Photos of little green (or silver) men have long been a fixture in ufology and, like everything else, these artifacts get dusted off and trotted out after a period of time has elapsed and run through the grinder again. One such retread that has continued to make the rounds—decade after decade—is a photo that first surfaced in the German newspaper Neue Illustrierte on April 1st, 1950, with the title “Der Mars-Mensch” which showed a strange looking little feller apparently from another planet—Mars, in this case. The accompanying article claimed that the Martian had been in a saucer crash that occurred in “Death Valley.”
A few days later, Neue Illustrierte copped that the Martian story was an April Fool’s prank, but that didn’t stop the photo from spreading through the UFO subculture in the years to follow. Since then the photo—sometimes referred to as “Silverman”—has appeared in numerous UFO books, often including the false narrative that it depicted an alien who had survived a saucer crash.
Saucer scholar Isaac Koi (www.isaackoi.com) compiled a timeline of the Silverman photo and the publications in which it appeared. The first book to feature this freaky photo was Major Donald Keyhoe’s Flying Saucers from Outer Space (1953). Keyhoe described it as “two men in trench coats, each holding an arm of a queer, shiny figure about three feet high. Two girls standing nearby seemed to be awestruck by the little man…Eyewitness G-Man McKennerich, from Phoenix, reports “I was astounded by the importance of this great moment. For the first time I was seeing a being from another world. At the same time I was equally amazed by the desperation of this Aluminum Man. His body was covered with a shiny metal foil. The observatory in Phoenix presumes this is for protection from cosmic rays…”
Conflicting narratives surround the Silverman photo, some of which identified the trench-coated gents as U.S. government agents (G-Men), while other accounts described them as German scientists, and that “Silverman” was not necessarily silver-skinned, but outfitted in some sort of aluminum spaceman suit.
In Space-Craft from Beyond Three Dimensions (1959), W. Gordon Allen referenced that the creature in the Silverman photo had crawled out of a crashed saucer:
A “saucer crewman” very much like the moon man (or spirit) described by Swedenborg in his writings about the inhabitants of different planets of the solar system…This photograph is from Germany (note trench coats and North European types), but the “saucer crewman” is from a UFO that crashed near Mexico City; the corpses were sent to Germany for study…
In 1967, a concerned citizen sent a copy of the Silverman photo to FBI headquarters in D.C. inquiring if the trench-coated men were FBI agents, to which J. Edgar Hoover responded: “I can assure you the photograph you mentioned does not represent employees of this Bureau.”
Most recently, Harold Povenmire in UFO’s and Alien Abduction Phenomena: A Scientific Analysis (2016) published a colorized version of the Silverman photo as the real deal, although what “scientific analysis” he conducted is unclear. Thanks to Povenmire, this new iteration of the Silverman photo soon began worming its way through social media, as a new generation of believers clicked and shared to their heart’s content.