Moonlight at Warminster
Alan W. Sharp

From MUFORG Bulletin. December 1966

To any British investigator of the UFO phenomenon the little town of Warminster nestling below rolling chalk hills on the edge of Salisbury Plain holds a fascination second to none, and after learning from Mr Arthur Shuttlewood that sightings could be made on any clear night, your investigator determined to visit the place again at the earliest opportunity.

So it was that shortly after dusk on Tuesday, November 1st, 1966, a small car, loaded with paraphernalia and with myself at the wheel, approached the town from the direction of Frome, some eight miles distant to the west, on what promised to be a perfect night for observation.

The moon had just begun to rise and the planet Saturn was visible in the sky to the south as the main street came into sight and with it the house which had been recommended as a base for operations and where a top-floor room was immediately secured having an excellent view of the surrounding hills in the direction where the anticipated events were expected to occur.

A key to the premises was obtained and the task of moving a carload of impediment was completed, but not before clouds had begun to obscure the sky in ever increasing amounts until ebentually even the moon was hidden and a thin drizzle began to fall.

However, as the best time for seeing strange things had been put at around 4 a.m. not too much notice was taken of the weather and the writer retired to bed unwontedly early after setting the alarm for 3 a.m. and making suitable preparations for a sortie at that hour.

Promptly at three the peace was shattered and your observer staggered to the window to find everywhere bathed in moonlight with the last of the clouds moving quickly away to the south. Needless to say the streets appeared deserted and the car started without any difficulties due to ignition failure. Evidently I was at last to be allowed to make a move in the right direction, though subsequent events might make the return journey less easy.

Proceeding up the main street, the Westbury road was taken as far as the signpost pointing towards the West Wilts Golf Club, where a right turn was made up the long hill leading to the Imber Ranges.

Driving up the narrow road with headlights out, half expecting to meet some apparition from another world, I felt a distinct sense of uneasiness as the lights of the town were left behind and the moon’s ghostly radiance became virtually the only source of illumination, until suddenly a cluster of bright lights sprang out on the hilltop to the left.

I stopped the car and felt a tinge of fear as I opened the door and stepped onto the road, fingers fumbling with the binocular case.

What could those lights be at such an hour? Curiously I raised the glasses and focused on the hill. A dim shape was revealed but, disappointingly, seemed to bear more resemblance to a house than to a space-craft. I determined to investigate further on the way back, but the incident left a heightened feeling of unreality as the journey was resumed.

Then, as the road began to level out I was amazed to find the way barred by a white iron gate where on a previous visit there had been no obstruction. The unexpected event was not reassuring and as I stepped out of the car for the second time I realised that it would now be necessary to complete the last half mile on foot.

A chill wind was blowing and, as I collected camera and binoculars, a bright meteor flashed overhead from the direction of the moon. The time was 3.40 a.m. and the omens appeared auspicious for some unusual event. I hoped I should not regret having dared to scoff at the possibility of extraterrestrial activities at Warminster and felt a keen sense of loneliness as I looked back at my car, forlorn and desolate in this strange place.

I had half expected to meet some other humans out here on the UFO quest and every roadside shadow took on a strange form as I trudge up the hill, occasionally looking backward in apprehension of being stalked by the unknown.

However, no beings materialised and eventually the shape of the guard house came into view with the barrier for some unaccountable reason raised into the open position. Was this some sinister invitation to enter?

The planets Mars and Jupiter looked down in silent scrutiny as I shone a torch inside the building but ther was no one in occupation. The muted roar of the wind in a nearby copse and its whistling sound round the hood of my anorak were sufficient to drown most other noises, I reflected as I peered round the hut into the forbidden territory, to see to my apprehension what appeared to be a crowd of formless black shapes a hundred or so yards away and an indistinct, saucer-shaped white patch reflecting the moonlight slightly to the right, whilst the distant glow of some reflected light enhanced the eeriness of the situation.

I determined to press on, come what might, and gingerly eased round the barrier onto the concrete apron.

To my surprise the dark shapes materialised into the forms of wrecked cars and I clambered onto one of them for a better look round.

The reflected light seemed to come from a naked bulb somewhere out on the range and the white shape was in fact a long mound of chalk bulldozed out of the hillside to create what appeared to be a refuse pit of some description.

Then I saw a faint yellow light glide across the sky at a low elevation from east to west and I focused the binoculars on it as it passed close to the star Deneb, almost due north of the constellation Cygnus. A pulsating red light could now be seen and a faint drone was borne on the wind above the nearer sounds. The object was evidently an aeroplane bound for some unknown destination, possibly Bristol. The time, 4.10 a.m.

Cold but reassured I returned to ground level and continued my reconnaissance, but without meeting anything further out of the ordinary.

I looked at Jupiter to pass the time. Two of the Galilean satellites were visible close to the planet. Nothing unusual there.

No clouds, either, to be investigated, so at five-thirty I began to walk downhill to the car which I was relieved to find still where I had left it and without any sinister occupants waiting to escort me to an exciting rendezvous.

A quick cup of hot tea and I was on my way back to Warminster, though not without first finding the origin of the mysterious lights. It was the Golf Club-house, strategically situated, I thought, for UFO observation, though why the outside lights should be on remained a mystery. Perhaps the members liked to play by moonlight. Or did they?

Arrived in Warminster, I surprised an early milk roundsman and made two purchases. He seemed to take my odd appearance for granted fortunately and, armed with refreshing fluid, I parked the car and eventually climbed back into bed as the first signs of dawn appeared in the eastern sky, a somewhat disappointed but perhaps rather relieved ufologist.

Interestingly enough I had seen no satellites during my sojourn but a quick glance at the official predictions showed that Echo I had been visible earlier in the night, but had moved too far to the west, while Echo II was in southbound transit and hence was eclipsed in the earth’s shadow.

Looking back now I am glad I made the trip; it was an adventure, but the vigil was not one which I could recommend to anyone of a nervous disposition.


More Ghosts in the Machine [1977]
Alan W. Sharp

From Magonia New Series 8, Autumn 1977

The reported interaction between certain UFOs, and motorised vehicles in their vicinity is no new phenomenon, but the implications are so important that the whole question deserves a far more searching treatment than it has hitherto received.

Needless to say, the subject is fraught with all the usual pitfalls and difficulties which are a normal part of the UFO scene. Namely, a dearth of vital information, with published reports concentrating on the more macabre aspects of the sightings, imaginative embellishments of the story, a desire to provide good journalistic copy and so forth. All of which are an hindrance to understanding, and must be allowed for in any critical study.

Classic examples of the alleged interference of UFOs with vehicles can be found in reports of the Loch Raven, Maryland, incident of 26 October 1958 (1), the events near Levelland, Texas, in November 1957 (2), and the mysterious chase near Aston Clinton, Buckinghamshire, on 9 February, 1962, described by Robert Chapman (3) as being “hallowed in saucer lore”.

The interference – for which no causal connection has ever been established – takes the form of engine malfunctions usually amounting to complete stoppage, and partial or total failure of lights and/or radios. Usually conditions are said to return to normal after the disappearance of the UFO, whose ability to effect malfunctions is generally ascribed to some unspecified electromagnetic effect acting on the circuitry of the vehicle. (4)

Unfortunately, the notion of such interference is one which is deceptively easy to put forward, but far from easy to corroborate in the absence of evidence of the type searched for in vain by the Colorado University team, who anticipated alterations in the ‘magnetic signature’ of the car bodies as a result of the intense magnetic flux required to produce the reported effect. Though these findings were important in demonstrating that the cars under test had not been subjected to high intensity internal magnetic fields, the Condon researchers left the matter somewhat in the air by failing to investigate any alternative causes to account for the reported malfunctions. (5) Although in this they were no more at fault than non-official UFO groups who have, in the main, been content to embrace some rather vague “force-field” type of hypothesis.

One might think from reading the literature that auto failures similar to the kinds reported in a UFO context were unknown in everyday life, but any competent garage mechanic or electrician would point out that this is far from the case, and that such failures can and do arise from a multiplicity of causes, non of which has anything to do with the action of mysterious external influences.

Nevertheless, many ufologists obviously consider that a problem exists, and have stated their opinion that the evidence, for what it is, does point to some powerful interaction between the observed UFO and the vehicles in which witnesses were travelling at the time of the sightings, and which are reported to have stopped under unusual circumstances. Bearing in mind the dearth of useful information about the vehicles themselves, we may ask if there are any parameters available which might at least give some indication as to whether or not the reported malfunctions were indeed due to emanations from the reported UFOs, or had some mundane origin?

There are two important items of information which are almost alxys included in these reports: namely the date and time of the occurance. It may be possible that from these clues the ufologist might glean some insight into the matter.
To put this to the test, the writer has compiled a list of all the relevant reports that could be found in six ufological books to hand at the time of writing. The six volumes are:

A. VALLEE.  Anatomy of a phenomenon   
B.  KEEL.  Operation Trojan Horse
C.  CONDON.  Scientific Study of UFOs
D.  LORENZEN. Great Flying Saucer Hoax
F.  HYNEK.  UFO Experience

From these the following list of incidents was drawn:

REF LOCALITY                        DATE  & TIME         SOURCE 
1   Gueugnon (France)               Oct 14, 1954 19.30   A
2   St Romain, France               Oct 14, 1954 20.50   A
3   TurquensteiN, France            Oct 20, 1954 18.30   A
4   Pouzou, France                  Oct 21, 1954 21.30   A
5   4 miles W. of  Levelland, USA   Nov 2, 1957 22.50    AF 
6   4 miles E. of  Levelland, USA   Nov 2, 1957 23.50    AF
7   Whiteharral, USA                Nov 2, 1957 24.00    AF
8   9m E. of Levelland              Nov 3, 1957 00.05    AF
9   10m. NE of Levelland            Nov 3, 1957 01.15    AF
10  4m W. of Levelland              Nov 3, 1957 00.45    F
11  5m NW. of Levelland             Nov 3, 1957 01.15    AF
12  NE. of Lsvelland                Nov 3, 1957 01.15    F
13  Orogrande, New Mexico           Nov 4, 1957 13.10    E
14  Kearney, Nebraska               Nov 5, 1957 P.M.     B
15  Playa del Roy, Calif.           Nov 6, 1957 Night    B
16  Orogrande, New Mexico           Nov 7, 1957 09.20    D
17  Lake City, Miss.                Nov 9, 1957 01.00    C
18  Carrizozo, Now Mexico           Nov 9, 1957 19.20    D
19  Salvador, Brasil                Feb 24, 1958 03.04   D   
20  Loch Raven, Maryland            Oct 26,,1958 22.30   F
21  Aston Clinton, Bucks.           Feb 9, 1962 03.30    E
22  Colchester, Essex.              Sep 19, 1965 01.30   E
23  Toxsada, Penna.                 Apr 25, 1966 20.15   B
24  North East of USA               Winter 1967 02.00    C
25  Methuen, Mass.                  Jan 20, 1967 18.50   F
26  Leominster, Mass.               Mar 8, 1967 01.05    F
27  Ephrem, Washington              Apr 21, 1967 02.00   F
28  Reading, Berkshire              End Oct 1967 04.30   E
29  Boyup Brook, W. Aust.           Oct 30,1967 20.00    B
30  SE of USA (?)                   Autumn, 1967 03.30   C
31  Cochrane, Wisconsin             Apr 3, 1968 20.00    F

By month the above cases fall thus:

January ... 1            February ... 1
March ... 2              April ... 3
May ... 0                June ... 0
July ... 0               August ... 0
September 1              October ... 6
November... 14           December.. 0

Cases 24, 29, and 30 have been omitted from the total which thus comprises 28 events. The figures show a high incidence of cases in the autumn months of October and November. In fact the situation is even more arresting than appears at first sight, since there is an. even greater concentration in the four week period October 13th to November 9th, inclusive.

If the year is therefore divided into thirteen four weekly periods, starting with the second week in January, the most popular period for these cases becomes “lunar month” 11, and the cases are distributed as follows:

table 1

In order to check whether the result may have been fortuitous, recourse may be had to the International Catalogue of Type I Records (INTCAT) compiled by Peter Rogerson. This has now completed the five-year period from 1950 to 1955, during which incidents involving vehicle failure came in to their own. The INTCAT cases are distributed as follows, using the same four week periods as in figure 2: 

table 3

Four of the events depicted in Figure three also occur in the items listed in Figure 1. Making allowances for this overlap, and adding both sets of data together, a total of 44 events is obtained, of which no less than 30 occupy the eleventh four week period, October 13th to November 9th incluAive, as shown below:

tabole 2

In the case of normal examples of auto malfunctions similar to the types described in UFO reports, there is a peak period in the autumn due to the onset of damp, inclement weather and the shortening hours of daylight, and a second but very much less pronounced increase in the spring, when winter has taken its toll, and when cars which have been little used in the preceding months, once again take to the road after what amounts to a seasonal hibernation. The summer months are comparatively free from such troubles.

The only reasonable inference which can be made of the figures described in this paper Is that vehicle malfunctions in the UFO context are intimately related to the time of year, and in this context this means meteorological conditions and reductions in the hours of daylight, both of which put considerable strain on, amongst other things, auto electrical systems.


  1. HYNEK, J Allen, The UFO Experience. Abelard Schumann, 1972;’ SHARP, Alan W. UFO Evidence in an American Reservoir? MUFOB vol. 6, number 1, July 1973. 
  2. HYNEK, J Allen, op. Cit.
  3. CHAPMAN, Robert. Unidentified Flying Objects. Mayflower, 1970.
  4. In fact the phenomenon is widely referred to by ufologists as the E-M Effect, usually without any further explanation. [JR] 
  5. Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects. Bantam, 1969.


Whither Ufology – A Riposte [1970].
Alan Sharp

From MUFOB volume 3, number 2, April-May 1970

One useful by-product of the multiple editorship of a periodical is the scope which it offers for internecine strife when things get a little dull! The gentle exchange of pleasantries between the Associate Editor and Science Editor of the bulletin is a case in point which in fact serves a useful purpose because it demonstrates a frequently occurring phenomenon in the literature namely that much apparent discord is the result of misunderstanding.

In the article “Advance or Retreat” (Vol. 2, No. 6, Nov-Dec 1969) two passages appeared, viz: “If…the evidence for extraterrestrial visitation disrppears that will be the end as far as this commentator is concerned?” and “The extraterrestrial hypothesis must be staunchly adhered to as the fundamental precept.”

In his counter article entitled “A Look at the Alternatives” (Vol 3, No. 1, Jan-Feb 1970) my colleague John Rimmer disputes these conclusions and decides, quite rightly that even in the acknowledged absence of “les extraterrestres” there are still plenty of interesting aspects (to him) of our subject which can be profitably explored. Whether one wishes o explore these other facets in depth is really a matter of one’s personal tastes and interests.

The big landing “flap” of 1963 illustrates this point quite well, since it provided a great deal of informtion about not alien space vehicles, but meteorology – a subject of considerable interest to the writer in his capacity as a geologist and

Most of those mysterious and much-publicised holes in the ground — the “craters” at Charlton, Cockburnspath etc.turned out to be the results of the discharge of lightning in open country. a subject about which very little was known previously and which owed its further elucidation to its appearance in the context of UF0 investigation. Equally it may be that advances in other fields, of no special interest to the writer, will come about in a somewhat similar manner.

However it does seem to him that all this is becoming too far a cry from the unidentified flying objects which, as indicated by the name of this Bulletin. are the things we are supposed to be investigating.

If they have been investigated out of existence, in any tangible sense, well and good end we must “resign ourselves to the investigation of natural and man-made phenomena and realign our thinking accordingly.” If one wishes to broaden the field to include the realms of the occult and what have you there is no reason why one should not do so, whilst recognising that there are already other organisations in being to cater for such matters. The question is, are ufologists, in fact admitting that they are dealing with fantasies and figments of the imagination — after disposing of human artefacts and natural phenomena?

It would very much appear so if I understand my colleague aright; but it seems rather ironical tc jettison the UFO, at a time when eminent professional astronomers have been converted to the idea of a universe stuffed full of highly intelligent beings.

Proof of this highly interesting state of affairs is, of course, quite lacking.





Our First Reactions to the Condon Report. [1969]
The Editors

From Merseyside UFO Bulletin, volume 2, number 2, March-April 1969

Alan W. Sharp

In assessing the value of the Condon Report the most difficult task is to arrive at some unbiased standard of worth. As a piece of scientific literature it leaves a good deal to be desired, but as a contribution to the understanding of the subject it contains much of general interest and some valuable elucidations of interesting sightings.

The temptation is to follow one of the least troublesome alternatives–uncritical acceptance of Condon’s conclusions, or rejection of the report as a piece of official whitewashing. Neither, I feel, would be correct.

The Committee had what all sensible UFO investigators know to be an almost insuperable task and can claim moderate success in carrying out their brief.

The number of cases investigated was painfully small, but the results were set out quite well. No evidence was found to support the extraterrestrial spaceships hypothesis, but the treatment was incomplete. Some cases were unsolved but most of these were too readily shrugged aside under the amorphous designation of insufficient evidence for evaluation.

All this is just about what one would have expected and the fact that the Condon team did not score 100% success in evaluation of even their limited number of chosen sightings is hardly surprising. Had they done so, the feat would have been
roundly condemned by everyone.

Bearing this in mind, it is obvious that complete success cannot be the correct criterion of the Report. It is also obvious that Condon himself was scarcely justified in making the sweeping assertions contained in his Chapter 1 summary. By and large, however, he is probably not far off the mark in saying that the scientific fallout from over 20 years of UFO research has been extremely small. Nevertheless, it is wrong to suppose that there has been none.

The interesting and valuable chapters dealing with many pertinent natural phenomena should be of considerable value and interest to all investigators of unusual aerial events and, in particular, to those who interest themselves in unidentifiod flying objects.

These chapters comprise the whole of section VI of the Report, from page 559 to page 810, plus a considerable part of Section III from page 51 to page 209, approximately 400 pages in all, out of 941 pages of text. Included in the latter part (Section III) are many analyses of sightings additional to the 59 cases which are described in detail in the 236 pages of Section IV.

Section II, called a ‘Summary of the Study’, includes comment on such facets of the UFO scene as the extraterrestrial hypothesis, intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, visual perception photographs of alleged UFOs, radar sightings, astronautsl sightings, instrumentation and the attitude of the general public.

Of the direct physical evidence which is mentioned in UFO literature, markings on the ground (p 87) and parts of UFO equipment discussed (p 92 et seq.) include the well-known Sao Paulo magnesium fragments, but the conclusion is reached that ground markings are inconclusive and the magnesium was of terrestrial origin. Angel hair is mentioned (p 89) and “space grass” is accounted for as anti-radar “chaff”.

It would be possible but somewhat tedious, to work through the whole report in this manner, but for anyone who is sufficiently interested to wade through such an intensive analysis the obvious course of action is to obtain a copy of the Report and peruse it at first-hand.

I would recommend such a course of action to all readers of this brief review. The main snag lies in the physical difficulty of reading a voluminous paperback, but the effort is well worth while and the 12/6 price makes the New York Times reprint a ‘must’ for all ufologists and many other people besides.

John A. Rimmer

Despite the frenzy of slighted UFO organizations, one conclusion emerges clearly from the Condon Report. The U.S.A. government has no secret evidence that UFOs originate from beyond, upon, or within the Earth. If they did it would have been impossible for the Committee to maintain such a stance of detached boredom. As one ploughs through the thousand-odd pages of the Report one can sense the ennui, and almost hear Dr Condon yawning and whimpering, as the phrase is. On page 548 (New York Times/Bantam edition) we are presented with a moving and dramatic picture of Dr Condon being virtually blackmailed to leave his beloved work on atomic spectra to start an investigation on a “confused and ambiguous subject”, one in which a “truly scientific study…was extremely difficult, if not impossible”.

Having however been inveigled into this vague, airyfairy world the good doctor proceeds immmediately to extricate himself. The four hundred or so pages of scientific padding are not intended for the likes of us. They are there to impress fellow scientists that although the team may be investigating a thoroughly unsatisfactory topic, they are not going to be led from the paths of scientific orthodoxy. Here are solid facts, lots of graphs and formulae. A really good attempt to keep up the tone of the neighbourhood. The actual UFO work (that which is original, and not reprints from earlier reports or papers) is carried out in a methodical and scientific manner, but does not give the impression that anyone is actually interested in the subject. Probably the approach would be the same if the Committee were asked to investigate Magyar vowel-roots in Icelandic.

The chapter “Conclusions and Recommendations” is a splendid example of the nineteenth-century materialist approach to research:

“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 cannot be justified in the expextation that science will be advanced thereby,”

The argument is that the scientific methods used to investigate UFOs are perfect and incapable of improvement, therefore it must be the UFOs that are at fault, and are inherently uninteresting. Further on in the same chapter Condon writes:

“As the reader will judge, we have focussed attention almost entirely on the material sciences … We have found rather less than some persons may have expected in the way of psychological problems related to belief in the reality of UFOs as craft from galactic or intergalactic civilizations … We do not suggest however that the UFO phenomenon is, by its nature, more amenable to study in psychological and psychopathological disciplines than in the physical sciences.”

In this there appears to be something of the attitude that ‘if we can’t find out anything then neither can these trickcyclist guys’. Again, true materialism, everything can be explained in terms of billiard-ball atoms and steam engines.

One of the conclusions that has generated a good deal of controversy is the recommendation that schoolchildren shpuld be discouraged from reading the ‘wrong kind’ of UFO book. This evinced cries of ‘dictatorship’ from many enthusiasts. However I would regard this as another manifestation of boredom rather than some sinister plot. Possibly it can be seen as part of the educational backlash against current teaching methods. Dr Condon, probably brought up on an educational diet of solid learning, reinforced with such worthy works as ‘Every Boy’s Book of Atomic Spectra’ would certainly look askance at such woolly-minded attitudes to education.

In short then, the Report is one made by materialists bored and rather annoyed with a subject that they cannot get hold of and put in their spectrum analysis equipment. Best parts are chapters 1 and 2 of section V; chapter 3, section VI; and appendix V. Here one or two intangibles are allowed to creep in, although kept carefully under control, The case studies section IV, are the same as all the ones you ever read in Menzel’s books. Section VI is very nice if you like that kind of thing, but it’s got nothing to do with UFOs.

John Harney

The Report of the Condon Committee is currently available as a paperback, consisting of nearly 1,000 pages (“Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects”, a New York Times Book/Bantam Book.

The main conclusion reached by the Panel is that:

“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 cannot be justified in the expectation that science. will be advanced thereby.” (p 1)

However, they admit that:

“Scientists are no respecters of authority. Our conclusion that study of UFO reports is not likely to advance science will not be uncritically accepted by them.” (p 2)

Thus the members of the Condon team fully realize that their report is extremely unlikely to end the scientific controversy on the subject of UFOs.

Apart from the foregoing remarks, the team seem to have been unable to state anything definite about the subject, and’ their attitude to the unexplained sightings in the report is somewhat negative.

There is something very familiar about their style and approach to the subject. All of the comments and evaluations have a distinctly Menzelian air about them. Indeed, Condon bemoans the fact that Menzel’s book Flying Saucers (1953) never achieved a large enough sale to be issued as a paperback, whereas Leslie and Adamski’s Flying Saucers Have Landed (1953) became a best seller. (p 525)

It seems to me that it would be fair to sum up the general attitude of the Project as follows. The vast majority of UFO reports can be explained satisfactorily as misinterpretations of aircraft and natural phenomena and others explained as hoaxes and delusions. There remains a small number of unexplained incidents. In these cases, although it seems that genuine UFOs were involved, it is conceivable that the witnesses were mistaken or lying, therefore they must have been mistaken or lying. In another field of enquiry, the same sort of argument has been used to discredit psychical research.

The Report contains a number of apparently contradictory statements and comments. The most interesting concern allegations of government secrecy concerning UFOs. Condon writes: “We have no evidence of secrecy concerning UFO reports.” (p 5) Yet in the Case Studies, Case 5 (pp 260-266) concerns an incident in 1957 when the crew of a B-47 aircraft encountered a UFO. The Project interviewed three of the crew members but were unable to obtain any information from the Air Force concerning the 0fficia1 reports said to have been made at the time.

The team also remark on claimed UFO events at Air Force bases, about which they were unable to obtain any official information (p 70), quoting one of the cases they report in detail as an example (p 341). This case came to the attention of the Project from a “source considered to be reliable.” However, after attempting to obtain official confirmation or denial of the report, the Project came to the following conclusion:

“Although it is that the report of this incident was never more than a rumor, it is also true that project investigators were not able satisfactorily to confirm or deny that a UFO incident, had occurred. Attempts to investigate the rumor were met with evasion and uncooperative responses to our inquiries by base information.”

It seems to me that most people would tend to interpret incidents such as these as being strongly indicative of official secrecy in operation, although it is only fair to point out that some groups greatly exaggerate the part played by official secrecy in concealment of UFO data.

Much of the Report consists of padding. Some of this padding is very interesting, particularly the section dealing with atmospheric electrical phenomena. However, as most of this material has only an indirect bearing on the question and is already available to UFO researchers in the appropriate scientific textbooks, there seems little if any justification for including it. Worse, little attempt is made to correlate this material with actual UFO observations, although there is some useful discussion on the uses and limitations of radar in the detection of UFOs.

For some very pertinent criticisms of the Report, the reader is advised to consult the latest issue (Volume 15, Number 2) of Flying Saucer review.

There is one use for the report for UFO investigators. It brings together, between one set of covers, information on various types of natural phenomena, many of which could under certain circumstances result in spurious UFO reports. Thus it could help some ufologists to avoid making elementary scientific blunders when evaluating the reports which they investigate.


The report is available from Amazon Books. Click on this link:

Final report of the scientific study of unidentified flying objects conducted by the University of Colorado under contract to the United States Air Force (A ‘New York Times’ book)


The Tunguska Meteorite.
Alan W. Sharp

From MUFOB volume 1, number 6, November/December 1968

At 7.17 a.m. on 30th June, 1908, travellers on the Transsiberian Railway and other witnesses saw an enormous bolide cross the sky in a SSE to NNW direction, leaving behind it a thick and persistent trail which hung in the atmosphere like a pall Immediately after the object disappeared from view the flash of an explosion was observed on the horizon and a gigantic pillar of smoke rose high in the air where it remained for a considerable time before dispersing. Several detonations were heard, although the exact number is uncertain due to conflicting stories from different witnesses. These persons also gave varying details of the final fireball, the duration of which is hence in considerable doubt.

Seismic waves and air waves were recorded in many parts of the world, including England, and computations of the energy involved in the. final explosion indicate that some 1024 ergs were released, equivalent to an atomic device of about 20 megatons.

This is the sort of energy assumed for the 4,000 ft meteorite crater which Baldwin has ascribed to a nickel-iron meteorite 130 feet in diameter travelling at 10 miles per seccnd; very little more than the escape velocity of the Earth”

Unfortunately, when the first expedition reached the site of the Tunguska events almost 20 years after they occurred, no large meteorite crater was found, nor has one come to light since then, despite very thorough investigation. This is the mystery of the Podkamennaya Tunguska which has puzzled scientists for decades and to explain which many theories have been proposed, the latest being the explosion of a nuclear-powered spaceship or UFO which burned up after plunging out of control
into the Earth’s atmosphere. Other possibilities are an encounter with a large lump of anti-matter, with the nucleus of a comet with a big stone meteorite, or with an iron meteorite whose impact crater has not yet been discovered. These proposals will be considered in reverse, order starting with an iron meteorite in the 100 ft. plus range of sizes, or an equivalent aggregate of smaller bodies.

Quite simply the argument against this suggestion rests on two facts, the absence of any impact crater or craters and the absence of any sizeable pieces of nickel-iron, such as are found, for example, in the vicinity of the Arizona crater.

The main explosion point of the Tunguska ‘meteorite’ lies in a region called the South Swamp, a depression about 6 miles long by 3 miles wide but seemingly quite natural in origin. The word ‘in’ is not to be taken literally, for the absence of a crater means that the explosion must have occurred in the air and therefore that whatever object caused it did not reach the ground intact.

Hence we must turn to the next possibility, a ‘stony’ meteorite of some kind, perhaps with some content of free iron. It is well known that such material occurs and forms the major aggregate of normal extraterrestrial objcts which survive passage through the Earth’s atmospliere in megascopic form. Much of it is friable and easily disrupted, and generally explodes upon reaching the denser part of our atmosphere, No pieces of stony meteorite have been picked up on the site, however, though this may have been due to the considerable lapse of time between the fall and the investigations on the spot.

Small silicate spherula s have been found in abundance in the area, however, together with small spherules of magnetite. These particles allegedly originated in the colliding body, though it is generally accepted that meteoric iron usually occurs uncombined with oxygen as magnetite, except in the fusion crust produced by passage through the atmosphere where oxidation takes place. If the spherules did indeed come from a meteorite it is nevertheless surprising that they should be the only surviving evidence of its composition.

This difficulty led to the third theory, that of cometary inpact, which has appealed largely because of the unsatisfactory evidence for a more normal intruder, rather than for any compelling positive evidence in its support. No comet was seen in the Earth’s vicinity prior to the event, and in any case the precise nature of cometary nuclei is still a matter for speculation. The lack of sizeable remnants of non-ices from the nucleus remains unexplained although the million tons or so of finely divided particles which produced extended twilight for two months after the explosion could have been non-stony in character, in accordance with some nodern theories of cometary nuclear composition. This supposition is unsatisfactory.

Still searching for a convincing explanation we reach our last two postulates, anti-matter and space-craft engine explosions.

Both of these fail for the reason that the ground phenomena are not in accordance with a suitably sized atomic or nuclear event. The radiation-damaged and blast-damaged areas should have been interchanged to fit in with either of these two suggestions but in fact the effects are precisely the opposite to what would be expected. No cases of radiation sickness or deaths were ever reported and the evidence of extra carbon 14 in some 1909 tree rings is conflicting and very much post hoc ergo propter hoc in nature.

R.V.Gentry has written:

“Cowen et al, report an increase equivalent to about 1% in some tree rings around 1909, but Suess finds no change whatever in another sample. These results are consistent with the hypothesis, that the Tunguska meteor was entirely’ anti-matter in content.”

Then, after some tentative calculations:

“The observations of an eye-witness to the Tunguska. Meteor explosion are significant at this point. As Cowen et al. point out, the fireball did not last long. S.B.Serlenov, an observer, just managed to lower his eyes as the explosion occurred, and when he looked again the fireball had disappeared. The account of Kosolopov in the same connection has similar implications. This relatively short duration fireball (presumably only several seconds) is difficult to reconcile with the 33 sec, fireball to be expected from an ordinary 30 megaton thermonuclear explosion (the calculated equivalent yield of the Tunguska burst). It definitely appears that the relatively short duration fireball is evidence against the Tunguska explosion being thermonuclear in nature.”

Of all the hypotheses examined here only the second or third — stony meteorite or cometary encounter — are valid possibilities and of these the former appeals more than the latter, which seems to be more of a counsel of despair


A Personal UFO Experience.
Alan W. Sharp

Even our super-sceptical science editor Alan Sharp was not immune to the odd UFO experience, as this account, published in Merseyside UFO Bulletin, volume 3, number 1, January 1970, demonstrates:

One summer evening in the early 1960s when on holiday with a friend in the South of France we parked our car at the eastern end of the promenade at Cannes. The sun was shining, approaching the horizon and hence we decided to leave cameras and binoculars behind whilst we went in search of accomodation.

We began to stroll slowly back towards the town and had gone perhaps sixty or seventy yards when I suddenly noticed a bright patch of light slowly crossing the sky in the vicinity of the hills which lay in front of us but beyond Cannes itself,

Excitedly I pointed and we both stood still and watched as the elliptical object continued its progress at apparently low altitude, going inland fron the direction of the coast. If I remember correctly it had a bright centre then a black oval, surrounded in turn by a larger bright ellipse of light – white light, not coloured. Maximum angular dimension was about one third of a degree or even less.

Torn between the desire to run for camera and binoculars and fear of missing some feature of the apparition we continued to watch spellbound until just before the object passed out of sight behind some obstacle – one of the hotels probably – the light disappeared and was replaced by the distinct shape of an aeroplane, black in silhouette between the hills. A few seconds later and we should not have witnessed the change and would always have wondered at the nature of the UFO which we had seen.

How the peculiar effect was produced I have never been able to say with certainty but the thing looked like some sort of interference pattern, as such things are described in optics. The plane was possibly one of the helicopters which we had been noticing all day. At the tine I had not heard of Arnold’s famous Mount Rainier sighting, but it has often occurred to rte since that what he saw may have been something similar to that which so startled my friend and me that day on the Riviera.

To those with a knowledge of optics, the difficulty 1ies in the fact that we saw white light ‘fringes’, as they are called. Reflections from cabin windows? From rotor blades? Or what? The reader will notice, of course, the inevitable in such events. At the crucial time, all the optical apparatus which had been carted around all day, was safely stowed away out of reach in the car! C’est la vie – des soucoupes insolites!


Extraterrestrial Life
Alan W. Sharp

From Merseyside UFO Bulletin, volume 1, number 4, July-August 1968.

In considering the possibility of indigenous extraterrestrial life the only reasonable starting point is life as we know it on Earth. Hence we must also limit discussion to environments which are not too dissimilar from those which obtain on the earth at present or have obtained here in the past.

It may, as some people have suggested, be possible to visualise life-forms based on elements such as silicon rather than on carbon, but the fact is that the basic building materials for terrestrial life are the elements carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen and it is for combinations of these substances rather than for other more exotic compounds that one must look in the search for life in other parts of the Solar System.

It is, of course, tempting to speculate about the existence of suitable planets and their satellites revolving about other suns than ours where life may exist outside the Solar System, but such theorizing is at present in the realms of science-fiction and is likely to remain so for a long time in the future. Thus it can play no part in any rational discussion of possible extraterrestrial living forms based on premises which stand a reasonable chance of verification or disproof.

In addition to the four main elements mentioned above, there are many others whose presence in small amounts is vital to the continuation of life in all except the simplest of organisrns. Nevertheless, it is to oxygen and hydrogen, in combination as liquid water that we must look for the imposition of stringent conditions when assessing external environments. This is because the complex electro-cher1ical reactions which are involved in active life processes depends in part at least, on aqueous solutions, thus restricting suitable sites to those whose temperatures lie approximately within the range 0 degrees to 100 degrees Celsius.


The existence of a suitable, reasonably dense atmosphere is another decisive prerequisite for the existence of self-replicating organic systems, for without a properly constituted and dense atmosphere there will be insufficient protection against the impact of energetic particles from space and unbearable extremes of ambient temperature on the surface.

This consideration implies that the Earth, for instance, has always possessed an atmosphere of some sort, though possibly of different composition in the past from that which it has at present when carbon dioxide, oxygen and ozone are indispensible.

It is here that initial planetary mass is so important, since by this is largely decided the composition of any residual atmosphere. For earth, with an escape velocity of 7.1 miles per second, there can be considerable retention, whereas for less massive bodies the ability to retain important gases may be lacking. The Moon, for example, has virtually no atmosphere and offers a stark habitat quite unsuitable for organic development, whereas the major planets are so encased by atmosphere that their surfaces must be inhospitable ineed.

Mercury and Titan may have very tenuous gaseous envelopes; Mars has some atmosphere and that of Venus is in some respects similar to that of Earth but is so hot and dense at the planetary surface that it precludes the existence of life. The spectroscoic identification of substantial atmospheric constituents at great distances offers no particular problem, but small amounts are far less amenable to current techniques. Even now that an instrumented probe has actually descended through the Cytherean atmosphere there is still some uncertainty about its exact constitution.

The Moon

On a large scale the surface consists of dark areas (maria) and light areas (terrae or highlands). The surface material itself was but poorly understood before the advent of recent space probes and is still the subject of speculation. The “soil” is now known to be reasonably cohesive and able to bear substantial loads.

Certain features show that there has been some volcanic activity but comparison with known terrestrial meteorite craters indicates that many of the lunar craters are the result of impact. It is now reallsed that both impact and volcanic features occur but no definitive means of identification seems yet to have been found. It is possible that there may be some subsurface water which may harbour life, but on balance there does not seem to be much hope of finding life there.


Due to the enormous variations in their distances from the Sun there are corresponding variations in planetary radiation temperatures.

Jupiter has a dense atmosphere composed mainly of hydrogen, methane and ammonia and presents one of the most fascinating problems in physics. The “surface” temperature is a chilly -150 degrees Celsius but the true surface is unknown. The clouds appear to be composed of methane and ammonia crystals but the suggestion that the Great Red Spot is a sort of hydrogen “berg” is quite fantastic. It has not even been possible to decide between rival theories of the centre, e.g, a rocky core or a core composed of highly compressed hydrogen. Jupiter is too small to be considered a dull star since the conversion of hydrogen into helium is ruled out by insufficient pressure.

Saturn is essentially similar to Jupiter apart from the rings which are of high luminosity and may be composed of ice particles.

The distant planets are a poor prospect for life.

Mercury: Very little is known about this body but it seems to possess little if any atmosphere although clouds are alleged to have been seen from time to time, The surface temperature is very high and the “clouds” may be volcanic dust. Surface features can not be distinguished but the prospect for life on this planet seems to be negligible.

Venus: The latest news is disappointing for the enthusiasts of indigenous Cytherean life. The planet possesses a featureless photosphere consisting of clouds composed of carbon dioxide crystals. Oxygen and water together amount to some 3% of the atmosphere which is mostly carbon dioxide under high pressure at the planet’s sauface. The temperature measurements are not of very high accuracy but imply that any surface water would boil off into the atmosphere. Speculations that native life may exist in the atmosphere in the absence of a suitable surface’ environment do not merit serious consideration.

Mars: The atmosphere exerts a maximum pressure of only a few millibars, equivalent to that at a height of 100,000 feet on Earth, and is seemingly composed in the main of carbon dioxide. There is a surface temperature variation of 90 Celsius degrees, from -70 degrees C to +20 degrees C, with an average value of considerably less than the freezing point of water.

The latest information shows conditions to be a good deal less favourable to the development of life than some people once thought was the case. The thin atmosphere is but poor protection from solar radiation and the famous colour changes are probably not after all due to vegetation. It is not even known whether the dark areas are lowlands or elevated terrain and if anything the latter hypothesis is currently more in vogue than the former.

The Mariner close-up photographs showed no signs of the infamous “canali” despite assertions to the contrary in some quarters, although their did depict a number of craters similar in general outline to those on the Moon though presurn.ably more worn down by erosion.

It is, however, possible that in the past there have been water courses on the Martian surface although no rivers appeared on the photographs.

If surface water has at one time been present – and there seems to be no reason why this may not have been the case — it is quite possible that indigenous life-forms may have spontaneously arisen, but the present Martian enviroment would seem to provide a habitat inimical to the preservation of life. Nevertheless, of all the planets in the Solar System apart from Earth this one offers the best hope of finding independent life forms.

The fact that the chances even here must be rated very poorly is indicative of the extraordinarily privileged position of the Earth in this matter.

It is however, more than likely that two bodies in the Solar System, namely the Moon and Venus, have already been contaminated by self-replicating organisms carried fron Earth, in which case it may never be possible to answer the question whether these bodies evolved independent life of their own.


John Keel’s ‘Operation Trojan Horse’ – Two Views.
John Rimmer and Alan Sharp

The Merseyside UFO Bulletin was o ne of the first journals in Europe to welcome the work of John Keel, who became a regular visitor to our letters columns. My review of his first two UFO-related books appeared in MUFOB vol. 3, no. 4, September 1970. It reads a little starry-eyed today, but I would still defend the books reviewed here for opening up new ways of looking at the UFO enigma.

For an updated view, see Peter Rogerson’s review of the 1990′s re-issue HERE


<< Click on the cover images to order this book from Amazon

John Keel has written a very good mystery story called ‘Operation Trojan Horse’. He has also written a first-rate UFO textbook called ‘Operation Trojan Horse’. Many people will find this completely unacceptable and will criticise the writing of a textbook in the style of a mystery thriller. However in a subject so innately mysterious as ufology this is probably a valid way of writing. Many critics will probably write at great length about a number of errors of fact that appear in this book. Their criticism will be valid, and it is disappointing that these have been allowed to creep into a work of this nature. However, with the present lack of documentation in ufology cross-checking of facts and incidents is virtually impossible. These errors do not, however, invalidate the arguments of the book.

Not the least value of 0TH is the many signposts it plants, pointing out avenues of further research. The highlighting of the neglected flap years of the twenties and thirties should send ufologists rushing to local newspaper archives.

It would be impossible in a short review to give an adequate outline of Keel’s thesis. It would also be unethical, looking at the book as a mystery story, to give away the end. However it is not a whodunit. There is no last minute denouement in the locked drawing room when John Keel points out the guilty party. As Charles Bowen points out in his FSR review: “he cannot write his QED at the end of the exercise”. It is obvious on reading the book that this is not the object. What Keel does demonstrate is something of the nature of the phenomenon. He acts in a way as the liberator of ufology, and in the process possibly destroys it as we know it. Ho certainly demonstrates the inadequacy of the phrase ‘unidentified flying object’. He liberates ufology from twenty-five years of oppression and misunderstanding. Oppression is caused when anything is forced into an enclosure that is too small for it, whether that is a physical or a psychological enclosure. In the past ufologists have thought that they had a fairly clearly designed phenomenon to study. Even those who tended to reject the ETH have thought of ufology in the rather limiting terms of investigating reports of objects seen. Keel demonstrates the inadequacy of these terms of reference by heaping upon this basic de definition an extension that is infinitely greater than the original.

The book begins on familiar territory with the 1960 radar case, and an analysis of straightforward sighting reports. After that however each chapter adds some complexity to the basic phenomenon. By the end of the book the reader’s mind is reeling from the enormity of what has been said. This is possibly one of those very rare books that alters one’s way of thinking about things. It is disturbing to have one’s ideas of reality assaulted so completely as Keel manages in OTH. Many people will find that their only defence against this assault is in total rejection, not only of the conclusions (which is a perfectly valid reaction), but also of the arguments. For example Keel produces evidence upon evidence that many aspects of the UFO problem are deliberate hoaxes by the forces that are the source of the phenomena. This is a conclusion that many will challenge. However, Keel develops this argument with a mass of data, with many incredible correlations, and with a sound logical argument. It is up to his critics to either show a fault in the reasoning, to challenge the evidence by double checking, or to provide an equal amount of counter-data.

An eminent British ufologist remarked that there are only four books essential reading for students of the phenomena: Charles Fort’s collected works, Passport to Magonia and the two Keel books. This selection might be a little Spartan but it accurately sums up the importance of John Keel’s contribution to the literature.

John Keel uncovers a universe of mystery incomprehensible in its complexity. At the same time he demonstrates that this is tied up, often in a ludicrously mundane manner, with normal people. A mystery that is possibly cosmic in extent yet as much a part of human life as the telephone, Cadillac, or even, so help us potato peelings in which it manifests itself. It would be trite to say that Keel knocks over the ETH. He challenges the framework of ufology as we know it, and poses the problem of what happens now. The evidence in the book, quite apart from the conclusions he arrives at, destroys ufology as we know it. To study the phenomenon as it is revealed in OTH and then to consider ourselves ufologists, is rather like attempting to study marine ecology and admitting we are only tadpole hunters. John Keel has liberated ufology. Are ufologists capable of liberating themselves?

It is something of a relief to turn from reviewing OTH to reviewing ‘Strange Creatures’ This is a far more straightforward book, and somewhat slighter. It is of course an integral part of OTH, and should be read in conjunction with it.

In ‘Strange Creatures’ Keel takes a look at all the many weird animals and pseudo-animals that have cropped up throughout the world in various ages. He attempts to distinguish between the apparently physically real creatures that are currently unknown to conventional Western science (although does ‘physically react have any meaning after OTH?) and the imponderably wide range of manifestations that are described by that unsatisfactory word,

As with OTH a major part of the value of this work is in the directions it gives for new aspects of study. It is a good, scary, flesh-creeping book to be read alone, late at night by the light of an oil lamp with the wind howling outside. It is a very good horror story. It is also an excellent and scientific catalogue of anomalous apparitions. As with OTH many people will find such a combination unacceptable. This however is how John Keel writes, it is purely a matter of literary style. As a final point, both these books have good indexes, which enhance their value as reference tools. This is unfortunately still a great rarity in UFO literature.



Alan Sharp was considerably less impressed by Keel’s books than I was, and in a later issue (vol. 4, no. 3, Summer 1971) wrote a devastating critique of Keel’s use of scientific date. The title to this piece will be immediately identified by our readers as a parody of the title of a famous north-country folkson, ‘Do you ken John Peel’. For some reason when referriung to this article in his monumental UFO Encyclopedia, Jerome Clark, usually a stickler for accurate transcription, refers to it as ‘Do You Know John Keel?’, for reason we have been unable to ascertain.




A few issues of the Bulletin ago (November 1970) z wrote a short article in which I referred rather disparagingly to John Keel as the ‘King of the UFO Crackpots’, Although I feel that in many respects my assessment, in UFO parlance, was not very far off the mark I should like to apologise to John Keel for such an ungentlemanly expression of opinion. 

The choice of phrase was, however of interest for it turns out that, quite unknown to me, a henchman of Dr Allen Hynek had previously coined exactly the same expression to describe Mr Keel and this, to use the sort of reasoning which Mr Keel frequently seems to use himself, can hardly be without significance. For myself, I do not subscribe to such reasoning and prefer to regard the identity as purely coincidental and arising solely from a similar assessment of John Keel’s contribution to ufological research. 

One result of the correspondence which my remarks — described vaguely by Mr Gary Lesley as “silly” (Letters, MUFOB 4:2) –called forth has been a determined attempt by me to see whether my judgement was at fault and a drastic reassessment needed in the light of a more concentrated study of Mr Keel’s published work.

I know that I tend to have formed, from experience, a not very flattering opinion of journalists for the simple reason that their reports of items upon which I have been well informed have usually proved factually incorrect and slanted to the point where they have seemed to bear very little resemblance to the circumstances as I know them.

Lest any injustice has been done because of such bias on my part I have had another look at the book Operation Trojan Horse with particular attention paid to those matters about which I can claim to possess a certain expertise. I must say at the outset, though, that my overall impression still persists, that the book is a typical example of journalistic ufology such as one has met so frequently before in the literature. Its accounts of events are frequently even usually, sketchy and imprecise and the logic tenuous or non-existent. Hence the conclusions which its author draws, such as they are, tend to be erroneous. It is therefore scarcely surprising that John Rimmer (MUFOB 3:4, [above]) seems to have found the volume rather difficult to review.

To my way of thinking the book is not even good journalese, for the reason that the narrative is disjointed and confusing. A good deal of space is devoted to a more-or-less ‘normal’ account of various UFO reports after which Mr Keel abandons this approach and plunges his readers into the questionable world of fairies, demons and other similar figments of the imagination. Even from that viewpoint, however, the treatment is not a scholarly one which the reader might respect but a story writer’s presentation of the alleged manifestations of occult forces and the like, which is about as convincing to this reader as the fantasies of Denis Wheatley. To an extent this is perhaps inevitable in a popular work but it is certainly not to this writer’s taste. He happens to have spent the

 past year investigating certain properties of meteorites and moon rock and is well aware of the need for constant vigilance against the facile invocation of way-out hypotheses to explain unwelcome facts whilst at the same time attempting to preserve an open mind receptive to the impact of novel ideas. It is the writer’s opinion that John Keel is over eager to dump the ‘UFO phenomenon’  as he calls it, into the realm of the supernatural and too ready to discount more mundane explanations of at least a goodly proportion of sightings, ignoring for the moment the possibility  extraterrestrial visitation, which the writer has never regarded as very likely.

As an example of this uncritical and biased rejection I think it is instructive to consider the subject of meteors and meteorites upon which Mr Keel is obviously ill-informed. There are, travelling around the Sun in orbits of various eccentricities, pieces of solid matter varying in size from particles of dust to objects having a mass of many tons. These are termed meteoroids and grade upwards into bodies which are large enough to be telescopically visible and are known as asteroids. Any such meteoroids which encounter the Earth, survive passage through its atmosphere and reach the ground in megascopic form are called meteorites.

A meteor is merely a streak of light produced by a small meteoroid in its passage through the atmosphere and is not a meteorite, It is thus incorrect to say, as Keel does (p 165): “Yet there are thousands of meteor falls annually.” He also quotes (p 150) a Lt. Col. Rolph as saying: “A meteor can’t be tracked by radar — but this thing was,” and fails to question this incorrect statement. A vast amount of information about meteors has been obtained by just such means, due to the reflecting capacity of the ionised gases which omit the light constituting the optically visible meteor. By this reflection of radar waves meteors can be ‘seen’ in daylight as well as by night.

The object under discussion in this instance was evidently a bolide and could have been associated with a meteoroid large enough for some portion of it to have survived and reached the ground intact. Unfortunately the information given by Keel is of the kind which causes the serious ufologists so much trouble. He says: “Shortly afterwards (referring to the reddish object which was seen moving in the sky on April 18th. 1962) an unidentified circular object landed near a power station outside of Eureka, Nevada, and the lights went out for thirty minutes.” (Evidently a case of post hoc ergo propter hoc.)

Was the connection established? Did someone see this thing land? Was it analysed? What did it look like, apart from being ‘circular’, whatever that means? Where can one find the relevant details? Why was it ‘unidentified’?

This example is typical of so many descriptions in Keel’s book and in the literature generally. The authors may (or may not) know the answers, but the reader justifiably feels that one case properly documented would be worth a dozen such nebulous reports.

Why Keel should doubt the validity of the bolide identification in this case and inveigh against the “scientific attitude” whatever he means by that, is a mystery to which only he can give the answer.

“What are these ‘things”, he asks, “and why don’t we know more about them?” I suggest that he should replace the “we” by “I” and become a little more acquainted with the subject of meteoritics — and with astronomy generally at the same time, for that matter. He is very keen to make rude remarks about astronomers and other scientists, but is apparently very reluctant to become even reasonably conversant with the plentiful supply of relevant scientific literature.

Meteorites can be broadly classified into irons, stones, and stony-irons; or siderites, aerolites and siderolites. A rather rare form of aerolite or stony meteorite is the type known as carbonaceous chandrite, Mr Keel describes the arrival of fragments of such a meteorite at a place called Pueblito do Allende at 1.09 a.m. on the morning of February 6, 1969. Scientists “scurried” there to collect the pieces and identified them as ‘Type 3 carbonaceous chondrite’, translated by Keel to clean “metal fragments containing carbon, which is s suggestive of organic (living) matter”. According to Brian Mason, an authority on meteorites and curator of mineralogy at the American Museum of Natural History, New York, carbonaceous chondrites can “be readily distinguished from all other meteorites by their peculiar characteristics — dull black colour, friability, generally low density, lack or almost total lack of free nickel-iron (my italics) (Meteorites p96, Wiley, 1962).

Type 3 carbonaceous chondrites are largely composed of olivine with necessary pigeononite., not of metal. Olivine is a common rock-forming silicate mineral with the composition(Mg, Fe)2 Si O4, with Mg in excess of Fe, and pigeonite is another silicate mineral having the composition (Ca, Mg) (Mg, Fe) Si2 O6 with even less iron. The iron is, of course, chemically combined. The carbon content of the famous Orgueil carbonaceous chondrite occurs in the 6.4%o of black, insoluble carbonaceous residue which has the composition c 63%, H 6%, 0 31% and is, according to Mason (ibid, p 99) “presumably a complex polymer of high molecular weight”.

It is, of course, ‘organic’ in the sense that it is a carbohydrate, but this is a chemical description with absolutely no ‘living’ connotation. In fact Mason goes on to say: “A solution of the organic material in benzene showed no optical rotation, an important observation indicating that the material was formed by non biological processes”.

There is no reason to suppose that the organic matter in the Pueblito de Allende carbonaceous chondrite was substantially different from this.That Keel should choose to mislead his readers in so blatant a fashion whilst displaying his own ignorance of natters meteoritic is not only manifestly unfair to people who have purchased his book in good faith but also cannot fail to arouse grave doubts about the validity of his thesis generally, doubts which are demonstrably well-founded.

There is the matter, for instance, of the strips of aluminium foil which Keel mentions on page 175 remarking, “These strips are almost identical to the chaff dispensed by, high flying Air Force planes to jam radar, yet they do not seen to be related to AF operations at all”. The first thing to note is that the material which Keel describes need not have been used for the particular purpose he mentions. Another application, for example, is for radar tracking in connection with meteorological work. The fact that some of the foil “is often found under trees and on porches” would only be remarkable if winds had mysteriously ceased to blow, which to the best of my knowledge they have not.

The Condon Report (Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects) deals with the subject of “Space-grass” quitespecifically on page 90, where a sample is mentioned as having been produced — on Earth — by the Foil Division of Revere Copper and Brass Inc., Brooklyn, New York. It would be difficult to be more specific than that. What Keel means to imply by use of the word “almost” is uncertain, but it does not strengthen his case, as one can see by reference to page 175 of his book.He says: “Another exploding UFO, this one at Ubatuba, Brazil in 1957, left behind particles which were nothing but pure magnesium”. The word ‘almost’ might well have been inserted in this statement as John Harney has demonstrated in his article ‘The Ubatuba Magnesium’ (MUFOB 4:2, p 19).

It seems that Mr Keel is not averse to deliberately attempting to mislead his readers when it suits his purpose to do so. There is much more that one could write along similar lines concerning Operation Trojan Horse, but this would savour of using a bulldozer to demolish a house of cards.

Whilst I have every admiration for people who write good books and bear John Keel no ill-will, I would like to suggest that he does something to remedy his lack of scientific knowledge before he commences his next literary work on the subject of unidentified flying objects. A thorough perusal of the Condon Report would be a good starting point and would help to eliminate some of the grosser errors in his text.



UFO Evidence in an American Reservoir.
Alan W. Sharp

From Merseyside UFO Bulletin, volume 6, number 1. July 1973

Alan W, Sharp takes a critical look at the classic Loch Raven Dam Case

On the evening of Sunday October 28, 1958 two friends* were out driving in the outskirts of the city of Baltimore, Maryland, at about 10.30 p.m.The winding road took them past Loch Raven Dam on an allegedly dark, moonless, clear and starry night, bereft of any bright planets. No wind eras reported so that calm conditions likely prevailed.

No information is given in the original report by Jacques Vallee concerning the existence of human habitations or street lights (except that staff in a ‘nearby’ restaurant heard an explosion at 10,45 p.m.) but of course there is always some light in the vicinity of any large town. Nor is any such information available in the more recent treatment by Hynek (2), who incorrectly places the reservoir in Delaware (Appendix I, p 239). Neither of these authors offers any explanation for the UFO sighting which the two friends Mr C and Mr S, then made as they approached the first bridge across the lake. The case is presented as yet another mysterious item of alleged UFO evidence.

Rounding a right-handed bend they approached the bridge from a northerly directions with a cliff on the left and the water to their right only to see, floating above the bridges a mysterious and alarming “egg-shaped” object about 100 feet in diameter and about the same in height at an estimated 75 to 100 feet above the superstructure of the bridge, a modified Pratt truss steel structure about twenty feet high at the top points of its two independent spans. Thus the UFO was, according to Messrs C and S, one hundred feet or more off the ground at roadway levels though it seems likely that this figure was an  overestimate.

On first noticing the hovering UFO the men were travelling at between 20 and 30 m,p.h. at a distance of some 200 to 300 yards from the bridge, but speed was immediately reduced to around 10 – 12 m.p.h, Eventually when the car was a mere 25 yards from the bridge it suddenly stopped, the engine went dead and all the lights went out, just as well, perhaps for otherwise the intrepid friends, who thought the object might have been some sort of ‘blimp’ (balloon) would have found themselves on the bridge more or less immediately under the UFO!

Turning the ignition on failed to energise the starter motor, and Messrs C and S were now “pretty frightened”. Nevertheless they contrived to observe the UFO through the windscreen (which must have been difficult in view of the UFO’s — by then –presumably highly elevated position) for an unspecified length of time before getting out of the car and running behind it for some protection. (How this position helped is hard to see if the object under surveillance was so close so high and so large as it was reported to be.)

After a further lapse of about half a minute during which they were now “terrified” (S) the UFO which had “been glowing with an irridescent glow” seemed to flash “a brilliant flash of white light”, (C )and seemingly gave off a terrifically bright light, (S) whilst “at the same time we felt a tremendous heat wave” (S) and both “felt
 heat’ on our faces” (C) -  but: “It didn’t seem like the heat of a burning object but something like an ultraviolet light or some kind of radiation”. (S)Concurrently with the flash of bright light there was a loud noise, described as a “dull explosion” by C and as a “tremendous thunder” by S. This was the sound heard by the other people in a ‘nearby’ restaurant. “Then very quickly, so that you couldn’t get the proper sequence of events the object started to rise vertically. The only different feature it had while it was moving was that it was very bright and the edges became very diffused so that we couldn’t make out the shape as it rose. It took from five to ten seconds to disappear from view completely. We were very frightened”.

The two men thereupon got in their car, which now functioned normally, and drove home poste haste to report their experiences to the police. They asked the policemen if they had noticed if the witnesses face’s were red but the police said they had not., Subsequently the two men went to a local hospital for a check-up and a doctor said C’s face was slightly red but S’s was not. Next day S said that his face was noticeably a little redder. He later remarked: “I hoped what I did see would add to the national interest or national information that would maybe help understand these things a little better. I do know there are at least such things now as UFOs”.’

The experience had become a UFO sighting of the ‘close encounter’ type and displayed a good many familiar, awesome overtones; putting these aside however, what did the sighting amount to?

Two men saw an unexpected object which they considered bore some resemblance to a Naval ‘blimp’ stationary a short distance above the ground. After a few minutes they witnessed a bright flash of light from the object and simultaneously heard the sound of an explosion. The object then quickly rose up and disappeared.’
The answer is simple. The UFO was a balloon, a large partly deflated balloon carrying a payload. The payload was jettisoned by the activation of an explosive charge (3) and the balloons lightened of its burden, quickly rose up out of sight. The battery on the balloon evidently run down, was unable to provide much current to the balloon’s light until after the severance when the light came on and illuminated the underside of the fabric.

No doubt the payloads which might already have been partially submerged, disappeared into the lake, probably. on the north side of the bridge judging from a photograph in Vallée’s book, but the men were too excited to hear any splash there may have been. Presumably this payload is still lying on the bottom of the reservoir. Someone should go and retrieve it, just out of interest. It might also be of some scrap value.

As far as the car electrical malfunctioning is concerned, if Venus can perform this feat from a distance of over twenty million miles why not a balloon from a hundred feet or so? One is reminded of the case mentioned by Craig on page 761 of the Condon Report (4) where a cylindrically-shaped balloon released from Boulder, Colorado, eventually found its way to the Azores where it was sighted – and stopped all the clocks! For some reason one never reads of the most likely reason for malfunctions of car electrics, namely loose or dirty contacts and run-down batteries. Such things are common sources of failure, especially in autumn and winter. Why do the cars (often) start again after a while? Because the contacts have improved and/or batteries recover sufficiently when relieved of load for a time.

My advice to ufologists? Do not take too much notice of ufological electrical failures in cars and, if you live within striking distance, go and recover the lost treasure of Loch Raven, provided the authorities haven’t beaten you to it. They may not have done so, however for the good reason that neither the USAF nor Project Blue book evaluated the sighting at the time and no-one (including Drs Vallée and Hynek) has been able to do do since.


  1. VALLEE, JACQUES and JANINE, Challenge to Science. Neville Spearman, London. 1966. (pp 191-194)
  2. HYNEK, J ALLEN, The UFO Experience; a scientific enquiry. Abelard Schuman. 1972. (pp 215, 221, 222)
  3. Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects. Bantam Books. 1969. (pp 755-760)
  4. Ibid,, pp 760-761

* The witnesses have subsequently been named as Philip Small and Alvin Cohen


Roy Dutton responded to Alan Sharp’s article in the following issue,  August 1973

Whilst attempts to remove the elements of mystery from UFO stories are to be welcomed, in my view Alan Sharp stretches the bounds of credibility too far in his rationalisation of the Loch Raven Dam incident. (MUFOB 6.1)Alan Sharp’s first error seems to be his interpretation of the word ‘blimp’, used by the witnesses to describe the object. ‘Blimps’ were not merely balloons but non-rigid airships, used by the US Navy for coastguard and other duties as recently as the mid-1960s. Since these things patrolled the Eastern seaboard, one would expect residents in the Baltimore area to have been well acquainted with them, even at night.Familiarity with Navy blimps could account for the fact that the Loch Raven witnesses continued to travel on towards the object, despite its unusual location and unfamiliar appearance. From the description of the object, they probably interpreted what they saw as a three-quarters frontal view. It is my guess that initially they were eager to get as close as possible, because the opportunity

 to witness an airship some 280 feet long and having a mean maximum diameter of about 80 feet (typical dimensions for a USN blimp) can be guaranteed to draw a crowd anywhere in the world. Only when the car engine died and the sights went out would their excitement become anxiety, and by then they had approached too close to the object for comfort.
Assuming that the underside of the object was in some way illuminated, as the report implies, the witnesses should then have been able to discern whether the thing hovering virtually overhead had the necessary excrecences to qualify as a blimp – an underslung cabin, engine nacelles and, perhaps, large control surfaces at the rear. I suggest that when the witnesses finally clambered from, and crouched behind the car, they had become very convinced that the object was not what they had originally assumed it to be, and naturally felt extremely vulnerable with only the windscreen separating them from ‘it’.

From this point in the incident it must be conceded that the subsequent events were witnessed by two men in a state of near panic. The obsessional concern for their faces after the flash of the explosion and the subsequent facial reddening could be attributed to an induced state of hysteria. (This should not be interpreted as implying inherent emotional instability; it could happen to anyone after a traumatic experience of the kind described.)

Alan Sharp’s explanation of the explosion seems attractive at first, but it is difficult to believe that so much explosive energy would be required to jettison a payload package, even one of large proportions; and surely, an airship would jettison ballast (water) to gain height. Consequently, it is my view that although the jettison idea may be just compatible with the met. balloon theory, it is an improbable suggestion for an incident involving an airship, unless the craft involved had been conducting some clandestine military experiment.

Finally, I wish to deal with the subject of car electrics. During some thirteen years of motoring I have never known an electrical failure of the kind described in this report. The fact is that although such failures are not impossible, they are highly improbable.
Consider the case of the faulty or run down battery. From my own experience, as soon as the engine is running above tick-over speeds, which is usually the case when the car is moving and in gear, the dynamo will continue to supply power to all the electrical equipment, even when the battery has been completely flattened. Further, since it is possible to remove the battery altogether after starting the engine, loose or corroded battery terminals seem to be irrelevant in the context of the Loch Raven report.

I suggest that only a large induced back-E.M.F., a massive short circuit of the electrical supply (albeit for a short period), or an improbable sequence of faults and chance events could produce such a complete systems failure as the one described.To conclude, without the failure of the oar electrics it would be reasonable to believe that the witnesses had seen a USN airship in unusual circumstances, (The Wallops Island Naval weapons testing stationer is only 100 miles or so to the south of Baltimore, and this thought must have occurred to the Blue Book investigators) but as events stand, in my view the Loch Raven object must surely remain unidentified. 


Back to the future, forwards to the past

The following three articles appeared in Merseyside UFO Bulletin, Volume 6, Number 2, November-December 1969.


Two recent articles in the literature (1,2) have brought to the fore a conflict which seems to have reared its head from time to time ever since the beginning of serious UFO investigation over twenty years ago.

I refer to the confrontation between what might be described as the scientific and non-scientific schools of thought respectively, although this method of grouping is too stark to be completely satisfactory. Another pair of classes would be the objective and the subjective, though by and large the line of demarcation would fall in the same place in each case.

In order to put the matter in some sort of perspective it is of importance to ask the questions: “Why do people become interested in the subject of unidentified flying objects?” and: “What sorts of people become interested in this subject?”

The answer to the second question is supplied in large measure by the answer to the first and both replies have much in common with the answers to similar questions posed in connection with other interesting subjects of general public concern such, for example, as astronomy and extra-sensory perception, to mention but two which arouse wide interest.

First of all it is obvious that such things appeal to many people with active, enquiring minds, both those who have been educated in some scientific discipline and those who have had no such upbringing.

Secondly, there is the appeal of the unusual, the macabre and the unknown.

Third is what may be described as the mystical and quasi-religious connotation in an era of difficult problems with which many people feel themselves either incapable of grappling, or out of tune with the adopted solutions.

Fourth is the declining role of the amateur in many important and attractive disciplines, which leads to a desire to escape the continually expanding zone where professionals hog the limelight and resist the participation in their lore of other members of the community.
Fifth is what may be called the “crank appeal”.

Sixth is the general intellectual interest of a fresh topic which comes at a time when society seems to be increasingly orientated towards the reward of manual pursuits. This last may tend to explain the disproportionately large membership of the disillusioned “middle class” in the ranks of the UFO faithful.

From the preceding analysis it is not hard to see why ufologists approach the subject from divers viewpoints and why many interpretations border on the mystic and occult. It is always tempting to eschew the rigorous demands of objectivity by invoking the supernatural when the going becomes a little rough.

In addition it is hardly surprising that there should be a reaction against objectivity when so many years of unremitting toil have produced so meagre a harvest of concrete results. Nevertheless the swing to the subjective can be overemphasised, for irrationality has always been a marked feature of the UFO scene, greatly to the detriment of the subject and the displeasure of its more sensible devotees.

The plethora of highly imaginative contact cases and tales of romantic rides in sophisticated spaceships makes it extremely difficult to separate fiction from fact and has necessitated the psychological investigation of observers of UFO phenomena themselves in an attempt to weed out the spurious from the real. The great snag about this, of course, is that the remaining reports may be poor in quality or may be explained in terms of reasonably well-understood causes, of natural or man-made origin. One interesting thing about a rigorous investigation of UFO sightings is the insight which it gives into the evaluation of peculiar events in the past history of mankind. Human beings seem to be sadly prone to wishful thinking and the fecund production of miraculous events. Such things are all very well when everyone understands the rules and conventions of the game, but have obvious drawbacks when people begin to accept them at their face value.

This is why persons like myself look somewhat wryly at the wild orgies of sightings associated with Salisbury Plain. Skywatches there are great fun and one meets some very pleasant individuals in piquant surroundings. The mind is stimulated, yet relaxed, and visits are a welcome diversion from everyday activities. On the other hand, the alleged sightings and reports now emanating from this locality should be treated with an amiable reserve.

There is in the area a certain undercurrent of mystical and supernatural belief which is a good deal less edifying than anything connected with UFO investigation there, and it is against the infiltration of similar ideas into our subject that responsible ufologists must be on their guard. Unfortunately there are, among the ranks of the faithful, some notorious advocates of mysticism and anti-science.

Hence the emphasis must be placed firmly on strictly objective reporting and evaluation even at the risk of offending the purveyors of subjectivist nonsense.

The psychological investigations now in vogue may be of interest and value, but in the UFO context they are only a tool to separate the real from the spurious, the important from the irrelevant. If, in the process of separation, the evidence for extraterrestrial visitation disappears, that will be the end as far as this commentator is concerned, for he views the subterranean and parallel universe notions as completely unrealistic. Nor is he much impressed by the “folklore and fairies” approach. Interesting as such things may be in their own right their proper context would seem to be history, pre-history and social anthropology, rather than UFO investigation.

In summary, then, the way forward is clear. Mysticism must be eschewed. Objectivity must be the watchword. Scientific evaluation must be the goal. The extraterrestrial hypothesis must be staunchly adhered to as the fundamental precept. Otherwise we must be resigned to the investigation of natural and man-made phenomena and should realign our thinking accordingly. A not impossible eventuality, it is only fair to remark.

1. Rimmer, John. “The UFO as an Anti-scientific Symbol”, Merseyside UFO Bulletin, Vol. 2, No. 4
2. Michel, Aime. “In Defence of the ETH”, Flying Saucer Review, Vol. 15, No. 6


THE 1970s – A PROGNOSTICATION. John Rimmer

Ufology is a field that is over-endowed with prophets. Every year since the concept of the UFO was evolved has been heralded as the year the Great Revelation was going to take place, according to one writer or another. In the sixties we had been promised the End of the World several times, a number of varieties of World War III, the End of Civilisation-As-We-Know-It, the Second Coming, and Mass Landings in Central Park, New York. Latest despatches from AP, UPI, and the New China News Agency reveal that few if any of these events have taken place. It is therefore with courage verging on foolhardiness that I step out onto the thin ice of prophecy.

I can reveal that the Great Revelation will not take place in the seventies. (Remember, you read it here first!) Whether this is because it is a long time a-coming, or just because there is no Great Revelation, it is not my job at this time to speculate. One great revelation will be made by the United States (or British, Russian, or Panamanian) Government, who will deny that they have ever been interested in UFOs, that there are no UFOs, that the whole thing is total foolishness, and to prove they are not interested they have commissioned the University of Nantucket to dismiss the whole matter for a little under half-a-million dollars. In contrast, deep-digging newshounds will reveal that the Buenos Aires municipal police department is holding three UFOs captive in a disused tram depot. In America, men in black reports and strange telephone calls will become so commonplace that that the telephone companies will start Dial-an-Alien services for ufologists feeling left out of things. In England, Warminster will rival Stratford-upon-Avon as a tourist attraction, and the local papers will carry irate letters about tea and Wimpey stalls on Cradle Hill. Small news items on page three of the Daily Telegraph will give tantalising snippets of information about large numbers of two-headed dwarfs who ran about the streets of Caracas for three days, without inviting any commotion. Nothing more will be heard about this. Continuing its well-established tradition the Merseyside UFO Bulletin will not actually publish any reports about UFOs on Merseyside.

Is the coming decade then, humour apart, going to be nothing more than a slightly more spectacular repeat of the sixties? Certainly it will be in part. The pot-boilers and tedious re-hashers will turn out numerous volumes of paperback trivia. One can certainly expect the usual amount of bureaucratic double-talk from public agencies; and it is improbable that the public attitude of amused scepticism will undergo any major change. However, projecting into the seventies a number of already perceptible trends a rather more hopeful aspect seems to present itself.

This Bulletin, along with a number of others, has been advocating a more open, liberal attitude towards ufology; and suggesting that the interplanetary hypothesis is only one possible explanation among others. It would now appear that such an approach to the problem is gathering strength. In the seventies this trend will continue, possibly producing much new information that will be valuable not only to ufologists, but to students of the mind, folklore, and other disciplines not perhaps immediately apparent. In the seventies a lot of extremely interesting articles are going to appear in the pages of UFO magazines. However, alongside this new, liberal approach, there is already emerging a backlash, comparable to the right-wing reaction in contemporary political thought. Two articles in a recent Flying Saucer Review take critics of the interplanetary hypothesis to task. The seventies may see a gulf opening between the “liberal” and “right” wings of the subject. One would hope that such a division will not result in cheap, personal attacks. Sadly, it seems inevitable that it would. The gulf may grow so wide that the subject of “ufology” will split completely, the “right wingers” keeping to the name and spirit of Unidentified Flying Objects, the “liberals” going off to a far wider interpretation and devising some totally new name in the process. 1979 may well see a complete breaking off of diplomatic relations between the two wings. It is temptingly easy to see a division like this in terms of “crackpots” and “rationalists”, putting your own interpretation on who’s who. I do not think that it will be so simple. There will be crackpots and cranks, and sensible, rational people on both sides. The two groups would be studying different problems from different aspects, and there will be a wide range of opinion, informed or not, on both sides. What basically will have happened will be that the phoney unifying force of lights in the sky will have been removed from a wide range of interlinked phenomena. Some of the lights in the sky may indeed be interplanetary craft. If so, improvement and sophistication of present systems and techniques will probably lead to the isolation and identification of this particular problem. Although not, I think, in the seventies.

A trend of the later years of the sixties that one may confidently predict will continue through the seventies is the growing number of qualified scientists who are finding in the UFO problem many features relevant to their own fields of study. In this connection I may instance Dr Schwarz who is investigating a number of physiological and medical effects of UFO incidents. Most importantly, Dr Schwarz is reporting his findings in medical journals rather than ufological publications. he is not attempting an explanation of the UFO. Rather he is taking it as a subject that provides an opportunity for some relevant study in his particular science. It is this particular kind of scientific involvement, the study of one particular aspect of the phenomenon in comparative isolation, that will grow in the seventies. As a result of this the role of the amateur ufologist will change. At present he does the lot – gathers the material, investigates, analyses, collates, speculates, concludes as he can. In the future many of the more technical and scientific functions may be taken over by the professional. The amateur’s new function could be to take the overall view, and try to discern the interconnections between the individual studies of the scientists, and to offer speculation that the professional scientist would not wish to do.

I do not think that the present network of UFO groups, clubs, societies and drinking partners can survive any radical change in the nature of ufology. Although I only have knowledge of the British ufological set-up, I suspect these comments will apply to any other country with an organised UFO study system. Although it is often talked about I cannot foresee any far-reaching moves towards a strongly centred UFO organisation, although many of the smaller groups will go to the wall in the quite near future. Nor can I see an end to the internecine warfare that exists within and between British UFO groups. As the decade progresses the type of scientific involvement that I have presaged above will render the amateur group increasingly irrelevant. 1979 may see the demise of the all-in BUFORA-type organisation, and the small local group, with its Constitution, Executive Committee, and the rest of the paraphernalia beloved of the organisation Man. Instead I would anticipate a growth in the quality and reputation of the best UFO journals. They would take over the function of the groups, by providing a forum for the interchange of information, ideas and speculation. By 1979 a journal such as Flying Saucer Review might have evolved into an even more considerable periodical, known, respected and contributed to by a wide scientific community, not just ufologists. But even without any very radical change in the present attitude towards UFO study, I consider it unlikely that the present ramshackle organisation of UFO groups is capable of surviving the seventies in any relevant form.

Will there be any change in the UFO phenomenon itself in the seventies? This, of course, is the joker in the pack. Conceivably something could happen (not even ruling out mass landings in Central Park, New York) that would render all our study and speculation redundant at one fell swoop. Such changes as have occurred in the past have been mainly in our attitude towards the problem. Despite this it is possible to see some objective changes in the source material of our study. For instance, the growth of the Man in Black aspect does appear to be an actual statistical growth, as well as the apparent growth that is the result of the increased interest that is being brought to bear on this subject. John Keel predicts that the UFO phenomenon will become increasingly earthbound. I can see no reason to contradict this. More new and unexpected elements will be introduced into, and emerge from, the whole UFO problem, rendering it not only more complex, but considerably more interesting.

I cannot see the answers coming in the seventies. I do not think they are what we should be looking for yet. We will not start getting any answers until we have found out a lot more questions.



There was a lull in UFO activity at the beginning of the decade and this coincided with a lull in my interest in the subject. My attention had first been drawn to the flying saucers in 1952, by the headlines about the great Washington flap. Later I had joined the Flying Saucer Club but, being a schoolboy at that time, my activities were restricted to corresponding with like-minded people and reading as much of the literature as possible. On one occasion I went to a meeting of the now defunct Wigan Flying Saucer Group. Members present at this memorable event were the Chairman, his wife, and the Hon. Treasurer. The highlight of the evening was the playing of a long tape recording of the Chairman, with a heavy cold, reading extracts from George Adamski’s books.

In 1965 I joined the Merseyside UFO Research Group, which had been founded by Alan Rawlinson in 1963.

It was at the MUFORG meetings that I first saw Alan Sharp. On one occasion he gave us a lecture during which he whittled away at the UFO evidence and arguments in a manner which seemed to out-Menzel Menzel. The members could barely restrain themselves from hissing at him, as at the villain in a Victorian melodrama.
During 1965 Alan Rawlinson produced a bulletin on behalf of the Group. At the end of that year I took it over and in February 1966, the first issue of the notorious MUFORG Bulletin descended on the doormats of ufologists throughout the land.

Reaction was generally favourable to the first few issues, although some readers seemed to form the impression that I was a teenager and wrote appropriately patronising letters. These people were disillusioned when they received patronising replies.

In our second issue Paul Hopkins wrote of his impressions of an International Get-Acquainted Programme lecture in Manchester. I published it with some misgivings. It contained such comments as: “The lights went out and the little screen was filled with by the figure of a grotesque humanoid. Is this what the space intelligences look like? Oh, sorry! It is Adamski out of focus.” Surprisingly, a number of readers wrote to say that they thought the article was very funny, so we pressed on with the provocative material and the sense of humour of some of them began to show signs of strain.

Some of our comments evoked angry letters from readers. The choicest of these, when read out at MUFORG meetings, reduced the members to shrieks of uncontrollable mirth.

In addition to these, the Bulletin brought us some very interesting and informative correspondents, notably Robert A. Stiff, of Oklahoma City, who wrote a large number of fascinating letters until the MIB “silenced” him.

Towards the end of 1966 we got even more controversial. In September I went to the BUFORA Northern Conference in Bradford and heard Mr Arthur Shuttlewood holding forth for two solid hours about the Warminster phenomena. My scathing review of this event, in the October 1966 issue of the Bulletin, brought two indignant letters in support of Shuttlewood for publication in the December issue.

However, in that December issue we really excelled ourselves. Alan Sharp wrote a lyrical piece, “Moonlight at Warminster”, which practically suggested that observers there were victims of their own overwrought imaginations. We also published reviews of the BUFORA Annual General Meeting, written by Dave Hughes and Paul Hopkins. Both reviews were highly critical, with plenty of sarcastic comments. I must admit, though, that Hopkins puzzled me at the time by complaining in his write-up that he had to pay 3 shillings for “temporary membership” in order to be admitted. I had also attended the meeting, but I just walked straight into the hall, assuming that the people clustered around the table were merely intent on buying the UFO books and magazines inevitably offered for sale at such events!

These reviews resulted in some “more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger” letters from BUFORA officials and a great shouting match at the January 1967 MUFORG meeting, which sought to establish whether or not the contents of the December issue were justified. The shouting died down after about half-an-hour and the result was generally agreed to be a draw.

In the February 1967 issue of the Bulletin Alan Sharp reviewed Leonard G. Cramp’s “anti-gravity” thesis, Piece for a Jig-Saw. This book cited the Charlton Crater and other, similar formations as physical evidence for the reality of UFOs. Mr Sharp pointed out in his review, as he had done on several previous occasions, that all the evidence indicated a lightning strike as the most likely cause of the crater. However, “physical evidence” for UFOs is hard to come by in this country and logical explanations for such as comes to light are, therefore, unpopular. Consequently, although the Charlton Crater has been discussed in the UFO literature a number of times since, no mention can be found of Mr Sharp’s prosaic explanation, merely a lot of inane waffle about a three-legged spaceship with a retractable spike sticking out underneath it.

In February 1967 MUFORG moved its meeting place from the Free Church Centre, Tarleton Street, in the centre of Liverpool, to rooms out in Dingle, which had been redecorated by members of the Group. As these rooms were for the exclusive use of the Group, the move should have had a stimulating effect but in reality it proved to be the beginning of the end. Dingle was too far from the city centre to be conveniently accessible to several members and, later, a prolonged bus strike caused a further drop in attendances.

Another worry of MUFORG officials from time to time was when the local press expressed an interest in the Group’s activities and asked permission to send reporters and photographers along to meetings in order to provide material for feature articles. A few of the members had some pretty crackpot notions buzzing around in the empty spaces inside their heads and the prospect of seeing their vapourings in print made the Committee wince. So it was decided to keep the press at arm’s length.
Meanwhile the Condon investigation was in progress. In the April 1967 issue I wrote in the editorial: “Anyone who expects an unequivocal statement that the UFOs are interplanetary is surely being a little naive, to say the least” and “…nobody should be surprised if they eventually issue a rather non-committal statement – probably urging further investigation.” As is now well known, Condon urged further investigations, in the case of any scientist having a specific idea to follow up. Also, if we actually read the report we will see that it is inconclusive, as predicted.

On 27 May 1967, Alan Sharp and I descended on Warminster. It was my first visit to that pleasant little town. We booked accommodation at the Farmer Giles Guest House and soon learned of the delights to come, as Ken Rogers and Nigel Stephenson were also staying there. (In those days, kiddies, Nigel Stephenson was the BUFORA Research Director.) The story of that weekend was told by Alan Sharp and me in an article entitled “Report on a Visit to Warminster” in the June 1967 issue of MUFORG Bulletin. Our assessment of the situation was somewhat sceptical, so we were delighted when it was reprinted in Flying Saucer Review “pour encourager les autres”. So far as we can gather, though, the others were not encouraged and the world’s leading UFO journal suffered a slight drop in circulation, which soon recovered when readers realised that they did not want to miss anything even more amazing than “The Most Amazing Case of All” (the Villas Boas story), which would very likely appear in the next issue after their subscriptions ran out.

Suddenly, the door was flung open and in rushed Ken Rogers, crying: “He’s had a physical contact! He’s had a physical contact!” “Oh, you naughty boy!” exclaimed the lady behind the bar, perhaps misunderstanding him

To return to Warminster. On the Sunday evening (28 May) a number of ufologists were drinking in the Bunch of Grapes. Suddenly, the door was flung open and in rushed Ken Rogers, crying: “He’s had a physical contact! He’s had a physical contact!”

“Oh, you naughty boy!” exclaimed the lady behind the bar, perhaps misunderstanding him.

We soon discovered that “he” was Arthur Shuttlewood and heard the story of how he had been visited by an “Aenstrian” man that very afternoon. And while this momentous event had been taking place we were only a few hundred yards away! (For Mr Shuttlewood’s account of this incident, see his book “Warnings from Flying Friends”.)

During the summer of 1967 a great UFO flap got under way. Most of the local sightings were rather vague, but there was a particularly interesting report from Hindley, Lancashire, where a large, glowing, cone-shaped object had been seen. I made a preliminary visit and gathered some extra details. Then later another trip was undertaken. When we finally got going, the members of the expedition included myself, Alan Sharp, Paul Hopkins and his girl friend (now his wife), his brother Nicholas, Dave Hughes and Ron Donnelly. We set out in a convoy of vehicles comprising a car, a bubble car, a van and a scooter. When we arrived at the site of the alleged UFO events we could unearth only one witness, who was interviewed by Alan Sharp and myself. We then joined the supernumerary members of the expedition on an adjacent slag heap, over which the UFO was said to have hovered. There we amused ourselves for some time by taking photographs of one another, digging for fossils and causing miniature landslides.

When this began to pall we set off for St Helens where we had a fish and chip supper, followed a little later by an agreeable couple of jars. We finally finished up conducting a sort of skywatch on a hilltop, where Paul Hopkins busily twiddled with a piece of sophisticated-looking, home-made electronic equipment, with impressive looking flashing lights on it. This gadget was for detecting meteors entering the Earth’s atmosphere, or something like that. A good time – to quote the old cliche – was had by one and all.

In November 1967 MUFORG were hosts to the BUFORA Northern Conference. It was not an unqualified success. During the morning a blood donor session was taking place on the same premises, causing hilarious confusion to blood donors and ufologists. A television team was also in attendance, seeking out suitably zany people with which to film interviews.

The main speakers were Charles Bowen and Anthony Durham, who both gave interesting and informative lectures. The other lecture of the day was well summed up by Lionel Beer, in the December 1967 issue of Spacelink. He wrote: “After the tea interval, W. Skellan of D.I.G.A.P. talked about the mechanical implications of UFOs. Amongst his props was a tyreless bicycle wheel, which he revolved a few times. This produced a noticeable scraping of chairs, particularly amongst the Cambridge University Group.”
Lionel also wrote: “Although the conference was rated a success, one expected greater things in view of the high-handed criticism of the 1966 A.G.M., which appeared in MUFORG Bulletin.” Touche, as they say.

Eventually, I decided to resign from MUFORG and produce an independent UFO bulletin. Accordingly, the last issue of MUFORG Bulletin was published in October 1967. Alan Sharp agreed to be Science Editor of the new publication and the first issue of Merseyside UFO Bulletin appeared early in 1968. As a result, your editor was interviewed by a reporter from the Bebington News, who wrote a delightful feature, entitled “John, the Sceptical Saucer Spotter”. I also recorded an interview on BBC Radio Merseyside.
The new bulletin was successful, but the great flap of 1967 had died down and there was very little material of local interest available to us. Eventually John Rimmer joined us and provided much interesting and thought-provoking copy. Meanwhile, MUFORG had abandoned their premises in Dingle and returned to the Free Church Centre. We began to attend their meetings and found that they had a new treasurer, Elaine Wash, who found herself to be the only active female member of the Group. She finally resigned from the Group and joined our team because, as she said, the members spent the meetings discussing motor cars and obscure electrical gadgets, though UFOs were occasionally mentioned. The Merseyside UFO Research Group is now defunct.

The career of MUFOB to date has been very uneventful, except that we had the honour of having an article about the MIB reprinted in Flying Saucer Review. This did not produce any sinister visitations or bizarre telephone calls, but we were suitably awed when we received a letter from none other than John Keel himself!
For me, then, the sixties closed quietly, as they had begun. I hope the seventies will prove to be more eventful.