National Investigations Committee on Aerial
Phenomena (NICAP)
Early UFO organization. By the mid-1950s speculation
about flying saucers, begun in 1947, had developed into a massive
controversy. The possibility of extraterrestrial visitors and
the scientific advances that a culture with interplanetary or
even interstellar travel could bring captured the interest of a
number of scientists. Among those in the midst of the controversy
was Donald E. Keyhoe, journalist and retired marine officer.
Beginning in 1950 Keyhoe wrote three books—The Flying
Saucers Are Real (1950), Flying Saucers from Outer Space (1953),
and The Flying Saucer Conspiracy (1955)—in which he argues
that flying saucers were extraterrestrial in origin, that the United
States Air Force knew what they were, but that the government,
fearful of public reaction, was covering up the evidence.
By 1956, Keyhoe, popular radio host Frank Edwards, physicist
T. Townsend Brown, and several retired officers from the
armed forces said they felt that an organization was needed to
address the issues created by the ‘‘space visitors’’ controversy.
After some initial organizational struggles, Keyhoe emerged as
the group’s director. The organization’s periodical, The U.F.O.
Investigator, promoted discussion of the extraterrestrial hypothesis
and openly criticized both the air force for hoarding needed
data and the contactees for their unsupported claims of contact
with extraterrestrials.
Although continually on the verge of collapse, NICAP became
the symbol of conservative scientific ufology and found
some stability with the assistance of Richard Hall, who became
secretary of the organization in 1958 and wrote The UFO Evidence
(1964). That document was part of an effort by NICAP
members to attract the attention of Congress to the UFO question.
NICAP hoped the legislators would override the air
force’s reticence to share what it allegedly knew.
NICAP initially supported the efforts of the Condon Committee,
headed by physicist Edward U. Condon as an independent
and well-funded effort to study the question. However, it
quickly withdrew cooperation when it was learned that Condon
believed that UFOs were nonexistent and had no intention of
conducting any ‘‘real’’ investigation. NICAP announced it
would expand its activity to do what Condon was supposed to
do, but NICAP’s resolve came too late. When the Condon report
was published it declared that further study of UFOs was
unlikely to produce results, and NICAP was unable to respond
to the massive drop in public interest in the UFO question.
NICAP continued to exist into the early 1980s, when it was
disbanded. Its files were eventually turned over to the J. Allen
National Council for Geocosmic Research Journal Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
1090
Hynek Center for UFO Studies. Keyhoe, who had resigned as
chairman of NICAP, retired to his home in Virginia and wrote
his last book, Aliens from Space (1973), in which he targets the
CIA rather than the air force as the source of the government’s
UFO coverup. He also endorses a plan to entice alien craft to
land at an isolated air strip decorated with unusual and novel
displays.
Sources
Clark, Jerome. The Emergence of a Phenomenon UFOs from the
Beginning through 1959. Vol. 2 of The UFO Encyclopedia. Detroit
Omnigraphics, 1992.
Hall, Richard H. The UFO Evidence. Washington, DC National
Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena, 1964.
Jacobs, David M. The UFO Controversy in America. Bloomington
Indiana University Press, 1975.
Keyhoe, Donald E. Aliens from Space The Real Story of Unidentified
Flying Objects. Garden City, N.Y. Doubleday, 1973.
———. The Flying Saucer Conspiracy. New York Henry Holt,
1955.
———. The Flying Saucers Are Real. New York Fawcett Publications,
1950.
———. Flying Saucers from Outer Space. New York Henry
Holt, 1953.