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 Federal Bureau of Investigation (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.
History and analysis
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 United States government was responsible. Their suppositions appeared to be confirmed in 1984 when ufologist Jaime Shandera 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 United States President Harry S. 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 United States should engage with extraterrestrial life in the 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 President Eisenhower's assistant Robert Cutler to General Nathan F. Twining 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 J. Klass were accused of being "disinformation agents".
Klass's investigation of the MJ-12 documents found that Robert Cutler was actually out of the country on the date he supposedly wrote the "Cutler/Twining memo", and that the Truman signature was "a pasted-on photocopy of a genuine signature —including accidental scratch marks — from a memo that Truman wrote to Vannevar Bush on October 1, 1947". Klass dismissed theories that the documents were part of a disinformation campaign as "ridiculous", saying they contained numerous flaws that could never fool Soviet or Chinese intelligence. Other discrepancies noted by Klass included the use of a distinctive date format that matched one used in Moore's personal letters, and a conversation reported by Brad Sparks in which Moore confided that he was contemplating creating and releasing some hoax Top Secret documents in hopes that such bogus documents would encourage former military and intelligence officials who knew about the government’s (alleged) UFO coverup to break their oaths of secrecy.
The FBI began its own investigation of the supposed "secret" documents and quickly formed doubts as to their authenticity. The United States 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".
Ufologists Linda Moulton Howe and Stanton T. Friedman believe the MJ12 Documents are authentic. Friedman examined the documents and has argued that the United States government has conspired to cover up knowledge of a crashed extraterrestrial spacecraft.
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.
Scientific skeptic author Brian Dunning investigated the history of the subject, and reported his findings in the 2016 Skeptoid podcast episode "The Secret History of Majestic 12". He concluded that, rather than a hoax perpetrated by the UFO community, it is likely the papers were actually part of a disinformation campaign of the US government meant to deflect attention from secret Air Force projects. Referring to the MJ-12 documents, Dunning states:
They were classic disinformation, false documents created to play a role in real national security. They were designed and written for specific marks who did with them exactly what they were meant to. They took advantage of well-meaning patriots who wanted enhanced national security, and who, by being easy to fool, ended up providing exactly that.
The following individuals were described in the Majestic 12 documents as "designated members" of Majestic 12.
In popular culture
- The 1997 RPG Delta Green, a modern-day sourcebook for Call of Cthulhu has MAJESTIC-12 as a major rival and enemy of the eponymous organization. Similar to Delta Green, they are a government conspiracy dealing with the unnatural and the Mythos, formed mostly by CIA, NSA and NRO agents. In Delta Green MAJESTIC was founded after the Roswell incident and soon made frequent contact with the greys, which deliver them technology. Secretly the greys are actually vessel bodies created by the Mi-Go and used to hide their true form to humans. MAJESTIC-12 made a deal with the US government, and in exchange of power and with the help of the grey technology, MAJESTIC delivered "The Report", containing extensive intelligence on every enemy military asset in the world, such as Soviet nuclear arsenal. In the 2016 RPG, MAJESTIC-12 loses their power after a series of successful Delta Green operations against the Mi-Go makes the greys end contact with MAJESTIC. The organization is subsequently destroyed by Delta Green and by 2001 after the September 11 attacks, is absorbed by a now official Delta Green into "The Program".
- The Majestic 12 stories inspired the television series Dark Skies and have appeared as a plot element in The X-Files, as well as in the Electronic Arts ARG 'Majestic'.
- The 2005 video game Destroy All Humans! has the protagonist, an alien landed in 1950s rural America, fighting agents of "Majestic".
- Alien abduction claimant Whitley Strieber wrote a novel called Majestic in 1989 that focused on the origins of MJ-12.
- In video game Tomb Raider III, "MJ-12" can be printed across large movable boxes in one of the levels.
- MJ-12 is featured heavily in the Eidos Interactive game Deus Ex, released on PC and Macintosh in 2000. The game was later released on the PlayStation 2, and again on the PlayStation 3.
- In the comic book series Atomic Robo, Majestic 12 is a top secret government agency tasked with weaponizing so-called "Tesla-tech" uncovered by the FBI in the wake of Nikola Tesla's mysterious death. Founded by President Truman, under the advice of Secretary of Defense Forrestal in 1947, Majestic 12 becomes Task Force ULTRA after the events of Atomic Robo and the Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur.
- MJ-12 features in The Secret History of Twin Peaks, written by the show's co-writer Mark Frost.
- MJ-12 is referenced in episode 9 of the cyberpunk anime Serial Experiments Lain.
- MJ-12 is referenced by the line "Twelve majestic Lies" in the Blink-182 song "Aliens Exist."
- MJ-12 is referenced in the Clutch song "Animal Farm" on their self-titled album.
- 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
- Klass, Philip. "The New Bogus Majestic-12 Documents". CSI. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
- 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
- Dunning, Brian. "Skeptoid #528: The Secret History of Majestic 12". Skeptoid. Retrieved 17 June 2017.
- 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.
- "15 Awesome Tomb Raider Easter Eggs". The Archaeology of Tomb Raider. 2015-04-13. Retrieved 2018-02-18.
- Frost, Mark (18 October 2016). The Secret History of Twin Peaks: A Novel. Flatiron Books.
- 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, 137–46. 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, 279–89.
- Philip J. Klass, MJ-12 Papers "Authenticated"?, Skeptical Inquirer, vol 13, #3, Spring 1989, 305–09. Reprinted as chapter 8 of The UFO Invasion.
- Philip J. Klass, New Evidence of MJ-12 Hoax, Skeptical Inquirer, vol 14, #2, Winter 1990, 135–40. 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. 264–68.
- Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, 1995, Random House, ISBN 0-394-53512-X, p. 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