In 1979, Barry Greenwood, from CAUS, obtained a version of this photo from the FBI files through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). It was originally sent to the Bureau by an unknown informant on May 1950, who said it showed “a Martian in the USA”. Soon it made its way to the seminal book “The Roswell Incident” (1980), by William Moore and Charles Berlitz.
The explanation for this photo was quickly found and reported by James Oberg in his 1982 book. German researcher Klaus Webner had seen the image on Moore and Berlitz’s book and was amazed because he had previously discovered it on the Wiesbadener Tagblatt newspaper archives, from Wiesbaden, his home town.
But it was originally published on April 1st, 1950.
Webner contacted the original author of the story, Wilhelm Sprunkel, as well as the photographer, Hans Scheffler, and got confirmation it was indeed an April Fool’s prank. In fact, the confirmation it was an April Fool’s was already published on the same newspaper on April 3, 1950.
Sprunkel told Webner he was inspired by a flying saucer story he read about earlier. It was the tale told by Ray L. Dimmick circulated the month before. It referred to a “pigmy-sized man, about 25 inches tall”, a “tiny visitor reputedly had a large head and a very small body”.
With the idea for the joke, they contacted the Wiesbaden US Army base and amazingly got their cooperation. The soldiers are thus actually American. But the alien? It was photographer Scheffler’s 5-years-old son, Peter.
After some collage and airbrushing, the photo of the child was turned into a one-legged alien with “a large head and a very small body”.
Reportedly, “Webner informed Moore of the fraudulent nature of the image but the latter just replied that it was "bullshit!", and published a sour response in the Swiss magazine Ovni-Présence, complaining about that he was tired with Klaus Webner”.
For anyone wondering the original photos could be real, as Luis Ruiz Noguez noticed the hose between the alien and the soldier don’t cast a shadow. As you can see in the original images with Scheffler’s son, that’s because the hose was airbrushed in.
Interestingly, this photo and the story by Dimmick referring to pigmy-sized visitors would influence the common Gray alien archetype we came to recognize in recent years. Martin Kottmeyer discusses the subject on a series of articles published on Magonia:
- Varicose Brains, Part 1: Entering a Grey Area
- Varicose Brains, Part 2: Heading Towards the Future
- Varicose Brains, Part 3: Headhunt
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- Noguez, L., “El Hombre(cito) de la Máscara de Gas”, Perspectivas, Fundación Anomalia, 2006
- Gross, P., “April 1, 1950, Wiesbaden, Hesse, Germany, The US Military”, URECAT, UFOs at close sight, 2009
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