Star Tribune from Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 21, 1961 · Page 183
Get access to this page with a Free Trial

A Publisher Extra Newspaper

Star Tribune from Minneapolis, Minnesota · Page 183

Publication:
Location:
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Issue Date:
Sunday, May 21, 1961
Page:
Page 183
Start Free Trial
Cancel

Thi Swdidlei Fiom Outei Space Continued fiom page 9 The swindler came back to hie up in the web of Berney's fanciful narrative. She bought more and more stock for herself and her relatives in the Telewand Corporation, for Tele-wand, Berney assured her, would reap enormous profits once the Modulator was in production. And in addition, by investing the money she was performing a patriotic service for her country. Then bewildering tragedy seemed to strike. Berney had left Washington again, and on April 5, 1955, Miss Bock was at home when the phone rang." It was Texas calling, and the caller identified himself as Uccelles. He told her that Berney was critically ill and in a state of shock. The following evening, there was a second call. This time it was a weird-sounding male voice saying that Berney had died on Venus. Miss Bock acted swiftly. Recalling that Berney's connection with Venus was known only in the highest places, she attempted to see the President. But she could not get through to him, A mysterious letter A week later she received the first of three letters purporting to come from Prince Uccelles. The envelope had not come through the mails but arrived mysteriously on her desk, addressed in green ink with a broad instrument like a quill. It ignored the telephoned message that Berney was dead but said he was very much in need of money. "I will be able to give him $500 which will tide his small bills, but he will need about $3,000 for the others," Uccelles wrote. It was five months before 6he heard from Uccelles again. Then she received a letter postmarked at San Antonio, Texas, on September 12 and written with the same sort of broad instrument. Again, the letter requested money, and Miss Bock sent $4,500 to an address in Texas. In his first two letters, Prince Uccelles referred to Berney as Haluas, the name by which he was known to Venutians, and indicated the Earthman was receiving treatment on Venus. Les9 than a month later, Miss Bock had a third letter postmarked at Mineral Wells, Texas, on October 4. It told her that "our most worthy friend has now passed through a complete process of regeneration." The letter closed with the news that Berney would be returned from Venus to Earth at Dallas, Texas. So, in the fall of 1955, Berney came back to Washington. He had great tales to tell. The trip to Venus had been made in a space ship two miles long, and there had been a brief stopover on the Moon, a way station with which Venus conducted trade. In spite of his illness, Berney had been received with ceremony on Venus and, after bis recovery, he found a civilization advanced far beyond our own in technological achievements. He described apartments and office buildings that dwarfed the Washington Monument. Gold was so plentiful it was used in plumbing fixtures. By the spring of 1956, he was putting his experiences in a book, and Miss Bock was typing the manuscript. Smooth sailing--almost! And now her story came quickly to a climax and a conclusion. That summer of 1956, work was going well on the manuscript when Berney received a call which took him to Pittsburgh. He was back soon with wonderful news, he told Miss Bock. 'The difficulties in the development of the Modulator have been ironed out. Westinghouse technicians are going to concentrate their full attention on it." But there was a new financial problem: Berney had promised ten of the corporation's officials $1,000 each for finishing the Modulator by a certain deadline. If Miss Bock could advance the money, he would put it in the joint account he had established in their names in a Pittsburgh bank. He went back to Pittsburgh, and she sent the check for $10,000 on August 29. He wrote to thank her next day. He returned to Washington in early October to say that everything was going well the Modulator a success. And that was the last time Miss Bock saw him outside a jail or a courtroom. The FBI steps in The FBI first learned about Berney's activity from the Washington police a few months later. Step by step, FBI agents pursued their investigation while carrying on interviews with Miss Bock. They learned that Berney had indeed been in Pittsburgh, though he hadn't been near the Westing-house Corporation. He had checked out of his hotel on October 21, after having his Oldsmobile Letter from 'Prince Uccelles'. Note 'Venation signature serviced and purchasing $600 worth of sign-painting supplies from a nearby dealer. The $10,000 check had been duly deposited in the joint account and the full amount withdrawn by Berney shortly after. Where the man was headed when he left Pittsburgh, he had confided to no one. Meanwhile, the FBI laboratory had let ters and check indorsements by Berney as well as the flamboyant letters purporting to come from Prince Uccelles (see above). In spite of the royal penmanship, it was determined these were Berney's handiwork. Miss Bock had remained in touch with Berney's wife, and Mrs. Berney was able to furnish valuable leads. Her husband must have gone to Texas, for she received a package postmarked on November 13, 1956, at Eagle Pass. It contained a camera, Berney's billfold with about $300 and identification papers, his watch, a set of cuff links and a tie pin with the initials "H. B." There was also one of those script-letters on parchment this time from Prince Uccelles. It related the sad news that Berney had died and his body was lying in state on Venus. Mrs. Berney did not believe the Venus story. She concluded he had deserted her. Then, in mid-December, her husband called her from an earthly phone booth in the South. She received a letter from him on January 11, 1957, postmarked Meridian, Miss., and there was another phone call on February 6. He wanted his wife to leave Washington and rejoin him, but Mrs. Berney refused. On March 8, a Federal warrant was issued in Washington for Berney's airest, and the Field Offices in Atlanta, Mobile, New Orleans and Savannah were alerted that the space traveler might be operating or hiding in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi or Louisiana. Agents across the entire South were now on the hunt. No place to hide With such a massive search in progress, the fugitive could not stay hidden long. On March 21, an agent assigned to the FBI's office in Mobile learned that a 1955 Oldsmobile had been registered in Alabama the previous November 7 by one Hal Berney of North Craft Highway in Prichard, not far from Mobile. Agents drove over. A new sign-painting company occupied the address. One of the agents approached a man working nearby and showed him a photograph of Berney. Sure, Berney lived there, the man said. He was probably at his fiancee's home on West Street. An agent started driving toward West Street and presently saw a 1955 Oldsmobile with a man answering Berney's description at the wheel. When the agent motioned him to the curb, the driver readily complied and, as Berney got out and stood waiting, the FBI's search came to an end. Berney made no denial of his identity but he put on a fine show of indignation when he was told why the FBI wanted him. "Trip to Venus? Why, that's ridiculous!" he scoffed. Berney was still trying Well, it was, but it was a charge he had documented in detail during his conversations with Pauline Eva Bock, and he had proved it by the letters from Prince Uccelles, whose writing matched the signatures on checks Berney had endorsed. When we brought him back to Washington he seemed to sense it was futile to protest his innocence further. On April 9 he began to talk freely. Berney remained in jail until early autumn. Once, on a hopeful impulse, he sent a message to Miss Bock. He wanted her to help him win his release so he could re-establish contact with Venus! But Miss Bock wanted no further part of Berney's costly rambles through outer space. On October 3, 1957, Harold Jesse Berney appeared in Federal District Court in Washington and pleaded guilty to the charge of swindling Pauline Eva Bock. It had been a perfect crime as long as he could keep up the secrecy. But once the mist had blown aside from the Venus swindle, Berney quickly found there was no place on Earth to hide. He was tried and sentenced to serve from 20 months to five years in prison and sent to the Lorton Reformatory in Virginia. TU End You Can't Bury The Truth: "The Swindler From Outer Space" is Case .o. S in our special series by J. Edgar Hoover Jrom the files of te FBI. Look for the next in an early issue.

Get access to Newspapers.com

  • The largest online newspaper archive
  • 22,200+ newspapers from the 1700s–2000s
  • Millions of additional pages added every month

Publisher Extra® Newspapers

  • Exclusive licensed content from premium publishers like the Star Tribune
  • Archives through last month
  • Continually updated

Try it free