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Flying Saucers: Controversy in California and Cold War Era Paranoia

My previous article was on the very strange – even sinister – saga of a woman named Florence Minna Thiel . She lost her life, in 1954, out ...

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My previous article was on the very strange – even sinister – saga of a woman named Florence Minna Thiel. She lost her life, in 1954, out in the desert of California while getting ready to attend George Van Tassel’s annual Flying Saucer event at Giant Rock. She reportedly died of nothing less than thirst: dehydration. As I noted in my article, though, there are some odd aspects to the saga that make me wonder if foul play may have been at work. One of the characters who popped up in the story was a man who was employed at a nearby military base, and whose name has been deleted by the FBI. He had something interesting to say to the FBI. It begins as follows: “The saucer groups appear to be another means of raising funds for the Communist Party.” He continued: “The Giant Rock group, which now has under construction a so-called ‘College of Universal Wisdom’ to be located at Giant Rock Airport, is in my opinion teaching and advocating the overthrow of the U.S. Government by publishing literature which subtly aids in Communist indoctrination, and could provide a substantial amount of revenue as a fund raising ‘front’ group for the Communist Party.”

The unnamed man said of Florence’s death: “Concerning the body found in the desert, that of Florence Minna Thiel, it seems possible that she may have made it known to her Saucer Foundation authorities that she knew what was going on and intimated that she was planning to go to the police with her information. It is difficult to believe that anyone would die of the ascribed causes in that locality as it is not distant from civilization, and there is motor traffic along her route.” And, as I noted in my article: “Clearly, the FBI’s source was intimating – to a degree – that Florence may have been murdered for what she knew about a connection between UFOs and communism. And also of plans on her part to speak with the police on such matters.”

Giant Rock

The military man had far more than that to say, however. Digging through the files of the FBI, I picked up on this, which demonstrates where the man’s head was at. He wrote to the FBI the following, which carries on from his words about Florence’s death: “A place called ‘Mentalphysics’ (the Institute of), also located in that area, was apparently deserted. However, this huge, sprawling set of buildings resembled a prison camp with holes arranged along an inner wall, at eye level, which could be very useful to the enemy in event of wartime defense should this place prove Communist. On the door of this apparently deserted desert cult headquarters, they had a small box containing cards which you are to sign (in printing) and mail to the LA home office for further information. My attention was drawn to the similarity between the professed ‘Metaphysics” of the ‘College of Universal Wisdom‘ at Giant Rock, and the huge neon sign ‘Mentalphysics,’ which suggested that a similar headquarters might be the mainspring of both groups.”

The man continued with his report, stating that “…the church appears at first glance to be merely another orthodox church. The church is very unusual in that it contains long rows of offices, a large time-clock, a covered outside balcony on the second floor level from which observers could easily check any person arriving in a car or attempting to approach the building, while the persons on this strangely covered balcony would be invisible to those approaching. The building is huge, white stone, exceeding in size any comparable building of which I know except the Jewish Service Building, at 590 N. Vermont.”

There were some unsavory words about Mexican people: “…the area covered by the ‘Mentalphysics’ buildings along the 29 Palms Highway would make the possibility of detaining or handling underground large groups of ‘wetbacks’ or other subversive or Communist groups  a distinct menace. The buildings cover a huge ground area and could be a distinct menace should these sprawling buildings be merely a ‘cover’ for large rooms or cells underground, as the religious pretense would make it possible to move large numbers of persons along our principle highways with little fear of unfavorable observation.”

Should further data surface on the mysterious death of Florence Minna Thiel – and the equally mysterious character who was concerned by the Communism-Flying Saucer angle – I’ll present it here at Mysterious Universe.

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