In late July of 1952, 54-year-old Truman Bethurum was taking a nap in his truck on Highway 91, about 70 miles north of Las Vegas.
The Redondo Beach, California resident worked as the night shift maintenance mechanic at an asphalt mixing plant, and maintained the trucks which hauled water from the Muddy River to the construction site. He had driven out to Mormon Mesa around 3:30am to search for shells left by the ancient sea which once covered the area.
Bethurum drifted to sleep after his search, realizing that the first rays of daylight would serve as his alarm clock. After about an hour, he bolted upright, thinking his co-workers were playing a trick on him, and found himself surrounded by what he described as “a mumbling, low talking in an unintelligible tongue.”
He looked out the window and saw eight to 10 men, fully-formed but all under five feet tall. The beings were olive-skinned, clean shaven and had black hair. Their skin seemed to be stretched tightly over their bones, and Bethurum thought they looked to be “of Latin extraction.” They wore “jackets like cowboys” and blue-grey pants, which reminded him of a Greyhound bus driver’s uniform. Swallowing his fear, Bethurum got out of his truck to shake hands as a “friendly gesture.”
As he got out of his truck, Bethurum saw “about 15 yards away a monstrous disc-shaped flying saucer… 300 feet across and six yards deep in the center.” A metal rim encircled the craft, which hovered weightlessly above the ground.
Although all of the beings fell in line, military-style, to shake his hands, only one of the men attempted to communicate. Asking his name, Bethurum was aghast. “My God, you can speak English, too?” The man replied, “We have no difficulty with any language.”
Bethurum asked to meet their captain. He was taken aboard the saucer, which had the appearance of burnished steel. The being who spoke to him took hold of his right arm “with a firm pressure” and introduced him to the ship’s female captain, a bewitching creature named Aura Rhanes (who Bethurum claimed the men of Earth would rate as “tops in shapliness and beauty.”) She wore a beret over short black hair, had a sumptuous complexion which Bethurum described as “a beautiful olive and roses” and spoke to Bethurum in rhyming couplets.
Bethurum stared in astonishment. Rhanes smiled and said, “Speak up, friend, you’re not hexed.” Only after a few meetings did Bethurum learn her name, or that these space brothers came from the planet Clarion, which was free of the ills effecting earth, and was not a planet visible by Earth’s telescopes.
After his first contact, Bethurum returned to his small hotel room and wrote a note: “If I am found dead in my bed, it will be because my heart has stopped from the terrible excitement induced by seeing and going aboard a flying saucer!”
The captain later informed him that her ship was made of “the finest Martian steel” (Mars being a great manufacturing planet, according to Rhanes), and Bethurum noted that the ship had no “propellers, no exhaust vents, wings” or rudders and it was completely silent, even when landing and taking off.
Bethurum’s contacts always seemed to occur when he was alone. During their second meeting, Rhanes told him that “The things which worry you Earth people, in our homes you will never find. We know nothing of illness, doctors, nurses,” and told him that politicians had “cleft your world through.” She also said that “What you call time and distance is inconsequential to us.”
During their next visit, Rhanes told Bethurum that she was a grandmother back on Clarion. Her prognosis for Earth wasn’t optimistic. She said “I expect to be around for 1,000 years, but the water in your deserts will mostly be tears” and that “Other planets are much too busy improving the welfare of their inhabitants to have time for even minor controversies.”
With sons fighting in Korea, some of Bethurum’s co-workers became suspicious that his “friends” were spies, or somehow part of the Communist underground. Rhanes assuaged his fears, stating that they couldn’t be touched by earthly weapons. “They might annoy us, yes, but never harm us. Our enemies fall and disappear before us. None of your Earth people have anywhere near the powers which we control.”
During a getaway to Vegas with co-worker Whitey Edwards on September 6, 1952, Bethurum decided to drive alone to the desert near Henderson. Soon a “vivid blue flash” appeared over Nellis Air Force Base, and the familiar craft (which the Clarionites called a ‘scow’) was hovering silently near Bethurum’s truck.
Accompanied by Edwards, he later ran into Rhanes at a resturant in Glendale, Nevada, but she snubbed him. Bethurum learned to distinguish Clarion scows high up in the atmosphere from standard shooting stars: “The flashing light followed the same color pattern… bluish-green, then greenish-yellow, then a yellowish red.”
According to Rhanes, Clarion is an utopian paradise, where there are no wars or strife, no traffic jams or hustle-bustle. She stated that education is a top priority and “improving our own lives… is a full time job.” No child plays with toys “in imitation of death” and weddings are much like our own, but celebrated like Americans “celebrate Independence Day.”
Clarionites believe in a “Supreme deity who knows, sees and controls all,” and go to churches “which are always filled.” (In a letter written by request of a waitress in Glendale, Rhanes referred to her people as “Christian.”)
Clarionites had learned to harness gravitational force, and according to Rhanes, employ three kinds of power: “The first is antimagnetic or gravitational; the second, plutonic and the third nutronic.” Rhanes claimed Clarionites could watch any time any place in the history of the universe using a device called a retroscope. Rhanes promised to take Bethurum and a few close friends on a visit to Clarion, and left him special flares with which to signal the scow. Sadly, they ignored his last attempt.
Following George Adamski, Truman Bethurum became the second most well-known contactee of 1950s America. Accounts of his 11 meetings with the “Clarionites” were first published in Max B. Miller’s inaugural issue of Saucers, and couldn’t be reprinted fast enough.
Intrigued, Adamski recorded Bethurum relating his experiences, which resulted in Aboard A Flying Saucer (1954). As Saucer Smear’s Jim Moseley put it, he had “done better than most contactees by making the close aquaintance” of a hot space babe. So close, in fact, that Bethurum’s wife Mary divorced him as a result of his interstellar daliances and named Rhanes as a correspondent in their divorce proceedings.
Saucers’ parent company, Flying Saucers International, sponsored the first Giant Rock Convention held in August of 1953 and organized by George Van Tassel near Joshua Tree, California. Alongside the likes of Daniel Fry (whose 1950 account of riding aboard a saucer from the White Sands Proving Grounds to New York in half an hour effectively kicked off the contactee movement), George Hunt Williamson, Orfeo Angelucci and Giant Rock organizer, George Van Tassel, Bethurum spoke at most of the conventions, which attracted between 2,000 and 10,000 saucer enthusiasts each year.
Bethurum became so busy with speaking engagements and television interviews (including many spots on NBC’s “Betty White Show”) he was forced to “abandon a lifetime career as a construction worker.” After one television appearance, Bethurum was visited at his home by an Air Force official who said he’d received over 200 reports from pilots who had seen the same type of craft Bethurum claimed to have boarded.
After being snubbed by Rhanes, and never getting to visit planet Clarion as she had promised, Bethurum married Alvira Roberts at a ceremony at Giant Rock in 1960.
Bethurum’s “unimaginative sincerity” impressed many with the idea that he had had experiences, even if he might’ve embellished them. Rhanes had told Bethurum that Clarion was located “behind the moon.” When pressed for an explanation as to why astronomers hadn’t located it, he said that “behind the moon” just meant beyond the moon, in the far reaches of space. His simplistic explanation led Dr. Edward Condon, in the epic Condon Report, to devote two pages to the idea that Clarion could not possibly exist, and used Bethurum’s case to assert that people who believed in the E. T. hypothesis of UFOs were woefully misguided. In 1967, prominent ufologists Jim and Coral Lorenzen offered a Jungian analysis for Bethurum’s contacts. “A Clarion is a small trumpet,” they wrote, “so named because it makes a clear sound… [T]he symbolic meaning relates more closely to the Latin word clarus, meaning clear.” Therefore, “the intended function of the Clarionites was to clear up the clouded, confused aspects of Bethurum’s life… [T]heir lady captain’s name translates almost directly as ‘characteristic of rain.’ We all know that a dominant characteristic of rain is that it ‘clears the air.’”
Inspired by the Clarionites, Bethurum established the New Agey “Sanctuary of Thought,” a group dedicated to world peace, and predicted that the powers of the world would soon settle their differences. That might not have panned out, but all told, he wrote four books and countless articles detailing his meetings with the Clarionites: Aboard A Flying Saucer (1954), The Voice of Planet Clarion (1957), Facing Reality (1958) and The People of Planet Clarion (1970), and helped shape the idealistic golden age of flying saucers. He died near Giant Rock on May 21, 1969.
The location of the scow’s first visit on Mormon Mesa was Latitude 37˚:0 North, Longitude 115˚:12’ West.