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Volume 11
Message 3
May 20 2006

Editor: Joseph Trainor

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[Please note this is a report Joe managed to send to me via the website, and is not an official UFO Roundup bulletin. As soon as I receive positive news from Joe about the bulletin I will post on the site - John @ UFOINFO]


UFO ROUNDUP Special Report

THE MYSTERY OF BROCKETT’S BRIDGE DEEPENS

One of the strangest cases in Nineteenth Century ufology came to light in 1997, when UFO ROUNDUP began its investigation into the “strange dream of H.P. Lovecraft.”

In 1920, then-amateur journalist and later celebrated horror writer Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1936) had a strange dream. He dreamed that he was in upstate New York, in a small town he had never seen before, and that he was “Lt. Eben Spencer,” a recently-discharged Union Army surgeon. During the course of his visit home, Lt. Spencer called on another physician, “Dr. Chester,” and was shown physical evidence of what may have been an alien being.

Lovecraft awoke just as he was on the verge of “a great revelation” and thought the dream had ended “in absurd anticlimax.”

But UFO ROUNDUP editor Joseph Trainor thought the “dream” may have been some kind of ancestral or reincarnation memory and that there were enough concrete details that could be checked against available records from the era of the American Civil War (1861-1865).

During a research trip to New York state, Trainor found documentary evidence that Lovecraft’s dream was indeed “rooted in reality.”

There really was a Lt. Spencer from upstate New York. He was born and grew up in the small town of Brockett’s Bridge, now Dolgeville, just east of Herkimer, in March 1839 and enlisted in the U.S. Army on September 16, 1861 at the age of 22. His full birth name was Elbridge Gerry Spencer, but he preferred the nickname “Gary.”

Lovecraft’s “Dr. Chester” had his counterpart in real-life Brockett’s Bridge, as well. According to the town’s 1855 census, he was Dr. Herbert Chester Smallwood, a herbalist who owned some rural property in nearby West Salisbury. Smallwood had a baby brother, Douglas, who fits the description of the unnamed younger brother in Lovecraft’s account of the dream.

With some help from the people at the Dolgeville, N.Y. Town Hall, Trainor was able to visit the three-story house on the east side of Fourth Street, where Lovecraft’s alleged alien encounter may have taken place.

“One problem is that there is literally no mention of Gary Spencer, Dr. Smallwood and Douglas in the 1871 town directory for Little Falls, N.Y., which includes a small section on Dolgeville,” Trainor explained, “Brockett’s Bridge was renamed in 1867 after a New York City piano manufacturer named Alfred Dolge came to town and offered to build a factory there. He had only one condition—the town had to be renamed ‘Dolgeville’ in his honor. A strange request, to be sure, but one which the Town Council honored. The very name of Brockett’s Bridge, N.Y. passed from history.”

Now, thanks to research by New York state historian Carol Maltby, it has become possible to trace the mysterious doings of Gary Spencer after the American Civil War.

Maltby pointed out an error in New York state’s card-file index of Civil War veterans. The card, still on file at the state archives in Albany, lists Gary Spencer as a surgeon in the 94th Infantry Regiment. However, Maltby’s Google search cited the 1879 book “History of Herkimer County, New York,” which lists Spencer as a soldier in the 97th Infantry Regiment. Searches by Trainor and Roundup correspondent Mary Lou Jones-Drown confirmed this fact and also learned that, on March 10, 1862, Spencer was on the roster of Commission Company F, 97th Infantry Regiment. (See Civil War National Archives Film M551, Roll 133—J.T.)

According to the Army’s records, Gary Spencer received a disability discharge from Company F on November 23, 1862. He was then promoted to captain on December 3, 1862 but was not mustered out of the service. Rather, he remained on detached duty in Washington, D.C. throughout 1863. This coincided with the information in Lovecraft’s dream that “Lt. Spencer” had returned home after receiving a small wound on active duty.

Lovecraft wrote that in his “Lt. Spencer” dream persona, he found himself in “the house I had lived in since birth” on a sunny morning in July 1864. After selecting a cane from the stand, he left the house and went for a stroll through the town we now know to be Brockett’s Bridge. He was accosted on the street by an anxious teenager—Douglas Smallwood—who said he was worried about his elder brother. Gary consented to visit the home of “Dr. Chester” and talk with his one-time mentor. He decribed the older man as acting very secretive and odd, in a manner that was almost repellent. The recluse, believed to be Dr. Herbert Chester Smallwood, finally consented to let the two men into his upstairs laboratory.

There Dr. Smallwood showed Gary an unusual item—a humanoid arm that had been amputated above the elbow. The arm was a bizarre blue-green color, and the fingers lacked fingernails. Dr. Smallwood then brought out a slightly larger blue-green arm, remarking, “I imagine you’ve had quite a lot of amputation practice in the army, Spencer. What do you think, professionally, of this job?”

Gary said these limbs had no existence in nature. Uttering a saturnine laugh, the older man replied, “Not yet, Spencer, not yet.” Then he prepared to show Gary and Douglas even stranger wonders. It was at this juncture that Lovecraft awoke.

No one knows what happened next. Trainor conjectured that a saucer crashed on the banks of West Canada Creek during the UFO flap of 1862 and that Dr. Smallwood, while out hunting for herbs, may have encountered live humanoid aliens who had been injured in the crash. Dr. Smallwood could have hidden one or two of the aliens in his house on Fourth Street.

“At first I thought that Gary and the Smallwoods had been murdered by Lafayette C. Baker, the head of President Abraham Lincoln’s National Detective Police, a forerunner of today’s FBI,” Trainor said, “But I’m happy to report that Gary apparently lived beyond his strange adventure. However, he did leave town in 1867 under somewhat mysterious circumstances.”

“There is a single clue that young Douglas also left Brockett’s Bridge at the same time and moved to the same area of the USA as Gary. But the fate of Dr. Herbert C. Smallwood, the reputed discoverer of the UFO and the aliens, is still unknown.”

On July 20, 1870, the U.S. Census was taken in Vernon Springs, a small town in northern Iowa. Census records for Dubuque County show an E. Gary Spencer living in Vernon Springs, giving his occupation as “farmer/laborer.” The record shows that Gary was 31, having been born in 1839, and was married to a woman named Sarah, also a native of upstate New York. They had two children—a daughter, Jennie, born in 1867, and a son, Mark L. Spencer, born in 1869. In later life, Mark became an Iowa dentist.

That Gary left Brockett’s Bridge under hasty and shadowy circumstances can be confirmed by reading the 1889 obituary of his sister in the Herkimer, N.Y.

Democrat. The final paragraph of the obit states that she had one brother, Gary, who “disappeared from the area twenty years ago,” i.e. around 1869.

When next we encounter Gary Spencer and his family, it is ten years later, 1880, and they are now living in Peosta, another small town in Dubuque County. There are two more children in the family—a son, R. Robb, born in 1872, and a daughter, Agnes, born in 1876. Sarah is still a housewife, but Gary now lists his occupation as “commercial traveler.” That’s a fancy name for salesman or “drummer,” as they were known in the USA of the Gilded Age.

Curiously, this was the same occupation as H.P. Lovecraft’s father—Winfield Scott Lovecraft, who was a traveling salesman for the Gorham Silver Manufacturing Co. of Providence, R.I. during this period.

Did the elder Lovecraft hear the story of the hidden aliens from Gary Spencer’s own lips, as they were riding the Lakeshore Limited to Chicago? Did he ever mention this “yarn” to his son Howard?

The same 1880 Census lists a “Douglas Smallwood” living elsewhere in Dubuque County, Iowa. His age is listed as 2, meaning he was born in 1878. Could he have been the son of “our” Douglas Smallwood, whose worries about his older brother/surrogate father triggered the “Roswell in upstate New York” affair?

“I can’t help wondering if Dr. H.C. Smallwood left Earth in 1864 in the company of the aliens he’d cared for,” Trainor added. “There is no mention of him in any record available to Google after that year.”

There is also no further mention of Gary Spencer or Douglas Smallwood after 1880. They are not in the Census records for 1900, 1910 or 1920. Unfortunately, the Census records for Iowa for the year 1890 no longer exist. They were destroyed in a fire in Washington D.C. over a century ago.

“Gary changed his name at least twice during his lifetime,” Trainor said, “He was born ‘Eldridge Gerry Spencer,’ having been named by his schoolteacher father for the former USA vice president. The Brockett’s Bridge town census of 1855 lists him as E. Gary Spencer, age 16, and that’s the signature he used on his Army enlistment papers. He seems to have picked up the nickname ‘Eben’ during his adolescence. That’s no surprise, considering that ‘Ebeneezer’ is a common name among the Spencer families of the Mohawk River valley. For example, the Steuben County, N.Y. Census of 1840 lists a 10-year-old Ebeneezer Spencer living in Jasper, N.Y. Remember, Gary was born only a year earlier, in 1839. Perhaps the Spencer family referred to the Jasper, N.Y. cousin as ‘Old Eben’ and Gary as ‘Young Eben.”

“I find it interesting that Gary changed his name again between 1870 and 1880 after leaving Vernon Springs. ‘E. Gary Spencer, farmer’ became ‘G.E. Spencer, commercial traveler.’ Was he changing his name to suit himself? Or was he hiding from someone—or something? It’s almost as if he’d been relocated to northeastern Iowa by some early-day Witness Protection Program.”

Just what role—if any—did the United States government play in the strange affair of Brockett’s Bridge?

What happened to Dr. Smallwood?

Is the wreckage of the original saucer still buried somewhere in the woods along West Canada Creek, in either Dolgeville, Salisbury or West Salisbury?

“It’s a shame the Iowa records for 1890 are no longer available,” Trainor remarked, “It would be interesting to learn if Gary Spencer died during the 1880s, taking his secret to the grave. H.P. Lovecraft, of course, was born in Auburndale, Massachusetts on August 22, 1890. If Gary died before H.P. Lovecraft was born, there is a possibility that Lovecraft was indeed the reincarnation of Lt. Spencer, and that his 1920 dream was nothing more than the pre-natal memories of an actual event that took place in upstate New York half a century earlier.”

The mystery continues…

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