“To the moon, Alice,” Audrey Meadows endured from Jackie Gleason’s bus driving comic hero Ralph Kramden in the golden age of TV classic series The Honeymooners, but the Great One might have known more than he was saying. The actor was so fascinated by UFOs and aliens he commissioned a spaceship-shaped houses in Peekskill, New York. He called the main house the Mother Ship, and he let Art Carney watch Captain Video in the guest house called the Scout Ship. The house, which was recently put on the market, wasn’t the only structure in America built to welcome incoming extraterrestrials, and that wasn’t the farthest Gleason went with his alien obsession. He brought the idea straight to the White House when he spoke of outer worldly things with President Richard Nixon.
The documentary Calling All Earthlings documentary follows George Van Tassel, an airplane mechanic who mixed alien intelligence with the designs of inventor Nikola Tesla to come up with The Integratron. Paid for, in part, by legendary billionaire recluse and one-time filmmaker Howard Hughes, the structure was a time machine powered by electromagnetic energy built next to a big rock considered sacred by Native Americans in the Mohave Desert.
Tassel was given the plans for the dome-like structure on August 24, 1953, when he was woken up by a man named Solganda from the planet Venus, which he explained in this classic TV clip from the documentary Calling All Earthlings.
While there were no local witnesses to the story of a landed space craft a few miles from the Joshua Tree park, residents of the desert town of Landers, California, testified to strange lights, craft, and cat-like creatures with glowing red eyes. Like occultist Jack Parsons, who belonged to rocket science’s Suicide Club, Tassel started the Ministry of Universal Wisdom UFO cult, and threw the annual Giant Rock Interplanetary Spacecraft Convention, which the FBI tried to infiltrate because of their socialistic ideas about free energy. The same kind of ideas that blocked Tesla from the scientific community.
The Integratron was never fully completed. Van Tassel died mysteriously in 1978 just before making a TV appearance a few weeks before the official opening. Ruled a natural death by heart attack, some think his second wife, Doris, was a government agent who poisoned him. Doris had Van Tassel’s body cremated and all his papers and documents were taken before the family was even told the visionary airplane mechanic had died.
Doris had changed her husband’s diet. She’d gone to South America to take photos of Mayan ruins where death rituals were performed. She painted these ferocious images back home, leading many to believe she’d gone over to the dark side. No autopsy was ever performed on Van Tassel.
The clip insinuates Doris Van Tassel was a federal operative. The FBI was especially paranoid during the Cold War. Even a casual watcher of The X-Files knows the federal cops went around debunking claims. But friends of J. Edgar Hoover, like Richard M. Nixon, could get inside dope on both communist agitating UFOlogists and the people who communicated with them. The FBI considered Van Tassel a “mental case,” according to declassified files used in the documentary, but Nixon took the subject seriously when it was brought up by Gleason during their regular golf outings.
According to UFO mythology, President Nixon left his Secret Service contingent home one while he played a midnight call at Gleason’s place in Key Biscayne, Florida. The much-debated legend has it that Nixon and Gleason drove to a heavily-guarded building on Homestead Air Force Base, where the leader of the free world gave the guy who played the bus driver from Bensonhurst a private tour.
“We drove to the very far end of the base in a segregated area, finally stopping near a well-guarded building,” Gleason told UFO researcher and author Larry Warren, an eye-witness to the Rendlesham Forest UFO Incident, according to the book UFOs Among the Stars by Timothy Green Beckley. “The security police saw us coming and just sort of moved back as we passed them and entered the structure. There were a number of labs we passed through first before we entered a section where Nixon pointed out what he said was the wreckage from a flying saucer, enclosed in several large cases. Next, we went into an inner chamber and there were six or eight of what looked like glass-topped Coke freezers. Inside them were the mangled remains of what I took to be children. Then – upon closer examination – I saw that some of the other figures looked quite old. Most of them were terribly mangled as if they had been in an accident.”
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Jackie Gleason’s wife Beverly Gleason told the same story to the magazine Esquire in 1974. It was passed off as a publicity story for her then-upcoming autobiography.
Gleason’s 50-foot-wide mother ship house was custom-made by a ship builder in an airplane hangar and moved to Gleason’s property. The structure has no right angles. Van Tassel’s Integratron was built in the Mojave Desert because of its proximity to magnetic vortices and its relationship to the Great Pyramids in Giza. The two-story wooden building is ringed by a rotating wheel of metal spikes. To avoid interference with its conductive properties, it is metal-free. The structure was assembled without nails or screws.
While Nixon was indeed in Key Biscayne on February 19, 1973, for a meeting with the AFL-CIO, the myth appears to be only that. A myth. Van Tassel’s dome, which was “Dedicated to Research in Life Extension” as a “a time machine for basic research on rejuvenation, anti-gravity, and time travel,” still stands. You can take a reinvigorating sound bath there.
Calling All Earthlings opened Aug. 1 at the Maysles Documentary Center at 343 Lenox Ave. in Harlem. The film will be available on VOD on August 28, 2018.
Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City’s Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.