The Anomalist


Space Pancakes...
A Fortean Breakfast Story

by Loren Coleman

On April 18 1961, three humanoids in a silver craft landed in Eagle River, Wisconsin and gave Joe Simonton some pancakes. They didn't speak English, and all communication was in the form of gestures.

"I've always wondered why they were called pancakes," wondered Bill Jacobs at Boston University on the Fortean List recently, "as the one Simonton is holding in the classic photo looked more like a pizelle to me. Did Simonton use the term 'pancake' in his original statements or did that characterization start with the UFO researchers?"

Jacobs' question was a good one, so I decided to look into it. There's a new regional book out I'd just read entitled The W-Files: True Reports of Wisconsin's Unexplained Phenomena by Jay Rath (Wisconsin Trails, PO Box 5650, Madison, Wisconsin 53705; 800-236-8088; $14.95). The very first story in the book is about a respected local man, Joe Simonton and his "Pancakes from Space".

Let me review briefly the evidence that stacks up (sorry, I couldn't help myself) in favor of "pancakes" vs "pizelles"--whatever they are. Though being from the Midwest, I must say "pizelle" is not a word you would have heard in 1961.

Joe Simonton was having a late breakfast at 11 AM when some low, jet-like noises disturbed him and he went outside. (He probably was "thinking" about pancakes.) Seeing a disc land, hatch open and a nonthreatening being get out, Joe apparently telepathically picked up a message to get some water in a jug for the entity. Then, according to the Air Force report: "Looking into the [saucer] he saw a man 'cooking' on some kind of flameless cooking appliance." As Rath notes: "The alien was preparing pancakes."

Rath goes on: "In return for the water, one of the aliens...presented Simonton with three [actually four--LC] of the pancakes, hot from the griddle....Each of the pancakes was roughly 3 inches in diameter and perforated with small holes....Simonton ate one of the pancakes....'It tasted like cardboard,' he told the Associated Press."

Astronomer J. Allen Hynek was dispatched by the US Air Force to investigate. He took one of the pancakes away for government analysis at the Air Force Technical Intelligence Center. They found them to be made from flour, sugar and grease. Rath writes: "It was rumored, however, that the wheat in the pancake was of an unknown type."

Jerome Clark in his High Strangeness: UFOs from 1960 through 1979: The UFO Encyclopedia, Volume 3 (Detroit: Omnigraphics, 1996) gives a more detailed rundown of the Joe Simonton case under "Eagle River CE3" on pages 168-175. Clark's comprehensive report on the case does not talk about anything but how the objects were seen as "pancakes." The FDA who also analyzed one of the objects called them all "pancakes". Clark also does note the "pancakes" were "still hot" when Simonton bite into one of them.

The official Air Force verdict for the Simonton Pancake Incident: "Unexplained." Jerry Clark basically concurred: "There was, and is, no evidence to suggest that Joe Simonton cooked up--in the literal sense--a bogus UFO story." Which I guess is my way of saying, from my reading of this very intriguing case, they were "pancakes." However, in an attempt to be "balanced," it is interesting the good Bill Jacobs would use the phrase "pizelle" as Simonton said the aliens looked "Italian-looking". Hummm.

Well, it's time to go have breakfast, I think I'll have....English muffins and tea. While being a Midwesterner, no one said we couldn't be civilized, now and then.