Rex Ball

MissViolet

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#1
Not sure where to post this one, but I think it's more a question of folk tale than anything else.

John Keel cites the anecdote of a man called Rex Ball, who stumbled into a strange tunnel network and discovered army officers working with "small men" or some such description.

All standard stuff for these parts, but my query is: are there any other sources for this? Because everything I can find just links straight back to Keel, or uses exactly the same wording. I begin to wonder if this is one of those "classic" cases that has no secondary sources at all.

Anyone know anything about this that's not from Keel?
 

EnolaGaia

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#2
The Rex Ball story apparently didn't start with Keel and his 1975 Mothman Prophecies.

According to this book:

A Guide to the Inner Earth
By Bruce A. Walton

The Rex Ball story was first published in a 1968 book: Document 96: A Rationale for Flying Saucers, by a Frank Martin Chase.

Here are images of Walton's entries for Keel and Chase, mentioning the Rex Ball incident.

Note that the Chase entry indicates the incident may have occurred in Illinois - not Georgia. Most all of the Rex Ball citations I can readily find (such as they are ... ) seem to claim the incident occurred in Georgia. I don't have a copy of Mothman Prophecies at hand to check whether Keel gave the impression the incident happened in Georgia.

RBall-Keel copy.jpg

RBall-Chase copy.jpg

SOURCE: https://books.google.com/books?id=6...Q7_DUYQ6AEwA3oECAgQAQ#v=onepage&q=rex&f=false
 

EnolaGaia

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#3
Last edited:

MissViolet

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#4
See, this is why I keep coming back after nearly twenty years. You people are quite wonderful!

So, it didn't originate with Keel. The presence of the dread name Gray Barker gives me pause for thought, but overall, a fascinating little bit of high strangeness. It does seem to be more of a "visionary" experience; I'm oddly reminded of the legends of shepherds discovering sleeping Arthurian knights, but being judged as unworthy and returned to the normal world. And why the tattered uniform? And the sense of familiarity? The judgemental blonde?

Or are these fictional details? I do so love pre Arnold stories. There's something much more of folklore here, I feel.
 

EnolaGaia

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#5
For the record ... I'm not sure Walton's book is the earliest appearance of the story. I was simply looking for a source that might pre-date Keel.

Walton's book is focused on subterranean weirdness (underground cities and civilizations, hollow earth, Shaver Mystery, that sort of thing ...).

This makes me wonder whether this story originated with or without any reference to a UFO.

Keel was supposedly researching the Mothman stuff in 1966 / 1967 (i.e., before publication of the Walton book). This makes me wonder if both Keel and Walton learned of the story from some other / earlier source.

I'm a bit leery of the central character's name. "Rex Ball" is the name of one of the biggest events held during Mardi Gras.
 

MissViolet

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#6
Really? I had no idea!

The story feels odd, and not for the obvious reasons. My instinct is that it's been embroidered upon by several different authors over the years. And yet it contains so much of the modern UFO mythology/narrative; that's a prototype Dulce Base right there, I'm saying, suggesting that the roots of the mythos have been around for a long time.
 

EnolaGaia

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#8
The Martin Lowth account of the Rex Ball story (the link I cited earlier) is itself based on a 2006 article by one Martin S. Kottmeyer.

I've finally found Kottmeyer's article. It appears in the January / February 2006 edition of The REALL News - "The official newsletter of the Rational Examination Association of Lincoln Land." This is an admitted rationalist / skeptic organization based in Springfield, Illinois.

The Rational Examination Association of Lincoln Land is a non-profit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) educational and scientific organization. It is dedicated to the development of rational thinking and the application of the scientific method toward claims of the paranormal and fringe-science phenomena.
http://www.reall.org/newsletter/v14/n01/reall-news-v14-n01.pdf

Having set the background ...

Kottmeyer acknowledges the 1968 Chase book (Document 96) as the story's source, and gives no hint of identifying, seeking, or suspecting any earlier source. He then launches into telling the Rex Ball story, giving the reader the impression he's simply relating what he found in Chase's book.

Kottmeyer relates Ball's story with more details than most, if not all, the other accounts I've found. The extent to which Kottmeyer's retelling is faithful to the Chase account is anybody's guess.

Kottmeyer goes on to critically review and analyze the story. He doesn't state his conclusions all that clearly or firmly, but it seems he considers the Rex Ball story to be a composite or fabrication that probably originated in the 1960's. He is pretty clear in claiming the 1940 setting is a false memory or dream feature reported as if it were fact.

Some miscellaneous comments ...

Kottmeyer's account never mentions anything about Georgia, never mentions Ball's residence location, and cites Geneseo solely as the place where Ball woke up after the incident. It's reasonably clear Kottmeyer is operating on the presumption Ball lived and worked in Geneseo, but there's nothing that confirms this in the text.

Kottmeyer relates the story as having occurred to Ball "in the middle of" a long drive from Detroit to (presumably) Geneseo. Geneseo IL is in northwest Illinois, and a drive from Detroit to Geneseo is on the order of 400 miles nowadays, rated for a probable drive time of circa 6+ hours on modern expressways. In 1940 it wouldn't be unreasonable to estimate this trip could easily take 150 - 200% as long to complete (i.e., circa 9 - 12 hours).

I find it odd that the incident is described as occurring sometime "in the middle of" the trip, with Ball remembering nothing between the close of the anomalous series of events and his waking up in Geneseo. My point is that this account still gives us no idea where the incident actually occurred. The only area along that route which doesn't match the story would be the greater Chicago metro area. If the incident didn't occur near the trip's end in or near Geneseo it could have happened in Michigan, Indiana, or Illinois.

The Kottmeyer account is published with an image copied from the Chase book. It shows a classic saucer craft hovering near the ground. There's no confirmation this drawing was made by, or even reviewed by, Ball. This purported allusion to a saucer-like craft is one of the features that Kottmeyer takes as evidence the story was fabricated - or at least embellished - with elements dating from later than 1940.
 

Shady

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#9
Cool story, thank you MissViolet and EnolaGaia for bringing it here
 

MissViolet

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#10
Based purely on instinct, I wonder if this is an embellishment of a Shaver era story? Something doesn't quite add up, but I've no concrete basis for saying that. The judgemental woman seems Adamski-esque somehow.
 

EnolaGaia

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#11
Based purely on instinct, I wonder if this is an embellishment of a Shaver era story? Something doesn't quite add up, but I've no concrete basis for saying that. The judgemental woman seems Adamski-esque somehow.
The notion that this story represents a subterranean (Shaver-style) encounter retro-fitted with UFO / saucer overlays is a compelling hypothesis. Though Kottmeyer doesn't explicitly frame his interpretation quite so specifically, his conclusions fit with this hypothesis quite well.

I, too, sensed something a bit Adamski-esque in the seemingly gratuitous appearance of the blonde female figure during the interview / interrogation scene.

Another thing that strongly suggests some elements have been overlaid onto other / earlier ones is the strange dualism between the so-called "locomotive" object Ball first observed and approached versus the "saucer" object. Most retellings agree in characterizing the "locomotive" object as static or fixed - a mass of machinery and pipes connected to the ground as if pumping steam downward. The "saucer", on the other hand, is consistently mentioned (if mentioned separately at all) as being actually mobile (hovering) or presumptively mobile (landed). Both are consistently mentioned, but none of the accounts connect, must less equate, them.

The retellings vary in their ascriptions of where Ball was situated during the incident's chain of events. Some place certain scenes (spaces; corridors) within the "saucer" object, all clearly set one or more scenes in underground chambers or rooms, and none (that I've seen) clearly place Ball within or around the "locomotive" object that first attracted his attention.

The result is a storyline that's quite a pastiche or collage of scenes, themes, and allusions.

One very reasonable explanation for this pastiche end product is a progressive encrustation of later themes and tidbits onto an original story that served as the seed.

Unfortunately, there's no solid evidence of such an original seed from which the eventual version(s) of the Rex Ball story derived.
 

MissViolet

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#12
The line (from one version) "you are now underneath Fort Knox" is very reminiscent of some of the nastier Shaver era texts (the sadism and misogyny gets rather overpowering) in which mysterious tunnels below famous locations feature, but it's also very 50s contactee high strangeness. The detail about the other personnel looking familiar strikes an off note too: I can't think of any other pre-Arnold stories that feature that trope, but an awful lot of contactee accounts from about 65 onwards do (especially some of the Jaye Paro story as collected by Keel).

Actually, I now have a yen to go start a Paro thread...
 

MissViolet

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#13
Most retellings agree in characterizing the "locomotive" object as static or fixed - a mass of machinery and pipes connected to the ground as if pumping steam down
This. It seems more like one of the ULs regarding foreign troops secretly stationed in a host country (the "snow on their boots" legend). The locomotive machine doesn't sound very high tech.

Though the space guns are right out of Amazing Stories.
 

EnolaGaia

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#14
The more I dig into this story the more differences and variations I find among the accounts (some hardly more than brief references) that proliferated after Document 96.

For example, there are little details that don't match among the accounts. In 1983 Gray Barker (who'd written the intro to Chase's Document 96) wrote the following aside in an article about Rendlesham (UFO Review, Issue #15, 1983(?), p. 20):


This is the first claim I've seen that Chase was a friend of Ball's. More importantly, this Barker reference illustrates how some writers claim the incident began with Ball sleeping outside his car, whereas many others (e.g., Kottmeyer) specifically claim Ball was sleeping inside his car.

It's also interesting that Barker indicates Chase was deceased by 1983.
 

EnolaGaia

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#15
This review from the UFO-related newsletter Saucers, Space & Science was published in 1968 - the same year Document 96 was first published. It indicates Rex Ball was a new name among documented UFO witnesses (at least for the newsletter's editor), and that his story apparently served as a persistent reference point throughout Document 96.

DOCUMENT 96 - A RATIONALE FOR FLYING SAUCERS
bv Frank Martin Chase.

After reading this book. It will leave you wondering Just how much truth there Is In It and how much Is fantasy. Maybe the author did It deliberately, because much of the book seems to border on military secrets which perhaps should not have been divulged. One thing Is certain. It Is no more Incredible than other UFO material which has been printed In books and magazines.

Although a number of UFO cases have been printed In other books, about 10% of the contents Is completely new. What really Interested me was the profusion of artwork... 33 sketches and beautifully rendered drawings of many spacecraft. Some were done as paintings and shown here for the first time.

A new name not familiar to ufologists Is Rex Ball, whose contact story appears In the text from time to time. A chapter on ten "little men" cases from different parts of the world are briefly told and how they substantiate Ball's odd contact with strange beings.

Because the contents of this book Is ahead of Its time. It may not mean as much to you today as It will In later years. If you have a good Imagination and are able to hold your tongue In your cheek, you will like this latest 130-page book from Saucerian Publications, Clarksburg, W.Va. Prlce:#5.00
Excerpted From:

Saucers, Space & Science, #53, Fall 1968
https://archive.org/stream/SaucersSpaceScience53/Saucers, Space & Science - 53_djvu.txt
 

EnolaGaia

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#16
One reason Document 96 is relatively difficult to investigate is because the listed author (Frank Martin Chase) was a pseudonym. This name was apparently copied from that of a Washington and New York City newspaperman of that name who died in 1941.

Frank Martin Chase
BIRTH 29 Nov 1885
DEATH 30 Aug 1941 (aged 55)
New York, New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA
BURIAL
Forest Grove Cemetery • Plan a trip here
Augusta, Kennebec County, Maine, USA

Obituary:

Washington Post, The (1877-1954) Washington, District of Columbia 3 Sep 1941 Obituary
CHASE RITES TODAY;
WAS FORMER NEWSMAN
Burial services for Frank Martin Chase, former Washington and New York Newspaperman, who died at his New York Home on Saturday, will be held today in Augusta, Maine, his birthplace
Surviving Mr. Chase are his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Fred W. Chase of Washington, his widow, Mrs. Frank Chase of New York, a son Francis Chase, and a sister, Mrs. Helen Chase Cox, of Washington
https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/115489378/frank-martin-chase
 

EnolaGaia

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#17

MissViolet

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#18
This is Fortean research at its finest. I am deeply in awe.

...and increasingly of the opinion that this isn't a terribly reliable account.
 

EnolaGaia

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#19
So ... Who was W. Anson Sperry?

In addition to being Document 96's author of record, he was the artist who created the illustrations used throughout the book.

If you check the 2006 Kottmeyer REALL article (linked earlier) you'll see an illustration of the UFO Rex Ball said he'd seen. If you look closely enough, you can make out the initials "W. A. S." in the lower right corner. This Sperry signature is evident on most all the other illustrations I could locate.

Document 96 includes several references to the upper Midwest region (Minnesota; Dakotas) with a habit of consistently describing locales in relation to the Mississippi and Missouri River watersheds. This would be consistent with the mention of a W. Anson Sperry in the (Mankato, Minnesota) Free Press clipping dated October 27, 1980, and included within the responses and comments section of an environmental impact document entitled Mankato-North Mankato-Le Hillier Flood Control: Environmental Impact Statement, Volume 3:

https://books.google.com/books?id=T...ECAQQAQ#v=onepage&q="w. anson sperry"&f=false

This 1980 citation includes a drawing of a proposed new or redesigned bridge in Mankato (south central Minnesota). Sperry is described as having had a career " ... including an engineering jack-of-all-trades ..." A street address is given for Sperry, indicating he was a resident of Mankato.

The only "W. A. Sperry" (or variants thereof) listed in the 1940 US Census for Mankato is a Wilbur A. Sperry. His birth year is given as 1908, and he is listed as living with his parents.

Wilbur A. Sperry is listed in the University of Minnesota graduation listings for the year 1929. Based on the 1908 birth year, this would make him circa 21 years old - the right age for obtaining a baccalaureate degree.

https://conservancy.umn.edu/bitstream/handle/11299/57546/1929-commencement.pdf?sequence=1
https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/178705577/

Sperry is listed as having been awarded a Bachelors of Chemistry degree.

NOTE: Wilbur A. Sperry and another young fellow named Walk are both listed as the sole recipients of the Bachelors of Chemistry degree in the two commencement documents linked above, even though one is for winter term 1929 and the other is for summer term 1929. I don't know what this may mean.
 

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#20
Sperry and Ball (sphere and ball? Just a random lexilink, sorry) are both chemical engineers, or variants thereof. I hesitate to draw conclusions from that, just yet.
 

EnolaGaia

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#21
Next ... Who was Rex Ball?

According to the few informative comments strewn throughout Document 96:

- Rex Ball was "a man well known to this writer" (i.e., Sperry).

- "Rex Ball" was an alias for the person involved in the incident(s).

- Ball is alleged to have left / fled the United States by the time Document 96 was published. He is claimed to have "disappeared."

- Rex Ball's sighting / encounter is listed in a table as having occurred in August 1940, while retreating from an attempt to attend the 1940 "convention" of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Detroit. The 1940 ACS Meeting was in Detroit, but it was held on 9 - 13 September.

- Ball was "at liberty" (i.e., unemployed) at the time, "after some eight years of continuous employment as a research chemist." This past 8-year period of employment fits within the timespan between 1929 and 1940.

- Ball's motivation for attending the annual ACS meeting was to avail himself (as an ACS member) of the employment clearing house that would be available throughout the event. "... He actually needed, quite desperately, the opportunity to find a new position in chemical industry ..."

- Ball was "driving alone from southern Minnesota" to Detroit. He made a brief stop in Chicago - duration not specified.

- Approaching his destination no closer than Detroit's city limits, something happened (unspecified in any detail) to cause Ball to immediately retreat back toward Minnesota following a different route consisting of back roads and reeking of a desire for evasion.

I'll stop there.

Rex Ball's profile, such as it can be discerned from the sketchy evidence, is as follows:

- a chemist and ACS member;
- a work history alleged to extend back in time no further than the 1930's; and
- a home base in southern Minnesota as of 1940.

Does this resemble someone described earlier? As if the implication weren't obvious enough, Sperry's list of illustrations includes the following item:

Ball+Author-B.jpg

Here's the graphic frontispiece ...

Ball+Author-A.jpg
 

MissViolet

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#22
Ah. Yes. That seems pretty conclusive, doesn't it? The illustration almost seems like a bit of a wink and nudge, as does Ball's disappearance. But perhaps there was a core strange event buried away in the past somewhere? Maybe a simpler, more "standard" incident, that grew in the telling.

I have a suggestion: you should write an FT article on this! You've got plenty to go on.
 

EnolaGaia

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#23
Ah. Yes. That seems pretty conclusive, doesn't it? The illustration almost seems like a bit of a wink and nudge, as does Ball's disappearance. But perhaps there was a core strange event buried away in the past somewhere? Maybe a simpler, more "standard" incident, that grew in the telling. ...
The overarching theme of Sperry's / Chase's Document 96 is UFO monitoring of American nuclear and / or military sites. Much is made of Ball's earlier employment with DuPont, which is claimed to be the company responsible for building and operating the Savannah River nuclear site (Georgia / South Carolina border area). There's a lot of hand-waving insinuating DuPont knew all about nuclear technology and prospective nuclear weapons as of 1940, even though this would pre-date both Fermi's original atomic pile and the Manhattan Project.

The connections Ball cites involve a lot of such correlation among similar names or parties, without any explanation of linkages more substantive than the labels / names themselves. The bottom line is that Sperry's broader theme / thesis is as foggy a conspiracy theory as I've ever seen, and it's no stretch to say it's heavily frosted with (Ball's) personal paranoia.

Keel's mistaken allusion to Ball being from Georgia seems to derive from Ball's references to the Savannah River complex and a separate incident or experience(s) occurring in the 1960's. I haven't explored that angle; I've focused solely on the 1940 event cited as the core UFO incident associated with Rex Ball.

There's even a geographic name similarity in play ... Ball stated the 1940 incident occurred when he stopped on a rural road or highway while approaching the Mississippi River in northwest Illinois. He was apparently aiming to cross the Mississippi into Iowa and then turn north to Minnesota. This would seem to be oddly roundabout routing even for 1940, but then Ball was admittedly in a hurry and deliberately taking an evasive route back from Detroit.

Ball specifies the incident's (starting?) location as somewhere south of Savannah (sic; the Illinois town is spelled "Savanna") and north of Geneseo.
 
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