Gerry Irwin's UFO-Induced Amnesia
The First American Abduction Experience, What It Means About the Phenomenon, and More
While mentioned in Jacques Vallee’s Passport to Magonia, the story of Gerry Irwin has largely faded into obscurity except for hardcore UFO buffs. Luckily, author David Booher has given the case an impressive and much-needed contemporary exploration in his book No Return: The Gerry Irwin Story, UFO Abduction or Covert Operation? Booher dissects a variety of sources that pertain to Irwin’s purported abduction and amnesia and even talks to the elderly Irwin himself despite his memory of the event being cloudy and in some spots nonexistent.
To summarize the Irwin “abduction”: Gerry Irwin was a Nike missile technician in Ft. Bliss, Texas driving back from leave in Idaho on the 28th of February 1959. In the Utah desert he spots a “very large” brilliantly bright object in the sky, but cannot discern its shape due to “the streams of light shooting out from it.”Fearing the object was a crashing plane, he pulled over and went into the brush to investigate, leaving notes on his car. The light got brighter the closer he came to where he thought the object had landed/crashed but as soon as he crested a hill where he expected full sight of the object, he passed out. While authorities found him fairly quickly thanks to the notes on his car, Irwin did not wake up again for over a day.
There are a host of fascinating elements to this purported close encounter. The army treated Irwin for over a month at Ft. Bliss, reporting that they could find nothing physically wrong with him. Irwin—dissatisfied with the unhelpfulness of the army doctors and troubled with repeated blackouts and a lingering amnesia—inexplicably felt compelled to return to the scene of the incident. He found his jacket on some scrub (he had been muttering “jacket on bush” while unconscious) and a pencil in a buttonhole with a note attached. Amazingly, he burned the note without reading it as if in a trance. He eventually turned himself in to authorities and was again treated at Ft. Bliss but again the doctors could find nothing wrong with him. After his discharge from the army hospital, he went AWOL in an attempt to deal with the inner turmoil the even had caused. He was arrested as a deserter and spent just under a year in Leavenworth as punishment—but he also felt that he had resolved his apparent UFO-induced mental issues.
During Irwin’s first stay at Ft. Bliss’ medical facilities, his attending psychiatrist gave him at least one (but maybe more) interview under the influence of sodium amytol—one of several military attempts at a “truth serum”—and what he says under the sedative effects is intriguing:
[Gerry] states there was a “special intelligence” that he couldn’t explain to me, since it would be incomprehensible to me, which has directed him not to remember or not to tell me about any of the events in Utah. He says that if he tells what was behind the incident in Utah there will be a “big investigation” that he does not want to be bother with and also because it will harm many people and he doesn’t want that to happen.
As Booher notes, the notion of a memory block that Irwin seems to imply will become incredibly common in the then-nonexistent abductee phenomenon. But perhaps this memory block was not given to him by an extraterrestrial or some other unknowable force—perhaps it was all part of some covert operation akin to what Bosco Nedelcovic said occurred in the case of Villas-Boas just a little over a year earlier. Luckily, Booher also accepts this version of events as a possibility, noting that Irwin’s case occurred “at the height of the federal government’s secret experimentation with mind control.”It was soon after this sodium amytol interview that Irwin returned to the scene of the incident and burned the note. Additionally, Booher finds conflicting reports from this point in time, where the army listed Irwin as both AWOL and remaining in the Ft. Bliss psych ward. Booher asks the important questions: “Was Gerry being subjected to secret procedures in the hospital, with the AWOL story as a cover-up? Or (…) was it the other way around? Were they trying to cover up his AWOL for some reason?” Irwin certainly seems to show numerous signs of his mind being messed with, a post-hypnotic suggestion to return to the scene of his encounter and burning the evidence while in a trance seems to be an awfully convenient way clean up traces of some kind of operation.
Another factor in agreement with the psyop angle of events is Irwin’s duties after his imprisonment for going AWOL (a second time) had ended:
As soon as Gerry was released from his confinement at hard labor in August 1960, he was immediately shipped to Germany, a move which under ordinary circumstances would seem rather unexceptional. (…) After several years of service in Germany, Gerry was sent to Austria, disguised as an American tourist, on an officially non-existent mission. (…) It was something he was supposed to keep quiet about.
Irwin was doing spycraft in Europe, the exact goal of the countless US mind control programs that were ongoing in this period of time. He spent time in a Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol in Germany where he "was tasked with penetrating enemy lines during a conflict (...) and providing intelligence, primarily via radio communications."In Austria, a neutral country, Irwin was taking part in a covert operation, teaching "classes on operating some new American communications equipment the Austrians had purchased." Again, this seems like another intelligence role, albeit a more secretive one. Was his assignment in Europe post-detention just the inevitable result of a series of mind control procedures that were done on him? Irwin was lost to all UFO researchers by this point, Jacques Vallee writing in 1969 that his whereabouts remained unknown after deserting. Booher notes that MKULTRA programs were being run at Leavenworth and Irwin, as a soldier and prisoner, was a prime subject for these programs. Irwin “was in the middle of what was potentially a real nexus of MKULTRA activity,” considering the various Operation Paperclip scientists formerly stationed at Ft. Bliss and the proximity to a University of Texas campus where MKULTRA research was being conducted.
If Irwin’s abduction experience was some type of covert operation, what does that say about the phenomenon at large? As previously covered in various installments of The Bosco in Brazil, former USAID/CIA employee Bosco Nedelcovic claimed that he took part in a covert operation where a Brazilian farmer was abducted from a field by a military helicopter and subjected to experimentation with drugs, assumedly of the hallucinogenic variety (Pt. 1). Nedelcovic further claimed that the abduction of Betty and Barney Hill in 1961 was a military operation (Pt. 3). These three cases, Irwin’s included, are considered the first examples of the phenomenon of UFO abduction, and there is a chance that all of them were covert operations. This would indicate the abduction phenomenon as we currently know it today—specifically the more ET-tinged cases in the vein of Villas Boas and the Hills—were a picture painted by various US military operations on American soldiers and US and foreign civilians. The Irwin story bears virtually all the hallmarks of covert meddling whether it be truth serums, blackouts, missing and contradictory records, and even spycraft. With the limited story initially given, Gerry Irwin’s abduction becomes an intriguing mystery of an object in the sky causing immense psychological damage in an American soldier. However, as Booher uncovers more facts over the course of his exploration, the likelihood of Irwin’s experience being some type of covert operation or psychological experiment is impossible to ignore. The absence of detail in the UFO encounter itself is surprising, most of the Irwin story comes from his experiences in dealing with the mental aftermath and the military’s alternation between lack of response and suspicious response. Given the great gaps in Irwin’s memory and conflicting documentation, the resolution to this case is frustratingly impossible to achieve fully at present. However, given what we do know, a psychological operation of an unknown nature seems abundantly likely. Were the American people fed notions of alien abduction by the military or intelligence agencies? It is a chilling, but very real, possibility.
Another tidbit from Booher’s book: The Lorenzens of the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO) consulted with Carl Jung on the Irwin case. Jung speculated that Irwin’s experience was a form of ambulatory automatism, but admitted he would need more information and to talk to Irwin himself. Jung was fascinated by flying saucers and supposedly collected reports starting in 1946.Also of note is that Jung was an associate of Allen Dulles, an asset to the OSS (proto-CIA) during WWII, and both Dulles’ wife and mistress were psychoanalyzed by Jung. These are perhaps unrelated facts but should be noted nonetheless when dealing with Irwin’s case as a possible military or intelligence operation.
As a final note, Booher also mentions an article written by Pablo Villarubia Mauso that contains interviews with the living relatives of Antonio Villas-Boas, the Brazilian farmer Nedelcovic purported was abducted in a US psychological operation. These remaining family members recalled “a group of five uniformed men ‘from NASA’ came and escorted him to the United States against his will, where they subject him to questioning and a lie-detector test.”The supposed NASA employees also showed him evidence of a crashed flying saucer and told him that ETs were real and were visiting planet Earth. The article is reprinted here. While unrelated to Irwin case, it certainly seems to confirm the claims of a psyop against Villas-Boas and an attempt to establish the early “lore” of the phenomenon. I also cannot help but note that Woodrow Derenberger, the Indrid Cold contactee, also reported being taken to some type of government facility by men purportedly from NASA after his flying saucer encounter and initial contact with Indrid Cold. “I was interrogated every night for five days, and after listening to my story several times, I was told that I had told them nothing that they did not already know,” Derenberger writes. What the hell is going on with all these “NASA” people?
For an early treatment of the Irwin story, check out Coral Lorenzen’s 1959 article that appeared in the APRO Bulletin. Definitely check out David Booher’s excellent book No Return which can be found at the publisher’s website here. Thank you for reading Getting Spooked, hope you enjoyed this book review/foray into the Irwin case. If you like what you’ve read and want to support the publication, consider a paid subscription right here on Substack or a one-time donation on Ko-fi. Follow me on Twitter at @TannerFBoyle1 if you have any questions, comments, or requests. Until next time, stay spooked.
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Booher, David. No Return: The Gerry Irwin Story, UFO Abduction or Covert Operation? San Antonio: Anomalist Books, 2017. Page 77.
Ibid., page 125.
Ibid., page 45.
Ibid., page 167.
Ibid., pages 135-136.
Ibid., page 183.
Ibid., page 184.
Vallee, Jacques. Passport to Magonia: From Folklore to Flying Saucers. Brisbane: Daily Grail Publishing, 1969. Page 279.
Booher, David. No Return: The Gerry Irwin Story, UFO Abduction or Covert Operation? San Antonio: Anomalist Books, 2017. Pages 174-176.
Ibid., page 156.
Dicky, Christopher. “The Shrink as Secret Agent: Jung, Hitler, and the OSS.” The Daily Beast, 12 November 2016. http://web.archive.org/web/20170607211808/https://www.thedailybeast.com/web/20170607211808/http://www.thedailybeast.com/the-shrink-as-secret-agent-jung-hitler-and-the-oss
Booher, David. No Return: The Gerry Irwin Story, UFO Abduction or Covert Operation? San Antonio: Anomalist Books, 2017. Page 143.
Derenberger, Woodrow W. Visitors from Lanulos. Parkersburg: New Saucerian Books, 1971. Pages 20-21.
“…and there is a chance that all of them were covert operations.”
Didn’t Jim Keith also bang the drum for UFO encounters being human-led psy-ops? I seem to recall him arriving at similar conclusions.