In UFO conspiracy theories, Majestic 12 (or MJ-12) is the code name of an alleged secret committee of scientists, military leaders, and government officials, formed in 1947 by an executive order by U.S. President Harry S. Truman to facilitate recovery and investigation of alien spacecraft. The concept originated in a series of supposedly "leaked" secret government documents first circulated by ufologists in 1984. Upon examination, the FBI declared the documents to be "completely bogus", and many ufologists consider them to be an elaborate hoax. Majestic 12 remains popular among some UFO conspiracy theorists and the concept has appeared in popular culture including television, film, and literature.
The concept of "Majestic Twelve" emerged during a period in the 1980s when ufologists believed there had been a cover-up of the Roswell UFO incident and speculated some secretive upper tier of the US government was responsible. Their suppositions appeared to be confirmed in 1984 when ufologist Jaime Shandera said he received an envelope containing film which, when developed, showed images of eight pages of documents that appeared to be briefing papers describing "Operation Majestic Twelve". The documents purported to reveal a secret committee of twelve supposedly authorized by US president Harry Truman in 1952, and explain how the crash of an alien spacecraft at Roswell in 1947 had been concealed, how the recovered alien technology could be exploited, and how the US should engage with extraterrestrial life in future.
Shandera and his ufologist colleagues Stanton T. Friedman and Bill Moore say they later received a series of anonymous messages that led them to find what has been called the "Cutler/Twining memo" in 1985 while searching declassified files in the National Archives. Purporting to be written by General Nathan Twining to President Eisenhower's assistant Robert Cutler and containing a reference to Majestic 12, the memo is widely held to be a forgery, likely planted as part of a hoax. Historian Robert Goldberg wrote that the ufologists came to believe the story despite the documents being "obviously planted to bolster the legitimacy of the briefing papers".
Claiming to be connected to the United States Air Force Office of Special Investigations, a man named Richard Doty told filmmaker Linda Moulton Howe that the MJ-12 story was true, and showed Howe unspecified documents purporting to prove the existence of small, grey humanoid aliens originating from the Zeta Reticuli star system. Doty reportedly promised to supply Howe with film footage of UFOs and an interview with an alien being, although no footage ever materialized.
Soon, distrust and suspicion led to disagreements within the ufology community over the authenticity of the MJ-12 documents, and Moore was accused of taking part in an elaborate hoax, while other ufologists and debunkers such as Philip Klass were accused of being "disinformation agents".
The Federal Bureau of Investigation began its own investigation of the supposed "secret" documents and quickly formed doubts as to their authenticity. The U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations stated that no such committee had ever been authorized or formed, and that the documents were “bogus.” The FBI subsequently declared the MJ-12 documents to be "completely bogus.”
Later in 1996, a document called the MJ-12 "Special Operations Manual" circulated among ufologists. It is also widely considered to be a fake and "a continuation of the MJ-12 myth".
According to journalist Howard Blum the name "Majestic 12" had been prefigured in the UFO community when Bill Moore asked National Enquirer reporter Bob Pratt in 1982 to collaborate on a novel called MAJIK-12. Because of this, Blum writes, Pratt had always been inclined to think the Majestic 12 documents a hoax.
The following individuals were described in the Majestic 12 documents as "designated members" of Majestic 12.
- Roscoe H. Hillenkoetter
- Vannevar Bush
- James Forrestal
- Nathan Twining
- Hoyt Vandenberg
- Detlev Bronk
- Jerome Clarke Hunsaker
- Sidney Souers
- Gordon Gray
- Donald Menzel
- Robert M. Montague
- Lloyd Berkner
The Majestic 12 stories inspired the television series Dark Skies and have appeared as a plot element in The X-Files. Alien abduction claimant Whitley Strieber wrote a novel called Majestic in 1989 which focused on the origins of MJ-12.
- Donovan, Barna William (2011-07-20). Conspiracy Films: A Tour of Dark Places in the American Conscious. McFarland. pp. 107–. ISBN 9780786486151. Retrieved 17 September 2014.
- "FBI - Majestic 12 Part 1 of 1". An FBI archive containing details of "Majestic 12". Retrieved April 10, 2011.
- Robert Alan Goldberg (1 October 2008), Enemies Within: The Culture of Conspiracy in Modern America, Yale University Press, pp. 189–, ISBN 978-0-300-13294-6
- Peter Knight (1 January 2003), Conspiracy Theories in American History: An Encyclopedia, ABC-CLIO, pp. 490–, ISBN 978-1-57607-812-9
- Kendrick Frazier, The Hundredth Monkey: And Other Paradigms of the Paranormal, Prometheus Books, Publishers, pp. 338–, ISBN 978-1-61592-401-1
- Brenda Denzler (2001), The Lure of the Edge: Scientific Passions, Religious Beliefs, and the Pursuit of UFOs, University of California Press, pp. 190–, ISBN 978-0-520-93027-8
- Howard Blum (1 January 1991), Out there: the government's secret quest for extraterrestrials, Simon and Schuster, ISBN 978-0-671-66260-8
- Burnett, Robyn (2002). Crash Into Me: The World of Roswell. ECW Press. pp. 16–. ISBN 9781550225396. Retrieved 18 September 2014.
- Delasara, Jan (2000-07-01). PopLit, PopCult and The X-Files: A Critical Exploration. McFarland. pp. 167–. ISBN 9780786483327. Retrieved 18 September 2014.
- Joshi, S. T. (2007). Icons of Horror and the Supernatural: An Encyclopedia of Our Worst Nightmares. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 27–. ISBN 9780313337819. Retrieved 18 September 2014.
- Stanton T. Friedman, TOP SECRET/MAJIC, 1997, Marlowe & Co., ISBN 1-56924-741-2
- Philip J. Klass, The MJ-12 Crashed Saucer Documents, Skeptical Inquirer, vol XII, #2, Winter 1987-88, 137-146. Reprinted (sans figures) as chapter 7 of The UFO Invasion.
- Philip J. Klass, The MJ-12 Papers - part 2, Skeptical Inquirer, vol XII, #3, Spring 1988, 279-289.
- Philip J. Klass, MJ-12 Papers "Authenticated"?, Skeptical Inquirer, vol 13, #3, Spring 1989, 305-309. Reprinted as chapter 8 of The UFO Invasion.
- Philip J. Klass, New Evidence of MJ-12 Hoax, Skeptical Inquirer, vol 14, #2, Winter 1990, 135-140. Reprinted as chapter 9 of The UFO Invasion. Also reprinted in The Outer Edge: *Classic Investigations of the Paranormal, edited by Joe Nickell, Barry Karr, and Tom Genoni, CSICOP, 1996.
- Joe Nickell and John F. Fischer, The Crashed Saucer Forgeries, International UFO Reporter, March 1990, 4-12.
- Curtis Peebles, Watch the Skies: a Chronicle of the Flying Saucer Myth, 1994, Smithsonian Press, ISBN 1-56098-343-4, pp 264–268.
- Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, 1995, Random House, ISBN 0-394-53512-X, page 90.
- Kathryn S. Olmsted, Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy, World War I to 9/11. Chapter 6: Trust No One: Conspiracies and Conspiracy Theories from the 1970s to the 1990s. 2009 Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-975395-6