Fact Check

Did Nixon Hide Proof of Alien Life in a Time Capsule?

A shadowy Watergate-era figure who claims he had personal access to Richard Nixon says the president showed him a letter confirming the existence of extraterrestrials.

Published March 23, 2018

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Image courtesy of mark reinstein / Shutterstock
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President Richard Nixon hid a time capsule in the White House containing evidence of alien life and human contact with extraterrestrials.

It is an article of faith among UFO conspiracy theorists that every United States president since Franklin Roosevelt has been privy to top secret evidence of the existence of extraterrestrial life. 

According to the 2015 book The Presidents And UFOs: A Secret History From FDR To Obama, virtually all of them wanted to go public with the knowledge of who (or what) is responsible for sightings of unidentified flying objects, but were blocked by intelligence officials.

Richard Nixon — who, according to the book's author, Larry Holcombe, was convinced that "a limited level of UFO disclosure" would ensure his place in history — went to extraordinary lengths to preserve that information for posterity, if more recent reports are to be believed.

A 20 March 2018 article on the conspiracy-oriented blog YourNewsWire.com featured quotes from a phone interview with Robert Merritt, a sometime police informant and — according to him — covert domestic intelligence operative for the Nixon administration, in which he says he was shown proof of extraterrestrial life during a face-to-face meeting with the president:

... In what appears to be a startling new twist, Merritt reveals to Liszt that he met three times with President Nixon in a "deep underground location beneath the White House. In the first, Nixon read him a letter stating that U.S. was protecting an extraterrestrial being and that scientists at Los Alamos were able to communicate with it and obtain "advanced technology and science."

Nixon then sealed the letter in a "time capsule" that he hid somewhere in the White House.

In another meeting, Merritt says Nixon told him to deliver a copy of the letter (which Nixon allegedly taped to Merritt's stomach) to National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger and not to tell anyone about it. Now, Merritt says co-author Douglas Caddy has notified the National Archive that Nixon's so-called time capsule is still in the White House and he (Caddy) will reveal the location if the National Archive agrees to read the letter to the public.

It's more than a little preposterous. We listened to the entire 75-minute interview with Merritt, conducted by self-styled "Dark Journalist" Daniel Liszt, in hopes that we could make better sense of it.

We couldn't. The absurdities and contradictions are too glaring and too many.

Merritt says the last of his three one-on-one meetings with Richard Nixon occurred in July 1972, just after news of the Watergate burglary broke. He found Nixon in tears, fearing for the survival of his presidency. But that wasn't the reason Nixon had asked him there. He wanted to talk about aliens. This is from a partial transcript of the interview provided by EarthFiles.com:

MERRITT: He had this letter. He pulled it out, and he read this one piece of paper to me. And then he put that letter in a manila envelope, and he put a gold seal over top of the middle, and then he put a piece of tape across that, and on the front was handwritten, "To Henry Kissinger." He asked for it to be hand-delivered or mailed, whichever was best or safest to do.

LISZT: Now, this letter was very important. Can you describe the letter for me?

MERRITT: It was two red lines. They looked like a scientific formula with letters, numbers, and other scientific symbols that would be used, like chemistry symbols. He said, "We possess the knowledge, and we have in our protection," and he said, "subjects from the Planet X." And I asked him one question, and he didn't seem to like what I asked him, but I said, "Are these the things in Mexico or Area 51?" He seemed to be offended by the fact that maybe I knew this.

LISZT: Okay, now in this final meeting with Nixon, he's reading you this letter, he shows you this formula, and he's now mentioning an alien that they have in protection, and he's a little annoyed that you mentioned the being was in custody or being held. 

MERRITT: Yes. The word he used was "protected," not "captured," not "in captivity." He didn't used any words that would mean against the will. You know as well as I do that if we had a being like that, yes, it would be in captivity. I don't think we'd let it walk down the street.

LISZT: You said he mentioned that scientists at Los Alamos had learned to communicate with this being. What did he say about that?

MERRITT: That we had obtained a very vast amount of knowledge, very powerful, to possess this knowledge and was able to learn from it, would be the most powerful nation or government in the entire world and could rule the world.

Merritt would have us believe that almost a half-century ago, Nixon had earth-shattering evidence that the U.S. government possessed advanced scientific knowledge gleaned from aliens (knowledge that made the television show Star Trek look "antiquated," the president supposedly said), and what he chose to do with it was hide it in a time capsule  of which Nixon never spoke again.

Moreover, Nixon allegedly shared this revelation with only two other people: Merritt, a shadowy dirty tricks operative the president barely knew, and his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, who himself has never spoken of the matter.

Nixon said whatever nation possessed this advanced knowledge could "rule the world." What became of it? What became of the alien(s)? What became of their alleged home planet, "Planet X" (which, in astronomers' parlance, refers to a hypothetical, yet-to-be-discovered planet beyond the orbit of Pluto)? What became of the manila envelope taped to Merritt's stomach?

Actually, we do know what became of the latter. According to Merritt, he popped it in a mailbox. (So much for Nixon's adhesive tape spycraft.) The rest is a mystery wrapped in an enigma inside a bad science fiction novel.

Merritt is, without a doubt, a colorful figure, and no stranger to conspiracy theories. His previous claim to fame was a book co-written in 2010 with Douglas Caddy, an attorney who briefly represented the Watergate burglars in 1972, which was billed as an "exposé" of the Watergate scandal. Merritt maintains that Nixon was innocent of complicity in the break-in and cover-up. Instead, he was supposedly "set up" by conspirators inside the Pentagon and intelligence agencies who concocted the scandal to bring the president down. The historical record says otherwise.

As to Richard Nixon's supposed interest in and knowledge of extraterrestrial life, apart from unsourced quotes cited by UFO enthusiasts and a dubious supermarket tabloid story published in 1983, there's little evidence that he gave it much thought at all.

Said story, which ran in the infamously unreliable National Enquirer under the byline of Beverly Gleason (the ex-wife of television comedian Jackie Gleason), describes an incident that had allegedly occurred ten years before:

Space aliens exist! Ask Jackie Gleason — he's actually seen them.

I'll never forget the night in 1973 my famous husband came home, slumped white-faced in an armchair and spilled out the incredible story to me.

He was late. It was around 11:30 p.m. and I'd been worried. As soon as I heard his key turn in the lock of our golf course home in Inverary, Fla., I jumped to my feet and asked, "Where have you been?"

His reply stunned me:

"I've been at Homestead Air Force Base — and I've seen the bodies of some aliens from outer space.

"It's top secret. Only a few people know. But the President arranged for me to be escorted in there and see them."


"And there were the aliens, lying on four separate tables.

"They were tiny — only about two feet tall — with small bald heads and disproportionately large years.

"They must have been dead for some time because they'd been embalmed."

Gleason's story was incredible indeed — though not too incredible to be published in the National Enquirer, the pages of which were often filled with outlandish reports of supernatural occurrences. There is little reason to believe that it's anything other than a tall tale.

An entry in Richard Nixon's daily diary confirms he was with Jackie Gleason at a celebrity golf tournament in Lauderhill, Florida on 19 February 1973. The president's tight schedule left zero room for a side-trip to gawk at alien corpses, however. At 12:10 p.m. he was delivered by helicopter to the Inverrary Golf and Country Club, where he was greeted by Jackie Gleason. After motoring to the eighteenth green in a golf cart, Gleason introduced the president to the assembled guests, to whom he spoke for around 10 minutes. By 12:30, Nixon was back at the helipad, and on his way to his Key Biscayne compound. We found no other records of Nixon and Gleason meeting in 1973.

The fact is, according to Nixon confidant Frank Gannon, who spent many hours interviewing him and editing his memoirs during the late 1970s and early '80s, the ex-president evinced no interest in UFOs or extraterrestrial life at all:

At one point during our labors in San Clemente, I asked RN if he believed in UFOs and if there was anything to the whole Roswell Area 51 business. He raised his eyebrows and rolled his eyes and I moved right on to the next subject.

In a coda to the E.T. time capsule story, Robert Merritt's co-writer Douglas Caddy penned a February 2018 missive to the National Archives and Records Administration offering to disclose the location of Nixon's secret letter on the condition that its contents — "if the document is discovered" — be made public. He has yet to be taken up on the offer.

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Emspak, Jesse.  "A Brief History of the Hunt for Planet X."   Smithsonian.  15 December 2018.

Gannon, Frank.  "RN Call Home."   Richard Nixon Foundation.  April 2009.

Howe, Linda Moulton.  "President Richard Nixon's Secret Meetings with Huston Plan Covert Agent Robert Merritt."   EarthFiles.  2 March 2018.

Rothschild, Mike.  "Richard Nixon, Jackie Gleason and Some Dead Aliens."   Skeptoid.  8 April 2013.

Sheridan, Peter.  "UFOs Over the White House: Do the U.S. Presidents Know About the Existence of Aliens?"   The Express.  2 May 2015.

Dark Journalist.  "Nixon's ET Time Capsule."   14 February 2018.

David Emery is a West Coast-based writer and editor with 25 years of experience fact-checking rumors, hoaxes, and contemporary legends.