Canadian 'thing in the woods' was a CIA spy camera

A 55-year-old family mystery was finally solved this week just hours after the story appeared on Canadian television, the CBC reports. In 1962, a woodsman searching for timber in the forest of Lutes Mountain in New Brunswick, Canada, found a large white box hanging from a tree by a parachute.

Inside the box, David McPherson Sr. and his family found two cameras. A few days later, the Canadian military took the box away, and despite promises from the government and two access-to-information requests to the Department of Defense over the next decades, the McPhersons never saw the box again.

Then the CBC reported on the so–called "thing in the woods" on Tuesday, and within hours tips began coming in from viewers, and soon the mystery was solved.

Viewers pointed the CBC to the Military Communications and Electronics Museum in Kingston, Ont., and to declassified documents on the CIA website, both of which had photographs of an AN/DMQ-1 gondola, part of American surveillance equipment used in the 1950s to conduct reconnaissance of Soviet Russia and Communist China as part of an operation called Project Genetrix.

The project was run alongside a "front" operation involving weather balloons, and the National Reconnaissance Office explains that of the 516 camera-carrying high-altitude balloons launched as part of the program, most weren't recovered by the US; "useful intelligence" was gleaned from just 34 of them.

Though the discovery marks the end of a half-century of wondering for the McPherson family, it came too late for the man who found the mystery box in the first place.

David McPherson Sr. died 18 months ago. (Read about another mystery that's been solved.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: Canadian 'Thing in the Woods' Was a CIA Spy Camera