The Roswell UFO Incident of 1947, whether you believe it anyway, is usually considered to have been the first UFO crash in the United States. In the vast and zany annals of American UFO lore, however, there is an earlier case in Cape Girardeau, Missouri that also involves alien bodies and a government cover-up. Unlike Roswell, the 1941 Cape Girardeau Incident has never been the subject of mass media interest, or even a stand-alone book.
The story didn’t surface, in fact, until five decades after it allegedly took place. It was first reported in 1991 by Leonard H. Stringfield, a ufologist who included it in his book UFO Crash/Retrievals: The Inner Sanctum, the sixth addition of a seven-part series he wrote about UFO crashes. Stringfield’s source was Charlette Mann, a woman who claims that her grandfather William Hoffman was a witness at the crash site.
Hoffman, a pastor of the Red Star Baptist Church, was called up by local police one night in the spring of 1941. They told him that there had been a plane crash, and asked if he could come to minister the pilot’s last rites. After Hoffman said yes, he was picked up by a car, and then taken to an area about a dozen miles away from Cape Girardeau.
When Hoffman got to the crash site, he found the place swarming with police officers, firefighters, and soldiers. The “plane” turned out to be a small metallic saucer. He saw three dead bodies, each about four feet tall, lying outside the craft. The figures were evidently non-human; they had large eyes, no hair, and only three fingers on each hand. The creatures’ ship had crashed and caught fire, but their bodies showed no sign of being burned.
Due to damage from the crash, the interior of the craft could be seen from the outside. When Hoffman got up closer, he saw that it contained a single metal chair and some gauges and dials. He also noticed a strange script, which he thought looked like Egyptian hieroglyphics.
After things calmed down a bit and Hoffman finished giving the creatures their last rites, two police officers picked one of the bodies up and held it between them for a photograph. Before he left, Hoffman was told to keep what he had seen a secret. He was warned that what he saw was a matter of national security, and that it couldn’t be told to anybody.
Of course, Hoffman did just the opposite and told his entire family about what happened as soon as he came back home. About 2 weeks after the alleged crash, Hoffman received the alien picture from the man who had taken it, possibly a local photographer (and friend of Harry Truman) named Garland F. Fronabarger. Hoffman was said to never have mentioned the crash again, although he did pass the picture off to his son Guy.
Guy showed the picture to his friends and children, including his daughter Charlette Mann. In the mid-1950s, Guy gave the picture to a skeptical photographer friend named Walter Wayne Fisk. This was apparently the last anybody had seen of it. Long before Fisk’s death in 2012, both Charlette Mann and ufologist Stanton T. Friedman tried contacting him with little success.
Aside from Charlette Mann and her sister, nobody else can confirm that the picture existed. Everything we know about the case comes from Mann, and she had gotten the details from her grandmother, who had told it to Mann on her death-bed in 1984. There’s a total lack of witnesses here, and the exact date and location of the crash have never been determined either. I’ve heard that Mann hopes more witnesses will eventually show up, but after so many years, who could possibly still be alive to vouch that it happened?