These purported UFO documents changed the course of the culture of UFO belief.
The Majestic 12 documents are the Holy Bible of UFO enthusiasts. These documents, which appear to be declassified official US government memos written in 1947, confirm everything believed by many in the UFO community: that the United States knows all about aliens visiting the Earth in their flying saucers. Many say the documents are a hoax; others say the hoax claimants are all a part of the coverup. But no matter what’s true, Majestic 12 has had a major impact on the entire course of UFO belief in popular culture. Today we’re going to see if we can learn where they came from.
In December of 1984, a manila envelope dropped through the mail slot in the front door of Jaime Shandera, a writer and UFO researcher. It contained a roll of 35mm film. The postmark on the envelope told him little; it was from Albuquerque, New Mexico, but there was no return address or indication of who might have sent it or what it was. Shandera called his partner in UFO research, author Bill Moore. They developed the film, and found that each frame was a photograph of a page of a document. Printed out, it formed what’s become known as the Majestic 12 documents, usually abbreviated MJ-12.
The document purported to be a memo written in 1952 by the director of the CIA, advising President Eisenhower of the existence of a group of twelve scientists and military officials who were assembled in 1947 on the orders of President Truman to investigate the crash of the flying saucer in Roswell. The memo advised the President of the importance of the Majestic 12 group, and suggested that the project be continued.
Moore and Shandera decided to keep the documents secret, sharing them only with a select few UFO researchers, including Stanton Friedman, the original author of the Roswell mythology. Word began to leak out to the UFO community that some documents existed, but Moore, Shandera, and Friedman weren’t sharing. In 1986, an anonymous source described the documents to British UFO author Jenny Randles, but she declined them. In 1987, the documents were received anonymously by another British UFO author, Timothy Good. He published them in his book Above Top Secret. Moore realized the time for secrecy was past, and he went public with them at a UFO conference in June of that year. Suddenly everyone knew about MJ-12, and even the mainstream media reported on them.
Skeptical UFO author Philip Klass sent a copy of the documents to the FBI, which immediately investigated their authenticity. In their report dated December 1988, the FBI stated:
The Office of Special Investigations, US Air Force, advised on November 30, 1988, that the document was fabricated. Copies of that document have been distributed to various parts of the United States. The document is completely bogus.
Of course, even if the document was authentic, its widespread public availability might well persuade the government to claim that it is bogus. How is one to know? A useful exercise might be to look at the wider context in which the document was delivered to UFO authors.