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Rash of local ‘flying saucer’ sightings in 1952

By Michelle Quigley

When you search the term “flying saucer” in The Palm Beach Post and Times historic archives, more stories about unidentified flying objects show up in 1952 than any other year.

That was the year Mrs. F. B. Holden of El Prado in West Palm Beach said she and her five children saw a “snow white and round” flying saucer, and hardware store clerk and Boy Scoutmaster D.S. “Sonny” DesVergers said he encountered an alien spacecraft that zapped him with a fireball in a wooded area off Military Trail near Lantana Road.

An enterprising car dealer picked up on the UFO fever and offered a free paint job — “two-tone if desired” — to the first flying saucer owner to bring his saucer in:


A few weeks later the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s office identified the source of at least a few of the sightings as dragline excavator with a 90-foot lighted boom that was working late scooping muck west of Lake Worth:


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Posted in Flashback blog January 26, 2010 at 4:54 pm.

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No Foolin’: Florida Tall Tales Abound

Tuesday was April Fool’s Day. Our region abounds with stories that at least someone swears are true.
I got a note recently from Glenn Henderson, chief of our Stuart bureau and a longtime Treasure Coast resident. He says a “Cracker” rancher acquaintance told him about a grim discovery.
“He swears it’s legit. Says the bones were found in an Indian mound in western St. Lucie ‘awhile back’ and sent to Tally, where they determined they were (remains of ) cannibals.”
Not true, says Jerry Milanich of the University of Florida, the leading scholar of Florida’s long-extinct early inhabitants.
And from state archaeologist Ryan Wheeler: “I haven’t heard that one. Typically the tall tales have to do with ‘giant’ Indians, but there is no evidence for that either.”
There is precedent: Christopher Columbus told of man-eating people in the Caribbean.
Books showed drawings of natives with heads like dogs butchering and eating people.
And as Ryan Wheeler says, “tall tales” about Florida’s misty past abound.
Of course, the greatest is the “Fountain of Youth.” Scholars say there’s no evidence that Juan Ponce de Leon was even looking for it.
As late as the 1870s, a New York newspaper described Lake Okeechobee as cavernous, lined with 150-foot cliffs, and stalked by spiders as long as a child’s arm.
And one man has argued that the real Garden of Eden was in North Florida.
Then there are the usual: sea monsters, UFOs, the Bermuda Triangle, haunted mansions, U-boat crews coming ashore for cocktails, and Southwest Florida’s skunk ape and its North Florida cousin, the “Bardin Booger.”
Readers: Send us your wild tales. We’ll try to run them in future columns.

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Posted in Eliot Kleinberg April 2, 2008 at 11:51 am.

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Director Says No Ghosts At Whitehall

Today’s Halloween. But don’t ask John Blades, executive director of the Flagler Museum, about Henry Flagler’s ghost.

The pioneer died in 1913, his wife Mary in 1917.

But in 1974, John Roth, a night watchman at Whitehall, Flagler’s former mansion, said he saw the man “just as plain as daylight,” in a hallway.

“He was just standing there, wearing a dark suit and tie,” Roth said. “I had a good look and then he vanished.”

Silver settings reportedly moved from a top shelf to a bottom one inside a locked cabinet.

A ceiling lamp and the top to an urn crashed to the floor and plates inexplicably broke.

And another watchman, since retired, said he saw Mary Lily many times on an upstairs porch.

Roth later allowed as how he’d seen Flagler only once, when he awoke from a
nap about 3:30 a.m.

Finally, retired director Grant Bedford, blaming the sightings on overactive imaginations, said he’d give $1,000 to anyone who could show him a ghost.

“I can’t make him appear any time I feel like it,” Roth argued.

Bedford said if Flagler’s spirit had made an appearance, it would not have been in the 1970s, when the estate had become a museum, but in the 1960s, when his former mansion was a hotel and his belongings were stuffed away in attics.

“It would have infuriated him,” Bedford said.

John Blades now says emphatically, “There are no ghosts, there never have been ghosts, and there never will be ghosts at Whitehall.”

This photo of the Flagler Museum, the former Whitehall mansion of Henry and Mary Flagler, was taken in 1968. A watchman claimed to have seen the ghost of Henry Flagler, while another said he saw Mary’s ghost. (Palm Beach Post file photo)

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Posted in Archives and Eliot Kleinberg October 31, 2007 at 1:09 pm.

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Tales Of Ghosts Abound In County

For Halloween, the October segments are dealing with the unexplained. This week: Some of Palm Beach County’s more colorful ghost legends:

At Whitehall, the Palm Beach home of pioneer developer Henry Flagler, a night watchman swore several years ago that that he had a chat with Flagler at 4 o’clock one morning. A cleaning lady said she was slapped on the rear, turned, and saw no one. Doors wouldn’t open. One guest found her Timex stopped every time she was in the hotel. A set of plates was locked in a glass cabinet; one was found cracked, another cracked the next day, and a third was found to have a bullet hole. A set of silver asparagus tongs was found moved two shelves down.

At a Palm Beach estate, people reported hearing howling winds on calm days.

At Phipps Plaza, a naked lady supposedly runs through the courtyard.

Muriel McCormick, a former stage actress who later founded the Palm Beach Playhouse, once took part in a “spiritual marriage” to the ghost of Lt. G. Alexander McKinlock, son of a Palm Beach grande dame.

At the Lake Worth playhouse, the ghost of Lucian Oakley, the theater’s co-founder and a suicide victim, is said to blast cold air at visitors, move heavy objects, and leave a giant handprint on walls.

A manager, two assistant managers, and a janitor at a Royal Palm Beach Burger King claimed to have seen an apparition of a young man who disappeared in front of them.

Read more about local ghost stories at Real Florida Haunts.

An Oct. 24, 1926, feature story on Muriel McCormick in The Palm Beach Post. In circular photo at bottom left, Muriel is shown with her spiritual ‘mother-in-law,’ Marion McKinlock. Muriel’s real parents are at upper left. At lower right, Muriel is dressed for a theatrical performance.


Posted in Eliot Kleinberg October 27, 2004 at 1:41 pm.

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Lost Squadron Captivated Lantana Man

For Halloween, this month’s segments have been dealing with the unexplained. This week: the Bermuda Triangle.

Through the centuries, hundreds of ships and aircraft and more than 1,000 souls have vanished into the world’s most infamous black hole.

The event credited with starting the legend was the disappearance of five Avenger torpedo bombers with 14 men aboard that left Fort Lauderdale Naval Air Station – now Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. It was a routine training mission for Flight 19 on Dec. 5, 1945, but the men never returned. A rescue plane with a crew of 13 went after them but also vanished.

Starting in 1982, Lantana resident Jon Myhre spent $100,000 of his own money chasing the lost squadron. He concluded they became disoriented and ditched near Daytona Beach. In 1991, Myhre and two partners said they had recovered part of an Avenger off Cape Canaveral. But Myhre finally ran out of money and had to abandon his dream. He now lives in Sebastian.

Here are some disappearances with local angles: In October 1944, the Cuban freighter Rubicon was found by the U.S. Coast Guard in the Gulf Stream off Palm Beach, deserted except for a dog. In July 1947, a U.S. Army Superfortress bomber with a crew of six, headed to Morrison Army Air Field, now Palm Beach International Airport, disappeared 100 miles off Bermuda. And in November 1970, the Piper Comanche was lost between West Palm Beach and Jamaica with three aboard.

Read More:
The Bermuda Triangle, by Charles Berlitz.
The Bermuda Triangle Mystery – Solved, by Lawrence David Kursche.
Bermuda Triangle website


Posted in Eliot Kleinberg October 20, 2004 at 1:43 pm.

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