Last week I wrote about five of the most popular alien cliches that are supposedly causing mischief all over the galaxy (the scallywags). Many of these ideas came out of the Cold War freak-out of the ’40s and ’50s, and were later reinforced by movies and TV. Thanks to popular culture, we now all “know” what an alien looks like and how our close encounter should play out.
There are, however, some cases that refuse to fit the mould. Cases like Joe Simonton and the Eagle River Pancakes.
On April 18 1961, Simonton (a Wisconsin chicken farmer and part-time Santa Claus) was preparing breakfast when he heard what sounded like “knobby tires on wet pavement”. He went outside to investigate and found a flying saucer landing in his backyard.
Drawing on an iron will that only years of poultry-tending could produce, Simonton swallowed his fear and approached the craft. At the same time, a hatch door opened and revealed three shocking and obviously otherworldly beings. The creatures had dark skin, were approximately 5ft tall, and wore stylish blue turtlenecks. Simonton later described them as being “Italian-looking”, presumably because that was the most exotic form of humanoid he could image.
Either through telepathy or elaborate pantomime, one of the beings (to whom we’ll award the title of Captain) managed to ask Simonton for some water. The ET gave Simonton a “beautiful thermos-like jug,” which he took to his basement to fill up. He then returned to the craft and gave the jug back, which allowed him a chance to have a bit of a stickybeak inside.
A second alien stood in front of an instrument panel (no doubt doing something very important and science-y), but it was the third spaceman who really caught Joe’s attention. He was cooking thin, perforated pancakes on a flameless griddle, which Joe seemed to think looked rather scrummy. The farmer gestured to the Captain to ask for one, and in stereotypically Italian fashion the Martian boss gave him four. The Captain then gave Simonton a grateful salute before the hatch door closed and the saucer shot off into space.
Simonton ate one of the pancakes, which he later said tasted like cardboard. He then called his local police to report the assault on his tastebuds.
A government lab tested one of the pancakes and found that it was made of flour, grease and water (again making its lack of tastiness almost supernaturally inexplicable). It has been rumoured that the flour was of an unknown, possibly extraterrestrial, origin, but the simple truth is that the Air Force had not bothered to break it down that far because they had better things to do with their time.
The Air Force’s official verdict was that while he was preparing his breakfast, Simonton had experienced a kind of waking dream that then developed into a full-blown delusion. However, Raymond Palmer (a publisher of paranormal science and pulp magazines) believed that Simonton had been hypnotised by a real estate broker, who wanted to gain publicity for a Disney-style theme park that was to be built nearby. This theory makes total sense, especially if you smoke a lot of crack…
While I’m sure we can all agree that it offers no firm evidence to support the existence of either aliens or Italians, the tale of the Eagle Farm Pancakes is still a lot of fun. Does it tell us anything about the evolution of UFO conspiracy myths or the culture that spawned them? Probably not much, although it is interesting to note to Simonton does not recall anything sinister about his encounter (as opposed to the common themes of abduction, invasive medical experimentation, warnings of impending doom, etc). In fact, the only negativity Simonton reported was from the all-too-human press, whom he felt ridiculed and laughed at him. Personally, I find Joe’s story rather endearing. Upon meeting strange new people, Joe’s first instinct was to try to communicate and offer assistance, not run away or grab a flaming torch. Isn’t that worth admiring?
Are mysterious space Italians trying to fatten you up? Tell me about it in the comments!