BUFORA Conference at Bristol, July 1968.

From Merseyside UFO Bulletin, Vol. 1., No. 4., July-August 1968.

This report of a BUFORA conference in Bristol in 1968 gives a good impression of the sorts of issues that were being discussed by the ‘scientific’ end of the UFO research spectrum in 1968. The dismissive refrence to ‘ban the bomb’ campaigners, ‘jingling bells’ and ‘esoteric aspects’ hints at the antagonism between the ‘scientific’ and ‘New Age’ approaches to the subject which were arising at this time. Readers are referred to Andy Roberts’s essay ‘A Saucer Full of secrets’ which appeared in Magonia 87, February 2005 and can be read here:


The Conference was held in the Grosvenor Hotel, Bristol and our hosts were the members of the British Flying Saucer Bureau, Britain’s oldest UFO organisation.

The formal business began at 2.30 p.m. with an address of welcome by the President of the BFSB Captain E. L. Plunkett. Captain Plunkett described how the BFSB was founded in 1952, with the assistance of Albert K. Bender, of the International Flying Saucer Bureau. Then in 1953 came Bender’s famous announcement that he was closing down the IFSB, on account of the “three men in black.” However, the BFSB carried on, thanks to the help of the late Dr R. Irving-Bell, and many notable people joined. By the end of 1954, the BFSB, which had by then amalgamated with the Flying Saucer Club, had about 1500 members throughout the world, Later, membership declined as the Bureau’s officers found they had insufficient spare time to devote to it. It was hoped that the Conference would initiate a revival of the BFSB.

Attempts had been made to contact Richard Hughes who was in the early nineteen-fifties Secretary of the Flying Saucer Club and producer of the excellent “Flying Saucer News,” but his present whereabouts remained unknown.

Mr Graham F.N.Knewstub then took the Chair and stressed that the Conference was concerned with the physical side of the UFO problem, as opposed to the more esoteric aspects, Mr Lionel Beer (Vice-Chairman of BUFORA) then gave an account of this year’s BUFORA National Skywatch. A number of groups of observers had reported sightings of UFOs and one unidentified light in the sky was photographed at Guildford.

This Skywatch produced at least two somewhat bizarre stories. A group in Northamptonshire noticed strange lights in the distance and some of the watchers went to investigate them. On getting near enough, they discovered that some sort of “black magic orgy” was taking place A group from Worthing (not connected with the BUFORA Skywatch) were said to have been skywatching at Chanctonbury Ring, near Worthing, when they experienced difficulty in breathing and suddenly feeling waves of cold air passing over there.

A revealing light was thrown on this incident by  Omar Fowler , Chairman of the Surrey Investigation Group on Aerial Phenomena, writing in the Groups SIGAP Newsletter. Five SIGAP members drove down to Worthing on June to meet members of the new group. Mr Fowler records:

“However, upon arriving at Worthing it was immediately evident that  the new group consisted of young people who, after ‘Banning the Bomb’ and ‘Protesting at Porton’ had decided to try their luck at UFO watching. Any scientific results of their skywatch at Chanctonbury would be difficult to imagine. The SIGAP members immediately voted to ‘go it alone’ and left for the site in two separate cars, rather than endure the jingling of the bells around the Worthing watchers’ necks.”

Mr Stephen Smith, B.A. (BUFORA Research Director), gave an account of the communication arrangements for the skywatch, which  included a ham-radio link-up, organised by Colin McCarthy. Mr Smith said that he devising of a rapid and efficient communications system was one off the more important aspects of such exercises.

Several people brought along UFO detectors and described and demonstrated them. It seems that most of the present work on such devices is devoted to improving on the simple magnetic needle detector and the McCarthy coil detector. However, some experiments are being made with devices which respond to heat, light and radioactivity.

Lionel Beer and Stephen Smith described the BUFORA Research Vehicle, which was on view outside the hotel. This vehicle is intended for use on skywatches and on field investigations of important sighting reports. So far it has been used on two national skywatches and has toured Britain, visiting various UFO groups. It was also used during investigations of the Devon ‘flying cross’ sightings last autumn.

Mr G. F. T. Knewstub gave a talk on the elementary mathematical treatment of UFO sighting data, and the most technical talk. of the Conference was given by Mr T.Wright on laser holography in connection with UFO photographs.

The last item of the Conference, was an open forum. The panel consisted of Lionel Beer, Omar Fowler, Graham Knewstub and Stephen Smith, and Captain Ivar Mackay (Chairman of BUFORA) took the chair.

The Conference was well organised and was generally agreed to have been a success.



It Never RAINS but it Pours: Reporting on the Satan Hunters. Basil Humphreys


Although there have been no recent high profile cases like Rochdale or Orkney, the Satanism hunters have not gone away.

BASIL HUMPHREYS reports on recent activity.

From Magonia 59, April 1997

The claims of Satanic Child Abuse hunters are seldom given space in the press nowadays, yet they are as busy as ever. The RAINS (Ritual Abuse Information Network and Support) conference at Warwick University on 13-14 September 1996 had an attendance of two hundred (two-thirds of them women), mostly professional carers of some kind, along with a few vicars, some survivors of Ritual Abuse, and a couple of sceptics who were careful to keep their views to themselves. An informal survey conducted by one of the lecturers revealed that all but about ten of those present claimed to have first hand experience of a Ritual Abuse case, and most said they had several. The speakers included Catherine Could, an American therapist who had had patients recalling Satanic rituals ever since the McMartin case was first publicised in 1984; Valerie Sinason, editor of Treating Survivals of Satanist Abuse; and Tim Tate, who was the researcher for the notorious Cook Report on Satanism in 1989. 

No doubt for security reasons, tape recorders were forbidden, and the only journalist allowed was believer Andrew Boyd. Sceptical Mail on Sunday reporters were given a press conference in a room away from the rest, mainly rhetoric from Valerie Sinason. 

The words ‘Satanic’ and ‘Satanism’ were not actually used. Rather, people tended to refer ominously to ‘them’, leaving it tacit who ‘they’ were, One woman explained the necessity for RAINS like this: “They’re networked to one another, so we have to fight them with their own weapons.” Just how far does she intend to take this principle? 

The words Satanic and Satanism were not actually used, rather, people tended to refer ominously to them, leaving it tacit who they were

The emphasis is now on ‘Multiple Personality Disorder’, This condition was not even recognised until fairly recently, and was at first assumed to be a reaction to extreme trauma. Yet it is now assumed that it is deliberately induced by the cults as a form of mind control. So far as one could tell, it was usually taken for granted that survivors of Satanism would not remember their experiences until they recalled them under therapy or hypnosis. 

That the Satanists can wield mind control to this extent is used to explain away the lack of evidence. Valerie Sinason mentioned a case where police searched for evidence to back a survivor’s story, and found none: she said they had “interviewed the wrong alter [personality]“. Two policemen from Congleton in Cheshire, who have had several Ritual Abuse cases in their town, have repeatedly dug up gardens where Ritual Abuse survivors told them the bodies of sacrificial victims were buried (I feel sorry for the gardeners of Congleton), but mysteriously enough, they have never found anything. It has not occurred to them that the survivors might be telling porky-pies: rather, there must be an incredibly efficient conspiracy to conceal the truth, Were some of their fellow police amongst the ranks of ‘them’? Masonic conspiracies, inevitably, were mooted. Then another possibility was suggested: the survivors have been subjected to cult mind-control which is still operating. After giving information to the police, the survivors are programmed to telephone ‘them’ immediately and repeat it, so that ‘they’ are able to remove the evidence before the police can get there. 

A similar point was made by Catherine Gould: patients may move to another part of the country, but the Satanists manage to find them. One reason is that: “some alters are programmed to telephone the cult and tell them their new whereabouts when they move home.” 

All this was illustrated by the Californian therapist Caryn Stardancer, editor of Survivorship, who is herself a survivor of ritual abuse and “a member of a multiple-self system”. Having announced herself as such, she briefly slipped into one of her little girl alters. She kept two stuffed toys on the front of the podium as she talked, which apparently were so useful in her therapy that she now takes them everywhere. 

It is a myth, Stardancer said, that “survivors are neurotic people with empty lives who invent stories to get attention”; in fact, they haven’t got the attention that False Memory Syndrome has (everyone in this field thinks that it is only their opponents who are getting the media attention). She knows it is a myth because she herself suffered, back in the 1940s and 1950s when she was a small child, and the hands of an inter-generational, multi-perpetrator cult, actually at least five cults who were conspiring together. These included: a Satanic Cabal hiding under the cover of a Fundamentalist church; a Dionysiac group (who had survived underground ever since the days of ancient Rome) who “specialise in political manipulation through crime and blackmail”; a feminist Pagan coven; a youth gang who used Satanic imagery; and military mind-control experts who were affiliated with the Masons. She was able to bring in several other favourite conspiracy theories by giving them as part of the alleged cult’s teachings: she says they claim the cult hierarchy dates back to Hermes Trismegistus, an early Grand Master, they built the pyramids, and they are in touch with extra-terrestrials, as is proved by the eye in the pyramid on the US dollar bill. Many survivors, she says, are programmed to believe that social unrest at the turn of the millennium will enable the group they are in to take control. 

This talk won a minute’s standing ovation, In response to a question from the audience, she said she was given the surname Stardancer twenty years ago by an Indian medicine man she met at a conference on adolescent schizophrenia. 

Curiously, some of the patients supposedly continue in Satanism even while in therapy. Joan Coleman’s first survivor once had to postpone her sessions by two days because she had been summoned to a Satanic court in France, When she got to the delayed sessions she described how two ‘hoods’ had taken her to a chateau, where a black cockerel was sacrificed, she was urinated on, smeared with excrement, and all the usual stuff, questioned, then apparently let off. Valerie Sinason has a Multiple Personality Disorder patient who, as a child, was made Satan’s daughter and had “a goat’s horn shoved up her bum”. Her ‘adult alter’ still goes to rituals, returning with injuries, and she is now in a wheelchair. Though Sinason and her colleague Rob Hale at the Portman Clinic were doing an NHS-funded study of SRA, asking “what corroboration?”, it did not seem to occur to her that surveillance of such a patient could readily provide proof, if her story were true. 

Sinason also stated that certain crimes are committed at the full moon, mentioning the horse mutilations of a few years ago. Presumably this is meant to prove that they occur on cult holy days, yet the same observation has also been taken as proof that astrology is true. The first thing that ought to be investigated is whether or not some crimes really are committed more often at the full moon.

The weekend was rounded off by Marjorie Orr, the astrologer and founder of ‘Accuracy About Abuse’, who devoted her talk to attacking belief in ‘false memory syndrome’, which she says has led to the silencing of adult survivors, and is in danger of wrecking psychotherapy. There may be “a little exaggeration” on the part of survivors (those who describe mass murder, perhaps), but no more. The British False Memory Society, she considers, is an umbrella group for organised paedophile rings. 

It is likely that such conferences as this are self-propagating. One presenter related how in 1994 she went to a study day at Southampton University presented by Valerie Sinason: ‘Ritual Abuse: Does it Exist.’ At first she felt “total disbelief” at what she was hearing, but by the end of the day she believed in ritual abuse. The following years one of her patients started ‘disclosing’ having been made to take part in Satanic rituals (during which devils and humans flew about in the air), hence by the time of this conference she was herself an authority on the subject. 

Finally, it may be remarked that one piece of actual physical evidence was produced in the course of the weekend, A woman who was in the process of remembering the Satanic rituals she had been made to attend as a child awoke one morning, so she said, to find a box of voodoo dolls on her doorstep, obviously a curse placed there by the Satanists to warn her to keep her mouth shut, The voodoo dolls were shown, They were Guatemalan ‘Worry Dolls’, as sold at charity shops all over the country. 

Some recent developments:

Several recent news items have shown that the debate over ‘Satanic’ abuse and ‘False Memory’ is no closer to resolution. The Daily Telegraph (March 25, 1997, p.6) reports that the British Association of Counselling has issued guidelines to its 14,000 members warning them of the dangers of creating false memories in therapy. Chairman Alex McGuire is quoted as saying that the number of people with recovered memories which proved false was low, “but we don’t know what `low’ means. It could be tens, hundreds or even thousands. There is no doubt that it is a genuine hazard.” 

The Observer, (March 2, 1997) reports on a case where a 38 year old woman, Susan Lees, is sung the NSPCC and Birmingham Social Services for withholding evidence of abuse she suffered as a very young child at the hands of her father. She was taken into care and adopted at the age of five, and claims that memories of the abuse returned after hearing news reports of torture in Bosnia, then obtained Social Services records which confirm much of her story. Critics of False Memory Syndrome are claiming that this demonstrates that victims can forget their abuse then recover the memories much later, However this case seems to have little in common with others reported. The abuse happened when Ms Lees was a baby, stopped when she was adopted, and did not continue over many years, even into adulthood, as is alleged in SRA claims. 

In the Guardian‘s Saturday magazine section (March 15, 1997) a writer who appears to have links with the relevant Social Services department mounts a criticism of the action taken by a judge in Scotland in dismissing a ritual abuse prosecution in Ayrshire. Not having seen court reports it is difficult to know what happened in the case, and to what extent ‘recovered memory’ played a part. The implication in the article is that serious abuse did occur (an allegation which would presumably be impossible to make without the anonymity of individuals in such cases) but that prosecutors and judges were unwilling to accept the ‘Ritual’ elements, so the case fell. As in the conference reported above, mention of ‘Satanic’ abuse is carefully avoided. It is also apparent that the Guardian’s writer disapproves of the lifestyle of the family concerned – ‘travellers’ who can afford a large house through exporting expensive cars to Thailand and the Far East, The fact that Thailand is a centre for paedophile pornography is carefully pointed out. 

The recurrence of cases like these serves to emphasise the concerns expressed in Magonia by John Harney and Kevin McClure about the dangers of involving children in alien abduction stories. –  John Rimmer


It’s All In The Mind. Peter Rogerson

From Magonia 15, April 1984

This article was originally a paper presented at the second Anglo-French UFO conference held in Brighton, 30th March – 1st April 1984

It would appear that in certain quarters this magazine has gained the reputation of being part of the ‘it’s all to the mind brigade’, whatever that might menu. It seems worthwhile therefore to give a résumé of the sort of ideas about which Magonia Editors are speculating.

First, it must be realised that Magonia is not a monolith. Although we exchange ideas so much that it sometimes becomes impossible to say with certaintly who first thought of what, the Editors do have different views, and fit what follows I can therefore only speak for myself.

When I first became interested in the subject as a schoolboy in the early 1960′s I naturally supported the ETH, and was a hardcore supporter of the ‘nuts and bolts’ school. Having been weaned on Aimé Michel and Donald Kehoe I had no time for contactees. During these early years I read most of the old books on the subject, and swallowed most of the ufological clichés.

My parents were none too happy about my chosen hobby, and warned that many people who believed in ‘flying saucers’ were cranks. With the rashness of youth I disregarded their warnings; but when, in the autumn of 1968, I and a couple of school-friends joined the local flying saucer society I found my parents were right, and that many ufolologists were cranks!

My parents were none too happy about my chosen hobby, and warned that many people who believed in ‘flying saucers’ were cranks

Not only that, but I soon discovered that by reading a dozen or so books on the subject I had obtained as good, or better, a grasp on the subject as people who had allegedly been studying UFOs for 25 years. Many of the members appeared to have read nothing beyond George Adamski, and appeared to have been entranced since about 1952. It occurred to me that many seemingly impressive cases may actually have been investigated by people like this. My doubts grew. It was probably the Apollo 8 moonshot that destroyed my naive faith in the ETH. The idea of electromagnetic spaceships visiting the Earth seemed somehow absurd.My disillusionment made me increasingly open to the ideas of John Keel, whose articles had been appearing in FSR; and John Michel’s Flying Saucer Vision had reawakened an interest in folklore. It was in this climate that I encountered MUFORG Bulletin, and its successor, MUFOB. I was an instant convert!

By now I had also examined Fort’s data for 1904/05, which set UFO reports in a radically new context. I had also begun to take a serious interest in parapsychology, and I soon realised that serious psychic researchers thought along very different lines from the occult gibberish which circulated In UFO groups. The final synthesis was easy. Ufologists had argued that the UFOs had always been with us, and deeply involved with human culture, and acted like apparitions. The answer seemed simple. UFOs were created by people, they were products of the human imagination, and were hallucinatory, like apparitions.

I still thought along fairly radical lines, involving collective hallucinations, psi, idea patterns and a collective unconscious possibly able to alter the physical environment. Over the intervening years I have been forced to de-escalate hypotheses as it became clear that a far wider range of cases can he explained in ‘normal’ terns than was once thought possible.There are however still a fair number of cases among the 5000 or so in INTCAT which resist interpretation in terms of simple misidentification. These are cases in which an object (with or without humanoids) is observed in someone’s backyard for example, where if the record is a true one, and the report is not a hoax, then it must be either a subjectively real or an objectively real occurrence.

At this point it might be useful to lay aside one of the great red herrings which still crop up in such discussions; the notion that only the mentally ill have hallucinations. There is little evidence to support this idea, which has recently been resurrected by Ian Cresswell [1]. On the contrary, it is generally recognised that psychotic subjects tend to have auditory hallucinations [2], rather than visual.Though interpretation is a matter of dispute, there is no doubt that many people have apparitional experiences [see 3,4,5,6]. Similarly, there is no doubt that people have ‘out of the body’ experiences [see 7, 8] which are also best thought of as being hallucinatory in nature.

The hallucinatory theory of apparitions developed historically because ghosts wore clothes, and were sometimes accompanied by animals or artifacts. Also ghosts could sometimes be seen by one person but not by another. Clearly this tended to dispute the traditional idea of ghosts as temporarily materialised spirit forms, as spirit clothes and spirit carriages are most unlikely. Furthermore, anything actually perceived by means of photons reaching the retina would he visible to all ably sighted people in the vicinity. So if apparitions are not perceived by means of photons, they are by definition hallucinatory.

Various psychic researchers have tried to find ways of accounting for apparitions by non-hallucinatory means [9,10] but without success. On critical exarnination their theories turn out either to mean nothing at all, or to introduce hallucinations by the back door, albeit hallucinations of a rather particular kind.Everyone has one kind of hallucination – dreams, which can be intensely vivid. It is usually assumed that one can tell the difference between sleep and waking, but this might well depend on context. If one wakes up in bed, the previous out-of-context experiences can easily be judged to be dreams.Certain kinds of hallucinatory experience account for a high proportion of apparitional lore. The most common of these are hypnogogic and hypnopompic imagery, and false awakening. These experiences are discussed in the various works of Dr. Peter McKellar  [11, 12, 13].

They were perhaps first extensively treated in a ufological context by John Rimmer and myself in the study of ‘Miss Z’ [14]. The most complete exposition of hypnopompic and hypnogogic experiences in a UFO context is that by the Australian researcher Keith Basterfield [15]. Though Basterfield’s arguments are probably too compressed to convince those who have not closely followed the same lines of reasoning, they are still impressive.

Some critics of Basterfield have tried to argue that hypnogic and hypnopompic experiences are so fleeting that they could not possibly generate UFO experiences. However, an examination of both the standard works by McKellar, and the literature on apparitions, clearly suggests that some of these experiences can be quite prolonged. One critic has gone so far as to suggest, apropos of false awakenings, that people who can’t tell the difference between their dreams and bring awake are stark staring bookers – or words to that effect! Not having had a vivid false awakening, myself, I put this view to a friend who has. He was quite emphatic that the only was to distinguish a false awakening from ‘reality’ was by context. A false awakening was not a hazy dream, but absolutely realistic.

My friend’s false awakening, involved him getting up, shaving, having breakfast, going to work, exactly as in ‘real life’. Eventually he became able to recognise minute differences in a clock. He then realised he was dreaming, and was able to initiate a ‘lucid dream’. If such a false awakening had happened whilst he was sleeping in a chair, and the dream had ended with him ‘returning’ to the chair, there would have been no way in which he could have determined that it was in fact a false awakening.

After a long drive the motorist will commonly report that at some point in the journey he ‘woke up’ to realise that he had no awareness of some proceeding period of time

Other circumstances in which hallucinatory effects can occur include driving at night, piloting a jet plane and watching a radar screen [16, 17, 18]; all circumstances in which UFO experiences are known to occur. ‘Highway Hypnosis’ is a recognised psychological description, as is the ‘time-loss’ which leads motorists to fear UFO abduction. As Graham Reed points out: “After a long drive the motorist will commonly report that at some point in the journey he ‘woke up’ to realise that he had no awareness of some proceeding period of time” [19, p.18]. Reed relates this experience to a loss of attention to surrounding scenery which tends to occur on long, straight stretches of road. It is not difficult to envisage this happening if the subject’s mind was preoccupied with other topics – a frightening UFO experience, say?

A very high percentage of close encounter cases involve people driving through rural areas at night, when conditions are just right for illusions, distortions of judgement, and hallucinations. Although very few such cases are publicised, conversations with motorists will often elicit details of a variety of hallucinatory / illusionary effects, including bizarre distortions of the landscape (compare with the Biet Bridge case), hallucinations of figures crossing the road, etc. No doubt the famous ‘phantom hitch-hiker’ of popular folklore has its origins in the ‘phantom companions’ experienced by fatigued drivers.

The nocturnal driver’s UFO experience is often initiated by a sense of either physical danger (‘a plane’s going to crash on me’) or social danger (‘the cops are after me’). In such situations an explanation in terms of ‘flying saucers’ can be a temporary relief. Since the publicity given to the Betty and Barney Hill story, however, the fear of abduction by space people has grown considerably, and may run in definite, media inspired, social panics.

As Allen Hendry has shown (20] the presence of multiple witnesses in closed groups can lead to mutually reinforced fantasies and panic. In many such cases the published summaries may obscure rather than illuminate the process of mutual reinforcement. An excellent example of this is provided by the Travis Walton case [21]. My interpretation of this is simple: I believe that Walton and colleagues saw some sort of light. Walton jumped out to investigate, whereupon the others, seeing a dash of light and Walton fall, drove off. They then began, probably unconsciously, to escalate the solidity and ominous nature of the threat, in order to justify their panic. By the time they reached the authorities they had no doubt convinced themselves that they had seen a detailed, structured object.

The explanation of Walton’s own experience, I would suggest, was rather similar. Clearly he received a shock of some kind and went into a fugue state, from which he recovered a couple of days later. The abduction sequence was probably a dream triggered by the same fears – though it was probably embellished and polished at a later date.

The emotional reactions encountered in the regression of ‘abduction’ victims is very closely paralleled by those who have undergone regression to ‘past-lives’ [22]. In both these cases such fantasies can generate real physical effects – weals, scars, etc.

Celia Green and Colin McCarthy, in their studies of apparitions, out of the body experiences and lucid dreams, connected these together as examples of ‘metachoric experiences’, in which the percipient’s whole environment is replaced by an hallucinatory one. It is interesting to divide these experiences into two types:

1. ‘Magonia’ intruding into the percipient’s real (apparitions, religious visions, CEIII’s)

2. Percipient intruding into ‘Magonia’ (OOB’s, near-death experiences, abductions, past lives).

The second type involves a much more complete break with consensus reality, and can generate profound symbolism and powerful emotional responses.If metachoric experience can be generated by external stimuli then we may have a clue to some of the truly extraordinary cases of misperception in which the moon and Venus appear to generate extreme effects. Could a misperception of the moon induce a metachoric experience in which all sorts of bizarre effects could be encountered? I think it highly probable that the ‘true’ UFO experience is this subjective experience which manifests itself along a continuum from misperception, triggered hallucination, metachorlc experience, dream, hoax, fiction.

If profound subjective responses can be generated by the moon or advertising planes, then they can equally be produced by plasmas, earthquake lights, or a wide spectrum of poorly understood phenomena

Before outraged readers object that this does not account for XYZ, let me make it clear that I am not placing any real limitation on the kind of phenomena both physical and psychological which might trigger such experiences. If profound subjective responses can be generated by the moon or advertising planes, then they can equally be produced by plasmas, earthquake lights, or a wide spectrum of poorly understood natural phenomena. If so, then scientific advance may be able to isolate further ‘core’ phenomena.

Nor can a discussion of mechanism really dispose of matters of ultimate causation. I cannot prove, for example, that demons are not giving people metachoric experiences, or causing them to misinterpret the moon as a spaceship; although I don’t think they are. Nor could anyone prove it: some areas are beyond rational analysis, and must presumably be taken as articles of religious faith.

It must be further emphasised that the UFO experience is not ‘all in the mind’ in the sense of being the product of the imagination of isolated individuals. It is a social and cultural phenomenon much more than a psychological one. The whole problem of the content of the kind of experiences I have been discussing is wholly unresolved. Why, for example, should hypnogogic imagery involve ‘faces in the dark’? What are the reasons behind the transcultural stereotyping in UF0 experiences?In recent years the interests of the Editors of this magazine have been increas-ingly concentrated, not on individual anomalous experiences, but on the social context within which such experiences take place, and which generates them. The experiences both condition, and are conditioned by, the beliefs of society by a process of mutual feedback. Within a social context many apparently ‘absurd’ beliefs and experiences have depth and meaning.

Research along these lines is still severely hampered because so many people in different academic disciplines remain ignorant of each others’ work and ideas. So long as this situation persists there will be a role for the non-specialist, who is not tied to a rota of routine professional reading, and who can speculate freely where academic reputations fear to tread.


  • 1. CRESWELL, Ian S. ‘Objections to the BT Hypothesis’, Magonia 11.
  • 2. WEST, Donald J. ‘Visions and Hallucinatory Experiences; a comparative appraisal’, International Journal of Parapsychology, Winter, 1960.
  • 3. TYRELL, G N M  Apparitions, Duckworth, 1953.
  • 4. GREEN, Celia and Colin McCREEERY, Apparitions, Hamilton, 1975.
  • 5. McKENZIE, Andrew, Apparitions and Ghosts. Barker, 1971.
  • 6. McKENZIE, Andrew, Hauntings and Apparitions, Heinemann, 1982.
  • 7. GREEN, Celia. Out of the Body Experiences, Ballantine, 1973.
  • 8. BLACKMORE, Susan. Beyond the Body, Heinemann, 1902.
  • 9. HART, Hornel, et. al.  Six Theories of Apparitions
  • 10. ROGO, D Scott  An Experience of Phantoms, Taplinger, 1974.
  • 11. McKELLAR, Peter. Imagination and Thinking Cohen A West, 1950.
  • 12. McKELLAR, Peter. Experience and Behaviour, Penguin, 1968.
  • 13. McKELLAR, Peter. Mindsplit, Dent, 1979.
  • 14. ROGERSON, Peter and John RIMMER. ‘Visions In the Night’, MUFOB, ns.4.
  • 15. BASTERFIELD, Keith. Close Encounters of an Australian Kind Reed, 1981.
  • 16. WILLIAMS, R. W. ‘Highway Hypnosis, an hypothesis’, International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis 1965.
  • 17. LUWIG, Arnold M. In TART, Charles (ed.) Altered States of  Consciousness, Wiley, 1969.
  • 18. BROWNFIELD, C. Isolation: Clinical and Experimental Approaches, Random House, 1968.
  • 19. REED, Graham. ‘The Psychology of Anomalous Experiences Random House, 1968
  • 20. HENDRY, Allen. The UFO Handbook, Doubleday, 1979.
  • 21. BARRY, Bill. Ultimate Encounter, Pocket Books, 1978.
  • 22. WILSON, Ian. Reincarnatlon, Penguin, 1902.

 Read this article in conjunction with Jacques Scornaux’s presentation at the same conference, ‘The Rising and limits of a Doubt’

Doubts at DIGAP, Concern over COS-MOS. John Rimmer

It can be a daunting experience for anyone who believes that UFO reports should be investigated objectively, with due respect for basic scientific principles, to give a talk to the average UFO group. The audiences couldn’t care less about science – they want the space people in their saucers. In the following two articles, John Rimmer describes his experiences as a UFO lecturer. The first was published in Merseyside UFO Bulletin, Vol. 3, No. 2, April/May 1970 and the second appeared in Vol. 4, No. 1, Spring 1971.

On the tenth of April [1970] I was privileged to lecture the Direct Investigation Group on Aerial Phenomena (DIGAP) at their meeting rooms in Manchester. I chose as the topic of my talk “Subjective Aspects of the UFO Phenomena”, and it took the form of comments on this subject, illustrated with articles from earlier issues of this Bulletin. This was the first occasion on which I had given a talk to a UFO group, and was therefore somewhat apprehensive about what might befall me. The content of my message will be familiar to regular readers of this Bulletin through such articles as “The UFO as an Anti-scientific Symbol”, “UFOs and Irish Folk Lore”, “A Critical Look at the Interplanetary Theory”, as well as the alternative viewpoint put forward by Alan Sharp.

It became evident as the evening went on that there was a certain amount of hostility towards some of the ideas I was putting forward, some people still apparently equating hallucination and extreme subjective responses with mental instability. In the article “A Personal View of the Sixties” in this Bulletin, John Harney remarks on how lovingly ufologists hold onto what nebulous fragments of “physical evidence” there are. This was apparent when I remarked that the Cloud Cigar UFO with its attendant Angel Hair could be some form of tornado or electrical storm. This, to my mind, quite reasonable suggestion produced a remarkable amount of heat, DIGAP members arguing that this was one of the main pieces of evidence for the physical reality of UFOs, so many people having seen them at once. Presumably when one has a piece of evidence like this it is hard to let it go!

One of the members related an interesting tale, which complemented my remarks on the relevance of folklore to our study. He told of a mining engineer, a friend of his, who had been told of, and had seen himself, curious humanoid forms in Cornish mines.

The high-spot of the evening as far as I was concerned was a revelation that was made concerning the activities of the men in black. I had remarked that MIB were mostly an American phenomenon, and that there were psychological and sociological reasons for this. “However”, I added, “there have been MIB incidents in Europe and other parts of the world.”

“I heard of an incident in England quite recently”, said a lady member of the Group.

“Could you give me some details, as we are very interested in these incidents at MUFOB?” I asked.

“Well, I had heard from a ufologist in the south of England that men had visited a person and frightened him into closing down his magazine and giving up ufology!”

We were agog.

“Do you know who this person is?”

“Yes, someone called John Harney.”

I think that at this point I fell, helpless, under the table! As soon as I had recovered my decorum I was able to reassure all present that our editor Mr Harney had not been silenced, and was able to turn the incident to good account as an example of the way unconfirmed wild rumour can fly around without a grain of truth.

By the end of the meeting I do not think I had “converted” anyone. Some of those present were, I thought, rather resentful of my incursion into some of their cherished dogmas, and regarded me rather like an atheist at a Vatican Synod. Others, however, seemed to be interested, and perhaps encouraged to look at the topic from a slightly different viewpoint. I was encouraged when, on leaving, a member of the audience remarked, “You seem to have stunned some of our members into an unusual silence!”
One does one’s best!

The publication of his article about British UFO groups entitled “The Death and Life of British Ufology”, John Rimmer was invited by Norman Oliver, Director of COS-MOS, to address a COS-MOS meeting on this topic. He accepted, and here is his impression of the meeting which he addressed on 27 February 1971.

Why Are You Banging Your Head Against That Brick Wall? Because It’s So Nice When I Stop!

libraryIt was a clear, cool Kensington evening.

After a pleasant meal at a neighbouring trattoria I strolled through the elegant, tree-lined streets of the Royal Borough towards the Central Library, an imposing brick building in the Municipal-Fascist style of architecture. Following directions I descended a ramp, and entered the building through the basement goods entrance. The brown wood and cork-lined lecture theatre, windowless, was suitably Kafkaesque for what was to follow. People came strolling in, past the statutory table selling books and magazines. After a quarter of an hour of confusion trying to find who was running the shooting match I took my place on the platform. I found to my surprise that I was confronted by an impressive phalanx of microphones, attached to even more impressive looking tape recorders. I felt like a witness at the McCarthy investigations, broadcasting coast-to-coast on NBC, CBS and ABC.

Norman Oliver, who had invited me to the meeting, was apparently having trouble with trains in Neasden, so I was introduced by another COS-MOS committeeman.

I began my address by modestly comparing my own views on the futility of UFO groups with those of Dr Jacques Vallee. The main drift of my argument will already be familiar to those who read my original “Death and Life” article, and my reply to Dick Beet’s letter. Basically that I thought UFO organisations were too much organisation and not enough research. I stressed that ufologists should not work in isolation, but that by organising into formal groups they were in danger of dissipating their energies into the complexities of group politics, rather than concentrating on the phenomena. I attempted to show that the public attitude to ufologists – that they are a crowd of nuts – was in large measure due to the fact that the ufologists the public sees and hears most, ARE a crowd of nuts. I concluded that UFO groups may provide some degree of mental satisfaction for those whose particular emotional inadequacies can be sublimated by immersion in the small, complex world of mini-Machiavellianism and big-fishism. Even so there are better ones available in other fields.
The chairman invited questions.

“You have a very good turn of phrase, have you ever thought of being a theatre critic?”

This was not quite the sort of question I had been expecting. Despite the theatricality of many UFO events, I confessed that this idea had never crossed my mind.

After this the questions came, thick and fast. Or, rather, the speeches came thick and fast. This was when I began to notice a remarkable phenomenon. It appeared that practically no one in the hall had heard a single word I had said! There seemed to be an assumption that I had forbidden ufologists from ever meeting each other to work together, or even just to meet for a chat and a pint! Some people seemed to think I said UFO work should be abandoned altogether. At first I thought these people might be confused by the verbal virtuosity and epigrammatic brilliance of my speech. But then I realised their confusion was a result of non-communication. What I had been saying was so at odds with their accepted articles of faith that they were incapable of relating to it. They found it easier to assume I had said something else.

About half way through question time came the trick question.

“What do you think is the more important, the study of the witness or the study of the UFO?” This question had nothing whatever to do with anything I had been saying. I said I thought it was irrelevant and a trick question. And like a sucker I proceeded to answer it. This was what they had come to hear. I explained, with much hedging and ifs and buts, that one was forced to study the witness, because the witness was part of the phenomenon. Staunch friends came to my aid, explaining that our only knowledge of the phenomenon was through reports made by witnesses. It was to no avail, I had said the wrong thing. I felt like the man in the old Bateman cartoons who asked for a whisky and soda at the Great Pump Room, Bath, or who lit a cigar before the Royal Toast. I was accused of being that most hated of ufological bogey-men – a cynic.

“Cynical of what”, I protested, “cynical of one theory (ETH) of the origin of UFOs?” To no avail, the die was cast, the chips were down, the cards were on the table. The credibility gap was a yawning abyss.

I moved on, discussing the public image of the ufologist. His strange quirks and aberrations, the funny exhibitions, strange conferences and inane envelope stickers (Who are they supposed to be read by, the postmen?). I had not realised envelope stickers had such devoted aficionados. All the usual cliches and unwarranted assumptions were trotted out:

“A well-ordered UFO research network is essential for gathering information on sightings.” I tried to imagine such a network, zeroing in on some little man who had the misfortune to see a UFO. I thought it an extremely unlikely scenario. The audience seemed to imagine it happened all the time. Next came the great persecution complex and neurotic ego-trip. MIB do not trouble British ufologists. Their enemies are the pressmen. Unscrupulous Lunchtime O’Booze characters who lose no opportunity to ridicule hard-working ufologists. Has it never occurred to them, I asked, that the press portrayed ufologists as crazy because some of them did crazy things? No, of course not, it was a conspiracy aided and abetted by film producers who made films about saucers full of nasty aliens. Perhaps they only made films about saucers full of nasty aliens because ufologists started putting it around that saucers WERE filled with aliens, nasty or otherwise.

“Nonsense!” announced one gentleman. Had I never read H.G.Wells? He did not seem convinced when I assured him I had. No, the truth is, apparently, that reporters, film producers and television directors decided, quite arbitrarily, to ridicule ufology and all who sail in her. Arbitrarily? Or was it GOVERNMENT PRESSURE, it was hinted darkly.

By now the congregation was getting restless.

“Waste of time, all this, waste of time”, someone muttered. I was saying all the wrong things. Everyone knew that UFO groups were a GOOD THING.
“You know, John”, I was told gently, “it takes an awful lot of hard work, by a group, to put out a magazine.” Lumps came to throats, eyes misted over. Suddenly I felt curmudgeonly, attacking something so obviously dear to the hearts of so many nice people.

But I was soon comforted:

“You are very brave to come along here and say all this”, I was told by a charming, elderly lady, “and I do think you are terribly sincere”.

“Yes, very sincere”, others echoed, “and you have a marvellous turn of phrase!”

At the interval Mr Oliver appeared. We unfortunately had to leave and were prevented from hearing his talk on “UFO abductions and reproductions”. I just hope there were no film producers in the audience to hear about THAT!


Warminster’s Contactee. John Harney

Several members of Merseyside UFO Research Group attended the BUFORA Northern Conference at Bradford on 10 September 1966. Arthur Shuttlewood was the main speaker and John Harney wrote the following review of his lecture, which was published in the October 1966 issue of MUFORG Bulletin.

shuttlewoodAs the audience settled down to listen to Arthur Shuttlewood’s lecture at the Bradford Conference, no doubt many were expecting merely a sort of roundup of the sightings and incidents which have occurred there. If so, they were due for a shock.
His talk began reasonably enough, with details of some of the better-known incidents which focused public attention on Warminster. He said he had not seriously considered UFOs until 28 September 1965, when he saw one himself. He attacked the cynics who alleged that the whole business was deliberately cooked up to act as a tourist attraction. He also vented his spleen on the editors of the national newspapers. He claimed that a representative of one of them (not named) had offered him £500 for a UFO photograph, saying that it didn’t matter whether it was genuine or faked.

Then he went on to assert that he had seen 288 UFOs since February and had obtained over 70 photographs of them in the same period. “Witnesses have come to Warminster, knowing we can guarantee a sighting,” he said.

Mr Shuttlewood does his saucer spotting on a hill near Warminster. He claims to have spent every clear night there since February of this year, equipped with camera and telescope, sometimes alone, sometimes accompanied by other sky-watchers. Indeed, a friend of his is said to have sighted no fewer than 322 UFOs. Out of Warminster’s population of 11,000, over 800 are said to have seen UFOs. Sceptics see and are “converted”.

There is much more to it, though, than just looking out for UFOs and listening for the “Warminster sound”. There are the space people themselves. “By next May,” says Shuttlewood, “the whole world will have to believe in the people above.” From what he has heard and “sensed” he is certain they (the space people) can monitor our thoughts. Not content with merely monitoring his thoughts, however, the spacemen have taken to ringing him up on the telephone. They are human and more evolved than us and they are concerned about us. They wear balaclava helmets and they are getting into the habit of hurling themselves in front of motor cars on lonely roads near Warminster. When the shaken drivers get out, they vanish. This alarming procedure is apparently intended to convey a message; it means “Don’t you commit mass slaughter”.

To convert people they sometimes use unconventional electrical methods. However, they are not “extrovert” unless they want to convert you. They are “the greatest levellers of society.” They are also sincere. Shuttlewood, too, is sincere. “I am as sincere as you are”, he told us.

There was much more – he spoke for two hours. The foregoing is just a brief summary. Some will say we are being unfair to Shuttlewood with our sceptical, tongue-in-cheek approach. But never mind, some other UFO magazine will quite likely print an account describing the lecture as “thrilling and inspiring”. If we may say one thing in favour of the lecture – a number of members of the audience found it very amusing, but were too polite to laugh out loud.

As a result of the activities of Arthur Shuttlewood, confusion about what really goes on at Warminster has increased. For example, there is the Cradle Hill incident of 17 August. Present were Arthur Shuttlewood, Eileen Buckle, Chairman of BUFORA’s Contact Section, and Philip Rodgers. Mr Shuttlewood alleged that a UFO was seen and landed in a field for a few moments. There are at least two published accounts to date. They give rather different impressions of the incident. One account gives the impression that the UFO was brought down by Shuttlewood flashing signals from a torch and the other suggests that the witnesses were probably mistaken. Other, verbal accounts that we have heard allege that it was cooked up by Shuttlewood who, with Miss Buckle, was watching a satellite, then suddenly pointed in the opposite direction and chased after the alleged UFO. It seems that only Shuttlewood actually claimed to have seen it land and then only for a few seconds.

From other accounts it seems that Shuttlewood’s usual technique is to point out a satellite, calling it a UFO. Then, when the satellite disappears in the earth’s shadow he directs the observer’s attention to a nearby star and says that the UFO is now hovering. It also seems that he manages to generate a great deal of excitement on these skywatches and impresses people with his charm and apparent sincerity to such an extent that stars and satellites become magically transformed into flying saucers.

There are, of course, a number of unexplained sightings and other incidents in the Warminster area, but to suggest that genuine UFOs are to be seen night after night there is a gross exaggeration. If this were so, the mystery would be practically solved by now. More sophisticated instruments than simple cameras and telescopes would have been brought to bear on the objects. The light from them would have been analysed and full details of their flight characteristics, etc., would be known. There would be a mass of useful data for the scientists to work on. So far there is nothing of the sort.

Whether Mr Shuttlewood has made up the more fantastic details of his story, either to make money, or to enjoy the resulting notoriety, or whether he has got himself into the state in which he honestly believes all the fantastic things he describes are really happening, readers must judge for themselves. However, anyone who believed every word of his Bradford lecture must indeed be a credulous person.