Out of all the 6,700 files in the FBI's virtual reading room known as The Vault, one towers above the others in popularity. It's not about Nixon. It's not about John Lennon. It's a one-page memo concerning flying saucers. The FBI recently released a memorandum on the memorandum, declaring the "Guy Hottel Memo" the most popular document in The Vault.
Hottel, then a special agent in charge of the FBI's Washington Field Office, wrote the note in 1950. It concerned a reported sighting and recovery, in Roswell, N.M., of three flying saucers with small, human-shaped bodies inside. That's all pretty exciting, but the memo goes on to say that no further evaluation by the FBI took place. That's a bit anticlimactic.
Some UFO enthusiasts have taken the memo as corroboration of UFO landings in Roswell, but the vagueness and brevity of the note don't give readers much to go on. The memo hasn't exactly been hidden all these years. It was first made available to the public way back in the 1970s. It's also dated three years after the famous Roswell UFO incident supposedly happened, in 1947.
The FBI provides a bit of present-day commentary on the memo, wrapping up with this: "Finally, the Hottel memo does not prove the existence of UFOs; it is simply a second- or third-hand claim that we never investigated. Some people believe the memo repeats a hoax that was circulating at that time, but the Bureau's files have no information to verify that theory. Sorry, no smoking gun on UFOs. The mystery remains..."
It seems we'll never be able to shake our fascination with the possibility of UFOs. There are enough curious people to catapult the Guy Hottel Memo from forgotten office memorandum to online phenomenon.