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Weird and Wonderful Government Publications: Home

There are some odd and interesting materials published by various government agencies. This is a place to share those strange and the stunning materials.


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Why Highlight These Publications?

Weird and Wonderful publications are one way to highlight your collection. These items grab people's attention.

The 2022 FDL Conference (DLC) had several presentations that included documents that got the participants talking. Be sure to look for suggestions in the chat of recorded sessions. It was clear to us that the "unusual" titles pulled people in - more than documents "on topic". In 2022 Fall DLC: Feeling Democracy: Connecting students with civics using primary sources and government documents, Allan Van Hoye said that it was more effective to use interesting examples over uninteresting but relevant examples. The emotional connection is important to get people interested in what you are talking about.

Witches, Witchcraft, Wicca

Halloween is a time when people think of spooky things - and conjure up popular culture images of witches - like Bewitched, Hocus Pocus. The three witches from Macbeth might be one of the most quoted lines from Shakespeare.

Double double toil and trouble/Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

But are these images accurate? Fair?

The Connecticut State Archives New Haven County Court Records blog looks at 17th and 18th century legal cases and tries to place them in historic context, with a focus on people of color and women. The post linked below is one example of how accusations of witchcraft were used to control women. Even after Connecticut had stopped witch trials (1670 was the last execution for witchcraft in Connecticut), accusations continued in civil cases like Elizabeth Gould vs Benjamin Chittenden, 1742. See the link below for a blog post about this case.

Current Day

 Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Dettmer v. Landon (1986), that Wicca is a religion protected by the First Amendment.

Attempts to explain different belief systems don't always get it right. Wicca is a modern belief system that is often misunderstood as devil worship or popular culture notions of witchcraft. 

The Department of Defense has Religious Awareness Fact Sheets, including one for Wicca. The Military Chaplains Handbook recognizes Wicca as a formal religion. Washington State Department of Corrections has INFOGRAPHIC: Wicca, Druidry, Paganism, Asatru, What Are Theythat cites Wikipedia as its source.



Not every accusation of witchcraft ended in death. Sarah Morin writes in a blog for the Connecticut State Library:

"Given that the last known witchcraft trial in Connecticut occurred in 1697 and the last known executions for witchcraft took place in 1662-1663 (Connecticut General Assembly, Connecticut Witch Trials and Posthumous Pardons), it was quite the surprise to come across this case in 1742. A widow named Elizabeth Gould sued a man named Benjamin Chittenden (or Chittendon, as the writ also referred to him) for slandering her as a witch. Both the plaintiff and the defendant resided in the North Parish of Guilford....

"As discussed in the previous post, women in colonial Connecticut were entirely dependent on their families, neighbors, and social networks for survival, and to be cut off from them was tantamount to exile. This kind of slander was not merely devastating to women on an emotional level, it also threatened their very livelihoods, which helps explain why Gould requested the enormous sum of 500 pounds in damages for Chittenden’s defamation of her character.

"It was somewhat challenging to determine the outcome of Gould’s lawsuit. When consulting the record book—a tome in which the outcomes of cases were normally transcribed in beautiful and legible handwriting—we found various sections crossed out, which made some portions of the entry difficult to decipher.

"Perhaps there was some contention over the particulars of the case. Or perhaps J. Whiting, Clerk, was having an off day. Whatever the case, it seems that the Court deemed Gould’s assertions insufficient. This was not necessarily entirely due to sexism, as many plaintiffs’ declarations of slander were ruled insufficient between 1710 to 1750 (Cornelia Hughes Dayton, Women Before the Bar: Gender, Law, & Society in Connecticut, 1639-1789, p. 307). However, to add insult to injury, the Court awarded Chittenden the recovery of his court costs. Gould was allowed to appeal to the Superior Court, and a man named Thomas Gould (most likely her son) was bound on recognizance of 30 pounds on her behalf, “payable to the [Treasurer] of this County if the plaintiff Do not prosecute and appeal to Effect and answer all Damages in Case She make not her plea Good” (County Court Records, New Haven County, Vol. 4, 1739 to 1755, p. 139).... So while the courts of New Haven County had evolved past indulging regular citizens’ fear of witchcraft by the 1740s, they still appeared to believe that this maligned widow had done something to merit such callous dismissal."


Many government agencies have publications to get you in the mood for Halloween. 


 STS-95 crewmembers hold up masks of Senator John Glenn as their Halloween disguises


Of course, there are always safety guides.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) describes itself as "the nation’s leading science-based, data-driven, service organization that protects the public’s health." So, of course, they published these about prevention.

Don't Be A Zombie Be Prepared

Face & hands peering out. CDC zombie posterby Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S.) 


Featured items

saucer shaped aircraft with U.S.A.F. written on it

A look at unidentified flying objects, (UFOs) and the government

The report Preliminary Assessment: Unidentified Aerial Phenomena was submitted to Congress on June 25th 2021. This is not the first report of its kind and probably won’t be the last. How did we get here?

The FBI and the National Investigations Committee On Aerial Phenomena

Government interest in UFOs gates back to at least 1947 when the FBI was collecting information on the National Investigations Committee On Aerial Phenomena. NICAP was an organization that pushed for congressional investigations of UFOs. They published reports including The UFO evidence, by Richard H. Hall,  1964 which stated “This report is an attempt to clarify the reliable evidence of UFOs, and to remove the fog mysticism and crackpotism which has helped obscure the real issues.” - National Investigations Committee On Aerial Phenomena.

Their efforts paid off with members of congress taking up the issue: 

“Again and again officials pooh-pooh the sightings or the stories. Yet the National Investigating Committee on Aerial Phenomena -NICAP- has accumulated a book of sightings going back more than a decade reporting many instances of dual pilot corroboration by radar and otherwise. The most recent reported instance of UFO's was that in Colorado last week in connection with the carcass of a horse from which the brain cavity had reportedly been emptied.” Investigation of Unidentified Flying Objects- 1967 Con. Rec. 10/16/1967, 28949

The FBI Vault has newspaper clippings, letters, memos and other documents related to the NICAP.

National Investigations Committee On Aerial Phenomena (NICAP)- FBI Vault.
National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) Part 1 of 3
National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) Part 2 of 3
National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) Part 3 of 3

The FBI Vault also has a 16 part series of documents on UFO sightings from 1947-1954.

Project Blue Book, U.S. Air Force and Flying Saucers

Project Blue Book was one of several U.S. Air Force investigations into UFOs. Their documentation was transferred to the National Archives. The materials include home movies and are highlighted in the NARA blog The Unwritten Record. The FBI also collected information on this program which is available in the FBI Vault. Project Bluebook- 1947-1969.

In 1966 testimony was given by the Secretary of the Air Force, Harold Brown. Regarding UFO he stated: "the past 18 years of investigating unidentified flying objects have not identified any threat to our national security, or evidence of extraterrestrial vehicles” (Unidentified flying objects : hearing by Committee on Armed Forces of the House of Representatives, Eighty-ninth Congress, second session. April 5, 1966, United States. Congress. House. Committee on Armed Services. 5592).

In the 1950s the U.S. Air Force was working on developing a saucer-shaped aircraft (image at the top of this page). There is speculation that Project 1794  is the origin of the flying saucer sightings. Project 1794, Final Development Summary Report (d.1956)

In 1966 the University of Colorado was chosen by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research to manage a program to study UFOs.  This was known as the University of Colorado UFO Project (Condon Committee) 1966-1968. Their 1968 report: Final Report of the Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects, Conducted by the University of Colorado Under Contract to the United States Air Force, was reviewed by the National Academy of Science which issued Hypotheses of Extraterrestrial Origin.


Since their constituents were interested the subject of UFOs was repeatedly brought up in congress.

In 1957 Congressman Roland Libonati spoke on Flying Saucers and what the Air Force knew about this aerial phenomena (con. rec. 1958, pg 11657). A new twist on UFO story was added in 1967 when Congressman Wyman spoke on UFOs and an incident in Colorado with a horse (Con, Rec. 10/16/1967. 28949).

A hearing on July 29, 1968 called the Symposium on unidentified flying objects included six scientists who spoke to congress about UFOs. Professor J. Allan Hynek, in his opening statement says "The UFO problem has been with us now for many years. It would be difficult to find another subject which has claimed as much attention in the world press, in conversation of people of all walks f life, which has captured the imagination of so many over so long a period of time.”

Steven H. Schiff (Rep. New Mexico) made inquiries into UFO sightings in his state and received the July 1995 report from the General Accounting Office (GAO) on the Roswell Incident. This 26 page report shows where the GAO searched for documentation and the responses of various agencies. The report stated "After nearly 50 years, speculation continues on what crashed at Roswell. Some observers believe that the object was of extraterrestrial origin. In the July 1994 Report of Air Force Research Regarding the Roswell Incident, the Air Force did not dispute that something happened near Roswell but reported that the most likely source of the wreckage was from a balloon-launched classified government project designed to determine the state of Soviet nuclear weapons research. The debate on what crashed at Roswell continues.”

Roswell and cows

In 1974, the FBI responded to Nebraska Senator Curtis that they were unable to investigate cattle mutilations due to a lack of jurisdiction- the cattle had not been moved across state lines. They provided a similar response to Colorado Senator Haskell (Animal Mutilations part 1).

In 1979 there were reports of mutilations on Indian Reservations in New Mexico that this fell within the FBI’s jurisdiction. An investigation in New Mexico resulted in Operation animal mutilation: report of the district attorney first judicial district, state of New Mexico Kenneth M. Rommel, 1981. In the 1980s theories on the possible culprits included Satanists, witches, pranksters, unknown government agencies, and extraterrestrial visitors (see part 5 of 5).

The FBI Vault has reports, correspondence, and news clippings.

Animal Mutilation Part 1 of 5
Animal Mutilation Part 2 of 5

Animal Mutilation Part 3 of 5

Animal Mutilation Part 4 of 5

Animal Mutilation Part 5 of 5

The GAO report didn't have enough answers and readers wanted more. What crashed in the desert outside of Roswell, New Mexico in 1947? X-Files fans wanted to know! These volumes are seeped in Cold War intrigue, science experiments, and conspiracy!

The Roswell Report: Fact Versus Fiction in the New Mexico Desert (1995)

The Roswell report : case closed (1997)


There was so much interest that the Library of Congress was compiling bibliographies of literature related to the issue. These sources are a great resource for those who would like to dive deeply into UFO lore.

UFO’s And Related Subjects: an annotated bibliography, compiled by Lynn Cato, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, 1969. The creation of this bibliography was under the direction of Dr. Edward Condon, of the University of Colorado.

Unidentified flying objects : a selected bibliography, compiled by Kay Rodgers, Library of Congress, 1976  

Vicki Tate of USA  Marx Library compiled this great bibliography: UFOs & UAPs, Unidentified Flying Objects or Unidentified Aerial Phenomena

2020- the UFO question returns

Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP) 2004-2012 was part of the Defense Intelligence Agency. AATIP did not issue any public reports but is considered the forerunner of the Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force. This task force is included in The Intelligence Authorization act for Fiscal Year 2021 (June 17, 2020)  where is was charged to “standardize collection and reporting on unidentified aerial phenomenon, any links they have to adversarial foreign governments, and the threat they pose to U.S. military assets and installations.” This task force was established on August 4, 2020.

Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena: Implications on National Security, Public Safety, and Government Transparency, Committee on Oversight and Accountability, July 26th, 2023.

Want more? The NSA has an extensive list of UFO related materials.


Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of government information

Have you ever seen a report or a pamphlet that made you smile? Or made you wonder what the heck was going on? This guide seeks to shine a light on these official oddities and treasures past and present.

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Using the language of Library of Congress disclaimers:

This blog does not represent official Government Documents Round Table (GODORT)  communications.

Links to external Internet sites on this GODORT web page do not constitute GODORT's endorsement of the content of their web sites or of their policies or products.

And adapting  National Archives (NARA) language:

This blog may link to some content that may be harmful or difficult to view. Government publications span the history of the United States (and earlier), and it is libraries' charge to preserve and make available these historical records. As a result, some of the materials presented here may reflect outdated, biased, offensive, and possibly violent views and opinions. In addition, some of the materials may relate to violent or graphic events and are preserved for their historical significance. 

Especially with older publications.