The Early Years of NUFORC – Bob Gribble and Wendy Connors

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The following is a bit of NUFORC history written by Maurene Morgan, WA state director for MUFON, and originally published in the November 2021 Washington MUFON newsletter.

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Description automatically generated with medium confidence Seattle firefighter Bob Gribble’s fascination with UFOs began in 1954 when he happened to pick up a copy of True Magazine. An article about UFOs grabbed his attention. Riveted, he quickly ordered Flying Saucers on the Attack by Harold Wilkins that was advertised in the magazine. Fascinated, he read it multiple times. Next came Donald Kehoe’s book, Flying Saucers Are Real. Now, Gribble was thoroughly hooked. Reading these books began his life-long conviction: UFOs were real, and they were no joke. Most people satisfy their curiosity by reading about the UFO phenomenon. But Gribble was not your ordinary person. He wanted to learn more, to do more. Jumping into the UFO field, which was in its infancy, Gribble established and headed one of the very first UFO organizations, The Space Observers League, a Seattle-based organization he headed. This was before NICAP and APRO.

In early 1955, Gribble renamed the group Civilian Flying Saucer Intelligence. Upping his game, he began a newsletter detailing new cases, even though he had no writing experience. Energized by his passion to spread information about UFOs, he worked feverishly on the first issue of Flying Saucer Review: A Report on Interplanetary Spacecraft. Using an ancient printing machine, Gribble started with 800 copies of 8 pages. From the beginning, the newsletter was noted for being extraordinarily well-done for its time. Each issue was a compendium of 25 sightings— from 1/4 page to a full page each. The cases were fact-oriented and information-laden pieces. In December 1955, he sent the first edition to KING 5 in Seattle. They immediately requested an interview, and soon after people deluged him with inquiries. Even Jackie Gleason was taking his newsletter!

In 1957, Gribble renamed his organization Aerial Phenomenon Research Group (ARPG) and began publishing the A.R.P.G. Reporter. Always striving to improve, he enlarged the newsletter to legal sized paper in order to pack in more information, and it now had contributors. In the first issue, he grabbed the reader’s attention with titles such as “UFOs Swarm Over Northern Midwest States” – Dakota and Minnesota,” “UFO Skims Over Delaware River,” “Mysterious Object Sighted in Sky Over Montana,” “Giant Disc Seen Over New Jersey.” He even had a Brazilian researcher report on UFO sightings there. The issue also included a review of Frank Edward’s book, Strangest of All, and an editorial and a variety of other shorts by Gribble. And this was a typical newsletter issue! It’s easy to see why he had such an enthusiastic following!

Clearly, Gribble was burning the proverbial candle at both ends. Not only was he the head of APRG and publishing the newsletter, he was also director of the National Commission on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) and editor of the NICAP Reporter in 1962 and 1963. He had a wife, five children, and was still working full-time for the Seattle Fire Department. When he was at work, he would write up his newsletter in his spare time and when he was home, he would answer the telephone “hot line” at all hours of the night. It was just too much. In 1969 Gribble melted down. Quitting, he threw all of his material into the land fill, including pictures and reports.

But his passion for ufology refused to die. By 1971, his interest in UFOs revived. He subscribed to three UFO news clipping services, and APRG was now sponsoring well-known speakers. People in Seattle couldn’t get enough of the subject matter. They would line up outside the packed theaters. Gribble could hardly keep up with all the interview requests.

Gribble couldn’t have picked a more exciting time to return to ufology. By 1973 a world-wide wave of UFO, humanoid, and monster encounters appeared on TV and in newspapers. While the public seemed fascinated by anything and everything unusual, APRG, like most UFO organizations of the time, remained steadfastly scientifically oriented. Reports of alien abduction generated nothing but skepticism, at best. It was widely believed that they were all hallucinations and only mentally unbalanced persons that would have that kind of an experience. There were no reporting centers strictly for abductions or other anomalous phenomenon. And yet, witnesses were reporting “humanoid occupants” inside or emerging from UFOs that would often communicate and on occasion approach them or even give chase to them. Even stranger were sightings of bigfoot-like creatures that were described as “monsters.”

Once again, Gribble saw a need and strived to fill it. In late 1974, he founded the National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC). The purpose of this endeavor was to provide the public with a means to report UFO sightings. People contacted the organization by phone or mail, and he recorded the information. Finally, there was a way to collect data on this phenomenon in order to preserve and study it. He reached out to sheriff’s offices to let them know there was a place to direct people who wanted to report a UFO sighting. Word spread, and NUFORC earned credibility. Even the Federal Aviation

Administration (FAA) instructed pilots to refer such encounters to NUFORC. Airports and military bases kept NUFORC’s hotline number at the ready.

NUFORC’s procedure was for Bob and his associates to tape-record telephone conversations from witnesses who were reporting their experiences. They also conducted on-site investigations and interviews when necessary. All of these submissions were published anonymously in NUFORC’s public database.

In 1994, Gribble retired from actively researching UFOs and turned over the data collecting operation of NUFORC to Peter Davenport. During those twenty years Gribble was at the helm, NUFORC compiled an invaluable data base gleaned from the thousands of reports. All calls were recorded on reel-to-reel or audiocassette tapes. Data was collected along with accompanying documentation that included the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all witnesses. More importantly, the minimally-edited recordings often reflected the witness’s experience within minutes of the encounter or while the encounter was happening.

By 2004, Gribble was drowning in tapes and archived materials. Feeling overwhelmed, and perhaps a victim of his own success, Gribble was about to toss out what we now recognize as a priceless historical archive. Instead of taking the treasure to the dump, he donated them to Wendy Connors, a respected UFO historian living in Albuquerque, NM. Just in case she might find them useful!

When Gribble gave his UFO materials to Connors, the archivist did indeed find them “useful.” Someone less knowledgeable and impassioned might have found the collection—thousands of recordings stored on deteriorating and unreliable reel-to-reel and cassette tapes, and stacks of case documentation—a daunting mess. Connors saw documentary gold. She confronted the challenge of reviewing, cleaning up, and digitizing with determination and gusto. She understood the enormous importance of the undertaking. This collection was irreplaceable history and evidence for UFO existence. This unsung hero would not allow it to perish, and for this every ufologist owes her a huge debt of gratitude.

What was it about Connors that made her the perfect person to receive Gribble’s collection? First, Connors spent several years in the US Air Force working in communications, and had an interest in UFOs, and in particular, the Air Force’s official investigations into the matter. She was a founding member of the [Project]

Sign Historical Group (SHG), an organization created to bring together people related to the Air Force’s original

UFO investigation program. Active for most of 1948, Project Sign was an official U.S. government study of UFOs undertaken by the Air Force. Through an interview with a surviving Project Sign secretary, Connors learned that Project Saucer was its original informal name and Sign actually began in late 1946. If this was the case, then the Army Air Force had already begun investigations of UFOs well before Kenneth Arnold sighted “nine skipping saucers” near Mt. Rainier in June 1947.

Second, Connors was a crypto-aeronautic researcher who specialized in the preservation of early historic recordings and photographs dealing with the UFO phenomena from the period of 1947 to 1973. She was instrumental in SHG holding one of the largest audio and photographic archives in the world dealing with crypto-aeronautics.

Over the years Connors had collected audio clips from some of the most important interviews of the time.

They included debates between NICAP and the USAF, along with several television shows featuring people like Major Donald E. Keyhoe, Ivan T. Sanderson, and Kenneth Arnold. Connors called her project to preserve these audio clips, “Faded Discs.” This material, sourced from libraries and private collections like those of the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS), represent a collection of ufological oral history. Driven by a passion to preserve UFO history, she sought out and saved information about the first appearances of flying saucers and UFOs in the popular Western media. Connors preserved comments from the administrators of the Air Force UFO investigation projects, researchers, and other notable people; such as astronauts, actors, and presidents— anyone of significance who had something to say about the topic. All the while, she subjected herself to untold ear-ache as she painstakingly re-mastered the audio so it could be preserved for posterity.

Third, in addition to collecting and preserving UFO information and bringing to light many unknown documents to the UFO field, Connors is of the author of three books, including: Anatomy of a Project – An Illustrated History of Project SIGN (unpublished), Alfred C. Loedding and the Great Flying Saucer Wave of 1947, with Mike Hall, and Captain Edward J. Ruppelt: Summer of the Saucers – 1952, with Mike Hall.

Amazingly, Connors listened to every single recorded call NUFORC received in order to create something usable from this unwieldy mass of raw data. She decided to organize and select reports that showed a broad-based overview of the UFO phenomena being observed and reported at that time.

Connors listened to witnesses from every walk of life recounting their UFO experiences in disturbing detail, sometimes right after they occurred, and sometimes in real-time. Some of the witnesses were in denial or scared out of their wits. Others were simply seeking an explanation following the most bizarre event their lives would ever know. Most importantly, Connors wanted to include human interest cases profiling people of all types were intelligent and reliable, even if only a goat farmer. Listening to the voice inflections and choice of words emanating from these disembodied voices is chilling in that they underscore the witness’s attempt to articulate and comprehend an incomprehensible event.

Reports also came from police officers, pilots, USAF and coastguard personnel, FAA employees, and scientists. The depth of military and government agency involvement or cooperation was simply astounding. UFO descriptions involved disc, square, oval, and bullet-shaped objects right through to boomerang, cylindrical, triangular, and arrow shaped ones.

Some of the first-hand witness reports also involved aspects like electromagnetic effects, multiple witnesses, radar confirmation, animal reactions, physiological effects, vehicle interference. Others contained accounts of unidentified flying objects near or entering bodies of water, separating and merging together, pacing aircraft, executing right angle turns, and radar/visual incidents. Just reading the track-by-track guide can make your skin crawl, especially when the case indicates that it might involve a possible abduction, close encounter, or missing time. Listening to the actual voices of those who experienced UFOs/UAPs really brings home the reality of what they experienced.

The result of Connor’s effort was Night Journeys in Ufology: 1974-1977, a 44-hour long compendium with 252 tracks that are indexed and summarized. Examples of reports Connors picked included a “barn-burner” event reported by a Naval intelligence pilot in 1977 whose FA-11 was paced by a large triangular craft with a porous foam-rubber-like surface; eight early reports concerning the 1975 Travis Walton abduction in Arizona; reports by no-nonsense truckers and mothers with children aboard whose vehicles are disabled by craft hovering nearby, with possible missing time; an egg-shaped object maneuvering around a police helicopter in

Washington State, affecting the instruments; and another Washington State case involving a UFO chasing a car that also involved the appearance of something that looked like a tree crossing the road in front of the car.

The cases highlighted above are but a tantalizing sample of the archive that has been made available thanks to Wendy Connors and Roderick B. Dyke – archivist for the Archives for UFO Research on Bainbridge Island, WA, where all the audio clips, photographs, and documents in the Faded Discs collection are now safely archived.

Without Connor’s digital audio magic, and Dyke’s efforts, Gribble’s priceless treasure may indeed have been hauled to the landfill and destroyed. Until her health deteriorated, Connors, who is in her late seventies, continued to research the modern history of the unidentified flying object phenomenon. Faded Discs, as a stand-alone entity, no longer exists.

The historic 44-hour Night Journeys in Ufology audio archive documenting the beginning of the modern UFO era is now in the public domain on Michel M. Deschamps’s extraordinary site, Northern Ontario UFO Research and Study (NOUFORS). In addition, NOUFORS has a great collection of UFO Government documents in PDF Format, as well as material from many other resources. KUDOS for Mr. Deschamps!

You can download and listen to Faded Disc’s audio archives at no cost at these links on NOUFORS:

  • Wendy Connors – Faded Discs – Project Blue Book LINK
  • Wendy Connors – Faded Discs – High Strangeness LINK
  • Wendy Connors – Faded Discs – National UFO Reporting Center Recordings LINK
  • Wendy Connors – Faded Discs – CE III Humanoid Encounters LINK
  • Wendy Connors – Faded Discs – CEIV – An Audio History of Alien Abduction and Animal Mutilation LINK
  • Wendy Connors – Faded Discs – Cops & Saucers – Law Enforcement and UFOs 1957 – 1981 LINK

While you may not find Robert J Gribble and Wendy Connors on any list of Who’s Who in Ufology, this article should make it clear that they are truly the giants on whose shoulders we humbly stand today. For those of us who believe you must understand the past to understand the present, their contributions of the field of ufology are unparalleled. Bob and Wendy, we salute you!

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Mbiyato Guveya

    My name is Mbiyato Guveya,I live in a sma town of chinhoyi in Zimbabwe, yesterday, the 8th of July 2022, my mother and myself were sitting outside our unfinished house talking, somehow we looked to the sky, and we saw a string of stars moving silently, it happened for about 5 minutes, it was around a quarter past seven pm, as we looked in awe the ” stars” disappeared or vanished there was no sound

  2. Kelley McNeal

    Thank you so much for writing this! Robert Gribble was my grandfather. His dedication and enthusiasm for this field is a foundational part of our childhood (mine & my sister’s) and it will always be a part of us.

  3. Jennifer McNeal

    Thank you for sharing this piece of history. Robert Gribble was my Grandfather and while I knew about the reporting center and listened to him take calls when we visited I didn’t know about the newsletter and how early he started putting it together. Looking forward to digging through some of these files that you mentioned.

    1. Tom Vance

      Fabulous Peter Davenport….a great great write up..so glad I got to meet you for 2 minutes in Laughlin UFO symposium back in mid 90s..glad I wore that TWA DC-2 Shirt……

  4. Paul Tinsley

    Mr. Davenpoet, Thank you for your dedicated research in the UFO field. I had my own experience as an 11 yr old kid in 1965. To this day what I witnessed makes no sense whatsoever. None. I too started as a firefighter in Maryland. I still do administrative work within the department. I retired from the government after 34 yrs. I truly feel we are at the moment of disclosure. But honestly as true Americans, I think they’ll brush it off. Again, thank you.

    1. Paul Tinsley

      I meant to address my post to Mr. Brian Gibble. Sorry.

  5. Jamie Robe

    I have read a hundred books on UFOs but learned so much from this post. My hat is off to all the folks who worker with so much passion in the early days. Thank you for trying to investigate something so important to our understanding of our past and future.

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