The Death and Life of British Ufology. [1970]
John Rimmer

From MUFOB volume 3, number 3, June-July 1970

MUFOB/Magonia had always been sceptical about the value of formally organised UFO groups, as this now rather dated and self -referential article demonstrates. Ufology has taken rather longer to die than we though was likely when it was written. My plea for ufology to be conducted “through correspondents, journals and temporary ad-hoc working groups” has been fulfilled, if you read it as “through e-mail, blogs and Internet discussion groups”. J.R.

Ufology in Britain is dead. The UFO phenomenon is not dead – yet. It manages to struggle on against a torrent of public apathy. The shadow of Condon lies long over the land. But the people it seems to envelop deepest are the ufologists.

British ufology is in-groupy, gossipy and sterile. With the exception of FSR, (a beacon in a dark and hopeless sea [at that time, Ed.]) and about two other journals the magazines offer stale re-hashes, endless reprints and trivia. Many are becoming simply receptacles for snippets of space-news from the national dailies, or the Novosti News Agency. Some of those that are worth reading are only so because of the hilarious lunacy of their editors. Reading the average British ufomag produces an alarming sense of deja-vu. The sane [sic., Ed. See comments] articles and names crop up constantly. Mr Albert Figgis, besides being editor of ‘Trivia — voice of tha 21st century’, is secretary of BUFLOP, president of DRIVEL (1) and Director General of SMERSH. An article printed in journal A is reprinted, usually without acknowledgement, in paraphrase, in journal B. If acknowledgement is given it is usually in the form of sycophantic back-slapping from one member of an in-group to another.

The in-groups how they flourish. There’s the Warminster in-group. A classic, this. Any attempt to take any kind of disinterested look at the vastly over-rated Warminster affair is greeted with a broadside from the big guns: vicious personal attack, ‘I am fed up with snide comments’, ‘this small minded carping’, ker-pew, Enemy critic sunk without trace, sir. Why does this in-group not realise that no Golden Tablets have been handed to anyone at Warminster and that there is room for other interpretations besides theirs? They may be right, God help us, but until such time as they are proved right, will they not allow an criticism of their briar-patch?

Then of course there’s the Scorriton in-group. Not aggressive these, just tedious. A few years ago they had their moment of glory, and they are loth to let it pass. An understandable human reaction, but why should it be inflicted on the rest of us? Then there’s the BUFORA in-group. Very interesting this one, It should be required study for organisational psychologists. The plots and counterplots are Machiavellian. I find them fascinating, but I am the sort of sadist who finds self-destruction fascinating. To the average ufologist, however, the great BUFORA saga is rapidly rivalling Jackie Onassis or John Lennon as one of Time magazine’s Bores of the Year. Yet the BUFORA people are all honourable men, why do they behave in this way? Chiefly, I think, because they have run out of ideas. Because they are sterile, devoid of any new ideas, incapable of adjusting a way of thinking. This loads to pomposity, a deep, self-assured feeling that any criticism is the work of an inferior intellect. This leads to pompous letters that are usually good for a laugh.

As someone once remarked about something else, the British UFO scene is a vast wasteland. The little local groups are sad, lost in the wilderness, held together by camaraderie, a feeling of obligation and little else. Their meetings consist of an elite lecturing each other in turns, repeating the same tired bromides and listless cliches. There is no life in these groups, witness their constantly pathetic appeals for funds. Surely anybody genuinely interested in ufology as a hobby or a serious study would not be loath to pay out money in pursuit of their interest. The average British ‘ufologist’ has no compunction against spending a small fortune on gardening, budgerigars, motor cars or wrought iron hall tables, but ask him to spend three and six on train fare to a meeting, or give a sub. of a pound or two to keep a magazine going, and watch him howl. MUFORG was one of the few honest UFO groups. When it was dead it had the decency to lie down and not inflict a spectacle of suffering on us.

Face it: The average ufologist wants to go to a group and hear someone telling him about the space people. If he’s over twenty-five he wants to hear about the nice space people. If he’s under twenty-five he wants to hear about the nasty space people. The last thing he wants to do is study and investigate, or pay out any of his easy earned money so that others can.

Even the investigation is limited. If you accept, as most do, that the UFOs are space craft there is little you can do except panic and wait for them to announce themselves, And most people are doing this very well indeed. Peter Rogerson pointed out in the last MUFOB that the much derided ‘Armchair Ufologist’ is in reality a vital part of any progress we may be making. It is the Armchair Ufologist who sifts through reports and books, on UFOs, ghosts, occultism, sociology, et aland offers balanced speculation. It is the serious researcher like John Keel who uncovers new and controversial data, who complements the work of the A.U. It is the average British Ufologist (who has probably never heard of John Keel or read FSR) who is too busy running up and down hills flashing lights to be able to do any constructive thinking.

As Lenin once remarked about something else: “What is to be done?” The answer of course is that there’s precious little that canbedone. It is impossible, not to mention probably illegal to go around and forcibly shut up the various bore-ins, (If one diddthis of course there would be the danger of closing off the rich in of unconscious humour that the more crackpot elements occasionally reveal, As a lover of lunacy in all its forms this, to me, is a very real danger.) The only course that seems in any way feasible is to cultivate an attitude of elegant detachment and turn one’s interest as much to the phenomenon of ufologists as to the phenomenon of UFOs.

This, whilst cathartic to the ego, does little to aid and revivify the ailing body of British Ufology. I can only offer a counsel of despair. Any serious ufologist must eschew the groups, nationalor local, and work through correspondents, journals and temporary ad- hoc working groups. The local societies are just rag-bags of assorted characters with no guarantee that any of them are capable of any constructive thought. The so-called nationalsocieties are basically local societies for anyone living within reach of a London Underground station.

British ufology needs at least one other journal of the quality and stature of FSR, not as competition but to provide an additional outlet for original research, It needs at least one person as controversial as John Keel both for the original ideas he would produce and the reaction he would hopefully spark off amongst other ufologists. It is unlikely that either of these two events shall come to pass. What is more likely to happen is that the same old faces (‘Yesterday’s Men’, to coin a phrase) will drag on until, hopefully, a new generation of whiz-kid ufologists turns up to save us from this sad, sorry but often painfully hilarious plight. Hopefully.


(1) DRIVEL — Direct Research of Interplanetary Vehicles and Extraterrestrial Landings, the North London group founded by Desmond O’Connor (not the other one) and Albert Figgis. Active in the late sixties and early seventies, it was wound up acrimoniously after an unfortunate incident involving its attractive secretary Marlene Plinth, the treasurer Geoffrey Stoat and a jar of Marmite, caused it to be barred from using the Reading Room of Dollis Hill library for its monthly meetings.


2 thoughts on “The Death and Life of British Ufology. [1970]
John Rimmer

  1. Good reading! even 40 years on. In your 2nd paragraph did you mean “sane articles and names…” or “same articles and names…” ? My reaction was “what about the insane articles…” [Good point. I did mean 'same', but in the spirit of ambiguity I'll let it stand! JR]

    I like your phrase about “pay out any of his easy earned money…”. The overdone phrase about “hard earned money” crops up everywhere, and gets very tedious. Why can’t it all be called “earned money” or just “money”? The presumption that EVERYONE works themselves to death to earn their living hardly convinces. Nowadays, of course, we all curse those city guys called bankers for whatever work they do, hard or easy, to get their massive bonuses. Are, or were, any ufologists city bankers, I wonder?

    As for the UFO groups, they have finally gone, probably forever. In the UK anyway. Even if another big UFO flap occurred, it is difficult to see any new UFO groups springing up. It is a bygone age. But then so are UFO zines and journals. It has all been replaced by ‘electronic ufology’. New phrase? Or have you heard it before?
    What about the latest ‘ufological podcast’ ?

    By the way did this Albert Figgis really exist? What about DRIVEL? And Dollis Hill is a bit near to that Neasden Football Club we used to hear about so much .

    I have gone on too long. Time to shut up.

    Kind Regards, Christopher

  2. Sure UFOlogy lives!!! All the time folks are reporting unenidtifeid flying stuff in the sky its future is safe.Whatever is going on psychology, meteorological effects or whatever is interesting in itself, I find that the main problem with UFOlogy is the folks who so desperately want to believe the ETH over all others. We know that the mind can play tricks so we have some form’ for a psychological explanation. We know that things meteorologically speaking are not what they seem, high altitude sprites being one of the surprises. But we do not know that ET exists at all, so why are they even in the running?

    When I were a nipper I so believed that UFOs were alien piloted craft, I filled my head with all the cases, read everything I could in the libraries the Internet being many years away and really had a belief, not a knowing of course, the aliens were visiting Earth. Then as an impressionable young un I read stuff by van Daniken and thought Wow, they been coming here for years.’

    Then I started to look at things more rationally and maturely as I got older. Experience taught me to doubt humans, many are liars, also doubt eye-witness accounts, I have seen things and other people interpret them entirely differently. That evolves to the point where you want physical evidence to support an account. The ETH has no such evidence, so for me, until someone has such evidence the explanation lay with things we know do exist.

    I think in part UFOlogy has lost some popularity because some folks, like me, believed in ETH and now think there is nothing to it, making UFOs pretty mundane compared to meeting the aliens. I dare say that the crazier adherents have also driven some people off too, the perception of UFOlogists seems to be of some lonely, fringe group of socially awkward people has stopped some folks from being associated I am sure. I know myself when I talk about UFOs people tend to either pay attention expecting me to confirm their belief in ET or they roll their eyes expecting another tale of abduction and anal probing. Many are quite surprised to hear I am not an ETH believer!!

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