The Butter Boggart of Old Lostock

In my review of  Karl Bell’s The Magical Imagination, I mentioned that there was a story from my own area which I intended to look into, So here it is; the story of the mysterious appearance of butter in an isolated country cottage.

The Place

The locality was one of  two cottages known as Knowsley Cottages (the other being unoccupied at the time), lying just to the west of Moss Lane (now Moss Vale Road) which ran from the Barton-Stretford turnpike in Lostock (now Lostock Road) to Gammershaw Lane (now Stretford Road) in Urmston. The lost village of Lostock was divided between the civil parish of Davyhulme (latter part of Urmston Urban District) and the Borough of Stretford toward the end of the 19th century.

Before the building of the Urmston and Flixton railway stations, the villages of Urmston, Flixton, Davyhulme, Lostock, Croft and etc were rural places, where according to Edwin Waugh writing in 1857 “Even now, the scattered inhabitants are mostly employed in agriculture, and their language and customs savour more of three centuries ago than those which we are used to in manufacturing towns”

(http://gerald-massey.org.uk/waugh/c_sketches_1a.htm)

 

Of these locations Lostock was the most underdeveloped, and much of the medieval field system remained. The area remained rural until the mid 1930s when there was a major housing development.

The Personnel.

At the heart of the story lies Samuel Warburton, baptised at St Michael’s Church Flixton on 23 June 1793, and his younger brother William baptised there on 21 October 1799, the sons of William Warburton and his wife Betty Muddiman who were married at St Michael’s on the 19th of October 1784.

Then there is Samuel’s wife Ann Royle, daughter of Benjamin and Betty Royle baptised at St Michael’s on the 27th of July 1788, and whom he married at the Collegiate Church in Manchester on the 12th of January 1815.

The final person in the household is Ann’s great niece Mary Maria Hopwood who was  baptised on 22 August 1841 at the Manchester Collegiate. Samuel, Ann and Mary Maria are the core household, William has come to lodge with them after loosing his job as a schoolmaster in Hulme. The Warburton brothers are devout members of the Primitive Methodist denomination, and the family’s life seems uneventful until the morning of Sunday 22 January 1854, when something very strange starts to happen. The Manchester Times of 4 February takes up the story.

A STRANGE STORY.

During the recent week a number of the inhabitants in the villages of Stretford and Barton-upon Irwell, near Manchester  have had their wonder excited by a report that in a certain cottage situate in the latter township, occupied by persons of quiet habits and of rather advanced age, there had been innumerable instances of butter spontaneously and marvellously presenting itself, on the floor, the furniture, and the clothing, and even the beds of the occupants, for which they could assign no cause, and by which they were very much alarmed.

The news of this spread to Manchester and Salford. Our reporter found the matter exciting the curiosity a of several individuals who had business at the New Bailey (1) on Thursday. One of them, a farmer, who is the owner of land in the vicinity of the cottage, had himself witnessed the circumstance, and was unable to find any rational solution. Police-constable Bent, (2) whose duties lay in the neighbourhood of Stretford, had also visited the place, but although tolerably clever in detecting parties who are in the habit of illegally taking butter away, lie was unable to discover who could be the contributor of it in the case under notice.

With the view of tracing the odd story about the wondrous butter to its source, our reporter proceeded to the place on Thursday afternoon. The topic, he found, was even rife in the railway Carriages between Manchester and Stretford. Half an-hours walk from the Stretford station sufficed to reach the scene of the alleged mystery, and which, it would seem, was threatening to supersede the good offices of that useful animal, the cow, which has hitherto had the sole monopoly of supplying us with butter. The cottage is situate about six miles west of Manchester, between Stretford and Barton Bridge, a little to the right of Moss Lane, a few hundred yards beyond Lostock Hall. There are two double-story thatched cottages adjoining, having gardens and door in front, but only one of these is tenanted. There is no other house within 200 yards, and the others are thinly scattered, and at greater distances.

The cottage, which has a brook running close at his rear, is occupied by Samuel Warburton, a man about 60 years of age (who we understand, has a small income, and weaves  a little cotton plaid in a room within the house), his wife, William Warburton (a brother), nearly 60 years old, and a girl about 12, the daughter of a relative. William Warburton has also a small income, and was, during some part of last year, a schoolmaster in Hulme, (3) but is not now so engaged. On entering the cottage, our reporter found these four persons within, and a very few words sufficed to explain the object of his visit, for that was anticipated, as many had already preceded him to make inquiries. A glance around the apartment revealed the fact that he was in the fat of the land, for butter seemed to have budded from every description of substance from living boughs of holly to dead veneers of mahogany, and even glass.

The door had been closed but a few minutes, when a knock was heard. On its being opened, a gentleman remarked, ” How do you do, Mrs Warburton; I have heard a strange story, and I am come to investigate it.” He was desired to take a seat, and was tolerably silent while the inmates gave an account of what seems to them an inpenetrable mystery. They are all professors of religion, and attend the services of the Primitive Methodist Connection (4). This may not apply to the girl, but she seems steady, and has been several years with her relatives, who have occupied this house about fifteen years. William Warburton, the younger brother, we may remark, was the owner of the house in Urmston where the celebrated Tim Bobbin was born .(5) The following is the narration of the parties: (6)

Samuel Warburton: ‘The first time we noticed anything particular was last Sunday but one. Just before breakfast, we saw several bits of butter on the floor, upon some of which we had trodden. William (the younger brother) had gone out, and we thought he must have accidentally spilled some. Nothing was said or thought of further until last Saturday, in the forenoon, when he again observed little bits of butter on the floor.

Mrs. Warburton: I said to my husband, it must have been done by William (who had gone to Manchester at the time), he must have had his coat amongst the butter, and then have shaken his coat, and so thrown the bits about; for I found them against the drawer, the cupboard, the sofa, the clock, the table, and all round.

Samuel Warburton: The girl sleeps in a bed in our room, and my brother William in another room. On Saturday night, they went to their beds about nine o’clock, but I stayed up with my wife, to have a little talk, and a pipe of tobacco. It would be after one when we went to bed. We noticed nothing on the stairs that night, but on Sunday morning there was not, I believe, a single step without butter upon it. It seemed, in many instances, as if we had trodden upon it  on Saturday night. We followed the track into each room, and there were marks on the, carpets. At first we thought  this had come off’ our shoes, but we don’t think so now. We found a piece upon my brother’s bolster, also on his night cap. Than we examined the bed clothes, and we found some between the two quilts, which were on the top of the bed; and another piece, being the larger, at  the bottom of the bed, where his feet might lie.

He had gone to Manchester, and it kept us busy all the forenoon clearing it away. A piece of paper we found at the top part of the bed by the girl, with butter upon it, but we believe that had only had the butter wiped upon it which we collected, and then accidentally let the paper fall. There were  several bits of butter found in our room, too. On Sunday morning last, my brother got up first, as usual, had lighted the fire. He goes to the Primitive Methodist Sunday school, to teach. I and my wife came down stairs about nine o’clock, and we found that bits of butter were all about the floor, and sticking to the furniture.

Mrs. Warburton: I had occasion to go into the garden, and took my shawl out of the drawer; I saw nothing on the shawl when I went out, but when I came in, after a few minutes, there was a large piece upon it.

Will. Warburton: I found a piece inside my coat, before I set off to the school, in Urmston; (7) and when I came home there was a piece on my trousers.

Samuel Warburton: We kept picking it off the furniture, and still we found it, On Sunday, after dinner, it was again a on the furniture. As we sat by the fire we kept observing it on our clothes. We never saw it coming, an know not how it came. On Sunday evening, I and my brother were going to public service (8), but my wife and the girl, owing to it, did not like to stay by themselves, so we arranged for or my brother to stay with them. When I put my coat on to go there were pieces of butter on it, and my wife took a  number off, and then, when she thought I were partly clean, she said, “Will’t be off, while thou’s decent.” (9)

Mrs. Warburton (appearing very serious): I could not keep straight with it, and I said, “Will’t be off while that only a bit like.”

Samuel Warburton: When I come back from the preaching, they told me they had been standing by the fire, picking the butter off each other’s clothes, They threw it into the fire and it burned.

Mrs. Warburton: At last I said, “Let’s sit down, and let it do as it likes” for I was weary. It never came on our skins, but I found one piece between my dress and my petticoats, and two pieces on my cap, and the girl had some on  her hair,

Samuel Warburton: On Monday morning it continued to appear on the furniture, and instead of burning it, as we had done, we determined to keep it. About nine o’clock, I d collected what I could see, and put it on that piece of pot on the table. I thought that it must be some black thing or other, and I have a  Herbal, and read in this book that holly boughs were good against witchcraft. (10) I thought, “Well, I can easily get them, I’ll try that.” So I got three holly boughs, and I hung them up to the ceiling of the house, and in half an hour there was a piece of butter on every bough So that 1 am satisfied that holly boughs can do no good.

Mrs. Warburton: As we were going to wash, the girl was  putting water into a boiler in a little scullery, and she called me to look at a piece of butter sticking to the side of the boiler.

Samuel Warburton: I weave a little plaid cotton, in a small room adjoining the kitchen, and, on Monday forenoon, when I went to work at my loom there were two pieces of butter on the cloth, and other two pieces on the panes of  glass. I read a passage of scripture every morning; and on Monday I was surprised to find several bits of butter between  the leaves of different parts of my Bible; and they were not in the places where I had read.

The Bible was then shown, and the greasy marks were  visible enough. Of course there was nothing in the stained places referring to the importation of foreign butter, but to satisfy the curiosity of any who might wish to examine for themselves, we may state that the first mark was in 1st Saml. (Chap.6, v.5)  and 1st Saml. (Chap.9, v.2-3); Isaiah (Chap. 57, v.1) and another between the  v. and vii. chapters of Revelations.

It was stated that there had been no obvious accumulation since Monday noon, although a few bits were noted on the furniture on Tuesday morning which were not seen on Monday. On Tuesday the head family invited the Rev. J. Garner, Primitive Methodist preacher residing in Warde Street, Hulme (11) (and who was to preach in the neighbourhood) to take tea with him. The particulars of the unusual situation were discussed, but no explanation could be given.

No clear notion of the weight of the butter thus collected could be ascertained, but as the bits were only from the size of a bean to that of a  nut, it would probably not exceed a few ounces,. although the master of the house said he must have burned hundreds of them.

In answer to various questions, it does not appear that it can be the interest of anyone to frighten them from the house. The house is so isolated, and there are no mischievous boys about, and no one has been near the house.  No broken panes were observed, through which the pellets of butter could be introduced, nor does it seem likely they could have come from without, as they were found in the chambers, and inside two other small rooms down stairs, and at the time our reporter vas present there were fourteen or fifteen bits collected together, a few of which were brought to Manchester, and there can. be no doubt of its really being butter, from various tests; there were four or five bits adhering to the front of the mahogany drawers; two upon a bookcase, one of them on the glass; three on a waistcoat belonging to the younger brother, the schoolmaster, and three on the holly boughs. one it the frame of a sampler, and another or two on the weaving rooms, inside.

That there can be no such thing as butter springing out of  glass, is evident enough; the whole must, of course, be a trick, but it has hitherto been so ingeniously accomplished,  that the perpetrator of the deception is undiscovered. The bits of butter are very varied in shape, and although some of them have an appearance which would suggest the probability of their being sucked in the mouth and then ejected, yet others are so irregularly shaped as to preclude any such  supposition. One thing was noticeable, however, that some  of them had struck the surface obliquely (as drops of rain do when falling against vertical panes of glass), and thus slid along a little, and thus left a mark at the point of first contact. This ought to have been sufficient to have .prevented the idea which the old people seem to entertain, that the substance might possibly grow where it was found.

The young girl does not appear to have anything about her indicative of the artfulness which a series  of’ tricks of this kind would imply. The manner in which the old man and woman speak about the circumstances, and seem to be affected by them, would lead even an observer of the deceptiveness of human nature to acquit them of any participation it the fraud.

Probably the reader of the above will think that the “schoolmaster” is the most  likely person to explain the matter.

 

The rival Manchester Courier and Lancashire Advertiser also published the story on the same day, a shorter piece but giving some additional information.

The Manchester Courier and Lancashire and General Advertiser of Saturday 4th February 1854, p. 7 col. 7.

Mysterious production of butter in a cottage

The labouring population of Lostock near Stretford are in a state of some excitement in consequence of a mysterious and very novel mode in which butter has been supplied to the inhabitants of a cottage in Moss Lane, leading to Urmston from the turnpike and between Stretford and Barton Bridge.

The inmates of the cottage are a couple named Warburton, near sixty years of age, a brother of Mr Warburton who is, we should guess between forty and fifty, and a girl of about 12, a relative of Mrs Warburton. Warburton has some little property and also follows and occupation of handloom weaver; the brother is a schoolmaster, but has been out of employment since Christmas, and the girl takes a share in the homework.

Last Sunday week when Mr and Mrs Warburton got up, they observed lumps of butter varying in the size from the bulk of a bean to that of a small nut and they thought that Mr William Warburton had been getting something to eat, and had been careless with the butter, which it should be stated, he purchases for himself along with other provisions.

The week passed over without any more appearances, but on the following Saturday morning, a quantity was observed on the floor. They thought it belonged to William, who had gone out, but they were puzzled, when in the course of the forenoon, they found it sticking upon the furniture, where they had not observed it before.

On Sunday morning they found it upon the steps heading to the bedroom, upon the bedroom floor in patches as though it had been trodden into the room, upon the beds, and upon various articles of clothing. In some places it appeared  as if it had been patted on, in others as if it had been rubbed on by a finger. The old man and woman are members of the Primitive Methodist Society and the brother is a teacher in the Sunday School connected to the chapel of that body near the house, and on putting on his clothes to go to school he found the butter adhering to his clothes. It was with some difficulty he was put in proper trim to go to school , and when he came home at noon, he found a lump sticking to his leg.

While he had been out the old couple and the girl has so much to do in picking it off their clothes that they had not got the dinner ready, and they were both puzzled and worried. it got into impossible places, between Mrs Warburton’s gown and petticoat, inside the collar of a waistcoat and, on Monday, three lumps were actually found inside a bible. There was another visitation on that day, and on the last time we have heard of, appeared on Tuesday. The only man having heard that holly bushes are a check to witches, thought he would try if they were any good, though he had no faith in them, and got three, but they had not been up many minutes before a lump adorned them. Many persons have visited the house and declare, from having tasted it, that the substance is butter, rather old and “turnipy” but without any flavour of sulphur. It burns in the fire as butter would, and without any blue accompaniment. If any more should make its appearance, we will examine the matter and report more at length.

Despite this publicity neither paper ever referred to the matter again, and one has to presume after the Rev Garner’s visit the events ceased.  No doubt if such a story were reported today it would be ascribed to a poltergeist, albeit a reasonably well behaved one. At the time William seems to have been the chief suspect, perhaps because people thought that a schoolmaster might be a better trickster than a young girl, but the latter clearly fits into Frank Podmore’s stereotype of the bored young girl.

Life cannot have been easy for a girl verging on her teens living with a strongly religious elderly couple in an isolated spot, and that may have been exacerbated by the arrival of schoolmaster William. Perhaps she had to give up her own room to him, hence her sharing a room with the elderly couple.

However as we saw, at the time it seems to have been attributed to witchcraft, or at least to some “dark thing”.

One explanation of the period would have been the actions of a boggart. Boggarts were quite well known in the district, the road at the southern end of Moss Lane, Gammershaw Lane, was the haunt of a notorious boggart, though no-one ever seems to have given a clear description of it. Along the Barton-Stretford turnpike was a house called by the Victorians the boggart house, though whether this referred to an alleged haunting, or was a Victorian euphemism for ‘bugged’, (local term for stupid or ruined) as that was how it was described in the 18th century Stretford Parish Registers.

Mary Maria stuck it out however, she was still there at the time of the 1861 censuses, and when Samuel died on the 25 June 1864, she was the main executor of his will. By 1871 she had gone and her widowed mother Mary Hopwood Snr. had come to look after her aunt.

The cottages remained in existence into the early twentieth century, apparently now run together into a house called locally “The Butterhouse” after the incident, but memories were vague and confused. In one of two histories of the district written for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria but not published until the following year. Richard Lawson, the Head Master of the Urmston Higher Grade School wrote;

“THE BUTTERHOUSE. This farmhouse still standing on the left hand side of Moss Road, was the subject of a supposed mystery, about the year 1848; it was then occupied by Samuel Warburton and his wife. A greasy substance, resembling butter was supposed to have unaccountably appeared on the walls, furniture, pictures but especially the leaves of the family bible; in fact everywhere except Sam’s suite of Sunday clothes. It is generally supposed the author of this ‘mystery’ was Warburton himself, due to mental alienation.” (Lawson, Richard.  A History of Flixton, Urmston and Davyhulme. The author, 1898, p.123)

This area was finally urbanised in the mid 1930s and became an estate of semi-detached houses. No trace of the old cottages remains, and I have not been able to find a photograph of it.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

NOTES

1. New Bailey: the old prison in Salford, opened in 1787 and closed in 1868.

2. Police Constable Bent.  James Bent (1828-1901), In 1853 he was the constable for Lostock and Davyhulme. By 1868 he had risen to the Superintendent at Stretford in the Lancashire Police. He was noted for his work with destitute children, and was author of  My Criminal Life. (1891) He does not refer to the incident in this book, but does confess that as a young man he was much afraid of ghosts and the like, mainly from reading too many “penny dreadfuls”

3. Not traced; in the 1851 census William was lodging with John Owen a farmer at Pownall Fee in Cheshire, probably a distant relative, Samuel and William’s grandfather was John Owen alias Warburton. Hulme was a suburb of Manchester, already it was an industrial area. In 1851 the population was 53,482

4. Primitive Methodist, a radical evangelical and essentially working class breakaway from the mainstream Methodist Movement, starting from a camp meeting at Mow Cop in Staffordshire in 1807. Regarded as ‘emotional’ and ‘enthusiastic’ by its critics. Both its founders William Clowes and Hugh Bourne believed in witches and boggarts. Handloom weavers and petty property owners like the Warburtons were the sort of people attracted. By 1854 the denomination was edging much closer to respectability.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primitive_Methodism and http://www.methodist.org.uk/index.cfm?fuseaction=opentogod.content&cmid=1619)

5. Tim Bobbin, John Collier (1708-1786) was a Lancashire dialect writer of both prose and poetry, he was the son of a local schoolmaster, and was born in a house in Church Lane (Church Road) in Urmston. However the actual house was demolished by this period, and its exact location was disputed, Warburton presumably owned one of the cottages on the most probable site. For more details on Collier and his house see the Waugh reference above.

6. These purport to be verbatim transcripts, yet they are all in suspiciously standard English, not the heavy local dialect (briefly used in the bit about Sam’s suit.

7. I have not been able to locate this Sunday School

8. Possibly the Primitive Methodist Chapel in Davyhulme Road built in 1853.

9. The couple may have been bilingual in standard English and Lancashire but it is perhaps more probable that the editor has standardised the speech and perhaps altered in other ways.

10. Briefly mentioned in A Dictionary of Superstitions edited by Iona Opie and Moira Tatem Oxford University Press, 1992 pp.200-01 and Steve Roud The Penguin Guide to the Superstitions of Britain and Ireland. Penguin Books, 2003 p.250.

11. James Garner 1809- 1895, was a noted member of the Primitive Methodist Community (born in Leake, Nottinghamshire) and spent much of his career in the nearby Cheshire town of Sale.

* * * * *

The Lostock area was relatively unchanged as late as 1910, and a comparison with a modern map can be found here. http://maps.cheshire.gov.uk/tithemaps/  You should enter ‘Sale’ township and move slowly north-west at high magnification to find the locality.

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The Magonia Problem.
David Halperin

THE MAGONIA PROBLEM

by David Halperin

– 1 –

One day not long after the year 800, Agobard, archbishop of Lyon, found himself in exactly the right place to stop a lynching. Lucky thing for three men and one woman, who were said to have fallen from ships that sailed through the sky.

Vis-à-vis the aerial ships, Agobard was what we’d now call a “debunker.” If he were alive today, he’d probably be in CSICOP. Or maybe not: the foundation of his skepticism was that the popular beliefs he devoted himself to debunking were contrary to Holy Scripture.

But let Agobard tell the story:

But we have seen and heard of many people overcome with so much foolishness, made crazy by so much stupidity, that they believe and say that there is a certain region, which is called Magonia, from which ships come in the clouds. In these ships the crops that fell because of hail and were lost in storms are carried back into that region; evidently these aerial sailors make a payment to the storm-makers [Tempestariis], and take the grain and other crops. Among those so blinded with profound stupidity that they believe these things could happen we have seen many people in a kind of meeting, exhibiting four captives, three men and one woman, as if they had fallen from these very ships. As I have said, they exhibited these four, who had been chained up for some days, with such a meeting finally assembling in our presence, as if these captives ought to be stoned. But when the truth had prevailed, however, after much argument, the people who had exhibited the captives, in accordance with the prophecy (Jeremiah 2:26), “were confounded … as the thief is confounded when he is taken.”

(From Agobard, Against the Multitude’s Absurd Belief Concerning Hail and Thunder, chapter 2; translated by Wendy Lewis http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/Agobard-OnHailandThunder.asp)

Obviously—the skyships were “really” extraterrestrial vehicles, the three men and the woman “really” humanoid beings from other planets. That’s what the UFOlogists of the 1950s and 1960s would have said. It was left for Jacques Vallee, in a groundbreaking book published in 1969, to float the idea that the obvious resemblances between reported UFOnaut behavior, and traditional beliefs about “little men” and “fairy folk,” pointed instead to some transcendent realm which we humans can’t grasp as it really is, and therefore try to force into whatever categories our culture approves. For Biblical prophets like Ezekiel, the appropriate conventionalization might be “visions of God.” For us, it’s space-age technology.

Vallee took his code name for this realm from Agobard’s story. He entitled his book Passport to Magonia: From Folklore to Flying Saucers. From there “Magonia” entered UFOlogical discourse, where it remains to this day.

But what and where was Magonia? Who were the four people alleged to have come from there? Nice that Agobard (or somebody voicing arguments similar to Agobard’s) seems to have kept them from being stoned to death—but what gave the crowd the idea in the first place that they ought to be stoned? Agobard gives hardly a clue. A true “debunker,” he’s more interested in mocking than in understanding.

Getting behind a 1300-year-old story is seldom easy. But it can’t hurt to try.

– 2 –

What exactly is Magonia? I learn from Miceal Ross’s fascinating article “Anchors in a Three-Decker World” (in the 1998 volume of the journal Folklore) that the etymology of the name is a subject of dispute. Some derive it from Greek magoi, Latin magi, “magicians,” and understand it as “land of the magicians.” This is the derivation that’s always made sense to me. But there’s another theory, associated with the famous nineteenth-century folklorist Jakob Grimm, that links Magonia to Old High German maganwetar, “whirlwind.” As far as I know, the name occurs nowhere but in this Agobard passage.

Let’s grant that Agobard must be right: the three men and the woman were ordinary human beings. Magonia and the Magonians never existed. But the Tempestarii to whom they paid their tolls surely did. To judge from Agobard’s references, these “storm-makers” were as real, and every bit as pathetic, as the nasty old women who got burned at the stake in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries when some witch-hunter decided they had near-infinite powers of malignity hiding behind their feeble exteriors. Agobard doesn’t deny that the “storm-makers” are actual, identifiable people. Only, he says, they can’t possibly have the magical mastery of weather that his contemporaries credit them with.

Homunculi, “little men,” he calls them (ch. 14). The term might evoke Vallee’s elfin folk and our modern UFO aliens, but it probably conveys only Agobard’s contempt for the storm-makers’ insignificance. They’re hated by their neighbors, he says, who at every passing breeze curse them as gale-raisers. He tells a rather funny anecdote (ch. 7) about someone who assured him he’d witnessed one storm-maker’s wonders with his own eyes, yet backed off under cross-examination and admitted he wasn’t actually there at the time. He complains about a similar sort of folk, believed to have the power to ward off storms in exchange for a share of the farmer’s crop—and about the so-called Christians who can’t be bothered to pay tithes for the church or the deserving poor, yet are only too eager to buy protection from these fakers.

It’s a hardscrabble, superstition-ridden world Agobard calls up for us, where a hailstorm might doom an entire village to starvation while sky-riding “Magonians” feast off the fruits of their broken backs. Not very long before, Agobard tells us at the end of his treatise, a cattle plague was blamed on poison dust scattered through the fields by Charlemagne’s enemies. Whole crowds of people were scapegoated and lynched for the impossible crime, perversely insisting on their own guilt as they died. In a world like this, what’s extraordinary about three men and a woman almost stoned for falling from airships?

Yet as I read Agobard’s story I sense a residue of bafflement, something pointing beyond simple superstition toward “Magonia,” in Vallee’s sense of the word . And to an oddly similar story from a different time and place, told by a dead man whom I’ve come to know exceedingly well, which may (or may not) give the key to what happened in Lyon centuries earlier. You be the judge.

– 3 –

This man is usually known as Abraham Cardozo, though he was christened Miguel at birth and carried that name with him until he died.

He was born in Spain in 1627, to a family that once had been Jewish but accepted Catholicism at the end of the fifteenth century, when the Iberian Jews were given the choice of conversion or exile. Not all such families preserved their ancestral Judaism in secret—confessions of “Judaizing,” extracted by Inquisitional tortures, are often suspect. But the Cardozos did. At age six, little Miguel knew he was a Jew beneath his Christian façade. At age 21 he fled to Venice and formally converted. That was when he took the name “Abraham,” after Judaism’s first convert.

He became a physician, then a Hebrew scholar, then a Kabbalist—a devotee of Judaism’s mystic doctrine. In 1665, when a Turkish Jew named Sabbatai Zevi became an international celebrity by proclaiming himself Messiah, Cardozo was among the thousands who believed. He kept on believing even after 1666, when Sabbatai scandalized his followers by converting to Islam.

Cardozo knew what it was to profess a religion you didn’t really believe—Islam in Sabbatai’s case, Christianity in Cardozo’s. He conceived that he also was Messiah, Sabbatai’s mirror and partner; and when Sabbatai died without doing what Cardozo believed was the Messiah’s task, of revealing the secret identity of God, Cardozo took it upon himself. Until his death in 1706, he wandered among the cities of the Turkish Empire, expounding upon the relation between God and the Supreme Being. (Hint: they’re not the same.) He performed magic rites to bring about the messianic redemption. He maintained a lively intercourse with the world of ghosts and demons.

Insane, you say? Probably. (You might have turned out a little odd too, growing up in the shadow of the Spanish Inquisition.) Yet extraordinary—intellectually brilliant, dazzling in his utter sincerity and devotion to Judaism as he understood it, which happened to be different from the way nearly every other Jew of his time did. For years I’ve felt admiration and spiritual kinship with this man, and eventually published translations of his Hebrew writings under the title Abraham Miguel Cardozo: Selected Writings (Paulist Press, 2001). The story I’m about to tell may be found, with more detail and citation of sources, in that book.

– 4 –

It takes place in July 1683. Cardozo was at the time living by the Dardanelles, a hunted exile. He’d predicted Redemption for the spring of 1682; prophecy, as often, had failed. Its failure was not just embarrassment but disaster. Cardozo’s Jewish enemies, fed up with him, were rumored to have planned a lynching. He fled.

From this time of exile and humiliation, Cardozo reports the following experience:

On Tammuz 11, 5443 [= July 5, 1683], one hour before nightfall, as I was descending into my garden from my upper chamber, I looked up and saw the moon. “I see what appear to be shapes on the moon,” I said to the people of my household. They looked and said: “There are four shapes: Messiah ben David, Rabbi Nathan, Rabbi Isaac Luria, and a fourth shape that looks to be a woman.”

Cardozo lists five witnesses beside himself. They know, or think they know, who the three men on the moon are: Sabbatai Zevi, the Messiah descended from David; Sabbatai’s prophet Nathan of Gaza; and the sixteenth-century Kabbalist Isaac Luria. Three ghosts, in other words (for both Sabbatai and Nathan had died years earlier); and it comes as a shock when, later on, Cardozo discovers the three are not what they seem to be. No one tries to guess the woman’s identity.

Now I could see them clearly. “After our meal,” I told the others, “we shall say the evening prayer. They shall tell us then what their appearance in the moon today may betoken. It has been many years since they visited us, sitting and speaking with us. This is a certain indication that something new has come to be, and after the prayer, we shall know what it is.”

(Am I the only one who’s reminded of the Anglican missionary William Booth Gill, who on June 26-27, 1959, at Boianai, Papua New Guinea, saw close-up a hovering illuminated disk with four humanoid pilots? And who interrupted his contemplation of the extraordinary craft to eat dinner and lead a church service?)

About a half-hour past nightfall they began to speak with us from the moon, loudly, in human voices. We could hear them as distinctly as though they were conversing with us in the garden. I told them that the spot was ritually pure and that they might stand upon the trees, which they proceeded to do. They spoke that night for about two hours. They imparted attractive interpretations of the Bible, considered according to its literal meaning. They discussed Kabbalistic subjects with accuracy. And, after bidding us adieu, they departed.

The next day they visited me in my upper chamber, conversing with me as was their wont. I did not recognize them; I believed they really were the Messiah, and Rabbi Isaac Luria, and Rabbi Nathan.

The three men, in other words; the woman seems to have stayed on the moon. Gradually Cardozo unmasks his three visitors. They are not, as he and his friends first imagined, spirits of the blessed dead. They’re three demons, come to seduce him into misbelief.

Foul are the blasphemies the evil three pronounce. God, they tell Cardozo, has been stripped of His power by the Supreme Being; Satan now rules the world. Once God was able to drown Pharaoh in the sea, to kill Sennacherib within his camp. Now, the demons demand—if He has any power at all, let Cardozo call upon Him to send fire to burn them up! Cardozo accepts their challenge. But, horribly, it’s upon Cardozo himself that the fire descends.

For days Cardozo lies in his bed, teetering on the edge of death with fiebre ardiente, burning fever. Dressed in black, the three men stand by his bedside, declaring it their demon-god’s delight to do to him as his God once did to Pharaoh. Their black clothing has its roots in Talmudic legend; yet it’s striking that this is the first time “three men in black” put in an appearance. They will re-appear in Bridgeport, Connecticut, 270 years later—as Gray Barker relates in They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers—to terrorize Albert K. Bender into abandoning his UFO researches.

Of course all this is Cardozo’s hallucination. That his friends also see the foursome on the moon is a problem, but not much of one. Throughout his life Cardozo had a talent for getting others to share his hallucinatory experiences, to enter with him into a complex folie à deux, to see things that were never there to be seen. It’s likely enough, actually, that his memories of the whole episode were a fever-hallucination, the beginnings of which he projected back to the time just before he fell ill. His moon-woman, his three moon-men, never had any physical existence. In this they differ from Agobard’s Magonian Four, who were plainly flesh-and-blood human beings.

Yet the parallel is haunting. A quaternity in the celestial realms, three men and one woman. They descend, three of them or all four, to earth. Their purpose is sinister and malignant. (And in case you wonder what evil beings would be doing in the sky rather than somewhere down below, the idea of “spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” is as old as the New Testament: Ephesians 6:12.)

Forget the gap of nearly nine centuries that separates Agobard’s report from Cardozo’s. Can their resemblance be coincidence?

Well, of course it can.

The more fruitful question is, is it coincidence? Or is there another hypothesis that works better, that correlates and explains the two testimonies in a more satisfying way than treating their resemblance as random and accidental? I think there is. And as I’ve tipped you off with my use of the word “quaternity,” this hypothesis is rooted in the psychology of Carl Jung.

– 5 –

I’m not a Jungian, not exactly. The mystagogic quality of Jung’s writings has always put me off. More than once I’ve found myself asking, as I read him: why can’t he just say what he means, show us the evidence, and let us decide for ourselves? (The way I hope I’ve done with you, in this essay.)

Yet, during my three decades of research in some of the odder byways of Jewish mysticism, I’ve kept coming up against texts which Jung is highly unlikely to have been aware of, yet which best make sense through his explanatory models. The ancient rabbinic doctrines of the merkavah (the chariot seen by Ezekiel, chapter 1), for example, show us a quaternity very like the hypothetical Quaternity of which the Christian Trinity is a mutilated relic: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, plus the Fourth, the Devil. (Jung develops this idea in “A Psychological Approach to the Dogma of the Trinity,” in Psychology and Religion: West and East, vol. 20 in the Bollingen edition, pp. 109-200. I discuss the rabbinic materials in my book The Faces of the Chariot: Early Jewish Responses to Ezekiel’s Vision, Tübingen, J.C.B. Mohr, 1988.)

Cardozo also knows a divine, or at least messianic, quaternity. It’s the same Jungian 3 + 1 pattern—three alike, the fourth tied to the three yet in some significant way different. Developing an ancient Jewish tradition of two Messiahs, Cardozo tells us there will be four: Messiah son of David, Messiah son of Joseph, Moses redivivus, and Elijah returned from heaven. Only—here Cardozo bowls a major googly—he’s not quite sure whether the fourth Messiah will really be Elijah after all. Maybe it will be a she, a woman Messiah, the She-Who-Brings-Good-News-To-Zion of Isaiah 40:9. This female Messiah has no precedent in Jewish tradition. She’s the Jungian Fourth, in a quaternity that’s no longer 3 divine + 1 demonic (as in Ezekiel’s vision), but 3 male + 1 female.

In Cardozo’s vision of 1683, this quaternity is transplanted to the moon. Degraded, in the process, from messianic to demonic. (But Cardozo admits: they had him fooled for a while.)

There’s more to Cardozo’s vision than Jungian psychology. I have no doubt that the unnamed moon-woman came to him, at least in part, from unconscious or half-conscious memories of his Catholic childhood. Seventeenth-century Spain was awash with paintings and sculptures of the Immaculate Conception, showing the Blessed Virgin as a beautiful young girl standing on the moon. (There’s a particularly gorgeous painting of this genre by Velázquez, done about eight years before Cardozo was born http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/diego-velazquez-the-immaculate-conception.) Often the Virgin is accompanied by three male cherubic figures, whose wings could have suggested to an impressionable child that they might fly down from the moon to pay us a visit, while the Lady remains above.

Will this contradict the Jungian explanation of the vision, or render it unnecessary? Not at all. The two supplement each other. The archetypes clothe themselves in the cultural garb of the time and place in which they appear. And who knows?—the tendency of Spanish artists to give the Virgin three cherubic attendants may itself have been influenced by the quaternity archetype.

You may say: this is well and good for a psychic production, a hallucinatory vision like Cardozo’s. But do the archetypes become flesh, as they must if we’re to use them to make sense of Agobard’s story?

Jung himself asked much the same question …

– 6 –

In the final chapter of his classic Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies (1958), after demonstrating at length the psychic associations of the UFO, Jung confronts the problem: UFOs can be photographed. UFOs can appear on the radar screen. And if they’re psychological—how can this be?

It boils down to nothing less than this: that either psychic projections throw back a radar echo, or else the appearance of real objects affords an opportunity for mythological projections. …

If these things are real—and by all human standards it hardly seems possible to doubt this any longer—then we are left with only two hypotheses: that of their weightlessness on the one hand and of their psychic nature on the other. This is a question I for one cannot decide. … But the psychic aspect plays so great a role that it cannot be left out of account. The discussion of it, as I have tried to show, leads to psychological problems which involve just as fantastic possibilities or impossibilities as the approach from the physical side … psychology, too, has not only the right but also the duty to do what it can to shed light on this dark problem.

The question of anti-gravity is one which I must leave to the physicists, who alone can inform us what chances of success such an hypothesis has. The alternative hypothesis that Ufos are something psychic that is equipped with certain physical properties seems even less probable, for where should such a thing come from? If weightlessness is a hard hypothesis to swallow, then the notion of a materialized psychism opens a bottomless void under our feet …

Fortunately, there are less drastic ways by which psychic phenomena can take on physical reality. The extent to which these can be applied to the more baffling modern UFO experiences, and the manner of their application, are questions upon which I’m not yet prepared to offer an opinion. But for Agobard’s Magonians, I think they’ll work.

I’m thinking of the mechanism called projection, to which Jung alludes in the quote above. The term refers to our psychological habit, nearly unbreakable, of projecting what’s going on inside us onto people or situations in the external world. These persons or situations are sometimes wholly innocent of what we attribute to them, blank screens for our projections. Sometimes they collude, consciously or unconsciously, with our projections, in which case they confirm the illusion of reality that we’ve created. But the essential process remains the same. What we won’t recognize within us, we conceive to be out there.

Sometimes, by taking action based on our projection we can make it be out there, in the manner of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I imagine something of the sort happened in Agobard’s Lyon. For reasons I can’t guess, the quaternity archetype of 3 + 1 had taken on a peculiar power and intensity in the collective psyche of the people of his time. (Like Jung, I do believe in a psyche that transcends the individual.) The archetype is a pattern, a form; it goes in search of matter to be formed, reality to be patterned and organized. One day early in the ninth century, the quaternity archetype encountered its matching reality.

That reality, no doubt, was something altogether banal. A fortuitous grouping of three men and one woman—that by itself, perhaps, was enough to invoke the archetype. Or perhaps these people were seen conversing with one of the reputed Tempestarii, arranging something that looked like an exchange of goods or promises. In came the archetype, investing the situation, and the unfortunate individuals caught up in it, with its own uncanny numinosity.

And the populace, seeing its internal “spiritual hosts of wickedness” made flesh before its eyes, set about stoning them.

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My thanks to Dr. Thomas E. Bullard, author of The Myth and Mystery of UFOs (University Press of Kansas, 2010), for his read of this essay and his insightful comments thereon.

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David Halperin was a teenage UFO investigator in the 1960s. Later he became a Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill—his specialty, religious traditions of heavenly ascent and otherworldly journeys. His novel Journal of a UFO Investigator was published in the USA by Viking Press this past year. It appeared in Spanish translation in 2010; Italian and German editions are scheduled for 2012. David blogs about UFOs, religion, and related subjects at: www.davidhalperin.net.

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Make Ufology History
‘The Pelican’

Originally published as ‘The Pelican Writes…’ in Magonia 89, August 2005.

In his previous column The Pelican discussed the falseness of ufology as a supposed subject for scientific investigation. Now he feels it is time to propose what to do about it. What is needed is a suitable slogan for the project and The Pelican has unashamedly borrowed an idea from the recent campaign to tackle poverty in Africa. Thus the rallying cry for all who want to launch a concerted attack on the false science of ufology is: Make Ufology History. This is a bit snappier than Andy Roberts’s slogan: Tough on ufology, tough on the causes of ufology.

How will the destruction of ufology be achieved by The Pelican, together with his horde of acolytes, sycophants, hero-worshippers and hangers-on? The answer is fairly simple. The social and psychological treatment of UFO reports should be pursued, but attempts must be made to discourage psychologists from over-simplifying the problem. A notable example of this is the tendency of those investigating persons claiming to have been abducted by aliens to assume that all of these experiences happen as a result of sleep disturbances, even though a large proportion of such cases are said to involve people who were out walking or even driving cars at the onset of their experiences. Failure to study the literature on the subject resulting in failure to be aware of its complexities only serves to bring their work into eventual disrepute and to encourage those who prefer some of the wilder interpretations of such experiences.

Another important task is to attempt to destroy the credibility of those ufologists who do not deserve it. These are usually those of the American nuts-and-bolts school, the people who believe that UFOs are extraterrestrial but prefer not to say so outright. Most of these people seem perfectly rational in their approach so long as one does not look too closely at their work, and so long as one ignores their regrettable tendency, which The Pelican has previously noted, to give credence to certain notorious hoaxes as being sightings of genuine UFOs. These ufologists seek to maintain their credibility by attacking those who are obviously charlatans or are mentally unhinged, making themselves look eminently respectable by contrast. What they have in common is the belief that behind all the misperceptions, lies, fantasies and nonsense, there lurks the genuine or ‘true’ UFO, just waiting to be discovered and its exotic nature proved beyond doubt, this being the fantasy which keeps them going.

In Britain, a small number of ufologists, most notably Andy Roberts, David Clarke and Jenny Randles have wrecked some of the schemes of ufological mystery-mongers by investigating and explaining certain high-profile UFO cases, thus so far frustrating their efforts to establish a ‘British Roswell’.

This brings The Pelican to the next task, which is to make it clear to the news media and the makers of documentaries that the great majority of the more prominent ufologists are basically not amateur scientists but entertainers. Their aim is not to discover the true facts concerning UFO reports and UFO witnesses, but to court media exposure and popularity by telling people what they obviously want to hear about UFOs – that they are real, and that the reason why this is not generally recognised is that governments have concealed The Truth from the public for nearly 60 years. This brings us to the next task.

This is one falsehood of ufology that needs to be exposed for the nonsense it is. In fact this will be surprisingly difficult as the persistence of such an utterly absurd belief is a mystery in itself. It can only be an indication of the power of the will-to-believe in UFOs. It is a belief strongly held not only by the lumpenproletariat of ufology but also by many of the more intelligent and highly educated. Of course, not all are sincere. The ufological entertainers, mentioned above, have incorporated it as part of their acts. When anyone asks why we don’t have any crashed UFOs or aliens available for public display they are told that they are all locked away at heavily guarded government establishments.

The government secrecy angle is particularly hilarious in American ufology, where the US government is accused of
concealing the evidence, silencing witnesses and confiscating every last piece of crashed UFO before it can be subjected to independent laboratory testing. In pursuing these fantasies American ufologists rarely pause to consider that every other nation would be either willing or able to pursue this policy. The maintenance of the government secrecy fantasy requires that, if at all possible, UFO crashes should take place only on US territory, otherwise it can get a bit complicated. In the case of the notorious Varginha, Brazil, incident in which a UFO is said to have crashed and its occupants captured, someone added extra details to the story saying that the aliens had been flown out of Brazil on a US Air Force plane, thus removing the vital evidence to a place where the blanket of secrecy could be safely maintained.

American ufologist Royce J. Myers has a web site containing a ‘Hall of Shame’ which gives details of ufologists who have incurred his disapproval. Some of these characters would be on almost anyone’s lists. They are the usual frauds, hoaxers and fantasists, but others, such as Phil Klass and Dr Jill Tarter are there simply because they don’t believe in pursuing the holy grail of the ‘True UFO’. The Pelican’s Hall of Shame would be a much longer list and would include all but a very few ufologists, and The Pelican would not be short of cogent reasons for including them. However, he is inhibited by the prospect of attracting the unwelcome and expensive attentions of m’learned friends.

Readers are invited to join The Pelican to put ufological studies into their rightful place as a branch of modern folklore and Make Ufology History.

Declassing the Classics.
‘The Pelican’

This article was first published as ‘The Pelican Writes…’ in Magonia 98, September 2008.

As devoted readers of this column will know, The Pelican has long since solved the UFO so-called “mystery”. There are two separate but related fields of study which may be described as ufology, but very few people pursue them. One kind of study uses the physical sciences to investigate UFO reports to try to discover the physical stimuli which produce them. For example, a ‘strange’ light in the sky reported by a number of witnesses might be identified as the planet Venus. The other kind uses the social sciences and involves psychologists, sociologists and folklorists in the study of ufologists and UFO groups, and their beliefs and motivations.

Both kinds of study, if carried out with appropriate scientific or academic rigour, incur the condemnation of UFO enthusiasts, including those who like to consider themselves to be Serious Ufologists.

Certain cases become known as ‘classics’, sometimes because there were multiple independent witnesses, and sometimes because Serious Ufologists, with impressive scientific or technical credentials, investigated them and solemnly pronounced them to be inexplicable.

An interesting multiple witness event which quickly became a classic took place in Arizona on 13 March 1997. This was in two parts: first, a formation of lights which was seen over Prescott at about 8.15 p.m., over Phoenix at 8.30 and over Tucson at 8.45; then at about 10 p.m. a string of lights appeared southwest of Phoenix, slowly sank down and disappeared.

Because many ufologists rejected possible explanations offered, this attained “classic” status, although it was eventually conceded by some Serious Ufologists, after intensive investigation and much agonising, that the second phase of the sightings was caused by flares dropped from aircraft. Sceptical ufologist Tim Printy noted: “Richard Motzer, of MUFON, had determined … that the lights were flares and said so in the MUFON Journal. He drew a lot of criticism for this and was called, of course, a ‘debunker’ and a secret member of skeptical organizations. Even after the identification of the planes involved, Motzer was still vilified by other investigators when he should have been praised for his good work.” (1)

As for the first phase of the sightings, some Serious Ufologists proclaimed that the V-shaped formation of lights was an enormous triangular UFO. However, Tony Ortega, a journalist who actually investigated the sightings, identified the lights as aircraft flying in formation. He wrote an article in which he criticised the treatment of the case by NBC in a programme titled ’10 Close Encounters Caught on Tape’. (2) In the article, Ortega said that he had interviewed a young man who had seen the V-formation from his backyard and trained his Dobsonian telescope on it, which revealed it to be a formation of aircraft.

He wrote: “When the young man, Mitch Stanley, tried to contact a city councilwoman making noise about the event, as well as a couple of UFO flim-flam men working the local scene he was rebuffed. I was the first reporter to talk to him, and, as a telescope builder myself, I made a thorough examination of his instrument and his knowledge of it.”

Some Serious Ufologists dismissed this explanation, saying that a formation of aircraft could not appear as a solid object, as described by some of the witnesses. Others took the simpler course of just ignoring it.

Does this mean that there was a highflying formation of aircraft observed by Mitch Stanley, who somehow failed to notice the V-shaped UFO, or that he was lying about what he claimed to have seen through the telescope? It seems that having reluctantly agreed to flares as the explanation for the first set of sightings, Serious Ufologists were determined to hang on to the idea of the second set as sightings of a True UFO. Seeing a Classic case being completely junked was just too much to bear. Think of the comfort and joy it would bring to the skeptibunkers and noisy negativists!

Of course, the Serious Ufologists’ error here is to entertain the notion that some UFO reports are sightings of alien craft and that their task is to recognise these and add them to the list of unexplained cases. The notion that the true explanations for sightings that remain unidentified after being investigated by Serious Ufologists is that they are alien craft, is what makes ufology a pseudoscience. The truth, of course, is that there are numerous true explanations and, in some cases such as the Berwyn Mountain incident, three or more true explanations. It is absurd to suppose, for example, that the cause of the RB47 incident will be the same as that of Socorro.

It is not just the nuts-and-bolts ETH Serious Ufologists who are rather flaky, but also those who seek more subtle explanations. As The Pelican has noted in one of his previous columns, all but a very few ufologists do not have a purely objective approach to the subject. And, of course, they usually get away with their dodgy hypotheses and tall stories.

One notable example is ‘respected’ scientist and ufologist Jacques Vallée. The Pelican has noticed that he has several times told a little anecdote about his early work at Paris observatory, tracking satellites. In one interview he claims that he and his colleagues “started tracking objects that were not satellites, were fairly elusive, and so we decided that we would pay attention to those objects even though they were not on the schedule of normal satellites.”

He then goes on to allege that: “And one night we got eleven data points on one of these objects–it was very bright. It was also retrograde. This was at a time when there was no rocket powerful enough to launch a retrograde satellite, a satellite that goes around opposite to the rotation of the earth, which takes a lot more energy than the direct direction. And the man in charge of the project confiscated the tape and erased it the next morning.”

Now this claim raises some questions. The first is the obvious one asked by the interviewer: “Why did he destroy it?” Vallee replied that it was “fear of ridicule”. But, The Pelican’s percipient readers will ask: If these objects could be tracked by the Paris observatory, then surely they could also be tracked by other observatories and, as the one in question was described by Vallee as being of first magnitude and as bright as Sirius, it could also easily have been tracked by amateur astronomers?

Indeed, Vallee claimed that he later discovered that the same object had been tracked by other observatories and photographed by American tracking stations. Other questions which occur to The Pelican ar: how does a moron get appointed as the leader of a team of professional astronomers tracking satellites; why should anyone be afraid of ridicule if they have accurately recorded data, confirmed by a number of teams of professional observers, so that there is no doubt about its authenticity, and is there any truth in this anecdote, or is it just another ufological tall story?

The attentive reader will notice that there is something else about this anecdote which it shares with other amazing UFO stories which apparently demonstrate the truth of the ETH. It is, of course, the lack of technical detail, and the lack of any reference to where this may be obtained. It will be argued, inevitably, that this has been kept secret, despite the alleged mystery satellite’s being “as bright as Sirius” and having been tracked by several observatories.

Indeed, most of the Classic UFO cases are notably lacking in precise details, so that investigators have to make do with rough estimates. There are often multiple witnesses, but rarely multiple independent witnesses.

Some ufologists, then — Serious or otherwise — examine UFO abduction reports in the hope of gaining decisive evidence. These have the advantage that the relevant information is available to the enthusiastic amateur, and can not be kept secret like that obtained by government agencies with their radars and other remote-sensing devices. Many abductionists (abductologists?) ferociously attack the authors of papers which seek to explain abductions in psychological terms, notably as the effects of sleep paralysis, with the details being drawn from popular culture, together with the leading questions asked by the abduction enthusiasts. They object that many abductions take place while the subjects are awake. But couldn’t it be true that, in some cases, the abductees are not really awake when they have their experiences, but only think they are? The following account, which does not involve an alien abduction scenario, should give believers in alien abductions pause for thought:

“This was in Minnesota about 25 years ago. I got up from a nap one day and walked down to a McDonalds where I always went because all my friends hung out there. As I was standing in line to get my coffee I suddenly fell backwards for no apparent reason right onto the guy who was standing behind me. A second later I was lying on my back, back in my bed at home. But I was lying on top of the guy I had fallen onto at the McDonalds. He had my arms pinned and he was sniggering in my ear. I was pretty much paralyzed. There was someone else in the room, too. This guy paced back and forth slowly, not looking at me or the other guy, seeming to be waiting for something to happen. He looked depressed. The guy holding me down kept sniggering in my ear and seemed to be enjoying the fact I was paralyzed. I was completely terrified, to say the least, and couldn’t even struggle.

“This went on only a short time, though, maybe a quarter minute at most, and then they both suddenly evaporated. I was there alone lying on my bed. I could move now, but was completely upset and in shock about what had just happened. It had all been completely vivid in all detail: I could see, hear and feel them perfectly clearly while it was going on.

“I didn’t learn about the phenomenon of sleep paralysis until quite a few years later, and used to just think of the incident as some kind of nightmare. Anyway, I know why ‘abductees’ are loath to assume they are any kind of hallucination: they seem too vivid. We have the false preconception that hallucinations are supposed to be unrealistic somehow, have some dreamlike insubstantiality that gives them away as hallucinations, but they don’t. What was especially peculiar was the ‘set up’: the part where I hallucinated walking all the way to the McDonald’s when I was actually still at home in bed. I suppose I really wanted to go down there but got caught in some ‘interzone’ where my neurotransmitters hadn’t all shifted back into waking mode allowing me to hallucinate I was doing what I wanted to do. “Had it been two grey alien looking things instead of two humans, I’m sure I’d have been seriously considering that I’d been abducted by space aliens.” (3)

Most UFO incidents, whether abductions or strange things in the sky, are not what they seem. Hoaxes, often quite elaborate and well organised, are more common than American Serious Ufologists like to believe. The Pelican can reveal that the US government, and other governments, are not going to disclose the evidence that UFOs are interstellar spacecraft, either now or at any time in the foreseeable future, for the simple reason that they possess no such evidence. It’s true. Trust The Pelican and retain your sanity, and Make Ufology History.

Faulty Logic.
The Pelican

First published as ‘The Pelican Writes …” in Magonia 78, June 2002.

The Pelican thinks it is time to solve the problem of UFOs and ufology once and for all by explaining how the various controversies within it are caused mainly by faulty logic rather then by the difficulties in establishing the true facts of each case.

For example, there was a case in which there were three witnesses, two of them together in a car. One of these witnesses described a domed craft, with two entities visible inside the dome. This object disappeared behind trees as if it was landing, and was followed by other, similar craft appearing in the distance. She was very frightened by this sighting, according to the local police chief.

Many ufologists would accept such a report at face value, because there was more than one witness, and the witnesses appeared to be honest. However, this particular case soon unravelled when it was investigated by Kevin Randle. (1) When he interviewed the other main witness, he said that he saw no shape behind the lights and he thought that the pictures of domed craft and alien shapes drawn by the other witness were “ridiculous”. Thus there was obviously a conflict of testimony between the two main witnesses.

Randle dealt with this problem by going back to the original statements and descriptions and found that, on the night of the incident. both witnesses had merely described lights seen in the distance. Then one of the witnesses kept changing her story. Two days later she was talking about a domed disc, and a few days after that she was describing the alien shapes she claimed to have seen inside the dome.

Randle drove out to the area where the sighting had occurred and saw lights similar to those initially described by the witnesses. They were aircraft coming in to land at the local airport.

The point about this is that if it had not been competently investigated, it would have been recorded as a multi-witness sighting of a structured craft, with alien occupants. Randle does not accuse the woman who kept changing her story of lying; it was a case of confabulation. If the woman did not have available to her the idea of aliens thing around in domed saucers then she would not have had any basis for adding spurious details to her original sighting, and would probably have correctly interpreted the lights in the sky as aircraft.

This is where the psychosocial hypothesis is relevant to UFO reports. If someone sees something in the sky which seems to them to be unusual, or has some strange experience, then there exists a whole range of ufological myths which can be used to interpret such sightings and experiences. The details of UFO stories tend to vary depending on differences of language and culture. This is especially true of stories of alleged UFO entities. For example, many ufologists associate the chzspacabras with UFO activity, but only a few of them seem to realise that almost all of the people bothered by these unpleasant creatures happen to speak Spanish. The occupants of UFOs are more likely to be Nordics in Britain and Greys in North America. And so on.

Faulty logic is also applied in arguments as to whether UFO occupants have any objective existence. A noted exponent of twisted logic about them is Budd Hopkins. Hopkins insists that UFO abductions are physically real events, yet when Philip Klass asked him if he had informed the FBI about the abductions. he dismissed the question as “the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard in my life”. (2)

Hopkins apparently believes that one can prove the physical reality of UFO abductions by argument rather than evidence. In an article in which he attempts this he uses sexual abuse of children as an analogy. He argues that those who recall their own abduction experiences will accept their reality, whereas those who have not had such experiences will reject the idea that abductions are even possible. (3)

So what answer does Hopkins propose? Attempts to provide physical proof? No. He argues that Sigmund Freud was wrong to retract his belief that his patients problems were to a great extent the result of being sexually abused as children. He mentions a number of mental health professionals who have come to the conclusion that “childhood sexual molestation, seduction and abuse are rampant in the real world …” He makes no mention of how controversial this opinion is. or that it has led to innocent as well as guilty persons being accused and convicted of child abuse.

He attempts to link alleged child abuse with alleged UFO abductions like this: “Mason in particular claims that Freud’s theory that his patients were merely fantasising such childhood traumas in effect blames the victim and often deepens a sufferer’s problems. (In a parallel way, if UFO abductions are actually taking place as event-level occurrences. labelling them as fantasies is immensely destructive to those who suffer their after-effects.)”

So, you see. you must not deny the physical reality of abduction stories, because you might upset the abductees.

And what further powerful argument do we have from Hopkins to convince, if possible, even The Pelican that abductions must be real? He gives us some examples of abduction reports containing details which had not appeared in the UFO literature when the incidents took place. As they read on, though, attentive armchair ufologists indulging in literary criticism will become aware of his little trick. For instance, one witness reported an incident which occurred in April 1961, involving ‘missing time’. However. he didn’t tell Hopkins about it until 20 years later! Is it possible, the cynical old Pelican asks, that his story could have changed somewhat over the years? Does Hopkins consider this possibility> Of course not.

The Pelican hopes in future columns to continue to show how logic and the exposure of the tricks of the believers can clear away the atmosphere of spurious mvstery and lead us to a sane and balanced approach to the evaluation of UFO reports.

————————–

NOTES

1. Randle. Kevin, UFOs on memory lane’, International UFO Reporter. Spring 2001, Volume 26 Number 1
2. Klass, Philip J. UFO Abductions. A Dangerous Game, Prometheus Books, Buffalo, New York, 1988, chapter 16
3. Hopkins, Budd. ‘Abductions as physical events, UFO Brigantia. No. 10, November 1991.

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Reading John Keel.
The Pelican

Originally published as ‘The Pelican Writes …’ in Magonia 77, March 2002

The Pelican notes, with illconcealed glee, that America’s ETH ufologists have recently become more agitated and paranoid than usual, having become aware of an insidious threat to their noble cause.

A film based on John Keel’s book The Mothman Prophecies has just been released and this has naturally drawn attention to his writings, and the contempt he has expressed for the good old American nuts-and-bolts ETH. It was Keel’s book Operation Trojan Horse, together with Vallee’s Passport to Magonia, which was one of the chief inspirations for the development of the psychosocial hypothesis (PSH). Of course, neither author intended this, but some readers found these books useful as a basis for developing it.

Why, you might ask, should they be bothered by this? Where is the threat? Well, it’s all rather complicated of course, but The Pelican will attempt to elucidate. There are three distinct approaches to interpreting UFO ~ reports and UFO lore, which are:

  1. The extraterrestrial hypothesis (ETH), which considers that some UFO sightings constitute evidence of visitation by beings from other planets.
  2. The PSH, which regards the UFO as a modem myth, maintained by the subjective experiences of individuals and their social interaction with one another.
  3. The notion of the UFO as essentially an occult phenomenon, which cannot be explained or described using conventional scientific methods.

Approach No. 3 is not taken very seriously by supporters of the ETH or the PSH. For supporters of the PSH. it confirms their view of the UFO as essentially subjective, rather than some real physical phenomenon “out there”. Believers in the ETH see it as a serious obstacle to their claims being taken seriously by the scientific community. This is because it is very popular, and helps to contribute to the circus-like atmosphere of many UFO conferences, and the crazy and incoherent ideas expressed in many UFO journals, some of which started out with the good intention of presenting the evidence and arguments in a rational, objective manner.

Popular occultism and pseudoscience have been the ruination of many well-intentioned UFO organisations having a policy of membership open to all who are willing to pay the subscriptions. Sooner or later they are taken over by cranky and credulous people. One has only to look at BUFORA in Britain_ or MUFON in the USA. for examples.

Where does John Keel come in to this, you might ask. The answer is that Keel exposed the essential weakness of the ETH by drawing attention to the fact that UFO witnesses did not simply describe seeing strange craft or strange lights in the sky; he published the strange stories which the witnesses told him about visits from the Men in Black, and their incredibly odd behaviour, and all manner of other implausible details.

Most of the ETH enthusiasts carefully edit these inconvenient details out of their reports, no doubt in order to give them an aura of scientific respectability. They attempt to discount Keel’s findings by accusing him of being thoroughly unscientific and irrational. A good example of this is the following paragraph from a recent posting on UFO UpDates by Jerome Clark:

“If you think demons are responsible for UFO and other anomalous phenomena, or that this is at least a respectable, arguable hypothesis. then John Keel is your man. If you think science and reason are more likely than demonology to get to the bottom of the mystery someday, then Keel is just another of the colorful eccentrics – maybe, very roughly speaking, a kind of latterdav George Hunt Williamson – who have wandered through saucer culture over the decades.”

Of course. this is the impression of Keel you will get if you take his writings literally. ETH ufologists are very fond of taking things literally, especially if they are the things they want to hear. They do not want people to ignore Keel’s rather incoherent, but admittedly entertaining occult speculations and concentrate on his accounts of the stories told to him by UFO witnesses. This is because other investigators have been told very similar stories and. unlike certain ETH ufologists they have not suppressed them because they do not fit in with the notion of nuts-and-bolts alien spacecraft. Jenny Randles, for example, was told many similar stories when gathering material for a book about the Men in Black.

The ETH crowd, though, insist that we should ignore the subjective stuff and concentrate on physical evidence and multiwitness sightings. Yet when they are asked for specific details of such cases which seem to strongly support the ETH they get very cagey. They admit that most UFO reports are capable of other explanations, and that some of them are illusions or hoaxes. So what are these genuine reports they get so excited about?

If anyone mentions Roswell, The Pelican will descend on him from a great height!

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Carter, Pollard and the Broken Backed ‘f’.
Gareth J. Medway.

Originally published on Magonia Online, December 2010.

Probably most of us have a list of books that we intend to read some time. For several years mine has included An Enquiry into the Nature of Certain Nineteenth Century Pamphlets, by John Carter and Graham Pollard, but recently I discovered that there is a copy of it in a local reference library. I found it particularly interesting because it deals with a point that I raised more than once in the Magonia Bulletin, that is, how can you prove something to be a hoax, as opposed to merely suspecting it?

To outline the background: in Victorian England it was common for authors to print their shorter works, initially, as pamphlets limited to a few dozen copies, which they would give to their friends, and only later make them available to the public. Some of Tennyson’s narrative poems were first published in this way, for example. Since these were limited first editions, by the end of the century they had begun to fetch high prices amongst collectors. Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese (not, in fact, translations, but original compositions), issued in the second edition of her Collected Poems, 1850, but known to have been written in 1846, also featured in an edition (according to the title page) “Reading, Not for Publication, 1847”, this item being particularly prized. In the early 1930s Carter and Pollard, who were both antiquarian book dealers, heard a rumour that it was in fact a forgery.

They were not immediately able to examine a copy, most of which were by then in America, but meanwhile it had occurred to them that there were quite a number of similar pamphlets that had various peculiarities in common: they seemed to come on to the market too often; they were never signed, as one would expect works produced for the author’s intimates would usually be, nor even inscribed with an owner’s name; none had ever been rebound (quite common for that kind of work); and, though they bore dates from 1842 to 1899, there was no trace of any them in sales catalogues until about 1890. Most suspiciously of all, by this time the majority of copies were coming from a single bookseller named Herbert Gorfin. Now, a dealer might very occasionally acquire an unsold cache of works of this sort, but could hardly hope to make a habit of it.

You can see where all this is leading. The suspicion was that these pamphlets had not in fact been printed for their authors, but produced by some unscrupulous dealer from 1890 onwards, bearing false dates. In two particular cases there were already reasons for thinking so. Swinburne, in his old age, had denied knowing anything about a copy of his Cleopatra, purportedly printed for him in 1866. This just might have been due to a memory lapse on his part, but no such explanation was possible in the case of a Ruskin booklet. His best-known work, Sesames and Lilies, is a collection of lectures that he had delivered over a period of a few years. One, ‘The Queen’s Gardens’, was delivered at Manchester Town Hall on 14 December 1864, and printed in the Manchester Examiner and Times two days later. A pamphlet also bore the date 1864. But, as Ruskin’s bibliographers had pointed out, the text of this pamphlet did not correspond to the newspaper printing, nor to the first edition of Sesames and Lilies, 1865, but to the very slightly revised version issued in 1871. Obviously, it was printed much later than the title page pretended.

Carter and Pollard realised that there was a way of proving an earliest possible date for some of these works. In 1863 manufacturers had began introducing esparto grass into paper; chemical wood was included in some makes after 1874. Although not apparent to the naked eye, under a microscope the presence of esparto grass or chemical wood is quite easily visible. The letter f used to break in a press more often than any other; in 1880 a printer devised a new font with a ‘broken-backed f’, which was less likely to break. The ‘1847’ Sonnets from the Portuguese proved to have been printed with a broken-backed f on paper containing chemical wood. These tests also demonstrated some of the other suspect items to be spurious, though not in every case, since esparto grass, chemical wood and the broken-backed f were not always used, and some of them did not, in any case, purport to have been printed before 1880.

The authors then took the obvious step of contacting Herbert Gorfin. He denied having been involved in any forgery, and since he was only ten years old at the time when sales catalogues indicated that the scam had begun, they believed him. But he told them that, without exception, he had obtained the dodgy pamphlets in the years 1909 to 1912 from a certain Thomas J. Wise. This name was familiar to them, as that of a well-known book collector and bibliographer. He had published a ten-volume catalogue of his own collection, the Ashley Library, which could thereby be seen to contain every one of the suspect works, as did that of an American library, the Wrenn collection, that Wise had helped to assemble. Copies in the British Museum, Bodleian and Cambridge University Libraries generally bore a note: “Presented by Thomas J. Wise”. A few others could be traced back to Wise by some other route. A further clue came from the 1847 Sonnets, which, in addition to the broken-backed f, contained what they termed “the tilting question mark”, which, they determined, had never been used in the same fount of type. It must therefore have been a mixed fount, and though several different printers routinely used the same fount, a mixed fount would be unique to a particular printer. They were able to identify the one who used this mixture as the firm of Richard Clay and Sons of Bungay, Suffolk, who were also known to have printed several works for Thomas J. Wise.

In their Enquiry, published in 1934, Carter and Pollard did not come right out and accuse Wise of forgery – libel laws saw to that – but simply presented the facts, so as to let readers form their own opinions. One man refused to accept the obvious conclusion, and said that Wise would have had no reason to engage in fraud, since he was a rich man. He did not speculate on how Wise had got to be rich in the first place.

Subsequent historians have confirmed the suspicions about Wise, who died in 1937. It is now known that in 1886 he had teamed up with one Henry Buxton Foreman. At first, beginning with Byron’s 1806 Fugitive Pieces, they tried to produce facsimiles of genuine first editions and pass them off as originals, but these fakes were easier to detect. So they turned to making pamphlets which were quite unlike the real first editions, but bore an earlier date. See the entries on Carter, Foreman, Pollard and Wise in the new Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Verbal and other literary anachronisms are less conclusive than those of paper and typeface, but they can be highly indicative. In 1979 the publishers David & Charles of Newton Abbot issued An Account Of A Meeting With Denizens Of Another World 1871, attributed to William Robert Loosley, but ‘Edited and with commentary by David Langford’. The ascribed author was a cabinet maker of High Wycombe, who one night saw a strange star descend onto a wooded hill near his home.

Going to investigate, he was confronted by two strange animated metallic objects, who treated him to a sort of holographic light show, which made no sense to him, but which he recorded in such detail as to enable Langford to interpret them as referring to various scientific facts, such as the behaviour of the hydrogen molecule and the carbon atom, which would have meant nothing to anyone in the nineteenth century, but were clearly apparent to a 1970s physicist. They did not appear to have tried to show him anything beyond what was known in 1979, though one might expect that interstellar travellers would have discovered things unknown to twentieth century earthlings.

The book contained several photographs proving that Loosely was a real person, but, as Colin Bord observed in his review in Fortean Times (31, Spring 1980, pp.46-48), there was no authentication of the manuscript itself by experts, nor even a photograph of it, and that without these there was no reason to think it anything but “an academic joke at the expense of ufologists.” He also noted that it read “like a short story by H. G. Wells”, and this is true: it began “It is my intention to record the curious and marvellous happenings of a few days past, while the memory is still vividly with me…” which is typical of nineteenth century fiction, though not of factual writing of the period.

In any case, the generally passable imitation of Victorian prose was completely spoiled by the use, twice, of the adjective ‘alien’ to mean ‘from outer space’: “the small alien contrivance I had seen … the meaning of one alien message…” Of course, in 1871 alien meant ‘foreign’. It was first recorded by the Oxford English Dictionary as used to mean ‘extraterrestrial’ in 1944, in a story in Astounding Science Fiction. Even then, it took a couple of decades to catch on elsewhere: it was not used by early flying saucer writers such as Keyhoe, but finally turned up in ufology in Brad Steiger’s Strangers from the Skies, 1966, and then in the Guardian in 1967. This fact turns a suspicion of a hoax into a certainty.

David Langford was no stranger to such sport, for only the year before he had contributed a twenty page article to George Hay’s spoof Necronomicon, in which he pretended to describe how he had deciphered the text from an old manuscript with the aid of a computer. How can I be so sure that this was a fake? It purported to be the work of Abdul Alhazred, an eighth century Arab, which was translated into Latin in the thirteenth century, and thence into English by Dr. John Dee in the sixteenth. Langford claimed to have decoded the text of the Necronomicon from a genuine manuscript of Dee’s in the British Library, which consists of a hundred pages of seemingly meaningless jumbles of letters.

It begins: “The Old Ones were, the Old Ones are and the Old Ones shall be. From the dark stars They came ere Man was born, unseen and loathsome They descended to primal earth.” The idea that the stars might be inhabited was unknown before the Renaissance, and any eighth century writer, and indeed a sixteenth century translator, would have considered that the Earth was only older than Man by a few days. Then we are told that one of these Old Ones, Hastur, should be invoked at Candlemas, “the second day of the second month”, the author of this having forgotten that in Dee’s day April was the first month of the year (hence February was the eleventh), and that no Arab writer would have used the Christian calendar in the first place.

Then again: “And ye stones shall be ye Gates through which thou shalt call Them forth from Outside man’s time and space.” This last phrase is clearly post-Einstein. There are various diagrams in the text, none of which are in the original manuscript, and include a cipher alphabet with separate characters for i and j, although Langford himself noted that the two letters were not distinguished in those times. Here also are some words used in this alleged text of 1587, together with the date of first usage known to the OED: primal, 1602; ultimate, 1654; magnetic, 1634; circumambulate, 1633; antagonism, 1838; vortex, 1653; elevenfold, not recorded at all; intersect, 1615; pentagram, 1833.

One could draw appropriate conclusions from these facts, even if one did not know, as most people do, that the Necronomicon was a non-existent book invented by the horror writer H. P. Lovecraft in the 1920s as a literary device for use in his short stories. These were accompanied by references to copies in the library of Miskatonic University in Arkham, both the institution and the town being themselves fictitious. The myth took on a remarkable life of its own, so that before this book appeared there had already been three printed and at least two manuscript Necronomicons in circulation, none of them having anything in common with each other apart from the title. There have been several others since.

The examples given here only show how hoaxes related to alleged events in the fairly distant past may be exposed. They are, however, important in that there is certain evidence of fraud. What I would like to find are ways of establishing whether supposed contemporary events may be spurious.

An Organised Distortion of Memory.
John Rimmer

This article was first published as the Editorial in Magonia 60, August 1997

As this issue of Magonia is being prepared, The Mail on Sunday (29 June 1997) reports that the Royal College of Psychiatrists has received a report which condemns recovered memory therapy techniques and concludes that no ‘recovered memories’ of child abuse have ever been proven. The newspaper adds that the report has not yet been published because of “deep divisions… within the psychiatric profession”.

The report was commissioned by the RCP following the controversy over recovered memory claims of abuse which resulted in high profile cases in Nottingham, Rochdale, Orkney Islands, and elsewhere. It was produced by Professor Sydney Brandon, a retired professor of psychiatry at Leicester University. The report highlights the damage which has been done to individuals and families by the use of ‘recovered memory’ therapy: “The effects of distorted truth should not be overlooked. The damage done to families if the accusations are untrue is immense. The damage to the individual is less obvious, but mental health based upon an organised distortion of memory may prove precarious.”

The Mail on Sunday’s, report ends with the words “It is too late to protect some from over-enthusiastic therapists but the words of the report should ensure that the witch-hunt is over.” Unfortunately this will certainly not be the case. The backlash against critics of ‘recovered memories’ and `Satanic ritual abuse’ is well underway. A recent Channel 4 TV series has attempted rehabilitation of some previously discredited cases – a series in which Tim Tate, producer of the notorious Cook Report on SRA, was involved, and as we saw in Basil Humphrey’s report in Magonia 59, these ideas are still being promoted and received enthusiastically within the social work milieu.

What is particularly disturbing about recovered memory therapy as described in this report, is that it is not confined to a fringe group of therapists. A survey by the British Psychological Society showed that “50% of [responding therapists] had at least one client recovering memories of some sort, and that 90% of these clinicians believed that such memories were essentially accurate.”

Recovered memories of UFO abductions may not have the impact on other people as claims of abuse, as there is not the direct accusation of abuse against an individual. This does not make them any less damaging to the individuals involved. The report is particularly dismissive of the ‘checklists’ used by many therapists to identify possible victims: “Many so-called checklists are so all-embracing that few people would be excluded… One article in an American journal advises: ‘if you identify with five or more [symptoms] yet have no memory of incest, you might try an exercise. Accept the theory that you have been abused, live consciously with the idea for six months, in context with an awareness of the traits you acknowledge, and see whether any memories come to you.

Apart from gasping at the sheer irresponsibility of this, when other people and families are involved, consider how closely this attitude resembles the techniques of the American abductionists. The ‘five or more symptoms’ sounds like nothing so much as the ‘Roper Poll’, which is still taken seriously by some ufologists. In this anyone who reported having experienced three or four odd incidents from off a checklist was considered to be an abductee. It is only a step from this to “accepting the theory that you were abducted” with encouragement from witness support groups and abductionist investigators. Well within six months anybody who has fallen into this trap will become “aware of traits” which reinforce the newly created belief.

As with the therapists, the role of the abductionist is to reinforce the belief system. It does not really concern itself either to actually examine the facts of a particular case: feelings and memory are everything, and are not to be challenged by police or sceptical researchers.

This report makes it clear that recovered memory therapies are dangerous, and this is not limited to ‘hypnotic regression’. Any form of ‘assisted recall’ has the potential for damage even if, as is claimed by both therapists and abductionists, the subjects seem to benefit from it: “Where an individual’s apparent improvement is based upon a false belief which has distorted both the individual’s past and relationships with his or her family there seems to be a possibility of further mental distress.”

What are the abductionists storing up for the future? Whose will be the first life to be destroyed by an abductionist after a few years of fame on the UFO lecture circuit? How can we make them stop now?

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Apollo 20: A Space Absurdity
Curtis Peebles

EXOPOLITICS GOES ON  A FLIGHT TO THE MOON

From Magonia 97, April 2008.

Beginning in April of 2007, an individual with the user name ‘retiredafb’ began posting a series of video clips on YouTube. These were described as from ‘Apollo 20′, a secret joint U.S./Soviet space mission in 1976 to examine a crashed UFO near the crater Izsak on the far side of the Moon. The Apollo 20 story offers a chance to examine the methodology and mindset of exopolitics advocates regarding evidence and its use in reaching conclusions.

The postings drew the attention of Italian journalist Lusa Scantamburlo, who conducted an on-line correspondence with ‘retiredafb’ over the spring and summer. Retiredafb said his real name was William Rutledge, and that he had been born in Belgium in 1930, emigrated to the U.S., and worked for the aircraft manufactories Avro and Chance Vought. He later worked for Bell Laboratories and the U.S. Air Force. Rutledge said that he had studied Soviet technology, such as the N1 Moon rocket, the ‘AJAX plane project’, and the ‘Mig Foxbat 25′. He said that he was skilled in computer navigation and had volunteered to be an astronaut for the Air Force’s Manned Orbiting Laboratory. This was a space station for reconnaissance missions, cancelled in 1969, and never flown. He was not selected and worked on the KH-11 reconnaissance satellite before retiring.

The Apollo 15 mission, according to Rutledge, photographed a crashed alien mothership on the far side of the Moon, which was never visible from Earth. The following year, the Apollo 17 mission also photographed the alien ship. Plans were made for two secret NASA/U.S. Air Force Space Command Apollo missions to examine it. These were Apollo 19 and 20, which were launched from Vandenberg AFB in California, rather than the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (The Apollo 18 mission was the American half of the joint U.S./Soviet Apollo Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) flown in 1975.)

The Apollo 19 mission was to explore the roof of the spindle-shaped mothership by climbing the ‘Monaco hill’. Rutledge gave few details of the mission. He did not give a launch date, or the full crew list. Rutledge did say the name of the Apollo 19 Command Module (CM) was Endymion, while the LM was called Artemis. He also said that one of the crew was ‘Stephanie Eilis’, the first U.S. black woman in space. According to his account, Eilis was born in 1946 in the Ivory Coast and arrived in the U.S. at the age of seven months. She worked at Grumman on the Apollo Lunar Module (LM) navigation system. Rutledge also said that she was his girlfriend. [1]

The Apollo 19 mission ended in tragedy. Rutledge said that telemetry was lost at the end of the engine burn to send the spacecraft to the Moon. The reason was not understood at the time, but Rutledge believed it was due to a collision with a ‘quasi-satellite’ or a meteor. [2]

Despite the loss of the first mission, plans went ahead for Apollo 20. Rutledge was the mission commander; Lena Snyder, also from Bell Labs, was the CM pilot; while Alexei Leonov was the LM pilot. A Soviet cosmonaut, he was the first man to walk in space, and the commander of the Soyuz which docked with Apollo 18 during the ASTP mission. The Apollo 20 CSM was named Constellation, while the LM was Phoenix. The mission control was at Vandenberg rather than Houston. The call sign ‘Vandenberg’ was used in the audio posted on YouTube videos. Three hundred people were involved with preparing the Saturn V at Vandenberg. Why Rutledge, Snyder, and Eilis were selected for the Apollo 19 and 20 crews was not made clear. Rutledge said only that he had been picked because he did not believe in God.

The Apollo 20 launch was made from Vandenberg AFB on August 16, 1976. The launch was seen, but people did not know it was a Saturn V booster. The YouTube videos included shots of Snyder entering the capsule (with his back to the camera), the launch itself, video from the LM as it prepared to land, photos of the mothership from orbit, and surface photos of a city on the Moon. This was described by Rutledge as only debris, except for one building.

Rutledge and Leonov entered the alien ship and found “…many signs of biology… vegetation in the ‘motor’ section, special triangular rocks which emitted ‘tears’ of a yellow liquid which has some special medical properties, and of course signs of extra solar creatures.” Two alien bodies were still in the mothership – one was in very poor condition, while the other was an intact female body. Dubbed ‘Mona Lisa’, she was 1.65 meters tall. Unlike her earthly namesake, Rutledge said she had six fingers on her hands. ‘Piloting devices’ were attached to both her fingers and eyes, while two cables were on her nostrils. Rather than clothes, she was covered in a thin transparent protective layer. Rutledge commented that the body “seemed not dead not alive.” He and Leonov attached their biomedical sensors to her body, and telemetry was received by mission control.

In all, Rutledge said he and Leonov spent seven days on the Moon exploring the alien ship. This was about twice as long as the Apollo 15, 16, and 17 crews had each spent on the surface. Rutledge said that since 1990, he had lived in Rwanda under a false identity, and had not spoken English during that time, only Kinyarwanda and French.

Rutledge gave little explanation as to why he released the videos, saying only that it was because of “The wonder of it all”, and “2012 is coming soon”. As for the secrecy of the two Apollo missions, he claimed the reason was “not a problem of panic, but simply a problem of economy”. Rutledge said that all currencies on Earth are based on the value of gold, but exploding stars spread large amounts of gold in young star systems. “This means that it is the most common substance in the universe, no more value than a piece of plastic”. [3]

Acceptance, Doubt, and Excuses

Scantamburlo was impressed by Rutledge’s videos and information, calling them “coherent and plausible, and it shows a detailed knowledge of Aerospace history, of Geology, Chemistry and of Space exploration history….” He continued, “Waiting for the rest of Rutledge’s testimony, we should prepare ourself for the wait and new Copernican revolution: we are not alone in the Universe and, at last, historical and technical evidences are supporting it beyond any doubt.” [4]

In attempting to support the claim that secret Apollo launches were made from Vandenberg AFB, Scantamburlo wrote that the Saturn V booster was listed in an April 19, 2006 Air Force report, and claimed that documents from the 1960s indicated Air Force interest in using the Saturn V booster. From this, he argued, “The fact that the Apollo 20 would have been launched from Vandenberg AFB, according to Rutledge’s testimony, is now supported by strong circumstantial evidence.” [5]

Despite his comments, Scantamburlo did note a problem with the YouTube video of the Apollo 20 liftoff. This clip had an opening frame listing it as film of the Apollo 11 launch, made in July of 1969. Rutledge explained that he was no longer in Africa, and that the videos were being converted from analogue to digital by friends in Rwanda for uploading to YouTube. They apparently made a mistake. [6]

Dr. Michael E. Salla, a leading figure in the exopolitics faction of ufology, wrote a commentary about the Apollo 20 videos on June 24, 2007. Dr. Salla was impressed by Scantamburlo’s work, saying his report “…demonstrates a sincere effort to verify a number of the details provided by Rutledge….’”

Salla also found inconsistencies in Rutledge’s account. One of these dealt with the Apollo 20 mission patch. Salla noted, “…the Apollo 20 insignia that is shown in a number of his films shows only the names of the three astronauts (Rutledge, Synder [sic] and Leonov) and the name of the Apollo mission. This is inconsistent with the 1975 insignia of the joint Apollo-Soyuz mission which had both the ‘Apollo’ and ‘Soyuz’, and the names of the three [sic] astronauts/cosmonauts on them.”

The second inconsistency was Ingo Swann’s account of his remote viewing of artifacts and aliens on the far side of the Moon for a “covert intelligence agency” in 1975. Salla wrote that, “Swann deduced from what he had been told that there was a concerted effort to gather intelligence using remote viewing since physical access to the moon had been curtailed.”

According to Swann, this was probably because the aliens had decided no further landings would be permitted. Salla continued that other whistleblowers had also indicated that this “…is the real reason why the Apollo moon landings were quietly terminated after the 1971 [sic] Apollo 17 mission.”

Salla noted that if Swann’s statements and conclusions were true, they would be inconsistent with a secret Apollo 20 landing on the Moon. This, combined with the Apollo 20 patch error, “…could lead to the conclusion that Rutledge’s testimony and videos are a sophisticated hoax to deceive the public.”

Yet having said this, Salla continued, “…Rutledge’s video evidence and testimony may be the final straw that breaks the camel’s back concerning UFO secrecy.” If Rutledge’s claims were proved to be true, and the inconsistencies were successfully explained, Salla predicted that, “…this will lead to an escalation of public disclosures. More officials will recognize that the secrecy system is imploding and will wish to be on the winning side of history as that part of the government
that played a proactive role in preparing the public for disclosure of the extraterrestrial presence.”

The same was also true, Salla wrote, if the Apollo 20 story proved to be a hoax, as it may be “…an attempt to raise the public’s awareness of extraterrestrial life through partially valid information.” Salla concluded his commentary by writing: “I recommend considering Scantamburlo’s report due to the possibility that this is a genuine disclosure of a secret mission to investigate an ancient extraterrestrial mothership….” [7]

Only four days later, Salla posted an update of the Apollo 20 commentary. Salla noted that the video of the ancient Moon city used a sound clip from the Apollo 15 mission. He initially wrote that this suggests that Rutledge’s story and videos were nothing more than an elaborate hoax, and that “…this discovery will suffice to dismiss the whole affair.” But he added, “However, this does raise the question of what the underlying agenda of Rutledge is in performing such an elaborate deception? Is it merely to disinform the public or to direct the public’s attention to something important?”

Salla preferred the second option, noting that “…the natural starting point is the … Apollo 15 photo … That is a genuine photo and may depict an extraterrestrial artifact as Rutledge claims.” He also noted “…that a joint mission insignia was not correctly depicted in Rutledge’s Apollo 20 videos.” Salla suggested that Rutledge was “…suggesting that there may have been [a] joint secret mission to discover more about the artifact depicted in the Apollo 15 photo, but that its actual name was not Apollo 20 which would have signified solely a US space mission.” [8]

Scantamburlo also acknowledged the falsehoods in Rutledge’s account in an August 22, 2007 paper. He noted a YouTube user had identified the city on the Moon photo as being a composite of images from the Apollo 17 mission with the fake ruins added. Scantamburlo, like Salla, offered a mixed analysis of the Apollo 20 case. On one hand, he wrote: “…there is the slight possibility that the fake was fabricated on purpose to provide us with a clue in investigating a lunar anomaly.” Yet Scantamburlo added: “However I am aware that now the contradictions of the Apollo 20 case are too many to be simply mistakes made by inexperienced helpers who would live in Rwanda…”

But Scantamburlo then asked, “Is it possible that behind the William Rutledge’s identity [sic] there is an agent of some Secret service of a European country who is trying to push (or to drive) the US government to reveal what it knows about the possible extraterrestrial in the Solar System? Or is he a person in control of some shadow Government scheme to subject the public to a psychological and sociological test in the context of the unofficial and rumoured `Public accommodation program.”‘ [9]

Eine Kleine Rocket Science

To assess controversial issues, modern society draws upon the heritage of the Greeks, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and the Scientific Revolution. These include rules of evidence, procedures to test a hypothesis, and methods of limiting biases and errors. These are applied on a daily basis to settle scientific, historical, journalistic, and legal questions.

The process has three basic steps. The first is to determine what is required for the claim to be valid or false. The second is to determine what evidence is available regarding the claim. The third is to analyze the collected evidence, and decide what conclusions can be drawn regarding the claim’s validity or falsehood.

If Rutledge’s basic claim is true, the Apollo 20 mission should follow the patterns of the known Apollo flights. This would include the hardware, ground support facilities, and mission profile. Another requirement is that the use of Vandenberg as the launch site would keep the missions secret. If he is a hoaxer, the Apollo 20 mission profile would not match that of earlier flights, and his evidence would have inconsistencies, falsehoods, and errors. To see which best fits the available evidence, we need a little rocket science.

Launching a Saturn V from Vandenberg would require the existence of support facilities for the booster like those at the Kennedy Space Center. The Saturn V was the largest U.S. booster ever built. It stood 364 feet tall, consisted of three stages, and produced 7.5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff. The Saturn V was assembled inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). When the VAB was built in the mid-1960s, it was the largest enclosed space on Earth. Once the Saturn V was assembled, it was moved from the VAB to the launch pad on the crawler-transporter. This vehicle is the size of a baseball infield and moves on eight caterpillar tracks. The launch pad is a large concrete mound rising above the Florida swampland. A large launch control center would be needed, and there would be supplies of liquid oxygen, kerosene, and liquid hydrogen to fuel the booster.

A possible option was that an existing launch pad, used for another large Air Force booster, was modified to support a Saturn V. The Titan IIID was the largest rocket being launched from Vandenberg in 1976. This consisted of a modified Titan II ballistic missile “core stage” with two solid fuel strapon rockets. (These were called “Stage 0″ and were on each side of the core stage.) The two strap-on boosters were ignited at lift-off and produced a total of 2.36 million pounds of thrust. After the stage 0 rockets burned out, the first stage engines ignited in flight. The rocket stood 155 feet tall. The core stage and the strap-on boosters were each ten feet in diameter.

The question then becomes what evidence is available that Saturn V support facilities existed at Vandenberg in the mid-1970s? The Saturn V and the Titan IIID had different configurations. The Saturn V had over three times the Titan IIID’s thrust and was more than twice as tall. The Saturn V’s first stage was also circular, was 33 feet in diameter, and had five F-1 engines. Four of the engines were arranged in a square, with the fifth in the center. All five engines ignited on lift-off. With the Titan IIID, only the two solid boosters are ignited at lift off. Because of the difference in thrust, engine arrangement, size, and other factors, the existing Titan IIID pad would have to have been completely rebuilt for use by a Saturn V booster. [10]

No evidence exists that any facilities ever existed at Vandenberg that could have been used to launch a Saturn V. Such facilities would be distinctive, and their use would be apparent. They would take years to build and check out, and involve a large number of people.

Rutledge also claimed that while the Apollo 19 and 20 launches were seen, witnesses did not realize the boosters were Saturn Vs. For his claim to be valid, there could be no public or press access to Vandenberg, and the site would have needed a sufficient buffer zone so that the facilities, preparations, and launches would be hidden from public view. As a result, while outsiders were aware the launches occurred, they did not understand they were secret Apollo missions, and not regular satellite or ballistic missile test firings.

The evidence is that Vandenberg does not meet the security requirements for the claim to be valid. A public road runs by Vandenberg’s main gate, and the city of Lompoc is nearby. Even in the 1970s, reporters were allowed on the base to cover civilian satellite launches. Finally, a railroad line runs through the base itself and past many of the launch pads. On September 20, 1959, a passenger train carrying Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev passed through Vandenberg during his state visit to the U.S. The three nuclear-armed Atlas ballistic missiles at the base were clearly visible from the train. Given the access to the base, hiding a VAB, launch pad, and Saturn V booster would not have been possible.

Nor is it possible to ‘hide’ a Saturn V launch from Vandenberg. It would have been visible not only from Lompoc and other nearby cities, but throughout central and southern California. The sound of Saturn V launch, which was only exceeded by a nuclear explosion, would have caused Lompoc residents to realize this was not a Titan HID or ballistic missile launch. [11]

Another requirement for Rutledge’s claim to be true would be that the Apollo 20 mission would meet the same requirements and limitations as the earlier flights, and share the same limitations as to hardware, duration, mission plans, and timing of events. The Apollo program completed six successful Moon landings between 1969 and 1972. The Command Module and Lunar Module were proven spacecraft, and there would be little time or need to make major modifications to the booster and spacecraft hardware, or to the Apollo mission profile, for the secret lunar missions.

There is ample evidence available that the Apollo 19 and 20 flights would have required fundamental changes in all aspects of their mission plans, compared to the other Apollo landing missions. The most basic difference is launch direction. The Apollo launches from Florida were to the east, so the rocket could take advantage of the Earth’s rotation to increase its payload. Also, both expended stages and malfunctioning rockets would fall into the Atlantic Ocean.

If an easterly launch from Vandenberg was made, the Saturn V would fly over the continental United States. The Saturn V’s first stage, called the “S-1C’” was 138 feet long, 33 feet in diameter, and had an empty weight of 370,000 pounds. After separating, it would break up during the reentry and debris would impact about 355 nautical miles down range. This would be along the Colorado River, on the border between California and Arizona. The falling SAC debris had the potential for causing deaths and injuries. Additionally, the reentry would be visible from the ground. The S-II second stage would impact off the U.S. east coast. Should a launch abort occur during the ascent, debris could potentially fall on cities and towns anywhere along this flight path. [12]

To avoid such possibilities, launches from Vandenberg are made at azimuths between 158 degrees and 201 degrees (an arc from the south south west to the south west). This avoids passing over land, and results in the satellite entering a polar orbit. (A launch to the north would head toward the USSR.)

While these range limits avoid dropping debris on the American southwest, polar orbits have a payload penalty. The rocket cannot take advantage of the Earth’s easterly rotation. For a Saturn V polar orbit launch from Vandenberg, the maximum payload was calculated to be 40 metric tons. The smallest payload for the early Apollo Moon landings was 44 metric tons. This would rule out a Vandenberg launch. If the Saturn V had been launched due west, an azimuth of 270 degrees (which is outside the range limits), the payload penalty would be 13 metric tons, as the rocket would be going the opposite direction to the Earth’s rotation. [13]

A little rocket science also allowed the landing time of the Apollo 20 LM on the Moon to be calculated. Apollo landings took place soon after sunrise. The low sun angle allowed the crew to spot the long shadows cast by obstacles. Therefore, the timing of all the mission events, from launch to the actual touchdown, was determined by the time the Sun was at the proper elevation at the landing site.

The video of the Apollo 20 launch on August 16, 1976 showed that it took place in daylight. Sunset at Vandenberg AFB on that date occurred at 7:49 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time (2:49 a.m. GMT on August 17). The Apollo 12 mission took 110 hours and 32 minutes from liftoff to the landing on the Moon. Using this as the maximum, the Apollo 20 landing at the alien mothership at the Izsak crater would have occurred no later than 5:22 p.m. GMT on August 21, 1976.

Sunrise at Izsak crater was calculated to have occurred at about 2:00 p.m. GMT on August 22; nearly a day after the maximum flight time. [14] This is extremely poor mission planning. Rutledge and Leonov would have had to make a night landing on the Moon, with only starlight to illuminate the surface. (As the landirig site was on the far side of the Moon, there would have been no earthlight to provide illumination.)

If a morning landing was made, the crew would have had to spend a day or more waiting in orbit. This required additional hydrogen and oxygen for the fuel cells to generate electrical power, as well as food and other consumables. The claim that Rutledge and Leonov spent seven days on the lunar surface also required an additional 1,500 pounds of payload for the LM. A Saturn V launched into a polar orbit lacked the payload for even a normal landing mission. [15]

The second hypothesis is that the Apollo 20 story is a hoax. For this to be valid, evidence would have to be found that the claims were false beyond that which could be explained by Rutledge’s age, faulty memory, and simple mistakes. Scantamburlo and Salla both noted various problems with the YouTube videos and images. The Saturn V launch video, for example, was from the Apollo 11 mission, but had been edited so it started with the rocket in flight, rather than lifting off the pad. This hid the views of the Florida swamps. Vandenberg has hilly terrain with brush and grasslands. An audio clip from the Apollo 15 mission was also used. Other video and photos were either faked outright or were altered. This includes the “flyover” video and the Moon ‘city’ photo. The ‘alien mothership’ itself appears to be a natural geological feature, such as a landslide.

Ironically, Salla’s two objections to Rutledge’s claims were flawed. Salla believed the Apollo 20 patch should have read ‘Apollo Soyuz’, to signify a joint mission. (Soyuz was the name of the Soviet spacecraft that the U.S. Apollo 18 docked with on the ASTP mission.) But since Apollo 20 did not involve a Soyuz spacecraft, the word ‘Soyuz’ would not have appeared on the patch. His other objection, that the aliens had forbidden landings on the Moon, has several problems. Using an unproven phenomenon, like remote viewing, as evidence about the reality of a disputed event is not valid.

Apollo 20, Exopolitics, Evidence, and the Question of Belief

In reaching a conclusion as to which of the two hypotheses is valid, one must rely on the available evidence. There is no evidence to support the Apollo 19 and 20 missions as real events. Without Saturn V facilities at Vandenberg, the booster could not be assembled, checked out, fueled, or launched. Without the ability to launch the booster, the whole Apollo 20 story is false on its face. There are also the issues of range safety, lost of payload capability, the landing time vs. sunrise time on the Moon and the added consumables the mission plan entailed. These indicate the claim is false in its details.

In contrast, the hoax hypothesis is supported by the evidence which Rutledge himself offered. The videos and stills were altered or outright forgeries. Assessing the accuracy or falsehood of a controversial theory is based on evidence that can withstand critical examination. In this case, the claims by Rutledge fail the test on numerous levels. This has implications beyond Apollo 20. Ufologists frequently complain that the scientific community is blindly refusing to accept their evidence. The Apollo 20 story implies the problem is not with the scientific community’s outlook, but rather that the UFO evidence lacks sufficient merit to be accepted.

Scantamburlo and Salla made only limited and informal analyses of Rutledge’s claims and evidence. Scantamburlo, for example, pointed to 1960s documents about Air Force interest in the Saturn V as representing “strong circumstantial evidence” that the story was true. These documents are not provided or quoted, nor do they indicate a Saturn V launch capability ever existed at Vandenberg.

The approach taken by both Scantamburlo and Salla in analyzing the Apollo 20 story does not reflect the procedures used by scholars to analyze controversial theories. They accepted the story immediately. In Salla’s case, this was based on his assessment of Scantamburlo’s work. He wrote that it “…demonstrates a sincere effort” to check out the story. Sincerity is not evidence. Both individuals made grandiose predictions that the Apollo 20 story would soon bring about “disclosure.” Very soon, however, they had to backtrack when the flaws, inconsistencies and falsehoods became clear.

Both Scantamburlo and Salla papered over these flaws by claiming they were deliberate falsehoods added to a true story. In short, they claim that obvious falsehoods prove the story is true, rather than a crude hoax. At best, this is wishful thinking. At worse, it is a rejection of the basic tenets of scholarship.

References

  1. Lusa Scantambudo, “An Alien Spaceship On The Moon: Interview With William Rutledge, Member Of The Apollo 20 Crew,” httpa/www.angelismarriti.iU ANGELISMARRITIENG/REPORTS ARTICLES/Apollo20-InterviewWith WilliamRutledge.htm
  2. ibid, and Scantambudo, “Apollo 19 And 20: New Clues And Revelations On The Case, http//www.angelismarriti.it /ANGELISMARRITIENG/REPORTS_ARTICLES/ Apollo19-20-NewClues.htm
  3. Scantamburlo, “An Alien Spaceship On The Moon: Interview With William Rutledge, Member Of The Apollo 20 Crew.”
  4. Scantamburlo, “New Evidence Provided By William Rutledge, CDR Of The Apollo 20 Crew, httpalwww.ufodigest.com/phprint.php
  5. Scantambudo, “The Apollo 20 Case: Debunking Or A Trojan Horse For The Truth?” http//www.angelismarriti.it/UANGELISMARRITIENG/REPORTS_ARTICLES/Apollo20-TrojanHorsefortheTruth.htm
  6. Scantamburlo, “New Evidence Provided By William Rutledge, CDR Of The Apollo 20 Crew”
  7. Dr. Michael E. Salla, “Did the USA/USSR fly a Secret Joint Mission to the Moon in 1976 to investigate a crashed extraterrestrial mothership?” http//www.exopolitics.org/ ExoComment-51.htm. Snyder’s name was misspelled, and the ASTP mission involved three U.S. astronauts and two Soviet cosmonauts. The Apollo 17 mission was in December 1972, not during 1971.
  8. ibid, “Update: June 28, 2007.”
  9. Scantamburio, “The Apollo 20 Case: Debunking Or A Trojan Horse For The Truth?” The wording is that used in the original posting.
  10. Charles D. Benson, William Barnaby Faherty, Moonport A History of Apollo Launch Facilities and Operations (Washington, D.C.: NASA SP-4204, 1978), and Kenneth Gatland, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Space Technology Second Edition (London: Salamander Books, 1989), p. 305.
  11. In April of 1981, I was at the Kennedy Space Center for the STS-1 shuttle launch, and saw the VAB, Pad 39A, and the crawler-transporter. I was at Vandenberg AFB in June and December of 1996 and saw a number of abandoned launch sites. I also watched the launch of a NRO reconnaissance satellite from the press site on December 20, 1996.
  12. Apollo Spacecraft News Reference, North American Aviation ca. 1966 (Apogee Books reprint, 2006) p. 9, and ApolloHoax.net, httpa/apollohoax.proboards21.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=theories&thread =1178402817&page=l The specific posting was: Reply #44 May 23, 2007; “Count Zero” .
  13. ApolloHoax.net, “Bob B.” Reply #45 May 23, 2007, Reply #47 May 25, 2007, and “Count Zero” Reply# 51 May 26, 2007.
  14. Ibid, and Bob B.” Reply #54 May 26, 2007; “nomad” Reply #65 June 7, 2007.
  15. Robert Godwin, Apollo Advanced Lunar Exploration Planning (Burlington, Ontario, Canada: Apogee Press, 2007) p.’15.

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Curiouser and Curiouser: ‘High Strangeness’ UFO Encounters.
Gareth J. Medway

From Magonia 97, April 2008

The term ‘High Strangeness’ refers to those UFO cases where the witnesses do not merely claim to have sighted a mysterious light or unknown object which might have been an alien spacecraft, but also say that a variety of unusual things happened to them afterwards, such as poltergeist outbreaks in their homes, strange telephone calls, and visits from the ‘Men In Black’. You won’t find much about this in mainstream UFO books, but there is plenty of detail in the works of such writers as John Keel and Jacques Vallee. The question which is not often addressed is, are these cases aberrations, or typical?

If high strangeness cases are exceptional, it would have to be asked, why do this particular minority of witnesses choose to report their experiences to one of just a few investigators, such as John Keel? Surely it is more likely that, since most witness reports reach us at second hand by way of the investigators, most of the latter tend to edit out unwelcome details like MIBs as detracting from the credibility of the story. If so, then we ought to be able to find some evidence for this censorship. In the first place, there is no reason to think that the above authors deliberately select the oddest cases for publication. On the contrary, in an interview during the October 1973 wave, Keel remarked: “A few years ago I talked with two young men who had seen an object in a field that resembled exactly one of our space modules and had “US Air Force” printed on the sides. But, of course, one of our space modules isn’t going to be hovering over a field in New Jersey. I never wrote it up because even the UFO buffs wouldn’t believe it.”

Imbrogno and Horrigan’s Contact of the Fifth Kind, which is about high strangeness in the Hudson Valley, mentions that in an earlier book that Imbrogno had co-authored with Allen Hynek, they had avoided mention of abductions: “Only to a handful of people did we admit that there were abduction cases, and plenty of them … Dr. Hynek felt that UFO reports are hard enough to believe without adding the subject of abductions to the discussion.”

Whilst driving home in the early hours of 8 March 1997 journalist Sarah Hall, of the Folkestone Herald, saw a mysterious flying triangle. This event gained some national publicity simply because it occurred near to the home of Tory politician Michael Howard. It later the subject of a long article by Stuart Miller and Chris Rolfe in the penultimate issue of the now defunct [British] UFO Magazine. Among, the illustrations was a reproduction of Hall’s original ‘Witness Statement’, which says that, for about fifteen minutes before the sighting: “I was coming down the road and I felt, I said afterwards to other people since, that I felt really weird. I was really looking over my shoulder on the way home. I was a bit scared, a weird feeling anyway.”

Yet this detail is nowhere mentioned in the article itself. The authors’ hypothesis, the reasoning behind which I am unable to follow, was that what she saw was of terrestrial manufacture, though based upon ‘back-engineered’ alien technology of unspecified origin. Now, there is no reason why someone who happens to see a secret experimental aeroplane should feel ‘really weird’ before the sighting. One suspects that they ignored this precisely because it did not fit with their hypothesis. Had not her statement been incidentally included in the layout by a subeditor, we would never have known of it, and remember, in the vast majority of UFO cases we do not get the witness’s own words, only the interpretations of investigators.

According to Richard Thompson: “…after the Hills’ close encounter on a lonely New Hampshire road, they began to experience poltergeist phenomena in their home. Betty would find her coats unaccountably dumped on the living room floor, even though she had left them in the closet. Clocks would stop and start mysteriously, or their time settings would change. Water faucets [taps] would turn on when nobody was there, and electrical appliances would break down and then work perfectly without repair. On a more prosaic level, Betty Hill also reported that after her UFO experience she was repeatedly followed, her apartment was broken into, and her phone was tapped.”

Of wurse, nothing is said about these things in Fuller’s The Interrupted Journey, nor in any of the other innumerable discussions of the case that I have seen. Even sceptical writers pass over them – I suppose that, if you are going to maintain that everything that happened to the Hills had a straightforward mundane explanation, you are only making it difficult for yourself if you introduce things like poltergeists.

In April 1952 Albert K. Bender of Bridgeport, Connecticut, set up the International Flying Saucer Bureau. This grandiose title proved to be justified, as they soon had representatives not only in more than a dozen states of the Union, but also Canada, England, Australia and New Zealand. Yet after just eighteen months Bender shut the organisation down, stating in the final issue of the quarterly newsletter Space Review that “The mystery of the flying saucers is no longer a mystery. The source is already known, but any information about this is being withheld by orders from a higher source.”

Three years later, Gray Barker revealed in They Knew Too Mutch About Flying Saucers  that Bender had stated that he had been visited by three men in darks suits, from which we derive the now familiar term ‘Men In Black’. But, when interviewed by two puzzled colleagues, he said little more, replying to most of their questions only with the words: “I can’t answer that”. The implication was that he had been silenced because he had discovered ‘The Truth’. I suspect that most ufologists assumed that the Truth that Bender had discovered corresponded exactly with their own pet theories. These need not have been too sensational: the story, as told so far, was broadly consistent with the hypothesis that flying saucers were a secret U.S. invention, and that the authorities had requested Bender to keep silent for reasons of national security.

Yet at about the same time, on the other side of the world, the Australian Flying Saucer Bureau was closed down by Edgar Jarrold, who had also had a mysterious visitor. A New Zealand investigator, John Stuart, received a telephone call from a voice who claimed to be ‘from another planet’, and told him to “stop interfering in matters that do not concern you!” Soon afterwards his house developed the classic signs of haunting, with the sound of footsteps when no-one was there, and objects moving by themselves. Finally, he said later, his secretary was physically assaulted by a giant hairy monster, after which he abandoned UFO research.

In 1962 Bender broke his silence with a book, Flying Saucers and the Three Men, of which it is fairly safe to say that it can have matched no-one’s pet theory. He wrote that he had begun to experience poltergeist activity in his home, such as a radio switching itself on, accompanied by an odour of burning sulphur. Then, on 15 March 1953, he attempted to contact the ‘occupants of interplanetary craft’ by telepathy. The result was not the “We come in peace” message he perhaps expected; instead, a voice said “Please be advised to discontinue delving into the mysteries of the universe. We will make an appearance if you disobey.” He wrote this experience up at the time, but his report mysteriously vanished from the box in which he had locked it.

In July he had the first of a series of visits from the three men, who “looked like clergymen” except that their eyes glowed “like flashlight bulbs”, and who materialised in his bedroom, making it clear that they were not from the government, but aliens themselves. Though they had taken on human bodies so that they could pass among us unnoticed (apart from the glowing eyes!), their real forms were hideous monsters. On several occasions they teleported him to a secret underground base in Antarctica, where they told him that came from a planet many light years away. They were visiting earth for the purpose of extracting a certain chemical from our seawater, and did not wish to be interfered with, but after they had left he~would be free to reveal the truth to the world. Indeed, to ensure that he remained in good health, on his last visit to the base he was given a special all-over body massage by three beautiful women, who were presumably in reality hideous monsters.

Though Bender stated that he was able to speak because the saucerians had departed in 1960, UFOs did not cease to be sighted. It was probably not for this reason, however, that his book was almost totally ignored, but because it did not tell anyone what they wanted to hear. Typical of those who noticed it at all was Rex Dutta, who said that it was “often attributed to the hush-hush bag”, i.e. it was itself a part of the continuing cover-up, and that “Not many took the trouble to notice that the book was obviously ‘ghost-written’ – its style was totally unlike that of Bender’s own phraseology in his magazine.”

Where the story is cited at all, it is usually in the more credible version of Barker. For instance in 1974 Brinsley Le Poer Trench argued in Secret of the Ages that the earth is hollow, and that UFOs come from the inside; he suggested that what Bender had discovered is that the earto is hollow, and that UFOs come from the inside.

Reports of the Men In Black, often known as MIBs, became more common, and provoked the interest of the Pentagon, since some of them were said to have falsely claimed to be Air Force officers, which is a federal offence. Yet no prosecution has ever resulted. It might be possible to explain at least some of these cases as being the result of acute paranoia, but it is easier just to pass over them in silence.

A young woman named Maria spoke at BUFORA a couple of times in the early 1990s. I have lost my notes on what she said, but from memory, she had attended a convent boarding school in the Midlands. One night, she woke up in the small hours and looked out of the window to see a glowing object next to the tennis courts. Various other things happened to her in the following days which seemed to be acausally linked to the first: she had a dream, so vivid that it could not be distinguished from reality, that she was on board a spaceship; one lunchtime she stirred a cup of coffee with a metal spoon which, when she took it out, had bent in Uri Geller fashion; she spontaneously levitated into the air in front of a group of other girls; on a country walk she passed a dead and mutilated body of a deer; finally, of course, she was visited by two men dressed in black, who said that they had been sent by her psychiatrist, whose name, coincidentally, was Mrs. Black. After interviewing her for an hour, they departed in a mysterious black car which made no sound as it crossed the gravel forecourt. Maria spoke twice to BUFORA, and was I believe interviewed by several people, yet so far as I can discover her tale has never appeared in print anywhere.

One Man In Black report that has been printed a few times, e.g. in The Unexplained, is that of Dr. Herbert Hopkins, who in 1976 hypnotised a UFO witness to help him recall his experience. He was then visited by a hairless (not even eyebrows) man in a black suit claiming to be from the New Jersey UFO Research Organisation (there was no such institution), who made a coin disappear, asked him pointedly if he had heard of a local UFO witness who had recently died, and demanded that he destroy the tapes of the sessions. Perhaps fearing that if he did not he would go the way of the coin, Hopkins complied.

Not so many authors relate the encounter which Hopkins had been investigating. The witness was David Stephens of Norway, Maine, who with a friend named Glen Gray went for a drive at three a.m. one morning in October 1975. After a mile Gray, who was driving, lost control of the car, which went down a rough trackway, but, incredibly, at unbelievable speed, so that they travelled five miles in two minutes. It came to rest in a field, where they saw a hovering cylindrical object with bright lights on it. Gray now regained control of the car and hastily drove off, but the object followed them, and soon they fell unconscious, reawakening a mile further down the road. Unable to start the engine, they sat and watched as further glowing objects flew about. From a nearby pond, which seemed to have ‘grown to the size of an ocean’, a thick fog arose and engulfed the car. Then, surprisingly, the motor restarted, and the two men were able to leave. [Read further about Herbert Hopkins HERE]

A few days later, when two local ufologists spoke to them: “Stephen and Gray reported that several peculiar incidents had happened since their encounter: someone (or something) had walked across the roof of their trailer home; both men had suffered sudden bouts of extreme tiredness; both had seen snowflakes and black cubes and spheres flying from the sky and through a wall; ‘golden wires’ appeared in the air above their TV set; and a disembodied voice, audible only to Gray, had intoned the letters ‘U-F-O’.”

Mike Dash, one author who was prepared to relate this story, noted that “the case is not often discussed, even in ufological circles, and is certainly too strange to be included among the handful of ‘classic cases’ that most researchers would cite as evidence of UFOs. Yet this one incident includes almost all of the key elements that distinguish such classics from run-of-the-mill reports.” In other words, though seeming highly bizarre to the average person, once one has been studying the matter for years, it “may be considered fairly representative of the more detailed hard core of UFO reports.” I should like to repeat a matter I raised some years ago, that, as was pointed out in Helmut and Marion Lammer’s MILABS: Military Mind Control and Alien Abduction, which has the kind of content that you would expect of that title, most books by abductees who have written their own books state that they were followed and watched by unmarked black helicopters, whereas in Thomas Bullard’s study of 270 abductions, black helicopters only feature in four cases. The reason is surely that Bullard’s data was derived from abduction researchers rather than the abductees themselves, and that black helicopters seem important to the latter but not to the former

An exception is David Jacobs, who does mention them briefly in The Threat, stating that most are ordinary helicopters that happen to circle abductees’ houses by chance, but that a few are piloted by hybrids (human-alien cross-breeds), and others are screen memories for UFOs. Budd Hopkins, though thinking it normal for people to be picked up by aliens and genetically experimented upon, evidently felt black helicopters to be a little too outré, and omitted them in Intruders, his account of the misadventures of ‘Kathie Davis’ (Debbie Jordan), yet Jordan herself said that they were, at one time, “almost daily around our houses”. Even so, he did include a few high strangeness events, such as a visit from three mystery men (though dressed in blue), and that when Debbie was pregnant with her second child, she would get a telephone call from an incomprehensible alien voice every Wednesday afternoon.

Sometimes, but not always, these choppers are said to make no sound, for which reason they are known as phantom helicopters. Beckley reproduces a photograph of one that was taken by Betty Andreasson’s husband, though it is obviously impossible to tell from a picture whether it was silent or noisy, or indeed to distinguish it in any way from a real helicopter.

John Keel often refers to mysterious beeping. Usually these occur over the telephone, which is not odd in itself, since beeping is the standard ‘engaged’ tone, though something has clearly gone wrong when the phone rings and you answer it to hear only beeps. (I had two calls of this sort myself one Wednesday afternoon – presumably it was coincidence that at the time I was transcribing a tape of an interview with a UFO witness.) But a fault in the phone network cannot explain the case of the woman who, after seeing a strange object fly overhead, “suddenly heard a loud radio signal … a series of dots and dashes” which however was inaudible to her sister and brother in law.

When Phil Klass interviewed Lonnie Zamora, the police officer in the Socorro, New Mexico case, he told him that the object’s sound was a “Beep … beep … beep … beep”, though a couple who lived nearby heard nothing. Klass mentioned this in his first book (in which he maintained that UFOs were a rare natural phenomenon, and was written before he had reached the conclusion that this affair was a hoax), but so far as I can discover no-one else ever has, not even Ray Stanford in his book on the sighting.

Sometimes high strangeness occurs when there has not been a UFO incident as such, for instance in a case cited by Alex Constantine, conspiracy theorist author of Psychic Dictatorship in the U.S.A., who considers all unexplained phenomena to be the by-product of CIA mind-control experimentation. In 1994 a California journalist named Dave Gardetta interviewed Richard Ofshe, a psychologist who maintained that so-called recovered memories are actually false memories, and that this was the real cause of supposed alien abduction.

A few days later, however, Gardetta awoke “to find a triangular rash on the palm of his hand. This is commonly thought to be a symptom of abduction (though it also happened to Michelle Smith, the classic Satanic Child Abuse victim, and was explained by her psychiatrist and future husband Lawrence Pazder as a ‘body memory’ of her ordeal: “…whenever she relived the moments when Satan had his burning tail wrapped around her neck, a sharply defined rash appeared in the shape of the spade-like tip of his tail.”) Gardetta wrote: “It didn’t surprise me. Things around the house – which sits on a hilltop in a semi-rural area – had been getting weird. A jet-wash noise buzzed some afternoons around the house, its origin impossible to discern. Lights were turning themselves on, and the alarm system’s motion sensor was tripping itself every morning between five and six. One early evening, small footsteps crossed the roof. I ran outside to find the electrical wires leading to a nearby telephone pole swaying in the windless dusk.” I am not sure what conclusion he drew from this. (Constantine, of course, blamed CIA mind-control experimentation.)

At the end of 1966, True magazine commissioned a set of illustrations for a forthcoming article, by John Keel, on unidentified flying objects. The artist drew a number of odd shaped craft purely from his own imagination. One was spherical, featureless except for a single porthole and, underneath, four legs and a propeller. Though no such thing had ever been reported, what one might term ‘the Looking Glass effect’ apparently kicked in. On 19 January 1967, an appliance store manager named Tad Jones was driving to work near Charleston, West Virginia, when he was obliged to stop because the road was blocked by a sphere exactly matching the above description. He watched it for two minutes, after which it rose up into the sky and disappeared. He reported what had happened to the police, and it got written up in local papers.

In the following days, two threatening notes were slipped under Jones’s door warning him to ‘keep your mouth shut’. A local UFO authority, Ralph Jarrett, received one of those ‘beep beep’ phone calls immediately before opening his copy of The Charleston Gazette, where he first learnt of the sighting. Jarrett conducted his own investigation, and learned that the object had been hovering directly over a major gas line. When Keel himself visited the spot, he found a number of strange footprints in the mud beside the road. One set resembled huge dog tracks, but Jones took plaster casts, and no local zoologist could identify them. There were also some prints made by ripple-soled shoes with a ridge around the edge. Keel noted that prints of just this type had frequently turned up at UFO sites around the country. Years later came another ‘Looking Glass’ sequel: when the first astronauts walked on the moon, they wore boots which made identical ripple prints in the lunar dust.

This story, at least as it is narrated in The Mothman Prophecies, appears totally inexplicable. But that did not daunt Steuart Campbell when he wrote The UFO Mystery Solved, which argued that UFO reports are caused by mirages of stars. Weirdly, he even claimed that mirages of stars explained daytime sightings, though most people would suppose that it would be impossible to see a mirage, which is simply a reflection, of a light source that was itself invisible. Anyway, he explained the Tad Jones sighting as having been a mirage of Venus, failing also to explain how a mirage, which necessarily must be near the horizon, could appear to rise up into the sky. Of the threatening notes, the mysterious footprints, and the resemblance of the ‘mirage’ to a piece of imaginative artwork, he had not a word to say.

David Haisell’s The Missing Seven Hours is not (as one would expect from the title) another of those tedious abduction tales, but concerns a British family settled in Canada, who not only claimed to have experienced UFO sightings in both the old and new worlds, but also poltergeists in their home, disembodied voices, inexplicable beeping sounds, low flying unmarked black helicopters, psychic healing, appearances of doppelgangers, enigmatic telephone calls, automatic writing, and that Fortean rarity, a mysterious Woman In Black.

In his account of how he went to interview the ‘Armstrong’ (a pseudonym) family, Haisell remarks: “Much good advice has been written about interviewing techniques and the psychological factors affecting UFO witnesses. Perhaps the best approach if dealing with an intelligent and articulate individual is to let him or her talk freely about the event or events. In this way the investigator’s own biases don’t affect the interview, even though they may interfere with the subsequent analysis of the material … I discovered that they had been disappointed in the past with several UFO investigators who had talked to
them about their experiences. Many of them had been interested merely in the physical aspects of the phenomena.”

I take this to mean that the earlier investigators were solely concerned to collect evidence that UFOs are nuts-and-bolts alien spacecraft from Zeta Reticuli (or the Pleiades, or wherever), and ignored the high strangeness material as not supporting this viewpoint. By contrast, Haisell repeated whatever the Armstrongs told him, often quoting them verbatim from taped interviews, and so produced a totally different picture. Of course, it is the solid interstellar visitors that the book-buying public wants to read about, hence the fact that works promoting this hypothesis are often bestsellers, whereas few people have heard of Haisell.

Now consider the alien encounter of Bruce Lee – not the Kung Fu star, but an editor at Morrow publishers in New York, who had formerly been a ‘respected’ Newsweek reporter – as narrated by Jim Schnabel in Dark White:

“It had been a cold Saturday in February 1987, just after Communion [a Morrow book] had been released, and Lee and his wife had been walking along Lexington Avenue and had gone into the bookshop to see how some of the books he had edited were being displayed for buyers. He had been standing there towards the back of the store when a couple came in and headed straight for the rack where Communion was displayed. The couple were both quite short, and were heavily bundled up against the cold, with wool hats and long scarves and gloves and boots. They each grabbed a copy of Communion and, despite the encumbrances of their gloves, began flipping through the book rapidly. It didn’t seem possible that they could be reading so quickly, and yet they were shaking their heads and saying such things as ‘Oh, he’s got this wrong, and ’Oh, he’s got that wrong.’ Perhaps strangest of all, their accents sounded upper East Side Jewish.

“Lee walked over and introduced himself, explaining that he worked for Communion‘s publisher, and was interested to know what errors might be contained in the book, and the woman looked up at him: ‘She had on large sunglasses which, with her scarf and hat, obscured virtually all of her face’. And yet through the sunglasses Lee could see a pair of enormous dark eyes. Jesus! Lee had been raised on a farm, and those eyes reminded him of the eyes of a rabid dog. They seemed to be telling him to get the hell out of there. The hair on Lee’s neck stood up, and he said a hasty goodbye. He grabbed his wife and went off to a bar and soaked his shock in Margaritas.”

This story seems to admit of three explanations: 1) The aliens learned to speak English from Upper East Side Jews. 2) Lee mistook a diminutive Upper East Side Jewish couple for aliens. 3) It was a hoax. The first possibility clearly raises more questions than it answers. The second pre-supposes that the witness was mentally defective or paranoiac, but there is no warrant for such an assumption. Hoaxes are common in ufology, yet they usually succeed because the hoaxer knows what people want to hear, and supplies it, whereas no-one expects aliens to turn up in New York bookstores. Nor is any motive apparent – if it was a publicity stunt for Communion, it was exceedingly ill thought out.

It is surely significant that the story has appeared only (so far as I am aware) in Dark White, for Schnabel is one of the very few UFO writers who could genuinely be described as impartial. There are, of course, a number of recent books, particularly on the history of ufology, which give the superficial impression of academic disinterest, but if you read more than a few pages, you generally find that they are one of two types, which may be termed A and B: a Type A author will typically conclude a case summary with some such phrase as “Professor Hynek considered that the witness was highly credible”; Type B, by contrast, will end on the lines of “Donald Menzel concluded that the affair was an elaborate hoax”. Even a plethora of proper source references cannot disguise the pro- or anti-ETH agenda. Yet Dark White recounts the various arguments and alleged incidents without trying to judge whether alien abductions are real or not.

In the same way, his account of the experiences of ‘Lucy’ seem to be no more or less than a summary of what she told him in a series of interviews. These did not, initially, concern alien abduction, but non-paranormal misfortunes of her early life, having been born with various health problems attributable to her mother having contracted measles during her pregnancy, and then, at age eight, having witnessed her father’s death in a gun accident. Soon afterwards, she reported, a young man named Steven took her to a remote cabin and raped her.

He continued to visit her over the years, and frequently raped her again. Yet he never seemed to age, suggesting that he was not a real person in the way that most of us understand reality. This is also hinted by the statement that “when Lucy was in her late teens she noticed that her first sexual experience hadn’t been at all painful”, which seems to reflect an unconscious recognition that her earlier sexual experiences, with Steven, had not actually happened; she added that her mother had told her that her hymen had broken in an accident when she was a toddler. Other oddities in her life included electrical equipment malfunctioning in her presence, sleepwalking, and inexplicable memory lapses.

Whilst at university she came across a copy of Communion, and guessed that regular abduction could explain her periods of memory loss. Not long afterwards she was in New York, getting her first regression from Budd Hopkins. Later, she moved to a Washington suburb. “Steven still visited her, as did the greys, and her wristwatches never worked, and the phone would ring and no one would be there, and one night the doorbell rang and she opened it and stepped out to see who was there and she saw her father, her dead father, standing in the bushes.” On a later encounter with the aliens, in the Blue Ridge mountains, her father was amongst a group of (otherwise presumably living) abductees.

The dead feature in UFO reports more often than one might expect. The day after his demise, George Adamski turned up in Devon in a flying saucer to converse with a handyman named Arthur Bryant. Whitley Strieber reports the case of a boy of seventeen who was killed in a road accident. A week later his parents were sitting in their living room, about ten o’clock at night, when their dog became nervous and began to pace. Though he had already been walked that evening, the wife decided to take him out again.

“As she opened the front door, two things happened simultaneously. The first was that an orange ball of light swept away from the house, disappearing across a nearby line of trees. The next second, the couple’s ten-year old son came running downstairs yelling excitedly that “little blue men” had brought his older brother into the bedroom, and the older boy had a message: tell his mom and dad that he was okay.” The dead have, of course, been appearing to the living all throughout history, the motive, if any, usually being to provide evidence that there is indeed an afterlife. This, in fact, would seem to have been the purpose in the above instances. But they are of no value to someone who wishes to prove the existence of spacecraft from Andromeda.

Enthusiasts of ‘Ancient Astronauts’ likewise make surreptitious alterations in their source materials. Erich von Daniken referred to this South American legend: “It tells of a golden space-ship that came from the stars; in it came a woman, whose name was Oryana, to fulfil the task of becoming the Great Mother of the earth. Oryana had only four fingers, which were webbed. Great Mother Oryana gave birth to seventy earth children, then she returned to the stars.”

Von Daniken’s source was certainly Robert Charroux’s One Thousand Years of Man’s Unknown History, since the story was one that Charroux had collected orally: it specified that Orejona gave birth to the human race by mating with a tapir. This story has been suspected of being a modern invention, but in fact it is probably genuine, since surely no twentieth century author would have had a woman interbreed with an animal. Be that as it may, Von Daniken omitted the tapir, also the statement that Orejona came from Venus (as opposed to the stars), since this too was no longer believable by the 1960s.

The vision of Ezekiel has been widely discussed in UFO literature. It is unclearly written, but the gist is to the effect that, sitting by the river Chebar in the land of the Chaldeans (modern Iraq) some time in the sixth century BC, he saw a glowing whirlwind in the north, out of which came creatures with four wings and four faces, those of a man, bull, lion and eagle. (Statues of composite creatures of this sort were common in Chaldean temples.) Then he saw four flying wheels “full of eyes round about them”. Above them was “the likeness of a throne”, on which sat “the appearance of a man”, whom Ezekiel took to be God. He then heard a voice which gave him a lengthy lecture upon the sins of the children of Israel.

As early as the time of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the four wheels had been interpreted as belonging to a celestial chariot which bore aloft the throne of the Lord, somewhat in the manner of the wagons which were used by Pagans to transport the images of their Gods in procession. Though this is not implicit in the text, in the Middle Ages a great deal of Jewish mystical literature was devoted to “the work of the chariot”. This ‘chariot of Ezekiel’ came to be illustrated in a number of Renaissance engravings.

The first modern UFO author to draw attention to the passage was Dr. Donald Menzel, who wrote: “Occasionally a sundog makes a complete circle of light surrounding the sun with four bright patches, one above, one below, and one on either side. Sometimes two circles will appear, one within the other, surmounted by an inverted arc and traversed by a cross, like the spokes of a wheel whose centre is the sun. The complicated structure of a fully developed mock sun – which is extremely rare – can suggest to the imaginative an enormous chariot in the sky and can terrify the superstitious. There is little doubt that this phenomenon inspired the two visions of Ezekiel described in the Bible.”

It will be observed that Dr. Menzel omits to mention the glowing whirlwind, the four creatures, the throne, the figure seated on the throne, and the voice explaining what was wrong with the nation of Israel: no doubt because none of these things can readily be explained as a sundog.

Others, needless to say, think that Ezekiel was the witness to an extraterrestrial visitation, and a vaguely plausible case can be made out for it. Pleiadians, for all we know, may have four wings and four faces, whilst wheels with ‘eyes’ around them could be flying saucers with portholes. Though the ‘voice’ did not proceed to a technical exposition of UFO propulsion systems, but complained about the Israelites worshipping idols, it is conceivable that aliens might be as obsessive about this point as many human religious bigots are.

The figure of God is difficult to fit in, however, which explains why Von Daniken ignores it, and Josef Blumrich described him as ‘the pilot’. Alan Cole commented: “…the few details … that might fit a hypothetical spacecraft, are not the whole of the description: it culminates, not in wheels or in chariot, but in a great throne set above the chariot (Ezek. 1:26), and God, in human form enthroned there. If we take the chariot literally, then all of this, too, must be taken literally.”

The Rev. Cole goes on to use the word ‘chariot’ seven times in all, having failed to notice that it is nowhere found in the text itself, but only in commentaries written many centuries later. Nevertheless, his argument is perfectly sound: an interpretation based upon only those facts that happen to fit it is likely to be worthless.

To Ezekiel, and no doubt to his contemporaries, the creatures and the wheels were not so important as the divine prophecy which followed them, and quite likely he only mentioned the former in order to lend credibility to the latter. The same was true of two flying disc reports from the mid seventeenth century: in 1646, in Gravenhage, Holland, a flying round plate was seen “about the bigness of a table-board, like gray paper”, followed by visions supposed to be prophetic.

Similarly, in 1651, a Mrs Holt of Cheshire was sitting in her doorway when she “perceived the Sun to shine exceeding red, and casting her eyes upwards, she beheld a dark body over the sun, about the bigness of a half moon, and in a short space, the said body divided into several parts, seeming numberless other view, about the bigness of small Pewter dishes, which came swiftly towards her …” This was followed by visions of fighting men and horses in the air, and mysterious birds. In those unsettled times, people looked for signs and wonders in the sky which might presage the future, but flying dishes in themselves were not news and would quite likely have been ignored but for the subsequent visions.

It might be thought that modern UFO reports do not include prophetic visions, but in fact a few of them do, e.g. in 1973, it is said, three people “watched a flying craft cavort through the sky, and then it transformed into a giant image of a bearded man dressed in a long, belted, robe, with his arms outstretched.” Similarly, at Cradle Hill outside Warminster in the 1960s: “there was the time when a Saucer, coming into the copse from the south-west, produced a perfect arch of brilliant silvery light, in the midst of which appeared two giant forms: silhouetted figures, long hair waving as though in the wind, with no visible features, but with fingers and robes well defined.” Once again, I suspect that there is bias in reporting, and that such sightings are quite common, but seldom published.

We should remind ourselves that what may be ‘extraordinary’ to most of us may be quite normal to others. For example, to some people it is an everyday thing to communicate with the dead. A spiritualist friend of mine, a semi-disabled lady who lives alone except for two cats, has told me how her son will help her fix things that are broken in her home, anything from a jammed kitchen drawer to a malfunctioning computer. This would not be remarkable in itself, but her son has been deceased for some years. Significantly, she has mentioned these incidents in the course of informing me about otherwise mundane matters concerning her domestic problems, without any change in the tone of her voice.

This, however, is slightly different from UFO witnesses such as the Armstrongs, who do consider their experiences unusual: the point is that they regard them as a totality, the poltergeist activity and strange phone calls being as important to them as their sightings of mysterious craft. On the other hand, there may be high strangeness UFO cases which have never been reported to anyone, because the experiencers have not thought them in any way out of the ordinary.

To evaluate facts, you have to know what they are. Though people have often accused the government or the Air Force of concealing the truth about UFOs, I think the ufologists themselves have been partially suppressing it. I do not propose to try and explain the causes behind poltergeists or beeping telephone calls from the Men In Black, only to observe that they can hardly have an easily comprehensible explanation in terms of spaceships from Orion.

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