Otis T. Carr

From RationalWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
I, the crown prince of Nigeria, offer you
Icon scam.svg
Hook, line, and sinker
Totally sounds legit!

Otis T. Carr (1904–1982) was an American crackpot inventor and con artist who patented a flying saucer in 1959. He raised money from investors to build a saucer that he claimed would fly to the Moon and back in a few hours. He was convicted of securities fraud in 1960 (appealed and lost in 1961).[1] Today, his fans believe that he secretly built a saucer that "flew 10 miles instantaneously" before the FBI confiscated it.[2] Some of those fans are conducting experiments to replicate and reverse engineer Carr's technology.

Tesla connection[edit]

Fans often refer to Carr as a protégé of Nikola Tesla.[3] According to legend, Carr met Tesla when Carr worked in a hotel where Tesla lived.[2] Tesla was so impressed with the young Carr that he taught him how to build an antigravity flying vehicle. While it is not clear if Tesla ever actually knew Carr, Carr would go on to retell this story of their first meeting on WOR radio in New York City in an interview hosted by Long John Nebel in 1958.[4]

Mystery and free energy[edit]

In 1952, Carr wrote Dimensions of Mystery, a 75-page manuscript of poetry and semicoherent prose.[5] It ends with a cryptic statement suggesting that the work contains a "hidden treasure for those who find the key!" Fans say that Dimensions of Mystery encodes the secrets of building a "circular foil craft" (i.e. a flying saucer).[6]

In 1957, Carr published a 32-page brochure that was apparently meant to attract investors.[7] The brochure includes sketches of Albert Einstein and other great scientists alongside Carr's sketch. It says, "In the face of incredulity, we are able to state with full authority and responsibility that we have tapped an universal supply of energy in the form of gravity, and we have been able to harness the pressure energy of this force to motion, with the result that we have built and put into operation a machine that produces power continuously and absolutely free of dissipation."

Carr made free energy claims centered on a device he called the "Utron," which is a small mass that's shaped like two cones joined at the base. This shape looks circular from one perspective and square from another, a property that endlessly fascinated Carr.[8] Carr apparently believed that Utrons could act as transducers to convert gravity into work.

The brochure stated explicitly that Carr's company had "invented a fourth dimensional space vehicle... powered by the revolutionary Utron electric accumulator," though they hadn't actually built the thing they had "invented." The spacecraft would be called the OTC-X1.

Frontier City period[edit]

In 1958, Carr apparently made a deal with Frontier City, a new amusement park in Oklahoma City, to build a flying saucer ride and start work on a real spaceship. It's not clear how this fit into the "frontier" theme, since this was long before Star Trek. Carr relocated from Baltimore to Oklahoma City for the project.

In 1959, he received a patent for "an improved amusement device of the type wherein the passengers will receive the impression of riding in an interplanetary space craft".[9] Although the patent itself was amusing, the amusement value of the device would mainly consist of watching a whirring apparatus in the bowels of the saucer. The apparatus consisted of two coaxial rotors that would spin six Utrons "through simulated electromagnets," like a very complicated electric motor. One of the rotors also had "a plurality of plates… to simulate capacitor plates in a space craft." Because, you know, spacecraft have capacitor plates. The patent was either a very ineffective way to amuse park visitors or a very effective way to slip Carr's design for a flying saucer past the Patent Office.

The way the actual spacecraft would supposedly work, the Utrons would provide energy to spin the rotors very fast in opposite directions. Unlike the coaxial rotorsWikipedia on some helicopters, these rotors would be internal and serve no aerodynamic purpose. Carr claimed that the rotation would cause the craft to have no mass, allowing it to levitate, travel near the speed of light, and change velocity rapidly without killing its occupants.[2]

It's not clear if Carr ever built the amusement device, but he apparently built parts and small models that he showed off to the press. He claimed that on 19 April 1959 he would demonstrate an unmanned version of the OTC-X1 that was six feet in diameter and would achieve an altitude of five hundred feet.[10] He also claimed that on 7 December 1959 he would fly to the Moon in a full-scale saucer. Spectators and reporters gathered for the April 19 demonstration, but neither Carr nor the small saucer showed up. A well-known radio host found him in a hospital, providing fodder for later conspiracy theories. The next day, spectators got to see the model sitting on a table and rotating.

Prosecution and California[edit]

After the demonstration fiasco, Carr was unpopular in Oklahoma. He was convicted of securities fraud and went to California, but sources differ about the sequence and details. One source says he was arrested in Oklahoma in May and prosecuted in November, and he went to prison in 1960.[11] Another confirms that he was prosecuted in Oklahoma and says he went to California afterward.[note 1] According to others, he first went to California, then was prosecuted by the New York attorney general.[2]

Carr apparently set up shop in Apple Valley, California. His activities there are a matter of speculation (see below).

Ralph Ring[edit]

Carr died either in Pittsburgh in 1982[11] or in Gardnerville, Nevada in 2005.[2]

In 2006, a man named Ralph Ring captured Carr's spotlight. Ring claimed to have worked with Carr in California in late 1959.[12] According to Ring, they built an OTC-X1 prototype, which carried Ring and two other people on a test flight. Ring has described in great detail how the craft defied the laws of physics in a variety of ways, while he and the other pilots controlled the ship with their minds. "Carr had tapped into some principle which is not understood, in which consciousness melds with engineering to create an effect".[2]

Two weeks later, according to Ring, armed federal agents shut down the operation, because nothing so wonderful could be allowed to survive. In this narrative, the charges of securities fraud were meant to shut Carr up after the raid.

The chronology of Ring's story is awkward. Carr moved to California sometime after the April demonstration fiasco, then allegedly got the prototype working later that same year. This would have required raising money, building the hardware, and working out the kinks in the propulsion, antigravity, and consciousness-melding systems very quickly. Depending on your chronology, he was also defending himself against charges in Oklahoma at the time.

Ring has made a career out of telling his Carr stories. He's considered a credible source because he's a really nice guy who sounds sincere, and he produced some very grainy photos of sitting saucers that nobody had seen before.[2] He hasn't explained why he waited until after Carr's death to come out.

Soon after he first told his story, Ring was the victim of a near-fatal medical mishap. This was reminiscent of Carr's sudden trip to the hospital and it enhanced Ring's credibility.

Pod People[edit]

Carr left detailed drawings, including the amusing patent. In 1984, Walter Baumgartner (who later changed his name to William [13]) built parts from Carr's plans and conducted experiments with them.[14]

A new generation of experimenters, encouraged by Ralph Ring, is building equipment, conducting experiments, and sharing their progress with photos, YouTube videos, and CAD models.[6] Ring refers to groups of people doing this work as "pods."

Ralph Ring is happy to serve as the spiritual leader of the pods. Although he's a "talented inventor"[2] who supposedly helped build a working saucer, he provides only moral support to the people doing the experiments. Walter Nowosad of Clandestine Disclosure[6] does communications work for the community, making YouTube videos with reports from the pods. His videos all seem to be about one person in Australia, so it's not clear how many pods he's talking to.

Shyster or sincere crackpot?[edit]

Carr's brochures make clear that he was selling something he didn't have. However, his incoherent writing and radio interviews indicate that he really believed he could build free energy machines and revolutionary spacecraft. He doesn't seem to have made much money — one reason he served jail time was that he couldn't pay a $5000 fine. He lived in a gray area between self-delusion and fraud. With Carr's associates, such as sales engineer Norman Evans Colton and would-be flying saucer pilot Wayne Sulo Aho, it's hard to tell who was gullible, who was in on the scam, and who was in between.

Carr's investors demonstrated that a lack of science education or skepticism can be bad for your bank account.

Ralph Ring, the protégé of the protégé of Tesla, makes extraordinary claims with no evidence.

The Pod People are making good-faith efforts at empirical science, making their results available to the public, and not trying to sell anything. If Utron energy is real, they're the ones who will save the world.

External links[edit]

  • Otis T. CARR: UTRON — transcript of a 1959 interview with Carr, copy of the "Amusement Device" patent, Model OTC-X1 Construction Plans, and excerpts from an interview with Ralph Ring


  1. Personal communication from Sid Wise, who was the white-collar crime specialist in the Oklahoma attorney general's office.