UFOs, Phantom Helicopters and Contemporary Panics.
Peter Rogerson and John Harney

In Merseyside UFO Bulletin, volume 6, number 2, August 1973, Peter Rogerson wrote:


A few weeks ago, in a collection of clippings on UFO events, loaned to me by Nigel Watson, I discovered a very revealing little news item from the Scunthorpe Evening Telegraph of May 2, 1972:


Illegal Immigrans Suspected.

Lincolnshire police were alerted to be on the look out for illegal immigrants during the early hours of this morning after an unidentified light aircraft was believed to have landed somewhere between Laceby and Barnoldby-Le-Beck. The aircraft was picked up on the radar screen at RAF Waddington shortly before midnight last night. A few minutes later it went off the radar screen between Barnoldby and Laceby. The police were notified and a number of patrol cars diverted to the area to search for the mystery plane. Within 25 minutes every farm and possible landing strip in the area had been checked, but-police drew a blank. A spokesman said: “If an aircraft were to land, it would need at least a reasonably flat meadow and landing lights, but so far we have found nothing.”

Checking stations

Today the police and RAF experts are studying a report on last night’s sighting, and are checking at other radar stations along the coast to see if they picked up any light aircraft activity in the Humber during the night. The police spokesman added: “If the plane did not actually land, but just went under Waddington’s radar screen, it must have been picked up in an adjoining areas. We are not letting this matter rest.”

It is clear that all that was picked up on the radar were some anomalous blips. There was no evoidence to suggest that these blips were produced by a light aircraft, and certainly no reason to suppose that they were proof that illegal immigrants were being smuggled into the country.

What is very striking is the way in which explanations of random anomalies undergo fashions. A few years ago such an echo would have been eagerly interpreted as an extraterrestrial spaceships now it is illegal immigrants. Neither explanation could possibly be justified on the evidence available.

One of the most terrifying things that people can be confronted with is the randoms disturbing event. Faced with one or many such events, there is a general tendency among people to try to fit them into a convenient pattern. Any pattern, however irrational and capricious is better than no pattern at all. Therefore there is a great impetus to see ‘meanings’ behind world events, to hold, for example, that disturbing social change is generated by malevolent conspiracies or to see portents and archetypes in random lights in the sky.

In his book Folk Devils and Moral Panics the sociologist Stanley Cohen discusses the sort of ‘frame of reference’ by which random events are ‘patternised’. The example he chooses is that of the Mods and Rockers panic of 1964, and he points out that a number of quite unrelated events were incorporated into the Mods and Rockers mythology. For example a perfectly ‘ordinary’ climbing accident was headlined in one paper ‘Death of a Mod’. It was also very difficult for people to accept that the outbreaks were examples of random, spontaneous violence. This led to the development of fantastic rumours to the effect that teenage disturbances were being planned at some secret headquarters, or were being fomented by Russian secret agents.

Similar situations develop in the so-called flap areas, where all sorts of minor, random events which under normal conditions would not be noticed, are interpreted as part of the dominant ‘frame of reference’ which in this case is the UFO phenomenon. Within one flap in the North West of England, investigated by a UFO researcher with whom I am acquainted, a variety of random events, such as the disappearance of a dog, were seen as part of the UFO ‘happenings’. In extreme examples such as Warminster, almost any kind of odd random event is seen in terms of the ‘Thing’, and added to the chronicle of the myth.

However the UFO frame of reference is a relatively weak one, still, in popular consciousness, and is easily replaced by other and more immediate threats. The fear of illegal immigrants is clearly a more powerful ‘folk devil’ than any little green man from Mars, and as such his machinations can be seen behind a variety of phenomena often regarded as ufological. For example, some time last year a motorist reported that he had seen, at night, a helicopter land, a car drive up, and several illegal immigrants get out and enter the car. He claimed he could clearly see that the driver of the car was a Pakistani. Unfortunately, he could not possibly have seen the scene in the amount of detail he gave, at that time of night. Indeed the whole story possessed just that air of ‘mystery’ many UFO stories have.

Later, in MUFOB volume 6, number 4, John Harney reported on a new outbreak of phantom aircraft:


Reports in national and local newspapers about a mysterious helicopter making night flights around parts of North West England seen to have been sparked off by incidents involving Cheshire and Derbyshire police in the early hours of Monday 14 January. Cheshire police had a report of a helicopter and were said to have “kept it under observation for some time”. Derbyshire police were informed when the mysterious machine was thought to be heading their way. They are said to have sighted it in the Cat and Fiddle area around dawn.

During the week following 14 January numerous similar reports were published in the press. The phenomena seemed to be centred around the village of Goostrey, Cheshire (near Jodrell Bank). By 22 January, however, the national newspapers had dropped the subject.In spite of police spokesmen and others insisting that the helicopter was real, and reports that the sightings were being investigated at a high level by the Special Branch, it was obvious quite early on that there was no real helicopter behind most of the reports, as they bore all the characteristics of a typical UFO flap.

An obvious clue to the imaginary nature of the helicopter was the vague and inconsistent nature of the published reports. It was said for instances that the machine was seen only at night, yet reports insisted that the helicopter carried no identification markings. Fantastic theories were put forward to suggest reasons for an unidentified, night-flying helicopter.

The Daily Telegraph of 16 January reporteds

“Yesterday more theories flourished about the phantom helicopter. It has already been linked with sheep rustlings smuggling, illegal immigrants and IRA gun and bomb squads. Now it is thought that it might be a ‘home-made helicopter’ which the owner, unable to obtain an air worthiness certificates is flying, and dangerously so – at night or, it is suggested it might be a modern – and wealthy – lover who finds it the most convenient way to reach his mistress or girlfriend”.

However, an item in the Daily Mail on 21 January reported the increasing doubts by senior police officers as to the helicopter’s reality. It also reports “Professor John Cohen, head of the psychology department at Manchester University, said that the first reports of the phantom may have started a rash of them, It is contagious, he said. ‘Plant an idea and you get a kind of visual epidemic’”.

Newspapers on 19 January, reported a further developments motorists on the A51 near Duddon, Tarporley, Cheshire witnessed the landing of an ‘unmarked’ helicopter just before 5 p.m, on 18 January. Nearby was a farmhouse with a white Ford Escort parked in the driveway. As the helicopter took off the car drove out of the driveway. Unlike many of the other reports this one turned out to be a sighting of a real helicopter. The Manchester Evening News (19 January) reported that the machine belonged to the Ferranti company and had landed near Tarporley on a journey north from London, to drop off a passenger.Some time after the flap had died down, there were reports of helicopters seen or heard flying at night in the Merseyside area. These reports were confirmed when they were identified as military helicopters, engaged on various activities. Apparently military helicopters do quite a bit of night-flying, in contrast with civil helicopters, which rarely do so.

To sum up, a fairly typical UFO flap, with a few real helicopters thrown in to confuse matters still further.


Arthur Shuttlewood’s “Warnings from Flying Friends”
A Book Review by John Harney

Warnings from Flying Friends Arthur Shuttlewood, Portway Press, Warminster, 1968

A review by John Harney

“UFOs not Bourgeois Journalist Fabrications”, “Young Drug-Takers Groped and Grovelled”, “Earth Time is Desperately Short – Warning”, “Anatomy of a Holocaust — and Dying Fishes”

These are some of the exciting chapter headings in the second UFO book to come from the inimitable pen of Mr Arthur Shuttlewood. The book contains photographs of UFOs and poems by Pauline Roberts and Veronica Cadby. The author writes in his foreword: “We hope you will like the poetry and not consider it totally irrelevant.”

I suppose that this work falls into the category which the more esoteric ufologists call “New-Age” literature. Much of the book is devoted to recording the views of various people who have communicated with Mr Shuttlewood since he became wellknown for his investigations of the Warminster “Thing,” It seems that most of these people are sincerely convinced that the world as we  know it is likely to come to an end in the near future and this event will be followed by the dawning of a new “Golden Age” of spiritual enlightenment and enhanced awareness of man’s relatiozzshib with the universe.

This is the general sort of idea behind most of the messages quoted but they are, inevitably, heavily embroidered with pseudo-scientific speculations, apocalyptic visions and vague verbiage.

shuttlewoodAlthough most of the visionaries appear to be basically sincere, it is obvious that some of them, apparently lacking a sense of humour, fall easy victims to the leg-pullers. One of these elaborate jokes is quoted in detail and Mr Shuttlewood gently indicates, to the perceptive reader, that he appreciates the jest — I think. I must point out here that we will probably get letters from his more obtuse readers earnestly requesting further details. It seems that Mr Shuttlewood was approached by “a charming Norfolk man with honest blue eyes, humble approach, disarming candour and integrity, sparking his personality.”

This gentleman reported that a philological expert to whom he sent a tape of the Venusian language and a sample of Venusian script went into raptures over them.

The philological expert came to some hilarious conclusions such as: “Sound production is diphasic: this means that the two lungs are accurately out of phase with one another, thus enabling the creature to speak for a long time without taking breath … The script: this is quite uncharacteristic of anything found on earth except possibly the Sacred Boggah Script of the Abluti Indians of Paraguay,..” and “From an application of Reinmann Phoneme analysis techniques — first stage, naturally — it can be concluded with fair certainty that the creatures in question possess a large hand, possibly with all thumbs…” I feel sure that many of us know beings who have these characteristics and whose terrestrial origin is not in doubt.

I was agog to read Mr Shuttlewood’ s version of the memorable events of May 27th and 28th, 1967 at Warminster, in view of the fact that Alan Sharp and I were there at the time and had published our version of that weekend (Report on a Visit to Warminster, by John Harney and Alan W. Sharp, Flying Saucer Review Vol.3, No.5}. Disappointingly, he only mentions in passing the controversial skywatch of the night of May 27th-28th, whein we saw lightning and he saw the ‘Thing’. He goes into considerable detail, though, about the visit of the ‘Aenstrian’ to his home on the afternoon of May 28th. He was in a bad mood just before: the Aenstrian’s visit and this was due to lack of sleep and the fact that: “With Bob and Sybil, I shared weariness of libellous comment over the integrity of our team and Warminster witnesses that had gained unmerited headlines in ill-informed magazines published by a certain group of ‘armchair’ ufologists begrudging our experience.”

The magazine referred to is possibly MUFORG Bulletin, of which I was editor, in which we had published a rather critical review of Mr Shuttlewood’s lecture on the Warminster phenomena delivered at the 1966 BUFORA Northern Conference in Bradford. We learned indirectly, that Mr Shuttlewood was very annoyed about the article in question, even though the Bulletin had only a very small circulation.

From the depths of my armchair I recommend this book to all connoisseurs of the Warminster phenomena.


Note: click on the title at the head of this article to order a copy from Amazon.

UFO Crash Retrievals – A Developing Myth
John Harney

From Magonia 58, January 1997

What lies at the core of the growing number of UFO crash retrieval stories? John Harney checks out three widely reported cases to see if there is substance behind the stories

Ufology as a separate field of study depends on the hypothesis that some UFO reports are genuine descriptions or instrumental records of objects or phenomena unknown to modern science, It is generally agreed that the vast majority of UFO reports are wrongly interpreted sightings of objects such as aircraft or meteors, for many of the stranger reports, convincing psychological explanations are available. 

Many ufologists have always been convinced that a small percentage of UFO reports are sightings of craft from other planets. It is not acceptable to them to say that because most reports can be attributed to more mundane causes, then the remainder can also be, given sufficient information. 

Such ufologists hove a desperate craving for unequivocal physical evidence which would prove their case. Some of these people are keen on science and technology. They have little time for myths, unless they can be given rational, literal interpretations. They also have little taste for UFO abduction stories. They see the purpose of ufology as the general acknowledgement of the reality of alien spacecraft surveying our planet. They are not interested in giving psychotherapy to people who apparently believe that they are constantly being abducted from their bedrooms through solid walls into enormous glowing craft which are unaccountably invisible to their neighbours. Such things are the stuff of dreams and delusions; their space people may have advanced technology but they are not to be granted any magical powers such as those possessed by the characters in fantasy novels. 

Stories of crashed saucers which leave wreckage and occupants, dead or alive, have been around for a long time, in various forms. The American 1897 airship wave is a familiar example. The problem is that all these stories lack credibility, and investigations have revealed that, while some witnesses were undoubtedly sincere but mistaken, most of the stories were simply crude hoaxes.

Then came Roswell. As the story developed it was quickly seen as a boon to the nuts-and-bolts ufologists, tired of vague lights in the sky and accounts of life on other worlds received by telepathy or other occult means. A physical object had crashed, its substance was not of this world, and it did not dissolve into nothingness when picked up. Therefore it must still exist, hidden away on some US Air Force base. The final proof. 

This makes it seem simple. Just exert enough political pressure and the sensational truth will eventually be revealed. However, it is not so simple. 

Although the Roswell case is undoubtedly based on a real incident involving the recovery of the wreckage of something from a ranch near Corona, New Mexico in July 1947, it received only brief, if widespread, publicity at the time. After the bizarre press release about a flying disc being recovered caused a worldwide sensation, the cover story designed to damp things down – that it was, after all, only a weather balloon with a radar target attached – was generally accepted (at least by those whose opinions on such things mattered) and the story died. It was mentioned by Frank Edwards in his book flying Saucers – Serious Business (1), but it was apparently not publicly discussed again until the late 1970s, when Jesse A. Marcel, who had been the intelligence officer at the 509th Bomb Group at Roswell in 1947, decided to publicise his version of the affair. 

This resulted in a reawakening of interest and investigations by ufologists gradually became more intensive and better organised. Eventually a very detailed story emerged and was published in various books, articles, reports and television documentaries. 

This publicity stimulated many ufologists to probe old cases which seemed somewhat similar, but had not been taken very seriously. This process unearthed details which had not appeared in the original reports, such as the alleged recovery of the bodies of aliens, as well as wreckage. Many other, often trivial, details emerged and I hope to demonstrate that crash retrieval stories, as they are now discussed, tend to fall into a pattern, which takes the Roswell accounts as a model.From the Roswell story we can extract a number of motifs, many of which are not essential to the story, but can be seen to be repeated in accounts of other incidents. It is interesting to note that other crash retrieval stories are compared with Roswell; so far as many ufologists are concerned this is the standard by which they are assessed. 

Crash retrieval stories, as I have said, are remarkable for the absence of accounts of paranormal or visionary experiences which are involved in so many UFO reports, But do they form coherent or consistent narratives with their own internal logic? Do they, when closely scrutinised, make any kind of sense? I don’t think so. 

Let us look at two other cases as well as Roswell and we shall see that it would be quite crazy to interpret them as evidence of alien visitors crashing their saucers but perfectly reasonable to see them as part of a developing myth within the framework of UFO reports, beliefs and criticism by sceptics. 

Although the Roswell object was almost certainly not a weather balloon, and there are serious doubts about the recent suggestion that it may have been a much larger balloon carrying equipment designed to monitor, distant atomic explosions (Project Mogul), it could have been some other secret military device. There wasn’t much more to the story until rumours of aliens, dead or alive, being recovered from another crash site began to emerge. According to some reports it was only a few miles away, but the most detailed accounts gave it as being on the Plains of San Augustin, more than 150 miles away. However, some pretty compelling evidence has been presented that this story is untrue. (2)Various accounts of the recovery of the aliens allege that those still alive offered no resistance to capture, being unarmed and quite helpless, but they were cruelly treated by the military. This is a theme which recurs in other crash retrieval stories. 

According to the Roswell reports, a considerable amount of time elapsed before the aliens were captured. This raises an obvious problem of internal logic if we choose to believe such stories. We are apparently supposed to believe that the organisers of such missions to Earth send craft into our atmosphere which use some advanced means of propulsion, but are somewhat less mechanically reliable than our airliners. The aliens, being somewhat backward in the technology of automation, remote control and remote sensing, have to pilot the craft themselves. If they crash, there are no back-up craft to rescue them; they simply have to wait for the inevitable arrival of the military and shipment to some secret base where their bodies are dissected or, if still alive, they are incarcerated indefinitely.

It can be argued that there is much confusion and uncertainty about Roswell because the events happened so long ago. More recent reports should provide a clearer picture. But do they? Take the incident in North Wales in January 1974, for example. At 8.34 in the evening of 23 January a violent explosion was heard in the area of Bala and Llandrillo, followed by an earth tremor which was was strong enough to be recorded at Edinburgh University. Witnesses reported seeing lights around a nearby mountain. It was at first thought that an aircraft had crashed on the mountain, but the Royal Air Force (RAF), which sent a team to search the mountain, later said that there had been no crash and they had been looking for debris from a meteor fall. (3) However, it was said that the area around the mountain was sealed off for several days and that even the police were not allowed there. The media failed to follow up the story and when Jenny Randles attempted to investigate it she found the local people unwilling to discuss it. (4) 

At this point the story, whilst intriguing and rather puzzling (why would the RAF want to go looking for meteorites?) was hardly a crash retrieval case. Like Roswell, the story died when the media accepted official explanations. 

Almost 20 years later, ufologist Margaret Fry moved to North Wales and began to unearth a number of witnesses, one of them being a nurse who said that she hod driven to the mountain with her two daughters on that night because she thought that an aircraft had crashed. She claimed to have seen a large, circular object, glowing orange, on the ground, but no evidence of bodies or wreckage. She also claimed that she was stopped by police and military personnel, who ordered her to leave the area. (5) 

Perhaps it should be mentioned that Margaret Fry has been interested in UFOs for many years and has made ‘countless sightings’. Perhaps it should also be mentioned, as it has been by Jenny Randles, that the brilliant meteor seen crossing North Wales on the night in question was timed at 9.58, more than an hour after the explosion. (7) 

Confused? So am I. But there’s more. Tony Dodd (one of Britain’s most active UFO investigators) hasrecently published on article covering much the same ground as covered by Jenny Randles. (8) But he goes on to reveal that a witness, described as a retired Army officer, has come forward to claim that alien bodies were retrieved from the scene. This man claimed that he was ordered to drive to Llandderfel (near the area in question), with four other soldiers, where they loaded ‘two large oblong boxes’ into their vehicle and were ordered to take them directly to the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment at Porton Down, Wiltshire. When they got there, the boxes were opened in their presence to reveal the bodies of alien beings. Other soldiers had also transported aliens to Porton Down, but these were alive. 

The ex-soldier claimed to have arrived in North Wales on 20 January 1974 and the bodies were delivered to Porton Down some time the next day. But, wait a minute. Dodd gives us the time of the explosion – 8.39 p.m. – as well as the year and the month, but for some reason he omits the date. I wonder why? Perhaps it is because of the difficulty of resolving the paradox of the aliens arriving at Porton Down on 21 January, two days before their saucer crashed on 23 January. 

Anyway, we have no reason to believe this ridiculous tale. For instance, if soldiers were delivering some secret cargo and it was not considered necessary or desirable to tell them what it was while they were transporting it, is it even conceivable that it would be revealed to them when they had safely delivered it and their task was completed? Of course not. It is a pack of lies, but it is an important part of the crash retrieval myth: crashed saucers usually have aliens in them.Another point. As one of the principal witnesses claimed to have seen an apparently undamaged saucer on the ground and others have claimed to have seen one take off, there must have been at least two involved. There must also be wreckage and I eagerly await the inevitable yarns about the people who picked up chunks of it only to have it confiscated by military authorities just as they were about to have it analysed. It is inevitable – well, almost inevitable – because it is one of the more important motifs of the developing myth. 


The Varginha 'alien' as depicted on the cover of the Brazilian magazine 'UFO. The caption reads 'Alien captured alive in Minas Gerais'

It is all very unsatisfactory. If only we had a crash retrieval which took place recently in a place where there were lots of people around to see what occurred. Then the Truth would surely be revealed. How about a suburb of a large town? Well, it’s actually happened, that is if you can believe the reports. In Brazil, arguably the most saucer-infested country on earth. 


On 20 January 1996, at about 3.30 p.m. three girls walking home through Jardim Andere, a suburb of Varginha (9) saw a strange creature, humanoid in appearance, with brown skin. It was about 1.6 metres tall, had three humps on its head and large bright red eyes. It was naked and apparently had no genitals, nipples or navel. The girls were terrified and ran to the home of two of them, where they told their mother. The story spread rapidly and when ufologists Vitorio Pacaccini and Ubirajara Franca Rodrigues began to investigate they found that witnesses spoke of there being at least two aliens, both of which were captured by the local fire service, the army, or both together. These beings were allegedly taken to a local hospital, but did not survive and their bodies were later moved elsewhere. 

During the previous night there had been a sighting of a submarine-shaped UFO, about the size of a small bus, flying at about 5 metres above the ground and emitting smoke or vapour, at a farm about 10 km from Jardim Andere. The witnesses had been alerted by noises from the farm animals. 

The first detailed account of the case which I saw was an article by Graham Birdsall, based on information he had received when he went to a UFO conference in Curitiba, Brazil in June and met Pacaccini and Rodrigues. (10) I have also read many reports and comments which have been published on the Internet. (11) With so many witnesses and such intensive investigation by experienced ufologists one would have expected a coherent story to have emerged by now, nearly a year after the events. 

The reports are a confusing mixture of eyewitness testimony, rumour and speculation. The army, police, fire service and hospital authorities allegedly involved in the capture and removal of the aliens deny everything. 

It is said that one of the bodies was taken to the University of Campinas, where an autopsy was carried out by Dr Fortunate Badan Palhares (who is apparently famous for having carried out the autopsy on the Nazi, Mengele). Dr Palhares denies this, of course. According to another report eight aliens were captured. One was dead, two were injured and one later died, and five were uninjured. Another report alleges that the six living aliens were flown from Campinas Airport in a Brazilian air force plane to Sao Paulo, There they were ‘marched aboard’ (!) a US Air Force transport plane and flown to Albrook Air Force Base in Panama. 

The Brazilian ufologists insist that the confusion is caused by a great international cover-up operation but that in the case of Varginha they arrived on the scene too quickly for it to be fully effective as it usually is. Authorities involved are ordered to deny that anything unusual hashappened, and witnesses are silenced by threats or bribes. 

For those who want to believe in crash retrievals there are a number of serious logical problems. The most important one is this; if there are only a handful of cases, this would seem highly unlikely to most people, but not impossible. However, if it is thought that UFO crashes are by no means rare, then it would be impossible to conceal the truth for very long. It is also hard to imagine aliens flying around in such unreliable craft. Or do they crash them deliberately? 

One way of getting around this problem is to say or imply that there are very few UFO crashes, This is the approach taken by Kevin D. Randle, who devotes a book to listing UFO crash reports, labelling all but a few of them as hoaxes. (12) The alternative is to say that governments are in collusion with the aliens, and that the aliens are operating in such a way as to enable them to continue concealing the truth from the public. However, this does not deal with the problem of the crashes. 

All this does not mean that UFO crash retrieval reports are based on nothing at all. Normally there is some unusual event which somehow sets in motion a process of rumour and speculation. The crashed UFO myth has by now received so much publicity that it is readily available to provide a framework for the elaboration of such reports. Pathological liars and publicity seekers are always available to provide further amazing information. The myth can be broken down into motifs, which can then be modified and reassembled to provide the details of different crash retrieval stories. I here present a tentative list of the usual motifs, in the hope that others will develop it more fully, so that we end up with a model for a typical crash retrieval and thus know what to look for in future reports. 

The crash retrieval report usually seems to develop from some central event, to which the above motifs are added as investigation and discussion get under way. In the Roswell Case this was the finding of wreckage on his ranch by Mac Brazel. In the North Wales case it was the sound of a violent explosion, followed by an earth tremor. In the Varginha case, it was the sighting of something which they took to be ‘the devil’ which frightened three girls walking home through a suburban street. It is quite likely that there is no connection between these three cases, but the myth took over and the stories were built up from the motifs by a pick-and-mix process. 

All of this is not to decry the hard work put into investigations by many ufologists. It is not their investigations that are at fault but their absurd theory of clapped-out saucers full of helpless aliens.



  • The precursor; e.g. something seen in the sky, an explosion heard, or mysterious object tracked by radar
  • Crashed UFO; almost always in a remote placeAliens, dead or alive, in or near crashed UFO
  • Arrival of military
  • Civilians expelled from crash area
  • Aliens cruelly treated by military
  • Aliens helpless and unarmed, and apparently not very intelligent
  • Military personnel sworn to secrecy
  • Civilian witnesses threatened or bribed to keep silent
  • Authorities give unconvincing cover story to media
  • Authorities remove all wreckage from crash site, usually on a flat truck covered with a tarpaulin
  • Witnesses pick up bits of wreckage but authorities always recover all of it from them
  • US Air Force nearly always get involved, sometimes allegedly by putting pressure on government of country where crash occurs
  • Long after event, persons contact ufologists to claim they were involved in recovery operation
  • Such persons claim to have seen alien bodies or worked on UFO wreckage.
  • Official photographs, films or videos of aliens which are never made available or are obvious fakes 





  1. Edwards, Frank. Flying Saucers – Serious Business, New York, Bantam Books, 1966.
  2. A good summary of this story and the reasons for disbelieving it are given in: Randles, Kevin D. History of UFO Crashes, New York, Avon Books, 1995, p.28-58
  3. Randles, Jenny. UFO Retrievals, London, Blandford, 1995, p. 112-121
  4. A high proportion of the people in that area speak Welsh. I believe that a Welsh-speaking investigator would have been able to obtain more information from them.
  5. Randles, op. cit.
  6. Randles, Jenny. ‘Britain’s Roswell?’, Sightings, 1,3, (1966), pp.10-15
  7. If any readers have any information as to the truth or accuracy of these timings, would they kindly let us know.
  8. Dodd, tony, ‘UFO Crash in North Wales?’, UFO Magazine, Sept/Oct 1996, pp.34-37. (This is the British UFO Magazine, not to be confused with at least two others with the same title).
  9. Varginha is located at 210, 33″S, 450 25″W.
  10. Birdsall, Graham W. ‘Incident at Varginha’, UFO Magazine, op.cit. 8-13, 57-59, 66.
  11. I am grateful to Mark pilkington for obtaining these reports.
  12. Randle, Kevin D., op.cit.






In the most recent number of Northern UFO News (157, Autumn 1996), Jenny Randles returns to the subject of the 1974 Llandrillo incident. She considers the possibility that the original incident may have been caused by the crash of an RAF plane carrying a nuclear weapon, and the UFO connection was introduced as deliberate ‘disinformation’. ‘Disinformation’ is a popular recourse by ufologists when they find that their cherished cases are fasting apart in their hands. The idea that military authorities have deliberately used and promoted UFO rumours to discourage journalists has been put forward to explain aspects of the Roswell and Rendlesham cases which do not fit conveniently in the crashed spaceship theory. In both cases a supposed nuclear accident has been suggested as the root of the story.

When asked by US and German TV companies for her views on the `recovered bodies’ at Llandrillo, Randles replied “I told all of the TV companies… that I was not about to help the government cover up the truth about this incident by acting as a disinformation agent on their behalf.” — John Rimmer.



The “Silencers” in England.
John Harney

From MUFOB, volume 1, number 6, November-December 1968.

Since publishing an article concerning reports of UFO investigators and witnesses being “silenced” we have received only two reports of similar incidents in England.

Mr BA [name witheld by request) of Coventry, started a UFO information bureau in September, 1968, and closed it down a few months later because of strange experiences and incidents. The first disturbing thing that happened was trouble with his telephone when using it for UFO business. This began on the second day after opening his information bureau, When he tried to use the telephone  it either went dead, or he got the engaged signal. This happened about eight or nine times out of ten. Trouble occurred only on outgoing calls connected with UFOs.  The only really odd incoming call was from a man who  spoke “perfect text book English” and refused to give his name. He appeared to be very knowledgeable on the subject of UFOs and asked a number of searching questions. One odd question he asked was if a Coventry woman had been in touch with him to tell him that she had seen aliens working on a space-ship in a Coventry factory.

Another incident occurred during a visit to a house on UFO business, when the lights dimmed several times. Mr BA, a radio and television engineer, regards this as being very unusual and connects it with the other odd incidents.

The final straw came when he was working on the underside of his car one evening, He came out from under the car to get something when he suddenly noticed something looking like a person, except that its head was glowing red, like a neon light. As he watched the apparition the head changed to that of an old man, then walked away, but he was in no condition to follow it. Greatly concerned, he took this as a warning to cease his UFO investigations and he burned his notes on the subject that evening. Strangely enough he apparently cannot remember the date of this startling incident, but it seems it was a Sunday evening between late September and early November.

He is quoted in the Coventry Evening Telegraph as saying: “I want to publicly warn all teenage hobbyists that this is nothing to dabble in lightly.”

Meanwhile there has been trouble in the Slough Aerial  Phenomena Research Association. Several members have been visited by two men who asked questions about the group. They asked about skywatch activities, membership, finances and other members. On one of their visits they said they were from the ‘IMW’, whatever that may be. Apparently, their questionings and telephone calls were supposed to alarm members and one of the members, Mr S.G.Salter believes that the whole business is merely a hoax. His opinion is that some local people have been reading too many “MIB books”. Mr Salter points out that hoaxes have been played on the group before so most members are naturally sceptical.

A number of members have left the group: this is not because of the mysterious visitors but because of an internal difference of opinion. Such differences are, of course, inevitable and quite common in organizations which deal with subjects as contentious as ufology.

There does not, on the face of it, appear to be anything particularly mysterious about the incidents in the Slough group. The experiences of Mr BA do not seem so startling when examined critically, The episode of the dimming lights is not very convincing. Even if it is unusual there would seem to be no logical reason to Connect it with UFOs. Also, it is strange that he cannot remember the date of his startling vision of the being with the glowing head. So far as the telephone troubles are concerned, we would need more details in order to evaluate them. Whatever the explanation of Mr BA’s experiences there is no reason to doubt his sincerity.

Roswell: The Search for the ‘Real’ UFO
John Harney

Magonia 41, November 1991

Most European ufologists have long since given up naive interpretations of UFO reports in favour of psychological explanations. The Americans, however, are not satisfied with this; they want the space aliens and they are determined to persuade us of their reality.

For many years they have argued that many abduction cases are real experiences — not real in the sense that the abductees really believe the events happened to them as reported, but interactions with real extraterrestrials (ETs). Yet another book on this theme by Raymond Fowler, about Betty Andreasson, has recently been published. (1) The theme and general treatment will be too familiar to most of our readers to be worth summarising here. But another recent book, by Kevin D. Randle and Donald R. Schmitt, marks a new approach to the ETs. (2)

This book is about the Roswell incident of July 1947. Much nonsense has already been written about it, but Randle and Schmitt have made valiant attempts to cut out the lies and fantasies, and to try to arrive at the truth by tracing and interviewing as many witnesses as possible, as well as searching contemporary newspaper reports and other written records. Their work is very far away indeed from armchair ufology, as a great deal of time, money and effort has been invested in it.

The official explanation appears to be that some wreckage picked up on a ranch near Corona New Mexico, was, after some initial confusion, identified as a weather balloon with a radar reflector attached to it. The authors argue convincingly that this explanation is absurd, and was advanced to conceal the true nature of the wreckage. So far, so sensible. But the authors go on to insist that the wreckage was that of a crashed saucer from some other planet, which contained pilots, of the type generally known as the Greys.

Now there is nothing inherently absurd in the idea that a piloted device from another planet might crash while surveying the Earth. The reasons why such stories are not generally taken seriously are: the lack of physical evidence; and the rather incoherent nature of the reports of such alleged incidents. The reports investigated by Randle and Schmitt concern two apparent crashes. The first lot of wreckage to be discovered was scattered in small pieces over a large area; the second crash site was allegedly found a few days later, a few miles south-east of the first one. This consisted of a somewhat battered saucer with the decomposing bodies of three (four?) ETs lying beside it.

The weather balloon explanation was released before the discovery of the second site, apparently in an attempt to damp down the excitement caused by the initial official news release announcing that a ‘flying disc’ had been recovered. To avoid getting hopelessly confused, it is convenient to consider the two crash sites separately. The wreckage was said to have been taken to Roswell, then flown to Fort Worth. There a reporter was invited to take pictures of wreckage scattered about the office of Brigadier General Roger Ramey.

Reporters were told that this wreckage was the remains of a weather balloon rig. It certainly looks like a device known as a corner reflector – the pieces are the right sizes and shapes – although why it has apparently been trampled on and torn to shreds is not made clear, even though it is a rather flimsy object. Now, unlike most photographs concerning UFOs these appear to be genuine. If the stuff which appears in the photos is the same stuff that was brought from Corona to Roswell and then flown to Fort Worth, then one wonders what all the fuss was about. Major Marcel stated, many years later, that some of the original stuff was laid out in Ramey’s office, but while he and the general were out of the room for a short time, someone switched it for the ruined radar target. Unfortunately, Marcel is also said to have stated that the stuff he was photographed holding in Ramey’s office was the real stuff. (3)

Also, according to an interview published in Mufon UFO Journal (4), Colonel DuBose (Ramey’s chief of staff) said that the wreckage was not switched, and the genuine stuff appears in the photographs. The weather balloon cover story was devised later. If this is true it means that the saucers are cleverly designed to assume the appearance of battered weather balloon rigs if they should crash. There are numerous other disagreements, but all those who claimed to have been involved in the recovery of the wreckage stated that there was a great deal of it, far too much to have been something attached to a balloon.

There is even more confusion over the authors’ attempts to unravel the reports of the bodies of ETs recovered from a second crash site, a few miles from the first, according to their findings, but much farther away according to other accounts. The controversy over where the ETs were found, and in what condition is continuing, with the recent publication of details about a new witness to the alleged incident.(5) According to the Randle and Schmitt version there were three decaying bodies; and according to the other versions there were four ETs, two dead, one badly injured, and one uninjured. Descriptions, apart from minor details, fit in with other accounts of the ‘Greys’, as described in various American abductee stories.

So what really happened at Corona, New Mexico, in July 1947? Randle and Schmitt argue that an alien spacecraft with ETs aboard crashed, and that the bodies and widely scattered debris – all of it – were recovered by the US Army, taken to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and that this evidence has been kept under conditions of close secrecy from that day to this. The authors give evidence of incidents being kept secret for many years, but these concern matters over which the government has some control, such as the testing of military aircraft or weapons. In the case of visitors from outer space, they might hush up such an incident only to have the aliens landing in Washington next day asking for the bodies to be handed back.

The authors’ efforts should not be belittled, though. They have obviously tried very hard to get at the truth of the matter, and they intend to continue their work. If they could put the ET to one side and try to look for more reasonable explanations of this incident, they might eventually find the true, but perhaps not very exciting, solution to the mystery.



  1. FOWLER, Raymond E. The Watcher The secret design behind UFO abductions. New York, Bantam Books, 1991
  2. RANDLE, Kevin D. and SCHMITT, Donald R. UFO Crash at Roswell. New York, Avon Books, 1991
  3. SHANDERA, Jaime H. and MOORE, William L,’3 Hours that shook the Press’, MUFON UFO Journal, No. 269, September 1990.
  4. SHANDERA, Jaime H. ‘New Revelations about Roswell Wreckage: A General Speaks Up’, MUFON UFO Journal, No. 273, January 1991
  5. O’BRIEN, Mike ‘New Witness to San Agustin Crash’, MUFON UFO Journal, No. 275, March 1991


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Should ‘Men in Black’ Reports be Taken Seriously?
John Harney

From Merseyside UFO Bulletin, Vol. 1, No. 5, September – October 1968


People who witness UFOs and those who attempt to investigate their reports often report strange experiences which appear to have some connection with the UFO mystery. This article is mainly concerned with one aspect of the problem which is at present being much discussed among ufologists: the stories of witnesses or investigators who claim to have been threatened or warned to keep silent about their sightings and/or theories by mysterious visitors and telephone callers. The main questions to be dealt with are: how serious is the problem, and, what are the best methods of attempting to discover the source of such reports?

Brief History of MIB Reports.

The first report of the MIB variety in the post-war phase of UFO activity is generally agreed to have been contained in statements made by Harold A. Dahl to Kenneth Arnold during the latter’s investigation of the alleged Maury Island sighting of June 21, 1947 (1), According to Dahl, the day after his sighting a man called at his home early in the morning and invited him to breakfast. Dahl said that he was not surprised at this, for men often called on people in his type of work early in the morning for the purpose of buying salvaged logs. The man wore a black suit, was of medium height and there was nothing unusual about his appearance. He appeared to be about forty years of age. Dahl accepted his invitation and noted that the man drove a 1947 Buick Sedan. The man suggested that Dahl should drive his own care and follow him. On the way downtown Dahl failed to get the licence number of the car he was following. The two men went to a cafe and ordered breakfast.

As soon as they sat down the man immediately began telling Dahl, in minute and accurate detail, the events of the previous day when he and others had witnessed the UFOs, The man then told Dahl that if he loved his family and didn’t want anything to happen to his general welfare, he would not discuss his experience with anyone.

The items italicised in the above account refer to details which recur again and again in more recent MIB reports; The Maury Island case, which is much too involved and complicated to summarise here is still argued over today, but the U.S. Air Force claims that it was a hoax, devised by Harold Dahl and his colleague, Fred L. Crisman, Ruppelt has described it as “the dirtiest hoax in the UFO history”(2). Dahl and Crisman are said to have confessed to the Air Force investigators.

The fullest account of the Maury island affair is given in The Coming of the Saucers (1) , by Kenneth Arnold and Ray Palmer. If any open-minded person reads Arnold’s account carefully, he will find it very difficult to believe that Crisman and Dahl were able to arrange all the mysterious incidents described by him. Hoax or not, the whole story contains elements which crop up again and again in later incidents, quite apart from the MID incident

Albert K. Bender

Albert K. Bender

The classic MIB Case is that involving Albert K. Bender, who closed down his organisation, the International Flying Saucer Bureau, on the orders of ‘three men in black’. The story circulating at the time was to the effect that Bender was studying his collection of UFO data when the solution to the mystery suddenly occurred to him. The MIB visited him, assured him that his guess was correct and warned him not to divulge the secret  to anyone else. Bender refused to give reasons for closing the IFSB, but hinted that a government agency was responsible. Bender’s case, along with other stories of a similar nature, received great publicity in the UFO world, and Gray Barker wrote a book on this theme. (3)

In 1963, Bender published his own account of the affair. (4) Far from clearing up the mystery, Bender’s story only served to create more confusion, for in it he claimed that the MIB were beings from another planet who were visiting the Earth at that time for the purpose of extracting a substance from sea water to take back to their own planet for use as food. Anyone who discovered too much about their activities was silenced in order that the aliens could work undisturbed.

Naturally, even the most eager UFO believers found the story unconvincing and it seems to have been generally assumed that Bender had — possibly through overwork — become the victim of an elaborate delusion, a delusion made worse by his interest in horror stories and occultism,.

However, stories of witnesses and investigators being ‘silenced’ either by sinister, black-garbed figures or more convincingly by ordinary looking men who purported to be government officials persisted through the years until the vast increase in UFO reports since about 1964 brought with it some quite convincing reports of attempts to intimidate witnesses. At the present time controversy rages concerning the findings of John Keel, who claims that the MIB are very real and very active. Keel has published a number of articles on the subject (5) and reports which tend to support his claims are available from other sources. (6)

Local Appeal for Information

In the last issue of this Bulletin we appealed for unpublished information concerning reports of visits by the MIB and other odd experiences in connection with UFO sightings and events. This appeal for information was published in the Liverpool Echo (7) and Broadcast on BBC Radio Merseyside. Only three letters were received in response and these were merely requests for information.

However, the possibility that some victims of such experiences may be deluded was mentioned in the Echo and in the radio interview. Nobody likes to think that he is subject to delusions, so to begin with we are at once faced with an obstacle to any serious enquiry into this matter. An obvious question is: why did we receive no local reports of the MIB or suchlike, in view of the adequate publicity given to the appeal? Possible answers are:

  • Because there were no such experiences to report,
  • There were such incidents but the victims did not report them (a) because they did not want to be thought of as being deluded or because they were afraid of possible damaging or undesirable publicity, or (b) because the MIB would not let them.

Needless to say, the first alternative is likely to prove to be the most popular explanation, but it must be pointed. out that the technique used locally is very unlikely to be successful, whichever of the alternative answers given above happens to be the truth. The approach favoured by John Keel, that of personally interviewing many UFO witnesses, listening sympathetically to them and gaining their confidences seems more likely to pay dividends.

The Two Main Attitudes to the Problem

These may be briefly stated thus:

  • Genuine reports of witnesses being silenced having photographs confiscated etc., are due to the activities of government security agencies or individuals posing for some unknown reason, as government agents. All other such reports are hoaxes or delusions.
  • Some of the reports are genuine, but theories about government agents or people impersonating them are inadequate to account for important details given in the reports. The exact nature and purpose of such incidents remain a mystery.

If we now look at a few cases it may help us to decide between these alternatives, or perhaps to decide to continue to keep both of them in mind, in view of the lack of conclusive proof one way or the other

The Wanaque Reservoir Police and the ‘Air Force Officer’

A very detailed investigation of the UFO sightings and associated incidents in the vicinity of Wanaque Reservoir, Now Jersey was made by Lloyd Mallan. (8) Among the chief witnesses were members of the Wanaque Reservoir Police. Mallan found that they seemed reluctant to talk and eventually discovered one of the main reasons for this state of affairs.

After the sighting of a UFO over Wanaque Reservoir on January 11, 1966, Sergeant Ben Thompson, of the Wanaque Reservoir Police reported the incident to the Government and claimed that they sent an investigator who interviewed the policemen  at Lakeland High School. The investigator is said to have insulted them and told them that they were just seeing things. Sergeant Thompson and other policemen who claimed to have been there at the time said that the man was an Air Force officer.

Mallan made exhaustive investigations of this claim and found that Project Blue Book said they had no official report of any incidents at Wanaque as apparently they had received no official requests for an investigation. As a result of his investigations, Mallan came to the following conclusions: “Certainly no Air Force officer gathered the UFO observers into the auditorium of Lakeland Regional High School to deride them about their sighting, Nor was any officer of the Army or Navy responsible for this situation. Such a situation, by the ways is normally outside the province of the FBI.”

Mallan also observed: “When it comes right down to the hard facts, the only of official UFO investigators are those under the supervision of the Air Force Project Blue Book.”

None of the Reservoir Police officers could remember the name of the Air Force officer they alleged had spoken to then at the High school. Also Major Harold O’Connell, Base UFO Investigator at McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey, observed to Mallan “those Wanaque police officers must be pretty poor cops if they didn’t get the name of the investigator who was interviewing them. Or especially ask for his ID card – which is an absolute identification of his military service.”

It seems that in this case all the evidence suggests that no official investigator actually interviewed the police officers. Amateur investigators from the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) had visited the area, but they could not be held responsible for the incident. For amateurs there is
obviously no future in going about the country insulting policemen!

It is interesting to note that Malian does not seem to have been able to obtain any details of the alleged encounter between the policemen and the Air Force officer. In view of the officers’ emotional reactions to this event, one would expect a somewhat fuller report from them.

Karl Veich and the Man in Black

Karl Veich, West German representative of the International UFO Bureaus had been working on a UFO report which he considered to be important. He was planning to post it next day to the IUFOB, when the phone rang. A voice told him: “Mr Veich, it would be unwise of you to mail that report,” Veich asked who was calling and the voice said “A voice of caution and wisdom that tells you now – do not mail that report. Nothing but harm will come of it.”

Veich posted the report the next day. Shortly after noon a dark-complexioned man aged 30 to 35 years old, entered his shop (Veich is a chemist) and ordered a bottle of aspirin. The man then asked Veich why he had posted the report after he had been told not to. The man refused to identify himself and left the shop. Veich ran to the front of his shop and saw a black car speeding away. A strange feature of the car was that the windows were almost totally black. As any ufologist who has not already read this report will have guessed, Veich’s UFO report never reached its destination.

Different Aspects of the Problem in the U.S.A.


Al Bender's drawing of his mysterious 'Man in Black' visitor

Although stories about the harassment of UFO witnesses  and investigators have come from various countries ever since 1947, they have been particularly persistent in the U.S.A. Such stories often sounded very convincing. Witnesses claimed to have been visited by men purporting to be FBI agents, or dressed in Air Force uniform. These men confiscated UFO photographs and warned witnesses to keep quiet about their sightings. Naturally, many of the UFO groups took these reports seriously and complained bitterly to the Air Force.

In January 1967, however, ufologists got quite a shock when Colonel George Freeman, the Pentagon spokesman for Project Blue Book, revealed that the U.S. Air Force was just as annoyed about the mystery men as the ufologists were. (9) Colonel Freeman cited several cases. A man bearing credentials from the North American Air Defence saw Mr Rex Heflin, who had taken a series of UFO pictures in California in 1965, and demanded the origals. The photographs were never returned and NORAD denied any knowledge of the incident. In February, 1960, Mr Joe Perry, of Grand Blanc, Michigan, took a similar set of pictures and was visited by two men posing as FBI agents who confiscated his photographs. Colonel Freeman denied that these incidents were connected with the Air Force UFO investigation and was quoted as saying: “We haven’t been able to find out anything about these men. We would sure like to catch one!”

On the other hand, investigators have recently brought to light many incidents of a more unlikely character. These include stories of visits from mysterious ‘men in black’, who are said to drive about in black cars which are very old models but are nevertheless said to look brand new. These cars either have false licence plates or none at all, yet are completely successful in evading the police. The MIB are also said to drive up to witnesses’ homes at night and take flash pictures of their houses with the aid of cumbersome-looking cameras mounted on tripods. In other words, most of the reported actions of the MIB appear to be completely nonsensical.

One of the contributing, factors to the present confusion about this problem is the very conservative approach to the UFO mystery by many of the note influential American enthusiasts. Such a statement will seem incredible to anyone with little knowledge of the subject, but it is this conservatism which has probably led to the loss of many interesting reports and has succeeded in distorting the true picture of the world-wide UFO mystery through the years.

Published accounts of the work of Project Blue Book have made it plain that reports of UFO occupants were either thrown into the nearest waste paper basket or placed in a file marked ‘CP’ – crackpot. The more serious UFO organisations tended to adopt a somewhat similar policy with the result that the more bizarre aspects of the mystery were for long neglected or left to groups which were notorious for their lack of competence and objectivity. However, it seems that the situation has recently improved although one suspects that the amount of weight which investigators give to each report depends overmuch on how far the report fits in with their theories. It appears that some ufologists, many of them comparatively new to the subject, have now almost completely discarded the popular approach of collecting data to support a particular theory, (e.g., UFOs are spaceships from other planets; UFOs are occult phenomena; otherwise inexplicable UFO reports are hoaxes and delusions, etc.) The present fashion seems to be a recognition of the fact that the UFO phenomena are extremely complex and have apparently endless ramifications.

How Serious if the Problem?

Critics will say that in publishing this article we are falling into the trap of being sidetracked from the main UFO problem by apparently giving credence reports which are merely the results of hoaxes, paranoid delusions exaggerations and plain lies. It is true that the problem of assessing the reliability of the reports is a formidable one, in view of the lack of physical evidence and the unpredictability of the reported phenomena. In the field of psychical research, Hansell (10) has described in detail how highly intelligent people with scientific training and experience, can be fooled by faulty memory, cheating and trickery in experiments, wishful thinking and other factors which make psychic experiences and experiments seem more impressive than they really are. As many of the alleged MIB experiences seem to involve phenomena of the kind familiar to psychic researchers, Hansell’s criticisms could no doubt profitably be borne in mind when investigating such reports.

Whatever the cause of MIB and similar reports, they should be studied seriously along with all the other phenomena associated with UFOs.

How Should the Problem be Tackled?

The reports by John Keel concerning the MIB and other strange occurrences have attracted a good deal of criticism and in some quarters amusement. Flying Saucer Review reports that there is said to be a group of scientists interested in UFOs who burst into fits of uncontrollable laughter whenever they see a John Keel document. It also seems that some of the criticisms have been couched in terms more appropriate to the wilder extremes of politics than to scientific enquiry. There is only one way to deal with the startling claims of John Keel and others who have written in similar vein and the editor of Flying Saucer Review has summed it up neat1y thus:

“If chair-borne critics, writers, UFO-buffs or laughing scientists are urged to say Mr Keel is wrong, then it is incumbent upon than to get out and about and to thoroughly investigate his claims. If they do not do this they will find themselves on insecure ground.” (11)

When enquiring into such reports it should of course be realised that some of them can be quite easily explained. On the one hand, there are people who become mentally ill and suffer from delusions; on the other hand there is evidence that in some countries government agencies do interfere with amateur UFO investigations.


The foregoing article is just a brief summary of the ‘associated phenomena’ situation, with particular reference to MIB reports. We have not probed deeply into the subject but the following conclusions may be tentatively stated:

  • Some of the reports are worthy of serious investigation.
  • Investigation work already carried out should be
    checked by other investigators, where possible.
  • Attempts should be made, to find rational explanations for individual reports,
  • Newcomers to the subject should be warned of the
    possible psychological dangers in becoming involved with this aspect of the subject.

John Harney continues with this theme, looking at the Silencers in England: http://magonia.haaan.com/2009/silencers/


  1. ARNOLD, KENNETH and RAY PALMER. The Coming of the Saucers. Privately published by the authors. 1952.
  2. RUPPELT, EDWARD. The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects. Ace Books Inc., New Fork.
  3. BARKER, GRAY, They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers. Tower Books, New York, 1967
  4. BENDER, ALBERT, Flying Saucers and the Three Men. Neville Spearman, London. 1963.
  5. KEEL, JOHN. ‘The Sinister Men in Black’, Fate (Douglas, Isle of Man) August 1968; ‘From My Ohio Valley Notebook’, Flying Saucer Review, Vol. 13, no. 3; ‘West Virginia’s Enigmatic ‘Bird’. Flying Saucer Review, Vol.14, no.4.
  6. STEIGER, BRAD & JOAN WRITENOUR. Has the UFO Invasion Started? The Allende Letters. Tandem Books, New York. 1963; New UFO Breakthrough. Award Books, Now York/Tandem Books, London, 1968; STEIGER, BRAD, The Flying Saucer Menace, Award Books, New York/Tandem Books, London. 1967; SANDERSON, IVAN, Uninvited Visitors. Cowles Education Corp., New York, 1967.
  7. ‘The Men in Black Puzzle Experts’. Liverpool Echo, September 12, 1968.
  8. MALLAN, LLOYD, ‘What Happened at Wanaque, NJ?’ Science and Mechanics, May and June 1967.
  9. FAULKNER, ALEX, ‘Mystery Men in ‘Flying Saucer’ Probe’, Sunday Telegraph, London, January 29th, 1967.
  10. HANSELL, C.E.N. ESP  – A Scientific Evaluation. Macgibbon and Kee, Ltd., 1966.
  11. ‘No Polemics’. Flying Saucer Review, Vol 14, no, 5.


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The Galileo Fallacy.
John Harney

From Magonia 21, December 1985


We all agree, don’t we, that Christians in general. and Catholics in particular, ought to cringe at the name of Galileo, because of the way he was treated by the Church. Galileo, as we all know, was persecuted by the Church, and attempts were made to suppress his theories and discoveries because of the stupidity, ignorance and general fat-headedness of the Pope and his henchmen. 

This is more or less the generally accepted view, but is it true? Actually, it is a view which conveniently ignores the facts of the case. Galileo’s troubles with the Church were largely self inflicted, as I shall attempt to show, beginning with the background to the case. 

The development of Christian thought was strongly influenced by Greek philosophy, to the extent that the Church Fathers had adapted their interpretation of the Bible to fit in with the Aristotelian world picture. The basic principle of this picture was that the Earth was stationary at the centre of the universe and that the Sun, Moon and planets revolved around it with uniform, circular motions. Surrounding them was the sphere holding the fixed stars which had a daily rotation and which bounded the universe. This, together with other notions concerning the nature of the universe, became inextricably entwined with Christian thought to the extent that it came to be generally believed that they were confirmed by Scripture, if properly interpreted. In 1546 the Council of Trent decreed that the general consensus of the Church Fathers should not be deviated from when interpreting Scripture. 

copernicus-stampAlthough astronomy was profoundly influenced by the Aristotelian world picture, the astronomers did not feel that they were entirely bound by it. Theirs was a practical art which had as its main purpose the prediction of astronomical events for astrological use, for adjusting calendars, and for navigation. The observed motions of the planets did not fit in with the accepted cosmological model and the astronomers had various mathematical devices by which they manipulated the conventional model in ways which made their calculations less cumbersome. Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) was an astronomer who was not content with mere mathematical devices, and he devised a Sun-centred system which he believed to be a true picture of the universe. He attempted to forestall criticism by pointing out that he had restored the principle of uniform, circular motion and by arguing that the stars were so far away the Earth was practically at the centre of the universe anyway. 

Although Copernicus published his theory in 1543 it did not lead to any serious conflict with the Church until Galileo began to make a name for himself. 

Galileo Galileo (1564-1642) was a mathematician who supported the Copernican theory. He too wanted a theory which gave a true picture of the universe and he believed that he had found this in the theory devised by Copernicus. Not content with convincing himself he was determined to publicise and defend his theory until it became generally accepted and he expressed his arguments in a forceful manner. 

He first became widely know as the result of publishing a book called The Starry Messenger in 1610. In this he argued against the Aristotelian system and in favour of Copernicus, and supported his arguments with accounts of his observations with the recently invented telescope. He described the Moon’s craters and mountains and thus disposed of the classical idea that all the heavenly bodies had perfectly smooth surfaces. 

He also presented other material which discredited the Aristotelian system. However, and this is an important point, he did not prove the correctness of the Copernican theory. Tycho Brahe’s alternative hypothesis was available, and according to this the Earth was at the centre of the universe with the Moon revolving around it, and further out the Sun also revolving around the Earth, with Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn revolving around the Sun. Galileo never got around to refuting this theory; he simply did not accept it, although it was not logically inconsistent with his observations. 

If Galileo could not disprove an alternative hypothesis it thus followed that he could not prove the Copernican theory or even demonstrate that it was the most plausible model of the universe of those that had been devised up to that time. Another important point about the theory which was not emphasised by Galileo was that it could not be squared with accurate observations of planetary motions without introducing a complicated system of epicycles. He does not seem to have considered Kepler’s simplifying assumption that the planetary orbits were elliptical because he was, like Copernicus, strongly attached to the principle of uniform circular motion. 

Galileo was first in trouble with the university professors who were naturally appalled at the prospect that the Aristotelian cosmology they were teaching might be dismissed as nonsense and rapidly replaced by a radically different model of the universe, which would make them look rather foolish. Those of them that claimed that his observations were illusory did have a point though. Galileo’s telescopes were very crude compared to modern instruments and it is hard to believe, for instance, that an uneducated eye would clearly see the phases of Venus through them. The observers would have to know what they were looking for to make any sense of the tiny blurred images presented to their gaze. Even with a modern small telescope it is difficult to see Venus clearly, because of the dazzling brightness of the planet. 

However, when Galileo visited Rome in 1611 he had a very friendly reception from Pope Paul V. The Jesuits favoured intellectual pursuits and their authority on astronomy, Father Clavius, had informed Cardinal Bellarmine, head of the Roman College, that he could confirm that Galileo’s telescopic observations were genuine. 

At this point we may ask if Galileo could have avoided his eventual conviction of heresy and his humiliating recantation. Almost certainly he could have. There is no reason why he should have become involved in any serious quarrel with the Church had he been more circumspect and had he only realised that he was unwittingly forcing the Church authorities into a position where they would have to take decisive action on the matter. Certainly, Galileo had enemies, but this is the lot of all persons who become well-known. He also had many influential friends in the Church; after all, he was a Catholic and as much a member of the Church as any other. Also an increasing number of natural philosophers in the Church were gradually coming to realise that Aristotelian cosmology was becoming untenable. 

As for Galileo’s enemies, there is evidence that they were not taken very seriously by the Church. Lodovico delle Colombe organised opposition to Galileo, and one of his methods was to try to persuade priests to preach sermons against Copernicanism. (Colombe’s supporters were known as the ‘pigeon league’ because Colombe is the Italian word for dove.) Colombe’s men influenced the Dominican Father Caccini, who preached a sermon in somewhat immoder-ate terms, against Galileo, Copernicanism and mathematicians in general, accusing them of being enemies of Christianity. The important point about this incident is that Caccini’s outburst was firmly disowned by the Church. The Master-General of the Dominican Order wrote to Galileo to apologise for it. The opposition of the ‘pigeon league’ and its clerical supporters was not to be taken too seriously; we must look elsewhere for the real causes of Galileo’s tribulations. 

The real causes, I suggest were Galileo’s own argumentative character, the relative weakness of the arguments with which he attempted to bolster the Copernican theory and, above all, his forcefully expressed views on the correct interpretation of Scripture with respect to scientific matters. 

It is customary to look at the controversy from Galileo’s point of view. However for the Church’s point of view there were a number of practical considerations and these were clearly expressed in a letter which Cardinal Ballarmine wrote in reply to the Carmelite friar, Paolo Foscarini, who had sent him a copy of his book which asserted that the Copernican system was literally true. Ballarmine pointed out that acceptance of the idea of a sun-centred universe as being literally true would not only irritate the theologians and scholastic philosophers, but would injure the faith of many by making the Bible appear to be false, bearing in mind the interpretation of the Bible agreed by the Church Fathers and endorsed by the Council of Trent. He agreed that the Scriptures would need to be reinterpreted if the truth of the Copernican system could be demonstrated, but pointed out that such proof had not yet been forthcoming. 


Pope Urban VIII was an admirer of Galileo's work


Galileo, apparently insensitive to such considerations, went to Rome in 1615 and debated his cause so energetically that Pope Paul V felt the need to request an official statement on the matter from the Congregation of the Index. Not surprisingly their judgement confirmed the established teachings of the Church. Galileo tried again in 1624, hoping that the election the previous year of Maffeo Barberini as Pope Urban VIII might have made the climate more favourable to his views, as Barberini was an admirer of Galileo’s work. However, he found that the new Pope upheld the same attitude and Galileo was again told that he was quite free to discuss his ideas, provided he made it quite clear that they were mere hypothesis, and did not purport to give a true picture of the universe. 

Again, he failed to take the advice, and finally went too far, so far as the Pope and his advisers were concerned, in his book Dialogue Concerning the Two Principle Systems of the World. In this, by the use of irony, he insinuated that the Church’s attitude was based on foolishness and ignorance. It was typical of him that he obeyed the summons to Rome to be tried by the Inquisition, instead of taking up an offer of asylum in Venice, presumably still determined to convert the Church to his way of thinking. 

Perhaps his greatest error was to see that one of his major arguments worked both ways. He argued that the authors of the Bible accommodated their writings to everyday speech and common beliefs in order to put their religious message in a manner understandable to all, yet he failed to realise that the Church had to do the same to express its teachings in terms that could be understood by ordinary people, and not just by philosophers and intellectuals. The Popes and others in the Church who bore heavy responsibilities for the spiritual welfare of millions were obviously aware of this. They realised that any sudden change in the Church’s teaching would cause great harm by throwing the faithful into confusion. They were also no doubt aware that it would be very rash to make such drastic changes to accommodate a scientific theory which might. yet be shown to be false and be superseded by yet another theory. 

Had Galileo realised this, and taken the Church’s advise, then perhaps the new astronomy could have gradually and painlessly taken hold of popular awareness and the cosmology of Aristotle would have died a natural death. 

He Can remember It For You Wholesale:
Thoughts on Budd Hopkins’ ‘Witnessed’.
John Harney



 From Magonia 59, April 1997

The worrying thing about UFO abduction stories is not that people like Budd Hopkins insist that we should take them seriously – we do. 

Over the years a number of thoughtful articles on the subject have been published in Magonia. Martin Kottmeyer discussed the types of people who report such experiences and their possible subconscious motivations. (1) Kevin McClure expressed his concerns about the effects of the techniques and lines of questioning and speculations indulged in by investigators on children involved in abduction cases. (2) John Rimmer wrote a book in which he showed, amongst other things, how UFO abduction experiences were related to similar, but more traditional, experiences and beliefs, (3) People certainly do have subjective experiences which often seem to involve being abducted by aliens, demons, fairies, or whatever. Such experiences can seem very real to the percipients. They therefore should be heard sympathetically, and if they suffer continuing distress it is perfectly reasonable that some suitably qualified person should attempt to alleviate it.

If Hopkins were advocating counselling or psychotherapy for people troubled in this way and sought to place the notion of abduction by aliens in flying saucers in its social and historical context then we could only applaud his efforts. However, as you all no doubt know, that is not his position at all. He insists that people are really being abducted by real aliens and token aboard real flying saucers.

Now if he were the sort of wild-eyed person who goes around spouting incoherent nonsense – you know, the sort of fellow who persecutes librarians or who comes and sits next to you in an almost-empty bus – then we could safely ignore him. But he is not like that at all. He is well educated, highly intelligent and can call on a wide circle of experts to help him with his investigations. He it was who introduced Dr John Mack to UFO abductions. (4) He has demonstrated, over the years, that he is capable of persuading other highly intelligent professional people that UFO abductions are a physical reality, as well as persuading many people, directly or indirectly, that they really have been and are being abducted. Thus he cannot be safely ignored.

It is therefore advisable to take a close look at his assertions, arguments and working methods, as they are presented in his latest book. The case he discusses caused a great deal of comment and controversy before the book was published, so it is advisable to look at some of the other publications on the subject also.

It is easy to get bogged down in the complexities of the story presented by Hopkins, and to be diverted by the mud-slinging between believers and sceptics which has appeared in various UFO journals, so I propose to concentrate on the two central issues. These are: Hopkins’ assertion that the abduction of Linda from her New York apartment was a physically real event, seen by independent witnesses; and the methods used by Hopkins to enable abductees to “remember” their experiences.

Anyone who had not read the book might assume that Linda contacted Hopkins and told him about being abducted from her bedroom by aliens and taken into a saucer, and that Hopkins then conducted a detailed investigation. But it was not like that. Linda wrote a letter to Hopkins, dated 26 April 1989, which expressed her anxieties about what are obviously not unusual sleep disturbances – waking up, or seeming to wake up, with the feeling that there is some other person present in the room, and not being able to move. The familiar ‘sleep paralysis’ routine.

Linda begins the letter by saying that she has never seen a UFO, but that she has read part of Hopkins’ book Intruders. She also said that she had consulted a doctor about a small bump on her nose and was told that it was cartilage caused by a surgical scar. She become even more worried about this as she insisted that she had never had any operation on her nose. (Not surprisingly, to anyone who has read any abduction stories, this bump on the nose, which Hopkins admitted was “almost invisible” soon become evidence of an alien implant.)

Only a few days after receiving the letter Hopkins interviewed her. He explains that he keeps his interviews informal initially, to put his subjects at ease. Only “when an atmosphere of calm and trust has been established” does he conduct more formal interviews, taking notes or using a tape recorder.

This is all very well, but it means that there is no record of what was said. When Linda first met Hopkins she was obviously aware of his obsession with UFOs and aliens, and it seems not unlikely that he took the opportunity to inform her in more detail of his ideas and theories. Only a few days passed before he conducted his first hypnotic regression session with her. This unearthed a memory of her seeing a strange bright figure or object on a roof outside her bedroom window one night when she was eight years old.

Now we come to the momentous events of 30 November 1989, Linda phoned Hopkins to tell him what happened to her earlier that morning and a meeting was arranged for 2 December during which she told him of being abducted through her window and up into a saucer where there was a table… But wait. Let us look at Linda’s own account of this event, which was published in MUFON UFO Journal. (5)

Linda describes how a “peculiar feeling” came over her as she prepared for bed. “There was a strong presence in the room. Steve [her husband] was snoring away, so it wasn’t him.” When Linda had these peculiar feelings previously she didn’t know what to make of them. But this time -

“I began to feel the familiar sensation of numbness that I’d felt periodically over my lifetime, creeping up slowly from my toes. Only this time, having known Budd and the abductees for some seven months, I knew what it meant.” (emphasis added)

She claims to have seen a strange being, but she does not describe it; she merely says: “…it was there, standing at the foot of my bed, staring at me!” She goes on to say that she remembered white fabric flowing up over her eyes and a sensation of something pounding on her back, then of falling into her bed. So, no abduction, despite having spent seven months being primed by Budd and his abductees.

When she retells this episode to Hopkins under hypnosis, the number of beings increases to four or five, but she still seems unable to describe them in any detail, despite prompting

  • B: [Budd] You said there were four or five. I don’t know what you mean.,.. Four or five what?
  • L: [whispering] Black. They shine. I can see a reflection in them.
  • L: [Linda] Four or five of those things… people.
  • B: What do they look like?
  • L: They’re short. They’re white and dark.
  • B: Are their clothes white? Is that what you mean?
  • L: They look like a lighter colour than the picture screen on my TV set.
  • B: What else do you notice about them?
  • L: [in a quavering voice] Their eyes. Very intense eyes.
  • B: What colour ore their eyes?
  • L:[Whispering] Blck. They shine. I can see a reflection in them

Of course, at this stage, Linda must have known what Budd was expecting and she does not disappoint him. She gives him a story of being taken through the window and into a hovering saucer. She doesn’t have too much difficulty with the details, as these have no doubt been supplied over the previous months by Hopkins and his associates. At this point I think it is legitimate to wonder what sort of account Linda would have given if neither she nor Hopkins had ever heard of UFO abductions and if Hopkins were obsessed with some other interpretation of the disturbing experiences which many people sometimes undergo when suffering from various kinds of sleep disturbances. (We are told that Linda is a chronic sufferer from insomnia, as well as these other problems.)

Take, for example, the case of Dr Arthur Guirdham, a British psychiatrist. One of Guirdham’s patients was a woman who suffered from nightmares. She eventually told him of her ‘memories’ of a previous life among the Cathars, a Christian sect in 13th-century France which was declared heretical and brutally stamped out by the Albigensian Crusade. It so happened that Guirdham already had a fascination with that particular historical episode, and under the influence of his patient he came to believe that he, too, had not only lived a previous life as a Cathar, but had also known his patient in that life. This obsession developed to a stage where he gathered about him a group of people who all claimed to have known one another and suffered together in 13th-century France, and who could help one another to ‘remember’ their dramatic experiences. (6)

Hopkins, though, is not only unwilling to consider other interpretations, conventional or otherwise; he insists that Linda’s story is true because the abduction was seen by independent witnesses. The whole book seems to hinge on this crucial point.

This is where Richard and Dan come in. The letter they wrote to Hopkins claiming to have seen a woman being token out of an apartment window near Brooklyn Bridge by three “ugly but smaller humanlike creatures” in “late November, 1989″ was postmarked 1 February 1991, some 14 months after the alleged event. Commentators have wondered why it took them so long to take action. The answer is fairly obvious; they had only recently learned the details of the story. If, as they claimed, they had noted which window the woman had emerged from, so could easily find out who she was, why did they wait 14 months before getting worked up to a great state of excitement about the incident?

Richard and Dan were allegedly accompanying another person, referred to as the “Third Man” when they had their amazing and unlikely experience, (It is widely believed that this person was Javier Perez de Cuellar and Hopkins refuses to confirm or deny this.) However, they were supposed to be independent witnesses, but it was revealed, in a letter purporting to be from Dan, that they also were abducted. It seems they were instantly transported to a beach where they were confronted by Linda and a group of Greys (the “Lady of the Sands” episode). Hopkins claims to have confirmed this story by subjecting Linda to another dose of hypnotic regression during which (of course) she managed to remember it.

So this left Hopkins without independent witnesses, but in November he received a letter from a woman, referring to an earlier letter which she had sent him in July, This he retrieved from his “box of unopened correspondence” (!). This woman claimed to have witnessed the abduction from her car on Brooklyn Bridge. Hopkins interviewed her but apparently without any hypnosis business, presumably because he didn’t want to find she had also been abducted and lose his only independent witness. Dr John Mack remarks: “This is, to my knowledge, the only documented case where an individual, who was not him or herself abducted, reported witnessing an abduction as it was actually taking place.” (7) It is not true, however. Abductions are sometimes witnessed, in a sense, by others, but they are usually rather unspectacular. For instance, in a case investigated by BUFORA, described by Nigel Watson: “Mr L had no known psychiatric history. The psychiatrist thought that he had been experiencing hypnagogic hallucinations. This was partly based on the testimony of Mr L’s wife who was present during these alleged events, and confirmed that he appeared to be asleep during his ‘contacts”‘, (8)

If we take this idea to its logical conclusion, then our whole world could be an illusion created by the aliens

Hopkins has answers for those awkward persons who ask why only some people had their cars stopped near Brooklyn Bridge and witnessed the abduction whereas others either apparently saw nothing or remembered nothing. He tells us that the aliens control who sees what and who remembers what and when they remember it. Thus all apparent inconsistencies can be dealt with by attributing them to the amazing powers of the aliens.

It does not seem to occur to him that if we take this idea to its logical conclusion, then our whole world could be an illusion created by the aliens. They could also dictate what would or would not be published about them, whether credulous or critical.

Hopkins points out what will be obvious to most readers – the highly theatrical nature of the events described. He is referring to the abduction scene, but there are a number of others, mainly scenes involving Linda, Dan and/or Richard.

Hopkins wants us to believe that the theatricality is provided by the aliens, but others take the more plausible view that it is provided by the abductees, witnesses and investigators. George Hansen, Joseph Stefula and Richard Butler, in a paper circulated among ufologists a few years ago, likened the whole business to a kind of role-playing fantasy game. If we look at it that way, then we don’t have to go along with Hopkins’ assertion that either the story is literally true or that Linda has organised – and paid for – a gang of conspirators to to aid her in perpetrating an extremely elaborate hoax. Both of these alternatives are equally absurd, of course, but Hopkins thinks only the latter one is.

Hopkins was somewhat annoyed by this paper and he wrote a reply to it in which he devoted much space to character assassinations of the trio, with sideswipes at “such dubious personages as Philip Klass and James Moseley”. Apparently anyone who doesn’t go along with Hopkins’ absurd abduction theories, and says so bluntly, is a “fanatic”. (9)

The principal “fanatic” is Philip Klass. Hopkins obviously loathes him. He quotes him as saying to the media that abductees are “little nobodies, people seeking celebrity status” and that this had discouraged some of them from coming forward to tell the world about their traumatic experiences at the hands of the aliens. He also remarks; “Science can only be damaged by the present level of McCarthyite intimidation.” (10) Science? What do the activities and ludicrous speculations of Hopkins and the other abduction enthusiasts have to do with science?

What does Klass, this “… dinosaur in the evolution of public awareness” who “…bares his hatred for UFO witnesses ever more nakedly” (according to Hopkins), really think about the abductees? His views are set out clearly in his book on the subject, published in 1988, (11)

Klass is not concerned with criticising the witnesses, apart from a few of them who are obviously seeking money or notoriety, but with the techniques used by Hopkins and the other abduction investigators. He points out how they have ignored the opinions of professionals concerning the limitations of hypnosis as a method of establishing the truth about past experiences. He discusses their technique of repeatedly hypnotising UFO witnesses until they get the the abduction stories they are hoping for. He gives examples of abductees who later insist that they really did see a UFO but they have no good reason to believe that they were abducted.

Hopkins was particularly annoyed by Klass’s challenges to him that if he really believed that people were being abducted and had any reliable evidence to support these claims then he should inform the FBI. Klass and other sceptics continue to pose awkward questions whenever they get the opportunity.

One of the most disturbing features of the work of Hopkins and his followers is the tendency for children to get caught up in the fantasies. Hopkins seemingly makes no attempts to exclude them from his investigations in order to protect them from ideas and beliefs that could cause them alarm and distress. He is quick to seize any opportunity, Take the case of the nosebleeds, for example.

Nosebleeds? Yes, I’m afraid it’s all rather complicated; perhaps Hopkins thinks that if we are sufficiently bemused and baffled by the complexities we will give up trying to unravel the story and just accept what he reports at his own evaluation.

We are told that Linda woke up with a bad nosebleed in the early morning of 24 May 1992, and was soon joined by the other four persons present in the apartment; her husband, her sons Steven and Johnny, and Steven’s friend “Brian”, who all sat around the living room trying to stem the flow from their bleeding noses. The next day, Linda phoned Budd, who reassured her that “…this was no one’s fault, that if it was UFO-related it was outside her control.” According to Budd, this sort of thing is not unusual: it seems it was one of those things that abductees just have to learn to live with.

Ufologists should spread the word that the UFO abduction game, like certain other activities, is definitely unsuitable for children

A few days later, Budd called Linda back to question her in more detail about the incident. He reports: “Since she said she still remembered virtually nothing but waking up with a bloody nose, I asked about Steve and her sons.” (emphasis added) She then handed the phone over to her six-year-old son Johnny.

Johnny ‘remembered’ the nosebleed incident all right, but of course Budd could not know what Linda had said to the others about the night in question, And there is no testimony on this incredible event from Linda’s husband Steve. It should be noted that there is very little mention of Steve in the book, One gets the impression that he thinks Linda is somewhat neurotic and that Budd is some sort of psychiatrist.

Budd went on to question Johnny about his dreams that night and found that he was dreaming about his imaginary sister, Naturally Budd seized on that and, to cut out the endless details, it developed that this girl was not imaginary after all, but Johnny was constantly being abducted by the Greys and brought to meet this girl, also an abductee.

I find it difficult to read such stuff without becoming nauseated. When I was a small child I suffered from nightmares, but my parents comforted me and reassured me that the monsters in them were not real and that they were only dreams. I believe that most children are treated in this way. Imagine the effects, then, of making it plain to children that not only are the dream-creatures real, but that there is no escape from them. Such an approach hardly seems therapeutic, to put it mildly, but this is the line taken by Hopkins and company. If they can persuade intelligent and more or less sane adults to believe such nonsense, the long-term effects on children hardly bear thinking about.

John Mack goes even further in this respect. Some of his subjects ‘remembered’ not only their abductions right back to early childhood but even in previous incarnations. Thus there is no escape from the Greys, even in death!

What is at issue here is not the sincerity and good intentions or otherwise of the abduction enthusiasts. It is the long-term effects of their work on the people they deal with.

The important question is: What can be done about it? Well, persons active in ufology can do a great deal. They should spread the word that the UFO abduction game, like certain other activities, is definitely unsuitable for children. Magazine editors should eschew the practice of giving fawning interviews to abductee researchers. A particularly sickening example appeared in MUFON UFO Journal where the interviewer of Hopkins takes the attitude of one sitting at the feet of a Master; there is not a single probing or critical question. (12) If abduction believers take part in UFO conferences they should be balanced by others who take a more rational and scientific view of these stories.

Sceptics are not always helpful in the fight against the irrational, ego-boosting activities of abduction enthusiasts. They tend to pursue trivialities, to criticise matters on which scepticism is inappropriate or meaningless, or to carefully dissect writings which were never meant to be taken literally. On the issue of abductions, they should focus on the main point, which is the harm being done to impressionable people by the likes of Hopkins, Mack and Jacobs, egged on by cheering crowds of supporters (most of them sufficiently educated and intelligent to know better) at UFO conferences.

However, until the abduction game results in some tragedy which gains widespread publicity, I doubt if anything much will happen.  


  1. Kottmeyer, Martin. ‘Abduction: The boundary deficit hypothesis’, Magonia, 32, March 1988
  2. McClure, Kevin. ‘Bogeymen’. Magonia, 55, March 1998
  3. Rimmer, John. The Evidence for Alien Abductions, The Aquarian Press, 1984
  4. Mack, John E. Abductions: Human Encounters with Aliens, New York. Ballantine Books, 1995 (revised paperback edition). The dedication reads: “To Budd Hopkins, who led the way.”
  5. Cortile, Linda. ‘A light at the end of the tunnel’, MUFON UFO Journal, No. 302, June 1993
  6. Wilson, Ian. Mind out of Time?. London, Victor Gollancz Ltd, 1981, pp 35-48
  7. Mack, op. cit., p. 20
  8. Watson, Nigel. Portraits of Alien Encounters, London, Valis Books, 1990, p. 135
  9. Hopkins, Budd. ‘House of Cards: The Butler/Hansen/Stefula critique of the Cortile case’, International UFO Reporter, Vol. 18, No. 2, March/April 1993
  10. Hopkins, Budd. ‘Losing a battle while winning the war’, MUFON UFO Journal, No. 314, June 1994
  11. Klass, Philip J. UFO-Abductions. A Dangerous Game, New York, Prometheus Books, 1988
  12. Casteel, Sean. ‘Earwitness: An interview with Budd Hopkins’, MUFON UFO Journal, No. 341, September 1998 

Witnessed, the True Story of the Brooklyn Bridge UFO Abductions is published in the USA by Pocket Books, and in the UK by Bloomsbury. You may order a copy from Amazon by clicking this cover image:



Catflaps. John Harney and John Rimmer

From Magonia 43, July 1992

John Harney writes:

You’ve probably heard stories about dogs, rats and cats disappearing through the back doors of Chinese or Indian restaurants, and being slaughtered, stewed, and served with curry and rice. Police and RSPCA inspectors have wasted a great deal of time investigating such allegations and, so far as I am aware, not a shred of worthwhile evidence has ever been found to support them.

But have you heard that there is a foreign country where cat fur is the height of fashion? I don’t mean big cats, such as leopards, but ordinary household moggies. This country is ……….. [Fill in the name of your least-favourite country.]

You don’t believe it? Well, that’s what it says in my local paper (Bracknell News, 21 May 1992). It’s the lead story, under the banner headline: ‘Fur Traders Target Cats’.

Some weeks previously, a resident of Bracknell, Berkshire had called the police after seeing two men trying to entice a cat into a black plastic bag. Since then “the number of cats going missing locally has soared”. It is rather irritating, though, that we are not given any indication of the number of cats involved. The matter is being pursued by an organisation calling itself Bracknell Petsearch, which has uncovered some startling ‘facts’.

The ‘massive increase in the number of cats going missing’ is ‘easily explained as a blip on the statistics until” – I really like this detail – “it is noticed that each month the colour of the eats going missing changes. Last month tabbies and tortoiseshell animals were being reported lost. So far this month black cats are in the majority.”

Yes, but how do we know they are being captured by fur traders? The main evidence is a black plastic bag full of skinned cats found at the local junction with the M4 motorway. This revelation came from Bracknell Petsearch co-ordinator Lynda Martin who said the discovery had been made by ‘a local RSPCA volunteer’.

“That information came from a very good source,” she said: “Nothing was officially reported because it is difficult to do anything with a bag of dead animals.” Mrs Martin believes the traders have targeted Bracknell recently, stealing the cats, skinning them inside a van, and then fleeing with the pelts to their base in London along the M4. “Those pelts would then be smuggled out of the country to dealers abroad.”

There are other curious details in this story. The reporter alleges that “Scotland Yard reckons a trade in cat skins is raging in London, with the pelts being flown out to unscrupulous fur traders abroad.” If this were true, the tabloids would be full of it, but they don’t seem to have noticed. Local police and RSPCA officials have received no evidence of skinned cats and made the usual non-committal statements when approached by the paper.

It will be interesting to see if this story spreads to other areas. Keep an eye on your local paper — and don’t believe everything you read in it.

John Rimmer continues:

But surely we can believe everything we read in the Barnes Mortlake and Sheen Times, after all it is owned by one of our most respected media dynasties, the Dimblebys, no less. Well judge for yourself. The 19 June 1992 edition carried the front page headline “Cat Snatch Fear After ‘Spate’ of Missing Pets” accompanied by a photograph of local pet-owner Victor Schwanberg holding an appealing looking cat who is not otherwise identified.

The story conforms to the Bracknell pattern, complete with a mysterious “woman who was seen stroking a cat and then snatching it and putting it in a bag”, according to vet Donald Cameron, “someone has also reported seeing five dead cats laid out on the pavement”. The vet declares: “Cat fur fetches a high price abroad,” – in those mysterious countries which have no cats of their own? – “it is used to make gloves and small toys”. High-priced small toys presumably.

The only real fact of the story seems, as in the Bracknell case, to be some alarm about the number of cats going missing in the area. Now I can confirm that there are often small, sad notices attached to trees in this neighbourhood appealing for the return of lost pets (including dogs), but I have always assumed that this was due to the number of very busy roads and the amount of open spaces, parks and commons in the area. Mr Schwanberg, one of whose cats went missing, lives on the Upper Richmond Road, part of London’s notoriously dangerous and grossly over-used South Circular Road.

The item concludes with a quote from a Mrs Joan Wearne of an organisation called Petwatch (it is not clear whether this has anything to do with Bracknell’s Petsearch) who claims that the cats are skinned and their fur sold in Italy and Germany, but the police “do not want to know”. As if to confirm her claim a police spokesman commented “we would not record stolen cats, but we are not aware of a problem”. Obviously evidence of a cover-up!

Shortly after reading this I discovered that the latest issue of Folklore Frontiers discussed a report which appeared in the 24 April 1992 issue of The Mail, Hartlepool, where Mrs Wearne also puts in an appearance. Warning of the dangers of the catnappers she reverts to an older, racialist, theme. She announces that a ‘Yorkshire printer’ found the remains of several cats next to a mincing machine in the basement of a building which used to be an Indian restaurant, while a ‘Manchester policeman’ (highly specific these descriptions) found 200 dead cats in a skip.

So what is going on here? I rang the Barnes and Mortlake paper and spoke to the reporter who had written the story. I was particularly concerned, because in the following week’s paper there were letters from obviously distressed pet-owners in the area. Unfortunately she seemed unimpressed by the thought that she may have been sold a pup (sorry!) on her front page scoop. “I was only reporting what people told me” she explained. I had always thought that journalists considered `printing things people told you’ mere public relations, and journalism involved going out and finding the facts. I pointed out the startling coincidence of a virtually identical story appearing in three local papers in different parts of the country and the unliklihood of catnappers in both Barnes and Bracknell leaving dead cats neatly lined up at the sides of the road. “Maybe that’s how they operate”, she said. Well maybe, but didn’t she think that in view of this extra information she might consider taking the story a little further, if only to reassure anxious local cat-lovers? No, but if I wanted to write a letter to the editor, they would publish it on their correspondence page.

I find it disturbing that after playing on many local peoples’ fears with a front page lead story presented with all the authority of Dimbleby Newspapers, the reporter was not prepared to do any further checking when presented with new evidence that made the story look decidedly dubious, and was prepared to leave any further coverage to the vagaries of the letters column.

So what it going on? Why do cats in the North-East end up in the curry, whilst cats in the South-East are skinned and their pelts flown hundreds of miles across Europe? Could it be because these alarmists feel that traditional racist slurs about Indian restaurants are unlikely to be taken seriously in the liberal climate of Richmond and Barnes, whereas concern about the fur-trade and ‘animal rights’ might produce a greater sense of shock? And in how many more local papers have variants of this story appeared?


1. Folklore Frontiers, edited by Paul Screeton, 5 Egton drive, Seaton Carew, Hartlepool, TS25 2AT

More on catnapping HERE