Wilbert Brockhouse Smith, Canadian UFOs, and Project Magnet
Some individuals have managed to worm their way into the annals of truly weird U̳F̳O̳ phenomena, and weird cover-ups and conspiracies are not entirely unique to the United States. The man named Wilbert Brockhouse Smith was born in 1910 in Lethbridge. in the region of Alberta, Canada, and was considered to be quite the genius, writing a treatise on the idea of perpetual motion at a mere 15 years of age. He would go on to obtain degrees in electrical engineering and become the chief engineer for the radio station C.J.O.R., Vancouver, before joining the Department of Transport of Canada in 1939. There he would be very involved as senior radio engineer for Transport Canada’s Broadcast and Measurements Section, playing a crucial part in forming frequency broadcasting agreements between Canada and the United States, and during World War II he helped to erect a network of ionosoheric measurement stations throughout Canada. It was during this time that he became instrumental in developing a Canadian organization for studying the U̳F̳O̳ phenomenon going on during the time. This project would go on to propel Smith into the realm of truly bizarre figures upon U̳F̳O̳ history.
Called Project Magnet, the U̳F̳O̳ program was established by Transport Canada under the direction of Smith in 1950, and it allowed full authorization and permission for Smith to use Department of Transport facilities and resources for their purposes. The main aim of Project Magnet was to collect data about U̳F̳O̳s and to apply any recovered data to practical engineering and technology, as well as to look into methods by which these mysterious objects propelled themselves and the possibility of exploiting Earth’s magnetic field as a source of propulsion for vehicles, which was Smith’s theory on how U̳F̳O̳s operated. Indeed, Smith was certain that if these U̳F̳O̳s were real, then they were certainly using some sort of harnessing of geomagnetic forces to fly, and he believed that through the project he could prove this. Basically, they wanted to not only study U̳F̳O̳s, but actually get their hands on a̳l̳i̳e̳n̳ tech and propulsion methods and reverse engineer it. He famously was briefed at the time by Dr. Robert I Sarbacher, a physicist and consultant to the Defense Department’s Research and Development Board at the Canadian Embassy, and a transcript of their bizarre conversation reads in part:
Wilbert Brockhouse Smith (WBS): I am doing some work on the collapse of the earth’s magnetic field as a source of energy, and I think our work may have a bearing on flying saucers.
Robert I Sarbacher (RIS): What do you want to know?
WBS: I have read (Frank) Scully’s book on the saucers and I would like to know how much of it is true.
RIS: the facts reported in the book are substantially correct.
WBS: Then the saucers exist?
RIS: Yes, they exist.
WBS: Do they operate as Scully suggests on magnetic principle?
RIS: We have not been able to duplicate their performance.
WBS: So they come from some other planet?
RIS: All we know is, that we didn’t make them, and it’s pretty certain they didn’t originate on the earth.
WBS: I understand the whole subject of saucers is classified.
RIS: Yes, it is classified two points higher than the H-bomb. In fact. it is the most highly classified subject in the U.S. government at the present time.
WBS: May I ask the reason for this classification?
RIS: You may ask. but I can’t tell you.
WBS: Is there any way in which I can get some information, particularly as it might fit in with our own work?
RIS: I suppose you could be cleared through your own Defense Department and I am pretty sure arrangements could be made to exchange information. If you have anything to contribute we would be glad to talk it over, but I can’t give you any more at the present time.
What does any of this mean? Who knows? During these early years, Smith was seen as a bit eccentric, to say the least. He wrote a memo in 1950, in which he reported that the Canadian government had already been building secret tech that utilized “oceanic radiation” and geomagnetism. In 1952, he claimed that he had come into possession of an actual piece of a UFO that had been lent to him by the U.S. government after shooting a flying saucer down. According to Smith, this piece would then go to a top-secret organization, with him unable to disclose who they were or what sort of information had been gleaned from the artifact. It sounds pretty far-out, but Smith managed to get full funding for this endeavor from the Canadian government and access to pretty much any resources he needed. In November of 1953, Project Magnet established a “flying saucer sighting station” at Shirley’s bay, outside of Ottawa, which was kitted out with all manner of highly sophisticated instrumentation specially designed to detect flying saucers, including a gamma-ray counter, a magnetometer, a radio receiver, and a recording gravimeter, among others.
In 1952, the Canadian government formed a second UFO program called Project Second Storey, in which Smith was also involved, and in the meantime the station at Shirley’s Bay apparently had some success, as well. On August 8, 1954, Smith and his team reportedly picked up readings on their equipment of something flying overhead that did not match up with the signatures from any known aircraft. Unfortunately, at the time heavy fog prevented them from actually seeing what it was or photographing it, and the whole incident would be classified. By this time, Smith was starting to derail a bit. He began to claim that he was actually in telepathic contact with aliens, who he called the “Space Brothers” and “The Boys from Topside,” and that their ships were controlled through psychic powers. He also said that the aliens had told him that the speed of light is not constant, and that their craft were powered by gravitational forces, further claiming that he had top-secret evidence that all of this was true. Such high-profile and controversial claims were seen as a bit of an embarrassment by the Canadian government. Project Magnet would stop being funded by the government in 1954, but would soldier on with private funding, and Smith would do alright for himself, becoming superintendent of Radio Regulations Engineering for all of Canada in 1957.
Smith would continue to use Shirley’s Bay and claim that the both the American and Canadian governments had alien technology all the way up to his death in 1962. His files and personal research were hidden away by his wife, not getting out into the open until the 1970s. It has since been picked apart again and again, and it is hard to say whether this guy actually knew what he was talking about or if he was perhaps a bit off his rocker. He was certainly qualified in his field, and did have access to secrets and UFO research, but was he really disclosing or was this delusional rantings? Whatever the case may be, Smith remains a prominent feature on the landscape of UFOs in Canadian history, and his story is a weird account that perhaps should not be dismissed entirely.