Guest Historian Chris Oakley says, what if the events portrayed in Land Of The Giants really happened If you're interested in viewing samples of my other work why not visit the Changing the Times web site.
In 1983, on this day energy mogul and self-made millionaire Mark Wilson held a press conference at his Houston corporate headquarters to reveal the existence of a series of home movies he'd filmed of the time-space rift described by Alexander B. Fitzhugh in his account of the so-called "land of giants" at first the media were reluctant to lend much credence to these films, fearful they might be as phony as the bogus "Hitler diaries" that had duped the world a few months earlier, but after extensive photographic analysis it was determined that the films were genuine and the press started taking the rift idea more seriously.
Giant Surprise Part 3Three weeks after Wilson's press conference the Reagan Administration's top science officials met at the White House to determine what should be done next in regard to the phenomenon; the end result of this meeting was Project Spindrift, a combined NASA/Defense Department program that marked the first serious effort in human history to explore parallel universes.
In 1983, thirteen-year-old Barry Lockridge, an orphan who'd been on his way to London to move in with relatives at the time of the "land of giants" incident, received an interview request from BBC News.
Giant Surprise Part 4That evening, in a one-hour taped meeting held at BBC's main studios, he described seeing an anomaly very much like the one shown in Mark Wilson's home movies and encountering one of the giant humanoids Alexander Fitzhugh had mentioned in his admissions interview at Bethesda Naval Hospital. Barry's account of the "land of giants" incident quickly caught the attention of scientists at Oxford University, who in turn later sent a transcript of the BBC interview to Project Spindrift's staff in Washington. Within two months, Barry would be the most famous British male under 18 next to Princess Diana's son Prince William.
A week after the Lockridge interview was broadcast on the BBC it was shown in the United States as part of a Nightline segment; while the U.S. government had no official comment on the content of the interview, journalists noted with interest that Lt. Cmdr. Fitzhugh was released from Bethesda within hours after the video aired on ABC.
In 1983, on this day United Airlines pilot Steve Burton (pictured), captain of the crew for the flight on which Lt. Cmdr. Alexander B. Fitzhugh had been a passenger just before his commitment to Bethesda Naval Hospital's psychiatric wing, was approached by NASA officials and asked to join the Project Spindrift team as a special consultant.
Giant Surprise Part 5Burton's plane frequently traveled the route on which Fitzhugh had seen the time-space rift mentioned in his account of the "land of giants" incident; for the veteran airline pilot, who had once aspired to join NASA's space shuttle program but had to withdraw his application due to family troubles, the Spindrift invitation represented a second chance he'd been waiting for nearly a decade.
Burton's chief mentor in his training for Project Spindrift was U.S. Air Force colonel and Vietnam veteran Doug Ross, a longtime shuttle pilot who during his second mission aboard Columbia had collected evidence suggesting Earth had a twin, or "doppelganger", on the far side of the Sun. After reading Fitzhugh's "land of giants" story, Ross became convinced Fitzhugh had discovered a shortcut to the "doppelganger" planet.
In 1983, Betty Hamilton, onetime chief stewardess on Steve Burton's old flight crew, testified before a Congressional science sub-committee concerning her experiences with the time-space rift described by Alexander B. Fitzhugh in his account of the so-called "land of giants" incident.
Giant Surprise Part 6Ms. Hamilton's testimony gave further insight into the nature of the rift and was used as a guide for writing the mission profile for the first manned flight of Project Spindrift.
A transcript of the hearing was subsequently forwarded to European Space Agency director Jason Webb, who flew to Cape Canaveral a week later for further debriefing. Webb would eventually come to be more closely associated with Project Spindrift than anyone other than Burton or Fitzhugh.
In 1983, on this day European Space Agency director Jason Webb (pictured) visited Cape Canaveral for a debriefing on the "land of giants" incident and Betty Hamilton's testimony before Congress.
Giant Surprise Part 7Webb, an ex-Oxford professor who had also been a science consultant to British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, would eventually become one of the key forces behind Project Spindrift; it was partly on his recommendation that fellow Oxford alumnus John Kane was included with Steve Burton and Col. Doug Ross on the primary flight crew for Spindrift's first mission. Webb would continue to play a major role in Project Spindrift until 1995, when chronic heart problems forced him into early retirement.
Yet for all his cardiac troubles Webb was considerably more fortunate than Dr. Kane, who was killed in a car crash shortly after the first Spindrift mission returned to Earth, or Colonel Ross, who died in the Challenger explosion in 1986.
In 1983, the nuclear-powered submarine USS Seaview, then under the command of Admiral Harriman Nelson, was dispatched to the North Atlantic to oversee experiments related to Project Spindrift
Giant Surprise Part 8For the men and women of Seaview, at the time the world's largest nuclear sub, this marked the second time in a decade they'd been involved in a scientific project of global importance; the first came in 1973, when they spent six weeks in the Arctic Circle monitoring the Van Allen belt.
In 1983, on this day U.S. Navy Lt. Commander Alexander B. Fitzhugh was committed to Bethesda Naval Hospital's psychiatric ward after an incident in which he accosed the pilot of a London-bound United Airlines jet and urged the jet's flight crew to turn around "before it's too late".
Part 1When later questioned by hospital psychiatrists what that remark meant, Lt. Cmdr.
Fitzhugh claimed that on a previous flight to London his plane had been drawn into a time-space rift and crash-landed in what he described as "a land of giants" populated by people ten times the size of a normal human being. Initially his doctors regarded his story as a delusion resulting from the post-traumatic stress disorder Fitzhugh had suffered since serving a grueling tour of duty in Vietnam 25 years earlier; however, when three of the commander's fellow passengers came forward with similar accounts of the rift Fitzhugh had described, the staff of Bethesda began to think maybe their patient wasn't so delusional after all.
In 1983, on this day socialite and former Studio 54 disco regular Valerie Scott met with 60 Minutes correspondent Morley Safer in Los Angeles to recount her experiences with the time-space rift described by Lt. Cmdr. Alexander Fitzhugh to his doctors at Bethesda shortly after his admission to the hospital's psychiatric ward.
Part 2Scott's interview was the first account by someone other than Fitzhugh about the so-called "land of giants" the commander had alluded to in his initial therapeutic session; her story, like his, was at first viewed with skepticism as she had been known as a serious drinker in her Studio 54 heyday. In fact, at the time the 60 Minutes interview was broadcast Scott was preparing to file a libel suit against the National Enquirer for printing a story which alleged she had relapsed into alcoholism.
Scott's comments about the rift might have been dismissed as a hallucination but for two small yet important events. First, on the day after CBS aired the Scott interview a routine pass by a U.S. weather satellite over England picked up unusual electrical surges in the vicinity of where Fitzhugh said the phenomenon had originated; second, in early July energy tycoon and amateur film buff Mark Wilson released to the press a series of home movies clearly showing the rift's outline as well as brief glimpses of the so-called "land of giants".
© Today in Alternate History, 2013-. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.