York Times is typical of the wire story which Misky found in numerous small and large newspapers the next day.

New York, New York, TIMES, 28 September 1950, page 33
A ‘Saucer’ Floats to Earth And a Theory Is Dished Up
By The Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 27 – Four Philadelphia policemen think they know what happens to flying saucers – they dissolve.
Patrolman John Collins and Joseph Keenan reported last night they saw a mysterious object about six feet in diameter floating to earth in an open field.
They summoned Sgt. Joseph Cook and Patrolman James Casper. Then they approached the object and turned on their flashlights.
Patrolman Collins tried to pick “the thing” up. The part touched by his hand dissolved, he said, leaving a sticky, odorless residue. Within a half hour the entire object had evaporated. It was so light, the policeman reported, it had not even bent the weeds on which it had rested.
Sergeant Cook notified the Federal Bureau of Investigation – but unfortunately there was nothing to show F. B. I. agents except a spot on the ground.

While the news media had fun, the FBI was a bit stressed according to FBI FOIA releases seen on a number of investigative blogs.

The FBI records indicate that they wanted to pass the ball to the Air Force who wanted anything other than to have one more weird alien sighting to investigate.

So at this point we have the essential details found in many places on the internet. Four policemen investigated a parachuting object that turned out to land in a field, had a purple glow and filled with odd crystals. It evaporated quickly by a type of sublimation. By the time the senior staff knew about it, it was close to midnight, and the next day the men defended themselves at a press conference. The story died locally, was poked fun at nationally, dodged by the FBI and military, and several years later a vague parody of the event was turned into a scary feature length movie.

Now let’s dig deeper than many others did. Thanks to the powerful Google search algorithms, we found this interesting parallel:

The Blackout – September 24, 1950

The darkness began in Cleveland, Ohio, about 1:00 PM and spread southward. The National Weather Bureau reported that the smoke blanket was at an altitude of 16,000 to 20,000 feet over Ohio, carried by clockwise air currents around a high-pressure area. By mid-afternoon, it extended form Chicago to Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Western Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan had the thickest smoke. In Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cincinnati Reds had to play under the lights at Forbes Field.

In Philadelphia, the sun turned lavender. And Philadelphia scientists were the first to discredit the reports that Canadian forest fires could have caused the change in the sun’s color. All agreed that it was “unique”, but they admitted that the odd coloration was probably due to peculiar formations of ice crystals in the smoke, and noted that the temperature had dropped rapidly and that the weather was cooler than normal. The Chicago Weather Bureau received reports of varied sun colors – purple, pink, yellow, and brown. At Grand Rapids, the sun turned blue and displayed a yellow aura. Skies began clearing in the rest of western Pennsylvania about 6:00 PM. The Weather Bureau estimated that the smoke cloud was moving at about 35 miles per hour, and predicted that it would move out to sea and dissipate. It did so, and eventually disappeared entirely. In Bradford {Pennsylvania}, the next day, the sun came up as usual, and no after effects were seen.

Hmm. At almost the exact time that a strange purplish blob parachutes from the night Philadelphia sky, Pennsylvania and Ohio were being blotted by horrendous forest fire smoke from half-a continent away. The sun and sky were … purple.

Let’s get into some serious science now.

This is a true 1950 detailed weather analysis showing that on the very night that the Philadelphia officers were encountering some odd phenomenon, the dense smoke was descending over Altoona and heading to south Philadelphia. The ceiling of the smoke was only about 6000 feet – barely one mile up. It was propelled by a vicious, frigid jet stream which had already dropped the surface temperatures 10 degrees F, and the upper atmosphere was inhumanly frozen. In that cauldron, is it hard to believe that ice, ash, acids, smoke, 1950 steel mill smog, and who knows what else congealed into a six foot wide parachute of gunk that splashed down in an empty field right in front of two amazed police officers?

We think that this 62 year old mystery deserves respect, and the honor of four very dedicated police officers should not have been dismissed so quickly.

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