06. The Nazi UFO Mythos: False Histories

An Investigation by Kevin McClure: CORE 6. False Histories

Project Uranus

In another careful analysis of a dubious element of UFO history, Andy Roberts says:

“We have at least one outright hoax in foo-fighter lore. For years rumours had been flying round that the Germans had been fully aware of the foo-fighter phenomenon and that they had a special study group formed to look into the problem under the name of “Project Uranus”, backed by a shadowy group by the name of Sonderburo 13. This was first detailed in La Livres Noir De Soucoupes Volantes (The Black Book of Flying Saucers – 1970) by French ufologist Henry Durrant. The rumour spread in Europe and eventually took physical form in the English language in Tim Good’s acclaimed book Above Top Secret where it is used to help substantiate further vague rumours of an Anglo/American foo-fighter study. Good had not checked his facts and had in fact just copied the information direct from Durrant’s book.

When I checked this out with Durrant he informed me that the whole “Project Uranus” affair was a hoax which he had inserted in his book precisely to see who would copy it without checking. The hoax apparently had been revealed in France some years before but hadn’t percolated its way through to English speaking ufologists. Perhaps other foo hoaxes await discovery.” [37]

The ‘Schweinfurt Raid’

This tale involves, well, little flying saucers, in a B-17 raid on October 14 1943, aimed at the ball-bearing factories at Schweinfurt in Germany. It was publicised by popular US author Frank Edwards in Flying Saucers – Here and Now [38] in 1967, but I understand that the original glamourised version comes from one Martin Caidin, in his book Black Thursday, published in 1960. Caidin reports that

“During the bomb run of several groups, starting at about the time the Fortresses approached the Initial Point, there occurred one of the most baffling incidents of World War II, and an enigma that to this day defies all explanation.” “As the bombers of the 384th Group swung into the final bomb run after passing the Initial Point, the fighter attacks fell off. This point is vital, and pilots were queried extensively, as were other crew members, as to the position at that time of the German fighter planes. Every man interrogated was firm in his statement that “at the time there were no enemy aircraft above.”

“At this moment the pilots and top turret gunners, as well as several crewmen in the Plexiglas noses of the bombers, reported a cluster of discs in the path of the 384th’s formation and closing with the bombers. The startled exclamations focused attention on the phenomenon and the crews talked back and forth, discussing and confirming the astonishing sight before them.”

“The discs in the cluster were agreed upon as being silver colored, about one inch thick and three inches in diameter. They were easily seen by the B-17 crewmen, gliding down slowly in a very uniform cluster.” “And then the `impossible’ happened. B-17 Number 026 closed rapidly with a number of discs; the pilot attempted to evade an imminent collision with the objects, but was unsuccessful in his maneuver. He reported at the intelligence debriefing that his right wing “went directly through a cluster with absolutely no effect on engines or plane surface.”

“The intelligence officers pressed their questioning, and the pilot stated further that one of the discs was heard to strike the tail assembly of his B-17, but that neither he nor any member of the crew heard or witnessed an explosion.” “He further explained that about twenty feet from the discs the pilots sighted a mass of black debris of varying sizes of clusters of three by four feet.” “The SECRET report added: `Also observed two other A/C flying through silver discs with no apparent damage. Observed discs and debris two other times but could not determine where it came from.”

“No further information on this baffling incident has been uncovered, with the exception that such discs were observed by pilots and crew on missions prior to, and after, Mission 115 of October 14, 1943.” [39]

Caidin’s account is footnoted “1 Memorandum of October 24, 1943, from Major E.R.T. Holmes, F.L.O., 1st Bombardment Division, Reference FLO/IBW/REP/126, to M.I.15, War Office, Whitehall, London, SW (copy to Colonel E.W. Thomson, A-2, Pinetree)”, but Andy Roberts actively investigated the reference, and reports that

“a letter to the M.O.D at their Air Historical Branch 5 came to nothing, suggesting that either of the documents may be held at the Public Records Office at Kew, London. A professional researcher was despatched to try to find the document. She searched all relevant Air Force records available (some are still bound by various `rules’ with embargoes on viewing of up to 100 years) but could find nothing, despite the help of staff there and noting that “the reference FLO etc. does not correspond with any references at the record office.

In the USA, Dennis Stacy (then MUFON UFO Journal editor) had taken an interest in the case and followed up several leads, aided by the Freedom of Information Act. Firstly the A.F. Historical Research centre at Maxwell AFB searched their 8th A.F. files but could come across no documentary record of the event (interestingly enough I tried the same source and whilst they gave me squadron histories of the 415th Night Fighter squadron and their documented foo-fighter sightings, they could provide nothing on the Schweinfurt raid — odd if the Schweinfurt events were real).

The National Archives (Washington) searched their files but drew a blank. A letter written to French researcher J. M. Bigorne from the National Archives stated “A search in records of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey (USSBS), European War, Target Damage File, 11a (2606), Schweinfurt, failed to disclose any documentation or information regarding little flying discs by B-17 pilots.” All this presents us with a quandary. If the Archives are quite free about some foo-fighter info why, if it exists at all, should they be that bothered about concealing the Schweinfurt material? So far three independent researchers over the past ten years have had the same answer — none of the flight records for that day record the event in Caidin’s book. As I have seen other pilots’ logs which mention unusual UFO-type sightings during missions it would be inconceivable for at least a few aircrew on that raid to have mentioned it even in passing – especially as in this case it was obviously something of an item at de-briefing.

Letters in numerous aircrew magazines (UK & US) requesting info on the raid were placed and despite many replies no-one knew anything. Aviation writers Martin Middlebrook and Chaz Bowyer who have written many highly detailed books about the air war, and have interviewed thousands of aircrew, wrote to say they had never heard of the incident, despite having had foo-fighters mentioned to them in other contexts.

Dennis Stacy contacted the 384th Bombing Group survivors association and with no account of the UFO sighting forthcoming from them was put onto General Theodore Ross Milton who led the raid that day and went in first with the 91st Group Formation. He wrote; “I don’t recall seeing black discs or hearing about any strange phenomena from any of my group.” [40]

Roberts and Stacy pursued the source further

Martin Caidin, originator of the rumour also presents problems. His book Black Thursday was first published in 1960 and yet quotes an alleged SECRET report. How did he get hold of it then and why has it not been seen since? As for Caidin himself, several people have tried to get in touch with him without success. Both myself and (then) MUFON Journal editor Dennis Stacy have tried to track him down via his publishers and a UFO magazine he has written for, but to no avail. He last appeared in the dodgy US magazine UFO Universe where he was featured on the front page as having ‘chased bogies at 20,000 feet,’ (an astonishing spectacle no doubt!), but whilst the article gave details of UFOs he’d seen post-WWII, government film of UFOs, cover-ups, and you name it (along with mucho promotion for his many books, including UFO based novels) the Schweinfurt raid was never mentioned. Funny that, really.” [41]

However, with the terrier-like tenacity for which he is renowned, Roberts kept searching, and in September 2000 finally found, in the Records Office at Kew

The document which Caidin obviously based his account on. It reads as follows. All spelling and punctuation is in the original. The file in which the document can be found is: AIR 40/464. At the top right of the document is a rubber stamp giving details of circulation to:

1. Col Kingman Douglas
2. A.I.3. ? (W/Cdr Smith)
3. A.I. 2. ? (W/Cdr Heath)

(Author’s note: the ? refers to a squiggle or letter I cannot decipher, although it could well be ‘to’. Also the background of the stamp on which the above was written says:

“Received 17 Oct 1943″
“Copies sent to A.I.8 (USA))

The rest of the document is as follows:

Recd. AMCS. 171129a hrs Oct.43


From – OIPNT


8 BC 0-1079-E
Annex to Intelligence Report Mission Shweinfurt 16 October 1943

306 Group reporta partially unexploded 20mm shell imbedded above the panel in the cockpit of A/C number 412 bearing the following figures 19K43. The Group Ordnance Officer believes the steel composing the shell is of inferior grade. 348th Group reports a cluster of disks observed in the path of the formation near Schweinfurt, at the time there were no E/A above. Discs were described as silver coloured – one inch thick and three inches in diameter. They were gliding slowly down in very uniform cluster. A/C 026 was unable to avoid them and his right wing went directly through a cluster with absolutely no effect on engines or plane surface. One of the discs was heard striking tail assembly but no explosion was observed. About 20 feet from these discs a mass of black debris of varying sizes in clusters of 3 by 4 feet. Also observed 2 other A/C flying through silver discs with no apparent damage. Observed discs and debris 2 other times but could not determine where it came from.

Copies to:-

P.R. & A.I.6.
War Room
A.I.3. (USA) (Action 2 copies)

“Presumably Caidin must have seen a copy of this document from one of the American recipients . . . The Rubber stamp clearly states it was received on 17 October, pre-dating Caidin’s reference by seven days. But the sheer number of channels through which documents went could be the reason for this confusion and now the original document has been located I don’t think we need get hung up on the original reference any more. I have found no record of most of the personnel listed. However a Squadron Leader Heath was involved in the UK’s investigations of the Scandinavian ‘ghost rockets’ in 1946.”

He concludes

At least we now know Caidin’s reference exists! Besides that there is little to say really. The objects reported are intriguing but not completely mystifying. There were many types of flak being used by the Germans in W.W.II and several files in the PRO refer to coloured flak, flak which threw off unusual fragments, and so on. This explanation is made more likely by the fact that the ‘F.L.O.’ in Caidin’s reference stands for ‘Flak Liaison Officer’, at least suggesting that the Air Ministry were treating it within a flak context. The objects could also have been some kind of ‘window’ dropped by the Germans in an attempt to disrupt radar or radio communication among air crew. The explanation as to what the small objects were is now more of a task for the air historian than it is for the ufologist. What is clear from the original account is that the discs, whilst unusual, were clearly not any type of ‘craft’, under intelligent or purposeful control or dangerous to the air craft or crew.

In my opinion these objects do not belong in the category of sightings referred to as ‘foo-fighters’, both by their physical description and by their behaviour and characteristics. Although often lumped in with foo-fighter reports they are clearly different. This story has been a staple of UFO writers for the past three four decades. Now we have further clarification and I believe that this particular mystery is more or less laid to rest.

Andy Roberts is more charitable to Caidin’s exaggerated and redefined version of the report than I, but Caidin is nowhere near as foolish as those who put together the second block (1998 release) of ‘Majestic 12′ documents. Nevertheless, Nick Redfern and Jonathan Downes present a copy of a section of these silly documents, which says

“Aerial interference with military aircraft has demonstrated the ability to observe our air operations in war and peacetime conditions. During the war over 900 near-miss incidents were reported by allied pilots and crews in all theater of operations. One of the most dramatic near-miss encounters occurred on 14 October 1943, 8th AF Mission 115 over Schweinfurt, Germany, B-17 crews reported many formations of silvery discs flying down into the B-17 formations. Several times during the bombing mission, large objects were seen following the discs descent into the formations. Unlike previous reports, no engine failures or airframe damage was reported. After the surrender of Nazi Germany, GAF fighter pilots were interrogated by AF intelligence concerning Mission 135. GAF did not have any aircraft above our bombers at that time.” [42]

I’ve never found the whole ‘MJ-12′ idea credible, but at least the first release of documents was prepared with sufficient care to provoke meaningful discussion. This ridiculous exaggeration of an already elaborated tale makes the second release of documents look absurd. I would also point out that the Nazi UFO mythos and MJ-12 are essentially incompatible: if the Americans had already gained the ability to build high-performance flying discs from the Germans, why would they have become so excited about crashed ET discs? And why didn’t all those portentous ‘first-release’ documents mention them at all?

The Massey Project

Redfern and Downes continue to publicise another claim made by Frank Edwards, just before his account of the Schweinfurt Raid. Despite being aware of the negative outcomes of research conducted by both Andy Roberts and Tim Good, they say

“As far as the British Government is concerned, there is strong evidence to show that extremely rigorous investigations were made into the Foo Fighter phenomenon by an elite team of Air Ministry and Royal Air Force operatives.” [43]

They quote Edwards

“As early as 1943, the British had set up a small organisation to gather information on these objects. It was under the direction of Lieutenant General Massey, and it had been inspired to some extent by the reports of a spy who was in reality a double agent, working under the directions of the Mayor of Cologne. He had confirmed that the Foo Fighters were not German devices, which of course the British knew they were not. The British Air Ministry, in 1966, told me that the Massey project was officially terminated in 1944. Perhaps it is only coincidence that the double agent was exposed and executed in the spring of 1944.” [44]

Three problems arise immediately. Tim Good has established, from a dependable source, that there was no Lieutenant General Massey. Almost all the foo fighter reports date from 1944 onwards, so it’s not clear why “extremely rigorous investigations” should start in 1943 and end in 1944. And what on earth was a spy doing being controlled by the Mayor of Cologne? On the evidence, the ‘Massey Project’ sounds like a complete, and deliberate, fabrication.

Crashed saucers and back-engineering

Nick Redfern makes a great deal of limited evidence in suggesting that there has ever been one extra-terrestrial flying craft crash on Earth since 1900, let alone more than one. He has not, however, been unwilling to suggest that the Nazis had access to one or more crashed flying saucers, and back-engineered technology from them. This, supposedly, was how they were able to develop such sophisticated flying discs! Of course, he is not alone in making suggestions of this kind, but I hardly need point out that when the evidence suggests that Germany had no sophisticated flying discs, then there is nothing to explain. Anyway, Redfern concludes from the rather desperate, and generally quite implausible intelligence reports that he has collected

“If . . the data related in official FBI memoranda of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s is accurate, how were the Nazis able to develop technology that, years later, was still defying America’s finest” As I will later show, there are firm grounds for believing that a number of extra terrestrial vehicles crashed to earth on US soil in the late 1940s. Is it stretching the bounds of possibility to speculate that a similar event may have occurred on Nazi territory several years previously? If such an event did take place, and the Germans were able to grasp the rudiments of the technology, this would perhaps go a long way towards explaining their pressing desire to perfect a man-made flying saucer. The truth may ultimately turn out to be far stranger than has previously been realised.” [45]

Well, yes, it really does stretch the bounds of possibility, but that doesn’t stop Corso from reporting, in ‘The Day After Roswell, what he and General Twining had wondered about after inspecting the crashed saucer at Roswell

“At the very least, Twining had suggested, the crescent-shaped craft looked so uncomfortably like the German Horten wings our flyers had seen at the end of the war that he had to suspect the Germans had bumped into something we didn’t know about. And his conversations with Wehrner von Braun and Willy Ley at Alamogordo in the days after the crash confirmed this. They didn’t want to be thought of as verruckt but intimated that there was a deeper story about what the Germans had engineered. No, the similarity between the Horten wing and the craft they had pulled out of the arroyo was no accident. We always wondered how the Germans were able to incorporate such advanced technology into their weapons development in so short a time and during the Great Depression. Did they have help? With an acceleration capability and maneuverability we’d never seen before, this craft would keep American aircraft engineers busy for years just incorporating what you could see into immediate designs.” [46]

While we’re in a corner of reality that accepts the reality of the Roswell crash, and its cargo of dead or possibly living entities, I have to mention the analysis of Polish writer Zbigniew Blania-Bolnar in Alien Encounters for April 1998. Telling us that ” . . the post-war American Army had at its disposal a considerable number of V2 rockets, several V3 and V4 prototypes, and about 30 kugelblitzes of different kinds”, he concludes that the dead entity in the Laredo crash (the Laredo crash?) was “a laboratory monkey used by the Air Force in a secret experiment.” And, of course, “if a tested kugelblitz crashed at Laredo, then a similar object could have crashed at Roswell.” [47]

None of the suggestions that the Germans back-engineered crashed alien craft pre-date the Lazar and Lear back-engineering stories. Three more have come to light already. In her book ‘Sightings: UFOs’ Susan Michaels reports that writer Jan Van Helsing (a contact of the inner circle of the ‘Montauk Project’)

“describes the discovery of a crashed saucer in the Black Forest in 1936 and says that this technology was taken and combined with the information the Vril Society had received through channeling and was made into a further project called the Haunebu.” [48]

There is also a report of a crash in Italy in 1933, the details and information of which were made known to Mussolini, and which assisted Belluzzo in his design and development. [49] And at the ‘Gdansk UFO-Marathon’ in October 1997, it was announced that there had been a crash in Poland in the summer of 1938, in Czernica. Evidence and wreckage recovered from the crash was seized by Nazi Germany after the invasion of Poland the next year, and the information so gathered was used in the building of the ‘Haunebu’ and ‘Vril’ craft. [50] The current popularity of back-engineering is such that I expect to see more such reports.

Part 7: Unnamed Soldiers >>>


Organ Snatchers.
Peter Burger

From Magonia 56, June 1996

For almost ten years a horrible story has haunted the world’s media: in Latin America children are robbed of their kidneys and corneas for the benefit of wealthy Americans. On closer examination these horror stories turn out to be based on rumours and legends. Organ-napping, the contemporary version of an age-old and universally known legend.

The first images of the documentary show a man with a wispy beard rocking his head back and forth as if he is in a trance. The camera zooms in on his face, showing us that his eyes lack irises and pupils. The next shot is an indoor scene. A younger relative asks in Spanish: “What did they remove?” The blind man answers: “My corneas”. The boy pulls the eyelids of the right eye apart. Superimposed on the cloudy white tissue the title floats into view: Organ Snatchers.

The name of the blind man is Pedro Reggi. He is 26 years old and lives in a small village 60 miles from Buenos Aires. His corneas, the voice-over says, were stolen during a period he spent in the Montes de Oca mental institution.

Organ Snatchers (‘Voleurs d’yeux’) is directed by French journalist Marie-Monique Robin, one of the most influential disseminators of the shocking message that in Latin America the organs of the poor are stolen for the benefit of the rich. The recipients may be wealthy Americans, but stolen corneas are also procured by transplant surgeons in France. Robin’s message does not fall on deaf ears. Her documentary has been aired in a number of countries and shown three times at United Nations meetings. A re-run on French television in January 1995 drew more than three million viewers.

Robin also sold her story to foreign magazines. In Life (October 1993) she describes Reggi as having “the emaciated face of Jesus Christ”. In a Dutch weekly [1] Reggi features as “the angel-faced boy” who “once had a pair of beautiful brown eyes, where now only two gaping holes remain”.

This last statement is an exaggeration: Reggi’s eyes may look horrible, but anyone can see that they are not gaping holes. What’s more his corneas are still there too, as someone with expert knowledge of eye surgery might tell you. I watched Organ Snatchers with Dutch ophthalmologist Mrs H. Volker-Dieben, board member of the Dutch Cornea Foundation. “The corneas are clouded”, she told me. “This looks like scar tissue caused by old infections, as far as I can judge from the video images. To be completely sure, I would have to examine the eyes myself, using the right kind of lamp”.

So Reggi’s corneas have not been stolen? No, the alleged theft would indeed have left his eye-sockets empty. Normally, to remove the cornea from a deceased donor a transplant surgeon will extract the eyeball in its entirety, replace it with a plastic ball of the same size and eventually glue the eyelids together.

The Dutch ophthalmologist’s observation tallies with medical records that became public after Reggi’s appearance in a previous British-Canadian documentary about organ traffic, The Body Parts Business: Reggi was born with bilateral glaucoma. He lost his eyesight due to eye diseases. [2]

Jeison’s Eyes

The story of Pedro Reggi is not the only controversial episode in Organ Snatchers. On closer inspection the documentary’s emotional climax, the story of 10-year-old Jeison Cruz Vargas, the photogenic little blind boy with the flute, turns out to be equally doubtful.

In the documentary Robin meets Jeison in the Institute for the Blind in Bogota, Colombia. His mother Luz recalls taking Jeison to a hospital in the slums when he needed treatment for diarrhoea; when she saw him again the next day, his eyes had been removed. Her son’s medical file had been destroyed, she says. “It is a hospital for the poor, that’s why things like this are happening here. It’s the worst hospital in the world.”

Ever since Robin went public with Jeison’s story, this version of events has been vehemently contested by both the hospital involved – Salazar de Villeta – and the Colombian government. According to a statement (February 4, 1994) by the Colombian ombudsman for Health and Social Security, Jeison never underwent an eye operation. Barely four months old, he was hospitalised, suffering from severe malnourishment, dehydration and a number of serious ailments, including infection of the eyeball with Pseudomonas and infection of the cornea. Probably because his parents were very poor, they stopped the treatment and took the infant to a herb doctor. The infection destroyed his eyesight.

The row over Jeison’s eyes reached a climax after Robin’s documentary was awarded the Prix Albert Londres in May 1995, the most prestigious distinction for French journalists. Conscious of the fact that statements by Colombian doctors and officials do not carry much weight in France, the Colombian embassy had Jeison (now a 12-year-old) flown to Paris in August 1995 in order to have his eyes examined by two renowned French specialists in ophthalmology and infectious diseases. A pediatrician assessed the boy’s medical records. [3]

In their report the French doctors note that the eyeballs, although atrophied, are still there, as are parts of the cornea. The infection that irreparably damaged his eyesight is quite common for malnourished infants in the Third World. Again, Jeison’s eyes have not been stolen.

Moreover, the doctors argue, it is impossible to remove the corneas from a live donor without causing a severe haemorrhage, and no surgeon in his right mind
would use Jeison’s infected corneas for transplantation as they would kill the recipient. It might be added that with its 28,000 violent deaths per year, Colombia has no shortage of donors anyway. According to Colombian law, everyone is a potential donor unless the family objects. [4]

Embarrassed by the outcome of the medical examination, the Albert Londres jury suspended Robin’s award and promised to take a second, more thorough look at her documentary. [5] Robin, meanwhile, does not budge. To maintain that Jeison’s eyes have been stolen she has resorted to increasingly unlikely conspiracy theories and ad hominem arguments. The files could be forged – after all why did it take the Colombian hospital two years to produce them? “What is worth more” she asked, when confronted with the report, “a mother’s oral testimony, or the word of a group of experts who intervene twelve years after the fact and in whose interest it is to make people doubt the existence of organ traffic (for reasons of professional solidarity, a proven taste for secrecy, international friendships established during the course of their careers)?” [6]

Nor does she think the medical establishment is the only culprit. When I spoke to her in February 1995, Robin claimed that Jeison’s mother and other witnesses and authorities have all withdrawn their accusations under pressure from the United States Information Agency. [7]

In fact the USIA, a government institution that fights anti-American propaganda, does wage a campaign against Robin. Since 1988 it has published a number of reports systematically repudiating allegations of organ theft. This started out as a reaction to cold-war KGB propaganda, in which the United States were held responsible for the murder of South American children. The KGB has vanished but the atrocity stories are still with us and so is the USIA’s anti-rumour campaign. Robin blames the responsible USIA staff officer Todd Leventhal for much of her setbacks, and has even suggested that he was implicated in the theft of her car. She later received death threats by phone and on the Internet. As she repeatedly said to me: “It’s like a thriller.”

Hansel and Gretel

Marie-Monique Robin was not the first to call attention to the organ mafia. Stories about organ-napping first appeared in the world press in 1987. [8] On January 2 of that year a Honduran paper reported that disabled children were sold in the USA as a source of `spare parts’. Thirteen child victims had been discovered in four casas de engordes (`fattening houses’ – shades of Hansel and Gretel). The source of these reports was Leonardo Villeda Bermudez, secretary general of the Honduran committee for social welfare. On January 3, however, this official retracted his allegations, explaining that he had merely repeated the unconfirmed assumptions of social workers.

Later cases in Guatemala and Peru followed the same pattern: alarming but unsubstantiated reports which were withdrawn as soon as they were published. As bad news is more newsworthy than good news however, the initial disclosures were often reported by the press, whereas the subsequent denials were ignored. This is a professional vice of journalists, which may be even stronger in those who have an ideological axe to grind. Unsurprisingly, in the late eighties the horror-stories about organ theft were eagerly picked up and published by the Soviet media, which in the same period gave weight to the rumour that the HIV virus had been artificially created in an American biological warfare laboratory. [9]

The European Parliament too has twice spoken out against organ theft. In 1993 it passed a resolution condemning organ traffic. The resolution was based on a report by socialist Europarliamentarian Leon Schwartzenberg. In this report the former French minister of public health describes the medical, ethical and social consequences of the lack of donor organs and stresses the existence of a homicidal organ mafia.

The very idea that cynical traffickers literally sell the flesh of third world children evokes strong feelings of dismay and compassion. This does not make a detached, clinical took at the facts any easier. Schwartzenberg even disqualified sceptics by classing them with Holocaust deniers: “To deny such traffic is comparable to denying the existence of the gas chambers in the last war.”


In general, organ theft is implausible because clandestine transplantations require numbers of highly skilled medical personnel and sophisticated equipment that are not to be found in the countries where the organ thieves are said to operate

Nobody denies that in some countries (for instance Brazil, India and Egypt) poor people offer their organs for sale. In this respect organ traffic is a reality. Transplantation experts however are not prepared to assume the existence of a large scale mafia-controlled organ trade. Individual cases, like Pedro Reggi’s and Jeison’s do not stand up to scrutiny. In general, organ theft is implausible because clandestine transplantations require numbers of highly skilled medical personnel and sophisticated equipment that are not to be found in the countries where the organ thieves are said to operate. As Eurotransplant’s medical director Guido G. Persijn told me:

Of course it is possible to kidnap people, anaesthetise them and steal one of their kidneys, but to do that you also need a recipient, the recipient needs to have a matching blood group and tissue group. You need an HLA-typing… And how can you be sure that this Mr. X you’ve snatched off the street makes a suitable kidney donor in the first place? Isn’t he suffering from a renal disease, nephritis, HIV? You would need an immense organisation. It’s just not worth it.

Even the strongest evidence for organ theft, such as the reports of kidney-napping in India that emerged in February 1995 [10], is ambiguous at best. Poor inhabitants of a Bangalore village applied for jobs in the city and were robbed of their kidneys under the guise of a routine medical check-up. A specialist, a GP and two middlemen have been arrested. The German magazine Der Stern broke the news with an article headlined ‘Organ theft in India proven for the first time’.
Actually, Der Stern’‘s pictures of Indian men and women sporting huge scars merely prove that India has a markedly higher proportion of inhabitants with only one kidney than richer countries. By March 1995 more thin eighty alleged victims had registered with the Bangalore police. Yet according to the town’s police commissioner only a small fraction of those have really been robbed; the others supposedly sold one of their kidneys and are hoping to receive a higher remuneration by lodging a complaint. [11]

But why wait for conclusive evidence to be found? When I called him in February 1995, Stan Meuwesse, Director of the Dutch branch of the Defence for Children International (an organisation that fights child labour, child slavery, child prostitution and other forms of child abuse) asserted that organ theft is a reality. “The accepted facts and figures about child abuse are so overwhelming, that this has to be true too”, he argued, repeating an argument voiced by other representatives of Non-Governmental Organisations in the human rights field. Who would believe, Meuwesse asked, that 6-year-old Pakistani boys are forced to work as camel-jockeys in the Arab Emirates? Still, this is an undisputed fact.

Meuwesse emphasised that he had never seen a “consistent, reliable, clear” report about stolen corneas and kidneys. All there was to go on are the stories that are being repeated over and over again: stories Meuwesse said, that convince everyone in the children’s rights community.

Legendary Criminals

In Organ Snatchers one of those recurring stories is told by Mexican parliamentarian Hector Ramirez, a member of the parliamentary commission charged with the investigation of illegal organ traffic. Ramirez recounts the case of a little boy who was kidnapped on the market in the Extapalapa quarter and turned up two months later on the same spot, a scar on his back marking the place where one of his kidneys had been extracted.

Ramirez: “His mother had him examined by a doctor. This confirmed her suspicions. When the little boy returned to her family, he brought $2,000 with him. I contacted his mother, but she wouldn’t tell anything at all. She was very scared. With the money she could take care of him.

For lack of names, pictures or documents, it is impossible to check this story. The official report by Ramirez does not mention it. Robin’s team could not locate a single victim or witness in Mexico. The story sounds improbable: why didn’t these supposedly ruthless criminals simply kill the eye-witness instead of delivering him to the scene of the crime with $2,000 – for pocket money? Random acts of kindness like this one have never been reported from other branches of crime.

If this story is convincing at all, the appeal lies not in its realism but in the moral point it makes. The story graphically expresses a message that speaks to the hearts of both poor Mexicans and human rights activists worldwide: Americans think that they can use the inhabitants of Latin America any way they like in return for a little pocket-money.Everything points to Ramirez’s story being a contemporary legend: a tale that surfaces time and again in different forms, but always appears to have happened recently just round the corner from where the story-teller lives. Unreal stories like this one can have real consequences though. In Colombia, Argentina, France, Switzerland, The Netherlands and other parts of the world, organ donations have dropped off as a result of these rumours, claim transplant organisations.

And “it has had a devastating, effect” on international adoptions, says Susan Cox, president of Holt Adoption Services in Oregon, one of the agencies that annually help place about 8,000 children with US parents. In Turkey, officials outlawed foreign adoptions after the organ-thieves myth took hold. [12] As sociologists are wont to observe: Whenever people experience a situation as real it will become real in its consequences. The truth of this dictum is brought out even more dramatically by the Guatemala organ theft scare of 1994.

Lynch Justice for Child Snatchers

Guatemala, March 8, 1994. [13] American tourist Melissa Larson (37) is sipping a glass of pineapple juice in the market of the village Santa Lucia Cotzumalguapa. Suddenly she finds herself surrounded by angry villagers and accused of being a child snatcher. To protect her from the mob, Larson is arrested and smuggled out of the village by the authorities. When the inhabitants find out that she has gone, they turn on her protectors, burning down the police station and setting fire to ten cars. It takes five hundred riot police, army reinforcements and armoured cars to restore the peace. Larson, after 19 days in prison, has a lucky escape.

Less fortunate is 51-year-old June Weinstock, who came to San Cristobal to watch the Easter celebrations. On March 29 villagers spot her photographing children in the market and caressing a little boy. A woman who has lost sight of her 8-year-old son in the bustle looks at Weinstock with suspicion. “Maybe the gringa keeps the boy in her suitcase,” the ice-cream vendor jokes.

Weinstock becomes the centre of an increasing crowd: there is an American child stealer in town! She too needs police protection, as one thousand inhabitants lay siege to the police station. Five hours later she is dragged outside and brutally beaten. Weinstock lapses into a coma and has to be hospitalised. She suffered eight stabwounds, a fracture of the base of the skull and two broken arms. By then the lost boy has been back with his mother for some time.These incidents would never have happened without the rumours that preceded them. Long-haired foreigners were said to prey on children. A street urchin had been robbed of his corneas; his pocket was stuffed with US dollar bills. Eight babies were found with their hearts cut out. One had a hundred dollar bill stuck in the gaping wound with a note saying “Thanks for your co-operation”.

Graffiti warned Americans that they were not welcome: “Gringo child stealers go home”. Hysteria was fuelled in La Prensa Libre (March 13, 1994), Guatemala’s largest circulation daily, depicting the organ trade in the form of an advertising pamphlet. Ten usable organs are displayed like meat in a supermarket, with the prices they would fetch in the United States. The price-tag on the heart reads $100,000; a kidney is worth $65,000 and a cornea would fetch a mere $2,500 on the black market.

A Children’s Exodus

So, where do these stories come from? How did Jeison’s and Pedro Reggi’s families come to believe that their child’s blindness was caused by thieves? Apparently these stories have not been inspired by actual crimes. So, could they be leftist propaganda spread by deceitful journalists, as the US Information Agency has repeatedly suggested? In its most recent report on The Child Organ Trafficking Rumour (December 1994), the USIA does not come down as hard on ‘Soviet front groups’ as it used to; it provides much useful information but still does not explain the phenomenon.

Both parties – humanitarian believers and US Government sceptics, but most of all the believers – underestimate the power of the people themselves to develop and circulate unofficial explanations as a reaction to actual circumstances and tensions. In other words they underestimate their ability to create rumours. These stories originated in Latin American cities, not in a communist-era Russian ministry.

The most detailed study of these rumours has been made by folklorist Véronique Campion-Vincent of Paris. Campion-Vincent, who has been monitoring the organ theft rumour for years, maintains that it is much more than cynical propaganda. Rather, the rumour is the unreal synthesis of two real consequences of the poverty that afflicts Latin America: adoption and organ traffic. [14]

Children from Latin American countries are much in demand on the adoption market. At the times of the attacks on American tourists in Guatemala, on average twenty children per week were adopted from that country, half of them by Americans. Not all requests from American and European couples for the adoption of a Latin American child are met by legal means. Documents are forged, mothers sell their babies and even kidnappings occur. Clandestine foster homes do exist and are frequently discovered by the authorities. The people themselves regard this children’s exodus with mixed feelings: what will the future of the children be like? Do they not rather belong in our country?

As we have seen, the selling of bodyparts belongs to the reality of third world countries too. Rumours about organ theft, says Campion-Vincent, posit an imaginary connection between the two phenomena: according to the rumour, the adoptions serve the organ trade as well.

A third fact of life in Latin America that feeds the rumour is the high level of everyday violence, vividly described by anthropologist Nancy Scheper-Hughes in a chilling chapter of her book Death Without Weeping. [15] Scheper-Hughes shared the life of the poor in a community in North-East Brazil, a region where ‘disappearing’ is a frightful and by no means imaginary way of departing this world. The anonymous bodies of the victims may turn up on the side of the road, their genitals cut off and their eyes plucked out. Violence is such a routine feature of the world these people live in, that they cannot even take ownership of their own body for granted. And so, starting in the mid-1980′s, the anxiety of the poor produced rumours of organ traffic.

It was said that the teaching hospitals of Recife and the large medical centres throughout Brazil were engaged in an active traffic in body parts, a traffic with international dimensions. Shantytown residents reported multiple sightings of large blue or yellow vans driven by foreign agents (usually North American or Japanese), who were said to patrol neighbourhoods looking for small stray children whom the drivers mistakenly believed no-one in the overpopulated slums and shantytowns would ever miss.” [16]

According to Scheper-Hughes, inhabitants of the first and third world hold incompatible views of organ donation:

“While Western Europeans and North Americans persist in thinking of organ transplants as ‘gifts’ donated freely by loving and altruistic people, to the people of the Alto, whose bodies are so routinely preyed on by the wealthy and powerful (in economic and symbolic exchanges that have international dimensions), the organ transplant implied less a gift than a commodity [...] The Brazilian rumours express poor people’s perceptions, grounded in an economic and biotechnomedical reality, that their bodies and the bodies of their children may be worth more dead than alive to the rich and powerful. [17]

These feelings of powerlessness in the face of ruthless exploitation predate the introduction of transplant su-gery. In fact, stories of white killers stalking poor South Americans for their bodyparts fit a native tradition which already existed long before adoption and transplantation became important issues. One of the white ogres that abound in these traditional legends is the ‘pishtaco’ of the Andean Indians, a night prowler who collects human fat. [18] He sells his booty to factories (as a lubricant) or to pharmaceutical companies (as a basis for medication). Indian fat was also said to be used to start up jet engines. The monsters have kept up with the times and are presently hunting for corneas and kidneys.

The EuroKidney Gang

The fear of cutthroat physicians that thrives under the corrugated iron roofs of South America exists as well in American and western European luxury apartments. Although emotions do not run as high as in the third world, the Dutch, for instance, have their own rumours about stolen bodyparts. In 1990 a contemporary legend circulated in The Netherlands that is the mirror image of the Latin American versions. A widely known and believed story told how a businessman or tourist visits Brazil (or Tunisia or Turkey), is anaesthetised by kidnappers and on recovery finds that one of his kidneys is missing. [19]

Since 1992 a new version is doing the rounds, this time starring a child rather than an adult victim. On a daytrip to Disneyland Paris parents lose sight of one of their children. After a while the little boy [20] is found on a bench, pale and dazed, with a big scar marking the spot where his kidney has been extracted.

Such stories surfaced within two weeks of the Paris theme-park opening its gates in 1992. They do not only scare Dutch parents: German, Swiss, Austrian and Swedish parents too fear for their toddlers’ safety in EuroDisney. In spite of this, not one single victim – or his parents – has ever come forward. Disney denies that the incident ever took place (but they would, wouldn’t they?). The story is a textbook example of a contemporary legend. [21]

Typically legend-like too, is the way the story adapts itself to its surroundings. The EuroDisney kidnap scare does reflect a certain amount of xenophobia, but it is not the expression of a people that feels exploited. So, like their Mexican counterparts, the Parisian kidney thieves kindly return their victims to the scene of the crime, but in contrast to their Latin American colleagues, they never give them thousands of dollars for pocket money.

The Blood Carriage

Moral panics caused by tales about strangers who kidnap and kill children have been around at least since the Blood Libel legend accused Jews of mixing their Passover matzo dough with the blood of Christian children. Among those numerous historical rumour panics there is one that is the spitting image of today’s organ theft scare. [22]

Paris, May 1750. The city is in uproar, because under the eyes of the populace police are arresting children on the streets, taking them away in shuttered carriages, destination unknown. The people resist; riots ensue. Police officer Labbe is caught redhanded as he grabs an 11-year old boy. The boy is liberated by the mob and Labbe has to run for his life. He enters a house and tries to hide under a bed, but his pursuers drag him out into the street. Guards come running, prise him from the hands of his captors and take him toa police commissioner’s residence. The people lay siege to his refuge and demand those inside to surrender the kidnapper. In the end, they kick in the door. There is an exchange of gunfire, the furious crowd wrestles Labbé away from his guards and puts him to death with sticks and stones.

In a way the Parisians are not mistaken: policemen do randomly arrest boys and put them in jail without granting them a proper trial. This is part of an operation to clear the streets of vagabonds. As the police receive a reward for every arrested child, they are not particular about the ones they arrest; even those whose age, behaviour or social status does not fit the description run the risk of being apprehended.

Ambiguous situations like these are ideal breeding grounds for rumour, and indeed, in no time rumours do emerge. The children are cut open, it is said, and bled to death in a tub because an ailing prince – or a princess or even the King himself – has to bathe in children’s blood. This story did not originate in Paris in 1750. It was already told about the Emperor Constantine, who refused to be cured in this un-Christian way and saw his health restored by God as a reward for his righteousness.

In Paris, the then king, Louis XV was one of the targets of the rumour. For his atrocities he was compared with Herod, the murderer of the innocent children. According to the French historians Arlette Farge and Jacques Revel, the fact that the people pointed to King Louis as the perpetrator reveals their hatred of a ruler who had turned from a benefactor into a Herod.

The rumour was known in 18th century Antwerp too. [23] Parents used to warn their children against staying out late by telling them about the ‘Blood Carriage’, a beautiful horse-drawn carriage. Inside is a rich lady who offers sweets to children playing in the street and asks them to accompany her to her castle and play with her daughter. If this approach does not succeed, she’ll just drag them inside. In her castle, their big toes are chopped off and they bleed to death in a tub for a king who suffers from a severe illness and can be cured only by the blood of children under seven.

Parisian children forced to donate their blood for an ailing member of the royal family find an exact counterpart in Third World children who are robbed of their organs for the benefit of rich Westerners – in fact, the rumour had not really changed in two and a half centuries. One version of the rumour, that stirred trouble in 1768 Lyon, even involved transplantations. [24] To provide a mutilated prince with a fresh arm, a new child was kidnapped each day. Day after day surgeons tried to graft a new arm, but each time the operation failed.


Earlier versions of this article appeared in the Dutch magazines Wetenschap, Cultuur & Samenleving (April 1995) and Skepter (September 1995), and in my collection of contemporary legends and rumours, Der Gebraden Baby (Amsterdam 1995). Véronique Campion-Vincent, Todd Leventhal and Eduardo Mackenzie were very generous in sharing their opinions and research materials.



  1. Panorama (no. 50, 1993)
  2. Report by Dr Patricia Rey, Buenos Aires, 6 Dec. 1993
  3. Renard, G., M. Gentilini, A. Fischer, Rapport d’examen de i’enfant Wenis Yeison Crus Vargas. Paris, 10 August 1995. For reactions of Robin and other parties involved see: Gillot, Nathalie, ‘Polémique sur l’enfant aveugle.’ France-Soir, 12 August 1995; Nau, Jean-Yves, ‘Un reportage sur les greffes de cornées en Colombie suscite un polemique.’ Le Monde, 17 Aug. 1996; Proenza, Anne, ‘Un document violemment critiqué a Bogota.’ Le Monde 17 Aug. 1995; Bantman, Beatrice, ‘Jeison, aveugle mais pas victime.’ Liberation, 18 Sept. 1995; Fritisch, Laurence,‘C’était une maladie,’ France-Soir, 19 Sept. 1995; Nau, Jean-Yves, ‘Un rapport medical contredit un reportage sur un traffic d’organes en Colombie.‘ Le Monde, 19 Sept. 1995.
  4. Proenza, op. cit.
  5. Mackenzie, Eduardo,’Suspendido premio a Marie Monique Robin.’ El Espectador, 26 Sept. 1995
  6. Bantman, op. cit.
  7. This is contradicted by her one-time collaborator, Colombian human rights activist Hector Torres, who agreed to keep an eye on Jeison’s mother. According to him she has not been threatened. (Proenza, op, cit.)
  8. The most comprehensive overviews of the rumour’s history have been written by Campion-Vincent: ‘The Baby-parts story: a new Latin American legend’ Western Folklore 49, (Jan. 1990), pp.9-25 and Leventhal, Todd: The child organ trafficking rumour: a modern ‘urban legend’. USIA, Dec. 1994
  9. Soviet Active Measures in the Era of Glasnost, USIA, Washington, July 1989, pp.12-13. For a less patriotic perspective on the Aids rumours, see Turner, Patricia A.,  Heard it through the Grapevine; rumour in African-American culture, Berkely [etc.] 1993, pp. 151-164.
  10. Penberthy, Jefferson, ‘An abominable trade’, Time 20 Feb. 1995; Ulli Rauss & Jay Ullal, ‘Nieren-Klau in Indien’, Stern, 23 Feb. 1995.
  11. Leventhal, Todd, ‘The illegal transportation and sale of human organs: reality or myth?’ Paper read at the annual meeting of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Ghent, 25 Apr. 1995.
  12. Frankel, Mark, John Barry & David Schrieberg, ‘Too good to be true.’ Newsweek, June 26 1995.
  13. Main sources for the Guatemala organ theft scare: ’Foreigners attacked in Guatemala.’ New York Times, 5 Apr. 1994; Carol Morello, ‘A nation in the grip of panic’. Philadelphia Inquirer, 10 Apr. 1994; Mark Frankel & Edward Orlebar, ‘Child stealers go home’ Newsweek, 18 Apr. 1994; Laura Lopez ‘Dangerous Rumors’, Time, 18 Apr. 1994; Gleck, Elizabeth, ‘Rumor and Rage’, People, 25 Apr. 1994; ‘Body parts panic in Guatemala’ FOAFtale News 33/34 (June 1994), pp.17-18; Shonder, John A., ‘Organ theft rumors in Guatemala, some personal observations’, FOAFtale News 35 (Oct. 1994), pp. 1-4.
  14. Campion-Vincent, op. cit.
  15. Scheper-Hughes, Nancy, Death Without Weeping: the violence of everyday life in Brazil, Berkeley [etc.] 1992, chapter 6: ‘Everyday violence. Bodies, death and silence.’ pp. 216-267. Pages 233-239 deal with rumours of organ traffic.
  16. Op, cit, p. 233
  17. Op. cit. p. 238-239
  18. Oliver-Smith, Anthony, ‘The Pishtaco, Institutionalised fear in highland Peru’, Journal of American Folklore 82 (1969), pp. 363-368; Caro, Frank de. ‘The body parts panic and the Peruvian pistaco tradition.’ FOAFtale News 36 (Jan. 1995), pp. 1-2.
  19. Burger, Peter, De Wraak van der Kangoeroe. Sagen uit het Moderne Leven. Amsterdam 1992, pp. 23-2620 Whenever the tellers specify the child’s gender, it’s always a boy. Why?
  20. Numerous collectors of contemporary legends in all parts of the world have recorded versions of the kidney heist legend. See, for example, Brednich, Rolf Wilhelm, Sagenhafte Geschichten von Herute. Munchen 1994, pp 215-217, 310-311; Brunvand, Jan Harold, The Baby Train and other Lusty Urban Legends. New York 1989, pp. 149-154; Czubala, Dionizjusz, ‘The “Black Volga”: child abduction urban legends in Poland and Russia’, FOAFtale News 21 (March 1991), pp 1-2; Goldstuck, Arthur, The Leopard in the Luggage. Urban legends from Southern Africa, Johannesburg, 1993, pp. 99-101; Klintberg, Bengt af, Den Stoma Njuren, Sagner och Rykten i var Tid. Norstedts, 1994, pp. 15-22, 66-68; Seat, Graham. Great Australian Urban Myths, Sydney 1995, pp. 133-135; Toselli, Paolo, La famosa invasione delle vipere valanti e altre leggende metropolitane dell’Italia d’oggi. Milan 1994, pp. 149-164.
  21. Forge, Arlette & Jacques Revel. Logiques de la Foule. L’affair des Enlevements d’enfants Paris 1750, Paris 1988. (English translation The Vanishing Children of Paris, Cambridge, MA, 1991)
  22. Roodenburg, Herman. ‘The autobiography of Isabella de Moerloose: sex, childrearing and popular belief in seventeenth century Holland.’ Journal of Social History 18 (1984/5) pp. 522-524; ‘More on body parts abductions’, FOAFtale News 32 (Feb. 1994), p.10.
  23. Campion-Vincent, op. cit



Conspiracy Theory in American History
Mike McHugh

From Magonia 79, October 2002

I was reading through the Feature Review on witchcraft books on the Magonia website [not currently online], where I was pleased to find a review of one of Robert Thurston’s books. Thurston was one of my professors in graduate school and I was an assistant in one of his classes on Modern Russian History, which is his speciality. He always theorised that the Stalinist purges and show trials of the 1930s were very similar to the witchcraft persecution of the 16th and 17th Centuries, in the sense that the masses really DID believe that agents of evil were at work in both cases: literal agents of the Devil in the witchcraft trials versus agents of Germany, Japan and other imperialist powers in the case of Stalin’s Russia. In other words, the ruling elite did not simply orchestrate these situations, and even shared in the delusions themselves, in a mutually reinforcing cycle of paranoia.

I should point out that some of the older Cold Warriors in the Department grumbled that Thurston was a ‘Stalinist’, trying to absolve the ‘Genius Leader of All Mankind’ of his crimes charge which Thurston angrily rejected. The History Department itself had a history, as all of them do, in this case going back to the Vietnam War. At that time, my major professor along with most of the younger faculty, were opposed to the war and were even involved in the occupation of the ROTC building in 1970. The Chair of the Department fired some of them and wrote a letter to the New York Times saying he should have fired even more.

Well, to make a long story short, by the 1980s, the younger faculty had taken over the Department and hired professors like Thurston, who shared their progressive views. The older, more conservative faculty were always grumbling about this, and even condemned the younger, leftist professors who ran the Department as the ‘Gang of Four.’ (Thurston was not part of the Gang, although a well-known British ex-pat professor was.) I mention all of this by way of background, not to imply that politics could ever be in-olved in matters of purely ‘objective scholarship and social science. We all know that that could never happen!

Be that as it may, Thurston’s theory led me to speculate about the Salem witchcraft trials and other examples of conspiracy thinking in American history, which is my speciality. Now the first graduate class I ever took in colonial American history, was with an ancient, curmudgeonly professor who was completely sick of the Salem trials and always warned students that he did not wish to read any more papers about that subject. He was more interested in the new social history, in counting things based on old church and probate records. He was of the school of thought that regarded the outbreak at Salem as the result of a conflict between the older, more traditional part of the community based on agriculture and the newer, more liberal one based on commercial capitalism.Indeed, this town/country conflict runs through all of American history from the 17th Century to the 20th, and is sometimes simplified as “western” or rural populism versus “eastern” or urban liberalism, with populism giving rise to all sorts of radical, anti-modern movements of the Right as well as anti-urban, anti-capitalist movements of the left. One can find it in Jefferson’s writings, just for starters, in his idealisation of the small farmer and artisan and hostility to banking, cities and the industrial revolution.

Not coincidentally, a healthy portion of American conspiracy thinking originates in populist, agrarian movements, with their focus on the east coast and European ‘Money Power’ that is out to destroy the American Republic. There are many variations of this ‘Paranoid Style’ in American politics, as the historian Richard Hofstadter described it, and some very noxious movements like the Ku Klux Klan and McCarthyism are part of it.



There are many variations of the ‘Paranoid Style’ in American politics and some very noxious movements like the Ku Klux Klan and McCarthyism are part of it. In McCarthy’s case, though, the Soviet agents were members of the Eastern Establishment.




In McCarthy’s case, though, the Soviet agents were members of the Eastern Establishment, the Ivy League elite, working with the Soviet Union to destroy the United States from within. In the case of the 20th Century Ku Klux Klan, the ‘enemy’ was also Communism, but also modernism in general: the city, the university intellectual, the Darwinist biologist, as well as the Jews (especially ‘Jewish bankers’), Catholic immigrants, foreign ‘influences’ in general. There is not much in American conspiracy theories today that cannot be traced to earlier movements, going back to the 18th and 19th Centuries.

I have thought a great deal about the origins of this Paranoid Style, which I would trace back to the very Calvinists (‘Puritans’) responsible for the Salem outbreak. One should remember that North America was a Calvinist society, and that evangelical Protestants were the majority here well into the 19th Century. Their hostility to the Roman Catholic Church ran deep, and they did not grant Catholics citizenship anywhere in colonial North America, except in Quaker Pennsylvania. (And the Calvinists despised the Quakers for their tolerance as much as their pacifism.) American history is full of anti-Catholic movements, such as the ‘Know Nothing’ parties of the mid-19th Century and the Ku Klux Klan of the 20th, which sometimes went so far as to burn Catholic Churches and convents.

They also consistently tried to block immigration by Catholic immigrants, and were quick to adopt ‘scientific’ racism and eugenics as soon as such tools became available to them in the late 19th Century. The earlier anti-foreign, anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic urges could now be buttressed by ‘science’ in order to restrict immigration and citizenship to ‘Nordics.’ The National Origins Act of 1924 attempted to do exactly that, and remained the law of the land until 1965. The Puritans of the North and South could unite around a racist programme on this basis, and even had ‘scientific’ IQ tests to prove that the groups they hated were genetically inferior.

In my opinion, the very dualistic religion of Calvinism was one the main intellectual influence in North America, responsible for this well-known tendency to divide the world into saved/damned, good/evil, light/darkness, the Elect and the Sinners. For the early Puritans, of course, the Catholic Church was the Devil, the Antichrist, the Great Satan of the 17th and 18th Centuries. Even the free thinking Unitarian Jefferson shared this hatred, if not the Calvinism that inspired it. As the British know very well, the Puritans also hated High Church Anglicanism and the Toryism of the Stuart monarchs, which they (rightly) suspected was only a thin veil disguising their Catholicism.

They had fled England for express purpose of setting up a Protestant Utopia in the colonies, a Holy Experiment that would be free of Catholics, bishops and nobles, although many of them returned to support Cromwell during the Civil War, and gave refuge to those went into exile again after the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. The government in London was never in any doubt about where the sympathies of most colonists lay, and the more pragmatic kings and ministers sought to placate the dangerous Puritans who controlled most of the colonial legislatures and led opposition ‘factions’ against the royal governors.

King James II was not pragmatic, though, and the American Puritans always distrusted him for his Catholicism and pro-French sympathies. In North America, the French in Quebec also had the sympathy of the Indians, whom the colonists had also despised as Devil worshipers and robbed of their land. The North Americans fought in four full-scale wars against the French and Indians from 1690 to 1760 and many smaller skirmishes, and feared that any ‘Tory’ government in Britain would be too sympathetic to their enemies. In their minds, Catholic, Tory and Indian were all Satanic, and their mission was to war against ‘hell and Rome.’

James II had also imposed a military government on the colonies, under the dictatorship of Sir Edmund Andros. Although carried out in the name of administrative efficiency, the Calvinists feared that James and Andros were plotting to impose absolute rule permanently, destroying both the colonial legislatures and the Protestant religion, and perhaps even delivering the colonies to the French and Indians. Andros had also suspended the colonial charter of Massachusetts, under which the colony had existed in virtual autonomy from the Mother Country for decades. Not surprisingly, the Puritans quickly overthrew Andros after they received would of the Glorious Revolution of 1688. They sent representatives to London with an appeal that their old charter be restored, but this did not happen. Instead, Massachusetts was required to accept a royal governor.

 This was the larger context for the Salem witchcraft hysteria that began in 1692. Few popular writers mention any of it, preferring to concentrate on the more sensational aspects of the Aflicted Girls and their fits and hysterics. It was a terrible time for the colonies, given that war with the French and Indians had begun in 1690 and they were still uncertain about what charter the new king would impose on them and whether their Bible Commonwealth would survive. In their minds, of course, God was had been severely testing their faith, upbraiding them for their sins and shortcomings, and allowing agents of the Enemy to attack them from without and subvert them from within until they repented of their sins. This is a common enough pattern in American history.

The facts of the case are well known, how the Afflicted Girls and their clerical supporters moved from town to town, naming hundreds of witches and agents of the Devil. The trials were a farce, with no chance of acquittal for the accused, and in the end nineteen people and several dogs (imps) were hanged. Hundreds of others were imprisoned, tortured or coerced into confessing, and only the arrival of the new governor, Sir William Phips, prevented a much larger bloodbath. Phips himself was a Puritan, a former merchant and ship’s captain from Boston, but simply did not believe the accused were guilty.

salem1Belief in evil forces out to destroy America developed over time from a purely religious world view to a belief in secular, earthly threats, and finally to high-tec ET ones


It is often pointed out that these trials were the last government sanctioned persecution of ‘witches’ in North America, and this is true as far as I know. As Robert Thurston said, the belief in witchcraft and literal agents of the Devil died out by the early 18th Century – at least among members of the elite. From that point on, most conspiracy theories involved more secular notions about political and ideological enemies.

Of course, this is true only of the elite. There is plenty of evidence that the common people of rural, small town America still believed in witches, demons, goblins, ghosts and ghouls well into the 19th Century, and that evangelical Protestants in the hinterland still regarded the Catholic Church as Satanic. Many of them still do today. Secular liberals of the post-Enlightenment élite regarded Toryism and Catholicism as ultra-conservative, intolerant and undemocratic, while the masses still maintained their older ‘folk’ beliefs in a literal Devil. I know of cases as late as the 1770s, in enlightened Philadelphia, where mobs stoned accused witches to death and I’m sure that is not unique. One could already see the great split between élite ‘scientific’ opinion and popular, ‘religious’ opinion, even in the 18th Century. It is still not clear which will prevail in America.

Historians like Bernard Bailyn have described many of the popular conspiracy theories during the American Revolution, and how even the liberal élite shared them to one degree or another. For the Calvinist masses, still ‘superstitious’, it was easy enough to portray George III and his ministers as satanic, as evil incarnate, much as they had viewed James II and Andros in the 17th Century. But even liberals like Washington, Jefferson and Franklin believed that George and Parliament were conspiring to suppress American liberties and impose absolute rule on the colonies.

In the absence of ‘scientific’ polls, there is no way to know how many people shared this conspiratorial view of the British government, but professors I studied with thought that two-thirds to three-quarters of the colonists did, and that perhaps only 10-15% remained loyal to the king. It shows just how powerful such an ideology can be, given that contemporary historians no longer regard George III as evil so much as hapless, bumbling and ineffectual. In this case, if one believes Bailyn, the notion of sinister Tory forces conspiring against America made a truly popular revolution possible.

One could say the same thing about the Civil War of 1861-65, in which more Americans died than all the other wars combined. In the decade leading up to that war, many Northerners had become convinced that the Southern ‘Slave Power’ was attempting to take over the U.S. government completely, open all the Western territories to slavery. and even force the Northern states to allow it in areas where it had long since been abolished. In the popular mind, the aristocratic southern slave owner had become a potential tyrant and dictator, in the same league with James and George.

The genius of Lincoln and the other Republican leaders was not in convincing a very racist population to sympathise with black slaves — a sympathy most of them had conspicuously lacked throughout American history — but in getting them to believe that the South now wanted to suppress the liberties of white people, perhaps even reduce them to slavery. By the time of the Civil War, of course, it was no longer fashionable to literally demonise one’s political and ideological opponents, but it was not difficult to turn them into secular devil’s. And so it remains today, except for people like Christian and Moslem fundamentalists, who can still get aroused by belief in a real Devil at work.

By way of disclaimer, none of this should be read as a defence of Stuart Toryism or slavery; liberals in 2002 don’t defend such things. Rather, I only wanted to point out how often conspiracy thinking has been mainstream thinking in America, particularly during times of great political and economic tension or social upheaval like the 17th Century religious wars, the American Revolution and Civil War, not to mention Cold War ‘McCarthyism.’ It was not just a fringe or marginal cult that affected only the pathological few, but a phenomenon shared in some degree by the élite — or at least manipulated by it. I have not even mentioned all the conspiracy theories that emerged out of the Vietnam Watergate period, both among the New Left and Counter culture and the Right-wing backlash against them. Suffice it to say that those are still affecting American politics and society today.

I am sorry that I have not mentioned UFOs, although it should be clear enough that I regard them as just a smaller subset of this larger phenomenon I have been discussing. It is not surprising that belief in such objects as devices operated by ETs from Planet X emerged during and right after World War II. That was the first time that the majority of people could take the idea of space travel seriously, given the spectacular development of jets, missiles and nuclear power during those years, and the paranoid, hysterical atmosphere of the Second World War and early Cold War years.

As a historian, I know that before the mid-20th Century, one hears very little about possible ETs and alien visits in American popular culture. I just don’t believe the idea was very widespread at all. This is not to say that people jumped form believing to angels, witches and demons into believing in invaders from outer space. That is a terrible distortion and simplification of a very complex historical process.During the 18th and 19th Centuries, I do not know of many (any?) people who seriously believed in alien visits, but there were many who believed in secular demons and earthly threats and conspiracies. Basically, I think there was an evolutionary process at work here, and that belief in evil forces out to destroy America developed over time from a purely religious world view to a belief in secular, earthy threats, and finally to high tech, ET ones.

I do believe that the American mind is still profoundly Calvinist, despite the 1960s ‘liberation movements’; maybe even because of them, since the populist backlash against them gave new life to fundamentalism and evangelical Puritanism. And yes, I think the Calvinist mind is a dualistic mind, one prone to see dark, sinister, menacing forces in the world — it is often a paranoid mind. Such a mind may be receptive to any kind of conspiracy theory, depending on the political, social and historical circumstances. ETs and X Files types of stories are simply more grist

 to the conspiracy mill.

The Schauberger Error
Kevin McClure

From Magonia 81, May 2003

It’s much easier to dismiss an absurd claim that is fresh and new, than one which has been around for a while, and has taken root. It is, for example, simple enough to assess the reliability of David Icke’s assertion that Dr Josef Mengele – seemingly after he died – mind-controlled a young American woman to make her go to Balmoral Castle, and officiate at rituals where the Queen and Queen Mother turned into reptiles and devoured small children. Or to judge whether, as ‘Sir’ Laurence Gardner tells us in an explanation on which his whole ‘grail bloodline’ theory depends, the otherwise unmentioned daughter of Joseph of Arimathea (in this version, the brother of Jesus Christ) popped over to Wales to marry and settle down with Bran the Blessed, a mythical god-figure who spent much of his life as a detached head and who, even in the relevant myths, would have been well over 100 years old at the time of the marriage.

Dislodging established and much-repeated nonsense is much more difficult, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. And where that nonsense tends to exaggerate and glorify the activities of the SS during World War II, I think we should try particularly hard. In that spirit of endeavour, let’s see what we can do about the very untrue story of Viktor Schauberger – builder of flying saucers.

The detailed and ever-increasing fiction of the Nazi UFO mythos tells us that the Nazis, whatever the actual outcome of the Second World War, were so technically, creatively and scientifically brilliant that had the war only lasted a few months longer, they would have won it by using their amazing flying saucers, which were so very nearly ready for combat when the Allied forces went into Czechoslovakia and Southern Germany. My essay ‘Phoney Warfare’, available on the Magonia website, records my research into the Nazi UFO mythos up to mid-2000, since when I have continued to try to evaluate each new account as it emerges.

There are two hurdles the mythos has always fought to overcome. Firstly, that there is no historical record whatever of the standard characters said to have been involved in saucer development. Names like Schriever, Belluzzo, Habermohl, Miethe and Klein appear regularly, but there is no evidence for the involvement of any of them in the development of flying discs. Only Guiseppe Belluzzo has any verifiable scientific background at all, Schriever was a delivery driver, and it is unclear whether Habermohl and Miethe even so much as existed as identifiable individuals.

Secondly, there is no historical evidence – physical or photographic – of the supposed flying discs. We are repeatedly told of discs of immense power, and sometimes immense size, defying all scientific parameters known before and since. Yet not so much as a bolt or a tachyon drive remains. The only evidence presented – and repeated so often – is by way of the tinny, fuzzy post-war photos taken by those who wished to convince us of saucer reality, but who usually succeeded only in persuading non-believers of the unexplored potential of domestic containers and the art of close-up photography. The mythos argument is that rather than being extraterrestrial in origin the discs were actually developed from captured Nazi blueprints, by captured Nazi scientists. Relocated in America, they chose to have their miracle craft chug unimpressively around the dusty back roads of the USA, sometimes landing, sometimes crashing, and sometimes – particularly the very small discs – utilising conveniently placed string to hang from trees, swinging gently and photogenically in the wind. Not a single claim of flying Nazi discs predates either 1949, or media interest in flying saucers in the USA.

schauberger1Once upon a time, in Austria, there was a forester called Viktor Schauberger. He lived from 1885 to 1958, and in his long life he devised and worked on a variety of inventions. He had a keen and original interest in the motion and motive potential of water, and the most notable of his achievements were probably in the design and development of log flotation methods and flumes in the 1920s. Thereafter, he appears to have attempted to develop his ideas of the motion of water and air towards the production of turbines and of cheap, natural power and energy. There is little, and possibly no evidence that any of these later, more ambitious ideas ever reached fruition, and although his son and grandson have continued with some more theoretical aspects of his work, it seems that no repeatable demonstration of Schauberger’s technology has ever taken place. He died in 1958, and no tangible example of his supposed wartime or post-war experiments survives him.

For those who want to further the cause of secret Nazi science, maintain the flying saucer mystery, or both, Viktor Schauberger has been a prayer answered. Not because he actually built flying discs for the Nazis, but because some round, bulbous inventions he may have worked on were photographed and, with a bit of airbrushing, adding Luftwaffe insignia and so on, they looked rather like the round, bulbous inventions that featured in 1950s ufology. That he left no physical or technical evidence of his supposed disc experiments, was at times somewhat confused about the facts (there is evidence that he spent some time in a psychiatric hospital), and kept a diary in a shorthand that was difficult even for his family to comprehend, could only assist in using his name. He even had a long, grand beard to suggest that he was a misunderstood genius. History was ripe for rewriting, and not just the once.

The mythos itself has had three distinct phases of life, with long fallow periods between. The first was in the early Fifties, when a handful of individuals, none of them connected with any post-war rocket or aviation programme in Russia, the USA or anywhere else, claimed to be at least partly responsible for the saucer sightings of the period. Schauberger – still alive at the time – didn’t get a mention at that stage, and made no claim of his own.

Then, around 1975, Canadian Ernest Zundel, also known as Christof Friedrich and Mattern Friedrich, and notorious for his pro-active and well-publicised scepticism of the reality of the Holocaust, published – as Mattern Friedrich – the book UFO – Nazi Secret Weapon? Amid questions like ‘Is Hitler Still Alive?’ and ‘Did the Nazis have the Atom Bomb?’ he set out a range of wild speculations about lost Nazi technology and, for the first time to my knowledge (I could easily be wrong), introduced a number of the key elements of Schauberger’s involvement. Zundel says:

“Schauberger did experiments early in 1940-41 in Vienna and his 10 foot diameter models were so successful that on the very first tests they took off vertically at such surprising speeds that one model shot through the 24-foot high hangar ceiling. After this `success’ Schauberger’s experiments received vordringlichkeitsstufe’ - high priority – and he was given adequate funds and facilities as well as help. His aides included Czechoslovak engineers who worked at the concentration camp at Mauthausen on some parts of the Schauberger flying saucers. It is largely through these people that the story leaked out.”
Zundel also invented an account of Schauberger’s later history and death. Although he actually died at home in 1958, Zundel’s story is that:

“Viktor Schauberger lived for some years in the United States after the war where he was reported to be working on UFO projects. His articles were greatly discussed and then one day in Chicago he just vanished. His battered body was found and as to who killed Schauberger or why has never been discovered. One version has it that gangsters tried to beat his revolutionising secrets out of him and accidentally killed him.”

Zundel also published the first drawings – presumably from photos – of what he called the ‘electromagnetically-powered Flying Hats’.

In the next year, 1976, a biography of sorts appeared (Living Water, Gateway Books, 1997), written by Olof Alexandersson, a Swedish ‘electrical engineer and archive conservationist’. While admitting that “the information for the basis of this book is fragile”, he managed, from unlisted sources, to add substantially to the mythos …

“After a while Schauberger received his call-up. It was now 1943, and even older men were being drafted. He was eventually appointed the commandant of a parachute company in Italy, but after a short stay, orders came from Himmler that he should present himself at the SS college at Vienna-Rosenhugel. When he arrived, he was taken to the concentration camp at Mauthausen, where he was to contact the SS standartenfuhrer (standards leader) Zeireis, who told him he had a personal greeting from Himmler. ‘We have considered your scientific research and think there is something in it. You can now either choose to take charge of a scientific team of technicians and physicists from among the prisoners, to develop machines utilising the energy you have discovered, or you will be hanged.’

“Schauberger understandably chose the first (insisting that his helpers must no longer be regarded as prisoners) and so an intensive period of study began. After the SS college, where the research was taking place, was bombed. Schauberger and his team were transferred to Leonstein, near Linz. The project they initiated there was a `flying saucer’ powered by a ‘trout turbine’.

“The results of the research were surprising. It was both a success and a failure. Viktor Schauberger later explained this briefly in a letter to the West German defence minister Strauss on 28 February 1956:

“I preferred the first alternative, and about a year later, the first ‘flying saucer’ rose unexpectedly, at the first attempt, to the ceiling, and then was wrecked.”

Alexandersson produced slightly different pictures of the ‘flying hats’, probably just removing the Luftwaffe insignia Zundel had added, and reproduced drawings of other absurd imaginary wartime UFOs copied directly from Zundel.

Since then, architect Callum Coats has published a series of books which cover that confusing territory between science and esotericism, reflecting a surprisingly persistent interest in Schauberger’s theories about water and implosion. In 1996 (Living Energies, Gateway, 2001), he published what appear to be actual photos of the ‘flying hats’, as well as reprinting earlier drawings, and tells us that:

“Despite its compact size, this machine generated such a powerful levitational force that when it was first switched on (without Viktor Schauberger’s permission and in his absence!), it sheared the six quarter-inch diameter high-tensile steel anchor bolts and shot upwards to smash against the roof of the hangar.”

However, the sight of the objects themselves only underlines the unavoidable truth that the only factor uniting all those who tell us about the reality of the Schauberger flying saucers is that none of them have the least idea of how or why they flew. Indeed, it is hard to imagine how they could.

Coats also quotes one ‘A. Khammas’, writing in the undated issue 93 of Implosion magazine:

“There are many rumours about what Schauberger was actually doing during this period, most of which suggest he was in charge of developing `flying discs’ under contract to the army. It later became known that the ‘flying disc’ launched in Prague on the 19th of February 1945, which rose to an altitude of 15,000 metres in throe minutes and attained a forward speed of 2,200 kph, was a development of the prototype he built at Mauthausen concentration camp. Schauberger wrote, ‘I only first heard of this event after the war through one of the technicians who had worked with me’. In a letter to a friend, dated 2nd August 1956, Schauberger commented, ‘The machine was supposed to have been destroyed just before the end of the war on Keitel’s orders.’”

Perhaps we should find it significant that, while we are told that Victor Schauberger effectively rewrote aviation technology with two extraordinary demonstrations of the power of the engine he invented, we are also told that he was both absent from the events, and unaware that they would take place.

The most recent phase of belief in the Nazi UFO mythos began in the last five years [as of May 2003]. Susan Michaels, in Sightings: UFOs (Fireside, 1997), reproduces a range of palpable fictions from unreliable sources, and introduces some freshly minted nonsense. Possibly becoming confused by inconsistent, fictional accounts of a meeting with Hitler in 1933, she says:

“Also in 1939, German physicist Victor Schauberger developed a design for a flying saucer using energy he claimed could be harnessed from the tonal vibrations, or ‘harmonics’, of the cosmos. As far-fetched as this theory seems, Schauberger’s research attracted the attention of Adolf Hitler, who offered to provide funds to build Schauberger’s own anti-gravity saucer. But Schauberger, who was a deeply committed pacifist, turned Hitler down.”

The following year, aviation writer and photographer Bill Rose wrote an article, tagged as ‘UFO sightings – why you can blame Adolf Hitler’, in the popular science magazine Focus (October 1998). After, apparently, four years of research he concluded that:

“The father of the German disc programme was Rudolph Schriever, a Luftwaffe aeronautical engineer assigned to Heinkel in 1940 … a full-sized piloted version, the V2, first flew in 1943 with Schriever at the controls. Thirty feet in diameter, the V2 had a fixed central cabin around which a ring with adjustable vanes rotated to provide thrust in both the horizontal and vertical planes … Early in 1944, Schriever’s top-secret programme was moved to Czechoslovakia … Schriever was joined by a number of leading aeronautical engineers … Another addition was the Austrian scientist Viktor Schauberger, who just before his death in 1958 claimed to have worked on a highly classified US disc programme in Texas.”

Rose seems to be the first to have suggested that Schauberger actually worked together with the four other ‘engineers’ who the mythos says built flying saucers. Actually, even when those who actually said anything made their claims – Klaus Habermohl never said anything, probably because he didn’t exist, and Richard Miethe may have been someone else entirely who lived in Egypt – they never made that one. But even Rose doesn’t have the same remarkable sources as, it seems, did Gary Hyland, the author of Blue Fires (Headline, 2001), who says of Schauberger:

“The first test-flight of the machine was reportedly amazingly successful (it apparently shot through the roof of the laboratory and had to be recovered some distance away) … he developed his ideas further, to the point where a full-sized, though unmanned flying disc prototype that used his new engine apparently flew under radio control … At the end of the war, the American forces got to Leonstein ahead of the Russians and found Schauberger and his team of experts. After letting the members of his team leave after a thorough interrogation, the Americans held Schauberger in protective custody for six months; it would seem that they knew exactly what he had been up to and wanted to prevent other nations, as well as renegade Nazis, from continuing to use his services.”

Exceeding even the rich imaginations of Michaels, Rose and Hyland lie those who provided the information underpinning the much-publicised book The Hunt for Zero Point (Century, 2001) by Nick Cook, a notable freelance aviation journalist who has written for the very respectable Jane’s Defence Weekly. In the course of an investigation lasting, we are told, some ten years, he appears to have been comprehensively misinformed by a series of individuals, or perhaps by individuals acting on behalf of a group of people with a specific agenda. It seems that for all the informants he gathered along the way – informants he often protects with anonymity – nobody ever warned him that those who want to make the Nazi regime, and the SS in particular, look good, are unsurprisingly happy to deceive to do so.

schaubergerufoWithout going through Cook’s oddly directionless Hunt in any detail, it’s worth noting that his primary source about Schauberger was a Polish gentleman named Igor Witkowski. Witkowski, apparently, volunteered to drive Cook around, showing him sites where Schauberger had worked for the Nazis constructing and testing ‘The Bell’, a supposed experimental device with two cylinders spinning in opposite directions. Cook was told that this glowed blue and destroyed plants, birds, animals, and sometimes humans. Internet searches for Witkowski bring him up in connection with the loopy ‘crashed saucers’ end of Polish ufology, and he has self-published six or more separate items titled something like Hitler’s Supersecret Weapon.

Witkowski tells Cook that his extraordinary information comes from an unnameable source, which Cook seems to accept without question. It seems that a ‘Polish government official’ phoned Witkowski, inviting him to view documents and take notes about the development and concealment of extraordinary Nazi technology, as given in a record of “the activities of a special unit of the Soviet secret intelligence service”. Witkowski’s evidence, together with a visit to Schauberger’s grandson, leads Cook to reproduce the material about imprisonment by the US after the war, and the apartment being blown up by the Russians, together with various unlikely claims about Schauberger being offered massive sums of money by (right-wing) Americans in the years before he died. And that Schauberger’s designs had been stolen by Heinkel in the early part of the war, that he had worked on secret projects for the Nazis from 1941 through to the end of the war, working at a number of factories, sometimes using slave labour. That he had created, for and with the support of the SS, disc-shaped machines with engines so revolutionary that even Cook, an aviation journalist, cannot explain how they worked.

As I mentioned, one of the problems with the Nazi UFO mythos is explaining away the absolute absence of palpable evidence. Cook chooses to adopt SS General Hans Kammler for this purpose. Kammler used concentration camp labour to build the Atlantic Wall, contributed to the construction of the Auschwitz gas chambers, and was in charge of the V2 missile programme, which again ruthlessly exploited slave labour. He is also, it seems, the person who spirited away all traces of Schauberger’s astonishing technical achievements, allegedly to his own advantage by way of trade with the approaching Allies: however, the earliest version I have found of this story dates from 1989, put about by Nevada Aerial Research, who have done much to publicise the wonders of supposed Nazi technology. They later came up with the first and most unpleasant of the tales of dominant and brutal alien beings living below the US air base at Dulce. I do not believe that their account of Kammler had any existence prior to 1989, or that it is true.

There is no period of history more thoroughly examined than 1939-1945, and no subject more closely examined than the Nazis, and within the Nazis, the SS. Had there been any reality in the claims for the construction and testing – or more – of high-speed flying disc technology by the Third Reich during that period, then we would have every reason to expect that it would have been discovered, reported, and analysed by writers and researchers far more competent than those referred to above. Yet it never has been.

Nonetheless, there is this recurrent and developing counter-culture argument that says that these extraordinary events actually happened. It is a theory that has sold millions of books and a number of deeply unpleasant videos, and it continues to fuel a belief that, given just those few more months, the true genius of the Nazis, the drive of the SS, and the inspiration of the Fuhrer would have won through, and the Allies – no, not just the Soviet Union, but all the Allies – would have been defeated. Just imagine how that would have been.

While I’m happy to be challenged by solid evidence, I’ve found no reason to believe that Viktor Schauberger knew anything of all this: I think he died before it was made up. He never built a flying disc, let alone one that flew using some unknown and unprecedented method of propulsion. He wasn’t sought out by Hitler or the SS, didn’t choose slave workers from Mauthausen to assist him and wasn’t held by the Americans after the war because of his technical knowledge and achievements. If the Russians burned his flat down, I doubt that they even knew whose flat it was. He never worked for years in the USA, and wasn’t offered any sums of money to do so. If you want a real mystery to solve, try working out who invented all these tales, and why, and whether anyone apart from the authors involved has gained materially, or in achieving political or personal aims, as a result of their dissemination.


Plots Against the World

Steven Woodbridge

Alleged secret plots have dominated ufology since the 1940s, but conspiracymongering has a longer and darker history. Steven Woodbridge throws some light on the disturbing historical background to modern conspiracy theories. From Magonia 67, June 1999

God did not appear on television on 25 March 1998, much to the disappointment of a Dallas-based UFO cult and to the glee of newspaper and media commentators. Throughout that month Chen Hong-ming, prophet and leader of the 150-strong `God’s Salvation Church’ (also known as the ‘True Way’) gained massive media publicity by predicting that the Heavenly Father would appear on TV to announce the date of his descent to earth. Mr Chen also claimed that the world has been corrupted by evil, and would suffer a ‘Great Tribulation’ of economic crisis, floods, and the onset of nuclear war. He also argued that members of his group would be saved from these events by being taken to another planet in flying sau-cers.

The case of the ‘True Way’ is yet another example of the tremendous growth in pseudo-religious cults and other ‘conspiracy’ groups that are accompanying us as we move into the 21st century. Some of these, such as the ‘True Way’, are merely very eccentric and have tapped into the latest burst of Millennial / New Age thought and ufology. Other groups are more sinister and fanatical. Not only are they able to persuade their members that the end of the century heralds Armageddon, but that their way to salvation is through mass suicide. In the 1990′s alone we have witnessed already the tragic activities of the Order of the Solar Temple, based in Switzerland and Canada, and the California-based Heaven’s Gate. Some cult ideologies go even further than self-sacrifice and advocate terrorist tactics against ‘decadent non-believers. The Japanese Aum sect demonstrated the horrific consequences of such ideas with their gas attack on the Tokyo Metro rail system.

There is also another disturbing trend that has arisen out of millenarianism and the calls for ‘salvation’ and ‘survival’ in the face of impending doom. This is the revival of extreme Right-wing conspiracy theory. It is feeding off the idea that present-day society can no longer offer solutions to our problems and that all democratic politics is corrupt and decadent. The massive bomb that destroyed the Federal Building in Oklahoma City on 19 April 1995, claimed 168 lives and shocked American public opinion to the core. Not only did it overturn the illusion that the world’s most powerful nation was immune to domestic terrorism, it also made Americans realise that they no longer afford to ignore the increasing number of their fellow citizens who are resorting to membership of extreme right-wing groups. (1)

In the face of a seemingly more complex age such groups are providing fearful and dislocated individuals in America with a sense of firm ‘belonging’ once again. But there is also refuge in simplistic conspiracy theories about the world as it struggles to cope with the problems that abound at the end of the twentieth century. In fact there is the growing conviction in extreme right-wing circles, and moreover in wider American and European culture (expressed in TV series such as Dark Skies and X-Files) that the world is being controlled by `secret’ forces, shadowy networks of powerful groups who dictate to governments, manipulate populations and cause ‘spiritual’ decline. A variety of methods of control by these anonymous forces are pointed to: governments are supposedly employing mass brain-washing techniques through the media and education, and claims that subliminal messages are being beamed into homes through television sets to control unsuspecting viewers. New secret technologies, which may be extraterrestrial in origin, are sometimes cited. Surveillance by satellites and alteration to human behaviour by drugs or microchips are also mentioned. Timothy McVeigh, who was sentenced to death for his involvement in the Oklahoma bombing, claimed at one point that a microchip had been implanted in his left buttock. (2)

McVeigh’s supporters on the extreme right and the numerous militia groups also voiced their belief that the US government, through the FBI has deliberately blown up the Federal Building in order to justify a nationwide clampdown on any groups who might oppose a takeover of the nation by agents of a new World Government. Such material was disseminated widely by the Internet and was lapped up eagerly by the extreme right in many other countries. In many ways the Oklahoma bombing was a watershed in the development of a new wave of conspiracy theories in the 1990s and in the growth of the groups which advocate such ideas. The FBI reported in December 1997, for example, that it was now involved with more than nine hundred investigations into home-grown activist groups, compared to a hundred before Oklahoma. (3)

The extreme right itself probably perpetrated the bombing partly out of revenge for the FBI’s mishandling of the Branch Davidian siege at Waco in 1993. Although this sect was a religious cult group rather than a right-wing extremist organisation, it did blur some of the differences between pseudo-religious ideas and some extreme right-wing attitudes. It was led by a charismatic leader who had convinced his group of the need for collective armed resistance in the face of a hostile central government. The FBI’s mishandling of the infamous siege at Waco brought sympathy and gave ammunition to other groups that sought for ‘freedom’ from the state. In particular American neo-Nazis argued that it was an example of how the US Government was prepared to trample over the freedoms of any groups who disagreed with the allegedly totalitarian values of mainstream liberal society. At the same time they carefully avoided the evident contradiction contained in their own fascist ideologies, which envision the construction of a strong ‘alternative’ state based on a mixture of Nazism and `Christian’ white supremacy. As far as they are concerned the key ‘fact’ is that Waco exemplified a conspiracy by ‘ZOG’ – the Zionist Occupation Government. To frighten and lie to the general public in preparation for an oppressive New World Order. Sigificantly, Timothy McVeigh had been influenced by a video called Waco – the Big Lie. Although it would be a distortion to lump together all the neo-Nazi, militia and cult groups (many militia groups disassociate themselves from the neo-Nazis) certain common beliefs have emerged.

In general Waco and Oklahoma have taken on mythical proportions among the many US groups who believe that governments cannot be trusted. Outside the USA there has also been a notable growth in ‘cultist’ and New Age groups which, while not always adhering to extreme right-wing viewpoints, often tend to view democratic and materialist society as decadent and corrupt and governments as nothing more than huge lie machines. Furthermore they argue in their propaganda to potential recruits that the only way to escape the slide into societal breakdown is to set up pure elites of selected individuals who must prepare for the supposedly inevitable collapse of ‘the system’. In the meantime secret organisational strategies must be pursued in order to outwit the insidious arms of the State or the outside world, promot-ing a them-and-us mentality.

Indeed, as the century draws to a close there are now many examples of cross-fertilisation between a wide variety of cults and groups who all hold in common esoteric beliefs and conspiracy views about the nature of the modern world. In 1980 Roger Sandell reflected on ‘The World of Conspiracy Theories’ and pointed out that the conspiracy tradition has a long political history. (4) He located the origins of modern conspiracy theory in the 1790s when the fear of revolution, ignited by the French Revolution of 1789-92, had gripped ruling circles in Europe. Simplistic explanations arose about the forces behind revolutions: certain writers blamed the Freemasons or the Illuminati, or their paid agents, who were plotting the overthrow of Europe’s monarchies and of Christianity itself. Sandell records that by the mid-19th century it was the Jews – non-Christian, urban and recently liberated from civic restrictions – who came to be seen as the main enemy by the forces of reaction and clericism.


New forms of antisemitism were combined with older, more traditional anti-Jewish ideas in order to show that Jews were part of an evil secret society out to manipulate world events. One book, World Conquest by the Jews, published in 1875, argued that the most eminent leaders of the ‘Chosen Few’ deliberated on the most suitable means to ensure that Judaism spread from the North Pole to the South. (5) By the early 20th century these antisemitic themes found their strongest expression in works such as the notorious forgery The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion (1905), which had originated from Czarist Russia and was taken up by numerous antisemitic groups in Europe. In Britain a group called ‘The Britons’, publishers of a journal called The Hidden Hand, cited the Protocols as evidence that Jews were out to undermine the nation. This was a period of anxiety about national identity and the supposed decline of society. Some people wanted easy explanations for these perceptions and the Jews were traditional scapegoats.

The English translation of the Protocols had been published in 1920, under the title The Jewish Peril and it received wide coverage through articles in The Times and the Spectator. During the summer of 1920 the Morning Post published a series of eighteen articles supporting the Judeo-Masonic theory and used the Protocols as evidence. Nesta Webster, one of the most infamous conspiracy theorists of the interwar period and whose books are still regularly reprinted by right-wing publishing houses today, remained noncommittal on the Protocols. (6) Nevertheless Webster still put forward a comprehensive conspiracy theory about world history. The Freemasons and Illuminati were supposedly still behind world events, often in alliance with Jews and `Reds’.

Although certain elements on the political left were also guilty of antisemitism (conflating it with anti-capitalism), it was the right who found most comfort in the conspiratorial outlook. Moreover it was the extreme right which subscribed particularly to the simplicities of viewing the events and problems of the world as mere products of manipulation by secret forces. Nesta Webster, for example, was a member of the `British Fascist’ (BF) during the 1920s, a party founded

 in 1923 by Rotha Lintom-Orman, the granddaughter of a Field-Marshall and an admirer of Mussolini’s fascist ‘revolution’ in Italy. Webster also briefly sat on the ‘Grand Council’ of the BF. As well as writing her own books for public consumption, which have since become classics of conspiracy theory, (7) she used her position on the BF to push her all-encompassing theories to other British fascists, reinforcing their siege-mentality about their position in society and future prospects of the nation.

In May 1926 she argued that in the event of a crisis, “or the continuance of slow disintegration”, Britain needed a group who would react against “the forces of destruction”. (8) She clearly had in mind the BF for this task. Its leadership consisted mainly of ex-military personnel who spent many hours training paramilitary street squads for the ‘inevitable’ clash between the forces of darkness and light which they were convinced would come one day. The constitutional government of the day was viewed as weak and corrupt, the democratic system being a front for lies and deception on a mass scale. The real centres of power in the world were Moscow and Wall Street.

There are a number of other examples of conspiracy thought on the extreme Right in Britain during the interwar years. Arnold Leese, leader of the Imperial Fascist League, held a highly detailed conviction that the world was under the control of Jews and Masons. He gave his outlook a pseudo-religious justification rooted in mysticism, irrationality and the racial pseudo-science of German Nazi anthropologists such as Hans F. K. Gunther. At one point Leese argued, “Freemasonry is simply the latest phase of organisation of the forces of Darkness against those of Light, of Evil against Good, in a fight which has been going on since the Jews first conceived of the idea of organising for world control”. (9)

Even as the Nazi death camps were being opened up in 1945, Leese was still convinced that the war had been a “Jewish war for survival”. He argued that the result was the “sheer destruction of the best part of Europe and its domination by Bolshevism”, whilst the British Empire, “nearly ruined and rotten to the core with Jews and Freemasonry” was sinking back into a “second-class power”. (10)

Conspiracy theory did not go away in the post-1945 period. The former Conservative MP Captain Archibald Ramsay, who had been imprisoned by the British Government in 1940, still very much subscribed to the theory that the world was subject to manipulation by shadowy forces. In The Nameless War (1952), Ramsay echoed Nests Webster’s theories on history by pointing to the machinations of the Illuminati, Grand Orient Masons, and `Cabalistic Jews’ (11). He hinted strongly that the conspiracy was ‘international’ in nature and consisted of an “unholy united front” between Jews and certain misguided Gentiles.

Webster, Leese and Ramsay are especially notable because their books and pamphlets have been ‘rediscovered’ in recent years and reprinted. Material by Leese and Ramsay, for example, has been widely distributed by the American ‘Sons of Liberty’ publications group in the 1980s and 90s. This group has also been instrumental in distributing conspiracy literature by more recent right-wing and militia writers. In fact, in the light of the mushrooming interest in wider popular culture in the belief that governments and secret groups are denying people ‘the truth’, the extreme right has done its utmost to cash in on this and infiltrate its own ideas into the maze of esoteric and conspiracy material that now exists. A short visit to the many SF shops that have appeared in Britain and America invariably finds such books in sections devoted to ufology and general conspiracy material. Many newsagents display SF, esoteric and UFO-related monthly titles which wittingly or unwittingly recycle and promote extreme right themes. An example is the Australian-based magazine Nexus which regularly contains articles on the secret networks that supposedly operate in the world and influence governments.

The high demand for such magazines is encouraged by the public’s appetite for historical mystery and fascination with anything ‘Nazi’ or esoteric. A highly competitive market in these magazines means the need of publishers for such material has become acute. The market has expanded with the development of cheap desktop technology, and almost inevitably one can find in this material examples of articles and ideas that have roots in the right-wing, conspiratorial outlook on the world briefly explored above, even though their authors would deny this. A good example is the work of David Icke. He has published articles in the New Age/UFO magazines and distributed his own books, which have appeared in a number of SF and ‘alternative’ bookshops in Britain and the USA. He has also spoken at conferences, including the 1994 Nexus magazine conference in Amsterdam.

When this controversial ex sports commentator and former Green activist conducted his own lecture tour of Britain, the media took a great deal of interest in the number of neo-fascists and other Right-wing individuals who attended his lectures (12). This was not mere sensationalism on the part of journalists and Icke’s squeals of protest at these revelations showed great naivety. Some of the dubious characters who attended the lectures obviously found much in Icke’s ideas that they could relate to. A short survey of his work can give strong clues as to why the extreme Right find it so attractive.

Icke is very much in the Nests Webster tradition of connpiratorial thought when it comes to explaining world events and, whether deliberate or not, he makes use of a number of ideas which have a long pedigree in the history of Right-wing conspiracy theory. To this he adds `technological’ material to give his work a pseudoscientific feel. The basis of his philosophy is that our thought-processes are ultimately controlled by an international network of Freemasons, Jesuits and secretive bankers. He points to subliminal messages transmitted by TV which create ‘mind controlled’ robots, and also to the influence of tiny micro-chips inserted into people. In The Robots’ Rebellion (1994) Icke presented a vision of the world where ‘the brotherhood Elite’ are employing `The System’ and the New World Order to manipulate education and the media in order to crush individual liberty and free thought. Not only was there mention of the ‘Illuminati Protocols’ and the influence of Masons, but also claims that secret technologies were deliberately being kept from the public by faceless companies and groups.

More disturbingly, there was uncritical use in the book of the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. Icke claimed, “Almost everything these documents proposed to do has happened in this century” (13). Similarly in his later book, And the Truth Shall Set You Free (1995), Icke continued and developed his conspiratorial outlook further by identifying the `Secret Government’ at work in the world. There was a chapter on ‘The Hidden Hand’, and in a classic piece of historical revisionism lumped the World War II Allies together with the Nazis and argued that “the same forces funded and manipulated them both” (14). The same book also made use of the ever-growing material on the world-wide UFO ‘cover-up’, arguing that “extraterrestrials are at the heart of human history and the events that have shaped that history” (15).

Another example of a body of work which has gone down well with the extreme Right and echoes a number of their ideas is that of the American writer Jim Keith. His material is distributed by the Illuminet Press, which has specialised in bringing a variety of fringe material into the mainstream, including work by the US militias. His work has also been on sale through Nexus magazine. The best and most influential example of Keith’s work is Black Helicopters Over America (1994) which is on sale in large SF bookshops in London. Although more codified in its language, the basic theme behind the book is that there is a conspiracy being perpetrated by a plutocratic elite, backed by the Illuminati and operating through secret networks. The aim of this conspiracy is world domination through a New World Order and the domination of the United Nations. The ‘black helicopters’ are but one sign of this plan, which also involves the creation of a network of detention camps for any groups who might oppose this.

Keith delves back into history to describe the roots of this plan. At one point he argues, “In actual fact, the New World Order is simply the long term game plan of the Fabians and other communists, plans which were most clearly elucidated in Fabian H. G. Wells’ non-fiction books…” (16) The plan would also involve the creation of a ‘World Constitution’ with a world federation, “which would control everything, everywhere, anyhow, period.” (17) In the last chapter of the book all these strands are brought together for Keith to argue that it is evidence that a war will be initiated within the borders of the United States “against the American people by the power-hungry internationalists” (18). By the year 2000 the USA will be merged into a totalitarian and Socialist New World Order (19). In sum, Keith’s work claims that crisis is imminent and only organised resistance will suffice. The ghost of Nesta Webster lives on.

Finally it might be worth analysing Nexus magazine itself. In many ways Nexus has come to exemplify the strange conjunction of New Age, conspiracy and extreme Right thought. As well as promoting the ideas of the US Militia movement, giving space to Linda Thompson a key Militia spokesperson, Nexus has carried a variety of conspiratorial articles ranging from material on UFOs and secret technology through to investigations of the secret elites who operate in the world. Particular interest is shown in the banking elites, in ‘forbidden’ knowledge and in ‘Big Brother’ theories. Indeed, David Icke in Robots’ Rebellion called Nexus ‘excellent’ and the magazine has sought to provide a platform for a number of people with rather conspiratorial views of the world.

A good example came in January 1996. In an article on the Bilderberg Group, Armen Victorian speculated on whether the membership of this, selected from the ‘power elite’ of Europe and North America, are conspiring to establish a New World Order (20). A similar theme occurred in another issue from 1996. David G. Guyatt analysed the ‘Pinay Circle’ and noted its links to intelligence, the military, politics and banking. He argued that the group was perhaps “more sinister and certainly more shadowy than the Bilderbergers” (21). Interestingly Guyatt noted that his theories might be called ‘Conspiracy Theory’, but argued that this “rarely takes into account the underlying evidence” (22). In other words, he implied, critics of such material are not opening their eyes sufficiently. This kind of attitude runs right through Nexus, and the contributions it prints.

A typical issue of the magazine contains a column entitled ‘Global News’ which is often billed as news from ‘behind the news’, the clear implication being that the public will not find this kind of material anywhere else. All in all Nexus functions as a forum for a variety of theories, including highly conspiratorial and dubious material, and makes use of right-wing material which would normally be dismissed by mainstream publications. In one sense this is admirable and can probably be justified in the name of free speech. On the other hand we should be very aware that the authors of articles in Nexus have hidden agendas which are often rooted in the attempt to legitimise right-wing conspiratorial material and make it more acceptable in the wider culture. We should be constantly vigilant.

In conclusion this brief discussion has tried to demonstrate two things. Firstly that right-wing conspiracy ideas have a long historical tradition and are still present in popular culture today, seeking to capitalise on the current fascination with ufology and the esoteric. Secondly, that there has been a cross-fertilisation between more recent New Age obsessions and the idea held by the extreme right that the present world order is a place of hostility and threat for ‘freethinking’ individuals.


  1. On the growth of such groups see Martin Durham: `Preparing for Armageddon: Citizen Militias, the Patriotic Movement and the Oklahoma Bombing’, Terrorism and Political Violence, vol.8, no.1, 1996.Ibid. p.14.
  2. Robert S Robins and Jerrold M Post. Political Paranoia: Psychopolitics of Hatred. London, Yale University Press, 1997. p.209.
  3. US News and World Report, 21 December 1997.
  4. Roger Sandell, `The World of Conspiracy Theories’, Magonia 5, 1980.
  5. Norman Cohn. Warrant for Genocide: the myth of the Jewish World Conspiracy and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. London, Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1996. p.66.
  6. Ibid. p.1717
  7.  On Webster’s career, see Richard Gilman: Behind World Revolution, the Strange Career of Nesta H. Webster. Michigan, Insight Books, 1982.
  8. Nesta Webster. ‘Communism or Fascism’, Fascist Bulletin, 1 May 1926, p.1.
  9. Arnold Leese. Freemasonry, (1935) (Sons of Liberty edition, n.d.) p.5.
  10. Arnold Leese. The Jewish War of Survival (1945) (Sons of Liberty edition, n.d.) p.92.
  11. A. H. M. Ramsay, The Nameless War (1952) p.26.
  12. See, for instance, ‘Neo-Nazis Rally to “Son of Godhead”, Sunday Times, 9 July 1995.
  13. David Icke. Robots’ Rebellion. Bath, Gateway Books, 1994. p.138
  14. David Icke. And the Truth Shall Set You Free. London, Bridge of Love, 1995. p.147.
  15. Ibid. p.7
  16. Jim Keith. Black Helicopters over America; Strikeforce for the New World Order. Georgia, Illuminet Press, 1994. p.123.
  17. Ibid. p.124. 
  18. Ibid. p.145. 
  19. Ibid. p.148.
  20. Armen Victorian. ‘The Bilderberg Group; an Invisible Power House’, Nexus, vol.3, no.1, December 1995 – January 1996.
  21. David G. Guyatt. `The Pinay Circle; and Invisible Power Network’. Nexus, vol.3, no.5, August – September 1996.


A Panorama of Ufological Visions
Peter Rogerson

From MUFON, new series 3, Summer 1976

When the last article I wrote for MUFOB was being written in the Autumn of 1973 a great wave was about to break in the USA. That wave at a time of great crisis, marked a turning point in our perception of the UFO phenomena. I look back on those days as the last days of innocence when one could believe that some simple, rational, explanation of the phenomena was possible. In the two and a half years since I have corresponded with a former doyen of ‘scientific ufology’ who believes that all intellectual speculation on the subject is pointless; with a ufologist who has faced Magonia, and perhaps seen behind its mask: with members of the ‘Invisible College’, and UFO researchers who feel there is an answer round the corner.

John Rimmer and I have spoken with a young woman who has encountered a UFO and its occupants in her bedroom, I have heard from a man who believes disc jockeys are reading his mind, and entered the boundary of a UFO flap area. I have spoken there with a ‘silent contactee’ to whom has been revealed the secrets of the Cosmos, which he may not reveal; listened to tales of miracles and poltergeists, of a young girl driven almost to suicide by the psychic impressions which overwhelm her.

Look at the films of the two years past: Earthquake, Towering Inferno, Jaws, The Exorcist – visions of a chaos to come. Who, in the days of innocence, would have believed that the whole of Western rationalist tradition could be threatened by a movie; or that a man could kill his wife, inspired by a medieval world view. In no sense can this dark artistic vision be separated from the matrix of folklore in which it is germinated. 1973 was the year of Uri Geller, that strange charismatic figure who set the spoons spinning, bent forks, and read minds. Geller incarnated our secret desires of omnipotence, the power to dominate things to our will, to liberate ourselves from the laws of physics – and other rules too? Uri was the voice of SPECTRA, the idiot computer god of our worst fears. The computer is god, the mad computer god rules our poor alienated lives. The game, the experiwent, the rat in the maze become the symbols of the new humanity “beyond freedom and dignity” in a universe where the ultimate secret is an absurd scientific formula.

As rats in the maze, Hickson and Palmer were imprisoned in the strange inhuman machine, where the all-seeing eye of God or Big Brother surveyed them. ‘Laboratory rats’ is what Dr Harder said, rats in the maze to be examined by the robots of the dark future.

And 1973 was the year of Bigfoot, the archaic force that resides in the recesses of our soul. He comes with the UFOs, too. The law of gravity is shattered, the dream laughs at us. Bigfoot comes with trickster god raven on his shoulder.

A new rumour arises, from Utah to Rhodesia – a young couple driving in some deserted place enter a strange shadow, where all the streets are deserted, strange figures prowl the landscape. The journey is into the badlands, a wasteland of the soul, where the sun never rises. The car behind you has no driver but eyes are on you. Or you find yourself in a strange alien landscape, the sky all wrong. A sort of machine speaks in your mind, telling of wonders untold. But no bird is in the sky, and no human figure to be seen.

The day of judgement is at hand, next year if not this. But we are the prophets, there is a paradise awaiting you in the hollow womb of mother earth, and you are the chosen ones.  The flood is coming, but we are the emissaries of the space brothers, say the two. Like the cosmic twins, they will lead the chosen ones to the new place of emergence, a paradise derived from a syncretistic vision of Kurt Vonnegut and L Ron Hubbard. Kurt Vonnegut – Slaughter House Five – remember Charles Manson. Rumour has it that some who follow The Two will never reach paradise, they lie beneath desert sand.

Helicopters fly the night sky, what do they carry – terrorists who will blow up our cities, foreigners who will take away our way of life; Russian agents who stir up trouble, or Satanists who will drink the blood of our cattle. Whatever, it bodes no good, fear is contagious. Maybe the greenies will come in time? Another rumour, the real reason that the Condon Committee failed: a strange being landed in a New Mexico airfield, and has already established communication with leading scientific and military figures. Yet another rumour: alien forces have already seized control of our centres of power, an outside force directs our history. Rumours, dreams of alienation and loss of control. Time is short, the clock on the wall of AVB’s spaceship has no hands. “What time is it” asks the spaceman. “2.30″, the witness replies. “You lie, it is 4.30″. “I know they’re spacemen”, says Cathie Ropers, “They touch their watches end the memories come back”. The evening is nearer than you think.

The poetry of the absurd: a ufologist hands round a photograph of a cog-wheel in a flower bed. A hoax? or unconscious art? Another ufologist has a photograph of a rock: “Can’t you see the faces on the rock?”. A strange metal sphere lands on a Yorkshire moor, inside is a scroll. By some magical means it is deciphered to reveal a pseudo-scientific cosmic scenario. A contactee is taken from a hilltop, shown around the solar system, then deposited at his back-door. A few years earlier he was a central character in a poltergeist case. He is levitated, a voice speaks through him: “I am monk who has left something undone.” Levitation and ascents to cosmic regions are traditional feats of the shaman; our contactee is a shaman and healer.

Ghosts walk through walls, poltergeists throw chairs. A giant flying saucer lands on a bridge, which spans a river haunted by a phantom ferry, near a road on which a white lady walks, and a phantom rider rides. The building is haunted, a shadow crosses a girls mind, the air goes cold. Like a shadow obscuring consciousness, a shadow across the sunlight.

We come from Kansas – everywhere, says the air-ship captain. Tomorrow Cuba. Cuba is fighting for the new world against the old, the future is coming, liberation is at hand. We are free, we can fly, we can drop bombs, napalm. The airship people are nice people, an old man, a couple and a child… or are they? They are talking about a new gun, 60,000 rounds a minute. They begin to look different: Japs, the Yellow Peril. Then they are very different, angels or devils, butchers. Perhaps that is not the road to freedom after all…

In the quiet of the country the ship of souls lands, Adam and Eve as they were before the fall. They are a celestial couple. Perhaps they are the sky father and the earth mother, a vision of the eternal counterpointing, the fall into chaos. The ship of souls comes from a unknown country – “The Mountains of Montezuma”, there is a hint of another liberation, ancient America is about to throw off its colonial history. “We are the lost tribes of Israel, we live at the South Pole”, a lost part of our humanity returns.

“I am from Venus”, says the visitor, the messenger from the morning and evening star, guardian of the boundary between night and day, the conscious and the unconscious. The watcher at the threshold is a symbol of transcendence. Only by transcending the gulf between the conscious and the unconscious aspects of the psyche can man find a solution, warns Jerome Clark. Otherwise the Dionysian aspects of our spirit will sweep aside our safe, rational world. Humanity is on the brink of a chasm, says Charles Muses… a flying saucer hovers above… our only home. “Do you want a lift?”

The vision of Fatima, the great Earth Mother, Isis, Pachemama the lady of the corn, lady of creation and destruction. The sun spins in the sky, falls to earth – a dance of fertility, the lord of heaven torn from his high place. Phaeton having lost control of the power that is beyond his cope. In the name of Fatima the armies march: Salazar, Franco, the Spanish Civil War, the Legions of the Virgin. In the name of Fatima the lords of misrule burn up Europe. In the name of Fatima the Ustasi of Croatia create to most barbaric regime in all history. As I write this I begin to wonder if the final “blessing” of Fatima will be the race war which may engulf all Africa.

I have a vision, says Idi Amin, I have had a call from Allah; a great mission has been entrusted to me, a UFO has landed on Lake Uganda; this is a confirmation of my mission. I know when I shall die, until that appointed hour I am indestructible.

“A great ball of fire came from the sky, it entered my body, then I saw all things clearly, as if from a great height. Thus I knew that I was to be a shaman”. The durne-fire, bringer of the gifts of tongues and healing, the beam of light which struck Uri Geller, or Edgar Cayce. “I saw a light through the wall – I was afraid ’cause I thought it was burglars, but they said they were from Christ”.

When I was a child of two I had a dream. I dreamt there was a sort of light on the wall and a voice was talking in my head. No memory remains of what was said, but I awoke in terror, and the vision had remained ever since.

When he was a young child the Polish medium, Iduski, retreated into a sort of tent made of household furniture. There a great mole came and initiated him into the mole-kingdom. When his playmates went with him into the tent/womb they heard strange knockings and voices.

Celia Green and Charles MoCreary have proposed a new theory of apparitions – not only is the apparition the hallucination, but so is the whole experience; they argue there is no essential difference between apparitional and ‘out of the body’ experiences.

A couple drive through Yorkshire. They see in the early hours a sort of glow in a field by the road. They stroll out to investigate. Only a few yards away is a huge cylinder, “like a melon”. Suddenly an opening appears, giving off a light “like a sustained photographers flash”. They run away end drive off. During this experience they noticed a strange thing, there was an absolute silence, no night sounds at all. This little-commented feature appears in UFO story after story.


By now many readers must he wondering what on earth all that was about. It was an attempt to define the scope of what the UFO phenomenon has become. I am not saying that the stories and extracts above are ‘true’ in the sense that the scientist in his laboratory uses the word. Rather they are of the truth which is expressed in myth, dream, art and poetry. I further argue that UFO researchers who debate as to whether a certain story is ‘true’ or ‘false’ are posing a false dichotomy. I think that hoax, ‘lies’, fiction, and dreams may contain on ocassion a ‘higher’ truth than historical reality. I will also argue that we should evaluate contact stories, for example, as naive art, rather than evidence for the intervention of space people, and that the failure to recognise this has lead greatly to the sterile acrimony surrounding the subject.

Thus those writers who burn up pages of ink on arguing as to whether the claims of such charismatic figures as Uri Geller or Arthur Shuttlewood are ‘true’ or ‘false’ are asking the wrong questions. The real questions we should be asking are: “What is the appeal of such people” and “What effects do the myth-dreams they weave have on us and our culture?”

For myself, I think that Charles Muses and Jerome Clark are correct, and that the UFO is a bridge across the chasm. Not in the literal sense that nice space people are going to rescue us, but in a symbolic sense. The UFO appears to be a symbol of the ‘transcendence of opposites’, the mediator between the consciousness and the unconscious aspects of our psyche. It offers a way out of the twin nightmares of either a sterile, soulless ‘scientific future’, or a return to barbarism that the success of The Exorcist and its imitators has shown to be possible.

I sympathise with those UFO researchers who argue that we must not dirty our hands with stories such as ‘The Two’, or the schoolboys who claim to have encountered monsters in deserted railway tunnels, (on the grounds that such stories bring ridicule on the subject) but I must reluctantly disagree with them. I am forced to the view that we should consider such subliminal rumours as constituting a core of the phenomenon.

A vision in the night; the playground rumours of schoolchildren; the dream of a seer, the songs of a folk-singer; the ravings of a mad-man; the adventures of Everyman, unbidden and fearsome, what can it all mean? The only guide left to us is the saying of a Bushman to Van der Post: “A dream is dreaming us”. Maybe we are both the Dreamer and the Dream?


Uri Geller

  • Puharich, A. Uri. Future, 1974
  • Ebon, M. The Amazing Mr Geller. Signet, 1975

Computer God

  • Dione, R L. God Drives a Flying Saucer. Corgi, 1975.

Rats in a Maze

  • Michel, A. in FSR, volume 20, no. 3.

Hickson & Parker

  • Blum, R & J. Beyond Earth. Bantam, 1974
  • Eszterjaz, J. in Rolling Stone January 17th 1974


  • Schwarz, B E. “Berserk”, in FSR 20, 1.
  • Gordon, Stan in Skylook 75,77,78.

Badlands Journey

  • Clark, J. “A weird encounter in Utah” in FSR 16, 5.
  • Van Vlierden, C. “Escorted by UFOs” in FSR, 21, 2.


  • MUFOB, 6,4.
  • Hall, Mark, in The News, number 7.


  • Vallée, J. Passport to Magonia. Regnery, 1969.
  • Vallée, J. The Invisible College. Dutton, 1975
  • Gemini, volume 1, number 1.


There are many sources for airship date. John Keel’s Operation Trojan Horse; Jacob’s UFO Controversy in America and Clark and Colman’s The Unidentified summarise most of the data.


  • Thomas, Paul. Flying Saucers through the ages.
  • Vallée, J. The Invisible College.
  • MUFOB, 4,2 has a bibliography.
  • There is a new study by J-M Corbe which I have not seen. Needless to say, none of these document the political repercussions of Fatima.


  • Eliade, M. Shamanism, archaic techniques of Ecstasy
  • De Martino, E. Magic, primitive and modern


  • Green, D and McCreery, C. Apparitions. Hamilton, 1975


  • Sanders, Ed. The Family.

I have not quoted directly from the above sources. The purpose of this piece was not reportage, but to create an impressionistic word-picture of the whole panorama of the UFO vision.


Ike and the Aliens, the Origins of Exopolitics. Curtis Peebles

ike-golfFrom Magonia 93, September 2006

In late February of 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower (left) was enjoying a golf vacation in Palm Springs, California. After dinner on Saturday, February 20, 1954, Eisenhower left the resort unexpectedly. The reporters covering his vacation learned of his absence, and an Associated Press reporter issued a news bulletin saying “Pres. Eisenhower died tonight of a heart attack in Palm Springs.” Two minutes later, the report was retracted. The following morning, Sunday, February 21, 1954, the president attended a church service, very much alive. His spokesman said that Eisenhower had seen a dentist after chipping a cap on a tooth while eating a chicken wing at dinner. [1]

It was a letter from Gerald Light to Meade Layne, director of the Borderland Sciences Research Associations that turned the incident into a flying saucer story that would still be retold a half century later. The letter was received by Layne on April 16, 1954 and read:

“My dear Friends: I have just returned from Muroc. The report is true – devastatingly true!

“I made the journey in company with Franklin Allen of the Hearst papers and Edwin Nourse of Brookings Institute (Truman’s erstwhile financial advisor) and Bishop MacIntyre (sic) of L.A. (confidential names, for the present, please.)

“When we were allowed to enter the restricted section, (after about six hours in which we were checked on every possible item, event, incident and aspect of our personal and public lives) I had the distinct feeling that the world had come to an end with fantastic realism. For I have never seen so many human beings in a state of complete collapse and confusion as they realized that their own world had indeed ended with such finality as to beggar description. The reality of the ‘otherplane’ aeroforms is now and forever removed from the realms of speculation and made a rather painful part of the consciousness of every responsible scientific and political group.

“During my two days visit I saw five separate and distinct types of aircraft being studied and handled by our air-force officials – with the assistance and permission of The Etherians! I have no words to express my reactions.

“President Eisenhower, as you may already know, was spirited over to Muroc one night during his visit to Palm Springs recently. And it is my conviction that he will ignore the terrific conflict between the various ‘authorities’ and go directly to the people via radio and television – if the impasse continues much longer. From what I could gather, an official statement to the country is being prepared for delivery about the middle of May. I will leave it to your own excellent powers of deduction to construct a fitting picture of the mental and emotional pandemonium that is now shattering the consciousness of hundreds of our scientific ‘authorities’ and all the pundits of the various specialized knowledges that make up our current physics. In some instances I could not stifle a wave of pity that arose in my own being as I watched the pathetic bewilderment of rather brilliant brains struggling to make some sort of rational explanation which would enable them to retain their familiar theories and concepts. And I thanked my own destiny for having long ago pushed me into the metaphysical woods and compelled me to find my way out. To watch strong minds cringe before totally irreconcilable aspects of ‘science’ is not a pleasant thing. I had forgotten how commonplace such things as dematerialization of ‘solid’ objects had become to my own mind. The coming and going of an etheric, or spirit, body has been so familiar to me these many years I had just forgotten that such a manifestation could snap the mental balance of a man not so conditioned. I shall never forget those forty-eight hours at Muroc!” [2]

“It has finally happened. It is now a matter of history.

Word of Light’s letter soon spread among UFO believers. Desmond Leslie mentioned the story several months later. He had visited Los Angeles during the summer of 1954. Reportedly, this included investigations in the Edwards AFB area. Leslie was interviewed by George Hunt Williamson on October 9, 1954 for Valor magazine. Leslie said that “an Air Force man” told him that the “rumored saucer at Muroc was actually there,” and that it was under guard “in Hangar 27.” He continued that “President Eisenhower had a ‘look-see’ at the craft during his Palm Springs vacation.” Leslie’s source had “seen the craft,” and also said that “on a certain day…suddenly men coming back from leave were not allowed to go back on the base and were given orders to ‘get lost.’” Leslie added that the personnel on the base that day were not allowed to leave under any circumstances.

The Roswell Incident

The rebirth of the Ike and the aliens story began with Charles Berlitz and William L. Moore’s book The Roswell Incident. Published in 1980, this did not simply revive the nearly forgotten story of a saucer crash, but eventually would give rise to the Darkside mythology and exopolitics. For all its later impact, The Roswell Incident itself was rather ‘thin.’ The book recounted the story of Maj. Jesse A. Marcel, the intelligence officer of the 509th Bomb Wing at Roswell AAF in July 1947. Marcel described the recovery of strange debris, which he described as being pieces of parchment-like material and balsa-like sticks with pink and purple “hieroglyphics.” These fragments could not be broken or burned. There were also large metal parts which could not be dented or creased. Marcel did not claim to have seen a crashed saucer or alien bodies, only the strange debris. [4]

The bulk of The Roswell Incident consisted of recollections and stories that had little or no direct connection to Marcel’s alleged experiences. Canadian radio engineer Wilbert B. Smith was one such source. He had written a Top Secret memo in November 1950 on U.S. government involvement with flying saucers. Smith said in the memo that flying saucers were the mostly highly classified subject in the U.S., even more so than the hydrogen bomb.

Berlitz and Moore also discussed an account written by Meade Layne around 1949, which was alleged to be based on information from two scientists and “a business man of high standing.” “Dr. Weidberg,” described as a physics professor from an unnamed California university, was said to have taken part in the examination of the saucer. According to Layne, the professor said it was “shaped like a turtle’s back” and had a cabin about 15 feet in diameter. Layne’s account continued:

“The bodies of six occupants were seared…and the interior of the disc had been badly damaged by intense heat. One porthole had been shattered….

“An autopsy on one body showed that it resembled a normal human body except in size. One body was seated at what appeared to be a control desk, there were a few ‘gadgets’ in front of him, and on the walls or panels characters in writing, in a language unknown to any of the investigators. They said it was unlike anything known to them, and definitely not Russian…”

He added that Dr. Weidberg had indicated that the saucer was taken by truck from the crash site to Magdalena, New Mexico. The UFO was then loaded on a special car of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe railroad. The train’s route passed through Belen, Grants, and Gallup, New Mexico, then to Flagstaff, Arizona and continued on to Needles and Cadiz in California, before finally arriving at Muroc, where “Camp Edwards” was located. [5]

The Roswell Incident included a chapter on ‘The President and the Captured Saucer’. Berlitz and Moore claim that information about the saucer crash at Roswell was initially withheld from Eisenhower even after he became president. Berlitz and Moore further claimed that Eisenhower “was let in on the secret as one of the first of a small but carefully selected group of scientific, military, and civilian personnel from all walks of life…” The goal, Berlitz and Moore wrote, was “…possibly for the purpose of gauging from their observed reactions what the effect on the general public would likely be if such a story was released.”

Berlitz and Moore continued that “the mental confusion and near pandemonium,” described in Light’s account, resulted “…in a total victory for the forces of secrecy.” They also claimed that the individuals who were shown the saucer were silenced and plans for a public announcement were dropped. Light’s description of his experiences at “Muroc” was not judged to be a security threat, as the story would not stick if it were published. [6]

MJ-12, the Darkside, and Exopolitics


Bill Cooper promoted a conspiracy theory which, ostensibly about flying saucers, was actually a right-wing theory of world control by such organisations as Bilderburg and the Council on Foreign Relations

The publication of The Roswell Incident came at a time when the flying saucer myth was undergoing fundamental changes. During the early and mid-1980s, stories spread of crashed saucers, ‘Grays’, cattle and human mutilations, abductions, implants, creation of alien/human hybrids, alien underground bases, secret treaties between the U.S. and the aliens, technology exchanges, and of a shadowy organization called MJ-12 which was overseeing it all. [7]

This became known as the Darkside, and was defined by Milton William Cooper in his manifesto, ‘The Secret Government The Origin, Identity and Purpose of MJ-12.’ Cooper claimed his account was based on documents he had seen between 1970 and 1973 while a Navy enlisted man. This included the story of the meeting between Ike and the aliens, and the claim of a secret treaty.

According to Cooper, radio communications was established with a group of ‘large-nosed Gray aliens’. This resulted in a landing at Holloman AFB by these aliens in early 1954. During this first face-to-face meeting, a basic agreement was worked out, and arrangements made for a formal treaty. A second landing by the aliens at Edwards AFB followed in February 1954. Cooper wrote that Eisenhower arranged to be in Palm Springs on vacation. On the planned day, the president was secretly taken to Edwards, with the dental visit as a cover story. Cooper continued, “President Eisenhower met with the aliens and a formal treaty between the Alien Nation and the United States of America was signed.”

Cooper claimed that the treaty allowed the aliens to abduct a limited number of humans for the purpose of medical examination. The abductees would not be harmed, would be returned to the place they were taken from, and would have no memory of what had happened. The aliens would provide to MJ-12 a list of all the humans who were abducted. In exchange, the U.S. government would be supplied with advanced alien technology. The aliens’ existence would also be kept secret by the U.S. government, and underground bases would be built for the aliens. Cooper further claimed that the U.S. government realized by 1955 that the aliens had violated the treaty. Both humans and animals were mutilated, a full list of abducted humans was not being provided to MJ-12 by the aliens, and not all the abductees were being returned.

While on the surface Cooper was writing about flying saucers and aliens, the bulk of the text was actually Rightist conspiracy theories. This involved the Bilderburgers, which, Cooper said, controlled the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission. Between them, he continued, these groups “…control the major foundations, all of the major media and publishing interests, the largest banks, all the major corporations, the upper echelons of the government, and many other vital interests.”

This conspiracy, according to Cooper, amounted to a secret world government. It was responsible for the deaths of both Secretary of Defense James Forrestal and President John F. Kennedy. It controlled the world’s drug trade, was responsible for crime in American cities, and used disinformation against UFO researchers. It created AIDS and other diseases in order to reduce the world’s population. The conspiracy had plans to round up all ‘dissenters’ and ship them off to vast concentration camps which had already been built. The enslavement of humanity would then be complete. Cooper concluded by writing, “We must force disclosure of all the facts, discover the truth and act upon the truth.” [8]

By the mid-1990s, Cooper abandoned Ufology and became a leading figure in the Militia movement. He was killed on November 6, 2001 in a shootout with Arizona police officers. [9] Cooper’s lasting contribution was the Darkside mythology, which was enshrined in popular culture by such television shows as The X-Files and Dark Skies. While the Right had been the first to embrace the Darkside, the mythology was also soon being accepted by the Left.

Ufology in the context of a Leftist political movement began in the early 1990s, against the backdrop of the collapse of communism, the fall of the Soviet Union, and the end of the Cold War. By the start of the 21st century, this movement became known as ‘exopolitics’, This was “…the study of the key political actors, institutions and processes associated with the UFO phenomenon and the extraterrestrial hypothesis.” [10]

Several individuals emerged as the major figures in this movement. They included Steven Greer and Alfred Webre. Like Cooper, they claimed the world was actually run by a secret cabal. Greer said that this was “a committee of 200 to 300 people” involving senior U.S. government, military, and intelligence officials, ‘the Liechtenstein banking family’, the ‘Mormon corporate empire’. and ‘cells within the Vatican’. They had murdered Marilyn Monroe and former CIA director William Colby to keep them from talking, and used an ‘electromagnetic weapon’ to cause Greer and others to be stricken with cancer. [11] Greer also claimed UFO groups were controlled by the conspiracy. He said in an interview that “deep-cover black project operatives are working closely with alleged civilian researchers, journalists, and the UFO glitterati.” [12]

While Cooper had focused exclusively on an overarching conspiracy, the major figures in exopolitics also offered a messianic vision of the future once disclosure had come about. Greer said that the alien technology “would empower a new human civilization without want, poverty or environmental damage.” He continued that “there is no limit to what humanity can achieve.” [13] Webre implied that disclosure would result in a fundamental transformation of human beings. He said, “We are a nucleus of politically sensitive terrestrials who are aware that the playing field is vast…. Fundamentally the transformation starts within all of us – for we are the transformation. We are the exo-government. We are the new Universal human.” [14] 

Research Study #8

In 2003, a new figure in exopolitics emerged. This was Dr. Michael E. Salla, a researcher in residence at American University’s Center for Global Peace. He was also the director of the Peace Ambassadors Program, which the university’s web site described as a “summer program that combines study, meditative practices, and prayer ceremonies at selected Washington, D.C. sites aimed at promoting individual self-empowerment and Divine Governance in Washington, D.C.” Salla received his PhD in Government from the University of Queensland, Australia, and an MA degree in Philosophy from the University of Melbourne, Australia. He had written extensively on conflict resolution, conducted fieldwork in East Timor, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Sri Lanka, and organized international workshops on these conflicts. [15]

Salla began writing a series of papers on exopolitics in January of 2003. These seem to have attracted little interest from either the American University staff or among UFO believers. This changed with Research Study #8, dated January 28, 2004. It was titled ‘Eisenhower’s 1954 Meeting With Extraterrestrials: The Fiftieth Anniversary of America’s First Treaty With Extraterrestrials?’


Cardinal James McIntyre would have been, accordong to Salla, "an important gauge for the possible reactions from religious leaders generally, and in particular from the most influential and powerful religious institution on the planet - the Roman Catholic Church."

The paper began with Eisenhower’s disappearance, and repeated the story of Gerald Light’s letter about his visit to Muroc with the group of distinguished public figures to see the saucers. Salla mentioned that Light was an ‘elderly mystic’, but stressed the physiological reactions described in Light’s letter. Salla further argued that Light, Nourse, Cardinal McIntyre and Allen “would certainly have been plausible choices for a community delegation…”

He noted that Dr. Edwin Nourse could “provide his expertise on the possible economic impact of First Contact with extraterrestrials.” Cardinal James McIntyre would have been, according to Salla, “an important gauge for the possible reaction from religious leaders generally, and in particular from the most influential and powerful religious institution on the planet – the Roman Catholic Church.” Franklin Allen, then an 80-year-old former reporter with the Hearst Newspaper Group, was described as “…a good choice for a member of the press who could maintain confidentiality.”

Salla wrote that, “The four represented senior leaders of the religious, spiritual, economic and newspaper communities and were well advanced in age and status.” Salla mentioned the possibility that Light may have used their names “in a fabricated account of an ‘out of body’ experience,” but continued that “…there is nothing in Light’s selection that eliminates the possibility that they were plausible members of such a delegation.” Salla concluded that this provided, “…circumstantial evidence that a meeting with extraterrestrials occurred and that Eisenhower was present.”

Salla then turned to ‘testimonials’ which supported the story of Eisenhower’s meeting with the aliens. Not surprisingly, Cooper had the central role, and Salla quoted extensively from his writings. Cooper was not the only person to claim to know about the incident, however, according to Salla. Another was Dr. Michael Wolf, who claimed to have been involved with several policy-making committees dealing with the alien presence over a period of twenty-five years. He stated that the Eisenhower administration had signed a treaty with an alien race, but that this treaty had not been submitted for congressional ratification, as required by the U.S. Constitution.

A third individual was Phil Schneider, described as “a former geological engineer that was employed by corporations contracted to build underground bases.” Salla stated that his knowledge about the treaty “would have come from his familiarity with a range of compartmentalized black projects and interaction with other personnel working with extraterrestrials.” Schneider wrote:

“Back in 1954, under the Eisenhower administration, the federal government decided to circumvent the Constitution of the United States and form a treaty with alien entities. It was called the 1954 Greada Treaty, which basically made the agreement that the aliens involved could take a few cows and test their implanting techniques on a few human beings, but that they had to give details about the people involved.”

Like Cooper, Schneider also claimed that the aliens had violated the treaty. This involved the number of humans being abducted. Schneider added that “…the aliens altered the bargain until they decided they wouldn’t abide by it at all.”

Col. Phillip Corso is also among the ‘whistleblowers.’ Corso also wrote in his memoirs that the Eisenhower administration signed a treaty with the aliens. He stated: “We had negotiated a kind of surrender with them as long as we couldn’t fight them. They dictated the terms because they knew what we feared most was disclosure.” [16]

The Whole Tooth

When an academic, holding a position at a major university, publicly claims that the President of the United States signed a secret treaty with extraterrestrials, he gets noticed. Peter Carlson, a staff writer with the Washington Post was among those who noticed Salla. His article, ‘Ike and the Alien Ambassadors The Whole Tooth About the President’s Extraterrestrial Encounter’, was published on February 19, 2004, in the ‘Style Section’ of the newspaper.

In his January 28, 2004 paper, Salla had recounted the various accounts of the Eisenhower meeting with the aliens at Edwards, without reaching a conclusion about the chain of events. In a meeting with Carlson, however, he did provide a specific account. Salla told the reporter that Eisenhower’s visit to Edwards had actually been to meet with two ‘Nordics’, rather than to sign a treaty. Salla described these aliens as looking like Scandinavian humans, with white hair, pale blue eyes, and colorless lips. The Nordics communicated with Eisenhower telepathically. Salla explained. “It’s as though you’re hearing a person but they’re not speaking.”

According to Salla, the two blue-eyed aliens offered to share their advanced technology and spiritual wisdom, but only if the U.S. gave up its nuclear weapons. Salla explained, “They were afraid that we might blow up some of our nuclear technology, and apparently that does something to time and space and it impacts on extraterrestrial races on other planets.”

Although several of the earlier accounts claimed the treaty was signed during Eisenhower’s Edwards trip, Salla told Carlson a different version. Eisenhower refused the aliens’ offer, as he did not want to give up nuclear weapons. According to Salla, sometime later in 1954, the U.S. government reached an agreement with the Grays. As with Cooper and the other whistleblower’s accounts, this was an agreement which allowed the Grays to abduct humans, providing they were safely returned. Salla said that since then, the Grays have kidnapped ‘millions’ of humans.

Salla also gave an insight as to how he became interested in exopolitics. Carlson wrote, “For much of the ‘90s, Salla studied conflict resolution and tried unsuccessfully to apply that knowledge to prevent war in East Timor and the Balkans, he says. Frustrated, he began looking for an extraterrestrial connection to human misery and, he says, he found evidence of ET visitations – including the Ike encounter – on the Internet. ‘There’s a lot of stuff on the Internet,’ he says, ‘and I just went and pieced it together.’”

Carlson looked into the claims made by Salla. The lack of any records of Eisenhower having dental work in February 1954 was offered as evidence of a cover story for the trip to Edwards. Carlson contacted the Eisenhower Library, and was referred to an article by James M. Mixson published in the November 1995 issue of The Bulletin of the History of Dentistry. Mixson, who was both a dental historian and a professor at the Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry, drew on the U.S. surgeon general’s records of Eisenhower’s health which were opened in 1991.

The article, titled ‘A History of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Oral Health’, noted that the president had considerable trouble with the porcelain cap on his upper left center incisor. It was first installed in July 1952, during the presidential campaign, but was chipped and repaired in December 1952. The cap was again chipped by the chicken wing on February 20, 1954. Dr. Francis A. Purcell, a local dentist, did the repair work. Mixson noted in the article that “The lack of a dental record from Purcell’s office has helped fuel belief in this UFO encounter.” The cap was chipped yet again in July 1954, when it was finally replaced with a “thin cast gold/platinum thimble crown.”

Carlson also learned that his inquiry was not the first to the Eisenhower Library about the alleged incident. Jim Leyerzapf, an archivist at the library, told him “We’ve had so many requests on that subject that we have a person who specializes in this.” Herb Pankratz was the archivist given the assignment. Leyerzapf explained, “He specializes in transportation, and we decided to add UFOs to that. He does trains, planes, automobiles – and flying saucers.”

Pankratz told Carlson that the library had fielded dozens of inquiries about the Ike and the aliens story in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He also made a sage observation: “It’s interesting how these stories have changed. Initially, the accounts claimed the President made a secret trip to Edwards Air Force Base to view the remains of aliens who crashed at Roswell, N.M., in 1947. Later stories claimed he had actually visited with live aliens.” [17]


Salla wove the same theories as Bill Cooper into a Leftist theory of 'exopolitics', anti-war movement, environmentalism, opposition to ballistic missile defences, the widespread acceptance of conspiracy theories and the post-Cold War meeting of political extremes.

Salla has maintained his belief in the reality of the Ike and the aliens story, and has referred to the alleged meeting in several subsequent papers. In one such paper, he speculated that the addition of the words ‘under God’ in the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance were a result of the Edwards meeting. Salla ‘hypothesized’ that President Eisenhower and his national security advisors were told “the truth of the human origins” at the meeting. He suggests that this:

“…so unnerved Eisenhower and his team, that they reacted in an entirely predicable way. They initiated a Congressional process to revise the Pledge of Allegiance to buttress their world view which was based in a traditional religious belief that humanity’s origins were clearly associated with the divine intervention of a ‘transcendental being’ or ‘God.’ Introducing the revision of ‘under God’ into the Pledge would be a way of maintaining a human perspective which had now become a matter of U.S. national security given the knowledge the extraterrestrials claimed to possess about humanity’s true origins. [18]

Exopolitics as a Medieval Belief System

The story of Ike and the aliens began with a minor misunderstanding that resulted in an erroneous press report that President Eisenhower was dead. Gerald Light’s letter then tied the incident into claims about a crashed saucer and a government cover up. This initial story was soon expanded. Desmond Leslie added an independent eyewitness report of the saucer being under guard at Edwards. The account written by Meade Layne provided a description of the saucer and its crew, as well as the back story of how the saucer came to Edwards. Wilbert B. Smith’s memo completed the process, by supplying official confirmation.

But the flaw in the tale of Ike and the aliens is that the story rests on the unsupported accounts of questionable individuals. Light and Layne were both occultists. Leslie was the co-author of ‘Professor’ George Adamski’s 1953 book, Flying Saucers Have Landed. Williamson was one of Adamski’s followers, a witness to his November 20, 1952 contact with a man from Venus, and a contactee himself. Smith was not only a supporter of contactees such as Adamski, but also claimed in the mid-1950s to be in psychic contact with several space brothers. [19]

This flaw also exists in the story’s revival as part of the exopolitics myth. Cooper, Wolf, Schneider, and Corso have all made claims about their backgrounds and experiences which are not supported by documentary evidence. Salla acknowledged this, but just as he rationalized Light being part of the group going to see the saucers, Salla also rationalized away the lack of evidence. He claimed that government policy dealing with the leaking information about UFOs “…is to intimidate, silence, eliminate or discredit these individuals.” One such technique, Salla claimed, is “…removing all public records of former service men or corporate employees….” [20]

In medieval Europe, hearsay, myths, folklore, and legends were considered legal evidence. In witch trials, for example, a suspected witch would be thrown in a pond. If they floated, this was sufficient proof for them to be convicted by the court and executed as a witch. Such admissibility of hearsay evidence was eventually undone by the Enlightenment and the scientific revolution.

The exopolitics myth represents a return to this medieval belief system. The story of Ike and the aliens is based on the hearsay of the whistleblowers, unsupported by any evidence. Instead, like hearsay evidence and folklore in medieval times, they are to be accepted as true without question, even in the face of obvious contradictions and flaws. Exopolitics lacks any standards of evidence to judge which claims are valid and which are not. No screening of the whistleblowers is done. Rather, exopolitics writers pick and choose which of their claims are used and which are not, without any apparent logic or reason.

Just as Cooper was a major source for Salla’s account of the Ike and the alien story, so too does he provide an example of this selectivity. There are no references to some of Cooper’s other remarkable claims. He stated, for example, that there are “areas on the Moon where plant life grows and even changes color with the seasons,” and that humans “can walk upon its surface without a space suit breathing from an oxygen bottle after undergoing decompression….” The most stunning of Cooper’s claims is that the Cold War was a hoax, and that the U.S. and USSR were actually “the closest allies.” [21]

Just as in medieval times flaws were dealt with by either saying they were deceptions by Satan or ignoring them, exopolitics writers deal with flaws in the whistleblowers’ accounts in the same ways. This is shown by the differing versions of the Ike and the aliens stories told by each of the whistleblowers, how details such as location and dates changed in their accounts over time, and how Salla dealt with these flaws.

One example of this is John Lear’s original version of the treaty story, as described in a December 29, 1987 paper. Lear said that the first contact came on April 30, 1964, when three saucers landed at Holloman AFB in New Mexico. A meeting was then held between the aliens and U.S. intelligence officers. Lear added that between 1969 and 1971, a treaty was reached between MJ-12 and the aliens. As in the other whistleblowers’ accounts, Lear claimed the treaty was later violated by the aliens. [22]

Lear then gave a completely different version of the treaty story during a November 2, 2003 appearance on the radio show, “Coast to Coast.” He now said that the meeting was in 1954 at “Muroc Test Center, which is now Edwards Airforce (sic) Base.” He said that the aliens had “suggested that they could help us get rid of the Grays but Eisenhower turned down their offer because they offered no technology.” Lear also said that the aliens had told Eisenhower that they had created humans. This caused the president to have the words “under God” added to the Pledge of Allegiance. [23]

Cooper’s 1989 manifesto had claimed, “The aliens explained that they had created us through hybridization….” However, Cooper said this occurred after Eisenhower met with the aliens at Edwards and the treaty was signed. [24] Further complicating matters, Cooper had also subsequently changed his story of where the landing occurred, saying it was at Homestead AFB in Florida.

In his original January 28, 2004 paper on the Ike and the aliens story, Salla noted the differences between Cooper and Lear regarding when and where the meeting took place. Salla also claimed that Lear had worked as a CIA contract pilot, and had “a close relationship with CIA Director (DCI) William Colby…” Then Salla wrote:

“The question over which account is more reliable needs to focus on the possibility Lear had deliberately introduced some inaccuracies into his account. Lear’s CIA association suggests he could have been a means of simultaneously confirming Cooper’s information on the meetings while undermining Cooper’s credibility by throwing in minor inconsistencies.” [25]

During the time that Carlson was researching his story for the Washington Post, Salla was revising his paper; posting the new text a week before the Carlson article came out. In this new version of Research Study #8, Salla notes only that “There is some discrepancy in the testimonials as to which Air force base (sic) the spurned extraterrestrials met with President Eisenhower.” He deleted the text about Lear and the CIA using false information to both support and discredit Cooper’s accounts.

Salla added a new (second-hand) account of the Eisenhower meeting at Edwards to his paper. Charles L. Suggs, a retired Marine Sergeant, claimed that his late father, Navy Commander Charles L. Suggs, had accompanied President Eisenhower and others in his party to Edwards on February 20, 1954 to meet with two Nordic aliens. According to the younger Suggs, “The spokesman” stood a number of feet from Eisenhower and refused to let him come any closer. The second alien stood on the extended ramp of a “bi-convex saucer that stood on tripod landing gear.” The aliens said that they came from another solar system, and, according to the younger Suggs’ account, asked detailed questions regarding nuclear testing. Salla concluded that Lear’s 2003 story and Suggs’ account were more accurate versions. [26]

Exopolitics seems to be a new point of departure for the flying saucer myth. The original beliefs about UFOs developed at the beginning of the Cold War. Exopolitics, in contrast, is influenced by the much later anti-war movement, environmentalism, the anti-nuclear movement, opposition to ballistic missile defenses, the wide-spread acceptance of conspiracy theories, and the post-Cold War meeting of political extremes. Lear, Cooper, and Corso are Rightists, but their claims are incorporated into a Leftist political framework.

Another influence on exopolitics is that of post-modernism. Broadly speaking, this holds that every ‘narrative’ or ‘text’ is equally valid, and there is no one ‘real’ version of history. The concept rejects any appeal to ‘truth’ or ‘reality’. An attempt to provide a complete account of events is considered ‘oppressive’. All ideas are equally valid, and all accounts are equally true. This reflects the lack of any attempt to determine which of the different versions of the Ike and the aliens story is ‘real’. The same also applies to post modernism itself, as despite being widely accepted, there is no specific meaning of the concept. This alone says much about post modernism.

A case can also be made that exopolitics is the inheritor of the contactee/occult tradition. Salla included Eduard ‘Billy’ Meier and other contactees among the sources used in a long paper titled, ‘A Report on the Motivations and Activities of Extraterrestrial Races – A Typology of the Most Significant Extraterrestrial Races Interacting with Humanity’. [27] Alfred Webre also makes references to claims by Billy Meier, specifically his ‘Talmud of Jmmanuel’ and the ‘Henoch Prophecies.’ [28]

Use of occult methods is openly accepted in exopolitics. Salla considered remote viewing to be a moderate evidentiary support for exopolitical research. Alfred Webre was more explicit, stating that “Remote Viewing IS the scientific breakthrough that has made replicable Exopolitical research into the Universe possible.” [29] Steven Greer said about remote viewing: “It’s not a belief system. It is science; it is physics, pure and simple. Humans have abilities to access levels of consciousness generally only spoken about by mystics and shamans.” [30]

What is as yet unknown is the influence that exopolitics will ultimately have on the flying saucer myth. Exopolitics may come to dominate UFO beliefs and shape the conspiratorial political ideas in the larger society. Alternately, exopolitics may prove to be nothing more than a short-lived fad. An earlier example was the idea that flying saucers were “psychic projections,” rather than alien spaceships. This concept was popular in the 1970s, but vanished with the return of the crashed saucer stories and emergence of the Darkside. What does seem likely is that believers and skeptics alike have not yet heard the last of the Ike and the aliens story.



  1. Peter Carlson, “Ike and the Alien Ambassadors The Whole Tooth About the President’s Extraterrestrial Encounter” The Washington Post (February 19, 2004), p. C1.
  2. Charles Berlitz, William L. Moore, The Roswell Incident (New York: Berkley Books, 1988), p. 131-133. James McIntyre was a Roman Catholic Cardinal in 1954.
  3. ibid, p. 135, 136. Hangars at Edwards AFB have either a three digit or a four digit designation. There was never a “Hangar 27” at the base, at any time. There was a “Building 27” at Edwards, but it was the old mess hall. All that remains of it today is the concrete slab.
  4. ibid, p. 69-75.
  5. ibid, p. 59-68, 100, 101, 103, 104, 120, 127, 128. Although Meade Layne’s account was described in The Roswell Incident as “probably” written in 1949, several of its story elements were similar to those in Frank Scully’s Behind the Flying Saucers, published in late 1950. These include the involvement of a business man, the alien bodies being burned, strange writing, and a broken porthole. This suggests a possibility that Layne’s account was derived directly or indirectly from Scully. Additionally, Muroc AFB was renamed Edwards AFB on January 5, 1950.
  6. ibid, p. 125, 126, 135.
  7. Paul Devereux, Peter Brooksmith, UFOs and Ufology; The First 50 Years (London: Blandford Books, 1997), p. 110, 111, and “MJ12: Myth Or Reality?” Just Cause (December 1985), p. 1-3.
  8. Milton William Cooper, “The Secret Government: The Origin, Identity, and Purpose of MJ-12,” dated May 23, 1989.
  9. Don Ecker, “Cooper Meets Violent End,” UFO Magazine (February/March 2002, p. 69.
  10. Dr. Michael E. Salla, “The History of Exopolitics: Evolving Political Approaches to UFOs & the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis,” Exopolitics Journal 1:1 (October 2005), p. 2.
  11. Dr. Steven Greer, “UFOs: What the Government Really Knows,” The Disclosure Project web site, www.disclosureproject.org/bassiorinterview.htm. This is the text of an interview of Greer in Hustler magazine’s November 2005 issue.
  12. Greer, “When Disclosure Serves Secrecy,” www.disclosureproject.org/ disclosureserves.htm, 1999.
  13. Greer, “Implications for the Environment, World Peace, World Poverty, and the Human Future,” www.disclosureproject.org/execsummery/implications.htm, March 2001.
  14. Alfred Webre, “The end of terrestrial politics?” November 1, 2000, http://exopolitics.blogs.com/exopolitics/2005/10/the_end_of_terr.html
  15. Carlson, “Ike and the Alien Ambassadors,” p. C1.
  16. Salla, ““Eisenhower’s 1954 Meeting With Extraterrestrials: The Fiftieth Anniversary of America’s First Treaty With Extraterrestrials?” January 28, 2004. The author’s copy of this paper was printed out on February 8, 2004 at 4:01 p.m. Salla revised this paper and posted a new version, dated ‘Febuary (sic) 12, 2004,’ on his web site. Unless otherwise specified, the original January version is used.
  17. Carlson, “Ike and the Alien Ambassadors,” p. C1.
  18. Salla, “What Did President Eisenhower Secretly Know that led to him supporting a Revision of the Pledge of Allegiance,” www.exopolitics.org/Exo-Comment-17.htm, June 15, 2004.
  19. Paul Kimball, “Canada and Flying Saucers, Vol. VI [Wilbert Smith - Competent? Credible? - Part 2]” www.redstarfilms.blogspot.com/2005_10_01_redstarfilms_archive. html.
  20. Salla, ““Eisenhower’s 1954 Meeting With Extraterrestrials.”
  21. Cooper, “The Secret Government: The Origin, Identity, and Purpose of MJ-12.”
  22. John Lear, “Statement Released By: John Lear, December 29, 1987,” p. 2, 3.
  23. “John Lear Disclosure Briefing,” Coast to Cost Radio (November 2003) www.coast to coastam.com/shows/2003/11/02.html. Salla was apparently not aware of Lear’s 1987 claims regarding a 1964 meeting at Holloman AFB, or that Cooper had written in 1989 that the meeting was at Edwards.
  24. Cooper, “The Secret Government: The Origin, Identity, and Purpose of MJ-12.”
  25. Salla, ““Eisenhower’s 1954 Meeting With Extraterrestrials.”
  26. Salla, ““Eisenhower’s 1954 Meeting With Extraterrestrials.” February 12, 2004 version, www.exopolitics.org/ Study-Paper-8-PF.htm. Lear’s 2003 account was apparently also the source for Salla’s later paper which claimed that “under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance as a result of the meeting. The younger Suggs’ description of the white-haired, blue eyed aliens with colorless lips was used by Salla in his conversation with Carlson.
  27. Salla, “A Report on the Motivations and Activities of Extraterrestrial Races – A Typology of the Most Significant Extraterrestrial Races Interacting with Humanity,” www.exopolitics.org/Report-ET-Motivations-PF.htm, January 1, 2005.
  28. Weber, “The Talmud of Jmmanuel and Jesus Christ as Possible UFO Contactee,” http://exopolitics.blogs.com/exopolitics/2005/11/coopradioorg_pr.html, and “Socio-political implications of the Talmud of Jmmanuel and the Henoch Prophecies, in the context of the life work of ‘Billy’ Eduard Albert Meier,” http://exopolitics.blogs. com/exopolitics/2005/11/sociopolitical_.html.
  29. Webre, “A Vital Debate: ‘Remote Viewing as a research tool in Exopolitics,’” http://exopolitics.blogs.com/exopolitics/2005/10/remote_viewing_.html (Capitalizations in original text.)
  30. Harold E. Burt, “UFO Hopefuls Get CSETI’s Spin on Remote Viewing,” UFO Magazine (December 1998), p. 7.

Howden Moor: Roswell Meets Peak Practice. David Clarke

From Magonia 70, March 2000

  • Part One: Secret Truth, Myth and Madness

  • Part Two: A Summary of the Known Facts

  • Part Three: Fantasy and Fact: A Howden Moor Checklist



“This pattern… with a discredited case being tenaciously supported by an increasingly convoluted set of claims and counter claims has already been well-established in the Fortean world… If the following for such cases continues… it is likely that it is the needs of the audience rather than any persuasive arguments in the cases that keeps them alive…” – Neil Nixon [1]



Part One: Secret Truth, Myth and Madness

The folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand, in his classic study of `new’ urban Legends, The Choking Doberman, refers to what he calls ‘The Secret Truth’ as a primary theme in modern conspiracy theories. It would, if revealed, cause panic among the population in a manner similar to that which is claimed to have followed the transmission of the famous War of the Worlds radio broadcast in 1938. Brunvand includes what he calls the most dramatic of the ‘suppressed truth’ stories in his collection under the title ‘the landed Martians.’ This is the seminal claim that a wrecked flying saucer was recovered by the US military at Roswell, New Mexico in July 1947. The ‘landed Martians’ were the bodies of the craft’s humanoid pilots which were subsequently shipped to a super-secret hangar in an isolated desert region of the USA. Those involved in the operation were ‘sworn to secrecy or lied to about the nature of their mission.’ Brunvand realised he was tiptoeing into dangerous territory when he dismissed the ‘evidence’ invoked as proof of the Roswell crash, adding: “I expect that I’ll get some angry mail for suggesting that this might be an area of modern legend” [2].

Hence the folklorist ventures into areas of faith and belief which at the turn of the second Millennium are defended with almost fundamentalist zeal.

As Curtis Peebles observed in his analysis of black project crash sites [3] the rapidly multiplying versions of the Roswell Incident cannot be regarded as evidence of a real historical event involving the recovery of an alien craft and bodies. Instead they should be viewed as an evolving narrative, a myth in the making. One of the dictionary definitions of ‘myth’ is that of a commonly held belief which is fundamentally untrue, or without foundation. Ufological myths are particularly tenacious creatures in the age of the World Wide Web and have a tendency to survive and reproduce themselves like a computer virus. Every day new rumours are transmitted, copied and moulded within the subculture of ufology. Once belief in a mythical event is established, others will seek to replicate its existence elsewhere.

In Britain, a collection of proto-’crashed saucer’ stories dating back to the time of the ‘foo fighters’ were produced by Nick Redfern in the third volume of his UFO trilogy, Cosmic Crashes, in 1999 [4]. Before this title appeared believers in Britain lacked any suitable claims which could be compared with the more detailed ‘crash-retrievals’ reported from the USA. The British Isles are distinctly lacking in the isolated desert regions favoured as the setting for some of the American ‘pickled alien’ stories. As a result a desperate search has been ongoing to identify a contender for status as ‘the British Roswell.’ A number of the incidents listed by Redfern are certainly based upon ‘real’ events, but as Andy Robert’s detailed investigation of the Berwyn Mountains case has demonstrated, their core can invariably be shown to have originated in events of a mundane nature. In this case an earth tremor which coincided with a spectacular display of fireball meteors triggered a police search of a Welsh mountain. The lights of the patrol as they met a group of ‘lampers’ produced an eyewitness account which became the basis of a ‘crashed UFO rumour’ twenty years later [5].

Following in the great tradition of Roswell ‘anomalous incidents’ are now being resurrected as ‘UFO crashes’ thirty or forty years after they occurred, a time lag which allows memory to fog and gives imagination and exaggeration a fertile breeding ground.

As fertile seeds reproducing themselves within the subject, Redfern’s sample will soon become incorporated into the evolving UFO mythology. They will become ‘classic cases’ formed in the image of the ‘landed Martians’ but tailored specifically for the needs of a British audience eager for homespun versions of the ‘dark side’ theories of abduction, back engineering and secret deals between aliens and the Government. As part of this process we should expect the developing stories to absorb the newer beliefs circulated on the World Wide Web by the more fanatical elements of today’s conspiracy mongers. These include the elements added to the developing mythology during the course of last decade: the fashionable ‘Flying Triangles’ and their pilots, the sinister greys with their agenda of animal mutilation and human abduction. The more advanced and psychologically disturbed the storytellers become, the more we hear about implants, crossbreeding and the spreading of ME, AIDS and other horrendous viruses among the alien’s alleged victims.

One of these new stories, although not listed by Redfern, has played a pivotal role in the export of the US-based ‘crashed saucer’ mythology. It has been the subject of heated and vociferous exchanges on newsgroups which have divided ufologists into two camps with fundamentally different approaches to the interpretation of fact and evidence. Cleverly packaged and marketed upon the Internet by its creator Max Burns, it is a claim which has led to schism in British ufology of seismic proportions. The case has highlighted the fundamental dichotomy which exists today between the ‘scientific’ and ‘belief-driven’ approaches to the study of UFOs and illustrated the lengths to which the latter arc prepared to go to promote claims which are, as the dictionary defines myth. ‘untrue …or without foundation.’

Max Burns and ‘the Sheffield incident’

“…I believe the British Government are test flying a 30-50ft triangle around the Northwest of England – probably built with recovered ET technology. These [sic] larger triangular craft are I believe without doubt extra terrestrial in origin. As well as that I will go so far as to say that these triangles are being flown and controlled by the beings known as the Greys’…” – Max Burns [5]

Max Burns appeared suddenly on the British UFO scene during the mid-90s, claiming a long interest in the subject which stemmed from a childhood ‘abduction’ experience. At this time he worked as a disc jockey in South Yorkshire night-clubs and spent his spare time communicating with fellow ‘abductees’ and believers via the rapidly expanding UFO subculture on the Internet. Burns quickly endeared himself to those subscribing to the more paranoid and extreme belief systems with his investigation of what he began to call ‘the Sheffield incident’ and links he claimed to have discovered between symptoms suffered by ‘abductees’ and chronic fatigue syndrome or ME. Unlike many of the other Walter Mitty characters who are temporary attracted to the ufological stage Burns had the confidence to pursue his arguments to the bitter end, even after it became apparent that the weight of evidence was stacked overwhelmingly against him. His answer to critics who questioned his evidence and conclusions was simple: anyone who disagreed was part of the ‘cover up’ or was working for the Security Services. At one stage his plausible and garrulous manner was enough to persuade even cautious members of the UFO community, including the council of the ailing BUFORA, that he had a case to answer.

Late on the night of 24 March 1997 Burns had been alerted to an event on the Peak District moors west of Sheffield which was to become the turning point of his career in ufology and would ultimately prove to be his nemesis. What he was later to proclaim as ‘Britain’s answer to the Roswell UFO crash’ could have been lifted straight from a plot in The X-Files or one of the trashy satellite TV UFO ‘documentaries.’ The so-called ‘Sheffield incident’ – a misnomer as the events actually occurred above Howden Moor – appeared to have all the ingredients necessary for myth making: callers jamming police switchboards to report an unidentified aircraft on a collision course with the hills, military jets skimming rooftops, strange aerial explosions, a massive search operation which found nothing, claims that a cover-up was underway and the run-of-the-mill denials by the authorities.

The facts of the case and the fantasies which have been spun from its meagre strands are summarised elsewhere. It is sufficient to say that the original events stemmed from what South Yorkshire Police concluded were ‘a combination of circumstances that would lead people to believe a plane might have crashed.’ [6] These circumstances involved the sightings of a low-flying light aircraft which coincided with reports of an anomalous aerial explosion or sonic boom created by a military aircraft. At no stage were UFOs ever seriously considered by the authorities as having played a role in these events, although a covert military exercise was certainly suspected as a possible explanation by a number of senior police officers. Mysteries, however mundane, leave a vacuum which is easily filled by the imaginations of UFO believers.

When news of the mystery reached the media, the region soon became the focus of attention from assorted ‘investigators’ who immediately cried out: ‘Cover-up!
Among these early visitors was Max Burns, who seized upon the mystery explosions as a key part of his developing theory which sought to explain what really happened that night. In the short-lived newstand magazine Alien Encounters Burns posed the following question to readers in the summer of 1997: ‘Could this have been the UFO making a crash landing, or a Tornado crashing after being attacked by the UFO?” [7] Soon evidence was being collected to fit the theory: where this didn’t exist it was invented. Testimony and facts which did not support the UFO hypothesis were simply ignored, as passive consumers of the story on the Internet would not feel it was necessary to question Burn’s belief-driven version of events. By 1998 Burns felt confident enough to conclude the case was “one of the biggest UFO incidents in recent years involving a huge Flying Triangle … and evidence of a conspiracy on behalf of the civilian and military authorities to hide the facts from the public …” [8] In summary the ‘Sheffield incident’ had become the Secret Truth resurrected in a new form, suitable for a modern, unquestioning audience.

Burn’s claims did not involve the standard scenario of a crashed ET craft recovered by a covert military operation. Crashed ‘flying saucers’ and their Michael Rennie-like occupants were a thing of the past in ’90s UFO lore. In the increasingly convoluted logic employed to ‘sell’ the case, it was argued that a more fashionable triangular ET craft had been pursued across the Pennines by military fighter aircraft, which were either escorting the aliens or had been diverted from an ongoing exercise to intercept the intruder. A key element of the case were the sonic booms recorded by the British Geological Survey. They suddenly became the ‘evidence’ Burns was looking for. Following his logic, during the encounter at least one of the pursuing Tornado jets was ‘completely destroyed’ or captured as a result of hostile action by the pilots of the ‘triangle’ “because of the use of EM weapons while being in close proximity of the Triangle.” [9]

The ‘lost Tornado’ story has a long pedigree in the history of ufology and science fiction. Indeed, one of the strongest motifs in the UFO crash mythology is the belief which can be summarised as ‘one of ours was lost chasing one of theirs.’ Ever since the tragic death of US pilot Thomas Mantell during the pursuit of a ‘flying saucer’ over Kentucky in 1948 (which turned out to be a high altitude Skyhook balloon) there have been frequent claims of hostile mid-air encounters between the military and ET [10]. The Mantell case and a similar incident involving the loss of a Lightning over the North Sea in 1970 have recently been resurrected by ‘alien investigator’ Tony Dodd in a sensational and breathless account of his attempts to ‘blow the lid’ on the UFO cover-up. In 1987 attempts were made to link the crash of a Harrier jump-jet in the Atlantic with the mystery ‘crop circles’ over which the pilot allegedly flew before disaster struck [11]. The same kind of motifs can be traced in science fiction genre, from the era of War of the Worlds to the gung-ho battles between US pilots and hostile alien invaders depicted in the ’90s blockbuster Independence Day. Coincidentally, Burn’s claims about the ‘Sheffield incident’ appeared in the same year that the BBC screened the low-budget science fiction drama Invasion Earth which ironically began with a dogfight between an RAF Tornado and a UFO along the British coastline.

One of the elements of Brunvand’s ‘Crashed Martian’ folk legend concerns the setting of the alleged UFO crash in an isolated desert region, away from prying eyes. This tradition has also been developed effectively in science fiction films and programmes, in particular The X-Files, and has filtered down into UFO mythology. In the ‘Sheffield incident’ the covert operation took place above one of the few regions of Britain which might actually be termed a ‘desert.’ The High Peak District of northern Derbyshire was an ideal substitute for the arid regions of New Mexico. The story continued the tradition of a covert recovery operation in a remote area where acres of moor hid the ‘the secret truth’ from the public. In this case it was easy for Burns to depict the Dark Peak, above which the ‘incident’ took place, as being miles away from human habitation. Although conditions can be treacherous for those who venture into the mountains unprepared, the Peak District is in fact the most popular National Park in Britain with a staggering 20 million visitors in 1999. Readers of Burn’s case on the Internet will not easily appreciate that the area where the ‘Tornado crash’ supposedly took place is actually within walking distance of Sheffield city centre. The moors themselves, although lonely, are little more than 40 square miles in total area and cannot be described as ‘remote’ in the US sense of the word. Throughout the year the Derwent Valley is thronged with tourists, walkers and climbers who enjoy exploring every inch of the Dark Peak moors, which are sandwiched between two of the most heavily populated conurbations in the north of England. In addition, the region lies directly beneath an international air corridor used by airliners using Manchester’s Ringway airport, and is regularly used for low-flying practice by a number of military airfields.

To overcome these credibility problems Burns had to devise a scenario where he could claim that the police and civilian search and rescue teams had been directed away from the scene of the secret operation which he believes was launched to remove evidence of the Tornado crash. The sighting of ‘a military Land Rover’ and the activities of the ‘Aero Space Intelligence’ were invoked as evidence of the presence of a covert military retrieval team in the area that night. The AIS, according to Burns, ‘look like the CID’ and ‘drive twin-aerial cars during their missions to silence witnesses [12].

The `Tornado pilot’

The most ludicrous evidence of all was that provided by a young man who had been a passenger in a minibus which had been flagged down by a mysterious stranger on a deserted stretch of the A57 Snake Pass near the Ladybower reservoir. The stranger, clearly described as being ‘Asian’ or `Pakistani’ in appearance, smelled strongly of diesel or petrol fumes. He asked for a lift into Sheffield, but this was declined because the bus was full. The witness reported this ‘suspicious’ incident to the police and thought no more of it until he was contacted by Max Burns, who by now was desperate for a ‘breakthrough’ to shore up his collapsing theory. Burns – posing as `a journalist’ – could not believe his luck when the young man, who had since joined the RAF as a trainee night engineer, told how he was now certain the ‘diesel or petrol’ he had detected that night was actually ‘aviation fuel.’

Within hours the shocked engineer found himself being questioned by a reporter from the News of the World to whom Burns had tried to sell his story. He immediately realised his words had been taken out of context to promote a sensational UFO fantasy and demanded the story be dropped for fear of the effect it could have upon his reputation and his new job. It was too late now, for Burns had the initial conversation on tape and armed with this evidence and the subsequent retraction, now had the ‘proof’ he was looking for that a witness had been forced through fear or coercion to retract his statement. Here was clear evidence of the ‘cover-up’ he had suspected all along, for if the story was nonsense why go to all this trouble to stop the witness talking?

In his Sheffield Incident Burns uses this yarn to confidently proclaim that the mysterious stranger was “without doubt the co-pilot of the Tornado jet, who was soaked in aviation fuel and was making his way to the nearest metropolis to alert the military.” Having parachuted from the stricken aircraft, the crewman had walked four miles to the reservoir viaduct before trying to thumb a ride with a passing bus. Not surprisingly, even members of the pro-ETH camp found this claim particularly hard to swallow. Nick Pope summarised the conclusion shared by many when he wrote: “It’s ridiculous to suggest this has anything to do with the RAF, on the basis that a pilot from a downed jet would always stay at the crash site, waiting for the inevitable military search and rescue operation. He’d be wearing a distinctive green flying suit that even a layman would realise was military issue.” [131

The identity of the stranger was in fact already known to the Peak Park Ranger office and to Derbyshire Police, if only Burns had cared to ask. The report was investigated by the force as a possible suicide attempt and patently had nothing whatever to do with a 'crashed Tornado,' except in the imagination of a UFO buff.

In truth, if any military cover-up had been in evidence it would have been obvious to the 141 members of the civilian Mountain Rescue Service who spent more than 15 hours in freezing cold temperatures combing the moors for signs of an air disaster. They found nothing, and saw no one. So confident of his theory was Max Burns that he did not feel it necessary even to contact the MRS Commander Mike France to enquire if any evidence existed to support his theory. Questioned on the role of the Mountain Rescue teams on a live Internet debate on the case, Burns claimed they were 'not in the area of the crash' and had been 'sent off on a wild goose chase by the Government/authorities.' [14] Earlier he was forced to admit he had never spoken to any member of the highly experienced search and rescue teams and had no basis upon which to cast doubt upon their search and rescue skills which save dozens of lives every year.

Burns has repeatedly accused the Ministry of Defence of organising a massive cover-up of the ‘Sheffield incident.’ He claims they have changed their story at least four times in relation to the part played by the military aircraft reported over the Peak shortly before the alarm was raised. In March 1998 and on my behalf, the Labour MP for Sheffield Hillsborough, Helen Jackson, quizzed the MOD in a series of written Parliamentary questions relating to the role of the military in the events {15}. They admitted somewhat reluctantly that a ‘pre-booked training exercise’ did indeed take place above the Peak District on the night in question, with photo reconnaissance aircraft flying as low as 250 feet above the Derbyshire hills. Throughout this saga, the MOD have consistently denied the ‘incident was triggered by jets being scrambled from a front-line fighter base to intercept a UFO. There is no evidence to suggest their statements – provided in response to direct questions in the Houses of Parliament – are anything thing but correct. [16]

In point of fact the RAF regularly use the northern Peaks as a practice ground for low-flying training for its pilots which intensifies significantly during the build up to international conflicts such as the Gulf Crisis. This is in fact a tradition which dates back to the use of the Derwent Dam and Ladybower reservoir by the famous 617 ‘Dambusters’ squadron during the preparation for their attack on the German Ruhr in 1943. Since that time the Dark Peak east of Manchester has become a graveyard for more than fifty planes and their crews who have fallen foul of the unpredictable weather which prevails above this part of the hills. The tragic loss of these aircraft have added to the reputation of the Dark Peak among pilots and rumours have spread concerning a ‘ghost plane’ which has been seen skimming the surface of the reservoir and dams [17].

Sightings of the `ghost flier’ have triggered a series of fruitless searches by police and the mountain rescue service, the latest as recently as the summer of 1999. One Peak Park ranger has revealed how the service receives up to four reports of ‘crashing aircraft’ from visitors to the region on average every year. This information places the 1997 incident into context as one of many ‘false alarms’ caused by low-flying aircraft in this part of the Peak. Rangers and search personnel have become so accustomed to these alarms that they have begun to realise how many of the reports are based upon sightings of real aircraft, both military and civilian, observed under unusual conditions. Visitors unfamiliar with the Peak District often fall victim to an optical illusion whereby aircraft in their landing approach to Manchester appear to be at a dangerously low altitude as a result of the height above sea level of the observer. From the evidence available, there is no reason to suggest that the events of that spring evening in 1997 cannot be explained through a combination of misperception, misidentification and plain wishful thinking on behalf of the UFO myth-makers.


Fact, common sense and logic are unlikely to halt the development of the Howden Moor mystery into a fully fledged cause celebre of the ‘Roswell’ tradition. Facts and close scrutiny of the evidence may have solved the case to the satisfaction of the majority, but as with Roswell the ‘story’ will continue to live on in mythology. Simply because bizarre claims cannot be disproved, they must therefore have some basis in reality as part of the twisted logic employed by Max Burns and his apologists.

No amount of testimony or evidence will convince those who have made it their mission to defend the preposterous claim that human life was lost as a result of a hostile attack by UFO occupants.

Even if it were possible to account for the safety of each and every Tornado aircraft and its crew in service with the RAF and NATO, it would always be claimed that the ‘loss’ had been cleverly erased from official records by the nefarious agents of the omnipresent cover-up. Already the signs of madness have surfaced among promoters of Max Burns’ theory with the appearance of ever more bizarre beliefs, including claims that drinking water levels ‘fell dramatically’ in the Ladybower reservoir following the appearance of the ‘Flying Triangle’ or that a secret portal to another dimension lies hidden beneath the reservoir complex! The standpoint of believers cannot fail but to lead along a path on which madness and paranoia lurk around every corner. No final conclusion will ever be accepted except one bound up with conspiracy, cover-up and the elusive ‘secret truth.’

Unfortunately, there can be no real conclusion to the Howden Moors ‘crash’; no clean ending which will allow the case to be tied up and neatly filed away. That is, of course, unless Max Burns and his followers can come up with hard physical proof that a Tornado was shot down by a UFO. I predict this will never happen. The carcass of facts surrounding this case has now been picked clean by legions of believers in the literal truth of UFOs and the case now lives on, Jackanory-like, in the tellings and re-tellings of people who have chosen never to concern themselves with the primary and secondary sources of information. They have chosen which pieces of information and whose research best suits their beliefs and prejudices and are blind to the realities of the case. Worse still, I and other rational researchers associated with the case have been demonised as ‘agents of the Government’ in an attempt to divert attention from the truth at the heart of the matter.

The Howden Moors case has, like the Roswell Incident, a life of its own within ufology. All we can do now is chart its trajectory across the ufological landscape, smile sagely and wonder at the capacity of humans to create such a fanciful edifice from so very little.



1. Neil Nixon, ‘They’re not all lunatics on the fringe,’ Fortean Studies 6 (London: John Brown Publishing, 1999).
2. Jan Harold Brunvand, The Choking Doberman and other ‘new’ Urban Legends (London: W.W. Norton & Company, 1984).
3. Curtis Peebles, ‘The Hunting of Zel,’ Magonia 69 (December 1999).
4. Nick Redfern, Cosmic Crashes (London: Simon & Schuster, 1999).
5. Max Burns, ‘The Sheffield Incident, A Flying Triangle Incident’ (Internet posting, PUFORI website, 1998).
6. South Yorkshire Police Major Incident log, collated in David Clarke and Martin Jeffrey, ‘The Howden Moor Incident’ (independent UFO Network, 1999).
7. Max Burns, ‘Crash and Burns: Did a UFO crash outside Sheffield?’ Alien Encounters, summer 1997.
8. Burns, ‘The Sheffield Incident,’ op. cit.
9. Ibid.10. Tony Dodd, Alien Investigator (London: Headline, 1999).
11. Jenny Randles and Paul Fuller, Crop Circles: A Mystery Solved (London: Robert Hale, 1993).
12. Burns, ‘The Sheffield Incident.’ The twin-aerial car spotted by Burns belonged to another investigator, Martin Jeffrey.
13. Personal communication from Nick Pope, May 1999.
14. Max Burns on ‘Visitations’ live Internet discussion of the case, June 6, 1998.
15. Hansard, written questions, March 23, 1998; MOD written answers, March 25 and April 7, 1998.
16. Statement by MOD spokesman reproduced in David Clarke, ‘The Howden Moor Incident,’ in The UFOs that Never Were, ed. Clarke, Randles & Roberts (London House, 2000).
17. David Clarke, Supernatural Peak District (London: Robert Hale, 2000).


The Howden Moor Incident: A Summary of the Known Facts

Emergency services were alerted shortly after 10pm on 24 March 1997 when reports are made to police that a low flying aircraft had crashed into an area of the High Peak moors near Sheffield. Two gamekeepers report hearing a loud aerial explosion at roughly the same time. Police and seven volunteer teams from the Peak District Mountain Rescue Organisation (PDMRO) organise a thorough search of more than 40 square miles of moor centred upon the Howden Reservoir. The operation begins at 11 pm and is called off at 2pm on 25 March.

The search was joined by a police helicopter at 11pm and a Sea King from RAF Leconfield. An Air Exclusion Zone is authorised by the CAA covering a 30 mile radius from the Howden Reservoir to enable the search to continue unhindered. Directed from the ground by the PDMRO, the helicopters use heat-seeking equipment specially designed to detect traces of a fire or body heat. No trace of any crash or wreckage is found. The Sea King returns to base at 2pm on 25 March. It represented the single military asset involved in the search operation.

200 personnel were involved in the ground operation, including civilian volunteers, search and rescue dog teams and police. During the latter stages the moors are visited by dozens of passers-by and camera crews from local TV and radio stations.

As a result of appeals on radio and in the local Press, the police receive more than 40 reports of low flying aircraft from a wide area. Two reports describe what appear to be ‘unidentified flying objects’. One of these describes a triangular-shaped object spotted from a moving train three hours before and almost thirty miles away from the search zone.

South Yorkshire Police conclude the incident was sparked by a series of unconnected events. These included a low flying aircraft and an aerial explosion which led people to believe a plane had crashed. Checks with civil airports found no reports of aircraft missing. The RAF stated that no military aircraft were operating in the area. The identity of the aircraft which triggered the reports remains unknown.

The British Geological Survey recorded a sonic boom in the Sheffield area on two seismographs and one low-frequency microphone at 10.06 pm on 24 March 1997. Checks reveal a second boom was recorded in the same region at 9.52 pm. The BGS conclude the readings are characteristic of the traces left behind in the wake of a military aircraft breaking the sound barrier. Supersonic flights over land are prohibited by the Military Flying Regulations.

One year after the events the Ministry of Defence admit in a Parliamentary reply to MP Helen Jackson that a low flying exercise involving military aircraft DID take place above the Peak District on the night of 24 March, but was completed by 9.35 pm, 30 minutes before the ‘incident’ which sparked the search operation. The planes involved in the exercise were Tornado GRIa photo reconnaissance aircraft from RAF Marham in Norfolk. The Ministry of Defence state in parliament and in correspondence that no reports of UFOs were received from military or civilian sources on 24-25 March. Reports received by South Yorkshire Police were classified as low flying aircraft as this was undoubtedly what they were!

An RAF Police investigation was launched into the cause of the sonic booms. A statement by Air Staff 2(A) at Whitehall said that officers “concentrated their enquiries on whether a military aircraft had been in the area concerned at the date in question. Once they had established that military activity was not involved they made no further enquiries to determine what might have caused the noise”. The MOD said it was “satisfied that on the date in question, there was no threat to the UK Air Defence Region from hostile military activity”.


Fantasy and Fact: A Howden Moor Checklist

Max Burns’ case is centred upon the claim that a Tornado fighter aircraft was ‘lost’ with the death of at least one of its crew members during an encounter with an extraterrestrial spaceship over Sheffield and the Peak District on the night of 24 March 1997. Two years after what Burns has called the Sheffield incident he has not produced one single piece of evidence to support his theory. The ‘evidence’ mustered in support of the UFO claims is summarised below, with the facts in italics following each significant point:

There were five witness to ‘an enormous triangle’ over Sheffield and the Peak District. Three of these saw the triangle either being escorted or intercepted by six military jets. The triangle had been flying low to avoid radar detection.
Only two witnesses described seeing a triangle and just one of these reported the observation to the police. This related to a sighting from a moving train more than two hours before the events which sparked the search operation, almost 30 miles away from the scene! The second sighting also took place many miles from the search zone, and the witness is a close female friend of Max Burns. Her observation clearly related to the flight path of low-flying military aircraft.

A further six witnesses saw a ‘glowing orange’ UFO, military jets and ‘unmarked helicopters’. One pensioner who said she observed a cigar-shaped object really saw, according to Burns, the triangle from the side so that it would appear cigar-shaped.
RAF jets were involved in a low-flying exercise above the Peak District between 7pm and 9.35pm which accounted for the majority of the sightings before 10pm. An unidentified light aircraft was operating in the Sheffield area between 9.45 and 10.30pm, sparking the later sightings reported to the police as a plane crashing into the moors. Two search helicopters were flying sorties above the ‘crash’ zone from 11pm and would appear unmarked when seen in darkness!

The first air explosion (at 9.52pm) was not a sonic boom at all according to Burns. In reality it was the Tornado jet exploding as a result of hostile action by the crew of the Flying Triangle. The second boom, at 10.06pm was the UFO escaping from the area (14 minutes later?)
The British Geological Survey and aviation experts conclude that the recordings made that night are the characteristic ‘N-waves’ produced by a military aircraft smashing through the sound barrier (760 mph/1,220 kph at sea level). A senior seismologist gave his opinion the pressure wave was caused by an aircraft, probably a military aircraft, reaching supersonic speed possibly while performing a mid-air turn

The stricken Tornado jet crashed into the moors north of the Howden Reservoir or plunged into one of the nine reservoirs Northwest of the Ladybower Viaduct near the A57 Snake Pass road.
No trace of a wrecked aircraft was found either by the extensive ground search or from the air with the use of sophisticated heat-seeking equipment specially designed to locate fire and body heat from above. A Tornado jet would have left an enormous crater and burning debris scattered across a wide radius of the crash which could not have been missed. Teams of workers from Yorkshire Water checked the reservoirs but found no signs of the telltale wreck-age or oil slick which would have sparked a major drinking water pollution alert.

The co-pilot of the Tornado bailed out seconds before the destruction of his aircraft. Having parachuted onto the moors he walked three miles to the Ladybower viaduct whilst soaked in highly flammable aviation fuel. He was spotted at 11 pm by passengers in a minibus thumbing a lift ‘to the nearest metropolis to alert the military’.
This was the most bizarre theory used by Burns to support his claims. The incident it related to had in fact no connection at all with the ‘aircrash’ mystery. The man reported by the occupants of the minibus was an Asian motorist covered in petrol or diesel fuel, a fact confirmed by Peak Park and police officers. The case was investigated as a possible suicide attempt.

A radar operator with the Royal Signals at RAF Linton-upon-Ouse (North Yorkshire) told a friend early on the morning of 25 March that he had tracked a UFO on his screen over the Peak District for a ten minute period beginning at 9.55pm the previous night. Later he was warned not to discuss the case “as if I do I will be in breach of my national security oath”.
Operationally RAF Linton was closed on the night of 24 March. In any event, the base radar has a limited radius within the immediate area and is used as part of the training of rookie pilots in Tucano aircraft. No one has spoken to the mysterious radar operator other than a friend of a friend of Max Burns.

The Ministry of Defence made an announcement to the media that a Bolide meteor exploding in the atmosphere caused the sonic boom and was also responsible for all the reports of the crashed plane.
The MOD have never made any statement to this effect. Their position remains that the reports of the low-flying aircraft were a matter for the police and that the cause of the sonic booms remains a mystery.

The seven Mountain Rescue Teams were ordered to search a zone four miles from the area where the explosion was heard, and it wasn’t until 9am on 25 March that four men were sent to search Strines Moor, near the ‘crash zone’. According to Burns, the search teams were not in the area of the crash ‘and I don’t think they know any-thing.’ In summary, he claims the rescue teams were deliberately misled while a covert military team removed the wreckage of the Tornado jet from under their very noses.
Burns has never spoken to any of the PDMRO [Peak District Mountain Rescue] commanders to ascertain the facts and has used unreliable testimony from the wife of a gamekeeper who played no part in the operation. The highly experienced team of volunteers from the PDMRO were placed in charge of the search operation by police at midnight on 24 March and it was they who directed officers and helicopter crews from that point onwards, based upon triangulated sight-lines provided by the initial eyewitnesses. The commander, Mike France, said an extremely thorough search of the 40-50 square mile zone, including Strines Moor, was completed without any evidence of a crash being found. None of the mountain rescue personnel, police, fire fighters or media who were present saw any evidence of military activity other than the presence of the RAF Sea King which they had requested for assistance in the search.

An enormous cover-up was launched following the incident, designed to confuse the issue with ‘cover-stories’ (drug runners, ghost planes, Bolide meteors), a ‘dirty tricks’ campaign to discredit Burns himself and a D-Notice to prevent the Press from discussing the case.
The case has been discussed extensively in local newspapers, in TV documentaries on BBC 1 and Granada and on the Internet. No evidence has emerged to support the claim that a Tornado jet was lost, or that UFOs were ever involved in the incident.

Key witnesses in the case have been forced to retract their testimony or have changed their statements as a result of threats from MI5 and their agents, including the author of this article.
Witnesses have not changed their testimony, but have been deliberately misquoted by Burns and his supporters. One witness who Burns claimed had seen ‘a huge triangular object’ hovering over the moors denied ever having made such a statement when approached by two other independent investigators. Another ‘uncorroborated source’ named as having seen the RAF Sea King pulling body bags from a reservoir was never interviewed by Burns. This man denied having ever having made the claim. A third witness told investigators: “UFOs were never mentioned until Max came to the pub and started asking us about it.”

Max Burns was ‘set up’ with drugs planted by the Security Forces or M15 because of ‘what he knew’ about the Sheffield incident.
Burns was found guilty of possession and supply of Class B drugs by the majority verdict of a jury at the end of a four day trial at Sheffield Crown Court in September 1999. Burns did not use the claim that he was set up by M15 in his defence during the trial, but a former friend of the DJ told the jury Burns was ‘obsessed’ with UFOs and aliens.


  • Max Burns, The Sheffield Incident: A Flying Triangle Incident. Internet posting, PUFORI website, 1998. Live Internet discussion featuring Max Burns on `Visitations’, 6 June 1998.
  • Lecture by Max Burns to BUFORA in London, June 1999. David Clarke, ‘The Aircrash that Never Was’ UFO Magazine, spring 1998.
  • David Clarke and Martin Jeffrey, The Howden Moor Incident, (Independent UFO Network, 1999).
  • David Clarke, Jenny Randles & Andy Roberts, The UFOs that Never Were (London House, 2000); chapter 2, ‘The Howden Moor Incident‘.





Desperately Seeking Satan.
Roger Sandell

From Magonia 42, March 1992 




In November 1991 the Old Bailey’s first Satanic human sacrifice trial took place. Two girls, ten and fourteen, accused their parents and two other people of having forced them to take part in ceremonies in Epping Forest, on the eastern fringes of London, at which babies were killed and buried. In spite of the sensational headlines that greeted the opening of the case it was clear from the start that it had very curious aspects. Despite the unambiguous claims made against them, not one of the accused faced a murder charge but were instead charged with child abuse. The prosecution admitted that digging by the police had produced no buried babies and there was no evidence of any accompanying epidemic of missing babies. After four days the case collapsed when one of the girls stated that she was unsure whether the events described had really happened or were nightmares, and that her grandmother, with whom she was living, has stopped punishing her when she told her about them.

A few weeks before this case took place, the nazi activist Lady Birdwood had been found guilty at the Old Bailey of inciting racial hatred by distributing material accusing Jews of ritual murder, a coincidence which highlighted the way this trial seemed to exploit similar images of Gipsies as child stealers and wizards. The Satanist ceremonies were said to have taken place at a memorial to Gipsy Smith, the Romany evangelist of the 1930′s and 40′s, and the defendants included Gipsy Smith’s grandson George Gibbard, an Evangelical Christian and South Eastern representative on the National Gipsy Council. [1]

Meanwhile hearings into the official handling of the Orkney Satanism case continue. A parent has been cross-examined to explain why she bought a child a video of The Witches (for non-cinemagoers, the recent film of the Roald Dahl children’s story).

Meanwhile in the USA, bizarre trials continue. In North Carolina a day-care centre owner stands accused of sexual abuse and Satanic ceremonies. The evidence includes testimony from children describing the presence of lions and elephants at these ceremonies. In Chicago a judge has dismissed a case against a man accused by a five-year-old girl of murdering five identical girls in a human sacrifice. The defence centred on allegations that the child had been coached by Barbara Klein, a counsellor who apparently gave advice to the prosecutors in the recent Old Bailey case. [2]

The Satanism scare has now been with us long enough to have produced several books. Patricia Pulling’s The Devils Web [3] a US publication sold in Britain in evangelical bookshops, gives a good idea of the different components of the scare. ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ and similar occult-type games are controlling teenagers minds to the point where they murder each other or commit suicide (the book opens with an account of the allegedly D & D related suicide of Patricia Pulling’s teenage son). Records by heavy-metal rock bands not only contain pro-Satanist lyrics, but also subliminal Satanic messages only audible when played backwards. Many unsolved murders are the work of Satanists.

When examined in detail the evidence for most of these claims evaporates pretty rapidly. The alleged backwards messages in heavy metal records seem to be contemporary versions of tales dating back to the ‘sixties of great secrets hidden in rock records or their sleeves. Nothing that is known about record production or the psychology of perception makes them plausible (if it was possible to influence people in this way, why are there no messages like “Buy our next album”?) The whole argument has been reduced to total absurdity by claims of Satanic messages in such places as ‘The Mr Ed Song (the theme from the TV series about a talking horse, not the UFO witness).

Stories of groups of Satanists committing random murders appear to have originated with the US wave of alleged cattle mutilations in the 1970′s when the mutilations gave rise to rumours of cults carrying out sacrifices. Patricia Pulling’s evidence relies on two cases of the last few years. the first is Henry Lee Lucas, a Texas murderer who in 1983 confessed to murdering 360 people as part of the rites of a cult called ‘The Hand of Death’. Although Lucas’s confessions were widely publicised and were seized upon by police forces anxious to improve their clear-up rate, the only supporting evidence linked Lucas to just one murder, that of his mother, and his claims are now generally discounted by law-enforcement authorities.

The second case is rather more substantial: the Matamoros (Mexico) slayings of 1989 in which at least twelve people were murdered by a drug smuggling gang led by Adolfo Constanzo, a practitioner of the sort of supernatural beliefs held by many poor but otherwise respectable Mexicans. At least one of these murders, that of an American tourist named Mark Gilroy, does seem to have been seen as a sacrifice to confer magical powers (the gang was exposed after a member drove through a police check, believing himself to be invisible) but it is not clear where religious beliefs began and the general casual violence of drug gangs towards rivals and informers stopped.

The evidence for the alleged ill-effects for Dungeons and Dragons seems similarly inconclusive. Although some press stories have featured allegations of teenage murders and suicides by the game’s devotees, further investigation has revealed violent homes or other factors that seem at least as relevant than the fact that those involved had played a game with a US following of several million other players.

Patricia Pulling’s account of her son’s suicide after a curse was placed on him in a D & D game is certainly a sad tale, but according to local press accounts he was also depressed by his failure in a school election (and one can only be astonished by the fact that his mother had left a pistol freely available while he was alone in the house). The only other evidence for the Satanic effect of D & D games seems to be some cases of adult D & D players being convicted of sexual offences against younger players, but these fall into a long established pattern of paedophiles cultivating activities and interests liable to bring them into contact with children.

Reading Pulling’s book suggests that one reason for the current US anti-Satanist scare is the fact that it has connected a wide variety of current American fears. Serial killers, the increasing rate of suicide among young people,, the violent messages of some types of popular music, drug gangs, and the increasing presence in the US of immigrants from the Caribbean and Latin America, some of whom maintain traditional non-Christian religious practices, all are linked together in the same way that a few years ago Armageddon theology managed to link a variety of late ’70s and early ’80s concerns about the US and its place in the world.

The fact that most of these scares are specific to the USA probably accounts for the failure of the scare to achieve such resonance in Britain. However Children for the Devil by Tim Tate, researcher for the highly unconvincing Cook Report TV programme on Satanism, attempts to make out a case for the reality of Satanism in Britain and the US. [4]

Tate attempts to distance himself from Evangelical Christian anti-Satanism. He rejects such manifestations of the scare as campaigns against Halloween celebrations, and heavy metals bands, and accepts modern neo-Paganism as a valid religious belief. Indeed he give some interesting information on the background to US anti-Satanism that I was not previously aware of.

Especially striking is the fact that one organisation involved in spreading the anti-Satanist scare is the so-called US Labor Party led by the now-jailed political cultist Lyndon Larouche (Diane Core of ‘Childwatch’ the charity backed by Geoffrey Dickens MP that has publicised anti-Satanist tales, has also spoken at Larouchist meetings). What is significant about this is that this organisation was spreading similar tales in other contexts long before its present anti-Satanist campaign. In 1974 it claimed to have uncovered a CIA-KGB assassination plot against Larouche. Dissident members of the group were subjected to ‘debriefing’ sessions, which later resulted in charges of kidnapping against their accusers. As a result the victims told tales, promoted by the Larouche organisation, of CIA brainwashing that involved details identical to those made later in tales of Satanic child abuse. These involved sex with animals, exposure to pornography and scatological humiliations. One detail especially reminiscent of US day-care centre Satanism tales is the claim made in the confession of one victim who had been living in London that these events took place in an Islington school when it was closed over the weekend. (Incidentally Larouche has been accused of sexual abuse by female former disciples).

While Tim Tate rejects many feature of US anti-Satanism, he nonetheless devotes most of his book to defending the validity of charges of Satanic child abuse (SCA). he begins his argument by claiming that; “Ritual crime. abuse and murder have been reported, investigated, proven and recorded for nearly five hundred years”.

To prove this he devotes nearly fifty pages to a resume of the history of Satanism and witchcraft. It is difficult to speak of this section of the book with restraint. Tate gets just about every historical fact wrong and clearly has not the faintest idea of what he is writing about. He shows no sign of having read any serious books on European witchcraft such as Norman Cohn’s Europe’s Inner Demons, Keith Thomas’s Religion and the Decline of Magic, or Hugh Trevor Roper’s the European Witch Craze of the 16th and 17th Century. Instead the only historical sources cited are Dr Margaret Murray’s discredited writings, H. T. F. Rhodes equally unreliable The Satanic Mass, and a Peter Haining pot-boiler (Were these the only books on the subject in his local library perhaps?)

He begins by distinguishing Satanism from witchcraft, and follows Margaret Murray in seeing witchcraft as a primitive nature religion involving the worship of a horned god and moon goddess. He states that: “By the time of Christ this rural pantheistic religion was well established throughout Europe.” Oh yes? Where exactly? Such a cult bears no relation to classical or Nordic Paganism, or Celtic Druidism, the main religious systems of immediately pre-Christian Europe.

From this unpromising beginning Tim Tate jumps a millennium to give us his bizarre version of the witch trial era, arguing that tales of human sacrifice and sex orgies confirm similar modern tales. He does at one point concede that tales told under torture should be treated sceptically, but promptly disregards his own proviso by treating the trials of the Knights Templar, Gilles de Rais and Father Grandier of Loudon without mentioning that torture was employed in all these cases, neither does he point out that all these people had made powerful enemies beforehand. He accepts clearly absurd details such as the eight hundred or so child victims ascribed to de Rais – enough under medieval demographic conditions to depopulate quite a large area. He quotes the alleged Satanic pact given in evidence at the trial of father Grandier without mentioning that it was supposedly countersigned by a devil.

He totally fails to mention many important areas of the witch-mania that are highly relevant to the Satanism scare. He is totally unaware that British witch-trials were very different from those on the continent. The systematic use of torture and centralised inquisitional bodies were not a feature of British trials. As a result the tales of mass sacrifice and huge witches Sabbaths are found almost entirely on the continent. The British cases involve fewer defendants and much less spectacular organisations.

There is no discussion of the role played in the witch mania by child accusers who testified to manifest impossibilities, and in some cases resorted to conjuring tricks to create the impression of being bewitched, a subject highly relevant to contemporary SCA cases. [5] Neither does he discuss the identical accusations of ritual child murder that were commonly made against Jews. If modern SCA claims are vindicated by similar claims made hundreds of years ago, are modern neo-nazi claims vindicated by similar medieval claims?

Not content with relying on discredited ideas from other writers Tate makes some insupportable claims of his own. He sees modern witchcraft as being largely a Cathar creation and supports this by quoting the confessions of two Cathar witches who confessed to worshipping Satan in fourteenth century trials. The only problem with this is that neither of the witches quoted ever existed. Their confessions are both nineteenth century forgeries, as Tate would have know had he troubled to read Norman Cohn. [6]

Like many dubious writers on witchcraft he seems especially fascinated by the Black Mass, and devotes several pages to the 1680′s ‘Affair of the Poisons’ and allegations of Black Masses at the court of Louis XIV. Although, as usual, most of the more bizarre allegations in this case come from confessions made under torture, the affair seems to have some factual basis. However the Black Mass of the period bore little resemblance to later fantasies. In an age when the Mass was seen as an almost magical ceremony and masses might be said for good harvest and success in war it did not seem a very big step to secretly hold masses for purposes not approved by the Church, such as sexual success or the death of an enemy. Such practices were seen more a testimony to faith in Church rituals than as a blasphemy.

Of course no book of this nature is complete without a lurid account of Alastair Crowley, a figure who in fact, when his more bizarre claims are dismissed, seems simply a not untypical member of the avant-garde of the period exaggerating his own wickedness to outrage convention in a manner similar to Gabriel D’Annunzio and the young Salvador Dali.

A further measure of Tim Tate’s historical ignorance is that he seems to know nothing of Gerald B. Gardner, who in the 1940′s and 40′s originated the ‘Wicca’ cult which Tate seems to think is genuinely ancient and whose rituals involving nakedness and flagellation are a perfectly genuine example of so-called ‘witchcraft’ being used as a cover for bizarre sexual practices.

After this lamentable ‘historical’ section we arrive at the present day. We are presented with a list of modern self-proclaimed ‘Satanists’ who have appeared in court charged with a variety of offences, chiefly sexual. The list presented is far from exhaustive, Mr Tate’s cases do not include Norman Pasnail, the 1970′s Jersey (Channel Islands) sex killer who was obsessed with Gilles de Rais, or Vic Morris, the neo-nazi Satanist and convicted child molester who various investigative journalists have linked with the search for the killers of Hilda Morrell. [7]

While these cases should serve as a warning that not all cases where allegations are made are baseless, they take us no nearer to the allegations of large scale undercover Satanist cults and human sacrifice. Most of them involve a single person and the only alleged ‘human sacrifice’ Tate can find is a case of two Birmingham fans of the pseudo-Satanist band Iron Maiden, one of whom stabbed the other after a party. Although the police officers in charge of the case talked of human sacrifice this failed to impress the Appeal Court who reduced the murder conviction to manslaughter on self-defence grounds. The cases quoted no more validate the more bizarre allegations than the recent case of a rabbinical student from London’s Hassidic community convicted of child abuse validates tales of Jewish ritual murder.

Nor does Tate consider these stories in a wider context. As has previously been pointed out in Magonia, any form of cultist organisation grouped round a leader seems to be a fertile field for sexual exploitation, whatever its alleged belief. For example the regime of Frank Beck, the Leicester children’s home manager recently convicted of sexual assaults on inmates, seems to have had many cult-like features. Beck appeared to have total domination of his staff and inmates, and justified his sexual abuse as therapeutic. [8]

Tate takes the SCA cases of the last few years back to the book Michelle Remembers. To persuade us to take this book seriously he summarises it in a highly misleading way, omitting to tell us any of the details that make it impossible to take this story at face value. He carefully ignores all the many supernatural claims made in the book, such as the appearance of the Virgin Mary to the abused child Michelle, and the presence at the Satanist ceremonies of Satan himself, speaking in what sounds like fourth-rate heavy-metal lyrics; “Look at my eyes and you can see/ the fire burning inside of me./ Look at the children in them too/ The fire that burns, what is new?”. He ignores the prophecies of an Armageddon brought about by a Soviet/Iranian alliance in the early 1980′s. Nor does he mention the fact that Michelle has two sisters who strongly deny her story. He gives the impression that her account has been endorsed by the Vatican, whereas the quote from a Canadian archbishop given in the book seems carefully non-committal: ‘I do not question that for Michelle this experience was real. In time we will know how much of it can be validated. It will require prolonged and careful study. In such mysterious matters hasty conclusions could prove unwise.”

Other cases cited by Tim Tate are the US day care cases, and some British ones that he has personally investigated. He is convinced of the accuracy of the children’s testimony. Consider these quotes:

“Like many who remain sceptics I tried to write off these children’s disclosures as fantasies or the product of watching too many videos. But neither theory works. Tried and tested psychological research has proved that children cannot fantasize the details … to recall it so vividly they have had to have experienced it in some way … More telling still is the way in which the children disclose these incidents. It causes them real visible pain to talk about their experiences. How do I know? Because I have sat with these children – by their request not mine – as they struggled to share the poisoned memories inside them”

“Of all the reports I’ve received the most personally depressing for me are those dealing with very young children … No matter how familiar researchers become with the details, the knowledge cannot alleviate the horror and confusion of such events – particularly in the lives of the youngest and most vulnerable among us. Yet those provided by three or four-year old children furnish the investigator with valuable evidence concerning the reality of this phenomenon. Since such small children cannot read there is no chance of contamination from written sources. Few TV programmes during early viewing hours have ever offered specific details of this experience… Consequently the details that children relate can be regarded as purer thanthose in adult accounts … But so far our knowledge outpaces our skill in helping people deal with these previously unimaginable experiences. New coping techniques must be introduced, new therapeutic skills must be developed. Much work is to be done if very young lives are not to suffer permanent psychological scarring.”

The first quote is from Tim Tate; the second is from Budd Hopkins, describing his interviews with very young children recounting abduction experiences. [9] In view of the similarity of their arguments we must conclude that either Satanists are holding hideous ceremonies in our midst and aliens are descending to abduct large numbers of people, or that the question of assessing testimony from children (or adults) is rather more complicated than either of these writers allow.

Certain features of the stories Tate looks at underline the similarity between SCA claims and abduction stories. He concedes at one point that some stories contain clearly impossible features and mentions claims of ‘operations’ that are contradicted by medical evidence, and even a case of a child who claimed to have been abused in a spaceship. ‘Natalie’, a teenager returned to her mother after living with her grandmother for ten years, tells of being taken into a big house where children were kept in cages and murdered. But the house also had a more curious inhabitant named ‘Lucifer’:

“He was a sort of friend, at least he seemed to be then … When I was locked up in my room at nan’s he used to be there … I had no friends except him … Now I know he was a spirit or something”

Tim Tate seems to have no very clear idea what to make of such stories. However he insists on the literal truth of all the details of them that are not manifestly impossible in spite of all contrary evidence. He tabulates allegations made in 28 US cases. Practically all of them involve claims of babies being slaughtered and acts of child abuse being videoed, but no corpse has ever turned up, no video been recovered. Satanist never get caught by the sort of mischance that commonly happens to non-Satanic criminals. The serial killer Dennis Neilson was caught when neighbours complained about the smell from his house, the Yorkshire Ripper when stopped for a traffic violation. Serial killers usually work alone and the examples of pairs are rare enough to be notorious for years afterwards (e.g. Loeb and Leopard, Brady and Hindley). However we are asked to believe in large groups of people committing murder and torture of a viciousness surpassing the worst of individual serial killers.

Tate seems impressed by Sandy Gallant, a San Francisco police officer widely credited as an expert on Satanic crime. Some of her notes of advice to police forces are printed in an appendix to The Devil’s Web and they include a quite remarkable list of problems involved in the prosecution of SCA:

“No evidence is found at alleged crime scenes to substantiate statements made by victims. Though homicides are reported no bodies are found. Though children say they saw other children who were kidnapped no record of these children can be found with the National Center for Missing/Exploited Children.”

Is any comment necessary?

The British cases described in detail are Nottingham, and others derived from Tate’s own interviews. Unfortunately his handling of the historical material already examined means there are problems here. When his assertions can be checked Tate can be shown to have ignored the use of duress in producing confessions and ignored parts of stories which are clearly impossible. Since these are also items of controversy in the modern confessions how can we be sure the same process has not gone on in the summaries of his own interviews?

His section on Nottingham gives some further details about the extended family on whom the allegations centred. These seem to have been a horrifying collection of urban hillbillies living on the fringes of society in a nexus of poverty, crime, incest and subnormality reminiscent of the legendary Sawney Beane family. However the idea of such a family being the high priests of some secret cult seems to owe more to H. P. Lovecraft than reality.

This highlights another problem. Tate rejects the idea propounded by evangelical anti-Satanists that all Satanists are part of a world-wide cult hundreds of years old. He believes rather that modern Satanists are simply following information on historical Satanist practices. At one point he remarks the resemblance between one modern Satanist claim, and the case of Gilles de Rais, and demands that sceptics explain how the person making these claims could know such obscure facts. Apart from the fact that de Rais has long been a favourite for ‘World’s Wickedest Men’-type paperbacks, this question is quite meaningless unless one accepts the ancient cult idea that he explicitly rejects. In any case, the Nottingham family do not appear to be the sort of people one can easily imagine researching historic Satanism.

In spite of this, a Nottingham social worker declares herself convinced of the SCA charges when a three-year old produces “a historic Satanist chant”. Ignoring the lack of understanding of anyone who thinks there is such a thing, the claim is, as Peter Rogerson points out, identical with the evidence frequently offered in reincarnation claims.

The villains of Tate’s account of the Nottingham affair are the police, who he depicts as being blind to SCA evidence and refusing to investigate. He does not mention, much less reply to, the police contention that they searched the houses for supporting evidence and found none. Nor does he point out that we are asked to believe in mass chanting, murders and the sacrifice of a live sheep (curiously described by the child as being brought in a plastic bag and killed by someone sticking their fingernails into it) in a terraced house, unnoticed by the neighbours. Does Tim Tate not realise that if such dubious material was introduced into court a defence counsel would have a field day, and the real acts of child abuse that did occur in Nottingham might well have gone unpunished? It may be that the adversarial court system of Britain and the USA is not the best means of sorting out the truth of these cases, but at present it is the one the police have to operate within.

A less tendentious account of the Nottingham case is contained in Peter Hough’s Witchcraft: A Strange affair, a journalistic survey of the development of the anti-Satanic scare in Britain. [10] It includes some dubious anecdotes and is more sympathetic to the idea of the pre-Christian antiquity of witchcraft than the evidence warrants, but is a useful and fair-minded account. It includes interviews with people on both sides of the controversy and gives a much more rounded picture of the subcultures of Satanism and amateur occultism. Hough describes the activities of the anti-Satanist con-man Derry Mainwaring-Knight, providing an insight into the credulity of some Evangelicals to any anti-Satanist claims, however ridiculous. He also gives examples of how the activities of some Evangelical anti-Satanists have caused some disturbed people they have come into contact with to become even more disturbed. He looks at the parallels of SCA claims and UFO stories, but only devotes about a page to this. I would have been interested to see this discussed in more detail, something that Peter Hough’s involvement in UFO fieldwork investigations makes him well qualified to do.

A different sceptical perspective come from In Pursuit of Satan, [11] Written by Jim Hicks, a former US policeman and analyst for the Virginia Department of Justice, he looks at the response of US police departments and the psychiatric and welfare agencies to the SCA scene. The story he tells is alarming. The SCA gospel is spread to local police departments by seminars often organised by Christian fundamentalists. Like sixteenth century witch-finders they seem to define ‘supporting evidence’ so widely as to make in practically impossible for anyone to defend themselves. (Sandy Gallant advises police seeking evidence of Satanism to search houses for objects including I-Ching books, gongs or bells, and chalices, goblets or cruets) They advocate authoritarian measures such as examining library records to see who is borrowing books on the occult, and spread tales of mass Satanic political conspiracies. Their influence on law enforcement seems a scandal reminiscent of the influence of the Ku Klux Klan on some 1950′s police departments.

The promoters of such seminars try to present themselves at ‘anti-cultist’, apparently defining cults as any non Christian-fundamentalist fringe religious belief. Thus concerns about the rise of superstition and irrationality are seized upon to reinforce political and religious authoritarianism, just as the SCA panic seizes upon increased awareness of the reality of child abuse to promote a similar agenda.

The response of the US psychiatric profession seems to have been, from James Hicks account, equally dubious. Psychiatrists are shown to have accepted obviously apocryphal stories and dubious historical accounts in discussions of SCA in professional journals. Elaborate discussions around the day-care cases have sought to explain why the accused corresponded to no known profile of child molesters or why inspectors or visiting parents never found supporting evidence. (From a British viewpoint it would also be pertinent to ask why these day-care cases seem to be a purely American phenomenon with no parallels in the British cases.)

Looking at the conduct of the day-care cases, Hicks depicts investigators leading child witnesses in a manner which seems to approach child abuse itself. His account of the most notorious of these cases, the McMartin affair, bears very little resemblance to Tim Tate’s and the story calls for a complete book of its own (a TV mini-series is not surprisingly planned, but will no doubt simply endorse the view of the affair held by whichever of the protagonists has the most expensive lawyer).

What future developments in this story will be is hard to predict. So far, what it has told us about the continuing ability of irrational panics to exercise wide influence in modern societies in not reassuring.




  1. As is the usual custom in such cases, Mr Gibbard’s name was not given in the press. It is given here because he has chosen to make it public as part of his campaign for compensation for wrongful imprisonment. See New Statesman, November 29, 1991
  2. Economist, August 31, 1991, also Fortean Times, nos. 60 and 61
  3. Also worth considering in this context are the ‘Little Uri Gellers’ of the 1970s, who, following Geller’s TV appearances, fooled parapsychologists with simple tricks.
  4. Norman Cohn, Europe’s Inner Demons  University Press/Heinemann educational, Paladin, 1995. See chapter 4. Pimlico, 2nd revised ediiton 1998.
  5. Searchlight Anti-Fascist Monthly, September 1985. Incidentally local rumours have linked the Morrell case with witchcraft. She was killed on the spring solstice and the wood where her body was found had previously figured in local ‘witches’ sabbaths’ tales.
  6. To be precise, some sort of ‘regression therapy’
  7. UFO Brigantia, November 1991
  8. Peter Hough, Witchcraft: A Strange Conflict  Press, 1991.
  9. James Hicks. In Pursuit of Satan: The Police and the Occult  Prometheus Press, 1991

    Click on the links in the references above to order the book from Amazon 


Deep Secrets: Reviewing the Conspiracy Literature. Peter Rogerson

From Magonia 60, August 1997

Shortly before his untimely death our colleague Roger Sandell had planned to write a major article on the growing influence of conspiracy theories and fusion paranoia. If anything, since his death conspiracy theories have come in even further from their ancient home on the wilder shores of politics, into the cultural mainstream. They form the core of such cult television series as The X-Files and Dark Skies, to say nothing of the numerous commercial spin-offs. Recent issues of both Fortean Times and Big Issue, the magazine sold by the homeless, have featured articles ‘proving’ that the Apollo moon landings were faked. 

Peter Rogerson looks at some recent books that point to disturbing trends below this recent wave of interest.   

While I am not in a position to write that major article that Roger would have done, I am taking the opportunity of commenting on a series of books about conspiracy theories and related topics which have recently been published or reissued. Vankin’s is a reissue with a new introduction and comprises a general review of the topic. The compilation edited by Thomas consists of reprints from back issues of the conspiracy-oriented magazine Steamshovel Press. Lamy’s and Parfrey’s are analyses of the cultural and political milieu in which conspiracy theories flourish; Cohn’s is a long-awaited reprint of his critique of one particularly malignant conspiracy theory, and the rest present individual theories. 

Vankin’s subtitle, ‘From Dallas to Oklahoma’, points to the American origin of most contemporary conspiracy theories. While there is a long tradition in American politics of what the historian Richard Hofstander calls ‘the paranoid style’, it was the Kennedy assassination which in the mid-twentieth century brought conspiracy theories out from the fringes of the radical right. While some of these theories clearly involved ‘realistic’ notions of actions by small groups of political malcontents, many showed the classic hallmarks of Manichean conspiracy theories. A contributor to Popular Alienation sums these up well: 

“The need at the root of all conspiracy questing is to find the root of human pain and suffering… which is held to flow out of some central fountain running in rivulets throughout the world. In most conspiracy theories evil is seen as a metaphysical absolute, almost a substance which can poison life through viral contamination”. 

I would summarise the essence of such Manichean theories as the belief that ‘history as we know it is a lie’ (as the opening titles to Dark Skies puts it), a delusion imposed upon us by a malevolent ‘other’. The real history is very different: there is nothing random in history, all is controlled by ‘them’, and all the pain and suffering in the world is caused by the terrible others, who are the incarnation of cosmic evil. They are simultaneously subhuman and superhuman, possessed of preternatural powers and largely undefeatable. The conspiracy theorist is an illuminous, who can penetrate the maze of deception and see ‘them’ for what they are. The theorist is a soldier in the army of the righteous, filled with what Lamy calls millennial rage. 

This line of thought can be seen in the writings of many who present the Kennedy assassination in essentially religious terms; as an American crucifixion, the slaying of the civic saviour by the incarnate forces of evil who have since usurped the land. The powers of the slayers is immense. They can fix all the evidence – the Zapruder film, the body, the autopsy reports – and wipe away all traces of their own guilt because they control everything. 

Their identity varies according to time and place: witches, Christians, Moslems, Jews, communists, capitalists, liberals, humanists, Catholics, Freemasons, homosexuals, scientists, child-abusers, illuminati, Grays, Nazis, multinationals. Sometimes they are protean creatures merging elements, and flowing into each other: Jewish-communist Freemasons, American bankers in the Vatican. 

This protean nature extends to the conspiracies themselves. Kerry Thornley served with Lee Harvey Oswald in the Marines and wrote a novel in which the central character was based on Oswald before the assassination. He now claims that both he and Oswald were the products of a Nazi breeding experiment, and that he has been bugged by an implant since birth allowing strangers to know of his sexual experiences. Thus the Kennedy assassination merges with stories of mind control and abuse. Another veteran figure on the fringes of the assassination field, Mae Brussel, daughter of celebrity rabbi Edgar Maggin, shortly before her death in 1988, began to link the Kennedy assassination to an international Nazi-Satanist conspiracy associated with CIA mind control. This point of view is shared by an anonymous Popular Alienation contributor who alleged that the false memory hypothesis was being promoted by the CIA to hide their mind control experiments. 

Mind control and child abuse form the central allegations of TransFormation of America, in which the former wife of a country music entertainer claims to have been sold into CIA slavery by her paedophile father, and been the sexual plaything of several US presidents, the mistress of a senator, and abused by several foreign leaders, whilst also acting as a CIA courier. This collection of allegations is known as Project Monarch, and no doubt we will be hearing more of it. Mind Control is fast becoming central to conspiracy theories, and Jim Keith mentions the rumours surrounding Timothy McVey. The point being emphasised here is that people do bad things because ‘they’ make them do it. This concept forms a sort of secular possession, with Nazi-Satanists and so forth replacing the devils and demons of former centuries. 

There are other trends, and Vankin and Popular Alienation have them to meet all tastes. Vankin notes, for example, William Bromley, who has linked conspiracy theories with ancient astronaut speculation. There is the ubiquitous Lyndon La Rouche who lies at the heart of about half the conspiracy theories going and who has a particular fixation with the wicked British, who are the heirs to a conspiracy launched by a group of renegade Templars led by Robert the Bruce! Then there are the Collier brothers who believe that the press agency joint election reporting service in the USA just makes up the figures. 

The volume of Popular Alienation I have reviewed is a re-print of the bulk of the contents of issues 4 to 11 of the journal Steamshovel Press, along with a selection of extra material. This magazine was originally started by people who saw themselves as part of the Beat Generation, disciples of Alan Ginsberg and William Burroughs. It is now a strangely eclectic conspiracy source and I can give no better description of its contents than by quoting from the rear blurb: 

“Abbie Hofman’s death seen as an assassination; the role of President Nixon and George Bush in the death of JFK; Black Holes and the Trilateral Commission… Danny Casolaro and the INSLAW octopus; Mothman, Roswell, Area 51; Bill Clinton and Carol Quigley; the Gemstone File [which claimed that Aristotle Onassis was responsible for the JFK assassination, amongst other things]; anti-gravity; Ezra Pound; Holocaust revisionism; Bob Dylan and mind control…” 

Well, you get the picture. Some of this stuff is possibly true, some of it quite loopy, and quite a lot of it rather sinister. Increasingly those conspiracy theories which used to have a more or less left-wing perspective have become dominated by the agendas of the groups associated with the American freelance militias, which in turn reflect the mixture of macho armed anarchism, anti-feminism and racism associated with the nineteenth century anarchist Proudhon, with a dash of Christian fundamentalism thrown in. 

The conspiracy theories are part of the apocalyptic tradition, they are the signs indicating that the Enemy is on the verge of total victory and only the ‘Saving Remnant’ can stand against it

The general theme of these theories is that the free people of the United States are about to be sold out to UN dominated slavery in the ‘New World Order (an infelicitous phrase used by George Bush, meant to refer to the Pax Americana, but given quite a new meaning by conspiracy theorists). Behind this plot is a mysterious conspiracy, usually referred to as the Illiminati. The original Illuminati were a small, pseudo-Masonic group set up in eighteenth-century Bavaria, dedicated to radical Enlightenment views; a sort of vague populism mixed with sexual liberation. They entered into American politics when they were used as a code word for the Federalist to attack Thomas Jefferson, and others thought to be too friendly towards the French Revolution. Today the term seems to be used as little more than a synonym for any sort of vague elite, or, more sinisterly, as a code word for Jews. 

Jim Keith began his conspiratorial career promoting the Gemstone Files, but has now become a major spokesman for the militias. Black Helicopters over America is a remarkable example of political paranoia. It starts with UFO-like sightings of mysterious black helicopters which first entered the American consciousness in 1973 at the time of the cattle mutilations panic. They have since become a part of UFO lore, and feature as a mysterious, brooding, spying presence in the experiences of abductees like Debbie Jordan and Katarina Wilson. From the late 1980s the helicopters became politicised, as the carriers of the shock troops of the UN invasion; another old fantasy which began in the fevered imaginations of 1960s segregationists who assured their audiences that the UN troops would be Congolese. [For further discussion of the significance and power of the image of the helicopter, see 'The Curious Connection Between Helicopters and UFOs', by Dennis Stilling, in Magonia 25, March 1987] 

Both Keith and Grant Jeffrey display one of the classic signs of paranoia: the inability to accept any kind of evidence which would contradict their views. Both see the UN as being dominated by the communists, rhetoric from the Red-baiting years which has surely been overtaken by events. Probably Cuba is the only country left in the world with a believing communist government, the Confucian regimes of China, Vietnam and Laos merely use communism as a nostalgic slogan. Keith and Jeffrey’s answer to that is that the Reds have not been defeated, they are simply playing possum and just waiting to pounce. The death of devils is surely as hard as the death of gods. (Gordon Creighton’s Flying Saucer Review promotes a similar theory in Britain.) 

For Jeffery the ‘Evil Empire’ is not just a secular enemy, but the very domain of the Antichrist, and he has plenty of Biblical passages – all torn out of context – to prove his point. Like most apocalyptic Biblical interpreters he is unable to grasp the fact that Biblical writers were writing about the events and concerns of their own time, and not some inconceivably remote future. The apocalypticism typified by Grant Jeffrey, born from the imagination of Hal Lindsey and others of that ilk, crops up everywhere. Near-death experience prophet Dannion Brinkley had visions of the Antichrist inaugurating the New World Order, although fundamentalist surgeon Maurice Rawlings sees the NDE itself as part of Satan’s wily attempts to lore us into the New World Order. 

This is the sort of atmosphere in which the militias and survivalist move. Philip Lamy describes their world view as ‘Millennium Rage’, the notion as summarised by Keith in Black Helicopters.., and OK Bomb, that the evil Clinton is about to inaugurate the reign of terror, and all that stands against him are “Conservative pro-Constitutionalists, Christian religious fundamentalists, the second American militia movement…” etc. Lamy, in his important book, argues that these images appeal primarily to those whose lives have been upturned or threatened by social change. 

The conspiracy theories are part of the apocalyptic tradition. They are the end signs, indicating that the enemy is on the verge of total victory and only the ‘saving remnant’ can stand against it. This siege mentality clearly links groups such as the Branch Davidians with the wider militia and radical right community. The survivalists studied by Lamy saw themselves as the remnant in the wilderness. There is an eagerness for a catastrophe which would cleanse the world: a great simplification, the kind of purification extolled in the disaster movies, in which the wicked are thrown down and the righteous exalted in some suburban apocalypse. Lamy places the contemporary apocalyptic tradition in the context of the millennialist currents in American history. This encompassed a range of historical precedents from the benign, meliorative visions of those who saw the American republic itself as a new beginning; the lore of the wilderness (surely a factor in survivalism); the millennialist movements of the Native Americans, such as the Ghost Dance; up to its reappearance in such forms as the Unabomber manifesto and the X-Files.

This brings us back to the visions which I reviewed in ‘Blood, Vision and Brimstone’ (Magonia 53, August 1995), and testifies to the real social power of the rejected folk culture of the ‘New Age’, which, like the term New World Order, itself has clear millennialist overtones. Whether the likes of John Mack or Kenneth Ring might ever be the focus of a millennialist cult such as that of Herb Applewhite, we shall just have to wait and see. 

The Oklahoma bomb was a product of this culture. Jim Keith in OKBomb reviews the rumours surrounding it. Much of the time he raises what seem like sensible points, but eventually falls into paranoid traps. For conspiracy theorists the notion of terrorists from their own tradition is unthinkable, and alternatives were suggested ranging from the claim of one militia leader that it was the work of the Japanese acting in revenge for the Tokyo subway gassing which itself was the work of the CIA. Others suggested it was a government act of provocation, a sort of modern Reichstag fire which could trigger the great UN crackdown; or our old friend mind control, as outlined by Mark Pilkington in Magonia 58. In passing, it has to be pointed out that while in some sense minds are being controlled all the time – by parents, schools, public authority, the media, etc. – there is no evidence of the sort of superhuman mind control as envisaged by conspiracy theorists ever having been, or possibly being, successful. 

If I were to speculate on the motives of the Oklahoma bombers it would be to suggest a compound of propaganda by the deed, and an act of provocation with the intent of trying to provoke the authorities into some ill-judged overreaction and act of repression which would confirm their views and radicalise their followers. 

The post-Oklahoma scene is also discussed in Adam Parfrey’s collection of writings. Although not endorsing the militias, he concludes they have been made the subject of a great deal of hysteria, and that they are no match for the powers of the corporate state. Here he echoes the views of some commentators on Waco: with the old Red Empire gone the American state needs new enemies against which to define itself; whereas for many groups of citizens the state itself has become the enemy. 

The line between tragedy and farce is very fine, and one of the most surreal images in Cult Rapture must be the meeting between the survivalist, ‘identity-Christian’ (and what that means is the subject of a future review) and Presidential candidate for the far-right Populist Party, James ‘Bob’ Gritz (the model for Rambo), and a little old lady in tennis shoes who channels an alarming, nine-foot tall fascist reptilian called Hartoon. Rambo meets Reptilian. Strange days indeed! 

Behind much of today’s conspiracy theories lies the old Big Lie of antisemitism, symbolised by that notorious fraud, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. It is a sad thought that when Norman Cohn’s masterful tracings of its origins, and the strange Russian rightists who manufactured it by plagiarising Joly’s Dialogues in Hell, was first published thirty years ago, it was a dissection of a long dead literary corpse. This new edition must be seen more as a stake to be driven through the heart of a newly risen vampire, which I have seen on the shelves of the New Age section of Manchester’s Waterstones’, its nakedness hidden by the covers of Behold a Pale Horse or hiding in the work of David Icke. 

The necromancers who have disinterred this foul thing are behind many of today’s conspiracy theories, using them as bait to trawl the youngsters who follow The X-Files and the like. Conspiracy theories throw a film of confusion over history, about which many people are not terribly informed anyway. If you can persuade people that Marilyn Monroe was murdered by the CIA, or if you can persuade them that the Apollo astronauts never really landed on the Moon, then perhaps you can persuade them that there was no Holocaust, and that maybe Adolph Hitler wasn’t as bad as they say after all. 

By working their way into the fears and prejudices of people whose minds have already been prepared by a diet of conspiracy theories, these hate-mongers are likely to find a more rewarding way of spreading their ideas than trawling a few thuggish football fans. We must not let them.

 Books reviewed in text:


Click on the cover images to buy the books from Amazon 

  • Jonathan Vankin, Conspiracies, Cover-up and Crimes from Dallas to Waco. Illuminet Press, 1996.
  • Kenn Thomas (Ed.) Popular Alienation; a Steamshovel Press Reader. Illuminet Press, 1995.
  • Philip Lamy. Millennium Rage; Survivalists, White Supremacists and the Doomsday prophecy. Plenum Press, 1996.
  • Jim Keith. OKBomb; Conspiracy and Coverup. Illuminet Press, 1996.
  • Adam Parfrey. Cult Rapture. Feral House, 1995.
  • Norman Cohn. Warrant for Genocide; the Myth of the Jewish world conspiracy and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Serif, new ed.,1996.
  • Jim Keith. Black Helicopters over America; Strike Force for the New World Order. Illuminet Press, 1996.
  • Grant R. Jeffrey. Prince of Darkness; Antichrist and the New World Order. Bantam, 1995.
  • Cathy O’Brien and Mark Phillips. TranceFormation of America. Reality Marketing Inc., 1995.