Strange Fruit: Ozark Folklore and the Continuation of Traditional Witch Beliefs in the Modern Satanism Scare.
David Sivier

From Magonia 91, February 2006 


One of the major problems presented by the Satanism scare of the 1980s and 1990s is the apparent reappearance of a set of beliefs and a persecuting mindset little different from the magic and superstition of previous centuries in the economically and technologically developed world. Indeed, the problem is particularly acute in the case of America, one of the most important crucibles for the forging of the Satanism scare, and a nation that has prided itself on its scientific and technological modernity

In searching for the origins of the modern Satanism scare, historians and sociologists have necessarily paid most attention to the contemporary societal factors stimulating its rise, like the increasingly irrational ideologies permeating psychotherapy, victim culture and the drive to identify as pathological an increasingly wide range of human behaviour seen as shocking or deviant, such as ‘emotional incest’ or ‘sex addiction’, the emphasis of certain sections of American social reformers and some feminists in demands for the children of the poor to be taken into state care, and the breakdown of a moral consensus on issues such as sexual morality, which has allowed Satanic Child Abuse to become an issue that can unite conservative Christian Evangelicals and Feminists and left-wing groups in a moral crusade. [1]

The genesis of the modern witchcraft accusations in the demonology of Middle Ages, including the Blood Libel myth directed at the Jews has been recognised and explored by a number of researchers, and comparisons drawn between the great witch-hunts of the past, such as those directed against the Bogomils in the ninth and tenth centuries, and the great witch-hunts of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. [2]

These have all been identified as having a common origin in the breakdown in the wider Christian community, such as between Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic for the earlier persecution, and Roman Catholic and Protestant for the latter.[3] However, while some historians have effectively demonstrated the origins of modern allegations of satanic ritual abuse in nineteenth century anti-Satanist and anti-occultist propaganda, such as Gareth Medway in his The Lure of the Sinister, few seem to have considered that there may also have been operating an unbroken tradition of witch beliefs that may also have fed into and stimulated the Satanism scare of the last twenty years.

Contemporary sceptical researchers into the Satanism scare have instead traced its roots in the narratives of adult survivors, often converts to Christianity, such as Doreen Irvine and June Johns in the 1960s and 1970s. These authors “presented Satanism (not distinguished much from Wicca) in turns of kinky adult sex, homosexuality, drug taking and suburban wife-swapping, with the now largely vanished phenomenon of the desecration of churches”. [4] The motif of child abuse, however, only entered these narratives because, “as society became more permissive and secular this repertoire ceased to conjure up images of ultimate decadence and evil” [5]

Yet while contemporary historians, such as Dr. Ronald Hutton in his The Triumph of the Moon, have effectively refuted the idea of a Palaeolithic cult of a horned god continuing unbroken into the twentieth century, it is however quite possible that some elements of a witch-cult, in so far as it was believed to exist in socially backward, agricultural communities in America, continued to exist from the sixteenth century onwards to inspire the Satan hunters of the late twentieth century. Indeed, the Canadian historian, Elliot Rose, in discussing the existence of a ‘witch-society’ in the Ozark country of the US, as described by the American folklorist, Vance Randolph, drew explicit comparisons between it and the descriptions of contemporary witchcraft practices by Gerald Gardner. He concluded that “I think we can see in this Ozark testimony the traces of the cult stripped to what its unlearned members considered its essentials, after persecution and enlightened scepticism between them had deprived it of both learned leadership and true continuity of tradition.” [6]

Randolph’s study of Ozark folklore is valuable for the insight it gives on a number of Fortean topics, not just witchcraft. For example, his description of the appearance of spectral lights along the ‘Devil’s Promenade’, a lonely stretch of road in Oklahoma, fourteen miles from Joplin, Missouri, is interesting not just for its description of the lights themselves, but also for the explanations offered for them. These include not only the supernatural – that they are the spirits of a murdered Osage chief, or a Quapaw woman who killed herself after the death of her husband in battle, but also for the scientific and pseudo-scientific. Thus it is suggested that the lights are those of cars driving on Highway 66 five miles away, are marsh gas or “that the effect is produced somehow by electrical action of the mineral deposits in the ground.” [7] 

Randolph’s book was originally published in 1947, about the same time the UFO myth was gestating, and although this explanation for strange lights seems to have been forgotten until proposed in the 1970s by Persinger and Paul Devereaux, its recording by Randolph suggests that the piezo-electrical explanation for such unexplained lights has its basis in the folkloric rationalisations offered for such phenomena, rather than the cold, detached theorising of a laboratory researcher.

The points of contact and contrast between Gardnerian and Ozark witchcraft discussed by Rose was the appearance in both cults of nudity and ritual sex, and instruction in the cult’s mysteries of an initiate by a parent or other family member. In the Ozarks the novice witch was taught the cult’s traditions by a parent of the same sex, while they were inducted into the cult by a member of the opposite sex in ritual coition in front of a naked coven. For Gardner, however, instruction had to be carried out by a member of the opposite sex, and although initiation was – performed naked, it did not involve sex. [8]

Beyond the similarities and differences between the two cults is the question of the similarities of both to the incestuous, satanic cults described in Michele Remembers. In this conception of a modern, satanic cult, as formulated by the social worker, Maribeth Kaye, and criminal psychologist, Lawrence Klein, “membership is transmitted primarily through families” and “sexual child abuse and torture is deliberately employed by Satanist families as a technique to brainwash and program children to confuse evil with virtue, so that they will follow instructions to commit Satanic evil acts without feeling any guilt.” [9]This is similar in concept to the Ozark belief that “the secret doctrines must pass only between blood relatives, or between persons who have been united in sexual intercourse. Thus it is that every witch obtains her unholy wisdom either from a lover or a male relative … A mother can transmit the secret work to her son, and he could pass it on to his wife, and she might tell one of her male cousins, and so on.” [10]

While the transmission of the secrets between family members is not necessarily incestuous, and there were rituals that could transform a woman into a witch which did not involve sex, such as repeating the Lord’s Prayer backwards and firing seven silver bullets at the moon, the important element nevertheless in consecrating the witch in her unholy career was sex: “A virgin may possess some of the secrets of ‘bedevilment’ imparted by her father or her uncle, but she cannot be genuine witch, for good and sufficient reasons.”[11]

According to the tradition, this sexual initiation took place at the family burial ground, at midnight at the dark of the moon, over three consecutive nights. Devils and the spirits of the evil dead did appear, conjured up by the blasphemous incantations of the witches and the recital of the Lord’s Prayer backwards, the person initiating the witch was another mortal human being, not Satan himself. In this respect it differed from some of the medieval and early modern witch narratives, in which the witch copulated with Satan or a demon, [12] but was similar to the recovered memories of survivors of Satanic Ritual Abuse, who were sexually abused by their fellow humans, although the Devil and other demons nevertheless also appeared during the ceremonies. It thus appears that, amidst the basis of such fears of child ritual abuse in the concern over all too real cases of incest and child abuse that were appearing in the 1970s, the Satanic Ritual Abuse scare also drew on traditional stories of witch families and sexual initiation, and conflated the two elements according to the fears of the times.

Appearing with the motifs of multi-generational witch families and satanic sex also was the belief that witches burned the body of newborn children in order acquire further magical powers, and that the ashes were used to make luck charms. [13] While this element of the myth ultimately derives from Inquisitor’s allegation against a group of heretics at Orleans in 1022, that they burned the bodies of children born from their orgies to Satan and used the ashes in a blasphemous parody of the Christian Eucharist, [14] it is also of the same type as the allegations in the modern Satanism scare that women were being used as ‘brood mares’ to supply children for sacrifice to Satan.

This folklore, although fantastic to those raised in a more sceptical environment, was responsible for several Satanism scares even before the appearance of the moral panics several decades later. Randolph knew three women who were not only believed to be witches, but also believed themselves to be witches. [15] One panic concerning an alleged ‘Witches’ Sabbath’ supposedly occurred when a group of young people were photographed dancing nude at the side of a road outside a cemetery, apparently conforming to the pattern of a witches’ Sabbath. Randolph himself considered that they were just drunken young people, and that the photograph of a similar gathering at Forsyth, Missouri, showed a group of Holy Roller religious fanatics outside their camp on the White River, accompanied by thrill-seeking young men from nearby villages. [16] If nudity, either in a Christian ecstatic ritual context or simply done for less elevated pleasures was practiced in backwoods Missouri, then it might explain why the Venusians who contacted Buck Nelson were similarly naked when they landed on his farm and walked into his farmhouse carrying their coveralls. [17]

The supposedly satanic activities carried out in Missouri were not necessarily so spectacular. Even something as relatively harmless as teaching schoolchildren to say their times tables backwards as a learning aid, in such an atmosphere of superstition and fear, could be construed as suspiciously antichristian because of its similarity to the witches’ supposed practice of repeating the Lord’s Prayer backwards. According to Randolph, one ‘pious Baptist lady’ in McDonald County, Missouri, denounced the local schoolteacher for teaching the girls in her care their multiplication tables in such a way, because of the danger that ‘they’ll be a-sayin’ somethin’ else back-lards tomorrow.’ [18]

Again, there’s a remarkable similarity to modern conflicts and attempt to maintain supposed Christian education in schools. This has included not only the topical debate about evolution, but also the campaign by American Fundamentalist Christian organisations against then use of the Impressions curriculum in school. Although designed to introduce primary school children to literature, it has been attacked for encouraging violence, Satanism, occultism, cannibalism and cultural relativism, in tones strongly reminiscent of the earlier concern about teaching the Lord’s Prayer backwards: “We believe there is a desensitisation effect here … Pretty soon, casting and chanting spells will seem so commonplace to kids that, when they’re confronted with the advances of satanic groups on a darker level, it will seem more acceptable.” [19]

At the time Randolph was writing, it was felt that witches were extremely common, with one informant telling him that “witches are thicker than seed ticks”, but that “it’s all under cover nowadays.” [20] A major cause of the growth in witchcraft was the increasingly immoral behaviour of the young, who lived ‘too fast and heedless’. [21] Despite this pervading climate of fear, suspicion and violence – Randolph gives several instances where people were shot or otherwise assaulted as suspected witches – nevertheless the country seemed placid and untroubled to outsiders: “Things happen in these hills which are never mentioned in the newspapers, never reported to the sheriff at the county seat. The casual tourist sees nothing to suggest the current of savage hatred that flows beneath the
 genial hospitality of our Ozark villages.” [22]

Since the days of the pioneering folklorists of the nineteenth century, the folk traditions of backwoods Appalachia have been of interest to folklorists because of the way they have independently preserved British folklore, including traditions that may have become extinct in the mother country. Certainly much Ozark folklore is remarkably ancient. The incidents recorded by Randolph of hill people who believed they had been changed into horses and ridden by witches are of the same type as the seventeenth century British allegations against witches and other heterodox religious groups, like Quakers, such as those made by Margaret Pryor of Long Stanton in 1657. [23] It thus seems likely that the Ozark beliefs about witches represent the persistence of sixteenth and seventeenth century British and European traditional ideas about witchcraft, as adapted by conditions in the frontier settlements of the New World. This is significant, because, as historians of witchcraft have pointed out, popular belief in witchcraft did not die out with the triumph of scepticism amongst the ruling elite in the eighteenth eentury, but still persisted into the twentieth century in some parts of Britain, France and the Netherlands, for example. [24]

It’s something of a truism that the heartland of American Fundamentalist Christianity, with its heavy emphasis on deliverance ministry and spiritual warfare against demons and the human agents of Satan is the traditionally economically backward rural south, and its possible that the ~ appearance and growth of Charismatic Evangelical Christian ministries nationwide during the 80s transmitted traditional southern lore about witches to a broader national audience as mediated by the Evangelists’ own emphasis on the literal truth of Scripture. In this atmosphere, where archaic, premodern ideas exist alongside a parallel, and contradictory belief in technology and progress, it’s fair to say that modern America is indeed a ‘medieval society with modern technology’, a situation ready for the spread of VERY similar medieval irrational fears and superstitions. [25]

It thus appears that the ultimate genesis of the Satanism scare in America was not the concern over new religious movements and cults in the late 1960s and 1970s, such as the Manson ‘Family’ and the activities of various devil worshippers, such as the Church of Satan, but traditional rural witchlore in the rural Deep South. While the rest of America was economically buoyant and felt morally and culturally secure, this folklore was largely confined to that area. With the growth of new religious movements in the 60s and the economic and social dislocation of the 1980s, the social climate nationally became more favourable to the spread of irrational fears of secret satanic conspiracies, lent verisimilitude by the existence of explicitly satanic religious movements like the Church of Satan and Temple of Set, and non-Satanist religions like Wicca, which claimed descent from the medieval witches but did not involve the worship of Satan.

Thus, the witch-hunts and panics Randolph reported in the 1940s became both the model and the precursor for the national and international panics four decades later, though this time led by people from backgrounds often very different from superstitious rural poor of the backwoods hill country.



  1. Sandell, R., Review of Mark Prendergast, Victims of Memory: Incest Accusations and Shattered Lives, Hinesburg, Upper Access 1995, Magonia 53, August 1995, pp. 22-3.

  2. Victor, J.S., Satanic Panic: The Creation of Contemporary Legend, Chicago, Open Court, 1994, pp. 273-90; Sandell, ibid, p. 23.

  3. Sandell, ‘Victims’, p. 23.

  4. Harney, J., Review of Jean La Fontaine, Speak of the Devil: Tales of Satanic Abuse in Contemporary England, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press 1988, in Magonia no. 64, August 1998, p. 17.

  5. Harney, J., ‘Devil’, p. 17.

  6. Rose, E., A Razor for a Goat: Problems in the History of Witchcraft and Diabolism, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1989, p. 213.

  7. Randolph, V. Ozark Magic and Folklore (New York, Dover 1964), p. 234.

  8. Rose, E., ‘Razor’, p. 212.

  9. Victor, J.F., Satanic Panic: The Creation of Contemporary Legend, Chicago, Open Court, 1994, p. 97.

  10. Randolph, V., Ozark Magic and Folklore, New York, Dover 1964, p. 266.

  11. Randolph, Ozark Magic, p. 267.

  12. See, for example, the description of a sabbat in the Memoires of Jacques du Clercq, in P.G. Maxwell-Stuart, The Occult in Medieval Europe (Basingstoke, Palgrave MacMillan 2005), p. 126; also J.B. Russell, Witchcraft in the Middle Ages (Ithaca, Cornell University Press 1972), pp. 144-5.

  13. Randolph, Ozark Magic, p. 281.

  14. Russell, Middle Ages, p. 87.

  15. Randolph, Ozark Magic, p. 265.

  16. Randolph, Ozark Magic, pp. 267-8.

  17. Bord, l. and C., Life Beyond Planet Earth: Man’s Contacts with Space People (London, Grafton 1991), p. 135.

  18. Randolph, Ozark Magic, p. 266.

  19. Concerned parent quoted in “Trouble’s Brewing Over Witch in School Reader,” Buffalo News, March 10, 1991, pp. A1, A14, cited in Victor, op. cit., p. 158.

  20. Randolph, Ozark Magic, p. 264.

  21. Randolph, Ozark Magic, p. 264.

  22. Randolph, Ozark Magic, p. 300.

  23. Randolph, Ozark Magic, p. 279, ‘Long Stanton’, in Folklore, Myths and Legends, London, Readers Digest 1973, p. 242.

  24. See Davies, O., Witchcraft, Magic and Culture 1736-1951, Manchester, Manchester University Press 1995.

  25. Porter, B., review of M. Northcott, An Angel Directs the Storm: Apocalyptic Religion and American Empire, London, LB. Tauris 2004, Lobster 49, Summer 2005, p. 35



Transformation of Ufology, part 2.
A look behind the scenes
Matt Graeber

<<< Continued from Part One

(e-mails from the Ufological upper crust) 

Let’s see what the ‘List’ and the lLeaders’ have to say about this growing internet UFO group phenomenon in their midst. How do they feel about their own organizations dwindling membership, declining journal subscriptions and public appeal in the age of the internet saucer-hucksters? (I have changed the names of the e-mail writer’s on this topic to avoid embarrassing the complacent and/or woefully inattentive). Most e-mail entries cited herein have been capsulized and edited by the author. Additional comments byme in italics.

Matt Graeber to Albert Benson, (a pseudonym) 12/12/2005

Albert, I’m wondering if the list members would be willing to post something on the growing internet presence of the Wisconsin group ( BUFO), that is attempting to” Turn” the Carbondale hoax of 1974 into another Roswell-like incident. There seems to be a rash of crash and non-crash saucer stories that are being promoted as Roswell-like events. If the list would log on to “carbondale,pa. ufo crash”, they can see for themselves how outlandish the yarn has become.

Mr Benson did contact his friends and colleagues on the list concerning the request. Here are several of the replies he received on the matter.

From Rick Yost to Albert Benson & the list: 12/16/2005

Hey Al,

“Particularly the ectoplasm and orbs they found at the portal”….

“The Carbondale crash was first promoted by the late flying saucer evangelist Robert D. Barry. He was PR man for the late right wing preacher Dr Carl McIntire’s 20th Century Reformation Hour ministry. Barry operated its one man press arm. He later had a weekly Saturday midnight TV show, “ET Monitor” on McIntire’s TV station.” They are both passed, now, but looks like other nuts are milking it.”

“By the way, Barry was the first one to report in 1989, about the same time same sort of claims were first made about Roswell, that the Kecksburg PA crash involved the recovery of alien bodies. He later withdrew that claim as an error, which was a surprise to me since I don’t think Bob ever heard a UFO story he didn’t like.” 

I wonder how many young saucer enthusiasts ever heard of the Reverend Carl McIntire or, knew that the Roswell story didn’t include alien bodies until 42 years after the incident was first reported?
Albert Benson to Rick Yost & the list: 12/16/2005

Rick, I’m not talking about Kecksburg, but the Carbondale hoax of 1974. If you are interested to find out more about this blatant nonsense, log on to <carbondale,pa. ufo crash>, and check out the buffoonery at any BUFO site or link. Those pushing this hoax as ” Pennsylvania’s Roswell” are without doubt in need of an urgent reality check”.

To Albert Benson, Rick Yost & the list from Scott Morris a major UFO group leader: 12/16/2005

” My observation of Barry, who used to write regularly for Saga and its UFO magazine, was than nearly everything he said – excluding perhaps banal observations about the weather – could be automatically discarded. Too bad that one of his tall tales is still with us.”

I think the people who log on to the Carbondale UFO crash site should be alerted to this observation by one of Ufology’s major group leaders and long-time researchers.

From Albert Benson to the list 12/17/2005

” It’s bad enough that the bizarre crowd at BUFO ( Burlington UFO & Paranormal Radio) is pushing the Carbondale hoax of 1974 as a genuine occurrence, but they’re not content to confine their idiocy to that alone. Now they’re involved in an internet fantasy asserting that the little town of Olyphant PA. which is located about six miles from Scranton, is situated at the “centre of the universe” and modelled after ancient Egypt by alien race! This would almost be funny if it weren’t for the fact that for the uninformed public and the media, this is what passes for the face of Ufology.”

Albert Benson continues,

“And this type of crap only makes it more difficult to convince the scientific community that the UFO phenomenon is a real mystery that merits the most serious investigation on their part.”

Scott Morris replies on 12/18/2005

Al,” I agree that this is pretty dumb, but it doesn’t amount to anything consequential, much less a problem with scientists. My experience is that scientists who are so willing are perfectly able to separate Ufology’s sensible claims from the absurd ones. Scientists who are hostile simply use the latter as an excuse not to bother with the more substantive issues. Hard as it may be for some to believe, not all Ufologist’s problems are Ufologist’s fault.”

“The Carbondale silliness is perhaps worth noting, but nothing to get worked up about. UFOs and Ufology were long ago relegated to the fringes, and something relegated, even if unjustly, is going to attract fringe types. Surely, we have better things to do with our time than to waste it with ritual denunciations of the many nut jobs and liars who are out there, and have always been out there. They’re certainly an irritation, but they’re also no more than a sideshow.” 

Yet another valuable observation that is limited to the list membership. Scott is correct to point out that the list has far better things to do with it’s time than denounce the internet kooks…However, one wonders ” What might they do that they haven’t already done over the course of the last sixty years?
From Tim Connolly (a list member) to Albert Benson & the list: 12/18/2005

“At least this kind of thing provides fodder for ” Ufology-ology”, which consists of remote-viewing history texts which will be written on distant planets in the future of a parallel universe. 

Egads, more material for BUFO to promote!
Joel Simpson (a list member) chimes in: 12/18/2005

“Watch any established field on investigation ( nutrition, astronomy, genetics, linguistics, etc.) and you’ll always find the same sort of nuts looking for attention, and a great deal of confusion in the media…..” I agree with Tom that the tern “Ufology” as understood by the world at large ( not just by us) covers every conceivable aspect of modern culture, from Bermuda Triangles to flying lights, crystal skulls, dogu statuettes, Uri Geller, exobiology and Nostradamus. I’d rather avoid using it. When asked I certainly never say I research UFOs, and usually mumble something about “A strong interest in cataloguing unidentified phenomena recorded throughout history. 

I fully understand Joel’s embarrassment, and it’s too bad that those visiting BUFO/Carbondale sites and links are not privy to his insightful and candid remarks.

 I would also like to point out that Ufology is not actually an established field of investigation, rather, it is an investigative (and occasionally obsessional) hobby that has produced little if any evidence to verify the physical presence of UFOs in our skies. I certainly wouldn’t put it up there with Astronomy or Genetics, etc. 

 * * * * *

Baseless rumours and distortions that are left unchecked foster beliefs, expectations, fears and suspicions that not only are completely unwarranted, they are dangerous too

So, the question arises, why should the serious UFO researchers feel obligated to point out the absurdities, inconsistencies, contradictions and the fabrications of the many internet saucer zealots, charlatans and hucksters? The answer is quite simple. Not to do so is a failing of character, ethics and moral compass that would serve to protect the unsuspecting and the ill-informed from the distortion of repeatedly reading and hearing about, and finally accepting as true, the suspicions, fabrications and “delusions” that have been bandied about and thrust upon them via the net regarding the true nature of the phenomenon.

For baseless rumours and distortions that are left unchecked foster beliefs, expectations, fears and suspicions that not only are completely unwarranted, they are dangerous too. I’ve read lies about the character and professional efforts of an acting police chief who diligently worked shoulder-to-shoulder with UFO field investigators during the Carbondale PA incident of ’74, while also managing to professionally serve and protect his community, the many volunteers and the policemen under his supervision at the site.

Only to have his name and efforts dragged through the BUFOrian muck and malicious fabrications about him by internet saucer-hucksters like Mary Sutherland, and her investigator Ronald T. Hannivig who not only never met or interviewed the acting police chief, they were not even present at the scene while the incident was being investigated in 1974.

Yet, these same self-appointed experts also alleged that the acting police chief (Francis X. Dottle), wantonly participated in a cover up of the incident by tossing bogus evidence into a pond. They even went so far as to post the malicious remark that this fine public servant was not then (At the time of the incident), nor is he now, a friend of the people in the community he served.

These silly fabrications appeared at the <http://carbondale,pa.ufo crash> site which you may log on to and read for yourself. I ask, is it really inconsequential that a man’s reputation be besmirched by individuals who may be totally deluded and lacking any scruples? Should serious UFOlogists continually turn a blind eye to this sort of behaviour and self-serving promotional propaganda because it might be unpleasant, beneath their dignity and embarrassing to deal with?

Is it not shameful to remain silent and allow this sort of chicanery to infect the minds of young and elderly ill-informed people who search the net for reliable information on the phenomenon? I’ve even received two e-mail forwards from a researcher in which the communiqués sender claims that one internet huckster is involved in fraudulent online business practices and directly involved in the suicide death of a teenage group member.

Naturally, there are two sides (or more) to every story, so I’m currently attempting to learn and verify more about the matter. I’ll report my findings in a future Carbondale Chronicles entry for those who are interested in this rather shocking and sad story.

Is there not a lesson to be learned in the fact, that few European politicians and intellectuals of the day took the national socialist movement in Germany very serious when it first came on the political scene. So, impressionable young people, far too young to remember who Neville Chamberlain and Winston Churchill were, sit at their computer’s keyboard and unwittingly log on to saucer-huckster sites who are like sharks lurking in the internet’s waters for careless surfers to happen their way.

Interestingly, my grandson’s high school French teacher recently told me that 65-70% of his students thought that Germany had attacked Pearl Harbor in 1965 or 67. So, should the serious UFO researchers simply assume that this kind of historical ignorance is limited to today’s high school students? How could serious ufologists be so blind (and passive) as to believe that their not setting the record straight on the chicanery and many lies about the UFO enigma is matter of little or no consequence? If that’s the case, why the hell do they even bother to research the phenomenon at all?

If one thinks it’s silly to compare the absurd online UFO propaganda to that of the Nazi’s, one might do well to recall that well over fifty percent of the adult voting population of this country believe in the ‘reality’ of UFOs and would probably support a candidate who shared in their saucer enthusiasm. Perhaps a candidate who would simply promise to release any and all government papers on UFOs could win a close election, especially if that candidate were also a popular entertainment or sports celebrity.

So, while the studious UFO researcher’s utilize the same internet technology to e-mail pithy and complimentary notes for each others enjoyment, and an occasional pat on the back- many youthful UFO enthusiasts slip into the jaws of the saucer-hucksters deception, delusions, lies and distortions. In fact, in some cases they may even be gobbled up by a hucksters chronic, habitual and/or pathological lying.

But, the rub lies not in exposing the internet huckster(s) as a blemish on the face of Ufology.. it lies in the fact that many serious UFO researchers and organization leaders themselves have participated in their own brand of saucer-huckstering over the years (directly and indirectly- unwittingly and consciously). Moreover, calling attention to the speck in the eye of an internet huckster might provoke a response from the debunkers about the beam in the eye of the UFO organization and/or its leadership.

So, it seems that the boundaries between the proponent UFO camps are not very well defined any longer. There once was a sharp line between the organized groups and the kooky contactee movement. Now it just seems that some of the saucer group leaders and experts are more eloquent spokesman, (a.k.a. Classier salesman) than the internet throng. Yet all seem to be well-versed in the art of putting a particular “Spin” on a UFO incident or the phenomenon in general.

Considering that the organized groups have been doing so for almost 60 years, does point to a habitual behaviour pattern, especially since that pattern of behaviour has produced absolutely no incontrovertible evidence or data concerning the phenomenon’s true nature or origin.

What we have is a great deal of speculative fantasy, which stems not from hard spikes discovered in an objective database but, all-too-human wants, needs and desires concerning the phenomenon’s assumed importance and meaningfulness to mankind, and the equally-assumptive importance of the researcher’s own investigative efforts.

This near-obsessional behaviour pattern was first established by the baby-boomer ” Nuts and Bolts” school of Ufology which is presently on the verge of extinction. The bare bones of their contribution to Ufology will be that they successfully managed to dangle a promised carrot before the noses of the American public, the media and themselves for six decades.

It was they who pampered, endured and invited the hucksters of Ancient Astronaut tales and Bermuda Triangle yarns to their conventions and symposia. They even participated in the proliferation of Saucer-Crash Fantasies and the Abduction Mania. They did all this to promote membership numbers, draw larger crowds to their conventions, make book deals and seek increased journal subscriptions.

One asks, how much ‘objective researching’ is to be found in these business pursuits? ( e.g., what percentage of the monies collected actually went for research, after operating costs and salaries for the group’s top brass were siphoned away?) Moreover, if the internet hucksters are following in the path of the old guard with better and far more dynamic internet UFO presentations to entice the curious and the gullible, is that not but an extension of the sins of UFOlogists past?

The sociologists and folklorists of the future will look back upon the late 20th and early 21st.century’s transformation of Ufology into an “unbridled” entertainment industry (or “UFOOLogy” as it is more accurately described) and realize that the two terms differ only in the addition of one vowel. Ufology is no longer, nor has it ever truly been a purely pseudoscientific pursuit – it has blossomed into a full-blown sub cultural entertainment industry that has profound romantic appeal within our youthful society. Its roots lie in America, which Dr Carl G. Jung once called the land of science fiction and fantasy – but the American UFO malaise is now becoming a pandemic that has spared throughout the entire planet through the world wide web.

The fossil remains of it all will point to a mid-20th century belief in the existence of and pursuit of phantoms of the skies. 21st century UFOOlogy will probably seek out the phantoms through paranormal or spiritually-based investigative avenues, assumptions and beliefs – some of which may be serious, while most will probably be pure humbug. However, the answer will always seem to lie just beyond their grasp, around the next corner, over the next hill. (Much like the nuts and bolts camp’s carrot).

Such is the nature of true phantoms; they antagonise, mesmerize and befuddle the blind man who senses their presence but, can offer no definitive description of them.. except for hearing the curious beating of their wings and catching a faint whiff of their fleeting presence. Could it be that UFOs are modern man’s harpies?

The pantheon of UFO experts will continue to come and go, along with the parade of witnesses and the few remaining organized saucer groups. The UFOs however, will persist and endure the many ups and downs of UFOOlogical fantasy, theorizing, speculation and assumption – and in time, a new generation will take up the quest and start swinging their white canes at the fleeting phantoms. Could it possibly be that the canes will always be far too short, and the answer to the riddle of the UFOs will simply remain beyond our physical and mental grasp?

Example No.5 (UFOs from inner-space?)

Perhaps in some strange way “the UFOs are but a reflection of ourselves”, as James Moseley suggests – aimlessly flitting about like the modern man’s hopes, fears and aspirations on the phenomenon. Perhaps our ancestors were better equipped to assimilate these “signs in the skies”, for in their lifetimes things like these aerial displays were not only anticipated and readily interpreted, they were actually prayed for.

Have we somehow lost touch with the facility of mind that once fostered beliefs in visions, portents, divine warnings and angels yet, search the skies to once again experience? Or is it all just a growing new age mysticism and religiosity appearing in the guise of technological marvels that homotechnos currently beholds in awe, wonder and masked reverence?

Has the emotional and spiritual nature of our inner being been schooled out of us by the customs, demands and the technological advancements of modern-day living? Indeed, does everyone really think that such powerful human emotions would simply dry up and blow away because it was no longer chic or, politically correct to speak of them?

The organized group elites may scoff at such thoughts, in the same manner which they scoff at the internet huckster movement in their midst. They seem to have an overly confident Col. George Armstrong Custer attitude about what they perceive to be nothing more than a small hostile encampment that they “look down upon” from their lofty UFO research headquarters. However, their status in saucerdom, with the press, the entertainment media and the American public’s focus of interest is most assuredly headed for UFOOLogy’s happy hunting grounds.

– Matt Graeber


Transformation of Ufology, part 1
UFO Idols with feet of clay
Matt Graeber

PART ONE: UFO Idols with Feet of Clay

There has been a great deal written about the ’ Transformational Effects’ of the UFO experience upon the observers and the interfacers with alien creatures. Many times these incidents are alleged to have produced an enhanced form of spiritual awakening, heightened awareness, or a realisation of one’s cosmic connection with the universe and its many intelligent life forms. In extreme instances, the UFO experience is even said to have produced “Hybrid” half-human and half-alien beings that are presently walking amongst us.

This folly is further expanded by a form of unbridled one-upmanship, in which stories are routinely topped by more outlandish and embellished yarns, and we even find that not only have some fellows claimed to have discovered and identified more than 86 separate alien species presently visiting our planet but, there is an American abduction expert who proclaims that the “Greys” (small statured bulbous-headed alien creatures), actually absorb life-sustaining nutrients in the air through their skin.

As far as I’ve been able to determine, the expert doesn’t mention the rather delicate matter of how the Greys might un-absorb their body’s waste materials. Perhaps, they don’t, and that’s why they smell so horrid on the numerous military base’s autopsy tables!?

But, rather than rehashing the claims and the counter-claims which these many yarns have provoked from the saucer zealots, UFO enthusiasts, sceptics and debunkers – I will discuss the “Transformation of Facts” that the unobjective UFOlogists quite often bring to fore concerning their misinterpretation and misrepresentation of the significance of their truly poor quality reports.

It was then that I first realized that pointed questions and opposing points of view were not very welcome within the established UFO group community… 

Example No.1  (A blast from the past!)

I attended a UFO conference which was held in a high school auditorium at Pottstown, Pa. back in the early 70′s, and the director of the UFO group speaking at the event presented a number of photographic slides of purported UFOs for the audience to view. Many of the photos were images from rather old cases and were frequently written about by the popular UFO authors of the day. However, several were new to me and I found myself particularly interested in one slide that featured a pair of copper-coloured disks flying in tight formation amidst the backdrop of a brilliant blue sky.

The disks were photographed from an approximate angle of about 40-45 degrees, and showed the pair of identical copper-coloured craft from the bottom with a pronounced leading and side edge. I was taken by the fact that this photo was very clear, well-cantered in the frame, and did not have any distortion which might have been attributed to the craft’s movement, camera movement, or the blurred, fuzzy and slightly out-of-focus character of many other UFO photos also being displayed.

When the speaker’s presentation ended, and the lights were rekindled in the school’s auditorium there was a question and answer period in which inquiries were fielded by the speaker. At one point during this period, I raised my hand and asked the speaker if he might share a bit more information about the photo of the copper-coloured UFOs with us. He readily admitted that he didn’t know very much about the photo’s origin except that it came from a small village in South America.

I asked if he could tell us something about credibility the person who took the photo, when it was taken, where it might have been taken and how it ended up in the assortment of photos he had presented. The speaker seemed to be a little stunned by my questions and replied that the photographer is unknown and presumably died in a mudslide that destroyed his entire village.

The speaker didn’t know the name of the village or, the date of the disaster. He also didn’t know when the photo was taken. So, it would be virtually impossible to link the photo to a mudslide catastrophe that was published in newspapers somewhere in South America without at least knowing the approximate location or year of the incident. Even with knowing that, it would still be an investigative stretch to assume one positively knew anything about the reliability of the photos themselves.

When I mentioned the fact that these photos were probably not the best examples for audience presentation, an obviously annoyed lady seated in the front of the auditorium challenged my statement with a rather vehement remark. It was then that I first realized that pointed questions, and opposing points of view were not very welcome within the established UFO group community. (i.e., it appeared that many of the conference attendees hadn’t come to learn anything. They just wanted their preconceived beliefs on UFOs to be confirmed and/or bolstered by the presenters).

Interestingly, I had collected coins as a youngster, and suspected that these copper discs were actually coin planchets that hadn’t been struck at the mint. (viz, American Revolution period large cents), for both appeared to have well-defined nicks along their outer edges, much like circulated coins viewed under magnification. I never got to mention this to the speaker, who shrugged off my questions by proclaiming that “he thought” the photos were interesting and that’s why he presented them at the conference. In other words, the UFO photos were not investigated for authenticity and photographer credibility before being presented to the audience.

I later reproduced the appearance of the UFO photo, by placing two large cents on a piece of transparent Plexiglas and viewed them from a similar angle with the sky as the background. The result was astonishingly similar to the mysterious South American photo shown at the Pottstown conference. This was the first of many disappointing experiences with the fawning group enthusiasts and their leadership I would have during my eight year stint as the director of UFORIC the Philadelphia-based UFO Report & Information Center, 1972-80. (Although, I’ve been semi-active in the field for the last 33 years). 

EXAMPLE No.2 (Implants anyone?)

I attended a speaking engagement at a gathering of the Society of American Electrical and Mechanical Engineers in 1976 – in which I was to follow an elderly gentleman who had been researching UFO reports for decades. As I entered the dining room of the hall I encountered a young man assisting the primary speaker (we’ll call him Mr.Compton), who was quite visually handicapped and poking about in a upright dining room cabinet which doubled as the speaker’s podium and had a microphone affixed to it’s top. Inside the cabinet small oil and vinegar bottles were stored before being placed on the dining tables with the dinner salads.

Although the young man was repeatedly telling the speaker that only vinegar and oil bottles were stored in the cabinet, the legally blind speaker persisted in rummaging about in the cabinet as if looking for something else to be there. (It was quite strange and an oddly-amusing affair). I do not recall learning what Mr. Compton actually thought might have been nestled within the cabinet.

As the speaker finally settled down behind the podium and the microphone was adjusted to his satisfaction, the lights in the dining room dimmed and the slide presentation and the experts lecture simultaneously began. The first slide was a photo of an unfurled American flag. Mr. Compton said, “I always show this slide first because I believe in truth!” A voice from somewhere the darkness chimed in with something about “leaping tall buildings in a single bound” but, Mr. Compton didn’t seem to be distracted by this comical comment as he continued, “I’ve been investigating UFO reports for many years, and let me make it perfectly clear… I’m no contactee! However, I do know a few, and if you listen to what I have to say you will be endowed by the friendly saucers and able to protect yourself from the hostiles”

Then a barrage of slides was shown in rapid succession with a quick explanation concerning the photographer/witnesses credibility and the date and location of the alleged incident. Many of the photos were quite old and were obviously borrowed from UFO books and group journals. Most were poorly centred in the frame, blurry and of quite distant or small objects.(Were they insects on the wing, birds, Frisbees or alien space ships, stars or planets, it was quite difficult for anyone to tell with any degree of certainty).

Then Mr. Compton warned the audience of the dangers of approaching the Globe, Football-shaped and Bee Hive-like UFOs and how to thwart their attacks with a common hand-held flashlight. Apparently, one could also use the flashlight to perform a ‘UFO Friendship Test’, which was fully explained in Mr. Compton’s 32 page pocket-sized booklet which was on sale in the rear of the hall.

Perhaps the most remarkable part of Mr. Compton’s presentation concerned his revelations concerning a middle-aged woman (Mrs. Brotmann), who was out walking her beagle puppy at sunset on a summer’s eve when she was struck down by fleeting a 2.5 to 3 inch diameter UFO.

According to Compton, Mrs Brotmann had just been bending over while adjusting her puppy’s collar and as she was starting to straighten up she was shocked to see the tiny UFO flying straight towards her face. She tried to take evasive action but, the glowing UFO was travelling so fast that it hit her squarely in the forehead knocking her to the ground, lodging itself in her brain! A bit dazed and bewildered Mrs Brotmann finally regained her composure and was amazed to realize that there wasn’t a mark on her face to show where the UFO had entered her cranium. Amazingly, after this incident Mr Brotmann’s IQ was greatly enhanced and according Mr Compton she is now an engineer (Type not specified).

Would it be a stretch of sceptical speculation to point out that the flag slide and the ‘engineer’ connection in the Mrs. Brotmann story seems to be a bit ‘American’ Society of Mechanical and Electrical ‘Engineers’ directed!?

An obviously concerned lady seated near the podium asked Mr Compton if he had taken Mrs Brotmann to the hospital to have x-rays taken of her head injury. Compton quickly replied that he wanted to do so but, Mrs Brotmann flatly refused treatment because of the voices in her head. Apparently, these were the voices of the UFO operators who did not want their presence publicly revealed. Moreover, the x-rays would be lethal to the tiny Venusians who reportedly have been visiting Earth since the dawning of mankind.

This was the very first of the many so-called implant stories I’ve heard of over the years. Compton dates the alleged incident to the early fifties. Naturally, I was quite shocked by the character of Mr. Compton’s presentation and followed up with a rather capsulized talk on investigative methods employed at UFORIC. After this experience I decide to avoid public speaking engagements on UFOs, press interviews and I rarely participated in radio talk show programming on the phenomenon. However, I did answer questions from the public over the phone at UFORIC because we were in fact, a UFO ‘report and information’ centre.

While the above may sound too bizarre to be a factual account, I can assure you that it is quite factual, and that even stranger/wilder yarns are presented at many UFO conferences and websites. So, is there any wonder why mainstream scientists feel that something is not quite right about these wacky UFO experts and enthusiasts? Is there not a reason to suspect that they avoid and ignore the subject for fear of being associated with the kooks and crack pots who have always populated the largely unchecked and totally unregulated Ufological landscape.

Moreover, why is it that if someone does question the validity of a reported incident, the UFO groups generally do not appreciate and applaud that individual’s objectivity and tenaciousness – rather, they label him or her a sceptic and debunker while leaping to the defence of many less than credible eyewitnesses and fantasy-prone self-proclaimed UFO experts who bandy these yarns about.

All this while the so-called serious ufologists have never proven that UFOs actually exist in the nuts and bolts sense of the word in 60 years of intensive inquiry, by thousands of group members and field investigators- not to mention the combined efforts of hundreds of professional consultants in the disciplines of metallurgy, psychology, optics, astronomy, biology, etc. etc.

Moreover these same groups invite Abduction Experts. Implant Researchers and Reversed Engineering promoters to their conferences to speak about aliens absorbing nutrients through their skin, telepathic communiqués from benevolent alien races, and the mass production of hybrid babies aboard colossal motherships which are reportedly laden with human foetuses in liquid-filled jars. (What utter and nonsensical drivel!)

What are we to think of these deluded folks who inflict themselves and their half-baked theories upon the unsuspecting public, the all-to-eager UFO group members and press with “wild” and completely “bogus” UFO tales? What are we to think of so-called serious research UFO group leaders who stand by and permit these same individuals to thrust themselves upon their membership? I actually came across a fellow (we’ll call him Fred), who had achieved some degree of acclaim in UFO circles with his outrageous crashed saucer investigations, alleged alien and MIB encounters, not to mention his own abduction report. Fred was actually an individual dealing with serious mental heath issues.

Yet, Fred and the small group he is an important member of has a growing internet following consisting of many young people who are Yahoo members, and quite a number of senior citizens who are interested in the group’s specialized senior services, such as prayer groups for those with spiritual, emotional and physical wants and needs.

Additionally, Fred had proudly posted information about his own improving mental health status and active MH volunteer contributions on the internet for all to read yet, other UFO researchers continually posted his UFO stories and reports at their sites, often thanking Fred for his contribution to ‘serious ufology’. Fred was even the focus of an article in a leading European UFO magazine. Obviously, all had taken his reports at face value and never looked into the matter of his health and veracity before listing such hokum as credible UFO sightings and alien encounters reports.

I guess that a schizophrenic could have a reliable sighting experience but, how would one be able to establish such a report as factual vs. hallucinatory in nature?

So, the question immediately arises, who is at fault here? The mental patient or the shoddy UFO researcher’s who post such potentially delusional material for UFO enthusiasts to read and readily accept as reliable data? Even the very best computer virus scans and firewalls cannot protect a serious researcher’s UFO database from that sort of contamination.


The entire alien affair reminded me of a time as a youngster, when I first saw an authentic ‘Jackolope’ at a hunting lodge. From what I later learned a taxidermist was producing the spoof-creature (A jack rabbit with small horns) for hunters who wanted to bamboozle less-experienced sportsmen in their group

EXAMPLE No.3 (The fossil remains of Mythical Creatures and Saucer Pilots).

In a 1996 book on the discovery of many mythical creature fossils, a Texas fellow, said to be a palaeontologist, is suspected of actually sculpting and otherwise fabricating the so-called skeletal remains of mythical creatures, which included mermaids from both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, leprechauns and several other creative works. Although the books titled clearly identified it as being about the discovery of  ‘mythical’ creatures, one of the major UFO group leaders of the day was so may captivated by a photograph of the alleged skeletal remains of a small creature that was imbedded in a concave plaster of Paris cast. (Sort of like a little alien on the half-shell).

The ufologist thought that the skeletal remains closely resembled those of a downed saucer pilot who reportedly crashed his spacecraft just prior to the turn of the 20th century at Aurora, Texas. Indeed, a UFO report involving the landing of two cigar-shaped objects at Ledonia, Texas was reported to have happened on April 16th 1897, and the Aurora crash (about a hundred miles away) was said to have occurred the following day. The fossil find story was cautiously but, favourably promoted in the UFO group’s journal where it received wide attention by the membership. After all, if the group’s leader thinks there’s something to this story. Well, there must be something to it.

As time passed, and the story started to unravel, the group leader decided to retire albeit, without ever fully-acknowledging that he’d been mistaken about the significance of the bogus alien fossil finding at Ledonia. Jim Moseley of the zany UFO newsletter Saucer Smear, had been gently chiding the ‘Czar’ as he called the group leader about the bogus fossil; and I even drew a cartoon concerning the controversy which compared the fossil to that of Warner Brothers cartoon character ‘Marvin the Martian’, who as you may recall is actually Bugs Bunny’s outer-space nemesis.

The entire alien creature fossil affair reminded me of a time as a youngster, when I first saw an authentic ‘Jackolope’ at a hunting lodge. From what I later learned a taxidermist was producing the spoof-creature (A jack rabbit with small horns) for fun-loving hunters who wanted to bamboozle their sons and younger, less-experienced sportsmen in their group. It’s the hunter’s equivalent of “Snipe Hunting” with young boy scouts at camp for the first time.

So if we find such ‘ufoology’ flourishing at the very top of the heap in the sub cultural community of Saucerdom or (Saucerdumb), take your pick. One wonders, how deeply might such a malady infect the group’s internet list membership and the independent serious UFOlogists who look to these groups and lists for database resources? 

EXAMPLE No.4 (On the Demise of 20th Century Style Ufology)

While hearing from a researcher about the recent ‘Mexican Roswell’ report”, nd the sad state of contemporary ufology in general, the subject of the Carbondale, Pa. 1974 UFO crash came up. He was somewhat amazed to learn that a small group from Wisconsin had managed to revive the long-ago hoax, and was currently claiming it to be a genuine saucer crash that was covered up by the military and the government. In fact, they wanted people to think ‘Carbondale/Roswell’, since they believed the case was actually much more significant than Roswell, and had many more reliable eyewitnesses. (Claims which are not only completely incorrect, they’re absolutely ridiculous too!).

This group ( BUFO), is headed by an aggressive internet impresario (Mary Sutherland), who not only dabbles in saucers but, also operates an online match-making service and prayer services for those in need, while also featuring psychic readings for those daring enough to peek into their future, at very reasonable rate of just $2.95 per minute. But, that’s just the tip of the iceberg on her UFO and paranormal internet enterprises which include an abductee support group and an array of items for sale at her online store and Gift Shoppe in scenic Burlington, Wisconsin.

The serious UFO researcher, who had long been studying a particular variety of UFO sighting seemed to be somewhat dismayed that all this was going on while most of the fellows he had been contacting on ’ The List’ probably felt that the Carbondale case was indeed a complete and clumsy hoax. Additionally, the Wisconsin group had established a dominate presence on the net at the <carbondale, pa. UFO crash> site, and was even skilfully promoting their crash and cover up yarns on internet radio (audio) and TV (video) links.

Of course, there is a so-called Mexican Roswell, the Kecksberg, Pa. incident which is often touted a Pennsylvania’s Roswell. The Carbondale, Pa. hoax which the Wisconsin group is actively attempting to turn into a Roswell tourist and entertainment industry – and of course, even the Rendlesham Forest case is being foolishly called the UK’s Roswell.

It seems that if you prefix or suffix the name of any downed or un-downed saucer story with the word ‘Roswell’, the story automatically takes on an added dose of mystery, conspiracy and authenticity which far over-shadows any amount of obviously embarrassing evidence that might dismiss the entire incident as a fabrication or misidentification.

For many in the UFO community, Roswell is the line in the sand over which brutally vehement controversy rages. There is little middle ground on the topic, either you believe or you do not! If you do not, you are labelled a sceptic, a debunker and someone who has simply gone over to the other side.

Even though I never publicly said I do not believe the Roswell incident is very accurately portrayed in the vast saucer literature. I have become something of a piranha in the field simply because I questioned the veracity of two alleged star eyewitnesses concerning the Roswell incident. (Both of whom were later discredited and believed to have been discredited by other proponent UFO researchers).

Continue to Part Two >>>


A Very British Ufology
John Rimmer

Editorial notes, Magonia 95, May 2007

At last, it seems, the Warminster revival is getting underway. With the publication in 2005 of Dewey and Reis’s In Alien Heat (reviewed in Magonia 91) an almost forgotten aspect of British ufological history was brought back into focus. Two recent books also revisit the site of England’s biggest UFO flap. Andy Roberts and David Clarke’s Flying Saucerers: A Social History of Ufology (1) places Warminster into the broader context of UFO development in this country, and Kevin Goodman’s UFO Warminster: Cradle of Contact (2) presents the place and the events associated with it into a more personal context. All three books, I believe, reveal Warminster as an intrinsically English phenomenon, and part of a very distinctive national UFO tradition.

Roberts and Clarke begin their survey with the usual brief account of the 1947 events in the USA, starting with Arnold’s sighting on June 24. Amazingly, it took just six days for the saucers to cross the Atlantic; Britain’s first UFO report came from a vicar’s wife in Kent who saw a `dark ring’ in the sky as she waited at a level-crossing near Sandwich.

Even in this pioneering report some of the classic characteristics of the mass-media UFO report were apparent: the immediate search for, then dismissal of, a prosaic explanation: “I am positive it was not a smoke ring from the passing engine”; the immediate linking with other reports: “Flying saucers were also reported yesterday as having been seen during the last couple of days over Denmark, Johannesburg and Sydney”; then as a clincher of authenticity: “The United States Army Air Force announced at Roswell, New Mexico last night that a ‘flying disc’ was found last week on a ranch near Roswell, and was now in the Army’s possession.”

So within days of Roswell, UFOs were already established in the UK. ‘Ufology’ as an organised pursuit began with the foundation of small clubs, mostly just groups of friends, like that founded in Hove by Richard Hughes, called simply The Flying Saucer Club. It was organised to the extent of issuing membership cards and publishing a magazine, Flying Saucer News.

Clarke and Roberts outline the development of the earliest years of British ufology in some detail, but there is clearly a great deal of material still waiting to be discovered. But what is very clear, even from the limited amount of material available to us, is that ufology in this country, even in the earliest years, developed differently from its American counterpart. Perhaps significantly ufology in Britain attracted a number of ‘establishment’ figures, and in the early years, like much else in Britain in the 1950s, had a distinctive class profile.

Early British saucer enthusiasts (‘ufologists’ is perhaps too strong a word) included a number of high-ranking RAF personalities, most notably Lord Dowding. For some reason the minor Anglo-Irish aristocracy were also to the fore in early British UFO research with Brinsley le Poer Trench (Lord Clancarty) and Desmond Leslie, with a castle in Ireland and family links to Sir Winston Churcill. The aristocratic connection even reached to the Royal Family, with both Lord Mountbatten and Prince Philip expressing keen interest in the subject. (Gordon Creighton claimed that Philip was a subscriber to Flying Saucer Review, but whether this meant more than just that Creighton sent him a copy of every issue is hard to say).

Class divisions characterised much of British ufology on a less rarefied level as well. Throughout its history BUFORA (now defunct but once Britain’s leading UFO organisation) was riddled with factional in-fighting, which often showed a class overtone. Many of the founders and senior figures in BUFORA were primarily occultists, to whom UFOs were a way of challenging scientific values; so that groups and individuals who wanted to bring a scientific approach to the organisation were seen as a hostile force challenging their own occult agenda.

A classic example of this attitude was displayed by BUFORA veteran John Cleary-Baker when involved in a spat with the scientifically-oriented Cambridge University UFO group, dismissing them as “these white-coated godlings of the laboratory”.

British ufology took some strange paths in the 1960s and 1970s, and Andy Roberts’s descriptions of the ufological foundation of the Findhorn Community (an early version of which appeared in Magonia 89) shows how the founder, Peter Caddy, was drawn into the flying saucer world through his involvement with the aristocratic, spiritualist Attingham Park group, with included figures such as Sir Victor Goddard (a former Air Marshall) and Sir George Trevelyan.

Roberts’s description of the ‘hippie’-UFO connection (again outlined in a preliminary article in Magonia 87) shows just how much ufological ideas permeated the underground culture of the era, linking it with ideas about leys, Glastonbury and ‘the Matter of England’: and also how these ideas emerged into a broader culture of mysticism, occultism and anti-rationality, which has continued through to contemporary obsessions with crop-circles.

It is interesting that the development of the crop-circle community has followed the same class-based divisions that marked the early stages of ufology, with an elite of minor aristocracy and the Aga-classes blithely lording it over the lower-middle-class foot soldiers; a situation hilariously described in Jim Schnabel’s Round in Circles and P. G. Rendall’s Cereal Killers.

But the British UFO story is not confined to an aristocratic clique. There are ordinary people in it too, and Clarke and Roberts tell their stories as well. People like Cynthia Appleton, the young housewife who gave birth to a star-child after meeting an Adamski-style alien in her terraced house in Birmingham. Where is the would-be Saviour now? Despite determined investigation the authors were unable to find any trace of him.

Unknown to me until I heard Roberts’s talk at the FT UnConvention last year, is the strange phenomenon of the Flying Saucer Vicars, in the great tradition of eccentric Church of England clergymen (and a few other denominations as well), like characters from an Ealing Comedy. Although some saw saucers as evidence of God’s omnipotence possibly offering, literally, new worlds for evangelising, others found evidence of the devil’s works of entrapment and picketed cinemas showing UFO films.

Britain has only ever produced one UFO cult worthy of the name, the Aetherius Society, and the account given here of its founding by George King is vigorously disputed by the current leadership; but there is something encouragingly English about the idea of it being conceived in a Soho drinking club and ending up at the less fashionable end of Fulham Road like some ‘fifties Chelsea-set demi-mondaine. The Aetherius Society is usually dismissed as a fringe organisation of no account to ‘serious ufologists’, who ignore the fact that it has a much higher profile to the public and the media than most ‘serious ufologists’ are prepared to admit. Clarke,and Roberts are surprisingly sympathetic to it, finding its members genially eccentric.

And now to Warminster, that most English of UFO flaps. Clarke and Roberts devote a chapter to it, outlining the major stages in its growth, and look at some of the curious individuals involved. Greatest of all, of course, was Arthur Shuttlewood. The account of Warminster in Flying Saucerers is a straightforward account of the events in the small town, from the events leading up to the famous town-hall meeting in 1966, to the gradual fading away in the ‘seventies.

One thing that comes across clearly in this account, and which distinguished Warminster from American experience, is the almost total lack of military involvement, despite the enormous army presence in and around the town. The ufologists and the sky watchers were careful to distance the phenomenon from the military, which featured in their accounts merely as the source of a few (very few) UFO misinterpretations, and a minor nuisance to keen skywatchers who wanted to wander across the countryside at night. No crashed saucers in sinister hangers, no secret retrievals, no Men in Black.

The second new book gives us a much more personal, view of the Warminster phenomenon. Kevin Goodman started visiting the Wiltshire town in 1976, a few years after the ‘Great Days’, when establishment ufological interest had moved on and Warminster was being seen as a bit of an embarrassment to many British ufologists. The original stories of ‘The Thing’, strange noises and mysterious objects in the sky had developed into a complex of contactees, hoaxes and the semi-coherent New Age ramblings of Arthur Shuttlewood’s later books. But to the enthusiastic seventeen-dear old and his friends from the Midlands, Warminster still held the magic of the previous decade; it was a place where one could sit on a starlit hillside and be virtually guaranteed to see UFOs.

By the time Kevin arrived, the centre of the Warminster scene had largely moved from Arthur Shuttlewood, who was suffering from increasing ill-health, to Peter and Jane Paget at the Star Foundation in Fountain House. This was a full-on New Age establishment promoting meditation and spiritual healing more than ufology.

* * *

The contact events experienced by the author and his friends, are subtle and ambiguous. No blonde-haired Nordics striding down ramps from shining discs, but more a low-key ‘psychic’ contact, conducted through dream and meditation

* * *

The story of Kevin’s time at Warminster is told in UFO Warminster, Cradle of Contact. This is a fascinating account of the Warminster scene from the mid-seventies through to the late nineties, when most ufologists had given up any interest in England’s major UFO flap.

It is also a very personal story of friendship, enthusiasm, trust and even betrayal, and gives a fascinating insight into the cultism surrounding organisations such as the Star Fellowship. And, as the title implies, it is the story of UFO contact.

Well, not quite. The contact events experienced by the author and his friends, are subtle and ambiguous. No blonde-haired Nordics striding down ramps from shining discs, but more a low-key ‘psychic’ contact, conducted through dream and meditation. Although the ‘contactees’ receive messages and images that suggest an extraterrestrial connection, Goodman and his friends are too intelligent and self-aware to take this all at face-value. They are as puzzled by what is happening to them as we are, reading about it.

I have spoken to a number of English contactees and abductees, and have in every case found that they are aware of the ambiguity of their experiences – there is none of the evangelical zeal, the ‘believe me or else’ attitude that comes across from many American contact accounts.

There has recently been a movement to write the contactee experience out of the ‘real’ UFO narrative, claiming it is not a suitable subject for ‘serious ufologists’. But it is clear from stories such as that of Kevin Goodman that there is no real division between the contact experience, the abduction experience, and the UFO experience in its widest form. The simple ‘abductees good; contactees bad’ dichotomy which is being promoted is hopelessly crude.

Too often now, especially on the Internet, we see ‘ufologists’ who have little or no knowledge of the history of the subject, and who are constantly trying to re-invent the wheel. These two books are an invaluable antidote to that ignorance. Clarke and Roberts give a sound social and historical description of ‘ufology in one country’: Kevin Goodman gives an account of someone who explored one facet of that history, became a part of the experience, but retained the objectivity and self-awareness to give us a fascinating account of a journey to Magonia.

These are important books, please read them.


  1. David Clarke and Andy Roberts. Flying Saucerers: A Social History of UFOlogy Alternative Albion, Heart of Albion Press.
  2. Kevin Goodman. UFO Warminster: Cradle of Contact [2nd edition] Swallowtail Books.














The Aliens Speak – and Write
Examining Alien Languages
Mark Newbrook

Inscription allegedly from the shoe of George Adamski's contact, 'Orthon'


Inscription allegedly from the shoe of George Adamski's contact, 'Orthon'

From Magonia 85, July 2004

Many UFO reports involve linguistic or quasi-linguistic phenomena: scripts loosely resembling hieroglyphics or Indian devanagari associated with crashed UFOs, long stretches of ‘speech’ channelled from alien entities or produced by self-described contactees, alleged telepathic messages with specific content, etc, etc. In the ufological literature, however, we seldom find any qualified linguistic analysis of the various claims and experiences.

The main reason for this would appear to be the very limited overlap between the groups of people who (a) are interested in the field and (b) have the relevant expertise. The few comments that are to be found come from writers who are amateurs in linguistics; indeed, some of them display no awareness of the subject. While these people are often well intentioned, their remarks are neither extensive enough nor expert enough to assist in the complex task of analysis and assessment. In many cases they are so scanty and/or so confused that they are of almost no value

In fact, many of these writers are also clearly committed to an interpretation of UFO abductions and contact as genuinely involving extraterrestrial aliens. Their discussions are not only lacking in linguistic expertise; they are also predisposed in favour of this hypothesis.

An important issue at the ’coal face’, which conspires with the low level of expertise on the part of most writers in this area, involves the fact that the reporters themselves – even if wholly sincere, and whether or not they themselves claim the ability to understand or use the systems involved – seldom anticipate possible scientific interest in this area. And, even if they do, they too typically do not have the expertise to produce even first-order analyses (eg, phonetic training enabling them to produce International Phonetic Alphabet transcriptions). This latter is, of course, neither surprising nor disreputable, and researchers can ask only that people who have reported such events do the best they can. But the task of further linguistic analysis is naturally beyond non-linguistically-trained reporters and commentators – although of course linguists will seek to work with reporters in moving towards their own analyses.

Since 1999, Gary Anthony’s Alien Semiotics Project has sought to apply scientific methods in dealing in this context with the broader issue of symbols and communication, including ideographic and artistic as well as linguistic material. More recently, Anthony and I have directed attention specifically at UFO-associated artefacts which are said to be and/or appear to be linguistic in character. This includes both spoken and written linguistic material and the scripts used to write the latter, and could also include modes analogous to human sign language or other, altogether alienmodes (eg, symbolism involving lights, which in fact is often reported). In 2002 we published an article in MUFON Journal, seeking to work with those who claim knowledge of or proficiency in such systems, with a view (i) to determining whether or not each body of material is or might be genuine and (ii) to making progress with the (associated) tasks of description, analysis and theory. (Some of the points here are taken from this article.) We have also been searching the literature and we have assessed whatever material we have found.So far, Anthony and I have had only a few really interesting responses to our article. Some of the people who are active in this area are ‘deep fringe’ and their (typically unsupported) ideas cannot be taken seriously. Other ‘experiencers’ and their proponents may not be enthusiastic about collaborating with a project which may subject their hitherto unchallenged linguistic ideas and claims to rigorous scrutiny and perhaps undermine them. At present, the main part of the project which involves actual interaction with claimants focuses upon Mary Rodwell’s contactee/abductee support group in Perth (Western Australia) – to which we shall return.


Perhaps the most common single form of communication between aliens and humans, as reported, is telepathy or ‘mind transference’, achieved either with or without technological means. If it really is true that aliens are communicating with humans by telepathy this could lead to a veritable revolution in the relevant disciplines. But of course telepathy would be very `convenient’ here in the context of a hoax, because nothing is known of how genuine telepathy would operate and because – on most accounts of telepathy – positing this means would free the (non-linguist) claimant from the need to invent convincing linguistic forms and structures (though, as we shall see, there are other ways of avoiding critical analysis). And we know of no case (whether involving aliens or not) in which telepathy has actually been shown to occur. In any event, even in these cases telepathy is not always said to be used among the aliens themselves.

Other accounts of alien communication with human contactees/abductees feature a range of part-telepathic and non-telepathic modes, involving, as noted, spoken and written communication and other modes. These can be regarded as at least quasi-linguistic. (If any cases at all are genuine, it is of course possible that some attempts at communication in still other modes are not recognised as such or are not noticed at all because of, eg, inter-species differences in methods of perception.

We must ask: among this quasi-linguistic material, are there any genuine alien languages and scripts? Are non-genuine cases always merely matters of misperception or misanalysis, or are there any deliberately hoaxed or invented alien languages? What are the structures and features of all these languages, especially any that at least might conceivably be genuine? How do they compare with each other and with known human languages and scripts, in respect of linguistic typology (the relative frequencies of structural patterns) and indeed of universal or near-universal features of human systems (which obviously might in principle be infringed by non-human systems)? How coherent and extensive are they, especially in respect of structural features such as phonology and grammar? How plausible are they, given (a) general considerations of likelihood involving different genetic origins and home environments and (b) what is reported specifically of their users in non-linguistic terms?

Further: are any human contactees/ abductees really able, as is often claimed, to speak and/or write these languages as well as understanding them? How have they been taught these languages (whether or not they can use them actively themselves)? Why have they been taught these languages?In some cases, the aliens are reported as having been able to learn and use the languages known by the witnesses, or other human languages ancient or modern. If aliens are in general able to use human languages, this would seem to obviate the need to teach difficult, novel systems to humans. And of course there are many cases where aliens reportedly use modes analogous to speech and/or writing but the material is unintelligible and no assistance is given; in some cases this material is similar in general terms to human language and in others it appears anomalous, featuring, eg, musical tones without phonation. However this may be, alleged use of and usage in human languages on the part of aliens is itself an important aspect of this overall issue.

Furthermore, what are the meanings of the alien messages provided in all these languages and language-like systems? Are these in turn coherent or plausible?

In fact, much linguistic material of allegedly alien origin appears highly suspect or worse. I will discuss alleged alien languages themselves later; but some obviously suspect cases arise where aliens are reported as using known human languages. It is probably easier to create a hoax involving an existing human language (if one knows it well) than to invent an alien language which might convince a linguist – although some hoaxers would not realise this and might even imagine that an invented ‘language’ could not be coherently critiqued or challenged. One possible example of anomalies arising from an inadequate grasp of the relevant languages involves the very strange ‘messages’ involving words taken from human languages which well-known abductee Betty Andreasson (now Luca) reportedly received from alien entities. Paul Potter, for one, upholds the veracity of this material (for his material, see sunsnova.htm). However, those messages which are not in English are simply strings of words familiar or otherwise, drawn or seen as drawn (often with some distortion) from Latin, Greek and other languages. Where a word exists in inflected forms in the source language, the citation (dictionary) form is virtually always the one which appears here. There is no grammar. In fact the sequences do not really exemplify language in use; they are lists of words. Potter translates the ‘messages’, adding grammar as it suits him. They are mostly warnings of impending doom, often through the Sun surprisingly becoming a nova. His own attitude to learning can be seen in his web-site remark that any challenges to his ideas ‘will be ignored with great aplomb’! Butthere is perhaps a plausible source for these texts that involves no aliens: a person who does not actually know Greek or Latin but has dictionaries and a conversion table for the Greek alphabet like that at the start of Greek For Beginners. One wonders why aliens would communicate like this, anyway. If they knew Latin and wanted to prove it, they could surely write in Latin.

There are in fact other cases involving UFOs where a string of the citation forms of words taken from a foreign language is presented as if it were a meaningful sentence. One such case arose in the Garden Grove abduction case of 1975, which was in fact acknowledged later as a hoax. The sequence (allegedly channelled) was nous laos hikano (early Greek: ‘mind’, ‘people’ as in we the people, ‘[I] come’). A gloss ‘I come in the mind of man’ was offered; but all three forms are citation forms, and the grammar has merely been added by the translator. ‘I come in the mind of the people’ would be eis ton tou laou noun hikano (or similar, depending on the dialect).In even more extreme cases, there are outright errors in linguistic material purporting to be in known human languages. One example involves a spelling error in a Greek word found in material associated with the 1995 Alien Autopsy case.

Such cases look most unpromising (even where no hoax has been admitted). However, it should be noted that in contrast reports of ‘genuinely’ alien communication systems (not in known languages) might not necessarily be fraudulent even where the material does not really represent genuine alien communications (and where the reporters are not simply deluded). For instance, some symbols may relate to human psychological archetypes shared very generally across the species (if these exist), but may be misinterpreted, for various reasons, as as sociated with aliens or UFOs.

If we assume, however, that some of these systems may actually be genuinely alien in origin, we must obviously be prepared to deal with structures and phenomena emanating from minds and physical communication systems which are very different indeed from our own. Even if the systems involved are similar to human languages in very general terms, they, and perhaps even more the semantic concepts which they express, are liable to be much more unfamiliar than the equivalents in any human language, however different from one’s own first language the latter might be. In this context, it should be noted that the amount of variety even among human languages (and the intellectual aspects of the associated cultures) surprises some people. There are in fact over 6,000 human languages, which can be grouped into about 200 families; each of these families is not known to be related to any other. On the surface at least, this huge collection of languages varies a great deal; some of them are very different indeed from languages like English (notably in respect of grammar). It can be argued that some of these differences relate to major differences of mind-set/world view. But the scale of this variety would presumably be vastly greater where alien languages were concerned. We should expect to fmd utterly unfamiliar structures and types of usage, as well as utterly unfamiliar sounds (for some of which phonetic symbols might not currently exist).

What are the structure and features of all these languages, especially any that might conceivably be genuine? How do they compare with each other and with known human languages and scripts, in respect of 'linguistic typology'?
What are the structure and features of all these languages, especially any that might conceivably be genuine? How do they compare with each other and with known human languages and scripts, in respect of ‘linguistic typology’?

One important upshot of this is that alien languages reported as being rather closely similar to human languages (even if only in structural terms rather than sharing any specific words, etc) are unlikely to be genuine.Such degrees of difference will surely hinder the analysis of any genuine alien language in the early stages, especially if we have little specific information about the users of these systems (eg, if the system is available only as performed by human contactees). But we might expect to make some progress jointly on both fronts as we learned more. And we could take comfort from the fact that some so-described contactees have apparently managed to learn some such systems – whatever their real origin – despite knowing no linguistics (although of course they might conceivably have learned the systems by currently inexplicable means, as is often reported). We return to these issues later.

Although little work on the issue of very major linguistic differences between unrelated species developing on different planets (etc) has been done in ufological circles, it has been a major focus of attention in SETI circles. But even here the discussion has seldom been adequately informed on the linguistic front specifically. For instance, it is often assumed that core notions in science and especially logic and mathematics – believed to be very generally shared – will permit rapid movement towards overall decipherment/ mutual understand-ing. However, given the diversity of structures and concepts even among human languages and cultures at comparable technological levels, this may be over-optimistic, at least in some respects. (Scholars differ on the degree to which logical systems – or at least workable logical systems – can actually differ, but the grammatical and semantic systems of unrelated languages can certainly differ very dramatically.)

One recent body of rather sophisticated work of this kind in the SETI domain is by John Elliott at Leeds University (see e.g. Elliott has worked extensively in computational linguistics, and (although computational linguists often know too little general linguistics) this would suggest he should have some competence. He is indeed familiar with relevant principles such as ‘Zipf’s Law’ (though linguists are cautious about extrapolating too far from such principles). But his references to linguistics texts are at a rather basic level only, and his program appears over-optimistic and inadequately informed by the vast literature on grammatical typology. He proceeds as if this tradition of scholarship hardly exists and seems to believe that phonological information alone can reveal grammatical patterns, which no linguist known to me would accept or even think plausible.  

He also makes various naive and/or wrong statements. Eg: he does not (it seems) distinguish adequately between languages and systems of communication more generally: in this context, in his discussion of bird communication he totally misinterprets the key structural notion of duality (I am assuming that he is not erring further by including here confusion between birds’ ability to mimic and real language-learning, or uncritically following Irene Pepperberg’s claims); he assumes a strong interpretation of dolphin activity in this area; and he repeatedly confuses scripts and phoneme systems, or rather naively thinks in terms of the former (especially where he refers to Latin). There are certainly serious problems with this work as it stands, for all the apparently impressive material from his own area of specialisation (which others would have to assess).Elliott is by no means alone. Other material has been produced by Anthony Judge and Allen Tough; their sites are linked and are at and (etc) respectively. The material is very interesting but as usual there is too little focus on the linguistic issues and too little linguistic expertise is found in the relevant teams of scholars. But Judge does have a link to Justin Rye’s survey of SF languages ( Rye in turn has links to non-fictional and allegedly non-fictional proposals near the fringe of the SETI world. He is linguistically well informed, although at times covertly contentious. There have also been many fictional treatments of this theme; one famous one is in ‘Omnilingual’ by H Beam Piper. But once again error is frequent in this body of writing.


For our own project, Anthony and I requested samples as long as possible. Frequently samples of alleged alien speech or writing are not long enough to make substantial linguistic or other analyses. Shorter samples are useful only if translations – preferably ‘literal’ ones – are available, and of course even longer ones arc more useful with translations than without. As noted later, many people who say that they can understand such material report that this understanding is ‘holistic’; they understand whole messages rather than individual words or phrases. This makes linguists’ task much more difficult, but if they can work with the people who report the usage they may still be able to analyse the language systems involved. Specifically, we asked for instances of the following:

  1. Alien scripts and texts written in these scripts, with a description of how they are written, eg, left to right or right to left, top to bottom or bottom to top, starting where on the page, etc. We also need to know if each symbol is a logogram (representing something like a whole word, as in Chinese script) or represents a phoneme or the like (as in an alphabet) or a syllable, or whatever. If words are generally made up of two or more symbols (as in an alphabet), we seek to know where the various words in each text begin and end (if this is known).

  2. Translations into English (or other human languages) of texts written in such scripts.

  3. Spoken alien language, ideally recorded on tape but, if this is not possible, in the form of transcriptions either into ‘imitated spelling’ (where sounds are represented by the reporter as best they can, using the spelling of English or of their own strongest language; it would help here if we knew which language each reporter had in mind and/or which English or other accent they had) or (better) into standard phonetic script, if a reporter knows it.

  4. Translations into English (or other human languages) of spoken material.

  5. Other apparently semiotic ma-terial.•

  6. Information on the circumstances in which the material came to be known, including any proc
    ess of later recovery using hypnosis or the like.

  7. Other supporting comment, etc. 


    rodwellAs noted, one major manifestation of apparently linguistic material allegedly associated with aliens and UFOs involves Mary Rodwell’s Perth-based group. Some of this material is presented in Rodwell’s video productions and in her book Awakening: How Extra-terrestrial Contact Can Transform Your Life. This book is aimed principally not at researchers but at those who believe or suspect that they themselves have had experiences of contact (including abduction) involving UFO-associated entities. The author promotes the view that these experiences represent actual physical happenings and offers supportive acceptance of the stories told by those who report them (or can be led to report them). She develops a complex `theory’ of extraterrestrial intervention in human affairs and its consequences for the individuals who are directly affected and for the species. I will examine Rodwell’s book as an extended example of the ufological literature in this area.

    Rodwell has extensive experience of UFO reporters. But her expertise in the intellectual disciplines involved is not so obvious, and the upshots of her approach are quite damaging in respect of any critical assessment of her claims. The book inevitably has a popular and in places an emotional tone which militates against skepticism or even neutral scientific analysis and discourages the consideration of alternative hypotheses. Indeed, Rodwell’s view of the issue involves one-sided acceptance of this particular (highly dramatic) type of interpretation of the reports. This is presented as much the most plausible interpretation and is seen as ‘honouring’ the reporters by regarding them as reliable and of undoubtedly sound mind – and indeed as often having advanced psychological abilities and attributes. In places Rodwell recommends procedures which would more or less exclude alternative views, eg, she states that any ‘professional’ consulted after an experience should be ‘someone who is educated in Contact reality’ (which surely restricts selection to believers). Unfortunately, this is typical of theliterature in this area; the only gain here is that Rodwell does at least treat the linguistic issues at some length (though not competently).

    In many cases, too, the facts are arguably distorted here; they are certainly presented with a massive slant. Rodwell and her collaborators accept more or less without debate many alleged psychic and similar phenomena which are heavily disputed for want of persuasive evidence and in some cases are rejected by almost all the relevant scholars. The bibliography is in a similar vein, presenting pro-UFO literature as ‘scientific’ and listing many fringe works on various themes, without any counter-balancing references to skeptical or mainstream-scientific literature in these areas.

    Furthermore, Rodwell often provides little or no solid evidence for her own claims – which is at times a matter of urgency because of the dramatic nature of these claims. And she admits so many types of event or subjective experience as indicators of possible alien contact that almost anyone might be able to persuade themselves that they have experienced such contact – but have forgotten it, as is often supposed to happen. There is of course evidence that surprisingly high proportions of people report or can be induced to report UFO abduction experiences or to manifest some of the associated behaviour, without there being any corroborating evidence of any actual events. Rodwell does not discuss this kind of evidence adequately. Neither does she take adequate note of the vast literature on the reliability of memories ‘recovered’ under hypnosis and the like. It is quite clear from this literature that at least some ‘recovered’ memories are factually erroneous. In addition, the book is also (again almost inevitably) short on `academic discipline’.

    Rodwell deals with abduction/contact on a broad front; but the linguistic issues are potentially important in this area and some comments are in order.  

    Sample of John Dee's 'Enochian' script

    Sample of John Dee's 'Enochian' script

    Some claims are repeated from other sources which are so dramatic that strong evidence is required if they are to be accepted. One excellent example of this involves Leir’s claims regarding the advanced linguistic abilities of some human infants identified as ‘Star Children’. Some of these claims would, if
    true, revolutionise the study of child language acquisition; the most dramatic of all is the claim that some babies are able to read. But I know of no properly conducted experiments which would demonstrate or even suggest that such things occur, nor of any child language acquisition experts who take these claims at all seriously.Forms presented as spoken and written alien language used by adults are discussed in the (largely self-reported) case studies, notably that of Taylor, who also appears prominently on Rodwell’s video. Taylor includes this material in an account of her life-long pattern of experiences. Much of the discussion is again subjective in tone, involving Taylor’s ‘feelings’ about the meanings of her experiences and her artistic and (quasi-)linguistic responses to them. The material is generated by means of automatic writing, however this may be interpreted, and Taylor links this process with an intuitively and experientially derived ‘theory’ of the nature of the aliens whom she regards as responsible.

    The written material produced by Taylor and another contactee and provided here in plates (more is seen on the video) is described as ‘hieroglyphic’, although it is not clear what Taylor thinks this term means generally or what it is supposed to mean in this context (see also below). It has the appearance of text written ‘grass-stroke’ style in a range of large alphabets, syllabaries or (parts of) logographies (there is too little material in each sample to be more confident, especially in the absence – see below – of useful translations).

    Taylor is reported as being able to write in more than one ‘unusual’ script (presumably in otherwise, unknown languages; but few non-linguists make this distinction clearly). She can also reportedly speak in several ‘strange’ languages and can ascribe meaning to some of this material and to her experience-inspired artwork (but see below). She gives further details, claiming that she and other experiencers regularly acquire such languages and in due course the ability to translate them into human languages without conscious learning. Unfortunately, evidence that these claims hold up and that these languages are genuine is not presented here, which is again a huge omission given the very dramatic nature of the claims.The corroboration reported by Taylor from other members of her groups is too vaguely and informally reported to be taken seriously. For instance, the comments about ‘ancient symbols’ found in temples and pyramids and about similarities between Taylor’s material and ‘hieroglyphic text’ are far too vague to be of use, and it is not at all clear that the people who were commenting had any intellectual authority in this area.

    The samples of Taylor’s spoken material on Rodwell’s video appear to resemble glossolalia (‘speaking in tongues’), in which case the material is probably merely phonetic rather than linguistic and thus is not meaningful (though such phenomena are still very interesting in themselves). It is striking in this context that some of the sequences are reminiscent of Japanese, a language to which Taylor has been exposed. (I actually identified this as a possibility before learning that Taylor had lived in Japan.) It is characteristic of glossolalia and the like that the vast majority of the sounds produced are drawn from languages known or familiar to the speaker. A further reason for supposing that this present case involves glossolalia or a similar phenomenon rather than a genuine alien language involves the fact that all the sounds used are familiar from human languages and indeed not even confined to obscure languages unlikely to be known to speakers or their acquaintances. As noted earlier, genuine non-human (and non-terrestrial) lan-guages would be expected to mani-fest different phonetic ranges.

    If useful translations (preferably morpheme-by-morpheme) were provided for any of this material (spoken or writ-ten), it is possible that this kind of negative judgment might be proved mistaken. In this case, the material might be deemed genu-inely linguistic and the issue would then be whether the lan-guage was indeed from an alien source as claimed believed or was of human invention. However (as will be seen) this sort of evidence appears unlikely to be produced.

    In a most damaging passage, Rodwell quotes Taylor as making a claim which has very dramatic upshots. She states that in these alien languages `there is no preconceived idea or concept about what a particular sound ac-tually means because this type of language is not structured in the way the English language is’. This is badly confused: one has to assume that she means here to contrast the alleged alien lan-guages with all human languages rather than with English specifi-cally, because the gist of this claim is that these languages can-not be analysed as human lan-guages can; and by sound here she clearly means `word’, not `pho-neme’. But, given all this, the idea is clear; and Taylor then in-dicates (in her own words) that this means (as indeed it surely would mean) that the meaning of each utterance could not be related to that of earlier utterances and would have to be (somehow) ar-rived at intuitively (?) and pre-sumably `holistically’ on each occasion.

    The most damaging aspect of this passage is that it is implied (and indeed this is further hinted at by Rodwell herself) that analysis of these alien languages u no matter how sophisticated and free of advance assumptions based on the nature of human languages u is most unlikelyy to succeed. Such analysis would be more or less impossible, because these supposed languages would lack anything that a linguist could identify as a stable or well-defined structure within which morphemes with a constant meaning could be identified and larger morphologi-cal and syntactic structures with more complex meanings could then be analysed as composed of these morphemes in significant specific orders and relationships (linear or other). (This is the normal practice in analysing pre-viously unanalysed human lan-guages or u suitably modified – other communication systems.)

    However, all this appears unlikely in the extreme. Any system which is recognisable as a language in the first place must thereby (by definition) have a complex and largely stable and well-defined structure of this kind (in general terms). That is the kind of thing that a language is. Languages (and indeed most other kinds of communication system) depend upon the repetition of meaningful units. No `holistic’ interpretations unrelated to earlier texts are possible (although some-times nave non-linguists using their first languages may perhaps have the subjective impression that this is happening). It is difficult to see how even a genuinely alien language could differ in such a fundamental respect and still be usable for its native speakers or for anyone else. Members of another species which really had the psychological abilities which this implies (assuming that these are possible in principle!) would presumably not need or use language, and it is not clear how they could succeed (or why they would expect to succeed) in using systems of this kind to communicate with humans, given our own psychological and linguistic capabilities and habits.

    As noted earlier, it is true that even human languages vary a great deal in structural terms, and a genuinely alien language might well be very much more differently structured, perhaps in some relatively fundamental respects in respect of which human languages do not differ. Analysis of such radically novel systems might be very difficult and error-prone (especially without access to native users). But this would not necessarily be an impossible task in principle. The point that humans who are naive non-linguists can allegedly learn and use such languages would itself suggest that the differences would not be as great as might be logically possible or even probable or as great as Taylor and Rodwell suggest in denying that the languages are morphologically structured. In this context one should note that (as stated) the phonetics, which can be observed directly and thus described readily without any comprehension, are not dramatically unusual.

    However, it is also true that any ‘system’ which was presented as a language but which in fact really did have no largely stable and well-defined structure could not be analysed (or at least could not be analysed using any techniques currently known). In such a case, no quasi-linguistic claims made about this ‘language’ (eg, about the meanings of sequences in it) could be empirically tested, and all such claims would be immune from scientific scrutiny (unless and until wholly new principles of analysis could be developed; but this would appear unlikely to occur). The most that could be achieved would be that one could examine whether different human learners of the same ‘language’ interpreted an identical given passage used in the same circumstances in (more or less) the same way, in test conditions, as listeners or as speakers. Even here, however, only a positive finding would be decisive; a negative finding could be countered with the claim that even in a case such as this the meanings might vary. The claims would thus remain immune to empirical disconfirmation.

    One cannot be blamed for suspecting that claims of this kind might have been developed with the aim of preventing scientific analysis of this material and thus blocking any possible demonstration that the nature of the material was (or might very well be) not as described (non-linguistic, concocted, etc). This would certainly be the actual effect of adopting such a position; nothing useful could be said about such material, other than about the phonetics. (This would, then, place the same kind of constraint upon analysis as is placed by claims about telepathic communication; see above.)

    However: once again, the onus is, in fact, upon those making these dramatic claims to justify them or at least to cooperate in rendering them testable. If the systems identified as alien languages are such that the associated claims can be tested, they should be so presented. If the claims are really untestable, their advocates must realise that these systems will be of limited interest to linguists and other scientists, and that these scholars are likely to adopt (legitimately) the default interpretation that the alien languages are not genuine. In order to determine the real situation, one must obtain a reasonably sized corpus of data in each such language and be allowed to work with those who claim ability in it, so as to determine its actual structure.Rodwell does refer to the critical work of Antony and his associates, one of whom is of course myself, on the linguistic aspects of her case. But she seems inclided to fluctuate between what may be an over-optimistic expectation that work of this kind will validate, her claims, and a defensive stance grounded in the evasive-sounding claims mentioned above.


    As we have repeatedly observed, these shortcomings are widely shared by writers in this area. Their presentations are one-sided, and most crucially, they lack linguistic expertise. Advocates of the reality of alien languages and of communications from aliens in human languages will need to provide much better evidence a including evidence arising from such analysis as Anthony and I might conduct, if we are given access to reporters before the balance of probability renders their case sufficiently interesting to warrant further focused attention. Nevertheless, Anthony and I stand ready to engage with any suitable material. In the meantime, we continue to scour the archives for other material which is at least amenable to linguistic analysis.



The Alien Carried Paperwork.
Martin Kottmeyer

From Magonia 84, March 2004

In March 1980, a young rural Pennsylvania couple was interviewed concerning an experience they shared aboard an alien craft. A person attending a lecture on UFOs given by Eugenie Macer-Story told her about the couple’s experiences. She travelled to their home – they had no telephone – and they cordially allowed her to tape the story of their encounters with the aliens. Frank and Alice had not contacted any UFO organisation and there was no use of hypnosis at any point preceding or during Macer-Story’s interview.

As they tell it, both of them had been interested in ESP and the supernatural prior to the events of April 1975 and Frank_ in particular, had been trying to communicate telepathicaly with UFOs. He had been seeing lights over nearby mountain peaks at least once or twice per week in the period leading up to the experience. He emphasised that one must go out and observe the sky and take nothing for granted. Every time he saw a UFO, he would try to make contact by flashlight. He said he had a drive to leave this earthly existence because he had been so depressed.

On the night of the primary experience, as Frank tells it, the couple were in bed just about to fall asleep when both were compelled to go outside. They both saw a luminous round object near an electric light pole and were sucked up into it. They floated into a circular chamber and bobbed around for a while in mid-air. Doors opened and they met beings dressed in silvery-blue suits. One, a female, led Alice away to another room, while two men staved with Frank and chatted with him about star tracks and the nature of the universe. Though he saw star charts on which he recognised the Milky Wav, the men told him there was more beyond the stars. There were other dimensions. Thee telepathicaly got him to know they come from “another sub-level dimension attached to what we call the ‘astral-plane’.” Knowing this, his mind felt expanded. His whole concept of the universe changed and that’s all they wanted to do. At least that is, with Frank. Alice, however, got a different sort of treatment.

As she tells it, both of them had fallen asleep when suddenly she felt she was sitting up. The room was very luminous. Through the door, she saw a 6-foot tall being. Next, they were both on the porch, and the ground was white like snow. On the road was a vehicle the size of a car. Samples of rocks and stuff were being picked up and put in containers. There was also a light by the side of the house and she felt being pulled up under her arms and going through a circle of light at the bottom of the craft. She remembers floating in the room, like Frank did, wondering if they were being decontaminated.

She remembers, too, being led away by the female to another room. It resembled a medical clinic and had very similar equipment. There was also desk at which the female alien later filled out papers. The female lifted her hand and Alice found herself lifted up and positioned on to a table. An instrument bearing a light came down and was run over her body. A panel on the wall showed the internal organs of her body in real-time. It was displayed in blues and purples. During the examination, she relayed telepathically concerns over her ovaries that she sought medical help about in the past. She asked if the aliens could fix them. Easily, it turned out. The alien went to the desk, filled out some forms, and then returned with a rack of instruments. One was selected, briefly tested on a thick paper, and then passed over her ovaries. It initially stung and the instrument was readjusted. A smaller energy probe was used on only one of the ovaries. After completing treatment the female made some more notes and helped Alice off the table.

Alice followed her down the hallway to an elevator that eventually led them back to the chamber where the aliens were chatting with Frank. “She was carrying papers.” Alice recalled Frank’s conversation with the aliens as including such topics as ecological balance and the fuel that runs cars. Alice was surprised that these aliens felt humans were more advanced than they realised. Humans were aware of the problems they’ve created. “Pollution will be corrected.” Her impression was that one of the aliens was religious like a priest. There was also a living star map that might have shown their base, but she couldn’t even be sure where the Milky Way was on it.

Neither Frank nor Alice recalled how they got back to the cottage. Both awoke the next day as usual, each thinking they had experienced dreams. Alice, however, had tingling in the region of her ovaries for several days. Several months later, both were surprised to learn Alice was pregnant. Her gynaecological problems had evidently been cured. At 8 months, Alice had a 45-minute missing time episode while she was watching television. After this, she knew, in her own mind, the pregnancy would be normal. She would have a girl. But, beyond a feeling that she had made a vow to remember the examination beneath the time lapse, she had no real details. Sometimes there are flashes of memory and they seemed to tice together over time. But Alice didn’t get into the matter during that interview.

This account is whittled down from Macer-Story’s article published in the Fall 1980 issue of Pursuit, the magazine of the Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained. [1] It may or may not surprise some readers that this story is considered an alien abduction experience by UFO researchers. It matched the standard abduction scenario just well enough to make it into Eddie Bullard’s list of Top 50 abduction experiences. Specifically, it is No. 50 on the list. [2] That made it better than over 200 other cases on record, or put another way, better than 80% of the abductions collected by 1985. It impresses in a formal sort of way. It is ostensibly an experience shared by two, not merely a single claimant. They sought no attention; contacted no ufologist. Macer-Story came to them. There is no involvement of hypnosis.This last point is a significant virtue, since there is no chance of the testimony having been generated by the enthusiasm of an investigator. Abduction advocates, in debate, like pointing to such stories – at least in the abstract – as validating the stories retrieved under hypnotic regression since they tell essentially the same experience. [3] Or so they claim.

When you start scratching around at a story like this the sameness crumbles away without much effort. To be fair, a few bits and pieces echo other abduction cases. The star map stuff loosely resembles the Hill abduction. The examination device coming down from the ceiling echoes Pascagoula. Alice indicated that the walls were illuminated without sources like bulbs, something familiar froth the Moody case. The order of the story elements is also correctly Bullardian: capture – examination (only Alice) – conversation – theophany (only Frank) – aftermath.

The thrust of the story, however, hardly fits in with the modern portrait sketched by Hopkins, Jacobs, and Mack. Alice does not have eggs harvested from her ovaries in a terrifying ordeal. A light passes over the ovaries and she is cured. There is nothing about aliens returning with a hybrid child in the intervening five years – as is regularly seen in the abductions of the 90s, Frank is spared the nonsense of the various sperm extraction procedures spoken of by other male abductees. Instead he is given a surprisingly brief lesson in metaphysics and told other dimensions exist.

They are spared the standard falsehoods about a near future cataclysm: instead, we get a message that humans will solve their problems about pollution – this seems unique not only for its lack of paternalism, but also for being right

They are also both spared the standard falsehoods about a near future cataclysm familiar to both contactee and abductee experiencers. Instead, we get a message that humans will solve their problems about pollution – this seems unique not only for its lack of paternalism, but also for being right. Most measures of pollution have improved in the last couple of decades. [4]The aliens seem closer to human norms than to Greys. Frank said they were bluish-silvery. “They had eyes, nose, and ears, but not as much of a mouth as ours.” Alice indicated the silvery-blue colour involved the suits. The fabric stretched over the top of the head (as in Schirmer’s drawing) and that prevented her from telling if they had any hair. The female sported bulb-like things over her eyes to probably protect her vision. She had small spots in the nasal area, and while there was some cartilage, the nose was not pronounced. The presence of a bosom clearly defined the one with Alice as a female. The face was a little longer and the chin was more pronounced. While we would prefer a situation where they specifically commented on the size of the head, there isn’t much ground for thinking they were looking at Greys. The bosom, minimally, is problematic given the usually genderless nature of Grey bodies. The absence of any talk of large black eyes exerting mental control on either Frank or Alice particularly distances the tale from Grey mythology.

Finally, and probably the best proof of non-Grey status. Alice affirmed they were not much different from us. “They just didn’t have a mouth.” This presents an amusing turn. It is not the fact that Frank slightly differs from Alice when he says they didn’t have as much of a mouth. It is rather that a certain ufologist berated sceptics for falsely stating the entity in the Hill case had no mouth. More precisely, in the Cosmos science series, the aliens are described as mouthless creatures. [5] Regardless of the accuracy of that criticism, how curious is it to see an alien whose look reinforces a supposedly false trait?

Next, what should we make of the presence of a desk in the alien spacecraft and the fact that the alien needs to fill forms and carry paperwork around with her down the hallways? It would be an irksome challenge to ask ufologists to search for more examples of this in their abductee databases. I doubt they would be very enthusiastic to see more examples of this for surely even they realise; first, the time spent would only emphasise how much this is not the norm; and second, it is blatantly un-futuristic. Such record-keeping should be done on, indeed preferably by, computers. The cure of the ovaries by light may be indistinguishable from magic in a way appropriate to advanced technology; the need for paperwork, assuredly, is not.

The scanning real-time display of the body’s internal organs, though a nice short glimpse into the probable future, didn’t require much imagination. A closely similar scene appeared in Star Trek – The Motion Picture (1979). Ilya lies on a table and a light tube travels under the body showing the internal organs in detail. The heart pump is shown in operation. The preferred colour in the display, as in Alice’s dream, seems to be blue. I do grant however, a good fraction of the display is in red and that was not a colour mentioned by Alice. Such real-time display of the body’s interior was nothing new to science fiction. tion. Ray Hanyhausen showed an alien looking at the skeleton of a living woman in a Selenite scientist’s examination chamber in First Men in the Moon. (1964) While more examples could probably be found if we looked, I suspect the more important point is that X-ray scanning technologies were widely known to be advancing at the time. CAT-scans, invented in 1972, first appeared in clinical settings between 1974 and 1976. The first were used only on the head, but whole body versions were available by 1976. [6]

The incongruities of the story within the larger theory of the Alien Breeding Programme are perhaps bad enough, but the case is one you probably would prefer to keep hidden away from representatives of official science. Regardless of whether or not you could force a stalemate on the issue of the case being ‘explainable’ in absolute terms, you would never win them debating the relative possibilities. Is it more probable this is real than some sort of psychologically based experience? No takers. To begin with, Frank’s volunteered statement that he was trying to contact aliens with flashlights in the prior weeks is a deadly detail that no scientist would dismiss as coincidence. The talk of telepathy is suspect and suggests literary license to subvert language issues. The revelation that the aliens come not from distant planets, but “another sub-level dimension attached to what we call the ‘astral’ plane” reeks of New Age bafflegab and links to spiritualism and the tradition of channelling aliens.

There are issues of disparate testimony. Frank and Alice tell the beginnings of the story somewhat differently. She talks of light filling the bedroom and seeing a tall figure. He doesn’t. When Alice returns from the exam, she sees Frank chatting about issues he failed to mention in his separate interview. Frank’s impression that their primary motive was to enlighten him is discordant with the events that happen to Alice, for whom the purpose seems to be study of their local environment – the rock sampling at the beginning – and study of her body. If we had only Frank’s account to work with, this would have to be treated as a contactee tale. Alice’s version is more mainstream; echoing themes found in the writings of the Lorenzens and John Fuller. Her version suggests a scientific expedition.

The cure of Alice’s barrenness by aliens, evidenced by a successful pregnancy and birth of a healthy girl, impresses to some degree. One could regard this as a physical effect. It is also disarming how it is done so casually. The aliens didn’t come to Earth with a mission to cure her, they simply do it because she’s there, she asks, so ‘why not?’ However, we have only her word that aliens are responsible. No doctor’s testimony or medical records are cited in support of it, so, by the standards of scientific investigation, we should not be totally convinced.

The couple’s initial impression that the experiences were simply – or not-so-simply – dreams, weighs heavily in any scientific assessment of the case. While the fact that Frank and Alice’s accounts match to some degree is perhaps problematic, it is harder to ignore the fact that the interview comes five years after the primary event. Over such a span, the vagaries of memory and ‘improvement’ of the story could be invoked to explain away any difficulty. The experiences may have initially been more discordant, but over time they reason away some of the differences, one deferring to the other over points of the dream they are uncertain about.Such dismissal through unproven speculation would inevitably rankle advocates of abduction reality as unfair. But stare at the alternative. Interdimensional entities bearing telepathic abilities happen to respond to the flashlight summons of a depressed man wanting to escape his earthly existence. This could never convince scientists as happening in the real world. It has more than enough clues to decide the case breaks down into a psychosocial phenomenon.



  1. Eugenic Macer-Story, “Pennsylvania Woman Healed by Alien Practitioner” Pur-suit, Fall 1980, pp. 1469.
  2. T.E. Bullard UFO Abductions: The Measure of a Mystery FFUFOR, 1987, p. 313.
  3. Example: Greg Sandow on UFO Updates, 17 February 2003: “Eddie Bullard has shown that the stories retrieved under hypnosis aren’t notably different from the stories told from conscious memories.” Luis Gonzalez discussed quality-control problems in these conscious memory cases in a subsequent posting dated 2 March 2003.
  4. Ronald Bailey, Eco-Scam: The False Prophets of Ecological Apocalypse St. Martin’s Press, 1993, pp. 72-3, 160-1.
  5. Cosmos debuted September 28, 1980.
  6. Imaginis, “Brief History of CT” at http://imaginis.convict-scan/history.asp



Cook’s Tour
A Trip Down the Mean Streets of Ufology.
Curtis Peebles

From Magonia 82, August 2003.

It was a hot day in the late summer of 2002. I was in a bookstore in Palmdale and saw a copy of Nick Cook’s The Hunt for Zero Point. (1] As I read Cook’s story of secret anti-gravity technology, Nazi flying saucers, Black airplanes, shadowy sources, and sinister cover-ups, all told in a breathless first-person account, I realized that ufology had returned to its roots. Not simply the technological nuts and bolts of the 1950s, but back to the books of Donald Keyhoe and their atmosphere of  ’saucer-noir.’ As the name suggests, the structure and tone mirrored hard-boiled detective novels of the 1930s.

Raymond Chandler put it simply. “The story is this man’s adventure in search of a hidden truth.” In search of that truth, the hero must travel “down these mean streets,” on a journey which leads to official lies and obstacles at every turn. [2]

Cook’s journey begins at the F-117A crash site near Bakersfield, California. His guide was Sheriff’s Deputy ‘Amelia Lopez’, who had witnessed the crash when a law student on a camping trip with friends near the Kern River. She had just got into her sleeping bag early on the morning of July 11, 1986 when the sonic boom from the F-117A hit their campsite, sending a shower of embers from the fire. The horizon was then lit up as the aircraft slammed into Saturday Peak some ten miles away. The group headed for the crash site, but had gone only five miles before being confronted on a trail by an Air Force ‘red team’, flown in by helicopter to secure the site. Lopez was thrown to the ground, had a boot on her back, and a gun held to her head. When they were finally released, the group went back to the camp site, where ‘Lopez’ talked to a reporter. A decade later, Cook tracks ‘Lopez’ down from the newspaper report, and she reluctantly agrees to show him the crash site. [3]

Cook and Lopez arrived near the crash site in the early evening, then headed up a slope. They crossed an old, broken-down barbed wire fence, and entered the brush. They reached the crash site just as the sun was setting. It was about 2,000 feet below the summit of the mountain. Here, Cook wrote, “the ground was even and covered with a crusty layer of dirt. The plants and trees were younger than the vegetation we’d passed on the way up. But that was the only real clue that something had happened here.” Lopez then comments that “I read they sieved the dirt for a thousand yards out from the impact point …. A few weeks after they left it was like nothing ever happened here.”

Cook continued that “there was no physical evidence – no fragments amidst the thin soil and the rocks – to suggest anything out of the ordinary had occurred… But they left something behind, something you couldn’t see or touch – and it was that trace, that echo of past deeds, that brought me here …. it told me there was a secret out there and that it was so big no one person held all of the pieces. I knew, too, that whatever it was, the secret had a dark heart, because I could smell the fear that held it in place.” As they went back down the hill, Cook concluded. “Through half-closed eyes, I could almost reach out and touch it.” [4]

As I read Cook’s hard-boiled soliloquy on that hot summer day, I realized it had a few loose ends, such as the missing flag pole.In July of 1986, the 4450th Tactical Group operated three squadrons of F-117s at an airfield at the Tonopah Test Range (TTR) in northern Nevada. The group’s cover was as an avionics and evaluation unit for the A-7 aircraft. During the day, the F-117s were locked away in hangars, which were not opened until one hour after sunset. Two waves of training missions were flown each weeknight, the “early-go” and the “late-go.” The F-117s had to complete their late-go missions, land back at TTR, and be in their hangars with the doors closed one hour before sunrise. The pace of operations at TTR, combined with the nighttime schedule, took a toll on the F-117 pilots, and this was the root cause of the Bakersfield crash. [5]

Maj. Ross E. Mulhare was scheduled for a late-go mission on the morning of Friday, July 11, 1986. As he prepared for the flight, Mulhare told a colleague that he was tired and “just couldn’t shake it.” His call sign for the flight was Arie1 31. Two other F-117s were also flying the same planned route, at intervals behind his aircraft.

Mulhare took off from TTR at 1:13 a.m. PDT, in F-117A serial number 81-0792. The night was clear, with no Moon. He flew northwest to the town of Tonopah, Nevada, then turned southwest and climbed to an altitude of 20,000 feet. He was in radio contact during the flight with air traffic controllers at the Los Angeles and Oakland Centers. Mulhare’s transmissions and the aircraft’s transponder signals indicated that he was flying an A-7. Mulhare then crossed the Sierra Nevada mountains, and turned south along the edge of the San Joaquin Valley. Mulhare received a controller’s permission to descend to 19,000 feet. Nearing Bakersfield, Mulhare turned southeast, requested a descent to 17,000 feet, and then canceled his instrument flight plan at 1:44 a.m. The F-l17 then slipped into a steep dive, at an angle of 20 to 60 degrees, apparently due to Mulhare’s fatigue and disorientation. With its twin jet engines at full power, the F-117 accelerated towards the ground. [6]

Below, Andy Hoyt, his sister Lisa. and her sixteen-year-old son Joey had parked at a reststop when they saw the descending vehicle. Hoyt said later that, “It seemed like it was something other than an airplane. Believe it or not, I thought it was a UFO.” He was unable to get a good look at it, telling a reporter, “All I saw were three red lights and a dark image behind them like an upside-down triangle,” which disappeared behind a hill opposite them. Suddenly, a pair of explosions “lit up the sky like it was daylight out.” The F-117 hit the ground at 1:45 a.m.; killing Mulhare instantly. [7]

The first on the scene were a Kern County Sheriff Department search team. The crash sparked a fire in the Sequoia National Forest, which burned 150 acres before being contained by morning. The Air Force cordoned off the crash site, and the firefighters were not allowed within the area. They were also required to sign forms agreeing not to discuss what they had seen. The surrounding area was declared a National Defense Area. This prevented access by unauthorized personnel on the ground, and closed the airspace above it. Although Mulhare was identified as the pilot; no details about the aircraft were released. This fueled press speculation that an “F-19 stealth fighter” had crashed. [8]

The crash site itself was nearly unaccessible, even though it was located only 15 nautical miles from Bakersfield. The F-117 had impacted on a steep and rugged wall of the Kern River Canyon. The slopes were covered with thin grass, with only a few clumps of light brush, and a few scattered maple, oak, and pine trees. Cattle trails meander through the area. Although the impact point was directly opposite the Live Oak Picnic Area, the slope is such that the crash site could not be see from the rest stop. State Highway 178 runs along the floor of the canyon; but the crash site was on the opposite slope, and direct access was cut off by the Kern River.

Rather than trying to cross the river, then climb up the steep slope, the Air Force recovery crew approached from the rim of the canyon. A small bulldozer cut a winding trail down a ridge to a point above the impact point, where a helicopter pad was leveled out. Search crews and investigators were brought in by UH-1 helicopters flying from Meadows Field at Bakersfield. The sight which greeted them was stunning. The F-117′s impact had dug a pit in the ground, and debris was thrown out in a fan-shaped pattern that covered well over a hundred yards, across a steep slope, over a ridge, and down the other side. [9]What the recovery crew did over the next month later became a subject of controversy. A retired Lockheed official, now deceased, stated that the recovery crew went out a thousand yards beyond the last piece of debris. dug up the soil, and then sifted through every cubic foot for any debris. Once all traces had been removed, debris from a F-101 that had crashed at Groom Lake in the 1960s was scattered around the area. His comments were later repeated in books and articles. [10]


The recovery operation was completed on Wednesday, August 6, 1986, when the ground personnel were withdrawn from the area. The following afternoon, Thursday, August 7, the access restrictions on the crash site were lifted. A press conference was held about a mile from the site. All that remained, an Air Force spokesman told a group of reporters, was a scorched patch of ground. The next morning, the crash site had its first civilian visitors. [11]

On Friday, August 8, KERO-TV Channel 23 reporter Karl Schweitzer, cameraman Carlos Espinoza, helicopter pilot David Richards, and an earth scientist flew to the site, landing at the dirt pad. Schweitzer said later that they had not expected to find any debris, believing that the Air Force had removed every trace. Instead, they discovered countless small fragments within 100 to 150 feet of the landing pad. He and Espinoza filled three plastic food storage bags with pieces in 20 minutes.

Schweitzer described the fragments as pieces of plastic and circuit boards, various metal fragments, some non-metallic mesh, and “a piece of shiny metal shaped like a nozzle.” Most of the debris was about an inch in size, while the largest was two-and-a-half inches by one inch. Richards said that the debris he saw looked like stainless steel nuts and tubing, metal fragments, and composite material. The scientist found none of the debris was radioactive. KERO showed the recovered debris on their Friday newscasts.The news crew found something else, as well. Overlooking the impact point, atop a rocky mound in the middle of the gully, a twenty-foot tall pole with a U.S. flag had been set up by the recovery personnel as a memorial to Major Mulhare.

The Air Force contacted KERO on Saturday, August 9, the day after the broadcast. Helicopter pilot Richards was also contacted on the same day, by an individual who identified himself as being with the Air Force. Apparently suspicious of the approach, Richards then called the FBI, and turned over the debris that he had collected to its personnel. He explained that, “I didn’t want to inadvertently turn it over to any foreign agents,” The following Monday, August 11, an Air Force public affairs officer from Edwards AFB, Lt. Col. Jerry Guess, came to the station to collect the three bags of debris. He said that the debris would be examined, but there were no plans to return to the crash site for an additional search. [12]

The crash site soon received two additional visitors, Bill Marvel, a former Air Force Captain, and Dave Lewis. If Cook’s description of the site was a trip down Raymond Chandler’s mean streets, Marvel and Lewis’ visit was more akin to the adventures of Indiana Jones. Their quest began only two days after the crash. They flew over the site, above the 8,000 foot restricted altitude, and marked the location. They could see trucks and bulldozers on the rim of the canyon, but not the actual crash site. Then, in early September, soon after the restrictions were lifted, they made a low-level pass to map out the route they would use for the climb.

They made the first attempt to reach the site in early October, but they were unable cross the fast-flowing Kern River. They wwere told by the Forest Service that a search was still underway for five people who had drowned while rafting. (Since 1968, over a hundred people have died in such accidents on the Kern River.) Eventually finding a possible crossing point, they decided to try again the next weekend.The pair returned on October 18. The spot on the Kern River was not too wide nor had too swift a current, and they crossed in a rubber raft. Once safely across, they began the hike up the steep slope, through v-shaped gullies. When they reached the general area of the crash, they heard the drone of an approaching military helicopter, and they hid under burned bushes. The helicopter had its wheels down, as if about to land. Marvel and Lewis thought they might have tripped a sensor. The helicopter hovered for several minutes, then raised its gear and flew off.

Marvel and Lewis spent some two hours combing the area for debris. They were able to find the impact point, reconstruct the direction the aircraft had been headed, and the size of the debris field. The fragments were tiny bits of aluminum and titanium. Then, Marvel caught the toe of his boot on a large buried object. This proved to be an engine component, seven inches in diameter and weighing six pounds. Marvel said later, “We never expected to find anything that big. Maybe it was totally covered over with dirt when the Air Force was in there scouring every inch, and then maybe the rain washed away enough dirt for me to see it.”

Marvel and Lewis then climbed farther up the slope, to the flag pole. They still though the crash site would be monitored, and suspected the guard who called in the helicopter might be there. When the pair reached, the flag pole, they found the site was deserted. They were the only people at the site. [13]

Marvel told the Los Angeles Times about the adventure. As with KERO, the Air Force contacted Marvel, asking that he return the debris. Marvel never expected to be able to keep it, and offered to fly it up to Edwards AFB or deliver it to the Air Force station in El Segundo, where he had worked as a spacecraft engineer in the early 1970s. The Air Force did not want anyone else to touch it, however. and Colonel Guess made a special trip from Edwards to Marvel’s home. During the visit, he said that the recovery crew had killed some fifty rattlesnakes and numerous scorpions during the operation. Colonel Guess added that there would be no further contact from the Air Force. [14]

As I continued reading The Hunt for Zero Point I kept thinking about the prologue. Cook’s description of the crash site and the loose ends kept nagging at me. Marvel’s photos and account, the newspaper articles, aerial photos, and the declassified accident report painted a very different picture of the F-117 crash site than Cook’s rather bland description. Nothing was said about crossing the raging Kern River, or having to struggle up a steep and rugged slope fit only for mountain goats. Cook wrote that he and ‘Lopez’ crossed an old, broken-down barbed wire fence, yet there is no such fence at the crash site. When they reached the site, no mention was made of the flag pole. Cook specifically said that there were no fragments, which was counter to what the KERO crew as well as Marvel and Lewis reported.

I smiled as I put the book back on the shelf and headed out the door. The summer heat baked the parking lot. In the distance, the brown hills loomed above the city. There were a couple of things I had to track down to be sure that my suspicions were correct. Once I had the information, there was only one conclusion possible: Cook and ‘Lopez’ went to the wrong place!


  1. Nick Cook. The Hunt For Zero Point One Man’s Journey to Discover the Biggest Secret Since the Invention of the Atom Bomb. London: Arrow, 2001.
  2. Raymond Chandler, The Simple Art of Murder. New York: Vantage Books, 1988, p.18.
  3. Cook, The Hunt For Zero Point, p.x, xi. Cook notes that he deliberately blurred Lopez’s identity.
  4. Ibid, p xi-xiii.
  5. James Goodall, F-117 Stealth in Action, Carrollton, Tex: Squadron/Signal Publications, 1991, p.3038.
  6. William B. Scott, “F-117A Crash Reports Cite Pilot Fatigue, Disorientation,” Aviation Week & Space Technology (May 15, 1989), p.22, and Bill Sweetman and Jim Goodall, Lockheed F-117A. Osceola, Wisconsin: Motorbooks, 1990. p.81, 82.
  7. “Man saw stealth’ jet crash,” undated newspaper clipping from the F-117A 81-0792 accident report. It is not clear from the story if Andy Hoyt and the others were at the Live Oak Picnic Area or the Upper Richbar Picnic Area. The latter is about a mile up stream, and around a bend in the Kern River from the crash site.
  8. “Pentagon seals off plane crash site,” San Diego Union (July 12, 1986) A-1, “Crew works to salvage secret plane,” San Diego Union (July 13, 1986) A-2, and “USAF Aircraft Destroyed in Crash Believed to Be Stealth Fighter,” Aviation Week & Space Technology (July 21, 1986) p.22, 23.
  9. Aerial photos, topographic maps of the area, and the debris field map in the FA 17A 81-0972 accident report.
  10. Goodall, F-117 Stealth in Action, p. 16. Had such an excavation been made, it would have covered an area of nearly a square mile, and the site would have resembled a strip mine. No such evidence is visible in Marvel and Lewis’ photos, or later aerial shots. The claim that F-101 debris was left at the site is also false. The fragments of composite materials recovered by the KERB crew are consistent with what is now known about the F-117′s design.
  11. “Probe Ends at Site of Mystery Jet Crash,” undated newspaper clipping.
  12. David Holley, “TV Crew Finds Debris at AF Jet Crash Site,” Los Angeles Times (August 12, 1986), and “TV station hands over wreckage from mystery crash to Air Force,” Los Angeles Daily News (August 12, 1986).
  13. A first-hand description of Marvel and Lewis’ climb, as well as photos of the river crossing, slope, the crash site, flag pole, and the recovered debris are at
  14. Bob Williams, “Captain Marvel Finds What Does Not Exist Part of Stealth Mystery,” Los Angeles Times (November 27, 1986).



Swinging Through the Sixties
Part Two of ‘What’s Up Doc?’
Martin Kottmeyer

From Magonia 45, March 1993

This article follows on from Fear and Loathing in the Fifties

The sixties were a manic time for UFO belief. Flying saucers were so real only the most bigoted sceptic could deny advance metallic piloted machines were flying around – a potential threat to the security of the world. Everyone felt something had to be done. Most of all the authorities should openly admit the reality of the problem 

Book titles convey some of the mood of the period: Flying Saucers – The Startling Evidence of the Invasion from Outer Space; Flying Saucers are Hostile; Flying Saucer Invasion – Target Earth; Flying Saucers – Serious Business; The Real UFO Invasion; The Terror Above Us. Wilkins’ Flying Saucers on the Attack is reprinted with a teaser asking: ‘Are theyFriendly Visitors from Outer Space or INVADERS Planning Conquest?’ The teaser on Flying Saucers Uncensored asks: ‘Is there a cosmic battle plan – aimed at Earth?’ ‘Exclusive! First News of America’s Most Terrifying UFO Invasion!’ was promised by The Official Guide to UFOs. The actual content was often less dramatic than advertised, but that hardly mattered. The conviction of urgency transcended the material gathered to justify the belief in, to use the 1 April Life article’s title, a ‘Well-Witnessed Invasion by Something’.

Throughout the first half of the decade Keyhoe’s NICAP pressed for Congressional hearings on the UFO problem by such tactics as letter-writing campaigns. The Air Force warned congressmen that such hearings would only dignify the problem and cause more publicity, thus adding to the problem. At one point, NICAP published a book called The UFO Evidence and sent copies to congressmen to demonstrate their case that UFOs were in fact real and posed a danger to the fabric of society. The danger included an unprepared public being caught up in a widespread panic if an external danger was suddenly imposed. A sudden confrontation with extraterrestrials could have disastrous results, they warned. Among them, ‘catastrophic results to morale’. (40) While NICAP found some support for their position in Congress, nothing happened till the infamous swamp gas fiasco caused a loss of credibility in the Air Force’s handling of the UFO problem. On 5 April 1966 Congress held open hearings. This led to the creation of the Condon committee to undertake a new investigation – in essence, to get a second opinion of the Air Force’s diagnosis. Keyhoe rejoiced, calling it ‘the most significant development in the history of UFO investigation’. (41) Condon confirmed the Air Force’s diagnosis:

‘Our general conclusion is that nothing has come from the study of UFOs in the past 21 years that has added to scientific knowledge. Careful consideration of the record as it is available to us leads us to conclude that further extensive study of UFOs probably can not be justified in the expectation that science will be advanced thereby.’ (42)

‘We know of no reason to question the finding of the Air Force that the whole class so far considered does not pose a defense problem.’ (43) ‘The subject of UFOs has been widely misrep-resented to the public by a small number of individuals who have given sensationalized presentations in writings and public lectures. So far as we can judge, not many people have been misled by such irresponsible behaviour, but whatever effect there has been has been bad.’ (44)

Even before the report was published, ufologists were up in arms when they realised Condon was making jokes of the nutty people he was running into. He had to some extent pre-judged the problem and admitted he knew what the final outcome would probably be. One thing he failed to take into account in his prognostic-ation was ‘the extent of the emotional commitment of the UFO believers and the extremes of conduct to which their faith can lead’. Had he known, he confessed, ‘I certainly would neder have undertaken the study’. (45)

Condon admits up front that the study focused its attention on the physical science aspects of the problem and ignored the psychiatric aspects. Condon avers this was partly due to a failure to ford as much psychopathology as might be presumed. Condon was presumably regarding psychopathology in a restricted sense of severely diminished mental competence and was ignorant of broader usages of the term that include pervasive stereotypical irrationalities. Otherwise he could hardly have failed to realise that the extreme emotional commitment and conduct he encountered would be regarded by some as a sign that a psychiatric approach would likely be the best line of enquiry. Ultimately this mattered only slightly since the approach taken did manage to demonstrate the illusory character of the majority of cases.

Ufologists disparaged the Condon report for its failure to find conclusive explanations for a minority of the cases investigated. This is true, but more true than ufologists understand. Extraterrestrial vehicles do not form a convincing explanation of this remainder. The unexplained cases lacked corroborative
integrity, lacked consistency of form and behaviour, and seemed irrational and impervious to an analysis of intelligible motives. Why should a craft that blazes with megawatt brilliance in case 10 be in the same theoretical picture with a craft that presents a trapezoid of dim red lights as in case 31 or a craft overtaking a commercial plane in case 21, which is completely invisible except to radar?

Among those cases that are officially unexplained: case 44 which involves a medical student evidencing emotional disturbance predating his sighting and for which he was considering psychiatric help; case 43 which involved teenagers driving to a cemetery to frighten themselves; case 33 which involved two girls whose testing revealed one was suggestible and the other showed tendencies toward borderline hallucinatory distortion; and the Herb Schirmer case. Of the Schirmer case, it should be noted that though it is perhaps unexplained, investigators had no confidence his experiences were physically real since there was no corroborative physical evidence. I think it is suspicious that the aliens borrowed their attire from Mars Needs Women.

The UFO literature of the sixties is voluminous and so fantastic it is hard to know how best to start chronicling it all. The writings of the Lorenzens make as good a starting place as any, I suppose. They were required reading and perhaps still should be. Flying Saucers: The Startling Evidence of the Invasion from Outer Space adopts as its major premise the Keyhoe thesis that UFOs are engaged in reconnaissance. They are painstakingly mapping the geographical features of our country and testing our defence capabilities. The 1952 D.C. incidents are regarded as accidental, unintended revealings of the aliens because they mistook the Capitol and the White House for military installations. They expect they will be setting up bases since the taking of plants, boulders and soil samples probably means they are testing what sort of agriculture they should establish. The Ubatuba explosion is regarded as self-destruction to prevent superior technology from getting into our hands and revealing its secrets. There is a bare possibility, say the Lorenzens, it was an atomic explosion given other evidence that ‘UFOs are powerful radioactive sources’. The dangers posed by UFOs extend to the possibility that our next war could involve ‘all nations fighting as brothers against a common foe from outer space’.

They showcase the ideas of Dr Olavo Fontes that UFOs possessed weapons such as heat rays and a device which inhibited the function of petrol engines. They claim priority, however, that observations UFOs made of cars and planes in the early years of the flying saucer mystery were done in order to devise these devices to disable propulsion systems. A pattern of reconnaissance is seen which suggests to them that aliens plan to release sleeping drugs into strategic reservoirs and water tanks as a means of bringing the world to its knees in a matter of hours. They are concerned that there are too many blackouts on our power grids. There are also people disappearing. Is this the procuring ofspecimens? Add to this the case of a woman with medical problems they interpret as radiation effects.

No person of conscience can ignore the UFO problem in the light of all this. The UFO problem  has to be taken out of the hands  of the military who are lulling us into a false sense of security and given to an International Commission which will handle this red-hot political problem. ‘We are in urgent need of the acquisition and objective analysis of basic data.’ We are facing potential danger. Maybe they aren’t hostile, but ‘there is no indication of friendliness either… The existence of aspecies of superior beings in the  universe could cause the civilisation of Earth to topple’. This urgency ‘defies expression’. We must be ‘anxious to re-learn the bitter lessons of history: Billy Mitchell – Maginot – Pearl Harbor – and so on.’ (46)

The hypochondriac themes  in this summary are multiform and collective equivalents of motifs  commonly encountered in psychotic fantasy. The call for independent verification of the reality of their beliefs via the international commission is, as we’ll see, almost a universally shared concern in this period. The concern over sleeping drugs being secretly put into the water supply is an obvious variant of the poisoning fantasies found in individual paranoids. The talk about war and the ‘toppling of civilisation’ fits solidly into the category of world destruction fantasies so common in paranoia. Invasion fears have numerous precedents in history; most notably the Great Fear rumour and panic in 1789 France and the 1913 Scareship wave. (47) H.G. Wells’s War of the Worlds had earthbound ancestry in a sizable literature which ruminated about the threat of invasion and war in the near-future tense. (48) The concern over blackouts has its parallel in the loss-of-life-energy fantasies that some-times develop around the depression and fatigue aspects of some cases of schizophrenia. The urgency of approaching death is everywhere apparent.

Flying Saucer Occupants (1967) is less suffused with fear than this earlier book. It is primarily a survey of a collection of non-contactee ufonaut reports. As such it is a mixed bag open to a variety of interpretations from ‘conquerors from space’ and ‘members of a military organisation’ to ‘a breeding experiment’, or simply ‘visitors’. While they prefer to simply assert the reality of these entities, they admit in the final paragraph an alternative theory: The population of the world is falling victim to a particularly insidious and apparently contagious mental disease which generates hallucinations involving specific types of airships and humanoids. This disease seems to be spreading.’  Who will be next to contract the malady?  ’You?’ (49)

The choice of metaphor is  interesting and was itself infectious. It turns up in the writings of Hynek for one. In an article  for Playboy he asserts that if an intensive investigation were carried out for a year and yielded nothing we could then shrug off the UFO problem with, ‘There must have been a virus going
around’. (50) In The UFO Experience, Hynek asks:

‘Are then, all of these reporters of UFOs truly sick? If so, what is the sickness? Are these  people all affected by some strange “virus” that does not attack “sensible” people? What a strange sickness this must be, attacking people in all walks of  life, regardless of training or  vocation, and making them, for a very limited period of time – only minutes sometimes – behave in a strange way and see things that are belied by the reliable and stable manner and actions they exhibit in the rest of their lives… Is there a philosopher in the house?’ (51)

Gordon Creighton offered the longest exposition of this metaphor in The Humanoids (1969):

One thing at least is certain. These stories of alleged meetings with denizens of other worlds or realms or levels of existence constitute a fascinating social, psychological – and possibly also a parapsychological enigma. And surely an enigma of some urgency, for if the growing numbers of people all over our planet who claim these experiences are indeed hallucinated, or, as we are confidently told, suffering from the stresses and strains of the Nuclear Age, then it is as plain as a pikestaff that they are in grave need of psychological study and medical attention. If a brand new psychosis is loose amongst us, then, instead of wasting so much time on why we hate our fathers and love our mothers, our mental experts and psychologists ought to have been in there right from the start, studying and combatting this new plague since its outbreak nearly twenty years ago! Valuable time has been lost. By now, they might have come to important conclusions, or even licked the malady!’ (52)

Even rendered in facetious terms the imperative quality of the UFO problem is retained in the overwrought choice of words like plague and grave need. Aime Michel also utilised the disease metaphor in suggesting the aliens ‘dominate us only to the degree that the microbe dominates us when we are ill’. (53)

UFOs Over the Americas (1968) is more suffused with confusion than fear. They note a new phase of UFO activity involving car chases. A new observation is forwarded that UFOs show a proclivity to be sighted near cemeteries. They speculate this is just their way to get to the bottom of what funeral processions are. They criticise the scientific community for holding the position that UFOs show ‘no intelligent pattern of behaviour; they zip hither and yon but don’t seem to be going anywhere’. Yet elsewhere they observe the extraterrestrials’ motivations and overall purpose are so well-concealed as to suggest a deliberate attempt to confuse’. They call for a UN sponsored agency to look into the matter. Why isn’t clear since they predict elsewhere that UFOs would manifest so constantly that ‘it should be evident before the end of 1968 just what UFOs are’. (54)

Alas, the 1969 volume UFOs – The Whole Story did not proclaim what that evident identity was. The concern about invasion gives way to the assumption of aloofness. The stoppage of vehicles is downgraded from weapons-testing activity to a means of studying humans at a leisurely pace. For the Lorenzens, the hypochondriacal themes begin to vanish in favour of discussions of UFO politics and ufonauts being time-travellers. (55)

The writings of Frank Edwards were probably the best-selling books of the sixties. Edwards is sometimes dismissed as a journalist and not a ufologist, in part because of his obvious errors. The substance of the books, however, is heavily indebted to Keyhoe and NICAP. The flyleaf of Flying Saucers – Serious Business is highly notable for the flying saucer health warning presented on it. For me, it epitomises the hypochondriacal spirit of the times.



Near approaches of Unidentified Flying Objects can be harmful to human beings. Do not stand under a UFO that is hovering at
low altitude. Do not touch or attempt to touch a UFO that has landed.
In either case, the safe thing to do is get away from there
 quickly and let the military take over. There is a possibility of radiation danger, and there are known cases in which persons have been burned
by rays emanating from UFOs. Details on these cases are included in this


It is fascinating to note that nearly a decade later, Allan Hendry encountered a UFO witness who still  had this warning not to stand under UFOs posted in his memory. (56) Edwards does affirm inside the reality of cases involving ‘eye damage, burns, radioactivity, partial or temporary paralysis, and various types of physiological disturbances’. He talks of heat waves and stunrays, and the relationship between UFOs and blackouts is explored at  length. ‘They have shown the  ability – and sometimes the appar ent inclination to interfere with or prevent the functioning of our electrical and electronic systems.’ Despite these hints of malevolence, Edwards proclaims near the end of the book that contact will be ‘the greatest experience of the human race’. (57)

The sequel Flying Saucers – Here and Now was spawned by the  incredible increase of saucer sightings and saucer interest in the middle of the decade. Writings that, in cooler times, would have stimulated half a dozen letters, now filled bags at magazine offices. Besides chronicling the rush of events unfolding, the book includes James McDonald’s call for a full-scale Congressional investigation. Edwards maintains UFOs are not hostile, but warns contact will have tremendous impact theologically, psychologically, and sociologically. And that contact is described as imminent. (58)

George Fawcett, in a February 1965 article, surveyed UFO cases for repetitive features. Among his catalogue of commonalities was the phenomenon of pursuit, cases of increased background radiation, cases of electrical shock, burns, dimming of vision, blackouts, temporary paralysis, and hostile acts. (59) In an April 1968 article, Fawcett cites dozens of UFO chases, a half-dozen deaths attributed to close encounters, and numerous instances of electromagnetic interference with machinery. He laments that it ‘may already be too late’ for our government to act on the UFO problem. Their crossing of international boundaries, at the simplest level of concern, could result in ‘an accidental World War III by mistake’. He adds his voice to the chorus of those calling for verification of UFO reality:
‘The growing UFO problem worldwide must be solved in 1968 or the explosive situation of UFOs may easily get out of our control and reap a “real” disaster beyond all imagination. A worldwide probe of this problem is long overdue and it should be handled by the world nations through the United Nations.’ (60)

The works of Jacques Vallee are a must in every ufologist’s library. His first book Anatomy of a Phenomenon: The Detailed and Unbiased Report on UFOs remains one of the most dispassionate overviews of the UFO mystery attempted and is virtually beyond reproach. The conclusion of his study verges on the poetic:’

Through UFO activity, although no physical evidence has yet been found, some of us believe the contours of an amazingly complex, intelligent life beyond the earth can already be discerned. The wakening spirit of man, and the horrified reaction of his too-scrupulous theories: what do they matter? Our minds now wander on planets our fathers ignored. Our senses, our dreams have reached across the night at last, and touched other universes. The sky will never be the same.’ (61)

Accepted in a non-literal fashion, even a sceptic can enjoy the numinous quality of sentiments of this nature. Challenge to Science: The UFO Enigma represents a drift into the hypochondriacal mindset. There is the call for verification by means of the creation of an international scientific commission to separate out those elements that are the work of the imagination from those that constitute the physical nature of the UFO phenomenon. The challenges they pose are ‘unwelcome’ and ‘disturbing’, but must be addressed because ‘our own existence will be dependent upon the sincerity with which we conduct this research’. It is problematic whether this constitutes a world destruction fantasy in the strictest sense, but the intimation of death approaching is undeniable. (62) This flirtation with fear is abandoned in Passport to Magonia: From Folklore to Flying Saucers (1969). Entity behaviour is dismissed as consistently absurd and their messages are written off as systematically misleading. The search for answers may be futile for they may only constitute a dream that never existed in reality. (63)

Brad Steiger’s books in this period are rich sources of hypochondriacal themes. The call for verification appears in Strangers from the Skies (1966) with a recommendation for ‘an objective and respected panel’ to appraise the situation. (66) UFOs have the ability to create blackouts and that ability to scramble power plants would, in his view, make national defence ‘a bad joke’. (67) The Lorenzen notion that UFOs may beam down hypnotic drugs into our drinking water is repeated. (68) My favourite fear-of-death example involves a suggestion that one incident involves galactic experiments in cremation. (69) It seemed that UFOs were ready to invade the US on a full scale. (70) ‘We must be prepared to establish peaceful communication or be prepared to accept annihilation’. (71) These are just highlights. Much more could be cited.

John Fuller’s writings are equally rich to the point of tedium. The familiar themes of blackouts, physiological reactions, and mechanical interference recur as does the call for verification by means of a ‘scientific investigation on a major scale’. (72) This is ‘urgently’ needed because of the ‘startling, alarming, and dangerous material’ surfacing, not to mention its ‘mounting seriousness’. (73) He devotes a whole book to the Betty Hill case which is notably involved in themes of fear of radiation poisoning, abduction, and nightmarish medical intrusions like inserting a needle into the navel without prior anaesthesia. (74)

One of the more interesting examples of the motif to emerge appeared in an article by J. Allen Hynek not long after his conversion in the wake of the humiliating swamp gas affair. Hynek expressed the fear that the Russians might solve the UFO mystery with results that would ‘shake America so hard that the launching of Sputnik in 1957 would appear in retrospect as important as a Russian announcement of a particularly large wheat crop’.

Hynek felt a Russian colleague slipped up when he revealed Russian scientists were not permitted to discuss UFOs. This suggested that official denials of their reality were cover. They may have been ‘studying with dispassionate thoroughness for years’. (75)

Hynek goes on to discuss the strangeness and credibility problems of UFO reports and admits that ‘psychotic and paranoid signals are many’. He warns that the slightest hint from the UFO reporter that he is the subject of imaginary persecution is enough to mean one might as well drop the case. He tells of occasions when he encountered what seemed to be a straightforward story when the witness confided his phone was being tapped or he was being watched regularly by the government or occupants of the craft. One repeater with a persecution complex frequently wrote to Project Blue Book from a mental institution exhorting them to do something about UFOs which visited him regularly and interfered with his sexual functions. (76) Would present-day ufologists take this guy seriously?

Jerome Clark offered one of the more paradoxical reactions to Hynek’s swamp gas statement. He took issue with his comment that a dismal swamp is a most unlikely place for a visit from outer space. Clark avers, contrarily, it is a most likely place since they could go there without being seen. They go to fantastic lengths to prevent us from knowing what they are doing. This included killing a village full of people in one incident and the erasing of people’s memories in other cases. He berates the idea that UFO injuries were caused by self-defence as inane. Noting that we have never tried to force UFOs down, he remarks that we have been treating them with more respect than they deserve. The change of attitude from the fifties when UFOs possessed savoir-faire is nowhere more evident than here. (77)

The call for verification of UFO reality turns up yet again as the subject of a resolution drafted during a 1967 gathering of UFO buffs and submitted fates and proclaims that unidentified flying objects – UFOs – are identified vehicles from outer space, and that this is a question of a vital problem concerning the whole world.

‘All nations must unite in mutual research and scientific co-operation to investigate and solve thisfor the common cause and mutual advancement of our peaceful relationship in outer space.’ (78)

This theme turns up in several variations during the Roush Congressional hearings on 29 July 1968. James McDonald wanted a pluralistic approach employing NASA, NSA, ONR, and even the Federal Power Commission – the last to take up the subject of blackouts. J. Allen Hynek wanted Congress to establish a UFO Scientific Board of Inquiry. James A. Harder wanted a multiple-faceted approach, preferably at several institutions simultaneously. Robert M. Baker wanted a well-funded programme with the highest possible standards. Donald Menzel, ever the sceptic, thought the time and money would be completely wasted in such studies. (79)

Towards the end of 1968 the Rand Document recommended a central collection agency with analysis given over to specialists. (80) The last significant expression of this motif appears in 1973 in James M. McCampbell’s book Ufology. He recommended setting up a two-phased research effort. Phase 1, price-tagged at $4 million, would ‘confirm absolutely the existence of UFOs in scientific terms and identify any advanced technologies’. Phase 2 would define the new technology and its applications and was price tagged in the $75 million to $100 million range. And to think, some people complained the Condon commission wasted half a million. (80)

The concern over invasion spawned some spectacular notions in Raymond A. Palmer’s The Real UFO Invasion (1967). Palmer offers evidence that the US was preparing for war with weapons so titanic they couldn’t have been intended for a mere international war. That war wasn’t in the future either. Palmer points to nuclear blasts in Project Argus as being against a satellite not made by earthmen. (81)

Gordon Lore’s Strange Effects from UFOs: A Special NICAP Report (1969), Robert Loftin’s Identifled Flying Saucers (1968) and Otto Binder’s What We Really Know About Flying Saucers (1967) deserve brief mention for their treatments of physiological effects from saucers: eye injuries, radiation burns, paralyses, cases of shock, and mysterious blows to the body. A particularly odd and problematic case could be made for including Vincent Gaddis’s Mysterious Lights and Fires (1967) since it makes an effort to link UFOs to spontaneous human combustion. Unforgettable is Gaddis’s question, ‘Are We Walking Atom Bombs?’ (82)

Passing references should perhaps be given to John Keel’s expression of alarm over the 1966 Wave and Robert Loftin’s speaking of the UFO threat as something we better get the truth to ‘before it is too late’. (83) I also can’t resist recalling a number of unusual articles from the period like Otto Binder’s which fretted over the number of deaths that had taken place in the UFO field and Timothy Green Beckley’s article for Beyond which acclaimed ‘UFOs Use High-Tension Lines for Recharging’. (84) Beyond was a haven for weird articles about aliens which probe brains, paralyse observers, and destroy dogs in ghastly manners. One relevant here was James Welling’s ‘Does UFO Radiation cause Phoenix, Arizona Residents to be Afflicted with Strange Malady – Why does Press Not Report Epidemic of Electronic Poisoning’. (85) The significance of these items is probably historically slight, but they add interesting flourishes to the portrait of the times.

It is, of course, true ufologists are a heterogeneous bunch and not everyone displayed hypochondriacal themes or shared the same degree of concern. Charles Bowen in The Humanoids (1969) speaks of the pointlessness of humanoid behaviour and thinks of it all as ‘diversionary play to give people a giggle’. In this same volume Donald Hanlon surveys the range of occupant behaviour and concludes that even with allowance made for their use of immobilisation weapons like knockout vapour, they do comparatively little harm. Gordon Creighton’s ‘vast surreal nightmare’ wasn’t apparent to all. (86) The issue of hostility was complicated by a paradoxically simple observation. Why didn’t they simply wipe us out years ago? Otto Binder, Cleary-Baker, Mervyn Paul, among others rejected it on that account. (87) John Keel’s Operation Trojan Horse contains a call for an independent, objective investigation but indicates it should be unhampered by the petty UFO cultists and laments no suitable psychiatric programme had been instituted to take care of those who are going insane or attempting suicide. The ufonauts don’t care about us and mischievously confuse us with behaviours ranging from complete hostility to the rescuing of lives. (88)

Such differences as these that existed fail to even hint at their being any problems in characterising this period as overwhelmingly dominated by the mindset of hypochondria.By the time of the release of the Condon report in January 1969 the UFO mania of the mid-sixties had cooled already of its own accord. Some felt it represented the end of the saucer era, but it was just a pause. If it satisfied any ufologist enough to drop out, they left no record of their concession. Even before it was finished, Condon was vilified. As texts on hypochondria observe, doctors are trained to deal in uncovering the physical causes of complaints and are ill-equipped to handle cases rooted in emotional difficulties. After the initial enthusiasm gives way to bitter recriminations and scapegoating at the negative findings, the doctor will be left demoralised at the paradoxical reaction. There’s nothing there to worry about, shouldn’t they be relieved? The hypochondriac is often in search of a special relationship with the doctor. (89) It has been claimed that James McDonald first tried to cultivate a relationship with Condon at the beginning of the project, but actively orchestrated the campaign of publicity around the ‘trick’ memorandum penned by Low. (90)

David Saunders was fired over this affair, ostensibly for alleged ‘incompetence’, though nobody believes that was the real reason. He wrote a book about the Condon committee telling his side of things. He presents the results of a factor analysis of some questionnaireswhich yielded a taxonomy of UFO belief. It was his opinion that Condon must belong to the group he termed ‘Prejudiced’ based on remarks he had made subsequent to the writing of the report. Digging up the paper showing how this taxonomy was constructed renders this judgement invalid. If one takes a close look at the numbers one will find the people he termed prejudiced were getting high scores for agreeing with the statements ‘Some flying saucers have tried to communicate with us’ and ‘People have seen spaceships that did not come from this planet’, and disagreeing with the statement ‘There is no government secrecy about UFOs’. These are manifestly not the positions of Condon. The ‘Prejudiced’ unequivocally were believers in extraterrestrial visitations and government secrecy. Saunders termed this group prejudiced because of the high score of agreement with the statement ‘Science has established that Negro people are not as intelligent as white people’. (91) This finding brings Saunders in line with a study of 259 NICAP members by Dr. Leo Sprinkle that uncovered significantly higher levels of dogmatism and closed-mindedness among ufologists than a control group of psychologists and guidance counsellors. This also fits in with other studies linking prejudice to paranoia and superstitious beliefs to closed minds. (92)


 REFERENCES (Numbering continues from previous article)

  • 39. CLARK, Jerome, ‘UFOs: Mystery or Movement’, Flying Saucers, August 1965, 17-20. LORENZEN, Coral, UFOs over the Americas, Signet, 1968, 217.
  • 40. HALL, Richard (ed.), The UFO Evidence, NICAP, 1964, 179.
  • 41. JACOBS, David, The UFO Controversy in America, Signet, 1976, 186.
  • 42. GILLMOR, Daniel S. (ed.), Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects, Bantam, 1969, 186
  • 43. Ibid., 5.44. Ibid.
  • 45. Ibid., 548.
  • 46. LORENZEN, Coral E., Flying Saucers: The Startling Evidence of the Invasion from Outer Space, Signet, 1966, 40, 55, 133, 199, 151, 153, 261, 273, 276, 278.
  • 47. ROTHOVIUS, Andrew, ‘Analogies of the Propagation Waves of the Great Fear in France 1789 and the Airship Flap in Ohio 1897′, Pursuit, Winter 1978. BROOKESMITH, Peter, The Alien World, Black Cat, 1988, 54-60.
  • 48. STABLEFORD, Brian, Scientific Romance in Britain 1890-1950, St. Martin’s, 1985, 30-4. SANDELL, Roger, ‘The Airship and Other Panics’, MUFOB, NS 12, Autumn 1978, 12-13.
  • 49. LORENZEN, Coral and Jim, Flying Saucer Occupants, Signet, 1967, 207.
  • 50. HYNEK, J. Allen, ‘The UFO Gap’, Playboy, December 1967, 144-6, 267-71.
  • 51. HYNEK, J. Allen, The UFO Experience, Ballantine,1974, 159-x1.
    52. BOWEN, Charles, The Humanoids, H. Regnery, 1969, 84-5.
  • 53. Ibid., 250.
  • 54. LORENZEN, Jim and Coral, UFOs Over the Americas, Signet, 1968, 161-2, 199, 86, 200, 216.
  • 55. LORENZEN, Coral, UFOs – The Whole Story, Signet, 1969,164-5.
  • 56. EDWARDS, Frank, Flying Saucers: Serious Business, Bantam, 1967, HENDRY, Allan, The UFO Handbook, Doubleday, 1979, 104-5.
  • 57. EDWARDS, op.cit.
  • 58. EDWARDS, Frank, Flying Saucers: Here and Now, Bantam, 1968, 148, 159.
  • 59. FAWCETT, George, ‘UFO Repetitions’, Flying Saucers, February 1965.
  • 60. FAWCETT, George, ‘Flying Saucers: Explosive Situation for 1968′, Flying Saucers, April 1968, 22-3.
  • 61. VALLEE, Jacques, Anatomy of a Phenomenon, Ace, 1965, 244-5. Compare last line of quote to ‘If it’s true the stars will never again seem the same’ which appears in Keyhoe’s The Flying Saucers are Real (Fawcett, 1950, 66). Such sentiments might be termed ‘trema’, the delusional mood that something strange is going on that appears in what Arthur M. Freman terms the premonition stage of paranoia in ‘Persecutory Delusions: A Cybernetic Model’ (American Journal of Psychiatry, 132, 10 October 1975, 1038-44).
  • 62. VALLEE, Jacques, Challenge to Science, Ballantine, 1974, 210, 220-4.
  • 63. VALLEE, Jacques, Passport to Magonia, Henry Regnery, 1969, 161, 163.
  • 66. STEIGER. Brad, Strangers from the Skies, Award, 1966, 143.
  • 67. Ibid., 132.
  • 68. STEIGER, Brad, Flying Saucers are Hostile, Award, 1967, 10-11.
  • 69. Ibid., 17-19.
  • 70. STEIGER, Strangers, 43.
  • 71. STEIGER, Hostile, 159.
  • 72. FULLER, John G., Incident at Exeter, G. P. Putnam, 1966, 251.
  • 73. FULLER, John G., Aliens in the Skies, Putnam, 1969, 38, 88, 187-8.
  • 74. FULLER,John G., Interrupted Journey, Dell, 1966.75. HYNEK, Playboy. npP cit.76. Ibid.
  • 77. CLARK, Jerome. ‘Why UFOs are Hostile’, Flying Saucer Review, 13, n6, Nov-Gee 1967, 18-20
  • 78. LOFTIN, Robert, Identified Flying Objects, McKay, 1968, 144.
  • 79. FULLER, Skies, op. cit., 84, 88, 56, 167, 205.
  • 80. McCAMPBELL, James M., Ufology, Celestial Arts, 1976, 162-65.
  • 81. PALMER, Raymond A., The Real UFO Invasion, Greenleaf Classics, 1967, 38, 43, 49, 59.
  • 82. GADDIS, Vincent H., Mysterious Lights and Fires, Dell, 1968, 233.
  • 83. LOFTIN, op. cit. vi.
  • 84. BINDER, Otto, ‘Liquidation of the UFO Investigators!’, Saga’s Special UFO Report, Volume II, 1971, 12-15, 69-72. Beyond, 1, #3, November 1968.



  • 85. Beyond, 2, #8, April 1969, 22-34.
  • 86. BOWEN, Humanoids, op. cit., 248, 185, 88.
  • 87. SHUTTLEWOOD, Arthur, The Warminster Mystery, Tandem, 1976, 83, 54.
  • 88. KEEL, John, Why UFOs?, Manor, 1976, 284-6, 205.
  • 89. BAUER, Susan, Hypochondria: Woeful Imaginations, University of California Press 1990.
  • 90. KLASS, Philip J., ‘The Condon UFO Study: A Trick or a Conspiracy?’, Skeptical Inquirer, 10, 04, Summer 1986, 328-41.
  • 91. SAUNDERS, David R. and NARKINS, R. Roger, UFOs? Yes!, Signet, 1968, 221-2. 225. SAUNDERS, O. R., ‘Factor Analysis of UFO-related Attitudes’, Perceptual and Motor Skills, 27, 1968, 1207-18. SAUNDERS, O.R. and VAN ARSDALE, Peter, ‘Points of View about UFOs: A Multidimensional Scaling Study’, Perceptual and Motor Skills. 27, 1968, 1219-38.
  • 92. ALLPORT, Gordon W.. The Nature of Prejudice, Anchor, 1958. ROKEACH, Milton, The Open and Closed Mind, Basic, 1960.

The Victorian Charm of the Protong, part 2.
David Sivier

The Victorian Charm of the Protong – Part 2.

From Magonia  88, May 2005

Apart from the demonstrably erroneous nature of the claim that the Passion narrative represents human sacrifice in a real, historic lunar cult, is the highly questionable nature of the proof adduced for it. The theory takes as proof facts, or rather factoids, widely separated in space and time from the centre of the Passion narrative in first century Palestine. For example, there is the statement that Christ was crucified on Friday 13th. Friday has indeed always traditionally been the date of Christ’s crucifixion, and the belief that it occurred on the 13th is a common piece of contemporary folklore, though it probably arose to explain why Friday 13th is considered unlucky. It’s unlikely, however, that Christ was crucified on a 13th, as the Jewish Passover, during which the events of the Passion unfolded, begins on the 14th of Nisan. [34] Although Friday was declared a day of penance for Christians by the medieval church, and there was a concomitant fear that it was unlucky, the particular fear of Friday 13th is actually no older than the 20th century. In fact the superstition surrounding the supposedly unlucky nature of the number 13 dates only from the 17th century, when it was felt unlucky for 13 people to be present at a meal. [35] Similarly, Freya was a goddess worshipped by the ancient Germans, not Semites, and Friday and related terms such as Freitag were used only by the Germanic peoples of Northern Europe. To the Romans, the day was dies Veneris, Venus’ Day, while the Hebrew term was different again. Similarly, for Christians, Christ was resurrected on Sunday, not Monday, as the theory states, though because of its place as the day after Easter Day, Monday was declared a holiday by the medieval church.

As for the argument that the 13 disciples represented the 13 months of the lunar year, this, and the assertion that Christ’s Passion represented the death of the sun, is also reminiscent of yet another 19th century anthropological theory to account for the origins of religion, Max Muller’s Solar Mythology. Friedrich Max Muller was one of Victorian Britain’s most brilliant Sanskrit scholars and students of Indian religion. A trenchant critic of Tylor’s theory that fetishism was the origin of human religion and anthropological evolutionism, he considered instead that sun worship was the primal religion of humanity. He came to this view through his study of the Vedas, particularly of Agni, the god of fire, and tentatively applied his theory of religions origins in a solar cult to the other, savage, societies found elsewhere in the world. [36] 

Muller arrived at his theory of solar origins through his grounding in Sanskrit philology, and he attempted to explain the violent, sensual, ignoble and generally barbarous behaviour of the Greek gods through tracing their origins in the gods of the Vedas, the oldest literature of the Indo-European peoples. For Muller, the mythopoeic conceptions of the gods occurred before the rise of civilisation, before human language could convey abstract notions, so that Dyaus, the supreme god in the Veda, could be understood also as meaning sky, sun, air, dawn, light and brightness, while a number of other words, with different associations, could also indicate the sun. [37]

These linguistic associations led Muller to an allegorical interpretation of the Greek myths. For example, the story of Chronos, Zeus’ father, devouring his children before being forced to vomit the younger god’s siblings back up actually stood for the sky devouring and then releasing the clouds. [38] Nor was the solar cult confined to the Indo-European peoples. Muller later expanded his theory to various extra- European peoples, tracing the origin of various Indian, Polynesian and African peoples back to an alleged solar cult through an analysis of the languages of the tales themselves and the etymology of the terms used for the various gods. [39]

Muller’s pupil, Sir George William Cox, pushed the theory even further, viewing the Indo-European myths as allegories of the contest between sun and night, and comparing the Homeric epics thus interpreted with Christianity: ‘The story of the sun starting in weakness and ending in victory, waging a long warfare against darkness, clouds and storms, and scattering them all in the end, is the story of all patient self-sacrifice, of all Christian devotion.’ [40]

Unlike Gooch, however, he did not believe that there was ever a human reality at the heart of these myths, and viewed such heroes as Grettir, King Arthur, Sigurd, William Tell, Roland, Beowulf, Hamlet and the Biblical patriarch David as purely mythological figures representing the sun. [41]

Muller’s intellectual opponent with whom he carried on a lively controversy over the origins of human mythology was Andrew Lang, a former Oxford graduate and supporter of the ethnological, rather than philological, origins of mythology and folklore. Lang’s 1887 Myth, Ritual and Religion amassed considerable anthropological information to show that primitive peoples everywhere had similar myths, legends, and customs, and that elements of these had survived in modern peasant lore and the Classical Greek myths. [42] Lang never denied that solar, lunar and star cults and myths existed, but that they had independent origins in the animist stage of human culture. As for the bloody acts committed in fairy tales and legends, Lang viewed these purely as storytelling formulae: ‘It is almost as necessary for a young god or hero to slay monsters as for a young lady to be presented at court; and we may hesitate to explain all these legends of an useful feat of courage as nature myths.’ [43]

In the end, Lang’s view of the origins of religion and mythology prevailed, partly due to the immense influence of his Myth, Ritual and Religion but largely due to the establishment of the Folklore Society, whose members favoured and who wrote steadily and voluminously to support the evolutionary origin of myth. [44]

As for Christ and His disciples forming a coven of 13 , this is merely the reading back into Christianity of the religious perceptions that led to the view that witchcraft covens always had 13 members in the first place. In fact 13 , representing the total number of Christ and his 12 apostles was considered the ideal number of friars in a community, and the same model was adopted for the number of suffragans under archbishop and monks in a monastery. It has therefore been suggested that the choice of 13 for the number of witches in a coven was therefore made as a deliberate inversion of the Christian norm. [45] The Middle Ages viewed witchcraft as a satanic parody and inversion of God’s church and the natural order, and the reputed ideal membership of 13 for a coven was a further parody, in line with the blasphemies of the Black Mass, of the ideal membership of Christ’s fellowship with the Apostles and orthodox Christian religious communities.

fishyIn the case of the Grail legend and the Fisher King [left] , although some historians have suggested that the central motif of this story — a genitally wounded king — does indeed come from ancient myth, its ultimate source is Brythonic Celtic, not Semitic. If it does have a mythological origin, then it one from Celtic myth, which has been Christianised to fit the dominant religious culture of Europe at the time. Again, the legend is late, appearing in the 12th century with Chretien de Troyes, who was writing chivalrous fiction. Despite the religious elements, and the claims to be based in history, the legend of the Fisher King appeared 1200 years after the rise of Christianity and was never a part of the religion, however enormously influential it may have been as secular literature.

It is possible to go on and list more of the factual errors, inconsistencies and anachronisms in Gooch’s argument, though this would be missing the deeper, and more important point. At its heart is the assumption that modern folklore represents survivals of lore and knowledge of deep antiquity, and the related belief that humanity passes through a fixed stage of civilisation, inherited from Morgan and the other 1 9 th century anthropologists, of which contemporary primitive, or pre- industrial societies, are survivals.

This view was explicitly stated by Tylor himself in his Primitive Culture of 1871, in which he wrote,’Survivals are processes, customs, opinions, and so forth, which have been carried on by force of habit into a new state of society different from that in which they had their original home, and they thus remain as proofs and examples of an older condition of culture out which the newer has been evolved.’ [46] The reliance on outmoded anthropological theories of mythology as sources for its view of the Neanderthals in City of Dreams was one of the major criticisms made of the book when it was reissued in 1996. [47]

In fact, Gooch is not the only contemporary writer to be convinced that contemporary myths and legends are the remnants of a much older, Stone Age religious system. Adrian Bailey in 1998 advanced the view in his book, Caves of the Sun: The Origin of Mythology, that the original prehistoric religion was a solar cult, which also influenced the Neanderthal cult of the bear through the sun’s apparent retreat in winter into caves in the earth. The book was again heavily dependent on 1 9 th century anthropology and dismissive of the psychological and  century interpretations of the origins of religion. [48] John Grigsby, in his Warriors of the Wasteland of 2003, advanced the theory that the original pre-Indo-European, Neolithic religion was that of a dying and rising man/god, which was usurped by the intrusive solar cult. Although Grigsby similarly brought a wealth of information to bear on his subject, his thesis was nevertheless criticised for its reliance on the 1 9 th century theories of Frazer, among others, for its conceptual framework. [49]

In fact, the notion that contemporary pre-industrial cultures are survivals from an ancient state of human culture has effectively been challenged by developments in anthropology during the  century.

Particularly instrumental in attacking the unidirectional development of cultures through specific phases were Boleslaw Malinowski and Franz Boas. Malinowski based his anthropological theories on his experience of fieldwork amongst the peoples of the Trobriand Islands. Here, he developed a functionalist view of society, considering that no matter how strange a custom or practice was, it survived because it fulfilled a contemporary purpose: ‘Savages aren’t half-rational or irrational, but do things because they work. Customs survive not as throwbacks but because they fulfil some function.’ [50] It’s a view that the probably the great majority of contemporary occultists and New Agers, sharing the belief in the efficacy of magic, would endorse. Nevertheless, it challenges the tendency in some circles to view extra-European cultures as irrational, in contrast to the post-Enlightenment rationalism of contemporary European culture. There are elements of this view in Surrealism, for example.

Although the Surrealists ardently championed the rights of indigenous and subordinate colonial people against the oppression of European imperialism in the Caribbean, French Indo-China and elsewhere, their espousal of the art of primitive, tribal cultures such as those of Black Africa was predicated by the notion that they were much in touch with their subconscious, and by implication, more irrational, than Europeans.

The greatest challenge to the unidirectional view of cultural progress, however, came from Franz Boas. Boas’ fieldwork amongst the Kwakiutl peoples of the American north-west coast led him to attack the doctrine that society moved from a matrilineal to a patrilineal organisation, and the theory of totemism as the origins of human religion. He believed that the positing of a uniform scheme of human development overlooked the uniqueness of individual human cultures. Instead of there being a general sequence of cultural stages amongst humanity, there was instead’a tendency of diverse customs and beliefs to converge towards similar forms, and a development of customs in divergent direction.’ [51]

As a German Jew, he was bitterly opposed to the biological reductionism of the Nazis and the racial interpretation of history, which he saw, along with eugenics, as irremediably dangerous. His book, The Mind of Primitive Man was burned in Nazi Germany and unpopular amongst supporters of apartheid and segregation in the United States because of its assertion that there were no pure races, that racial intermixing did not lead to degeneration, and that Blacks would be perfectly able to fulfil their duties as citizens alongside Whites if the legal restrictions against them were lifted. His views have thus been immensely influential in challenging the racist assumptions of White superiority towards other cultures characteristic of 19th century anthropology. While his anti-racism is praiseworthy, his emphasis on each culture’s autonomy, and demand that anthropologists should not make value judgements about the societies they studied, unfortunately has led to the extremes of postmodern cultural relativism in which practices or beliefs which are untrue or repellent are nevertheless defended and declared valid because of their part in a particular culture. Hence the postmodern view that relegates science to the position of only one of a number of possible interpretations of the universe, none more true than the others.

Attempts to posit totemism and shamanism as the origin of human religion have similar been questioned because of their coexistence with apparently more sophisticated forms of religious experience. Tylor himself recognised that primitive peoples, ‘alongside their magic, ghosts, totems, worshipful stones, have a very much better God than most races a good deal higher in civilisation.’ [52] It’s a sentiment with which many of today’s occultists would no doubt agree, contrasting the apparent benevolence of primitive religion with the cruelties of Western institutional faiths, particularly Christianity. Nevertheless, it does undermine the claim that totemism is somehow a more primitive, primal form of human religious experience.

The idea of Christ’s passion as a mythological treatment of real, primal human totemic sacrifice similarly becomes untenable. Although the consumption of Christ’s body and blood in the transubstantiated bread and wine of the mass certainly performs some of the functions of the consumption of a totemic sacrificial victim in promoting a social and spiritual solidarity amongst members of the congregation, this does not mean by any means that a real, human sacrifice was necessarily performed and consumed, beyond the theological view of Christ’s crucifixion as a paschal sacrifice before God, though this certainly would not have been the intention of the Roman and Judaean authorities responsible for it. Furthermore, people do adopt creatures and objects as symbols for themselves, as in mascots and on coats of arms, without these creatures ever being personally consumed by them. Muller himself pointed to his friend, Abeken, whose name meant ‘small ape’ and who therefore had a small ape on his coat of arms, as the possible possessor of a totemic ancestor. He joked, however, that although he had never actually seen him eating an ape, it was probably due to a matter of taste. [53]

Of course, attempts to shoehorn all forms of religion into the pattern of a solar myth, is also open to abuse. It was satirised even during its high point in the 19th century. Sabine Baring-Gould, for example, illustrated its excesses with an essay, originally produced by a French ecclesiastic, which mischievously attempted to prove that Napoleon was the sun god, citing linguistic, historical and figurative parallels with the myth of Apollo. [54]

Similarly, the arguments for the antiquity of shamanism have also been questioned, with scholars pointing out that the Palaeolithic cave paintings of dancing male figures with animal heads could equally be gods, and that the argument for the universality of shamanism across the globe is weakened by the fact that there is not even a commonly agreed definition of the term. [55] Furthermore, as with totemism, shamanism also exists alongside organised religion in some of the societies in which it is found. [56]

Modern anthropology’s rejection of the theory of a uniform, primitive Cro- Magnon culture based on communism, matriarchy and goddess- worship undoubtedly explains why Gooch has looked yet further back into the Palaeolithic, to the Neanderthals, for his utopia. The sheer scantiness of the evidence and its amibiguity makes them an ideal tabula rasa, on to which contemporary scholars can project their own views of their nature.


Modern anthropology’s rejection of the theory of a uniform, primitive Cro-Magnon culture based on communism, matriarchy and goddess-worship undoubtedly explains why Gooch has looked yet further back into the Palaeolithic, to the Neanderthals, for his utopia.

* * *

Much still remains conjectural and the subject of debate. For example, although there are finds of Neanderthal burials, complete with flowers and a sprinkling of red ochre on the dead, as well as jewellery of animal teeth, to suggest that they had a symbolic culture, and so were not the subhuman creatures of earlier views, this view is hotly contested. Its opponents argue that these practices only emerged after the Neanderthals came into contact with the Cro-Magnons, and so were simply copying their practices without truly understanding them, rather than inventing them for themselves. [57]

At present though, recent findings regarding the Neanderthals tend to disprove some of Gooch’s theories. For example, the greater muscular development on Neanderthal skeleton’s right arms suggests they were right, rather than left handed, using that arm to wield the spear in a stabbing motion suitable for hunting animals amongst woodland, rather than throwing them. [58] On the other hand, analysis of Palaeolithic handprints suggest that the Cro-Magnons, by contrast, had a far greater proportion of left- handers than today. Analysis of the chemical composition of Neanderthal bones similarly suggests that they were almost exclusively carnivorous. [59] If true, these findings prove the exact reverse of some of Gooch’s own view of the Neanderthals.

Aside from these specific points, most anthropologists and historians today, following Franz Boas, would baulk at seeing a racial, biological origin for political institutions, and it is mistaken to project distinctly  century political structures far back into prehistory, long before these political philosophies and social organisations had arisen. As for the specific examples of left- handers’ political inclinations today, there are serious problems with these.

(Although there is considerable interest in the apparently different cognitive and social skills developed by left and right handers, with the genetic differences between the two being wider than those of human races, it’s problematic whether any of the individuals Gooch cites as left-handers can be described as socialist. Radical Islam of the type promoted by Osama bin Laden strongly rejects the present world order and the dominance of America as an oppressive infidel power, but it also vehemently rejects atheist communism and secular socialism.

In Revolutionary Iran, the Ayatollah Khomeini abolished political parties from a belief that they were divisive, and that’all Muslims should be brothers’. In some respects, particularly urban planning, the insistence on restricting legislation solely to what can be expressly supported by the Qu’ran has meant that some Iranian policies resemble the laissez-faire economic policies of the Victorian West, rather than the state interventionism of revolutionary Communist regimes. Supporters of the Iranian Revolution vehemently denounced comparisons of the revolutionary regime with Western political movements, particularly Fascism, and it’s almost certain that bin Laden and the others in al-Qaeda would also reject comparisons with Socialism, Communism or other Western philosophies for the same reason.

As for China being a Communist country, this is also problematic. Although China is a one-party state whose official ideology is revolutionary Marxism, in practice the country follows capitalist economics. As with the other countries of the former Communist bloc, it’s problematic whether Communism in China can outlive the increasingly aging members of the ruling party. In any case, most scholars would point to distinct, obvious political and social causes for the rise of Communism in China, such as the political and economic chaos and corruption of the Kuomintang, rather than crude biological determinism.

Beyond the errors and inadequacies of the theory of Christ’s Passion as the central ritual of a prehistoric lunar cult, rather more profound points can be made generally about fringe religious history and its methods of proof and investigation. The first point is that much fringe speculation, despite its wide ranging use of facts, rather than opening up new ground, really does little more than attempt to propound and defend earlier, discredited theories. Just as the above theory recapitulates elements of Victorian notions of the origins of human religion and society, so Ron Pearson’s theories of the subatomic origin of the spirit world relies on a rejection of Einstein’s theory of relativity in favour of a revived insistence of the existence of the ether. Secondly, global assumptions of a universal religious cult in antiquity are almost certainly wrong.

Any assumptions regarding the nature of a historical event, including its religion, requires as proof directly relevant facts to support it. In the case of the above theory of Christ’s passion, this would ideally be Roman, Greek or Jewish eyewitness reports that such a sacrifice did indeed occur, rather than inference from unrelated myths or legends recorded thousands of years later and further north. There also has to be an awareness of the wider history and origins of the events investigated, and a clear distinction between causes and effects. In the above example, this means an awareness that the belief that witches’ covens had a membership of 13 was based on the total number of Christ and His disciples, rather than vice versa. Furthermore, any allegorical interpretation of a myth or legend requires high standards of proof directly relevant to the subject of study.

It is immensely easy, simply by a judicious choice of numbers and mythology, to prove an allegorical meaning behind just about any subject one chooses, as Sabine Baring-Gould’s apparent proof that Napoleon was really Apollo clearly demonstrates. In general, unless there is direct evidence that the subject of study was considered allegorical at the time, or consciously used in such a context, allegorical interpretations of specific historical events are probably best avoided.

It also needs stating that when propounding a particular interpretation of history, the researcher needs to consider the academic history of the subject being discussed, and the origins and history of the ideas surrounding it. Professional academic historians, for example, consider previous treatments of their subject in their monographs, and history courses in higher education teach historiography — the theories and philosophies of historical interpretation, and how these have changed over time — as an integral part of the history course, as these may profoundly affect the treatment of a particular historical event or person, including the type of evidence accepted to support the historian’s view of their subject.

The most important point, however, is that biologistic assumptions of the origins of culture or political organisation and views are both wrong, and have been the basis of brutality, oppression and genocide. No matter how well meant, even by liberals keen to rescue their subjects from the images of savagery, like those, which have been characteristic of the treatment of the Neanderthals, such theories should be strenuously rejected.

The recent history of archaeology has shown how there is a place for fringe theorising, and that when this is done well it can make a valuable contribution to the understanding of its subjects. Archaeoastronomy, despite its origins in fringe archaeological speculation, is now academically respectable, and Paul Devereaux’s theories on the Stone Age use of sound to create altered states of consciousness amongst worshippers at sacred sites has similarly been well received, at least in some quarters of academia. To be accepted by academia, however, researchers in the mystical and occult fringe need to adhere to the same rigorous standards of proof and approach, some of whose characteristics are outlined above, that academics use to assess the value of their own views and theories. unfortunately, with the current furore over the Da Vinci Code spawning a plethora of ever wilder pseudo- historical religious speculation, we may have to wait a long time for that.



    • 35. ‘Friday the Thirteenth’ in J Simpson ans S. Roud, A Dictionary of English Folklore, OUP, 2000, p.61
    • 36. R. M. Dorson, ‘The Eclipse of Solar Mythology’, in A. Dundes, The Study of Folklore, University of California at Berkeley, Prentice Hall, 1965, p.61
    • 37. Dorson. ‘Solar Mythology’, pp.62-2
    • 38. Dorson. ‘Solar Mythology’, pp.64
    • 39. Dorson. ‘Solar Mythology’, pp.69
    • 40. G. W. Cox. An Introduction to the Science of Comparative Mythology and Folklore. 1881, cited in Dorson. ‘Solar Mythology’, pp.72
    • 41. Dorson. ‘Solar Mythology’, pp.72-3
    • 42. Dorson. ‘Solar Mythology’, pp.61
    • 43. A. Lang. Myth, Ritual and Religion, vol.2, p.196, cited in Dorson. ‘Solar Mythology’, pp.67
    • 44. Dorson. ‘Solar Mythology’, pp.83
    • 45. E. Rose. A Razor for a Goat, University of Toronto Press, 1989, p.158-9
    • 46. E. B. Tylor. Primitive Culture, cited in Bennett, op.cit., p.35
    • 47. Review of S. Gooch, City of Dreams, Aulis, London 1995, in Fortean Times  no. 85, Feb/Mar. 1996, p.61
    • 48. M. Jay, ‘Caves of the Sun, The Origin of Mythology’ in Fortean Times 117, December 1998, p.56
    • 49. N. Rooney, ‘Shadows from a Celtic Twilight’, in Fortean Times, 178, December 2003, p.60
    • 50. Bennet, op.cit., p.65
    • 51. Bennet, op.cit., p.71
    • 52. Bennet, op.cit., p.68
    • 53. Dorson, ‘Solar Mythology’, p.68
    • 54 S Baring-Gould, ‘A Satire on German Mythologists’, in p. Vansittart, Voices: 1870-1914, Jonathan Cape, 1983, p.126-9
    • 55. Hutton, The Shamans of Siberia. Isle of Avalon Press, Gastonbury, 1993, p. 14
    • 56 Hutton, op.cit., p.9
    • 57 S. Mithen, ‘Symbolic Humans Started here’, reviewing J. L. Arsuaga, Neanderthal’s Necklace, John Wiley & Sons, 2003, in Fortean Times,  170, May 2003, p.61.
    • 58. See, for example, the BBC Horizon programme broadcast January-February 2005 which attempted to reconstruct the Neanderthals and their lifestyle from fossil remains.
    • 59. See the BBC Horizon programme as above.

The Victorian Charm of the Protong, part 1.
David Sivier

From Magonia 88, May 2005

One of the strangest responses to the religious furore surrounding the release of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ in 2004 was that of veteran fringe writer, Stan Gooch. While other writers and academics feared that the graphic depiction of Christ’s suffering would provoke a further rise in violent anti-Semitism amid a resurgence of extreme Right wing political groups in Europe, and the renewed intifada in the Arab world, Gooch took the opportunity of the film’s release to expound his own, very personal theory that Christianity owed its origins to a secret lunar cult.

‘Why,’ he asked rather tetchily, ‘do people not understand that far from being what it is claimed to be, the story of Christ is simply a garbled version of the ancient Moon religion’s chief ceremony? In this ceremony, the Sun (the King for a Year) is sacrificed by the Moon on the last day of the year, his genitals are removed (hence the spear in the side) and the still clearer spear through both thighs of the Fisher King to turn him into a menstruating woman, the blood then drunk and the testicles eaten. (This, of course, is why Catholics eat the body of Christ and drink His blood during Mass.) However, the Moon graciously resurrects the Sun so that life on Earth may continue.’ [1]

As proof of this remarkable assertion, Gooch goes further and states that ‘the cross is the symbol for the Moon in all pre-Christian cultures worldwide and Christ dies on the cross on Friday 13th. Friday is the day of the Moon goddess, Freya.

‘And He is resurrected on Monday, which is again Moon-day. Christ and his 12 disciples constitute a coven of 13. The only 13 which exists in nature (or anywhere else) is the 13 New Moons/Full Moons that occur in each alternate year. The date of Easter (of the sacrifice and resurrection) is of course still today determined by the Moon, which is why Easter is a moveable feast.’ [2]


Of course the simple answer to why his theory is not accepted is because it is utter rubbish from start to finish!


Of course the simple answer to why his theory is not accepted is because it is utter rubbish from start to finish. While there were cults that practiced castration and allegations of human sacrifice committed by others in the ancient world, no cult that combined the two is recorded to have existed. The priests of Cybele castrated themselves, but did not do so as part of a cult of human sacrifice, and did not engage in cannibalism. Indeed, far from being intended to cause their deaths, the castration marked the worshippers’ entry into their new lives as the goddess’ priests. The allegation is even more incredible, and potentially dangerous, when applied to the 1st century Judaism out of which Christianity grew. Despite the weird and depraved sacrificial mixing of semen and menstrual blood by some libertarian Christian Gnostic sects, such as the Cainites, such acts were viewed as abominations in the wider Judaeo-Christian world. [3] It is true that some historians following the Christian apologist Justin Martyr have tentatively suggested that the Roman accusation of orgiastic sex and cannibalism directed at Christians may have come from the activities of some of these sects, such as the Marcionites. [4] Pliny, on the other hand, despite his willingness to execute Christians on the emperor’s orders, found that there was no substance behind the rumour, only ‘a depraved and immodest superstition’. [5]

Furthermore, the allegations of human sacrifice in Christianity at this time, before the religion was completely separate from Judaism, could be seen as substantiating the ‘Blood Libel’ rumours of the ritual sacrifice of gentiles which have produced so much vicious anti- Semitism ever since they first appeared at the court of Antiochus Epiphanes of Syria c.125-96 B.C. [6] In the case of Christianity, most scholars believe that the allegations of cannibal’thyestean feasts’ arose through a Roman misunderstanding of the nature of Eucharist, with some Romans believing that the Christians dipped the host in the blood of sacrificed child. [7]

Despite being totally wrong historically, the theory of Christianity’s lunar origins nevertheless is a good example of the concerns of a certain part of the fringe archaeology/secret history movement, and in particular its origins in outmoded, Victorian views of the origins of religion. In fact, Gooch’s view of the origin of Christianity is part of his wider attempt to trace the origins of modern religious and political systems in the racial difference between Neanderthal and modern Homo Sapiens. In his 1989 book, Cities of Dreams: When Women Ruled the Earth, he stated his case that the Neanderthals were creative left-handed, pacifist, socialist, matriarchal vegetarians whose religion was centred around the worship of the Moon, in contrast with the Cro Magnons, who were patriarchal, violent, right-handed, destructive and capitalistic. Intermarriage between the two produced modern humanity, with the different political and religious beliefs being determined by the relative expression of the Neanderthal or Cro Magnon heritage in various individuals.

Thus, left-handers, according to Gooch, have more Neanderthal heritage, and are thus more likely to be anti-capitalist political leftists. As proof of this, he cites Osama bin Laden, Ayman Zawahiri and Suleiman Abu Ghaith as prominent left-handers, as well as the statistic that left-handedness in China, which ‘just happens to be a Communist state’ is almost double that of Europe. Thus ‘the present world crisis, our political system itself, and the vast majority of our social problems all arise from the fact that we, modern humans, are an unstable hybrid cross between predominantly left-handed Neanderthal man and the right-handed Cro-Magnon, and all possess two sets of opposing instincts.’ [8]

Other fringe writers, such as Stanislaus Szukalsky, would have concurred. A Polish nationalist and founder of the ‘Horned Heart’ patriotic movement, Szukalsky similarly believed that an archaic, prehuman race from which modern humans were partially descended also shared communistic inclinations. Rather than the idealised paragons of antediluvian virtue envisaged by Gooch, however, these were subhuman creatures of violence and depravity. It was their racial heritage that was responsible for the cruelty and criminality in the modern human character. Szukalsky’s views, however, were no doubt moulded by his country’s experience during the post-War years. Newly liberated from both Germany and Russia, the country was nevertheless subject to political instability and armed incursions from its former eastern master after the Revolution when the nascent Soviet union attempted to spread Communism by force.

Similar views of the origin of Communist criminal depravity in a prehuman racial heritage informed the views of many of German Pagan sects whose vehement antisemitism made them precursors of the Nazis. Despite the substantial difference in outlook between Szukalsky and the leaders of the Volkisch neo-pagan sects in Wilhelmine Germany, his view of the Protong as the prehuman originator of evil is of a type with Lanz von Liebenfels’ Buhlzwerge, subhuman pygmies, which the ancients had reared for perverted sexual pleasure. For Liebenfels, Christ’s passion was a garbled account of attempts by these pygmies to rape and corrupt Him on the urging of Satanic bestiality cults devoted to racial interbreeding. [9] 

Liebenfels’ own political views were diametrically opposed to Gooch’s. A rabidly anti- Semitic German Nationalist, whose views may have exerted an influence on the young Adolf Hitler, Liebenfels was resolutely behind the hierarchical, capitalist world, which Communism sought to overthrow. Nevertheless, both Liebenfels and Gooch’s views of the Passion are similar, rejecting the literal meaning of the narrative in favour of an allegorical interpretation of sexual violence.

Liebenfels’ interpretation of the Passion narrative, however, lacks the cannibalism of Gooch’s. Yet this is also present in the 19th century attempt to establish the anthropological origin of religion, though this time in Freud’s discussion of the origin of religion in the Oedipal struggles of the early human community expressed in the murder of a Biblical figure, though this time Moses, rather than Christ. In his Autobiography, Freud declared that the ur-human paterfamilias had seized all the tribe’s women for himself. As a result, his sons banded together against him to kill and devour him. However, as their father was also their ideal, they were ridden with guilt, and so enacted rituals to expiate them of their sin. The result of this was the ritual murder, not of Jesus, but of Moses by his Jewish followers. [10]

Where Freud got this bizarre idea of Moses’ ritual murder is a mystery. The Bible makes no mention of a murder at all. In it, God simply summons Moses to die on Mt. Nebo, because he had broken faith with the Almighty and did not revere Him as holy in Meribathkadesh. [11] Moses complied, dying in full view of the Promised Land, which he was forbidden to enter. There is no mention of any killing by Moses followers, who, far from being filled with hate, spent thirty days in mourning for their prophet. [12]

The Talmud and extrabiblical Jewish legend also makes no mention of Moses being murdered either. There, the short Biblical account of the prophet’s death is supplemented with a longer account of his refusal to die, and the refusal of various angels sent by the Lord to take his soul, until at last the Lord lures his soul out of his body with a kiss. Again, Moses’ death is the cause for great mourning, not just of Israel, but also of the whole of creation. [13]

The Roman Jewish historian, Josephus too makes no mention of any murder, but describes instead Moses being called to die by God, and giving a lengthy sermon stressing the nation’s duty to God and describing the constitution and laws revealed to him by the Almighty before ascending the mountain where he was due to die. Again, rather than being murdered, Moses’ death is the subject of extreme sorrow for his people. Josephus’ account differs from that of the Bible and the Talmud in having the prophet disappearing from under a cloud, which settled over him while still in conversation with the patriarchs Eleazar and Joshua. [14] Freud thus appears to have confused Moses death with the rebellion of Korah, Dathan and Abiram, which was a revolt against Moses and Aaron’s authority. [15] This ends not with Moses’ murder, however, but with Korah and the leaders of the revolt being swallowed alive by the earth down to Sheol, the Hebrew underworld, and their followers consumed by fire. The overwhelming impression by Freud’s account of Moses’ death as a ritual sacrifice by the people of Israel is of a deliberate misreading of the text in order to make it conform to his theory.

Unfortunately, this certainly was not the last time this was done.

Nor has the fascination with the murder of Biblical figures abated over the past 100 years. While Freud’s theory of the ritual murder of Moses has become one of the lesser-known and obscure parts of his psychoanalytical system, other writers on religion have since moved on to Hiram Abif, the architect of Solomon’s Temple in Masonic legend, who was similarly murdered by his followers, in this case, the other workmen. Such a work is Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas’ The Hiram Key of 1996, which similarly made spurious claims about the origins of religion, including the statement that the secret scrolls of Christ were buried under Roslyn Chapel, and claiming that the mummy of the pharaoh Seqenenre Tao II was the body of Hiram Abif himself. [16] Freud’s theory of the cause of Moses’ putative murder in the enactment of Oedipal conflicts with his people could also be applied to the story of the murder of Hiram Abif, though as yet it doesn’t appear that anyone has actually done so. Clearly religious murder and secret religious history continue to hold a lurid interest for modern, as well as Victorian readers.


Hiram Abif and King Solomon

Writers have since moved on to Hiram Abif, the architect of Solomon’s Temple in Masonic legend, who was murdered by his followers


Regardless of the precise theory anthropological or psychological theory underpinning Szukalski’s, Liebenfels’ and Gooch’s views of the nature of prehistoric humanity and the origins of religion and capitalism and Communism, all are strongly informed by the racial and anthropological theories of the 19th century. Although these have been discredited by later research carried out in the 20th century, they persisted long enough for their influence still to be felt in the modern occult and Fortean fringe. Even when these theories are presented from a liberal perspective, as in Gooch’s attempts to rescue the Neanderthals from their image of savage brutality, they still present considerable dangers because of their biologistic readings of historical and cultural events. Apart from challenging the racist basis of such theorising, it’s also instructive to analyse these theories to reveal just how far 19th century views of primitive humanity and its religion even in today’s far more liberal occult and fringe religious milieu.

Underpinning Freud’s theory of the psychological origin of religion, however, was the nascent anthropology of the Victorian era, which itself was informed by that age’s faith in progress from primitive barbarism to modern, technological, European civilisation. Freud was particularly influenced by studies such as W. Robertson Smith’s Lectures On the Religion of the Semites of 1898, which argued that sacred acts and cults were the essence of religion, rather than doctrines or beliefs. [17]

Liebenfels was similarly influenced by contemporary anthropology, with one article citing more than a hundred references to academic studies in anthropology, palaeontology and mythology. [18] The major influence on Liebenfels’ thinking, however, seems to have been a flagstone at Heiligenkreuz Abbey, where he had been a Cistercian monk, showing a nobleman trampling upon a strange monster, which Liebenfels interpreted as an allegorical representation of the struggle with the subhuman evil present in the world. [19]

Although Freud’s historical account of the origins of religion has been discredited, while Liebenfels, despite his erudition, was never more than an eccentric fringe thinker whose ideas have similarly been thoroughly discredited because of their genocidal racism, they nevertheless shared their basis in evolutionary theory with more mainstream anthropological speculation. The founders of sociology in France and Britain, Auguste Comte and Herbert Spencer, were firm believers in the progress of human civilisation from out of savagery. Indeed, it was Herbert Spencer who coined the phrase ‘the survival of the fittest’ as a staunch supporter of Darwinism. [20] As a result, 19th century anthropology was infused from its birth with what Boleslaw Malinowski described as ‘enthusiastic evolutionism’. [21]

Both Comte and Spencer attempted to fit the development of religion into their schema of social and biological progress. For Comte, the earliest and most primitive form of religion was animism, when early humanity invested the natural world around them with supernatural presences and powers in order to explain it. For Spencer, this ur-religion was the belief in ghosts and ancestral spirits. The great Victorian anthropologist Sir Edward Burnett Tylor, viewed by one modern scholar, Jacques Waardenburg, as ‘the actual founder of anthropology as the science of man and his culture’, [22] further refined this view so that the belief in a soul, rather than ghosts, was the origin of religion. It was Tylor who coined the term’animism’ to describe the belief that animals, plants and inanimate objects possessed souls as well humans.

William Robertson Smith, who influenced Freud’s theory of religion and who has been described by the anthropologist Mary Douglas as the real father of anthropology, [23] rather than Tylor, differed from his predecessors in viewing totemism as the origin of human religion. Smith’s views were influenced by his experiences when he visited the Bedouin in North Africa. In the totemic stage of society, he believed, each clan or savage kin-group considered itself related to its totem. Although the totem could be any creature or object, usually it was some kind of animal. When this sacred animal was sacrificed, its flesh and blood, if eaten, united the worshippers with the sacrificial victim. It was this totemism, which was at the heart of modern Christian Holy Communion. It is a view, which is clearly related, if not actually ancestral, to Gooch’s view that Christian Holy Communion is based on a real human sacrifice, whose body and blood was indeed eaten. [24]

These rationalist, evolutionary accounts of the origin of religion remained influential into the 20th century. An edition of Smith’s Religion of the Semites was published in 1927 , while Freud’s account of the psychological origins of religion, where ‘respect and fear of the Old Man and the emotional reaction of the primitive savage to older, protective women, exaggerated in dreams and enriched by mental play, formed a large part in the beginnings of primitive religion and in the conception of gods and goddesses’, was incorporated into H. G. Wells’ own account of the origin of religion. [25]

Later in the century shamanism, rather than animism or totemism, was viewed as the origin of religion, or at least the oldest religious system. Archaeological evidence suggested that it was at least 20,000 years old, meaning that it ‘was the world’s oldest profession and Shamans were probably the first storytellers, healers, priests, magicians, dramatists, and so on, who explained the world and related it to the cosmos.’ [26] In the view of some researchers, the transition to priesthood occurred when humanity found it increasingly difficult to enter the dissociative states necessary for the shamanic experience, and when the shamans’ powers were eroded as they came under the sway of the leaders of the emergent states. Thus, instead of the original, ecstatic experience, priests and diviners used set rituals and procedures instead to bring about the miracles and mystical communion with the gods or ancestors, or to produce religious phenomena and attitudes agreeable to their secular masters. [27] For many in the New Age milieu, it is the apparent extreme antiquity of shamanism, as well as the freedom it offers for direct mystical communion with the numinous, unmediated by the strictures of an organised, dogmatic priesthood or oppressive state structure, that validates shamanism as a contemporary religious path.

A similar attitude also underpins much of the current interest in ritual magic, with adherents and adepts similarly stressing the experience of communion with transcendent powers outside of the restrictions imposed by religion as an important element in its attraction. Although not stressed to the same extent as shamanism, magic has similarly been viewed as the ultimate origin of religion, most famously by Sir James George Frazer in his work The Golden Bough. Like Inglis, Frazer believed the transition to religion occurred when the magic failed to work, though as a rationalist he viewed this as the growing awareness of emerging civilisations that magic could not explain and control the world satisfactorily. [28] Frazer was influenced in his view of magic as the origin of religion by the philosopher G. W. F. Hegel.

Although Hegel’s theory of the emergence of the historical process through the dialectic of thesis-antithesis-synthesis is best known through the left-wing, materialist version propounded by Marx, Hegel himself was a practising Lutheran. The dialectical process of the human journey mirrored the operation of the divine mind. Magic and fetishism were the origins of human religion, a Naturreligion in which no duality was perceived between nature and spirit. This ur-religion had become obsolete in advanced societies, particularly those of Western Europe, through the process of antithesis, which separated spirit from its original, unformed self, so giving rise to Persian dualism. Eventually, however, the highest stage of the process, the synthesis, was achieved in revealed religion, particularly that of European Christianity. [29]

Hegelianism formed the conceptual basis of Marx’s concept of the progress of human society, though he also drew many of his ideas from anthropology. Particularly influential in this regard was Lewis Henry Morgan, whose study of the Iroquois Indians was published in 1851 and which has been hailed as ‘the first modern ethnographic study of a native people’. [30] It was Morgan, taking his lead from Spencer, who proposed that society developed from savagery, through barbarism to civilisation, and identified each stage with a particular technological or social advance. For many Marxist intellectuals, and those influenced by them, the earliest stage of human society was marked by a primitive communism which the growing diversity of function and division of labour and roles in more advanced societies had destroyed, but which would be restored again after the dialectical process had advanced through capitalism and its successor, socialism, to the idyllic true communism of the post- revolutionary world order.

Marxist anthropologists have paid particular attention to hunter-gatherer societies where no one is dependent on others for the weapons that are the sole means of production. [31] It is no accident that radical western socialists, such as London’s former mayor, Ken Livingstone, in an interview with the Sunday Express in the mid-80 s, hearkened back to the primitive communism of the Palaeolithic as a golden age. Despite the Soviet regime’s persecution of shamanism alongside other expressions of religious belief and practice incompatible with its militantly atheist ideology, and the view of Marxist anthropologists that magicians, by their specialist knowledge, make the workers dependent on them and so exploit them, [32] it is probably no accident that many of those interested in shamanism tend towards the political left in their beliefs, and have a similar nostalgia for the lost utopia of Stone Age society.

Such attitudes can be traced further back, of course, to Rousseau and Diderot’s idealisation of the Noble Savage, and especially Tahiti, as terrestrial paradises of primitive communism and sexual freedom, free from the repression, hypocrisy and corruption of aristocratic Europe. Although they too praised the natives as enjoying a natural religion in harmony with humanity’s own nature, the post-modern Neo-Pagan movement has as much in common with Hegel’s view of magic as it does with the Noble Savage of the philosophes. For Rousseau and Diderot, the natural religion was something like European deism, which posited a distant creator, but denied that He took any further action to interfere with His creation. It was an intellectual faith, which lacked the Romantic involvement with the miraculous, which is at the heart of a belief in magic.

Modern Neo-Paganism’s debt to 19th century anthropology is also demonstrated in its concern with ancient matriarchies, which worshipped goddesses, rather than male gods, and where the mediators of female divine power were queens and priestesses. Although in the  century this view of early global culture and religion has been most strongly propounded by Marija Gimbutas, of UCLA, whose book, The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe has been particularly influential, the idea itself goes back to Johan Backhofen in the 19th century. Backhofen, a Swiss jurist, believed that all societies passed through a matriarchal phase, though he termed it Mutterrecht – mother-right — rather than matriarchy. It was an enormously influential view, being taken up, amongst others, by Sigmund Freud and the archaeologists V. Gorden Childe and Jacques Cauvin. [33] Hence Gooch’s theory of primitive Neanderthal matriarchy, and his statement that Christ’s Passion is a mythological treatment of human sacrifice performed by a lunar cult, identified in much modern Neo- Pagan literature, though not explicitly stated in Gooch’s account of Christ’s Passion, as the religion of a moon goddess.


Such attitudes can be traced to Rousseau and Diderot's idealisation of the Noble Savage, and especially Tahiti, as terrestrial paradises of primitive communism and sexual freedom, free from the repression, hypocrisy and corruption of aristocratic Europe


  1. Stan Gooch. ‘Moon Religion, Fortean Times, 185, July 2004, p.75
  2. Ibid.
  3. See for example, Christ’s condemnation of such practices acording to the Pistis Sophia, cited in ‘The Orgy’, in A. Nataf, The Occult, Chambers, Edinburgh 1991, p.70
  4. J. B. Russell, Witchcraft in the Middle Ages, Cornell University Press, 1972, p.90
  5. T. Barnes, ‘Pagan Perceptions of Christianity’ in I. Hazlett, ed., Early Christianity: Origins and Evolution to AD600. SPCK, London 1991, p.90.
  6. J. B. Russell, Witchcraft, p.89
  7. J. B. Russell, Witchcraft, p.89
  8. Stan Gooch, ‘Sinister Sinstades’ in Fortean Times, 155, February 2002, p.54
  9. N. Goodrick-Clarke. The Occult Roots of Nazism: Secret Aryan Cults and their Influence on Nazi Ideology, I. B. Tauris, 1992.
  10. Alister McGrath. The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World. Rider, 2004, p.72-3
  11. Deuteronomy 32, 48-52
  12. Deuteronomy 34, 1-8
  13. A.S. Rappaport, Ancient Israel: Myths and Legends. The Mystic Press, London 1987, pp.343-362
  14. Flavius Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews, trans. William Wiston. Charles Griffin, pp. 95-103
  15. [to be confirmed]
  16. P. Henry, ‘The Hiram Key’, Fortean Times, 192, Novmber 1996, p.60
  17. Alister McGrath. op.cit., pp.72
  18. Goodrick-Clarke, op.cit., p.93.
  19. Goodrick-Clarke, op.cit., pp.91-2
  20. C. Bennett. In Search of the Sacred: Anthropology and the Study of Religions, Cassell, 1996, p29.
  21. Bennett, op.cit., p.36
  22. Bennett, op.cit., p.34
  23. Bennett, op.cit., p.41
  24. Bennett, op.cit., p.42
  25. H. G. Wells. A Short History of the World. Watts & Co., 1934, p37
  26. ‘Shamanism’ in R. E. Gulley, Harper’s Encyclopaedia of Mystical and Paranormal Experience. HarperCollins, New York, 1991, p.540
  27. B. Inglis. Natural and Supernatual: A History of the Paranormal from the Earliest Times to 1914. Prism, 1992. p.540.
  28. Bennett, op.cit., p.39
  29. Bennett, op.cit., p.25
  30. Bennett, op.cit., p.31
  31. ‘Marxist Anthroplogy’, in C. Cook, ed., Pears Cyclopaedia, 95th Edition, Pelham, london, 1986, p.F61
  32. Ibid., p.F61
  33. I. Hodder, ‘Women and Men at Catalhoyuk’, Scientific American Special edition:Mysteries of the Ancient ones, vol. 15, no. 1, 2005, p36. J. F. White, A Brief History of Christian Worship, Abingdon Press, 1993, p.63.


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