Valiant Thor: Your Friendly Pentagon Alien
Today we're going to open the book of great legends from the realm of UFOlogy, and turn to the story on Valiant Thor, a benevolent Venusian who lived among us for three years in the late 1950s. The story is passionately believed by a few proponents, and has been promoted as fact on TV shows such as Ancient Aliens and dramatized in the 2013 film short Stranger at the Pentagon. Today we're going to look at the facts of the story and the context in which it was told, and see if we can conclude whether Valiant Thor truly did visit the Earth.
The story of Valiant Thor did not exist until 1967, when it was revealed to the world in the book Stranger at the Pentagon by the Rev. Frank E. Stranges (1927-2008), and several other books in the decades since. Stranges was a traveling Christian evangelist who also wrote books about UFOs and gave lectures at UFO meetings. A deeply religious man, Stranges believed that aliens visited the Earth in order to spread the word of God. In Stranger at the Pentagon, he wrote that he was concluding a sermon one day when a mysterious woman showed up and invited him to the Pentagon. There he was introduced to Valiant Thor, an alien who had come to Earth to offer us all the technologies we'd ever need, plus to caution us against nuclear weapons. The two became fast friends and spent much time together, during which Stranges learned Val's whole story.
Val and his companions were from Venus, and had landed on March 16, 1957, with a 3-year mission to invite the Earth to join the interstellar community, who had had their eyes on us ever since the atomic bomb blasts in World War II. Val was brought to meet President Eisenhower and Vice President Nixon, who put him up in an apartment at the Pentagon. He traveled and met with many government officials. Then, at the end of his mission, he dematerialized on March 16, 1960.
Science fiction fans among will you immediately recognize this as the plot of the 1951 movie The Day the Earth Stood Still. But that's just the first of many red flags festooning this tale, perhaps the largest being that we now know Venus is far from being inhabitable by any life, and wouldn't really make its residents part of "the interstellar community" anyway. Another red flag is that although the TV show Ancient Aliens described Stranges as "A federal marshal and chaplain who had top secret security clearance at the Pentagon", he never worked as a marshal or in any type of government or law enforcement, never worked at the Pentagon, and certainly never had "top security clearance". He claimed to be the Assistant Deputy Director of the California State Marshal Association, which does not exist. California has no state marshals.
Correction: Various county courts in California have had county law enforcement officers called marshals, but most have since been taken over by county sheriffs. Still no evidence could be found of a "California State Marshal Association", or any close variation on the name, ever having been registered. More info is in this corrections episode. —BD
There are other problems with Stranges' credentials. His author's biography says that he received a bachelor's degree in theology plus Ph.Ds in both psychology and philosophy from Faith Theological Seminary in Florida. Faith Theological Seminary is a real accredited religious college, but does not offer Ph.Ds in either discipline. In his later years he began also claiming a Ph.D in Criminology from the National Institute of Criminology in Washington, D.C., but there is no such institution. There are several unaccredited universities with similar names overseas, but none of them offer Ph.Ds at all. Nevertheless, Stranges has written as "Dr. Frank E. Stranges" ever since. With so many problems right out of the gate, who would give his book any credence?
Update: For more on Frank Stranges' bizarre list of titles, degrees, and honors, see this update. —BD
Stranger at the Pentagon had exactly two people who have corroborated its contents: Harley Andrew Byrd who wrote the book's foreword, a self-described Project Blue Book investigator and nephew of Admiral Richard Byrd; and Laura Eisenhower, the great granddaughter of the president who worked with Valiant. However, it turns out both of them are poor sources.
"Harley Andrew Byrd" is probably not who he says he is. Records on Ancestry.com can't really confirm or disprove the possibility that Admiral Byrd had a nephew by this name, but his story requires that he would have held a senior role at Project Blue Book with top security clearance and over a year of training behind him, all by the age of 18. When he went on Art Bell's Coast to Coast AM radio show in 1995 it went south very quickly. He told ridiculous stories of Admiral Byrd's adventures, including that the admiral entrusted him as a young boy with secret diaries telling of his contacts with aliens and Nazis. One listener wrote:
Laura Eisenhower is, however, who she claims to be; but is perhaps not the best expert. Her website lists her as "a Global Alchemist, Researcher and Intuitive Astrologist". She says:
She counts herself part of the "disclosure" movement among UFOlogists who believe the government is withholding evidence of aliens. She describes her role in the disclosure:
The closest to evidence of anything in Stranges' book is a series of photographs that he reproduced, which show a group of a dozen or so clean-cut young people gathered in chairs at some kind of outdoor event. Stranges said they were taken a month after Val's arrival, at an informal UFO gathering at the High Bridge, New Jersey farm of Howard Menger, a sign painter who claimed to be a lifelong alien abductee. Stranges identifies four of the people seated as Val, Donn, Jill, and Tanyia, all members of Val's crew. These photos are widely available online, but other than the photographer's name being given as August C. Robert, I was able to find no information about them whatsoever. As far as being useful evidence goes, it's an unremarkable photo of anonymous people, with no verifiable provenance.
Today, according to Stranges, Val Thor and his entire crew are still aboard their spacecraft, VICTOR ONE, parked near the shoreline of Lake Mead in Nevada. Stranges explained to host Tracie Austin on the Let's Talk Paranormal radio program why you wouldn't be able to find it:
There's an odd turn to the Valiant Thor case found in a number of articles written on the case's history, and it's that Frank Stranges had a brush with the FBI. In 2010 the FBI published to their Vault website the response to a Freedom of Information Act request for their file on NICAP (National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena), an association of UFO enthusiasts. In 1962, NICAP's secretary, Richard Hall, wrote to J. Edgar Hoover the following:
The files include some internal communication in which the San Francisco FBI office was advised to find Stranges and "admonish him against implying that he is or has been connected with the FBI." Their report back stated:
However, of the charge that he'd been impersonating an FBI agent, they found:
And no further action was taken. Hall seems to have been something of a snitch, as the FBI Vault documents on NICAP include at least one other case in which he wrote to the Bureau advising them of petty crimes of one sort or another committed by other former NICAP members. He claimed a former member named Lloyd Blair had stolen a woman's car and swindled her out of some money, an incident that would seem to be of no concern to the FBI, and certainly not Hall's business to report to them. It's hard to make a judgement about Hall's motivation based on just two cases of snitching, but it's possible he was simply trying to discredit former members of the organization.
We do know that NICAP really had it in for Stranges; his name appears often in their publications, and always with great derision. In their "review" of Stranges' 1965 documentary film Phenomena 7.7 about the famous Lonnie Zamora UFO case, Hall wrote:
The final point I'd like to make is one that carries, I think, a lot of weight. In the decade between the time he says he met Val and the time he published Stranger at the Pentagon, Frank Stranges published at least two other books about UFOs: Flying Saucerama in 1959 and New Flying Saucerama in 1966, plus he produced at least two documentary films about UFOs: Strange Sightings in 1964, plus Phenomena 7.7 we already mentioned. If he truly had spent months discussing the cosmos with a real alien emissary — the most important event in the history of our race — why would he never have mentioned the fact once in any of these other works? Also during those years, he set aside his alleged work at the Pentagon with this astonishing interplanetary contact, and founded the International Evangelism Crusades with his father. Why?
The answer, of course, is that he simply hadn't thought up the story yet. Rev. Stranges' Stranger at the Pentagon was, like so many other parts of his life, pure fiction. He was a small-time UFO author who hoped that the inspiration he drew from The Day the Earth Stood Still would make him a big-time UFO author. And, in a weird sort of way, it worked.
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