Bill Caldwell: Ozark farmer Buck Nelson hosted own UFO conventions

The recent NASA appointment of a research director to investigate UFO sightings and the Mexican government’s showing of the remains of “aliens” have marked a resurgence of interest in UFOs.

A farmer in the Ozarks in the 1950s was an early proponent of the reality of UFOs and space men. Buck Nelson, a “contactee,” wrote a book of his experiences and sponsored his first Spacecraft Convention in 1958, which gave him celebrity in the world of UFO phenomena.

Nelson was born in 1895 in Colorado. He completed sixth grade before going to work in a variety of jobs in Colorado and California.

He bought land in the hills 11 miles northwest of Mountain View, Missouri, just north of Highway 60, around 1942. He operated a sawmill there and built his own cabin. He had no car but kept a pony, Trixie, on which he rode into town weekly to get supplies. A bachelor, he eked out a living with an estimated $50-a-month disability pension. His place had no electricity, though he had a battery-operated radio.

Unlikely visitors

Nelson had closed the sawmill, living off the land and his pension. One day, in the late afternoon, his radio went “crazy wild” and his horse and dog “raised Cain.” He went outside his kitchen door to check on them. Above him was a huge silvery disc along with two more high in the sky.

He ran back inside to retrieve his box camera. Outside he took one good photo that he said was studied by “scientists and aerial phenomena investigators.” He gestured for the object to land using his flashlight to signal it but instead was hit with a ray “hotter and brighter than the sun.” It knocked him down. When he got up, his lumbago, neuritis and eyesight were all healed. He threw away his glasses.

In July 1954, he wrote a letter to the Springfield newspaper telling of his experiences. A man from Seymour, Missouri, sent a copy of the article to a UFO club in the East. Soon Nelson was asked to speak around the country.

The second visitation took place about six months later. This time, a saucer arrived and using a loudspeaker asked for permission to land in his pasture behind the house where there was a spring. He agreed, but the UFO left without landing.

A month later, he was visited at midnight by the “Space Brothers,” a three-man saucer crew. One was an Earthling, 19, who was in training. Nicknamed Bucky, he was described as Nelson’s distant cousin from Colorado. Another was said to be 200 years old but appeared as young as Bucky, while the third member of the crew was old and wrinkled. They asked if he would like to take a trip with them. Nelson said yes, but it did not happen immediately.

A 3-day space tour

On April 24, 1955, they came back for him, telling him he had to wear a clean pair of overalls and not take anything metal, which would interfere with magnetics. He left out milk for his cat and let Trixie out to pasture. Then he and his dog, Teddy, were taken on a three-day interplanetary trip to Mars, the moon and Venus.

Martian homes were made of stone quarried on the moon. Nelson fit in with those Martians he met. No one suspected he was from Earth until they were told. They used solar and electrical power. He left little U.S. flags at each stop.

On the moon, he saw a giant quarry for building stone in a crater. The moon was just used as a way station for interplanetary travel having giant spacecraft hangars.

On Venus, he discovered no wheeled vehicles but hovercraft. They used a “book machine” like a television that could read text or music. It was a healthy and peaceful society as they followed the “Twelve Laws of God” similar to the Ten Commandments.

He was even given permission to fly the spacecraft, though everyone had to put on seat belts, something they had not had to do in years. He sat at the controls and touched every button and spun every dial until the craft was upside down. The crew just laughed and told him he had to discover how to right the craft.

Upon his return, he wrote up his experiences. The West Plains Daily Quill printed it. “My Trip to Mars, the Moon, and Venus,” a 58-page booklet, sold for $1.25. Copies were sold far and wide. He gained notoriety and was asked to talk across the country, sponsored by various UFO groups. Success did not spoil him. He was the same, plain-spoken, overall-wearing farmer wherever he went.

Spacecraft conventions

Nelson got the idea he could hold conventions for like-minded folk on his property at Mountain View. He let it be known the first convention would take place June 28-29, 1958. In his book was a note to readers reading much like the conclusion of a radio preacher’s program.

“The Space Brothers have called to my attention that it is time for the true lovers of God, and Space-minded people to have their own radio station. It is suggested that such a station be built on my land with a camp for Saucer people. .. Will you back me?

“Send your offering and free will gift to keep this work going and help make this camp and radio station possible.”

The first convention drew about 300 people, not the 10,000 Nelson hoped for. He had bought a truckload of hot dog buns in anticipation of crowds. The county sheriff was concerned about traffic problems as Nelson’s farm was down a 6-mile gravel road off U.S. 60. People parked cars along the road and around his cabin. Some camped; others filled the limited motel space in Mountain View.

The Space Brothers did not appear, though all were on the lookout for saucers. The Globe mentioned the convention. The News Herald reported the David McClure family from Tulsa, Oklahoma, saw a “white-orangey” object in the sky as they were leaving. They pointed it out to two carloads of conventiongoers. Said Mrs. McClure, “Good thing we had witnesses along. Otherwise, people might not believe us.”

Nelson continued to hold conventions until the last in 1966. Several hundred was the maximum attendance. The Houston (Missouri) Herald reported Nelson was not feeling well in a 1967 article. It was the last reporting on Nelson.

Springfield’s newspaper and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch carried nostalgic articles on Nelson in 1973 and 1974. His exact death date is unknown, ranging from 1977 to 1982. Nor is his gravesite known.

Nelson’s book has gone through several editions. The most recent in 2022 included an FBI file on him.

Those few remaining who attended his conventions as children remembered the soft-spoken man in overalls. For them, burned-out patches on his farm where spacecraft landed were indelible memories. Whether he was an earnest advocate of the Space Brothers or a grifter taking advantage of the flying saucer hysteria, no one knows for certain. But fascination with his story continues.

Next year, the Buck Nelson Festival will be held April 5-8 in Mountain View to coincide with the total solar eclipse that will pass over the town.

One event sure to attract the curious will be a Buck Nelson reenactment.

Bill Caldwell is the retired librarian at The Joplin Globe. If you have a question you’d like him to research, send an email to wcaldwell@joplinglobe.com or leave a message at 417-627-7261.

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