God’s Celestial Ambassador: The Life and Times of Dr. Frank E. Stranges - Part XXXVI
By Raymond A. Keller, PhD, a.k.a. “Cosmic Ray,” the author of the international awards-winning Venus Rising Series, published by Headline Books and available on Amazon.com, while supplies last.
Under Fire on Several Fronts
The Reverend Doctor Frank E. Stranges of Van Nuys, California, came under fire on several fronts following his strong condemnation of the Condon Report which he pronounced after its release to the general public in early 1969. He was catching flack not only from the United States government, that sponsored the Condon Report and perpetuated the UFO cover-up, but also from the government’s lackeys in the news media and even from fellow ufologists, perhaps jealous of the doctor’s successes and trying to make a name for themselves at the expense of the now famous evangelist.
By the Spring of 1974, it became apparent that retired Marine Corps Major Donald E. Keyhoe’s National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP), headquartered in Washington, D.C., was losing a considerable degree of influence in the UFO community for its severe infiltration by government agents and its weak stand against the bogus Condon Report, the closure of Project Blue Book, and its efforts to obfuscate the fact about actual close encounters of the third kind (CEIII) taking place around the world. On the other hand, Dr. Frank E. Stranges’ group, the National Investigations Committee on UFOs (NICUFO), was gaining influence, picking up those members who had dropped their NICAP membership in favor of the Van Nuys, California group’s more strident stance against the overall UFO conspiracy underway.
In advance of a NICUFO convention to be held at the Convention Center in Anaheim, California from 28 to 30 June 1974, on 8 June 1974, an editorial in the News-Press Daily Review of Burbank, California, announced that, “UFO buffs- those dedicated searchers of the skies- will gather this month to exchange news of recent developments. Dr. Frank E. Stranges, the sponsor of the UFO convention, is considered one of the leading experts in his field!”
Digging Up Alleged Dirt
NICAP was leading the attack against Dr. Frank E. Stranges and his NICUFO organization. In the weeks prior to the Anaheim convention, NICAP issued an “info-packet” to the newspapers throughout Southern California seriously attacking Dr. Stranges’ credibility as a UFO investigator. NICAP’s Board of Directors could not find a contemporary scientist willing to speak out and condemn Dr. Stranges, however, so they dragged out some alleged statements made by the deceased meteorologist and physicist Dr. James E. McDonald (1920-1971) of the University of Arizona at Tucson back in 1968.
Dr. McDonald’s interest in the UFO phenomena went back to 1954. While driving through the Arizona desert at night with two meteorologists, McDonald spotted a UFO. None of the two other scientists accompanying him could readily identify it. Overall, it was a rather unspectacular sighting of a distant point of light moving across the vault of the heavens. Remember that this was three years before the first satellite, Sputnik, was launched by the Soviet Union. The fact that this object behaved like a satellite would spur McDonald’s interest in UFOs.
By the late 1950s he was quietly investigating UFO reports in Arizona. He also joined NICAP in 1959. It was then the largest and most prominent civilian UFO research group in the nation. Given his training in atmospheric physics, McDonald was able to examine UFO reports in greater detail than most other scientists, and was able to offer explanations for some previously unexplained reports. Using his security clearance with the United States government, he also uncovered a number of well-documented UFO reports from the United States Air Force (USAF) Project Blue Book, which he judged deeply puzzling even after stringent analysis. The preponderance of NICAP members with deep government connections would forever cast doubt on the sundry pronouncements made about UFOs by those in this organization.
“World’s Most Renowned Expert”
When Dr. Frank E. Stranges had presented two lectures on UFOs in Tucson, Arizona, sponsored by NICUFO, back in 1968, McDonald was allegedly in attendance at both of them. McDonald noted that the UFO lecture program described Dr. Stranges as “perhaps one of the world’s most renowned expert on space phenomena.” Since Stranges did not have a degree in any of the so-called “hard sciences,” McDonald did not regard him as either a peer or an expert on anything dealing with the identification of aerial phenomena. Of course, when dealing with a subject so wholly subjective, who can one consider the real “experts” except those who experience it.
McDonald was also largely unimpressed by the selection of allegedly authentic photographs of UFOs displayed by Dr. Frank E. Stranges. On 25 November 1968, McDonald wrote a letter to the editor of the Tucson, Arizona, Daily Citizen newspaper, critical of Dr. Stranges and his Tucson UFO presentations, particularly emphasizing the supposedly poor selection of photographs in the slide show. “Many of these were old familiar photos of the most dubious genealogy,” noted the meteorologist, adding that, “I’d guess that half of those were projected backwards on the screen. Such information as Stranges had about the photos was often ludicrously garbled as he whipped along in his breezy style.”
In defense of Dr. Frank, it should be noted that the photographs and the explanations for each one came from the archives of the leading UFO photographic expert of that time, August C. Roberts of New Jersey, from whose UFO photographs collection many of the leading magazines had published examples. As to the so-called “breezy style” of Dr. Frank, one should keep in mind that those attending the UFO program in Tucson were just interested individuals, not scientists requiring detailed technical explanations for every photo. McDonald, on the other hand, was used to presenting programs on UFOs before scientific bodies such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
McDonald’s background in the hard sciences also precluded him from recognizing Dr. Frank’s academic credentials, gained largely through various Christian institutes and seminaries, as previously noted in this series. McDonald, like many other scientists, did not take theology or theologians seriously, at least when it came to evaluating sundry aspects of the UFO phenomenon. Dr. Frank would point out, however, that Jesus called his apostles and disciples out of all walks of life. Jesus himself was a craftsman and his chief apostle, Peter, a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee. Unlike the scribes and Pharisees, the early preachers of the gospel lacked any academic standing whatsoever, yet they fulfilled their commission from Jesus and boldly went forth to all peoples spreading the good news of salvation. And when it came down to ufology, Dr. Frank was privileged to meet with Venusian commander Valiant Thor, whom he came to understand was the representative of an angelic force dispatched from God to aid the advancement of all humankind. Scientists like McDonald and others assisting Keyhoe and NICAP were not disposed to accept any of the so-called “contact cases,” let alone any like Dr. Frank’s with such strong religious implications.
Probably the most serious charge dug up and hurled against Dr. Frank and his reputation in the article by reporters Branch and Klinn appearing in the Anaheim, California, Register, 26 June 1974 edition, was the revelation of the evangelist’s criminal record. It seems that at about 8 a.m. on 15 September 1972, at the Riverside, California, Thermal Airport, a tarmac worker became suspicious of a light plane preparing for take-off with a badly-bent propeller. The pilot was Jim Hays, 45, of Los Angeles, and his sole passenger that morning was none other than Dr. Frank Ernest Stranges, the famous preacher from Van Nuys, who was then 44 years old. The plane was not permitted to take off until it could be inspected by authorities at the Thermal Airport. During the inspection, marijuana was discovered in the cargo hold, twenty blocks of the substance, to be exact, with a street value estimated back then of some $120,000. Both Hays and Stranges were charged with “possession and transportation of marijuana for sale” at the Riverside courthouse on 4 September 1973 and sentenced to eight months in jail and three years of probation. Dr. Frank has maintained his innocence all along, insisting that he did not personally know Hays or anything of the pilot’s association with drugs or drug trafficking. Dr. Frank had previously contracted with Hays to fly him to various evangelical meetings throughout the Western states. His association with Hays was strictly on a professional basis, hiring him as a competent pilot to get him safely to various meetings. The problem with Branch and Klinn’s article is that they garnered all of their negative information concerning Dr. Frank E. Stranges from secondary sources. In the case of the marijuana bust, the information came from a small article that appeared on the back pages of the Riverside, California, Press-Enterprise newspaper of 16 September 1972, and subsequent court proceedings the following year. In no instance did either of these reporters take the time to actually interview Dr. Frank or any of the NICUFO team to get the other side of the story.
(Editor’s Note: Following the publication of the Condon Report, the continued role of the United States Air Force in investigating the UFO phenomenon came under question in many high circles of governmental power. For Dr. Frank E. Stranges’ position on this issue, you won’t want to miss the next installment (Part XXXVII) of Cosmic Ray’s series, “God’s Celestial Ambassador: The Life and Times of Dr. Frank E. Stranges,” on this website. - Lon)
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