West Virginia writer and publisher Gray Barker, a gleeful promoter of outlandish tall tales, was the source of the Straith letter.

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George Adamski was one of the most famous -- or notorious -- figures on the flying saucer scene from 1952 until his death in 1965. In books and lectures he recounted his meetings with friendly Venusians, Martians, and Saturnians. He also claimed that high government officials -- themselves in contact with "Space Brothers" -- secretly knew he was telling the truth.

Nonetheless, Adamski was shocked one day in December 1957 to receive a letter written on U.S. State Department stationery with a stamped department seal and a Washington, D.C., postmark. Signed by "R. E. Straith, Cultural Exchange Committee," it stated, "The Department has on file a great deal of confirmatory evidence bearing out your own claims. . . . While certainly the Department cannot publicly confirm your experiences, it can, I believe, with propriety, encourage your work."

The Straith letter electrified Adamski's followers. They charged the department with covering up the truth when the department denied, as it did repeatedly, that it knew anything of an "R. E. Straith" or a "Cultural Exchange Committee." All the while Straith proved elusive; despite repeated efforts, Adamski's supporters could not find him. Undaunted, they concluded that his committee must be so highly classified that the government would never admit to its existence.

Ufologists skeptical of Adamski's claims were sure the letter was a forgery -- perhaps, as analyst Lonzo Dove suspected, composed on the typewriter of Gray Barker, a saucer publisher and practical joker. When Dove submitted an article on the subject to Saucer News editor Jim Moseley, Moseley rejected it on the grounds that Dove had not proved his case. But years later, after Barker's death in December 1984, Moseley confessed that he and Barker had written the letter on official stationery provided by a friend of Barker's, a young man with a relative high in the government.

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