Our Unreliable ‘Eyewitnesses’.
Paolo Toselli

From Magonia 13, 1983

‘I saw it with my own eyes!’ How many times we have listened to this statement designed to avoid doubt, to reinforce certitude.Usually, but erroneously, one believes that the witness is a perfect recording apparatus, that all that passes before his eyes is recorded and may be plainly reproduced through well-contrived questions. Numerous experiments show, however, that testimony is remarkably subject to error.In order to discuss something as controversial as UFOs, it is first important to realize that the eyewitness is as much a part of the event as is the physical stimulus that led to the personal experience. In fact, an objective stimulus seems to be there in the first place in a UFO experience, but the whole thing is channeled through our own personalities and comes out as an experience with greater or lesser ‘subjectivity’ elements.

Perception is not just a simple reproduction of what we see. Some psychologists have argued that in order to comprehend an event that we witness, various aspects of the event must be interpreted by us. Only part of this interpretation is based upon the environmental input that gave rise to it; that is, only part comes from our actual perception of an event. Another part is based on prior ‘memory’ or existing knowledge, and a third part is inference.

As remarked by Haines:

‘In an honest attempt to reduce the emotional and intellectual uncertainty which inevitably accompanies a novel experience, the witness may add certain types of percepts from his memory and/or delete other types; this helps reconcile the often unreal quality of the original percepts with an acceptable, reality-based, final perception. For instance (…) a UFO witness may add certain visual details gleaned from his imagination or memory. The addition of these details usually makes the object he describes appear more similar to objects he believes others have reported. Thus, what may originally have been the perception of a vague, greenish haze seen hovering silently above an open field late at night, may be reported as a well-defined, light green object which flew slowly and evenly over the field without making a sound.’ (1)

Another process influencing the responses that will be made to an ambiguous, novel (unknown) event is the psychological predisposition (also known as ‘set’) of the witness. Many times the concept of ‘set’ is expressed in the psychological literature with the terms of ‘hypothesis’, ‘expectation’, ‘meaning’, ‘attitude; they are quite similar terms emphasising the general concept that a person is prepared or syntonized to receive some kinds of information; so the perception depends on set and stimulus interaction.

Ron Westrum, in a paper on UFO witnesses, touches upon this matter:

‘A considerable folklore has grown up around UFOs, as I discovered to my surprise (…) in the course of making investigation of UFO sightings. (…) This folk-lore tends to set up an expectation that certain kinds of things will be seen or will happen during a UFO experience and this affects not only what the witness feels he ought to relate to others but also what the witness remembers as happening.’ (2)

The question of ‘mental set’ is especially important to consider when dealing with certain UFO/IFO cases. Because so few data exist, the distortion of only one factor can make an identifiable object apparentIy unidentifiable.

An example of the ‘mental set’ effect is supplied to us by Philip Morrison. It is a case of three radio-astronomers; one of these was a friend of Morrison, who stood outside Washington DC some years ago watching a large cigar-shaped object in the air, perfectly silent, with lighted windows, moving very rapidly past them.’Independently, they told each other they had each certainly seen the most remarkable kind of unidentified flying object. Suddenly the wind changed, and aircraft engines were heard; the distance adjusted itself, and they recognized they were seeing an ordinary airliner, much nearer than they had thought but not audible because of some peculiar sonic refraction of the wind. A change of the perceptual set changed their entire view of the phenomenon.’ (3)

When we experience an event, we do not simply record that event in memory as a videotape recorder would. The situation is much more complex.

Usually, we don’t retain the pure experience, but we elaborate it before storing it. In fact, we store in memory not the environmental input itself, nor even a copy or a partial copy, but only fragments of the interpretation that we gave to the input when we experienced it. A vivid, detailed photographic resurrection of the past is not the most efficient way to remember. Memories of everyday events are more similar to a syllogism than to a photograph; usually we go gradually towards the past and only seldom do we recall it as a ‘snapshot’. A grown-up person usually uses (verbal) symbols, to organize his memory in such a way as to find what he needs. We constantly translate our experiences by means of intervening symbols, store them in our memory and recover them instead of our original experience. When we have to remember, we try to reconstruct the experience from the symbols.

Research indicates that the experiences people remember about an event are influenced by the label associated with the event. Labels are not neutral, they carry explicit and implicit stimuli previously associated with them. As remarked by Michael Persinger:

‘A confounding interaction arises when one uses a label which is already heavily ‘loaded’ with emotionally laden associations. For example, suppose an observer sees a pulsating luminous light with dark stimuli moving within it. If the person labels the observation as a landed UFO, there the observation is no longer ‘neutral’ since the previously learned associations of the word UFO may now contaminate the observation. The operation of this process could result in a report like: “I saw a UFO landed on the hill, it was slowly materializing and de-materializing,, and there were aliens moving within.” (4)

People’s memories are fragile things. The tendency to invent or to introduce new material taken from a different structure can increase considerably with the passage of time

External information provided from the outside can intrude into the witness’s memory, as can his own thoughts, and both can cause dramatic changes in his recollection. Usually, this happens when witnesses to an event later read or hear something about it and are subsequently asked to recall the event. Post-event information can not only enhance existing memories but also change a witness’s memory and even cause non-existent details to become incorporated into a previously acquired memory. (5)

Many people believe that their memories are absolute and constant. But, contrary to apparent popular belief, the evi-dence in no way confirms the view that all memories are permanent and thus potentially recoverable.

A witness’s confidence in his memories and the accuracy of his memories often have little correlation. People are often confident and right, but they can also be confident and wrong. To be cautious, one should not take high confidence as any absolute guarantee of anything.

Memory isn’t the only place where the recognition processes can go on the wrong track. Many psychologists think that the main errors and misunderstandings depend on the retrieval processes.

The conditions prevailing at the time information is retrieved from memory are critically important in determining the accuracy and completeness of an eye-witness account. Reporting is one of the most crucial factors in the UFO problem. There are numerous ways to influence (and often drastically distort) the recollection of a witness.

The manner in which a question is phrased and the assumption it makes have profound effects on the accuracy and quantity of eyewitness testimony. By using leading questions, for example, an attorney can ‘shape’ the testimony of an eyewitness. A leading quest in is simply one that by its form or content suggests to a witness what answer is desired or leads him to the desired answer. We all probably ask leading questions without realizing we are doing so.

Dr Elizabeth Loftus, an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle, has demonstrated how altering the semantic value of the words in questions about a filmed auto accident causes witnesses to distort their reports. (6) When witnesses were asked a question using the word ‘smashed’ as opposed to ‘bumped’ they gave higher estimates of speed ant were more likely to report having seen broken glass – although there was no broken glass.

To summarize the issues involved in question type and structure of testimony, the notion of cognitive set, defined in terms of the specificity of the questioning situation, is a useful tool and also helps to illustrate the negative correlation between accuracy and quantity of testimony. When giving unstructured testimony (i.e. free elaboration without the use of any questioning) the witness’s cognitive set is under the least restraint, and witnessesare are likely to give only testimony about which they are somewhat certain, causing accuracy to be high and quantity low. As the questioning becomes more and more specific, cognitive set becomes directed and narrow, accuracy decreases, and quantity increases.

The studies in this area indicate, then, that the witness should first be allowed to report freely, or in a controlled narrative fashion. This free report can be followed by a series of very specific questions so as to increase the range or coverage of the witness’s report. On the contrary, asking specific questions before the narrative can be dangerous because information contained in those questions can become a part of the free report, even when the information is wrong.Summing up, the reported testimony – viz., the UFO report – on which we are bound to work is conditioned by many facts that affect the observation and reporting of an event, whose effect nevertheless we aren’t able to quantify and estimate a posteriori.

It is essential, therefore, that UFO investigators recognize the factors that might influence how well a person perceives, remembers and reports an event.
The purpose of this paper is to present an invitation to probe the numerous problems involved in dealing with eye-witnesses.


  1. HAINES, Richard F. Observing UFOs; An Investigative Handbook. Nelson-Hall, Chicago, 1980, p. 41.
  2. WESTRUM, Ron. ‘Witnesses of UFOs and other anomalies’, in HAINES, Richard F. (ed.), UFO Phenomena and the Behavioural Scientist. Metchen, New Jersey, The Scarecrow Press, 1979, p. 91.
  3. MORRISON, Philip. ‘The nature of scientific evidence – a summary’, in SAGAN, C. and PAGE, T. (eds.), UFOs a Scientific Debate, New York, Norton, 1972, pp. 285-286.
  4. PERSINGER, Michael A. ‘The problems of human verbal behaviour: The final reference for measuring ostensible PSI phenomena’. The Journal of Research in PSI Phenomena, Vol. 1, No. 1, 1976, pp. 80-81.
  5. LOFTUS, Elizabeth. Eyewitness Testimony. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, 1979, p. 55.
  6. LOFTUS, E.F. and PALMER, J.C. ‘Reconstruction of automobile destruction: an example of the interaction between language and memory’. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behaviour, Vol. 13, 1974, pp. 585-589.



The Myth of the Authorised Myth.
Hilary Evans

From Magonia 16, July 1984

By ‘authorised myth’ we understand a belief or set of beliefs which, despite inadequate scientific evidence for its existence, obtains the sanction of widespread acceptance within the prevailing culture. In unsophisticated Catholic communities it may be the prospect of a visit from the Virgin Mary, for the tribespeople of New Guinea an aeroplane bringing cargo, for an ascetic saint in the desert a tempting demon; and so forth.

The most widely accepted of contemporary myths – as evidence such reliable indicators of prevailing cultural beliefs as TV commercials – is the possibility of extraterrestrial intervention on Earth. This comes in two forms. The simple form, authorised by our own space ventures, envisages surveillance and even visits by extraterrestrial spacecraft. The more elaborate form, authorised by the failure of orthodox religion to provide a convincing basis for belief, envisages direct contact with cosmic guardians.

The role of the authorised myth in ufology

It was Michel Monnerie who explicitly specified the authorised myth as a rational explanation for irrational UFO repurts. He proposed that the sighting of an inexplicable object induces the witness, conditioned by the prevailing myth, to exclaim Mon Dieu, perhaps it’s one of those UFO things? and this triggers a waking dream in which his mind constructs a fantasy in which the external sensory stimulus is modified in accordance with the fashionable myth.

Monnerie’s proposals came at a time when some such hypothesis was needed. A few diehards continued to see UFO sightings as a wholly objective phenomenon – subject to misinterpretation, no doubt, but not to unconscious mental modification. But a growing number of ufologists were ready to accept that the mind of the witness plays a more creative role in the sighting experience, and were consequently disposed to entertain a hypothesis which linked an objective stimulus to a subjective psychological process. Monnerie offered just such a hypothesis.

Force est de conclure,” he said, “que le fond émane des themes universels, des archétypes fondamentaux d I’humanité, tandis que la fame est donnée par les acquis inconscients de chacun des sujets, l’ensemble se developpant dans le mythe modern, credible, acceptable.” [Naufrage, 215] (We must conclude that the basis of the sighting derives from the universal themes, the fundamental archetypes of mankind, while the form is supplied by the contents of the subject’s unconscious, the two forming an ensemble which develops within the parameters of the modern myth, credible and acceptable.)

How tempting to nod our heads and murmur, But of course: We know all about archetypes, they have all the blessing of holy writ. We know too about private fantasy and how it can substitute for reality. These are known psychological concepts, it is reasonable to find them operating in the UFO context. All we have to do is say Oui, M. Monnerie, to as raison…

And there is a wonderful bonus. Subscribe to my hypothesis, says the tempter, and you can give up ufology with a clear conscience and go back to being a normal person. For says he, “il devient parfaitment clair qu’on ne peut, a partir d’une construction illusoire de l’esprit, batir use science, l’ufologie, digne de ce nom:’ [Naufrage, 56] (It’s obvious that a science of ufology worthy of the name cannot be built on a foundation of mental illusions)

I shall resist the temptation to argue Monnerie’s logic, beyond questioning his assertion that fantasy is not suscepible to scientific analysis. What concerns us is whether his neat package is really valid?

According to him, a UFO report comprises two elements. First, the basic form, dictated by an archetype of some description. This is no place to discuss the whole notion of archetypes, so I will simply state my opinion that Jung’s concept, however stimulating, has in practical terms only very limited application. True, many UFO sightings can be matched with his archetypes – spheres, eggs, discs, etc. But not every sphere-shaped object is to be interpreted as an archetype: a football is round for physical, not metaphysical, reasons, because it is the ideal shape for kicking and rolling, not because it echos something deep within our psyches.

Well, however he establishes its basic form, the UFO witness – according to Monnerie – proceeds to modify it according to the contents of his unconscious mind. It could well be so. But he them goes on to say that these modifications are dictated by the modern myth, credible and acceptable.

Well now, are they?If a myth is to have a meaning, it must have coherence. If this myth of extraterrestrial spacecraft is to mean anything, then the objects reported should be more or less like what people accept extraterrestrial spacecraft to look like. But if there is one aspect of ufology more than another which drives us all to despair, it is the reluctance of one UFO to resemble another, and for more than a handful to look anything like what we would expect an extraterrestrial spacecraft to look like.

True, the reality – if there is any – is liable to transcend our expectations; but it is with those expectations that Monnerie’s myth is concerned. And the fact is that for every logically shaped UFO there is one that is a shapeless jelly, or a Christmas tree, or a wineglass, or a transparent box like a TV screen – you name it, somebody’s seen it.

The shapeless jelly may be, indeed, what an extraterrestrial spacecraft looks like; it may be what the extraterrestrials choose for us to see; or it may derive from deep down in the witness’s unconscious. But neither way, I submit, does it derive from any authorised myth.To explain why a witness sees a strange object and immediately starts thinking in terms of UFOs, the concept of the authorised myth may be useful. But when it comes to understanding why the sighting experience took the form it does, the concept is quite inadequate, and we must look elsewhere.


MONNERIE, Michel. Et si les OVNIs n’existaient pas?, Les Humanoides Associes, Paris 1977.
MONNERIE, Michel. Le naufrage des Extra-terrestres, Nouvelles Editions rationalistes, Paris 1979.

Magnetism and its Influence on Humans
Paul Tinman

From Magonia 26, June 1987


We are all magnetic fish in a magnetic sea; we move through and partake of constantly changing magnetic currents and breezes which are not only geological in origin, but geophysical, solar and interplanetary as well. Like all creatures on earth, we’ve evolved for millions of years in this magnetic environment. Our bodies are riddled with magnetically sensitive molecules, tuned to minute changes in this sea, just as fish are tuned to minute changes in currents.

Medicine recognises the crucial importance of some of these – the K+ and Na+ ions in the blood, for example, the so-called electrolytes. Minute variations in these can result in bodily functions going dangerously wrong and brain functions being impaired. And it doesn’t take much genius to see that such particles (which can be viewed as standing waveforms anyway) may be disturbed by fluctuations in the magnetic climate. Indeed, chemical changes in the blood have been shown to vary under magnetic influence; for example the famous albumin flocculation experiments of Professor Takata. Blood cells, which have a high iron content, can also be made to rotate by application of magnetic fields.

Experimental work showing the sensitivity of living creatures to magnetism has been well documented, from Frank Brown and his fiddler crabs back in the ’40s right up to the recent work of Dr. Barker at Manchester University, showing that humans use geomagnetism for direction finding (seen recently on BBC’s Horizon programme). Professor Rocard at the Ecole Normale in Paris showed that humans can detect magnetic changes down to the order of 10-1 gauss – almost below the recordable limit. You could fill pages with this sort of evidence.

The result of magnetic disturbance can be chemical disruption of brain functions – anything from moodiness and depression to seizures (epilepsy?) or hallucinations. Statistics of suicides and road accidents apparently rise during periods of sunspot activity, which cause geomagnetic disturbances.
I’m saying two things here: first, that magnetic fluctuations are not solely geological in origin; second, that humans are far more sensitive to them than is generally accepted. Animals too, which vacate an area pretty sharpish when earthquakes are imminent. Devereux mentions that case of Kasper Hauser, the Nuremburg foundling who could distinguish blindfolded between different metals by passing his hand over them. Like all our faculties, this would be sharpened by use, blunted by neglect, but it would remain latent, whatever, and be more pronounced in some individuals.

So it’s not too big a jump to say that magnetic disturbance, through electromagnetic change, might cause certain sensitive individuals the same sort of visions as those caused under different circumstances by LSD or extreme asceticism. Some people, in proximity to magnetic disturbance might have visions of UFOs, the Virgin Mary or MIBs. There is a well-known psychological mechanism by which such a subject will use a physical object – a ball of light, maybe – as a cue, and then the unconscious takes over, projecting its drama onto reality. In this respect the similarity to the hypnotic state seems marked, down to the importance of such a cue or trigger.

Paul Devereux objects that this causes problems if the physical trigger then behaves in a manner inconsistent with the ‘vision’. It doesn’t, because the subject simply disregards it. The trigger events merely serves to disrupt the consciousness and set the inner drama in motion. Again, such behaviour can be observed in hypnotic subjects. You can even set such dramas in motion post-hypnotically in some subjects, merely on the appearance of a predetermined cue. The subject will thereupon suddenly diverge from reality, perceiving and acting according to a pre-set and totally unconscious script. The subject’s memory of what they saw and did during this period will afterwards differ remarkably from that of other witnesses.

So, while having a lot of respect for Paul Devereux’s opinions, I don’t see that the phenomenon necessarily involves any externalization of the imagery onto ionized plasmas or such. It’s east to accept that idea in the case of simple manifestations like Paul’s original ‘universal man’ vision, but problems arise applying it to the many extremely complicated UFO abduction dramas, with their time-loss and other components.

Of course, the objection will be that many such cases involve multiple witnesses who all share essentially the same experience. So if the whole thing is just a magnetic barn dance in the brain, how does more than one individual see it?

The answer to that may have something to do with the relationships between the people involved, and with the fact that the same magnetic disturbance will presumably affect them all: they will all be immersed in the same field at the time of the experience. In several of the more complex multi-subject contact/abduction dramas (the Hills , Tujunga Canyon, etc.) it appears that one individual is dominant or seems to be the catalyst for the events experiened. Such individuals are also often in various stages of inner crisis, to which the events can be seen to relate (see John Rimmer’s The Evidence for Alien Abductions).

In this regard, it may be fruitful for investigators to ask: a) is hypnotism easier within a magnetic field, and b) are telepathy, telekinesis, etc. easier within a magnetic field? One can think of reasons why this may be so: fluctuations at one point in a field will resonate throughout the field, and mental activity is basically electrical fluctuation. measurable by EEG.

There may be a purely biological function to all this. At the basic level, simply a warning of impending disaster registered by our unconscious magnetic sense and passed to the waking mind via some scary image. At a higher level, a dramatization of personal, cultural or racial problems in which the individual is just a medium. The ways of the brain are strange and complicated, and there won’t be a straightforward answer, I’m sure. But maybe we’d do well to look again a the unfashionable ideas of Julian Jaynes in this context. Maybe the old bicameral mind wasn’t so daft after all!

None of this pretends to be any sort of Theory I’m just putting two-pennorth in, and it all stands up to be knocked down. My main point is that the extent and nature of our susceptibility to geomagnetic influences is greatly underestimated, despite ample evidence, and that proper research in this area will in the future open all sorts of doors on our understanding of ourselves and our world.

One thing I’m sure we’ll all agree on – we are more than we think we are!


06. The Nazi UFO Mythos: False Histories

An Investigation by Kevin McClure: CORE 6. False Histories

Project Uranus

In another careful analysis of a dubious element of UFO history, Andy Roberts says:

“We have at least one outright hoax in foo-fighter lore. For years rumours had been flying round that the Germans had been fully aware of the foo-fighter phenomenon and that they had a special study group formed to look into the problem under the name of “Project Uranus”, backed by a shadowy group by the name of Sonderburo 13. This was first detailed in La Livres Noir De Soucoupes Volantes (The Black Book of Flying Saucers – 1970) by French ufologist Henry Durrant. The rumour spread in Europe and eventually took physical form in the English language in Tim Good’s acclaimed book Above Top Secret where it is used to help substantiate further vague rumours of an Anglo/American foo-fighter study. Good had not checked his facts and had in fact just copied the information direct from Durrant’s book.

When I checked this out with Durrant he informed me that the whole “Project Uranus” affair was a hoax which he had inserted in his book precisely to see who would copy it without checking. The hoax apparently had been revealed in France some years before but hadn’t percolated its way through to English speaking ufologists. Perhaps other foo hoaxes await discovery.” [37]

The ‘Schweinfurt Raid’

This tale involves, well, little flying saucers, in a B-17 raid on October 14 1943, aimed at the ball-bearing factories at Schweinfurt in Germany. It was publicised by popular US author Frank Edwards in Flying Saucers – Here and Now [38] in 1967, but I understand that the original glamourised version comes from one Martin Caidin, in his book Black Thursday, published in 1960. Caidin reports that

“During the bomb run of several groups, starting at about the time the Fortresses approached the Initial Point, there occurred one of the most baffling incidents of World War II, and an enigma that to this day defies all explanation.” “As the bombers of the 384th Group swung into the final bomb run after passing the Initial Point, the fighter attacks fell off. This point is vital, and pilots were queried extensively, as were other crew members, as to the position at that time of the German fighter planes. Every man interrogated was firm in his statement that “at the time there were no enemy aircraft above.”

“At this moment the pilots and top turret gunners, as well as several crewmen in the Plexiglas noses of the bombers, reported a cluster of discs in the path of the 384th’s formation and closing with the bombers. The startled exclamations focused attention on the phenomenon and the crews talked back and forth, discussing and confirming the astonishing sight before them.”

“The discs in the cluster were agreed upon as being silver colored, about one inch thick and three inches in diameter. They were easily seen by the B-17 crewmen, gliding down slowly in a very uniform cluster.” “And then the `impossible’ happened. B-17 Number 026 closed rapidly with a number of discs; the pilot attempted to evade an imminent collision with the objects, but was unsuccessful in his maneuver. He reported at the intelligence debriefing that his right wing “went directly through a cluster with absolutely no effect on engines or plane surface.”

“The intelligence officers pressed their questioning, and the pilot stated further that one of the discs was heard to strike the tail assembly of his B-17, but that neither he nor any member of the crew heard or witnessed an explosion.” “He further explained that about twenty feet from the discs the pilots sighted a mass of black debris of varying sizes of clusters of three by four feet.” “The SECRET report added: `Also observed two other A/C flying through silver discs with no apparent damage. Observed discs and debris two other times but could not determine where it came from.”

“No further information on this baffling incident has been uncovered, with the exception that such discs were observed by pilots and crew on missions prior to, and after, Mission 115 of October 14, 1943.” [39]

Caidin’s account is footnoted “1 Memorandum of October 24, 1943, from Major E.R.T. Holmes, F.L.O., 1st Bombardment Division, Reference FLO/IBW/REP/126, to M.I.15, War Office, Whitehall, London, SW (copy to Colonel E.W. Thomson, A-2, Pinetree)”, but Andy Roberts actively investigated the reference, and reports that

“a letter to the M.O.D at their Air Historical Branch 5 came to nothing, suggesting that either of the documents may be held at the Public Records Office at Kew, London. A professional researcher was despatched to try to find the document. She searched all relevant Air Force records available (some are still bound by various `rules’ with embargoes on viewing of up to 100 years) but could find nothing, despite the help of staff there and noting that “the reference FLO etc. does not correspond with any references at the record office.

In the USA, Dennis Stacy (then MUFON UFO Journal editor) had taken an interest in the case and followed up several leads, aided by the Freedom of Information Act. Firstly the A.F. Historical Research centre at Maxwell AFB searched their 8th A.F. files but could come across no documentary record of the event (interestingly enough I tried the same source and whilst they gave me squadron histories of the 415th Night Fighter squadron and their documented foo-fighter sightings, they could provide nothing on the Schweinfurt raid — odd if the Schweinfurt events were real).

The National Archives (Washington) searched their files but drew a blank. A letter written to French researcher J. M. Bigorne from the National Archives stated “A search in records of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey (USSBS), European War, Target Damage File, 11a (2606), Schweinfurt, failed to disclose any documentation or information regarding little flying discs by B-17 pilots.” All this presents us with a quandary. If the Archives are quite free about some foo-fighter info why, if it exists at all, should they be that bothered about concealing the Schweinfurt material? So far three independent researchers over the past ten years have had the same answer — none of the flight records for that day record the event in Caidin’s book. As I have seen other pilots’ logs which mention unusual UFO-type sightings during missions it would be inconceivable for at least a few aircrew on that raid to have mentioned it even in passing – especially as in this case it was obviously something of an item at de-briefing.

Letters in numerous aircrew magazines (UK & US) requesting info on the raid were placed and despite many replies no-one knew anything. Aviation writers Martin Middlebrook and Chaz Bowyer who have written many highly detailed books about the air war, and have interviewed thousands of aircrew, wrote to say they had never heard of the incident, despite having had foo-fighters mentioned to them in other contexts.

Dennis Stacy contacted the 384th Bombing Group survivors association and with no account of the UFO sighting forthcoming from them was put onto General Theodore Ross Milton who led the raid that day and went in first with the 91st Group Formation. He wrote; “I don’t recall seeing black discs or hearing about any strange phenomena from any of my group.” [40]

Roberts and Stacy pursued the source further

Martin Caidin, originator of the rumour also presents problems. His book Black Thursday was first published in 1960 and yet quotes an alleged SECRET report. How did he get hold of it then and why has it not been seen since? As for Caidin himself, several people have tried to get in touch with him without success. Both myself and (then) MUFON Journal editor Dennis Stacy have tried to track him down via his publishers and a UFO magazine he has written for, but to no avail. He last appeared in the dodgy US magazine UFO Universe where he was featured on the front page as having ‘chased bogies at 20,000 feet,’ (an astonishing spectacle no doubt!), but whilst the article gave details of UFOs he’d seen post-WWII, government film of UFOs, cover-ups, and you name it (along with mucho promotion for his many books, including UFO based novels) the Schweinfurt raid was never mentioned. Funny that, really.” [41]

However, with the terrier-like tenacity for which he is renowned, Roberts kept searching, and in September 2000 finally found, in the Records Office at Kew

The document which Caidin obviously based his account on. It reads as follows. All spelling and punctuation is in the original. The file in which the document can be found is: AIR 40/464. At the top right of the document is a rubber stamp giving details of circulation to:

1. Col Kingman Douglas
2. A.I.3. ? (W/Cdr Smith)
3. A.I. 2. ? (W/Cdr Heath)

(Author’s note: the ? refers to a squiggle or letter I cannot decipher, although it could well be ‘to’. Also the background of the stamp on which the above was written says:

“Received 17 Oct 1943″
“Copies sent to A.I.8 (USA))

The rest of the document is as follows:

Recd. AMCS. 171129a hrs Oct.43


From – OIPNT


8 BC 0-1079-E
Annex to Intelligence Report Mission Shweinfurt 16 October 1943

306 Group reporta partially unexploded 20mm shell imbedded above the panel in the cockpit of A/C number 412 bearing the following figures 19K43. The Group Ordnance Officer believes the steel composing the shell is of inferior grade. 348th Group reports a cluster of disks observed in the path of the formation near Schweinfurt, at the time there were no E/A above. Discs were described as silver coloured – one inch thick and three inches in diameter. They were gliding slowly down in very uniform cluster. A/C 026 was unable to avoid them and his right wing went directly through a cluster with absolutely no effect on engines or plane surface. One of the discs was heard striking tail assembly but no explosion was observed. About 20 feet from these discs a mass of black debris of varying sizes in clusters of 3 by 4 feet. Also observed 2 other A/C flying through silver discs with no apparent damage. Observed discs and debris 2 other times but could not determine where it came from.

Copies to:-

P.R. & A.I.6.
War Room
A.I.3. (USA) (Action 2 copies)

“Presumably Caidin must have seen a copy of this document from one of the American recipients . . . The Rubber stamp clearly states it was received on 17 October, pre-dating Caidin’s reference by seven days. But the sheer number of channels through which documents went could be the reason for this confusion and now the original document has been located I don’t think we need get hung up on the original reference any more. I have found no record of most of the personnel listed. However a Squadron Leader Heath was involved in the UK’s investigations of the Scandinavian ‘ghost rockets’ in 1946.”

He concludes

At least we now know Caidin’s reference exists! Besides that there is little to say really. The objects reported are intriguing but not completely mystifying. There were many types of flak being used by the Germans in W.W.II and several files in the PRO refer to coloured flak, flak which threw off unusual fragments, and so on. This explanation is made more likely by the fact that the ‘F.L.O.’ in Caidin’s reference stands for ‘Flak Liaison Officer’, at least suggesting that the Air Ministry were treating it within a flak context. The objects could also have been some kind of ‘window’ dropped by the Germans in an attempt to disrupt radar or radio communication among air crew. The explanation as to what the small objects were is now more of a task for the air historian than it is for the ufologist. What is clear from the original account is that the discs, whilst unusual, were clearly not any type of ‘craft’, under intelligent or purposeful control or dangerous to the air craft or crew.

In my opinion these objects do not belong in the category of sightings referred to as ‘foo-fighters’, both by their physical description and by their behaviour and characteristics. Although often lumped in with foo-fighter reports they are clearly different. This story has been a staple of UFO writers for the past three four decades. Now we have further clarification and I believe that this particular mystery is more or less laid to rest.

Andy Roberts is more charitable to Caidin’s exaggerated and redefined version of the report than I, but Caidin is nowhere near as foolish as those who put together the second block (1998 release) of ‘Majestic 12′ documents. Nevertheless, Nick Redfern and Jonathan Downes present a copy of a section of these silly documents, which says

“Aerial interference with military aircraft has demonstrated the ability to observe our air operations in war and peacetime conditions. During the war over 900 near-miss incidents were reported by allied pilots and crews in all theater of operations. One of the most dramatic near-miss encounters occurred on 14 October 1943, 8th AF Mission 115 over Schweinfurt, Germany, B-17 crews reported many formations of silvery discs flying down into the B-17 formations. Several times during the bombing mission, large objects were seen following the discs descent into the formations. Unlike previous reports, no engine failures or airframe damage was reported. After the surrender of Nazi Germany, GAF fighter pilots were interrogated by AF intelligence concerning Mission 135. GAF did not have any aircraft above our bombers at that time.” [42]

I’ve never found the whole ‘MJ-12′ idea credible, but at least the first release of documents was prepared with sufficient care to provoke meaningful discussion. This ridiculous exaggeration of an already elaborated tale makes the second release of documents look absurd. I would also point out that the Nazi UFO mythos and MJ-12 are essentially incompatible: if the Americans had already gained the ability to build high-performance flying discs from the Germans, why would they have become so excited about crashed ET discs? And why didn’t all those portentous ‘first-release’ documents mention them at all?

The Massey Project

Redfern and Downes continue to publicise another claim made by Frank Edwards, just before his account of the Schweinfurt Raid. Despite being aware of the negative outcomes of research conducted by both Andy Roberts and Tim Good, they say

“As far as the British Government is concerned, there is strong evidence to show that extremely rigorous investigations were made into the Foo Fighter phenomenon by an elite team of Air Ministry and Royal Air Force operatives.” [43]

They quote Edwards

“As early as 1943, the British had set up a small organisation to gather information on these objects. It was under the direction of Lieutenant General Massey, and it had been inspired to some extent by the reports of a spy who was in reality a double agent, working under the directions of the Mayor of Cologne. He had confirmed that the Foo Fighters were not German devices, which of course the British knew they were not. The British Air Ministry, in 1966, told me that the Massey project was officially terminated in 1944. Perhaps it is only coincidence that the double agent was exposed and executed in the spring of 1944.” [44]

Three problems arise immediately. Tim Good has established, from a dependable source, that there was no Lieutenant General Massey. Almost all the foo fighter reports date from 1944 onwards, so it’s not clear why “extremely rigorous investigations” should start in 1943 and end in 1944. And what on earth was a spy doing being controlled by the Mayor of Cologne? On the evidence, the ‘Massey Project’ sounds like a complete, and deliberate, fabrication.

Crashed saucers and back-engineering

Nick Redfern makes a great deal of limited evidence in suggesting that there has ever been one extra-terrestrial flying craft crash on Earth since 1900, let alone more than one. He has not, however, been unwilling to suggest that the Nazis had access to one or more crashed flying saucers, and back-engineered technology from them. This, supposedly, was how they were able to develop such sophisticated flying discs! Of course, he is not alone in making suggestions of this kind, but I hardly need point out that when the evidence suggests that Germany had no sophisticated flying discs, then there is nothing to explain. Anyway, Redfern concludes from the rather desperate, and generally quite implausible intelligence reports that he has collected

“If . . the data related in official FBI memoranda of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s is accurate, how were the Nazis able to develop technology that, years later, was still defying America’s finest” As I will later show, there are firm grounds for believing that a number of extra terrestrial vehicles crashed to earth on US soil in the late 1940s. Is it stretching the bounds of possibility to speculate that a similar event may have occurred on Nazi territory several years previously? If such an event did take place, and the Germans were able to grasp the rudiments of the technology, this would perhaps go a long way towards explaining their pressing desire to perfect a man-made flying saucer. The truth may ultimately turn out to be far stranger than has previously been realised.” [45]

Well, yes, it really does stretch the bounds of possibility, but that doesn’t stop Corso from reporting, in ‘The Day After Roswell, what he and General Twining had wondered about after inspecting the crashed saucer at Roswell

“At the very least, Twining had suggested, the crescent-shaped craft looked so uncomfortably like the German Horten wings our flyers had seen at the end of the war that he had to suspect the Germans had bumped into something we didn’t know about. And his conversations with Wehrner von Braun and Willy Ley at Alamogordo in the days after the crash confirmed this. They didn’t want to be thought of as verruckt but intimated that there was a deeper story about what the Germans had engineered. No, the similarity between the Horten wing and the craft they had pulled out of the arroyo was no accident. We always wondered how the Germans were able to incorporate such advanced technology into their weapons development in so short a time and during the Great Depression. Did they have help? With an acceleration capability and maneuverability we’d never seen before, this craft would keep American aircraft engineers busy for years just incorporating what you could see into immediate designs.” [46]

While we’re in a corner of reality that accepts the reality of the Roswell crash, and its cargo of dead or possibly living entities, I have to mention the analysis of Polish writer Zbigniew Blania-Bolnar in Alien Encounters for April 1998. Telling us that ” . . the post-war American Army had at its disposal a considerable number of V2 rockets, several V3 and V4 prototypes, and about 30 kugelblitzes of different kinds”, he concludes that the dead entity in the Laredo crash (the Laredo crash?) was “a laboratory monkey used by the Air Force in a secret experiment.” And, of course, “if a tested kugelblitz crashed at Laredo, then a similar object could have crashed at Roswell.” [47]

None of the suggestions that the Germans back-engineered crashed alien craft pre-date the Lazar and Lear back-engineering stories. Three more have come to light already. In her book ‘Sightings: UFOs’ Susan Michaels reports that writer Jan Van Helsing (a contact of the inner circle of the ‘Montauk Project’)

“describes the discovery of a crashed saucer in the Black Forest in 1936 and says that this technology was taken and combined with the information the Vril Society had received through channeling and was made into a further project called the Haunebu.” [48]

There is also a report of a crash in Italy in 1933, the details and information of which were made known to Mussolini, and which assisted Belluzzo in his design and development. [49] And at the ‘Gdansk UFO-Marathon’ in October 1997, it was announced that there had been a crash in Poland in the summer of 1938, in Czernica. Evidence and wreckage recovered from the crash was seized by Nazi Germany after the invasion of Poland the next year, and the information so gathered was used in the building of the ‘Haunebu’ and ‘Vril’ craft. [50] The current popularity of back-engineering is such that I expect to see more such reports.

Part 7: Unnamed Soldiers >>>


Tracing the Traces
Maurizio Verga

From Magonia 16, July 1984

Traces (i.e. imprints, marks and residues on the ground and/or vegetation) ought to provide physical proof of a tangible phenomenon interacting with our reality. Indeed, it is probably the one aspect of UFO study – with the possible exception of photographs – which has enabled the ufologist to refute an interpretation in purely psychological terms; for traces imply that the phenomenon is not something perceived subjectively, belonging only to the senses of the witness, but truly something with physical attributes.This physical ‘proof’ has been put forward by the ‘extraterrestrialists’ as support for their contention that material UFOs – ‘spacecraft’ – exist. The ETH is plainly on the decline, and its proponents rely heavily on physical trace evidence to keep its tenets alive.

Physical traces are often a very difficult problem for any conceptual theory. We have had, for example, the proposition of an ‘interdimensional entity’, able to assume physical characteristics; and the adoption of paranormal phenomena such as poltergeists and psychokinesis to explain the mechanics of trace creation. It is almost impossible to consider the phenomenon in terms of a hypothesis without taking account of the physical trace evidence.

Trace evidence is one of many aspects of the phenomenon with a clearly contradictory nature. These contradictions may be used as a basis to propose a multiple origin for the phenomenon; that is, several different manifestations as a specific function of specific conditions. It is enough in this context to consider those cases where a UFO is seen on the ground, and yet apparently leaves no traces – in practice certain UFOs leave physical traces, others do not. Even when we bear in mind that we are always dealing with witness accounts, often poorly investigated and without recourse to the psychology or perception of the event, it would still seem that the phenomenon (if objective) does not display strict or consistent criteria. On the contrary, its criteria are highly changeable, probably because of a completely unknown ‘something’, which may well be linked to the individual characteristics of the witness.#

Of course, if UFOs did have an entirely subjective origin, then the problem would immediately take on a new dimension. Apart from traces which were outright hoaxes, the remainder would presumably be made unconsciously, and absence of traces would be explicable in terms of witnesses inability to manufacture them, perhaps because unconsciously he is unaware of his need to give evidence of his subjective experience. This hypothesis is admittedly improbable, although the belief that UFOs do produce traces is deeply rooted in the popular belief.We can question the opinion that traces provide proof of the material nature of the UFO phenomenon in two ways: firstly by considering natural phenomena capable of producing traces, secondly by considering the facts and figures, as well as the standards of practice, of present day field investigations.In nature there are several causes able to produce remarkably strange trace marks under certain circumstances. These include fungi, plant and grass diseases, lightning, animal habits, whirlwinds and other weather conditions, helicopter slipstreams, defoliation and so on. Furthermore the action of man on the environment can also result in ambiguous traces – cars, carts, agricultural equipment, fires, etc. Discovering such a trace after a local UFO sighting can easily lead to their connection with ‘alien activity’. Even is situations where no UFO was seen, the appearance of a trace, especially when circular, can  reawaken distant memories in the collective conscious of stereotyped flying saucers and their alleged effects.

Both material (e.g. notoriety) and psychological (stimulation by a flap in the vicinity) factors may come into play. The existence of concrete evidence tends to make any case more credible, no matter how spurious it may in fact be. Traces often are unusual, even if quite explicable. The cultural belief systems and possibly emotional states can soon lead to the creation of abstruse hypotheses and speculation, even on the basis of naturally or artificially produced explicable phenomena.

These points are critical, and must be carefully borne in mind. The discovery of a   ‘trace’ tends to set the witness thinking in terms of a UFO; and of course, if there is a type-I sighting at the root of the discovery, he will often go to the area where he saw the UFO (either on the ground or low down) with a view to finding evidence of the reality of the experience. This is not only to convince others, but often to prove it to himself. This intense desire to find proof can easily lead him to discovering a myriad of insignificant anomalies – a broken branch, animal tracks, the remains of a fire) and relate them to the UFO. This is a typical scenario for a UFO seen in the distance, where often the exact location of the landing or near-landing is not known.

Less common is the deliberate false linking of spurious traces with a ‘genuine’ UFO in order to make the sighting more believable. Even so, in my view this latter scenario is quite feasible for many rational people who would not otherwise behave in this fashion.

The above possibilities must be taken very seriously when investigators do not follow up the ‘traces’, but merely rely on the word of the witness. When investigators do visit the site we should then expect them to validate or invalidate the traces. But the reality of the matter is often rather different.

Unfortunately, an investigator is usually on the same level as the witness, having the same unconscious needs and beliefs. He is usually unprepared in terms of scientific methodology. He may well have a strong desire to present a ‘classic case’ to his colleagues, or have a belief system which includes the material reality of the UFO phenomenon, thus anticipating trace evidence. All of these can lead to frequent and serious errors, if the investigator attempts to support his ‘ambitions’ and ‘needs’.

Obviously there are some truly strange and apparently unidentifiable traces, but their percentage is fairly low – even if it cannot be termed negligible. In any case, a number of doubts must remain. Natural phenomena or human activity could precipitate apparently inexplicable traces. If the circumstance is rare enough the possibility of identification is close to impossible, except in a few luck cases.

However, these possibilities are too important to overlook. The much extolled ‘physical evidence’ is based on a small number of baffling cases, and of these only a fraction (perhaps 25%) are investigated in sufficient depth. Most ‘incontestable proof’ actually stems from newspaper articles or nothing more substantial than the witness’s say-so.In other words, what we term the ‘trace phenomenon’ is but a small residue of well-investigated reports; about 3.6% of the total volume of reports according to data passed to me by Ted Phillips (Phillips’s TRA-CAT, an international catalogue of trace cases, actually now having more than 2 100 entries).

We must also not forget the outright hoax. Such frauds may be perpetrated for many reasons: financial, psychological, advertising, or merely as a joke, The number of trace cases determined to be hoaxes is actually quite remarkable, although not excessive – perhaps as a result of the inherent difficulty of proving a hoax. Some ‘mysterious’ substance placed at the site, coupled with a good recitation of a fabricated tale, and the gullibity of ufologists and journalists can produce but one result… fake evidence presented as proof of an alien technology. Only the exceptionally skilled or rational investigator (often with the aid of Lady Luck) can rescue the situation at a later date… but this certainly does not happen in many cases.

I believe that I have discovered two fundamental aspects of the traces question, giving us much cause to rethink our attitude towards it:

1. The explanation of most trace reports is to be found in terms of both natural and artificial origins. The range of these is so broad that their identification is often next to impossible.

2. It is impossible to accept some investigation reports as a basis for scientific data. Investigators too often are guilty of extreme subjectivity and emotional involvement. This makes identification of traces very difficult. Not being at the site oneself, one can only assign ‘possible’ or ‘probable’ identifications, which is to the detriment of serious research, although UFO fanatics can ‘easily turn it to their advantage by distorting the true situation.

This means that practically all of the so-called trace data is useless in terms of scientific evaluation. We are left with a residue that seems to be small, but not negligible; this seems to show the apparent physical reality of a seemingly unknown phenomenon (although unknown most certainly does not mean alien). But even so we must realise that the best of our investigation and research does not allow strict scientific determinations to be made. We can never totally exclude rare natural explanations. My future research will base itself upon this selected sample of high-strangeness reports – the apparently unknown residue. This is essential if one is to study the subject scientifically.

The conclusion I must reach is this: we cannot be certain that the UFO phenomenon has a physical basis. It is naturally difficult to accept this conclusion; but if we wish to develop a serious field of research then we must learn to accept the destruction of deep-rooted dogmas and common illusions. We need courage to re-think our basics, and understand what is wrong with them. Above all, we must search for understanding and not cling to belief. 



A Haunted Man
Peter Hough

From Magonia 20, August 1983

Most people are now familiar with the term ‘astral projection’, or its more modern version: ‘out of the body experience’ (OOBE). This describes the phenomenon where the mind, or ‘astral double’, is projected from the physical body to wander around our world, enter another time or plane of reality. Here is one such case from here, in England, although I feel that OOBE cannot account for the whole of it.

After hearing of Mr Keith Sefton’s [pseudonym] claims through a friend, I became intrigued, and agreed to investigate them. Mr Sefton, a healthy looking 68-years-old, served in the Lancashire Fusiliers, but now retired, lives in a quiet backstreet in Wigan.

His experiences began suddenly in the summer of 1980. Before then there were no paranormal incidents in his life at all. This in itself is unusual, as most percipients of OOBE phenomena have a history of bizarre events to narrate – what started this great surge of happenings was something very sudden.

It occurred around 12.30, as Mr Sefton was sitting in the front room of his house, having lunch. Opposite, across the narrow road, lived an elderly lady who received a daily visit from the meals-on-wheels service. While he was eating, Mr Sefton glanced across expecting to see her standing in the bay window, waiting for the delivery van to arrive. In her place, and staring across at him, was an apparition of his dead mother.

She stood hands on hips, rigid like a statue, wearing a shawl which in life had been her favourite. Unbelieving, he movedcloser to the window of the sitting roombefore fear overcame him and he turned his head away. Slowly he looked forward again, but his mother’s stony expression stillstared across the intervening yards. The image lasted for about eight minutes. Finally she turned away, and magically resolved into the familiar features of the old lady.

This phenomenon occurred a second time, two weeks later under similar circumstances. Following this, Mr Sefton was to have an altogether different experience. Having been divorced for fifteen years, imagine his surprise early one morning, upon hearing the voice of his wife calling out his name.

It was unlike a voice ‘heard’ in a dream, he explained, but it was a perfectly natural auditory sound. Having received the strong impression it had come from outside, through the letterbox, he pulled on his dressing-gown and went downstairs. The door was unlocked, but there was no-one about. So convinced was he that he had heard his former wife calling out his name he ventured out onto the pavement and looked up and down the road.

This experience was also repeated two weeks later. Unfortunately, because of their poor relationship, he failed to contact his former wife to see if anything was wrong, to provide a possible explanation for this happening. What happened next was the penultimate episode before the main series of OOBE related events.

At eight o’clock one morning he was woken by the alarm clock. Preparing to rise, he suddenly heard footsteps outside the house and children’s voices – voices which had a familiar ring, forcing his mind to drift back to his own childhood, picking up lumps of coal from the surrounding pits, during the 1926 General Strike.

Slowly his attention was brought back to the room. His eyes focussed on a spot two feet above the bed, and the intense feeling that a ‘presence’ hung there, came over him. Then a voice spoke into his mind.

“Yes, and you will hear them again,” It said enigmatically, “You didn’t die you know.” The voice reminded him of his mother’s.

From then on until November 1981, Mr Sefton claims to have had twenty to thirty experiences. Many of these displayed ‘Out of Body’ characteristics. Most occurred upon reaching the point of falling asleep. They usually began with a tiny blue light, no bigger than a pin-head, hovering about nine inches from his head.

After several nights it began to pulsate and expand to the size of a pea, becoming multi-coloured. Eventually the light would suddenly vanish to be replaced by the vivid image of a full moon, dark clouds scudding swiftly across its surface. These clouds thickened until only a halo remained. On these occasions Mr Sefton was drawn towards the bright ring, and through it.

While recounting the bizarre episodes which followed his journeys through the ring, Keith Sefton was at pains to convince me of the lucidity, the realness, of his adventures. On his first and second visit he found himself looking up a long tube, or tunnel. At the other end was an eye, staring down at him. On the second occasion he saw enough of the face to conclude it belonged to a man. He received the intimation that the man was observing him under the lens of a microscope.

Visions of the moon continued to manifest in the darkness of the moon, and when the clouds obscured all but its aura, he felt himself being drawn upwards and through it. Exotic landscapes spread before him – on one occasion a beautiful pastoral scene of trees and flowers set around a lake. In the centre of the lake was a small rowing boat with a figure seated in it. It seemed the man was observing Mr Sefton, who in turn was observing him.

Once he travelled to a barren desert, strewn with rocks. A man inhabited this scene also, seated on a boulder, staring intensely in his direction. These figures were to crop up many times in various guises. They all shared similar physical characteristics and behaviour – always alone, they never spoke or moved, but seemed very aware of his intrusion. They had a ‘foreign’ look, possibly Grecian, with olive complexions, beards and hair of short, tight curls.

There were a few exceptions. The man in the desert, for instance, wore a long robe and was completely bald. He seemed to be travelling at tremendous speed through an intense blackness. He described how one night he was taken on a journey through the galaxies. One moment he was lying in bed, then he seemed to be travelling at tremendous speed through an intense blackness. Bright spheres rushed towards him then quickly away into the distance. He described this as highly invigorating.

Not all these experiences occurred whilst waiting to fall asleep, sometimes he would wake up in the early hours of the morning. On seven or eight occasions at around six o’clock something roused him. A few times he saw a man dressed in glittering trousers and tails rather like a circus ringmaster [1]. The man would silently wave a white stick at him, as if to emphasise a point. Usually he was only clearly visible if one eye was covered. The last vision of that nature was in November 1981.

Then there was a gap of almost a year.  In September 1982 the visitations resumed. He was awoken at 4am, and described seeing a “little white lady in my eye”. The image remained there for two or three minutes. This too reminded him of his mother,

 wearing a long nightdress. Suddenly the image burst from his eye into the form of a vapourous cloud, reforming into a four inch high figure at the bottom of the bed. [2] The ‘white lady’ walked around in a circle holding something resembling a broom handle. As he put out a hand to touch her she told him with a smile that it was forbidden. Then she passed out of sight as if she had slipped behind a black curtain.

I questioned Mr Sefton carefully about the physiological and psychological effects before, during and after these experiences. I also encouraged him, during our two meetings and subsequent correspondence, to air his own views on the matter.

In answer to my question of whether he could be experiencing very vivid dream imagery, he reminded me they had only begun in 1980, and went on:
“I have dreams, but these are not dreams – when I dream there are no colours, things are not clear. During these events I receive the most inexplicable panoramic views, and throughout I sense that something is feeding information into my mind. If only more people could experience it…”

He went on to explain that often he felt that he was in two places at once: the ‘here’ of the bedroom, and also in another ‘reality frame’. Time seemed suspended and inconsequential. This was illustrated one Saturday afternoon in the down-to-earth surroundings of Wigan market. The aisles between the stalls were crowded with shoppers, stocking up with meat and fresh vegetables for the weekend. As Keith Sefton picked his way through the crowd, suddenly all the noise diminished, and he felt his “consciousness was partially lifted from our plane”. Then out of this unnatural silence a lone child began calling. He focussed hard on a stallholder serving a woman with apples, and the noise and bustle of the marketplace returned.

This cross-references nicely with the sensations reported by people witness to close encounter UFO experiences. Many have noted that all sounds, such a birds singing or traffic noise on nearby roads, disappeared.

Why Mr Sefton’s mother should feature so prominently in these events is open to conjecture. He is not particularly religious, and has sought out books and people who would give him a logical scientific explanation for all this. The tunnel through which he passes on his journeys is a common component of out-of-body experiences, and by those relating accounts of an ‘afterlife’ during near-death experiences.

During questioning it transpired that just prior to many of these events he found himself breathing unnaturally deeply. Could Mr Sefton have unwittingly put himself into a trance? The heavy breathing would involve a degree of hyper-ventilation; flooding the body with oxygen and depriving the brain of sugar. Practitioners of yoga are adept at this, believing that it charges up the etheric double.

Also of interest is the phenomenon of hypnogogic and hypnopompic imagery, under study by psychiatrists. This refers to the state of mind when one is about to fall asleep or awaken, respectively. Something very strange can happen when the brain is neither fully asleep or awake, but ‘in neutral’, as it were. Very vivid hallucinations sometimes occur. This condition is known to effect something between half and three-quarter of the population. Although the sensations generally are visual or auditory, they may also involve heat, cold, odour or touch.

But the question remains – do these states of altered consciousness cause exotic imagery to manifest, or is the brain merely put into a mode where it is receptive to contact from an objective, exterior source? I know of one northern gentleman who would be interested in the answer to that one.

Meanwhile, the experiences have begun again. I quote from a recent letter:

“I have had a few visions on waking in the morning, since last I saw you. I suddenly found myself in a monastery. The entrance and surrounding walls were in dark colours, but the centre was beautifully lit. There were about twelve girls in a ring who were dancing holding the hems of their long white frocks, moving into the ring and out of it. I also saw the faces of two men, whom I did not recognise…”



  1. This rather incongruous Image has a almost identical precedent In the case of ‘Miss Z’, Investigated by John Rimmer and Peter Rogerson, and reported In MUFOB. Other members of Miss Z’s family had reported hypnogogic and hypnopomplc experiences, Including her father “On another occasion there were about a dozen figures wearing ‘glittery’ silver suits… [they were] normal looking human figures and the suits of a normal style, resembling ‘glitter’ suits worn by show-business personalitles” (MUFOB, new series 4, p.4).
  2. This also echoes the experience of Miss Z’s father, who on one occasion awoke to find a number of tiny figures lust a few inches high running about the room – some on tiny horses!



Abduction Absurdities
Willy Smith

From Magonia 52, May 1995

Dr. Willy Smith discusses John Mack’s new book with a passing Devil’s Advocate:

One more book (1) about abductions has appeared, but this time with a significant difference: the author is a distinguished Harvard psychiatrist and has the background and credentials that previous dilettantes (2,3) lacked. Thus, one would expect a more precise and scientific presentation of a controversial issue, establishing a solid platform from which a rational treatment of the subject matter could be launched.

Unfortunately, that is not the case, perhaps because the topic itself is unameanable to scientific discourse. As in previous attempts, all we find is a collection of anecdotes obtained mostly by hypnotic techniques from witnesses whose personalities, occupations, training and position in our society are barely sketched. The narratives are interesting, unusual, bizarre more often than not, with an abundance of detail that, instead of increasing their ontological validity, only emphasises the absurdity and physical impossibility of what we are told.

As in previous works, not a shred of evidence is provided to substantiate the stories, even in instances where apparently corroborating information could have been obtained. As one of Mack’s critics (4) has perceptively indicated, the author is content with whatever he obtains from the witnesses in his office and does not go into the real world to validate his contentions. In fact, one has reason to doubt that he has done his literature research with enough care, when, for instance, he uncritically repeats (Ref.1, p.12) that abductions have taken place in 17 countries, among others, France, Spain and Uruguay. The truth is that only one totally discredited abduction report in France is found in the literature, that the three or four cases allegedly occurring in Spain are very dubious and that – as far as I know – no abduction has ever been reported in Uruguay. The reality is that the abduction aspect of the UFO phenomenon occurs typically and predominantly in the US, not surprisingly considering that its main advocate, former artist Elliott Budd Hopkins, is a resident of that country.

The absurdities

From the viewpoint of the hard sciences there seem to be two options mutually exclusive: either the whole abduction structure has no foundation in reality, in which case we are wasting our time, or, alternatively, the stories reflect real events, although at times they may be somewhat distorted and diffuse. We will assume that the latter is true, and see where reductio ad absurdum will lead us.

(a) Provenance: The basic tenet of Hopkins et al.’s ideas is that we are presently visited by aliens whose world is coming to an end, and who are engaged in an all-out effort to save their race from extinction by applying their more advances genetic knowledge to engineering a hybrid race that eventually will take over Earth.

Since our spatial probes have visited most of the planets able to support life in our solar system and found no indication of life, it follows that the aliens must come from exterior space, bringing into focus the difficulties of interstellar travel. The abductees describe huge crafts, sometimes of the order of hundreds of yards, with large crews of at least two types of aliens, which have to be fed and lodged. But more important, the energy requirements to displace such a craft through distances of the order of light years would be staggering. Yet, we are led to believe that more than one of those interstellar crafts prowl in our atmosphere.

What does the Devil’s Advocate say about this?


  •  i) The crew could travel in suspended cryogenic animation, thus requiring few provisions;
  • ii) fuel could be obtained by sweeping hydrogen atoms from space while travelling;
  • iii) or, the ship could transit through a white hole, except that the magnitude of the gravitational forces would make survival impossible;
  • iv) a planet threatened with final obliteration would not hesitate to use all the available resources in a last interstellar fling, or even to mount expeditions to several neighbouring stars of the right spectral type; but it would be against its interest to send all crafts to the same destination;
  • v) the aliens arrived in the solar system a long time ago (ref. 1, p. 227) establishing a base on Mars (don’t forget that alleged head there!) or on the moon, and have to travel only short distances, an easy feat that even we, with our chemical fuels, can perform.

Only (v) above has some merit, but then the expectation would be to see smaller crafts better adapted for the Earth-Moon milk run, contrary to the data. The first absurdity is thus firmly stated.

(b) The familiar aliens: Since the pioneer work of artist E B Hopkins, passing through the entertaining book of historian Dr David Jacobs, and terminating with the respectable efforts of psychiatrist John Mack MD, we have been confronted with a parade of aliens having some surprising common characteristics: i) they are overwhelmingly humanoid, exhibiting two arms, two legs, one head, two big wrap-around black eyes, and the rudiments of mouth and nostrils; and ii) they move unencumbered in the Earth’s gravitational field, without requiring breathing apparatus.

Probabilistic considerations indicate that it is quite likely that among the large number of stars which form the galaxy, many will have the correct conditions to harbour planets capable of supporting life. But life, as we know it, is possible only within a very narrow range of physical parameters, and a small percentage change, say in the value of the solar constant, would wipe out life from our planet. Consequently, humanoids as described by the abductees must come from a planet almost identical to Earth, another absurdity. Such a planet indeed can exist, but can be anywhere in the galaxy, and the question is: why would the aliens select our insignificant star in a remote galactic arm as the destination of their quest for a new home?

D.A.: If the aliens reached the solar system many millennia ago, and settled in a base on Mars or the moon (say), they had a long adoption period, and only in modern times were capable of implementing their genetic plans.

(c) Alien multiplicity: The aliens described by the witnesses studied by each researcher (Hopkins, Jacobs, Mack) might be similar in form but the three authors make quite clear that their attitudes toward the abductees are remarkably dissimilar, although their genetic efforts seem to be the same.

We can safely reject the notion of three groups of aliens from the same remote planet, but having diverse philosophies, not only because of its absurdity, but also for the fact that the aliens described to each specific researcher seem to have the same attitude in spite of the random witness selection process.

D.A.: The descriptions of the aliens seem to be similar, thus establishing a common origin, which could be even a single planet, but might equally well result from the fact that latter-day abductees have unquestionably read previous books (Hopkins, Jacobs) and have subconsciously adjusted to the pattern.

Each abduction book is the end product of the interaction of a certain group, the abductees, with one specific analyst. An exact statement of the protocol is not given, but since the hypnotic sessions were lengthy and extended over many months, the influence of the
analyst is not only expected but unavoidable. This influence is not reflected in the physical descriptions of the aliens, but in their moral and ethical attributes, mirroring the political or other bias of the authors. While Jacobs’s aliens are indifferent to issues not related to the breeding activities, in the words of one critic (5) “the abductors have the same relationship to abductees that laboratory technicians have to white rats”. Mack’s witnesses are terrified by the entities, which inflict intense physical pain and torture with sadistic unconcern.

This dichotomy is an absurdity. For if the aliens have a common provenance and a common operational goal, it would inflexibly control their behaviour in all cases. Thus, the diversified perception of the entities by their victims, not randomised but sorted out by researcher, only decreases the potential reality of the abduction experiences.



The aliens are by far more advanced than we are in biology and particularly in genetic engineering, and have no difficulties in inter-species breeding, as shown by their activities, which otherwise would be senseless. It is anthropomorphic to attribute to them our own limitations.



(d) Technical contradictions: The abduction researchers have asserted that the aliens are able to penetrate solid obstacles such as walls, (6) specifically during the initial stages of the events. There is no evidence for this except the testimony of the witnesses, but when one abductee arrives at the waiting craft, she is brought inside “through a hole in the floor”. (7) When the same victim is ready to be returned, the floor “sort of disintegrates beneath us”, (8) which is not the same as penetrating solid matter.

The main and apparently only objective of the aliens is the creation of a hybrid race, and to that effect they have mounted a vast operation to obtain sperm and ova from human victims, selected at random and transported to their ship(s) for the purpose. This implies not only a great deal of effort, but also entails a definite operational risk of detection. Yet, the same ends could be obtained by raiding a sperm bank or similar facilities where the desired items are stored without stringent security. This would be easy to accomplish by aliens capable of transversing solid walls, and yet, we don’t see any signs of such activity.

D.A.: The aliens endeavour to keep their activities covert, and the sudden disappearance of stock from a sperm bank would undoubtedly trigger an in-depth investigation. Forensic examination of the place would reveal the visit by non-human entities, something the aliens can’t afford. Besides, time is on their side, and their present method is less likely to attract attention, as so far there is no incontrovertible evidence of the abductions.

Alien visits to specific indoor spaces are sometimes a daily occurrence, as was the case with Melissa Bucknell, Dr Jacobs’s star witness. (9) An attempt was made to record the event using a TV camera, but it failed, as could be expected considering how easy it was for the aliens to circumvent the trap. It would have been a completely different story if someone had thought about doing an in-depth forensic sweep of the “scene of the crime” after the fact. Yet, absurdly, this was not done, perhaps because negative results would have been the kiss of death for abduction research.

D.A.: Indeed, immediate examination of the location of an abduction by forensic techniques could provide incontrovertible proof of an alien presence in a room But the staggering cost indeed was and is a powerful deterrent. Perhaps the Fund for UFO Research should consider setting aside the necessary resources and have them available at once if the occasion presents itself again.

(e) Craft size and multiple humans: Abduction researchers (Hopkins (10), Jacobs (11)) have repeatedly asserted that the crafts described by the witnesses are extremely large and display a constellation of lights. The huge dimensions are confirmed when the abductees tell the investigator that they were taken into gigantic rooms, with hundreds of tables where they saw other humans, “between one hundred and two hundred”, on whom procedures were being done (Mack (12)).

The absurdity of such a possibility is twofold. First, a large illuminated craft hovering over a fixed location for the duration of the procedures – which we are told is of the order of an hour or so – hardly would have escaped detection not only by the public at large but by the authorities monitoring our air space. And second, if the craft remains at a fixed place, the simultaneity of the procedures for ‘a hundred or more persons seems to demand that the abductees were taken from a limited geographical area, again an event that could hardly go unnoticed.

D.A.: The craft doesn’t have to remain stationary at a given location, but moves continuously to lift and return the abductees. If the lights are off, and the aliens have stealth technology, those motions will not be recorded by radar, and their chance of escaping detection is excellent.

The absurdity is then in the scheduling. To collect and return each abductee of necessity requires some time that, from the given narratives, one could estimate at two minutes, each individual at a different location. Thus, 100 abductees demand 200 minutes, to which a prudent man would add a transit time between stops, say another 2 minutes, for a grand total of 400 minutes, or more than 6 hours, just for the logistics of the operation. No matter how we look at it, the concurrent presence of one or two hundred abductees in a single room in an alien craft is almost a physical impossibility.

The hybrid question

According to Hopkins et al., we are being visited by one or more alien races in decline, whose purpose is to shore up their genetic pool by using the human reservoir. The abductions are aimed at obtaining sperm and ova for hybridisation processes.

Two things do not seem to fit this hypothesis. First, in the accepted view of present-day science the issue of mixed species is not fertile, and thus the resulting human-alien hybrids would not represent a definite solution for the long-term survival of the aliens. But perhaps the real purpose is different as, for instance, just to create a work force which could easily adapt to local conditions and perhaps eventually melt into the earth’s population and go undetected. This would explain the need for the continuous aggressive programme that the abduction experts believe is taking place.

The second point is just an observation. In subsequent visits to what are apparently the same craft, the abductees are often shown human-alien babies which are their own, but no mention has been made in the published material of full-grown hybrids. There are two possible explanations for this omission: the alien breeding programme is failing, and babies do not reach adulthood or, on the contrary, the programme is a success and the grown-up hybrids are shipped elsewhere to do what they were designed to do in the first place.

I am not a biologist and only offer the above suggestions for completeness, in an attempt to give sense to those relentless activities which the abductionists believe are covertly taking place in our midst.

D.A.: The aliens are by far more advanced than we are in biology and particularly in genetic engineering, and have no difficulties in inter-species breeding, as shown by their activities, which otherwise would be senseless. It is anthropomorphic to attribute to them our own limitations.

ConclusionsThe absurdities loom in spite of efforts by the Devil’s Advocate to eliminate them, a clear indication that the interpretation given by the abduction experts to the bizarre narratives of their clients must be ontologically incorrect. Until such a time when and if physical evidence of the abduction phenomenon becomes available, those events have only anecdotal value at best, although the many books on the topic, even if of dubious scientific value, make entertaining reading and are a source of revenue for their authors.


  1. MACK, John E., Abduction, New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1994
  2. HOPKINS, Budd, Missing Time, New York, Marek Publishers, 1981 and Intruders, New York, Random House, 1987
  3. JACOBS, David M., Secret Life, New York, Simon & Schuster. 1992
  4. CLARK, Jerome, ‘Big (space) Brothers’, International UFO  Reporter, March/April 1994, p. 7
  5. Reference 4, p. S. col. 2
  6. Ref. 1, p. 170: “she described passing through her window, the porch and a tree” riding the beam of light.
  7. Ref. 1, p. 170
  8. Ref. 1, p. 174
  9. Ref. 3, p. 258
  10. HOPKINS, Budd, ‘The Woman on the Bridge’, MUFON UFO Journal,  298, December 1992, p. 8. Since the alleged witness (known only as Janet Klmble) “stated that it was wider than the size of the building”, an estimated diameter of 100 ft is conservative.
  11. Ref. 3, p. 82. “Abductees describe UFOs that range In size from thirty-five to hundreds of feet in diameter.”
  12. Ref. 1, p. 182. ‘Catherine’ was led naked into an enormous room “the size of an airplane hangar”.