UFO Witnesses, Public Property?
Harry Tokarz

Harry Tokarz was founder of the Canadian UFO Bureau. This article comes from MUFOB new series 11, Summer 1978.

Throughout the past 30 years UFO investigators have amassed a wealth of reports dealing with close encounters by credible witnesses. Many of these reports have proven invaluable to those who have dedicated themselves towards the task of piecing together one of the greatest scientific puzzles of the 20th century. Data has been passed on to scientists and amateur researchers alike by UFO percipients, contactees and abductees, and this information is scrutinised, evaluated and catalogued for reference. In effect, people from all walks of life and from throughout the world have contributed graciously to this ongoing investigation by having the public spirit to step forward and relate their UFO experiences to competent parties. These people have, by working closely with investigators, unwittingly persuaded us to look at ourselves and our universe in a different way.

Although these witnesses have greatly assisted one part of the population, their stories seem to have an adverse effect on another group. Many eventually suffer indignities from those who cannot fathom their claims. Have you ever noticed the behavioural effects that the mere suspicion of the UFO ‘presence’ has on a large proportion of our society? UFO witnesses have been troubled by such manifestations for years.

There is no ‘average’ UFO witness. People from all walks of the population and from various ranks of the military services have been unexpectedly confronted by unusual ariel phenomenon. Subsequent investigations have borne out the validity of their testimony, and they are resentful of the flimsy explanations that are often thrown to the public. These people are in a very precarious position, and there is little they can do, and what happens to the witness after the investigations is unfortunately beyond the control of the investigators or the witnesses themselves. UFO investigators invariably hear a frequently repeated complaint from witnesses: “I wish I had never reported this sighting”.What is behind this regret? Were they so severely traumatised by their UFO encounter that
they could not cope with it afterwards? Some certainly were, but out of a cross-section of 31 close encounter cases studied, 28 were definitely not. What the majority of the percipients dreaded since the day they made that fateful report was the ‘depraved’ public reaction. Since their report they seemed to inherit a wide variety of new difficulties. The emotional impact is tremendous and the UFO incident becomes secondary in this new chain of events.

In many cases the UFO witness stands alone against vast numbers of curious, sceptical and downright hostile people who do their best to make his or her life miserable. Immediately following the press reports and the spate of unwanted publicity, an interesting variety of characters come ‘out of the woodwork’ to converge on the home and privacy of the vulnerable ‘celebrity’. If the hoards of curiosity seekers and ‘little old ladies in tennis shoes’ with tape recorders were not enough to contend with, many witnesses in recent years have been intimidated by a now breed of visitor: the violently disposed. They are awakened by publicity given to a witness and seem to object to the ‘candidness’ of a percipient, sometimes to the extent of threatening death if he continues to repeat his story. The very existence of a significant UFO report or a sighting of ‘entities’ affects the security off many people in different ways. Some turn to ‘hard’ scepticism, and successfully convince themselves ‘It can’t be, therefore it isn’t’. These people become harmless ‘scoffers’, unwilling to recognise that their attitude is emotionally rooted.

But what about the deranged individual who would threaten the witness or attempt to ruin his livelihood because his report aroused some dark emotion? The general public is largely unaware of the continual harrasment incurred by percipients, even years after their report is made public.

Robert Suffern knows he saw an ‘extraterrestrial’ being near his Bracegirdle, Ontario farmhouse on October 7th, 1975, and sceptics be damned! If only it were as simple as that. The 27-year-old carpenter encountered a darkened circular craft in the middle of a gravel road, and nearly run down a small, silver-suited, helmeted figure, while investigating a report that his barn was on fire. Suffern was shaken by the event, but he was a reliable witness and gave researchers some excellent details, and provided a ‘scoop’ for reporters, who considered it good copy. His troubles had just begun.

By October 9th the wire services had picked up his story and many newspapers played up the sensational aspects. Then followed an almost ritualistic parade of investigators, reporters, curiosity-seekers and outright cranks, to the Suffern’s farm. One group set up a night vigil ‘skywatch post’ on the roof of the house. In the weeks that followed, Suffern was inundated with uninvited visitors who tramped around his property day and night. The phone rang continuously at all hours and he eventually had to get an

 unlisted number. As a father of two he became justifiably furious at two men who drove up one day in a Volkswagen and threatened his family if he persisted in talking to investigators. He ejected them from his property but the threat remained in his mind, and caused his considerable mental anguish. Two years later, with the movie Close Encounters rekindling public interest in the UFO phenomenon, Suffern reports that his children have “once again started receiving the treatment at school”. To a parent this represents one of the worst forms of cruelty one can inflict upon a child. Suffern finds it incredible that his children should be subjected to ridicule for an experience he himself had two years earlier, and one to which he does not seem to attatch a great deal of importance. In his own words: “I know what I saw, and seeing is believing but I don’t care whether I ever saw that creature again. If it happened all over again I would never tell anybody!”

To make matters worse, various religious groups have capitalised on his experience, and attempted to convert him to their beliefs. The crank mail keeps rolling in like clockwork.For many individuals the mere mention of the UFO phenomenon stirs up deep-seated fears. For some, the mere hint that ‘their’ world and ‘their’ state of being are not the centre of the universe is enough to release a lifetime of pent-up emotions and frustrations. Chronically unstable individuals may react violently towards any unfortunate UFO witness who crosses their path. Man reacts to a given situation on the basis of habit and precedent. The ‘unknown’ presents a problem. Harmless ‘rejection’ of any subject comes easily if the person has only been fleetingly exposed to it. Perhaps the crank who surfaces after a well publicised UFO incident senses ‘truth’ in the incident, cannot reject it as a hoax and thus appease his fears, so sets out to silence the percipient.

As a matter of note, these individuals should not be confused with the many Men in Black reports, since they have distinct identities and have been tracked down by law enforcement agencies in many cases. In one particular incident a veteran publisher of UFO literature in Toronto received a series of handwritten letters threatening his life if he continued to publish UFO books. The anonymous writer professed intimate knowledge of UFOs and seemed ‘disturbed’ by the accuracy of various accounts being published. The handwriting was eventually traced to a former subscriber who felt it was his duty to harrass researchers and witnesses alike. He was reprimanded by the local police, but the following week the publisher received an identical letter.

In some cases the harrassers, when confronted off guard, seem hypnotically entranced. Some feel they have a mission to accomplish. John Keel has concluded that many individuals are ‘manipulated’ by unseen forces connected with the UFO phenomenon, and carry out ‘assignments’ of which they have no knowledge afterwards. The answers to the immediate problems of UFO witnesses are rather more mundane. One must ask, can public attitudes really be expected to change when our own governments have systematically been contributing to the problem for the last thirty years?

Carmen Cuneo, a worker at the Domtar Mines in Caledonia, Ontario, thinks not. His troubles began after he observed three stationary UFOs at close range one night while leaving the mine to relive himself. In addition to the landed cigar-shaped craft with two smaller disc-like objects hovering close to it, he spotted several small beings moving around the landed object. It was clear that he was watching a so-called “soil gathering party” in progress, and he retreated to get the mine forman as a back-up witness. As he returned with the forman Merv Hannigan they both had time to watch the three craft slowly depart into the night.

The following day, after traces were found and an oily substance discovered in the area, Cuneo and the forman were subjected to a series of insults both from the mine management as well as from their co-workers. The ridicule was tolerable, but then Cuneo received a telephone call at home one day, which was not so easy to ignore. According to Cuneo “the caller knew a lot about me personally and he seemed very up-tight about me telling the story around”. The clincher came when the anonymous ‘military-type’ voice threatened injury to his family if he continued to discuss the case. The perplexed miner took it to be a hoax, but chose to keep quiet and get an unlisted phone number “just in case”. The flow of weird calls then ceased, but Cuneo has never ceased to wonder about what kind of characters he was really dealing with on the phone. Were they capable of carrying out their threats? Those calls still haunt his memory.


He came face to face with a six-foot metallic creature standing in the middle of the road.

The dark-age mentality apparently still flourishes in the twentieth century; we still find self-professed witch-hunters who have not come to grips with the times. If you still doubt that UFO reports don’t arouse man’s vilest emotions, consider the following cases of ‘lynch mob’ mentality.

The first case involves Jeff Greenhaw, another credible person thrown into an incredible set of circumstances. At 23 years old. Greenhaw was the police chief of Falkville, Alabama, with the distinction of being the youngest in the state. One night in October 1973 he received a call from an anonymous woman who claimed a spaceship with blinking lights was landing in a pasture west of town. Greenhaw drove along a gravel road towards the site when, nearly two miles from the police station, he came face to face with a six-foot metallic creature standing in the middle of the road.

“I got out of my car and said ‘Howdy stranger”, Greenhaw related, “He didn’t say a word. I reached back, picked up my polaroid camera, and started taking pictures of him”. Greenhaw took four polaroid colour prints. He then got back in his patrol car, and turned on the flashing police light. A chase ensued, in which Greenhaw eventually ‘spun out’ at 45 mph on the gravel road, claiming that the creature actually outran the car.

After he related his story and presented his photos on NBC-TV news, he began receiving anonymous threatening phone calls. A man telephoned Mrs Greenhaw stating, “I’m going to get your husband for taking my picture:” More threats rolled in day after day. Three days after the incident, Greenhaw’s car ‘blew up’. Two weeks after that an arsonist set fire to the family’s house-trailer and completely destroyed it. To make things worse his wife decided she had ‘had enough’, left him and sued for divorce. Shortly after that Greenhaw resigned as Police Chief under pressure from the City Council. Before being literaly ‘driven out of town’, the young lawman, a graduate of the Alabama Police Academy, stated bitterly to pursuing reporters: “I’ve been harrassed ever since I photographed that thing. I don’t see how much worse my luck can get.”

Actually, ‘luck’ played no part in these events. Greenhaw’s problems were created, instigated and carried out by the very people he once protected in his line of duty. The emotionally rooted biases of an entire town had destroyed a man whose only crime was to photograph an “alien entity”. As to the authenticity of the incident, a UFO investigator who followed the case closely stated: “Anybody who attempted such a hoax would have been foolhardy to try and frighten a (armed) policeman”. But authentic or not, it is clear that the very idea of an extraterrestrial being spotted near their town completely transformed normally rational townspeople into terrorists with an axe to grind. Time after time it is proved that ignorance breeds fear.

schirmerIn the following case the aftermath was even more dramatic, and the witness was plagued by “seven years of rotten luck”. But, spin, luck seems to have had nothing to do with it, rather a lack of education and emotional instability. Herb Schirmer,[left] like Jeff Greenhaw, also held the distinction of being the youngest police chief in his state. In 1967 he held this rank in the town of Ashland in Nebraska. One December night when on patrol he came upon a massive ‘saucer-shaped’ craft at the side of the highway. Thinking at first he may have been coming upon a truck accident, it soon became clear that he had stumbled upon a ‘flying saucer’. He then saw a glowing humanoid figure moving towards his car, and attempted to draw his gun. At this point he found himself immobilised, although his senses were still with him. He claims that the creature applied an instrument to the back of his neck, leaving an unusual welt, which remains on his neck. He then blacked out.Later he came to his senses and raced back to town. When he reported the bizarre incident, it became obvious that there was a length of time which he could not account for. In the course of investigations Dr Leo Sprinkle put Schirmer under regressive hypnosis, whereupon Schirmer reported that he had been taken on board the craft and had
communicated with the ‘alien’ he had met. A wealth of information was obtained through many hypnotic sessions, but as researchers know only too well, the data obtained is difficult to evaluate, since ‘alien communications’ over the years have been invariably misleading and confusing. Physical traces were found at the site; a piece of ‘shiny metal’ disappeared into the hands of military investigators; the tape of Schirmer’s emergency radio transmission to HQ vanished, and the familiar pattern of controversy began.There was the usual barrage of threatening phone calls, followed by the dynamiting of his car, culminating in the hanging and burning of an effigy of the police chief in the centre of the town. Remember, this was 1967, not 1567!

Schirmer’s wife eventually succumbed to the campaign of terror and divorced him. Like a re-run of the Greenhaw affair, the Ashland Town Council also fired him from his prestigious job. Years of ‘bad luck’ then followed him around as he moved from state to state trying to establish new roots and forget about his experience with the UFO. As fate would have it, his picture and story were well publicised at the time, and he was constantly recognised as “that UFO nut from Nebraska”. At one point he had saved enough money from menial jobs to form a business partnership in the state of Washington, until one day his partner came across a news cutting of the events in Nebraska and absconded with all the funds. For some UFO witnesses there seems no escape from the harrassment and degradation.

A noted psychiatrist involved in the study of UFO witnesses, Dr Berthold Schwarz, has said that: “anybody who’s been in the field for a long time and studied the people part of the UFO equation has got involved in the thing with his own emotions. He’s been ripped up himself”. A well known contactee of the early fifties, Howard Menger, gave an emotional speech in 1967 to sum up his alleged experiences. To the Congress of Scientific Ufolagists he stated:

“I often wonder what would happen to those people who say, well what proof do you have? If I could see a flying saucer or someone step out of a craft, boy, I would make sure people knew about it. Well, I just wonder about that. If you realise what people go through when this happens to them. If you really think you have guts enough to come out and tell people. Of course nowadays it may be a little easier, but in the early fifties it was very, very rough, especially when you are in business and you are trying to act like a reputable citizen and bring up a family and, you know, things like this in your community”.

Time and time again, people who see UFOs and their occupants at short range are victimised. Who can they turn to? The sad answer is nobody. UFO organisations around the word are concerned to elicit information from the witness, to “sort the wheat from the chaff”, and offer a certain degree of consolation. But they are not equipped to deal with the psychological problems that develop from harrassment by misguided people. To make matters worse, the military establishment and law enforcement agencies, whom the public should be able to turn to in Ihis kind of crisis has itself become a symbol of distrust in UFO related matters. Those individuals who desparatly turned to the aimed services or the Air Force in the past, soon came away realising that they would rather face the ‘public nuisances’.

The crux of the matter lies in mankind’s complex belief structures; frames of reference that are squired through human experience, and actions that have always been used in this stimulus. And with his dual nature the actions have been both positive and negative.To the close encounter UFO witness who is prepared to come forward with his experience for us to study, we can offer out thanks… and our condolences.



Recent UK Contact Reports
Jenny Randles

In an early MUFOB (number 7, Summer 1977) Jenny Randles muses on some British cases which blurred the lines between close encounter, contactee and abductee

When I first came naively onto the UFO scene some seven or eight years ago it was through the customary grounding in paperbacks, where I was continually told that UFOs were spacecraft from somewhere, even though I soon discovered the contactees themselves could never agree from where! It is probably this indoctrination in the ETH that attracts people to the subject in the first place. It is also a factor which puts them off when they find that ETH theories tend to have holes in them big enough to fly Starship Enterprise (or Capt. Kirk’s ego) through. Many others are not put off, because they just refuse to accept the truth. In this sense truth is a relative term. If Joe Soap wishes to believe in something then he does. Whether or not this is ‘true’ in a material sense does not matter it is true so far as Joe is concerned, and that is the important point’.

ETH theories tend to have holes in them big enough to fly Starship Enterprise (or Capt. Kirk’s ego) through

A similar situation seems to arise in relation to some UFO witnesses, who experience subjective events in a highly personalised manner. We have had many examples of ‘Psychic Contactees’ recently, and I feel their study is important to our awakening understanding of the phenomemnon.

A typical example is the story of Mrs Lainchbury from Little Lever, near Bolton, Greater Manchester (1) In 1964 she claims that she was first approached by a being wearing a suit of black rings. He visited her following a malfunction of his craft, which Mrs Lainchbury witnessed. In this initial visit and subsequent ones over a period of three years, the entity, joined later by three others, just materialised and dematerialised in the bedroom. Their origin was given as Pluto, which name was formed by letters in mid-air. The whole experience seems ‘unreal’ and yet the original sighting apparently left physical traces in the form of burn marks on outside paintwork which have been attested to by many witnesses. They appeared suddenly over the night when the object supposedly malfunctioned.

We must obviously ask about the above case “Did Mrs Lainchbury build this story out of a possibly genuine UFO Sighting?” The alternative, assuming she is not lying, is that the affair did happen as a ‘real’ event; the entities did appear in physical form in her bedroom. It seems to make little sense if this point is accepted to believe that they genuinely came from Pluto, where life forms of their apparent type could not exist. One might argue that they had constructed a scenario for Mrs Lainchbury – either changing to a physical form acceptable to her, or lying about their origin. The question then is, why do so? And why direct this deception at this elderly lady?

A case very similar to this concerns a Mrs H, a middle-aged housewife living in Belfast (2). She lives in an area where the current [1977] violence is at its height, and she is obviously under great pressure in raising her family. Has this led her to construct an involvement with benevolent space-beings as a personal security for her family?

Mrs H claims that in 1969 she first visited a spacecraft by being ‘lifted out of her own body’ (cf. astral projection). She was taken from her bed into a huge spacecraft where many entities in bright clothes showed her around. Since then she says she has been back many times, and has been taken all over Ireland in the craft. She has been told many things and has been asked to write a book to try and solve the sectarian strife. She has so far refrained from this; fearing reprisals on her family, but seems to be driving herself, or is being driven, towards this goal. The question which remains is whether this is a personal motivation which is taking an external form, or if there is some objective, external cause.

When the previous cases are studied in detail they do not display typical ufological factors. One might well be tempted to dismiss them as ‘irrelevant’. However it must be borne in mind that these experiences were undergone by sincere individuals who had no desire for publicity – indeed quite the reverse, One cannot furnish a simple explanation for them, although one might suspect a psychological one at the root. It is as important to remember that they are meaningful to both witnesses. By any definition they are a type of UFO report, and worthy of our attention.

We now move to a case which has many typical ufological features, but is also highly subjective. This is the case of Mr L from West Yorkshire (3). In February 1976 he claims, in similar manner to Mrs H, that he was transported from bed into a spacecraft. He he underwent a medical examination by entities which he described in terms remarkably reminiscent of those allegedly encountered by the Hills (4). The beings were indifferent, but very arrogant, claiming that the witness was “an insignificant being such as a worm”. At the close of the encounter he was left paralysed on his bed, while the entities simply disappeared.

If we consider the case in detail too many correlations with the Hills’ story emerge. There has been no evidence found to support the idea that the witness had studied this encounter to the extent needed to gain the information which overlapped. On the other hand there is medical evidence to suggest that this was a hypnogogic experience. Here we must ask how it could be that such a ‘classic’ UFO encounter may be almost entirely subjective.

Finally let us look at two cases from what appears to have been a recent British wave. To any initial view they are objective and important UFO events. But it is interesting to note that although the scene in both cases is the real world (ie outside the witnesses bedroom), and despite the incidence of more than one witness in each case, there are striking parallels with our previous ‘Psychic Contactees’.#

On September 3, 1976 an elderly woman and her eighteen year old niece saw a grounded UFO at the little village of Fencehouses, Co. Durham (5). It was a very small object, about three-and-a-half feet by five feet, with a smooth glassy surface that the older woman says she touched. On top was a small orange dome, and it was sitting on sledge-like runners of steel or chrome. The witnesses were attracted towards it and appeared to enter a hypnotic state where time stood still. They met two tiny beings with long hair, but no communication ensued. They then lost all sense of time, and the object shot upwards making a humming noise.

A more renowned case concerns Mrs Joyce Bowles and Mr Ted Pratt, who on November 14, 1976 confronted a landed UFO by the side of the Winchester bypass near Chilcomb (6). Their car swerved across the road and apparently hit an invisible barrier. A bearded entity then walked over to the car and looked in. As he did so the engine, which had stalled, started to life. The witnesses do not know how the entity or object disappeared – it was just gone. The area was examined within twenty-four hours, and despite numerous car tracks on the soft earth by the roadside there was no trace of any object having landed at the place where it was supposedly seen. The case has become even more confused since, with claims that the two witnesses were abducted onto a craft and their car teleported several miles. Additionslaly stories are now emerging of ‘psychic’ experiences by Mrs Bowles before the original event, including the appearance of ghost-like ‘spacemen’ inside her house (7).

 It is too easy to equate not thinking with having an open mind!

Quite clearly, what at first are two ‘normal’ close encounters become subjective cases of a high degree of strangeness. However one cannot adopt a straightforward hallucinatory explanation for a case involving two witnesses.

One of the prerequisites for serious involvement in ufology is an open mind. Most ufologists do not appear to have one, even some of those who think that they do. This does not mean that one is not allowed to think, it is too easy to equate not thinking with having an open mind. The rearguard action one faces from those trying desperately to defend the ETH is amazing, and yet by my own admission we cannot just discount it. Nevertheless I have long since seen it as a more remote possibility.

Until very recently my mind turned towards interdimensional ideas for the origin of UFOs. I fell in love with the Flatland analogy, where we we consider a being on a flat surface. A three dimensional object passing through the surface would only be detected at the moment it passed through the creatures two dimensional sensory field. It would be unsensed when it was above or below the surface; suddenly appear, change shape and disappear as it passed through. This seems to fit the phenomenon rather too well to be sheer coincidence and I feel that some intermixing of a dimensional scale is a probable source of some UFO phenomena.

Whatever theory is true, and it seems more likely that we do not have just one answer, it has to explain two factors. Firstly the apparent co-development of the phenomenon throughout history, since prehistoric times (8); and secondly the manner in which it reflects the social factors of the period, and is subjectively interpreted in line with these.

I hope this brief look at some of Britain’s current close encounter cases has made you think. It would be very hard to accept these as evidence of any kind of objective phenomenon. One is led towards a subjective approach. Whether this is entirely a product of ourselves in the form of an unexplained psychological or sociological factor, or whether there is some objective external force which is manipulating our experiences, I do not know. Quite possibly we never shall. At the moment I tend to favour the latter possibility as a result of some personal experiences I have recently undergone (9), but I fully recognise even this evidence is not conclusive and could still point to an internal mechanism for the phenomenon.

It is important for us to continue our studies, whatever the source. There is some hope for the ‘diehard’ objective reality believers, as there are still radar/visual, photographic, and physical trace reports which seem to point in this direction. However many more such events are shown to have perfectly normal explanations; but there is sufficient reason to believe that there could be unexplained pt~yebal phenomena at work in the generation of these repotts. Further than that I do not think we can go. There is reason to suppose that the close-encounter event as described in this article may be an entirely different phenomenon to what we normally view as the UFO. If that is true then all our verbal battling concerning ‘hardware’ versus psychological explanations may be fruitless. We could be studying two different things, and both solutions could be correct.


  1. Flying Saucer Review, 22,3.
  2. A full report on this case has been produced by the Irish UFO Research Centre.
  3. Northern UFO News, August 1976; Awareness, Autumn, 1976; BUFORA Journal, November-December, 1976.
  4. FULLER, J G. The Interrupted Journey; BOWEN, C. The Humanoids
  5. Northern UFO News, February 1977.
  6. Flying Saucer Review, 22,5.
  7. The News [precurson of Fortean Times], No. 3. for an account of poltergeist activity at Mrs Bowles home.
  8. Flying Saucer Review, 15,6


The Aliens Speak – and Write
Examining Alien Languages
Mark Newbrook

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


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

From Magonia 85, July 2004

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He also makes various naive and/or wrong statements. Eg: he does not (it seems) distinguish adequately between languages and systems of communication more generally: in this context, in his discussion of bird communication he totally misinterprets the key structural notion of duality (I am assuming that he is not erring further by including here confusion between birds’ ability to mimic and real language-learning, or uncritically following Irene Pepperberg’s claims); he assumes a strong interpretation of dolphin activity in this area; and he repeatedly confuses scripts and phoneme systems, or rather naively thinks in terms of the former (especially where he refers to Latin). There are certainly serious problems with this work as it stands, for all the apparently impressive material from his own area of specialisation (which others would have to assess).Elliott is by no means alone. Other material has been produced by Anthony Judge and Allen Tough; their sites are linked and are at http://laetusinpraesens.org/docs/alien.php and http://members.aol.comlwelcomeeti/5.html (etc) respectively. The material is very interesting but as usual there is too little focus on the linguistic issues and too little linguistic expertise is found in the relevant teams of scholars. But Judge does have a link to Justin Rye’s survey of SF languages (http://ww.xibalba.demon.co.uk/jbr/lingo.html). Rye in turn has links to non-fictional and allegedly non-fictional proposals near the fringe of the SETI world. He is linguistically well informed, although at times covertly contentious. There have also been many fictional treatments of this theme; one famous one is in ‘Omnilingual’ by H Beam Piper. But once again error is frequent in this body of writing.


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

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

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

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

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

  5. Other apparently semiotic ma-terial.•

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

  7. Other supporting comment, etc. 


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

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

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

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

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

    Sample of John Dee's 'Enochian' script

    Sample of John Dee's 'Enochian' script

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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



The Alien Carried Paperwork.
Martin Kottmeyer

From Magonia 84, March 2004

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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



In Advance of the Landing: The Findhorn Community
Andy Roberts

 Peter Caddy, Contactees and the Findhorn Community

First published in Magonia 89, August 2005. A version of this article forms part of Flying Saucerers: A Social History of UFOlogy by Andy Roberts and David Clarke (Heart of Albian Press, 2007)

Mention Scotland’s Findhorn Community to anyone with an interest in the New Age movement and you’ll receive a smile and an automatic nod of recognition. Ask just what they know about it and you’ll be told a half- remarkable story of cosmic serendipity, giant vegetables, meetings with Pan, and a spiritual centre where people live in harmony, communicating with the spirits, or Devas, of nature.

findhorn60That’s the popular view of Findhorn, but it barely scratches the surface of this fascinating place. The Findhorn Community has been dubbed The Vatican of the New Age’, and a University of Light’ and includes among its patrons such diverse personalities as Prince Philip, Shirley Maclaine and Mike Scott from the Waterboys, who recorded his last album, Universal Hall, there. More recently, in the autumn of 2004, Findhorn was featured in a three part Channel 4 series, The Haven, which explored the alternative lifestyles of its inhabitants and charted the experiences of some of the many spiritual seekers who take part in the courses on offer. Findhorn’s credentials as a New Age University are beyond reproach, with thousands of people attending courses each year, ranging from Dances In Space and Time to Close To God On Iona, happy to pay up to £ 1,495 for the privilege. Findhorn is worth over £5 million pounds a year to the local community, yet still attracts strongly polarised opinion. Some believe that the Findhorn community attracts vitally needed employment and tourism to the area. Others aren’t so certain, one neighbour commenting of its visitors, If they were any good to anyone they wouldn’t be at the Findhorn Foundation’, another noting that members of the community are often seen hugging when they meet, It’s just not our way’.

Yet whatever its detractors may say the Community is so embedded in the spiritual psyche of the UK that one of its founders, Eileen Caddy, was awarded the MBE for service to spiritual enquiry’. According to the Community’s newsletter, Eileen chose to hand the medal to God’. What God thought of the award was not recorded but it may have been more pertinent to ask, What did the aliens think? ‘

Yes, aliens. The official Findhorn website states: “The Findhorn Community was begun in 1962 by Peter and Eileen Caddy and Dorothy Maclean. All three had followed disciplined spiritual paths for many years and had been specifically trained to follow God’s will”. But 1962 was merely when Peter, Eileen and Dorothy moved to Findhorn. The Findhorn Community’s true origins lie in the 1950s, in the maelstrom of post-war fringe ideas and philosophies which eventually settled out as what we now call the ‘New Age’. Central to Findhorn’s origins lies a secret which the current leaders of the community would very much like to play down; flying saucers. For all their talk of the Community being formed by the guidance of God one of the core beliefs held by Findhorn’s founders in the ’50s and 60s was that flying saucers existed, existed and their occupants were in psychic contact with them. It was also an article of faith that physical contact with the saucers was not only possible, it was certain.

Findhorn’s principle mover and shaker was Peter Caddy, together with a close knit circle of partners and fellow spiritual travellers such as Eileen Caddy and Dorothy Maclean. Caddy died in 1994 but Eileen Caddy still lives at Findhorn and Dorothy Maclean is a big name on the U.S. New Age scene. All were heavily involved in the flying saucer contactee belief system, but it is Caddy’s story which binds them together. Peter Caddy didn’t spring fully formed as a New Age guru at Findhorn, and nor were flying saucers his sole interest. Like many spiritual leaders Caddy passed through a series of religious, philosophical and occult beliefs, a parade of mysto-fashions of which flying saucers were just one aspect. His early life saw him attend school at Harrow, followed by a career in the catering trade with J. Lyons … Co. Caddy became interested in esoteric subjects in his early teens and eagerly read anything he could get his hands on; the teachings of medium Grace Cooke, Yogic philosophy and similar writings occupied and informed his every spare waking hour. In 1936 he met a Doctor Sullivan, who was the Supreme Magus of the Rosicrucian Order Crotona Fellowship, an esoteric order dating from medieval Europe, which also numbered Gerald Gardner, often dubbed ‘the founder of modern witchcraft’, among its ranks.

Dr. Sullivan and the Rose Crotona Fellowship made a deep impact on the young Caddy, a series of lectures called Soul Science becoming the single most important foundation’ for his future life. Dr. Sullivan also presided over Caddy’s spiritual’ marriage to Nora Meidling, after which they sealed the knot with a more formal civil service.


Peter Caddy, Findhorn's founder

Caddy was commissioned into the RAF soon after commencement of hostilities in 1939, entering the catering branch of the service and in 1943 he was posted to India where he developed a taste for the mountain landscapes of the Himalaya. Tibet, especially, fascinated him and he joined what was to be the last Western expedition to Tibet just prior to the Chinese invasion. It was an experience which left him physically and spiritually exhilarated.

Caddy’s post war life is a whirlwind of travel and meetings with remarkable men and women. He soon realised that he was getting little from his marriage to Nora, when he met another young woman, Sheena Gowan, who was also on the spiritual path. Their meetings were intense on the spiritual level, and eventually – perhaps inevitably – this soon became a physical relationship and they moved in together. Sheena received ‘guidance’, by way of what we now call channelling, from God, and it was eventually through this guidance Caddy was told he must end his marriage to Nora. It’s easy to laugh at this, and to suggest that the spiritual milieu they existed in was fake, merely a cover or justification for extra-marital relationships which were frowned on at that time. Indeed, reading Caddy’s autobiography it’s hard not to see the post-war spiritual scene as a hot bed of partner swapping, a sort of Confessions of a New Age disciple.

For example, not long after Caddy and Sheena were conjoined in spiritual union the new Supreme Magus of the Rose Crotona, Walter Bullock, fell in love with Sheena. Caddy writes: “Walter had long had a conviction that one of his missions was to be the father of the One who was to come, the next Messiah. Since he saw Sheena as the mother of the child, a physical union was necessary.” A physical union duly took place and Caddy was cuckolded. What would have caused most relationships to break up was reframed in spiritual terms by Caddy and Sheena as being ‘a test for us all’. Caddy and Sheena then married and Caddy took up a permanent commission in the RAF, becoming Commanding Officer for the RAF School of Cookery.  Although Sheena and Caddy parted in 1951, they continued to work together on a spiritual level. Caddy was posted to the Middle East where he met and later married Eileen Combe. By the time of his death in 1994 Caddy had been married five times and had numerous special friends’ during his voyage through the spiritual, but fecund, waters of the New Age.

A chance meeting in the Philippines with Anne Edwards, also known by the spiritual name of Naomi, spun Caddy off on a new series of adventures. Naomi was a channeler and received the message that her and Caddy had been together in many previous lifetimes and were destined to work together again. It appears that Naomi was also the first sensitive Caddy met who was in touch with aliens and he noted, Naomi had received many messages from beings in space, concerning their space ships, their purpose and mission’. Naomi remained in the Philippines but Caddy, Sheena and Eileen eventually, as many pilgrims do, stumped up in Glastonbury before moving on to Scotland.

By 1954 Caddy via Naomi had amassed numerous telepathically channelled messages. Some of these were from what he termed the pace brothers’. In line with others who were receiving channelled communications during the 1950s, such as George King of the Aetherius Society, the message coming through Naomi was that extraterrestrials were extremely worried about the state of the Earth and of man’s evolution. It was essentially a warning of impending ecological disaster if humanity didn’t change its evil ways. Information was also given about the flying saucers themselves and how they operated. Caddy received an inner prompting’ that he should put together a report on the nature of these messages, a professional report which he would compile using his training at the RAF Staff College. The report would be called An Introduction to the Nature and Purpose of Unidentified Flying Objects and would clearly outline who and what lay behind the increasing numbers of UFO sightings, and the reason the Earth was being visited.

Once the 8,000 word report was completed the problem was how to distribute it to the twenty-six people Eileen’s guidance had decreed should receive it. Some copies were simply entrusted to the Royal Mail, others reached their destination by more direct methods; former Prime Minister Clement Attlee received his by it being handed to him by his aunt! Lord Dowding, already an outspoken proponent of flying saucers, spiritualism and elves was given his by Caddy personally at his London club. During the meeting they discussed the content of the report, Dowding later writing to Caddy saying, I am personally convinced of the existence of spaceships, and I think it highly probable that they are manned by extraterrestrial crews… I think that the government ought to take the subject of spaceships very seriously, and to let some senior and responsible official take on the task of collecting evidence as a preliminary step to formulating an opinion, and perhaps a course of action.

Caddy’s main target for the report however, was Prince Philip. The Queen’s consort was known to have a keen interest in flying saucers, even to the extent of subscribing to Flying Saucer Review. His Equerry, Squadron Leader Peter Horsley, was tasked with investigating flying saucers on behalf of Prince Philip, using his master’s influence to meet and interview key UFO witnesses, often in Buckingham Palace. The reports Horsley compiled were then passed onto Prince Philip for him to discuss with the circle of high ranking military officials who saw flying saucers as a major influence in world affairs and a threat, or reassurance of a momentous future for mankind.

Peter Caddy had attended RAF Staff College with Horsley and renewed his acquaintance by arranging a meeting with him at Buckingham Palace, where they discussed the Prince’s interest and how best to get the report to him as the Prince was currently out of the country. A plot was hatched and as luck would have it Caddy was to come into contact with Prince Philip as part of his duties during a stopover the Queen and her husband made in El Adam in North Africa on their journey home from a royal tour of Australia. Caddy duly found himself alone in the dining room with the royal couple but protocol and, no doubt, fear precluded him from handing the report over there and then. Instead, he spoke with Commander Mike Parker, the Prince’s Naval Equerry, known for being another flying saucer aficionado. Parker immediately leapt at the chance to get the report into Prince Philip’s hands, saying, ‘Oh good! Anything to have a crack at the dome-headed boys’, meaning, presumably, the scientific establishment, most of whom had no time for fanciful notions concerning UFOs and alien visitors.

The mid 1950s saw Caddy and his female followers domiciled at a variety of locations in England and Scotland, going through various personal and spiritual trials and tribulations. But there was trouble ahead. The national press had become aware of the unusual ideas and freewheeling domestic arrangements shared by Caddy and his followers. Journalists tracked them down and the media was alive with stories about the group who were quickly dubbed The Nameless Ones.

In March 1957 the Caddy’s became the managers of the Cluny Hill hotel in Forres, on the Moray Firth, overlooking Findhorn Bay. Eileen had channelled guidance from God that they were to establish a Centre of Light’ there. Now, as the Cold War hotted up in the late 1950s so did Caddy’s interest in flying saucers and how their occupants could save the earth from possible nuclear conflagration. Eileen Caddy had received a channelled message consisting of one word, LUKANO, which appeared in her inner eye written in letters of fire. The Caddy’s could find no meaning for this world and were prompted to ask their most powerful sensitive Naomi, who, Caddy claimed, ‘could be in instant telepathic contact with any name given to her’. Naomi tuned in and discovered that LUKANO was the captain of a Venusian mother ship’ who wanted to make contact with the Caddys. Caddy wrote in his autobiography, ‘we were told the time had come to make that contact’.

Now there was almost daily channelled contact between Caddy’s sensitives, Dorothy, Lena, Eileen and Naomi, and the Venusians. Expectations were high that physical contact was imminent and it was a widely held belief, shared by Caddy and his circle that groups of chosen’ people would be evacuated by the saucer folk. It goes without saying that Caddy and his coterie of female followers saw themselves as at least a few of the chosen ones and so, desperate to make contact with the space brothers, during the hotel’s off-season Caddy and Lena would go to a possible saucer landing site on the beach near Findhorn to await the landing. As a measure of how serious this belief in an inevitable landing by flying saucers was Caddy noted, I had the trees cleared from the mound behind the hotel in preparation for the landing.

The much longed for landing never came. But the media found out about Caddy’s activities and ran articles about the goings on at Cluny Hill Hotel. The front page headline in the Sunday Pictorial for September 20th 1960 read, ‘The Martians Are Coming, He Says.’ The accompanying exposé claimed that Caddy believed ‘great numbers’ of flying saucers from Mars and Venus would be landing on earth within the next few months to warn earthlings that they were on the brink of disaster. ‘The main thing is to be nice to them’, he said, They have to be met with friendship. They are trying to help us.’ Caddy explained that he had created the landing strip on Cluny Hill at the aliens’ behest claiming, ‘I was instructed to do so by a kind of telepathy from them’. Caddy went on to outline exactly what his belief in flying saucers meant, ‘I believe they will offer people on Earth a chance to leave this planet with them before the catastrophe. They are like us in many ways, but the chief difference is that they have no understanding of such emotions as hatred, greed, jealousy or spite. Their only emotions are love and friendship.’ The adverse publicity these media revelations caused the Cluny Hill Hotel almost got Peter Caddy the sack.

The summer of 1961 saw the worldwide political scene degenerate and there was widespread belief that nuclear war was imminent. Caddy’s team of sensitives and channellers were told that an extraterrestrial rescue plan to save the Earth was under way, and they were among the chosen ones who would be saved. Eventually a message came through that seemed unambiguous, ‘Each one of you should be in readiness, you will be given very little warning’. Channelled messages from the extraterrestrials informed Caddy that they had tried twice to land on the Cluny Hill landing strip, once on Christmas Eve 1960 and again on New Year’s Day 1961 , but had been foiled due to a combination of climatic conditions and atomic bomb testing. Peter Caddy and Lena mounted watch for several hours a night in the hope that the third attempt at a landing would be successful, but sadly the aliens still stayed away.

In November 1962 the Caddy’s parked their caravan at the Findhorn Bay Caravan Park and the beginnings of the Findhorn Community as we know it today were formed. Caddy decided they would become self- sufficient and they began to plant a huge variety of fruit and vegetables in the poor soil of the Moray coastline. Against all expectations the garden thrived, a fact which the Nameless Ones attributed to their daily meditations and contact with the elementals and Devas, nature spirits who belonged to every living thing. Dismayed by the often contradictory guidance he found in gardening books, Caddy eschewed traditional knowledge and simply asked the Devas directly for guidance. The result was a continuous flow of huge and nutritious organic fruit and veg which helped sustain the community during their early years.

Although the Nameless Ones were now working closely with nature spirits Peter Caddy’s flying saucer fascination continued unabated and he forged links with many saucerians who he believed shared his vision. In 1965 he attended Lady Mayo’s Ecumenical and International Convention in Edinburgh at which the American contactee Dan Fry was speaking, Fry later visiting Caddy at Findhorn. During this period Caddy also attended a meeting of New Age leaders at Attingham Park in Shropshire headed by Sir George Trevelyan, son of the famous historian. In the mid 1960s Trevelyan was making tentative enquiries among the flying saucer elite about the possibility of forming a national UFO authority within the UK. He was stimulated to do this by Brinsley le Poer Trench (Lord Clancarty), Johan Quanjer and Air Marshall Sir Victor Goddard. The saucer scene must have been too exotic even for Trevelyan’s catholic tastes as, whilst he visited the Caddy’s many times, he was never a part of the saucer scene at Findhorn, although a small group of New Age saucer enthusiasts including Trevelyan formed briefly in 1967 and referred to themselves as the ‘Attingham Group’.

Johann Quanjer came to know the UK flying saucer scene very well, and he wasn’t impressed with much of it. Quanjer was one of those intriguing, mercurial types within British ufology who have been completely written out of the subject’s histories. He was a serious political and philosophical thinker whose war experiences as a child led him to spend his life searching for a better system of politics; I couldn’t understand the need to base everything on conflict,  and indeed I deduced that conflict is not necessary for human progress, and never really has been.

After travelling in Canada and North America, Quanjer settled in London and made contacts within the burgeoning 60s New Age movement. Through his friend Sir Courtney Forbes he got to know influential new age mavens such as Sir George Trevelyan and he was a good friend of Brinsley le Poer Trench. Through his connections in the New Age field Quanjer became aware of flying saucer contacts and near-landings at Findhorn and he eventually visited the community, certain that, ‘there is no doubt in my own mind that these extra-terrestrials and their saucers do exist and that they are seriously intending one day to make their presence known to people on earth.’

Caddy, at this time in the 1960s, had set up a telephone tree so a select group of people could be alerted when the saucers were due to appear. Quanjer recalls, ‘One morning, in May 1966, an urgent phone message came through to me from Edinburgh, Scotland: ‘The bells are ringing’. These four words, breathlessly sounded out for me on the trunk line, were apparently a code’ for something like, Flying saucers might be landing on a previously indicated spot somewhere on the North Coast’. ‘ Although he had not yet visited Findhorn, Quanjer was sceptical about their claims of extraterrestrial contact, writing, These saucers had thoughtfully planned to burst upon an astonished world during the Whit week- end of 27-30 June, so that everyone with a job (as I had) could attend without great inconvenience.’

Sceptical or not, after an eight hour train journey Quanjer was soon being whisked along the Moray Firth coast road to Findhorn. But on arrival his reservations were proved correct, ‘What I had been led to believe would be a bucolic paradise of new age initiates, was really a huddled mass of mild eccentrics…’.  Quanjar’s view of Caddy was dim, ‘…here was their leader, a healthy middle-aged man who preferred to accept unemployment money and family benefits rather than a job to support himself and his family’. The Findhornian’s attempts at self-sufficiency didn’t impress Quanjar either and he referred to their, ‘small but luxuriant vegetable garden…’ as being ‘… perhaps their only visible hold on reality’.

After introductions to Peter Caddy, Robert Ogilvy Crobie (Roc), and the other invited guests Quanjer was informed that a channelled contact had sent instructions that a flying saucer was going to come in from the north east, flying low over the North Sea to avoid being captured on radar at nearby RAF Lossiemouth. This was it! As a preparatory measure Caddy and Roc channelled various occult historical figures such as St. Germain and also Masters from Saturn and Mars. Darkness fell and the excited saucer spotters loaded cars with provisions and blankets and drove to the beach where they spread out and waited eagerly for the saucer. For a while nothing happened and then, ‘Suddenly, the actor (Roc) with arms aloft, exclaimed that it had arrived. Yes, it was here. No one else saw anything though it was concluded that our space guest must still be in another dimension.’ Quanjer had, by now, had enough of the naïve pretensions of the Findhorn set and sent his own thoughts out, ‘… much further and higher in silent prayer that they please not land here among this inauspicious human welcoming party.’

After the failed landing Eileen Caddy received a channelled message which confirmed contact had been almost made, ‘Let none of you have any feeling of disappointment regarding last night (the landing of our space brothers). All was in preparation for something far, far greater than any of you have ever contemplated.’ The message went onto advise that what Caddy and his friends believed would be a flying saucer sent as part of the extraterrestrials plan to evacuate their supporters, was in fact merely delivering a message that everything would be ok.

Quanjer continued to pursue his interest in flying saucers, ultimately being responsible for the creation of the International Sky Scouts (later becoming Contact UK) in 1967. Yet however sceptical he was of the contact attempts at Findhorn, by 1967 he was trying to communicate with the recently deceased American contactee George Adamski, using Lady Sandys, wife of former Defence Minister Duncan Sandys, as a channel.

Findhorn’s reputation as a New Age community was now spreading rapidly, and not just within New Age circles. The loose coalition of free- thinkers known as beatniks, together with elements of the mod’ subculture, was transforming into the hippie movement, via the agency of the powerful psychedelic drug LSD. By 1967 the idea of living simply and communally, in harmony with God and nature, inspired by ideas imported from the East, appealed to many hippies. A growing number of them became aware of Findhorn and could see no reason why it wasn’t for them.

One such beatnik who made the transition was Neil Oram, a flamboyant character in the hippy scene. Oram later achieved success when he wrote the world’s only 24 hour fortean play. The Warp was a kaleidoscopic roller coaster ride through his life and its many diversions, in which flying saucers played a major role.

In the long, hot summer of 1968 Oram was living in the quiet Yorkshire hill village of Haworth, notable for its connections with the Bronte Sisters. No stranger to strange phenomena and open to psychic influences Oram received a telepathic message during a meditation telling him to, ‘found a spiritual maternity hospital. A centre without dogma, where people could give birth to their real selves.’ In an act of spontaneity which characterised the zeitgeist Oram accepted the message, sold his cottage and was about to venture into the unknown when he received a letter from guru Meher Baba’s secretary. This alerted him to Findhorn where, the letter informed him, a small group of pioneers were, ‘living on sand by the edge of the sea, and are uniting together Divine Guidance, Alien Intelligence, fairie intelligence and human faith in developing consciousness.’ Findhorn appeared full of promise to Oram and he and his young family immediately hitch hiked to the bleak Morayshire coast.

On arrival he was immediately disappointed, ‘It felt like Noddy land. Utterly UNREAL. Like ceramic pixies and gnomes cavorting in the garden. Phoney. Croquet on the lawn type of atmosphere.’ There was an instant culture clash between the two tribes, and the feeling was mutual. For all Caddy’s protestations of unconditional love for the human race his first impressions of meeting Oram and family were,’… to my dismay they were dirty, dishevelled hippies… They had to learn that dirty, torn and slovenly clothes were not acceptable at Findhorn, particularly in the Sanctuary.’ During this initial meeting Oram recalls Caddy saying, ‘You see the trouble is a lot of you hippies have been taken over by the sex drive and that’s why you can’t channel God, the angels, or our advanced space brothers.’ The irony of this, considering Caddy’s interwoven personal relationships as well as Oram’s later claim that Caddy had been ‘… screwing the  hippy chicks who started arriving. As usual all being done behind Eileen’ s back”, was decidedly rich!

Caddy immediately dismissed the idea that Oram had been guided to Findhorn by any Divine Agency and suggested they spoke with Anthony Brooke, who was now staying at the community. Caddy told Oram that ‘Brooke was the man, when it came to UFO activity’. Whilst at Findhorn Oram met a host of characters from the outer fringes of the New Age including the previously mentioned Roc. Roc has become famous in Findhorn lore as having encountered the god Pan in Edinburgh Royal Botanical Gardens. The ex-actor also had extra-terrestrial experiences including one when a man wearing a silver suit appeared in his room. Roc focussed on the entity and he disappeared, but re-appeared in his bedroom where a philosophical discussion ensued, the etheric bedroom visitor telling him there was a war raging all around them between the forces of light and dark. Roc could also see ghosts, and had once found a group of dead airmen playing cards in an old RAF Nissan huts at Findhorn. Oram recalls, ‘It didn’t take long for Roc to realise that the men were unaware that they were dead. Eventually Roc organised a flying saucer to come over the bay one night where Roc and the men were sat on the beach. Roc had told the men that a special craft was coming to take them all home. When the men saw the flying saucer descend and hover just above the sand, they willingly climbed aboard and sailed away.’

Oram’s hippie sensibililities grated with Caddy’s old school ascetic leanings and tensions grew between the two men. This culminated one evening when Caddy barged into a caravan ordering him, ‘You’re wanted in the Sanctuary!!!’. Oram ignored Caddy, who repeated, ‘I said you’re wanted in the Sanctuary now!!!’ Once again he shouted, ‘This is your last chance! Are you coming with me now or not?’. Oram declined but was later berated by one of Caddy’s sycophantic followers, ‘What were you doing man? What were you doing refusing to come to the Sanctuary? You were meant to be a CHANNEL, man! A CHANNEL for our space brothers! The mother ship was HERE!!! Right above the Sanctuary man! Right ABOVE… and it was calling for YOU!!! And you let us ALL DOWN MAN!!! You threw away the opportunity for HUMANITY to EVOLVE onto a HIGHER LEVEL!!! You’ve let us ALL DOWN, MAN!! You’re a BETRAYER of our movement. A JUDAS!!!’

The following day Oram and family left Findhorn.  His original vision came true shortly afterwards and he founded his own spiritual centre at Goshem, high in the mountains above Loch Ness. Thirty seven years after his encounter with Caddy at Findhorn, Oram’s opinion of the man is undiminished, ‘He remains to this day, the biggest ego-maniac I’ve ever met. Utterly insensitive. Outlandishly bombastic… He was a total phoney. Con man.’

Peter Caddy left Findhorn in the 1970s and the focus of the Community changed dramatically. Channelled messages from the space brothers and belief in flying saucers were marginalised, being replaced by deeper work with the Devas and more direction from God itself. Alfresco flying saucer welcoming parties were out and spiritually earnest seminars and conferences were very much in. Prophecy turned to profit and Findhorn began to market itself as a commercial venture, setting itself on the course which has brought it to financial fruition today. I suggested to Findhorn that flying saucers and aliens were key to the community’s history and development but that they had been carefully airbrushed out of Findhorn’s official history. The one line reply avoided the questions I posed regarding the role belief in flying saucers had played in the emergence of Findhorn, with the anodyne: ‘There’ s no ‘official’ community line regarding UFOs and we have no policy on publicising the subject or otherwise’.

Yet it does seem that the Findhorn is somewhat embarrassed at its flying saucer contactee beginnings and like all corporate entities seeks to minimise problems by simply ignoring them. Other than a few brief comments in Peter Caddy’s autobiography there is nothing in the Findhorn literature which refers to this crucial aspect of their past. To the vast majority of those who visit Findhorn this obfuscation will not matter. But the story of Findhorn and flying saucers is a vital missing piece of the jigsaw of the UFO subject in the UK and cannot be ignored to suit the current fashions in New Age belief at Findhorn.

It could be said that Findhorn is nothing more than an apocalyptic 1950s flying saucer cult which got savvy and moved with the times, dropping one of its original tenets and replacing it with others more in keeping with the mores of the New Age market place.  Others may say, in light of Neil Oram and Johan Quanjar’s comments, that Peter Caddy was a hypocrite; a con-man using cod-spirituality for financial and physical gain, utilising and manipulating whatever elements of the supernatural were currently fashionable to attract adherents and money. But perhaps, and this is much more likely, Caddy and his followers were just a group of sincere but flawed human beings who were desperately seeking something. That something, like the goal of all spiritual seeking, was a desire for certainty, guidance and purpose in a chaotic universe.

During the period between 1954 and 1970, flying saucers, or rather the idea of flying saucers, provided them with that something. Their shared belief in the impending apocalypse and the possibility of salvation from the skies enabled them to form strong relationships and to build a thriving community based on their communal beliefs and hopes. By their own accounts they were happy, and if belief in extraterrestrials provided them with that happiness, then that’s no bad thing really, is it?



America Strikes Back
Further Rumblings from Across the Atlantic
Thomas E. Bullard

From Magonia 37, October 1990

Little did I imagine that my ‘American Way’ article in Magonia 34 would provoke such an uprising of criticism as I find in Magonia 35. Peter Rogerson, Martin Kottmeyer, Hilary Evans and Dennis Stillings take aim at my article or other writings with lethal intent and often deadly effect. Surrounded from every side, like any good American I must circle the waggons and defend my scalp.

The apparent stability of abduction reports poses a genuine puzzle from my perspective as a folklorist. A fixed sequence and similar content recurred far more than chance would allow among 300 cases I examined in my comparative study of published reports. (1) Growing evidence suggests that abduction reports vary more than the received literature would suggest, and how far this trend will go is an important indicator to watch. Even allowing for as much increase in variety as I have seen, the sterility of these narratives still exceeds all expectations for folklore obeying the familiar dynamics of oral literature. If these narratives are folklore in any usual sense, they manifest unique properties and stand apart as remarkably uncharacteristic.

The capacity of forms and contents to persist in tradition through time and distance is a defining characteristic of folklore. Similar jokes and legends turn up thousands of miles apart after passing among dozens of narrators along the way. Folk-tales like Cinderella recur in recognisable form all over Europe, and even the Zuni Indians tell a story about a poor but beautiful girl who aquires rich clothing through supernatural help, then loses her finery by violating a time limit. The cultural players change so that a friendly herd of turkeys replaces the fairy godmother, but the plot similarities are unmistakable. (2)

Larger patterns like the life of the hero shape the biographies of Moses and Jesus, the ‘epic of defeat’ pattern lends its form to accounts of such recent historical events as Custer’s Last Stand. (3) A recognised collection of motifs drifts in and out of folk narratives of all sorts: fictitious, told for true, even personal-experience stories. The types, themes, patterns and motifs of folk tradition become old friends to the folklorist. They peep out in different guises, adapted to their circumstances and times but always familiar; a timeless link uniting past and present in one unbroken tradition.

Stability is one hallmark of folklore, but variation is another. The mercurial alterations of folk narratives as told by the folk often slip out of mind even amongst folklorists who have often centred more on a dead, literary text than on living, functioning cultural products. (4) In scholars’ schemes of classification folktales exist as ideal types, but in reality each tale is a unique creation, drawing on recurrent plots and motifs, but arranged in an idiosyncratic and creative way by each narrator. (5) Legend characteristics are looseness of form and content unified only by a core of belief. (6) Living folklore is always fluid, and few narrators serve as mere relay stations. Each teller adds, leaves out, or modifies some part of everything he tells. Every narrative we hear reflects a more or less lengthy history of the improvements, alterations, rearrangements and embellishments of many narrators. Stability does not mean that a complex narrative endures as a monolithic whole. The stability of living oral tradition is a far more modest concept, and amounts to two or more narrative’s sharing some elements of form and content. These shared elements may loom large in the sight of whoever recognises them, but differences often far outweigh similarities.

Too much emphasis on stability and too little on variation is a common misconception fostered by the traditions of folklore scholarship. Rogerson speaks of a set pattern for stories and songs enforced by a critical audience. This ‘Law of Self-Correction’ he alludes to is respectable folkloric theory, but limited in application. Self-correction depends on an unchanging society where everyone knows the tradition and prizes it for its aestheticvalue. Then the audience may correct deviations and guard the stability of the tradition, but such suppression of variation could work only locally, among groups that meet face to face. Each locality and group would differ slightly, with variation the outcome. (7)

Genres like the legend actually encourage disagreement (8). Studies of live legend-telling sessions have found that the lifeblood of these narratives is dispute, where people argue over facts and their interpretation. Consensus is foredoomed in such a situation, but the climate is ideal for variation in form and content to flourish. As a general principle in folklore it is safe to say that whatever can vary, will vary. It is even safe to say that what should not vary, probably will vary. Jokes have an exacting structure of set-up and punch line: they allow for little tampering if the humour is to succeed, yet we all know how often jokes fail. the variation may be accidental or deliberate, but it is a constant process in the narration of folklore.

Rogerson points out a false analogy when I compare long-traditional folklore with narratives spread for 20 years and largely via electronic or printed media. Folklorists have long treated the history of any tradition as a settling-down process. (9) The longer a narrative type has been around,the more it will demonstrate such classic properties of oral tradition as variation, widespread distribution and refinement of form and content so that the idiosyncratic disappears and general patterns come to the fore. Now we know that time is not the vital element. We have watched folklore in formation, seen it pass from oral tradition into the media and back out; followed the lightning spread of narratives and their equally rapid evolution from raw idea or vague rumour to polished joke or urban legend. (10)

Good narrators may serve up a well-structured story from the start. Twenty years may be 19 years and 12 months longer than a narrative needs to become fully ‘folklorized’. The dynamics of folklore apply to the new and the vintage alike. Media involvement has proved only another ‘voice’ in the process of oral transmission, a way to speed up folk processes (including variation) rather than an agent of homogenization.

Another ‘tradition of scholarship’, to use David Hufford’s term, can explain the apparent information poverty of abduction reports noted by Stillings. He finds ordinary conversation to be information-rich whereas myth and folklore say little about contemporary human life. The folklore he is most likely referring to is the folklore presented by folklorists. They have traditionally denatured their texts, rewritten them to purge the unique or topical and emphasise those universal but faceless elements the folklorist thinks should be there. This correction process has drained the cultural life out of countless published collections. Living folklore pulses with the currents of contemporary existence. Urban legends of poodles that explode when placed in a microwave to dry express fear of technology, accounts of earthworms in hamburgers express uncertainties about the trustworthiness of business and the safety of food. (11) Jokes are immediately topical, drawing on politics, fads and mores for humour. The hopes, fears, values of narrators are embodied in their folklore. So sensitive is folklore to its cultural milieu that collectors usually meet with disappointment when they return to an area after a period of years. (12) If abductions lack a personal touch, this condition is atypical of folklore, and the reason must be sought in abductees, their experiences or the presentation of their narratives.

Scholarly tradition emphasises stability over variation in folklore when in fact variation constantly revolves the order of any narrative type. The same should be true of abductions if they are folklore. These narratives are long and complex, fantastic in context, controversial in nature, and the personal claims of individual abductees. If any kind of story should generate a luxuriant profusion of variants, this is it. What we find instead is a surprisingly unchanging narrative type. Folklore should not behave this way. My critics propose two reasons to account for this stability.

Both Rogerson and Stiilings raise an important question of how selective the published sample of abduction reports may be. If the authors have selected, rewritten and homogenised these themes, we readers may read a story much less varied than the abductees actually told. I confess that the same question bothered me. I also admit that I am in a poor position to give a judicious answer. My comparative study treats published sources, so its reliability depends on their representitiveness and accuracy. The only response l can offer comes from an account of the investigators of 103 high-information, high reliability cases. I found that 17 cases included Leo Sprinkle in the investigation, ten Budd Hopkins, nine Ray Fowler, five James Harder and five Ann Druffel. Two teams or individual investigators dealt with three entries each, another seven with two each, and the remaining 37 cases came from individuals or groups independent of investigators in any other entry. Six investigators are associated with 46 cases, nearly half the total, though few cases represent solo effort.

Looking at the numbers another way, the investigators differ in 51 cases. That’s quite a few hands to dabble in the pot and still serve up a consistent story. Critics may argue that investigators, hypnotists, writers, editors, and anyone else in the chain from report to publication have helped impose conformity on these texts, and they may be right. The fact is that no investigator records slavishly duplicate abductions. Sprinkle finds ‘nice guy’ aliens and also the torturers of the Casey County case: Hopkins has cruel aliens but also the friendly beings who met Virginia Horton. And so it goes – the skeleton remains the same but the flesh differs somewhat from case to case. My bottom line of doubt remains that that any group of even fifty or so individuals could maintain the coherence of such a complex narrative as the abduction story without careful and deliberate collusion.

The mystery of abductions from a folklorist’s standpoint is still the dozens of reports, alike in sequence and details. Rogerson counters that contactee yarns from the 1950′s had similarities and accounts of witches sabbats included a wealth of similar details. True up to a point, but contactee stories were highly individualistic despite some efforts by the principles to support one another’s tales.

Witches sahbats scatter considerably in events and details, despite investigators’ manuals and singularly persuasive ways of leading the witness. No, the stability of abduction reports has a qualitative peculiarity. If they are fictions or fantasies the glue holding them together is an unusual one. No matter how unrepresentative the sample of reports called abductions proves to be relative to all UFO close encounters, this subgroup stands by itself as large enough and self-coherent enough to challenge conventional interpretation.

The second explanation for stability in abduction reports appears in Kottmeyer’s article, certainly one of the most effective and devastating critiques ever offered against the abduction phenomenon. He says that the reports assume the sequence they do because this sequence is the right way to tell a story. The episodes in abduction reports and narratives from many other cultural contexts align according to a dramatic structure because this order best realises the emotional potential of the story elements. When the episodes are properly played against one another for contrast and suspense, the arrangement optimizes the impact of the whole.

Kottmeyer’s insights converge on folklorists’ thinking about form in urban legends (13), which manifest a cunning organisation based on dramatic structure and the withholding of key information to build suspense and spring a surprise at the end. These tales circulate in sloppy and well-structured versions, with some narrators able to pick up the bare elements and recast them into a good form, with an unconscious intuition for what makes a ‘good story’. But the same research that confirms Kottmeyer’s general principle also underscores the peculiarity of abduction reports. Just because people know how to tell a good story does not mean that they exercise their skills often or well. An examination of the variants of urban legends shows that these narratives are highly volatile, subject to frequent change and likely to fall short of their aesthetic potentials. Narrators scramble the parts, ruin the form, and settle for inartistic presentations as a matter of course. Drama remains a goal only sometimes achieved in everyday practice. In this light the stability of abductions once again rises to anomaly status, since we should expect more stories told the wrong way than we actually see.

He also assumes, and rashly I think, that everyone assigns the same emotional values to the various episodes. Even given the same elements, two story-tellers may may focus on different parts as the most important or emotion packed. One narrator’s climax becomes another’s footnote.

The idea that there is only one good way to tell a story harks back to the perception of tradition as a prison, whereas folklorists have come to regard tradition as a framework conducive to creativity. Not every creative choice is as easy or necessarily as effective as another, but good narrators make the differences work. If abductions are fictitious, narrators have different options to explore, arrangements to try and ways to dramatize them all.

Kottmeyer limits his explanations to the overall sequence of episodes, when in fact the sequencing of events within episodes complicates the abduction story even more. The ’capture’ episode and especially the actual procurement of a captive by the beings, follows a lengthy itinerary. So does the examination episode. Here too we find remarkable stability, despite so many added opportunities for variation. With so much variety among much shorter urban legends, the relative invariance of long, loose abduction narratives comes as all the greater surprise.

The bulk of Kottmeyer’s article goes to uncovering parallels between science fiction and abductions. Legitimate extraterrestrials should be independent of culture and mark a discontinuity with the past. Culturally derived stories of aliens should have cultural antecedents. In support of this principle he demonstrates with ample evidence that abduction ideas are nothing new under the sun, but are represented with considerable fidelity in the SF movies and literature to which many people have been exposed. Themes of reproductive concern and dying planets, practices like organ removal and medical examination, descriptive details such as large crania and short stature have ready examples in the movies. The comparison requires no gymnastics of the imagination. Some of the ideas are quite literally interchangeable from one medium to the other.

He details possible influences on the Hill case at greatest length, partially motivated by my claim that the Hill’s underwent their abduction ‘entirely unpredisposed’. What I intended to say was that their abduction story was new to the UFO literature, but Kottmeyer notes that Donald Keyhoe discussed short beings with kidnap on their minds in the very book Betty read shortly after the ‘interrupted journey’. Moreover Keyhoe’s assumption that aliens would
visit on a scientific mission lent credibility to ideas like medical examination. While the synthesis of the abduction story may rest with the Hills, Kottmeyer makes clear beyond doubt that the pieces were already there for taking off the cultural shelf.

Not all of Kottmeyer’s identifications are equally convincing. The derivation of the needle-in-the-navel incident from an image in Invaders from Mars me as clever but unpersuasive. The Invasion of the Saucer men aliens are short and big-headed, but the eyes, ears, mouth, veined cranium and general expression are all wrong. Such differences of opinion in no way detract from the overall case that abductions owe much to cultural influences.

One of the most powerful arguments involves the Kenneth Arnold sighting. Arnold described an odd form, half wedge, half disc, but it was the term ‘flying saucer’ that captivated the public imagination. People reported saucers – nice regular shapes which have so dominated reports that a concept of cultural origin seems certain to have determined the 1947 sightings. I do not intend to refute the cultural-influence explanation, since I quite agree that this force is hard at work in the UFO phenomenon. Rogerson allows that abductions may have an experiential basis, though the experience is a consequence of cultural influences. This is the way folklorists have explained extra-normal encounters: traditional beliefs raise expectations, and expectation shapes ambiguous stimuli in its own image. (14) Certainly most UFO reports fall into this category.

My intention is rather to show that cultural influence may not be the whole story, whereas primary experience or a combination of experience and influence may provide a better explanation. Folklorists have begun to bend their rigid stance of the supposedly one-way relationship of cause and effect. David Hufford’s research with ‘Old Hag’ traditions has established that sometimes experience comes first and tradition develops later as a human response to an experiential fact. This possibility is reasonable enough, but acceptance has come slowly. (15)

The prospect of facing an unusual and unfamiliar experience raises some interesting problems. How do you describe it? How do you understand it? The terms of description and conceptual structure of understanding are themselves traditions. We rely on past experiences to deal with the present, but old acquaintances break down before novelty. When nothing quite fits, we must turn to approximations and metaphors as ways to get a handle on the puzzle, however partial and slippery our grasp. Familiar terminology and classifications may not do the job, but rather than leave a phenomenon uncomprehended and ineffable, most of us opt for positive categories and communication with others even if our choices require a compromise of observational integrity.

Applying this principle to the 1947 saucers, Arnold believed that he saw experimental military aircraft and could describe what he thought they looked like without firm cultural obligations. Those who followed were not so lucky. For them the ‘flying saucer’ image set a powerful precedent. A desire to conform, eagerness to join the excitement, and the pressure of expectation influenced many people to convert vague stimuli into flying discs. What if someone saw something that was not a disc? The same pressure would come to bear on him, driving him to simplify his observation towards the `norm’, perhaps even to recast his memories in the orthodox mould. Where a stubborn individual might resist, the media would soon round off the edges of his report for him, and he would go on record as seeing a saucer in spite of himself. The fact is, we do not know for certain the proportion of saucer shapes to Arnoldesque shapes amongst 1947 reports. Ted Bloecher’s admirable study lists shapes only according to general category, so the finer points get lost. Newspaper writers mediated in most of the reports he cites, and the noise-to-signal ratio necessarily runs high among these accounts, even if a real signal exists. Given these handicaps and the consequent shortcomings of evidence, and firm conclusion that the 1947 wave is all cultural noise amounts to a leap of faith instead of a logical step.

Abductions pose a far more formidable challenge to the witness. The event is more complex, far stranger, personally threatening and viewed in a state of mental impairment according to most reports. An abductee would hardly return fluent in the language of the unknown. He wouldd stumble to describe it and lean on every verbal or visual crutch. Even Barney Hill’s alien with wraparound eyes need not wholly be a product of influence. If John Fuller conveys a faithful summary of the Hill’s conscious memories, then we know that the eyes troubled Barney before hypnosis and before the Outer Limits episode was aired. Is it so strange that he would grope for a handy visual simile, and grasp one from a recent TV show? I doubt it. Most of us do the same all the time, enriching our stock of expressions and humour with borrowings from the media. Even if his description bent towards the image of the television alien, this fact does not negate the reality of his basic observation. Television seems not to have planted a preoccupation with
strange eyes in his mind.

Experience seems to have taken the lead in that.

An argument along these lines may explain why no paediatrician known to Stillings has reported abductions, a puzzling situation if they are as common as ufologists claim. A child could not identify an abduction by name or describe unfamiliar sights in precise terms, and a paediatrician might not be familiar with the abduction phenomenon, or sensitive enough to connect it with a child’s clumsy approximations even if aware. A paediatrician used to hearing the whimsical yarns of children might dismiss abduction evidence without ever recognising it. Paediatricians conform to their professional traditions as well as anyone else.

If proponents of cultural influence accept that it equips the imagination to counterfeit an entire experience, they can also allow it a more limited role as modifier of real experience. An overlay of terminology or conceptual filter based on prior knowledge would channel the report to the realm of the familiar. The influence argument cuts both ways, Influence based fantasy or influence-modified experience could both account for abduction reports, and such an argument loses its edge.

Kottmeyer attempts to resolve the issue with an appeal to simplicity: is there anything in the abduction story without an antecedent in science-fiction? I would have to give a negative answer. Even if modified reality could account for the culturally derived patterns and content in reports, simplicity throws the decision to a subjective origin.

This line of reasoning is formally correct, but I distrust it because the critics have a vast reservoir of parallels from which to draw. Science fiction has generated so many images that some of them are bound to match up with abductions. In fact why limit the search to science fiction? the pool of influence grows into an ocean if we include every possible cultural source, since we can find strange, penetrating eyes among fairies, or demons that torture with sharp pointed objects in the popular vision of hell. The hunt for parallels is a search that never fails. Folklorists have overindulged from time to time, especially in the heyday of solar mythology. One caution against setting too much store in parallels came when a folklorist applied the hero pattern to the life of Abraham Lincoln, and found that Lincoln promptly dissolved into myth. (The American educational system has since achieved similar results using ignorance as the salvent) The moral (in both cases) is that too much laxity of application may look proper enough, but still leans to false results.

Stillings denounces me for such concretist statements as “fairies do not fly in spaceships or use eye-like scanning devices.” Even valid parallels do not duplicate one another exactly, so he rightly notes that I overstate the case. The point I wished to make nevertheless deserves repeating – with the terms of comparison abstracted enough, anything can look like something else. Abstraction only exacerbates a situation where many analogues are available. For comparisons to be truly persuasive they must relate homologues rather than analogues. Homologues are likenesses based on deep genetic relationships and not mere surface appearances.

Establishing homologies reprrsents no easy task but for a start the confidence in a comparison rises when the terms are specific, complex patterns match, and near-parity of elements prevails (that is, most elements correspond and few are left over). A genuine case of cultural influence may not fulfil these stringent criteria, but they set a worthy standard for evidence. It should be clear that an argument founded on stray resemblances and abstracted patterns falls well short of this goal.

The wonder then is not that every element of the abductions story has its antecedents, but that the story-tellers use so few of the available possibilities. Science fiction aliens come in all shapes and sizes, science fiction storylines diversify well beyond any single plot. Even if the Hill report has become the guiding light for abductees, they have gone through life exposed to other ideas that would play well within an abduction framework. If the Hill’s vivid fantasy was born out of science fiction influences and little else, surely these same images have power enough to break the stranglehold of this story and stimulate other narrators to a little creative adventurousness now and then. The power of science-fiction ideas should destabilise abduction reports, or else cultural influences are not
  not so influential after all. 

Stillings claims that Americans start with ETH beliefs and dismiss without due consideration all explanations based on psychology, cultural influence or hypnotic confabulation. This statement stings my pride, since I thought I had given some consideration to just these issues. My comparative study of reports explored the folkloric affinities of abductions and my investigation of hypnosis inquired into its potential as a solution. (l6) In both cases I examined a great deal of evidence, and in both cases I found the subjective answers wanting. Nor do I mean to hog all the credit. Elizabeth Slater’s evaluation of abductees, June Parnell’s tests of close-encounter experients, and Rima Laibow’s studies of post-traumatic stress disorder have set the psychological study of abdwctees on a sound evidential footing. At the heart of the matter, American investigators have worked closely with abductees, a great many abductees, probing their stories in depth and following up on life changes and consequences.

Rogerson raises the psychological issue by citing Charles Hickson’s emergence as a contactee, and sees here an example of reality at odds with the image of normalcy promoted by ufolagists. What we can say about abductee psychology is that Keul and Phillips have found evidence for mental disturbance and social dissatisfaction among close-encounter claimants. Slater found no psychopathology among the nine abductees she studied, rather a set of characteristics that could mean either fantasy-prone personalities or traumatic victimisation. Parnell found no evidence for psychopathology or above-average capacity for imagination among close-encounter witnesses, while abductees proved to be among the least imaginative subjects in her sample. (l7) The picture remains vague and inconclusive. With such evidence, is American reluctance to jump upon a psychological bandwaggon surprising?

The Hickson example resurrects the problem of what is cause, what is effect in the abduction phenomenon. The possibilities that certain psychological manifestations are consequences of an experience deserves more serious consideration than my critics appear to have given. An individual with the right psychological predispositions might report contact with aliens and later undergo profound life changes akin to religious conversion, all as part of his psychological makeup. Yet it is no less reasonable to believe that an unpredisposed individual might change in drastic ways as a result of a real and deeply disturbing experience. John Rimmer’s editorial mentions Laibaw’s finding that abductees report a high incidence of childhood sexual abuse. Before jumping to any conclusion that abductions serve as screen memories for actual abuse, another clue should be noted: Abduction memories do not relate to abuse memories in the right way for a screen, since the abuse memories screen the abduction. (l8) So which is cause and which is effect? Such evidence by no means proves aliens, but it means that the problem is more convoluted that psychological proponents have acknowledged.

One criticism levelled by Stillings is undeniable: ETH supporters can rationalise anything with their theory. It is flexible enough to accommodate all sorts of phenomena, and difficult to falsify. Anyone who has taken abductions seriously and found psycho-social reductions unsatisfying must trouble over this difficulty in the ETH positign.

At the same time psychosocial advocates set their house in little better order. I agree with Evens that European ufological investigations have been both extensive in effort and excellent in quality. I apologise for giving the inadvertent impression that I considered them anything less. However I still find the present psychosocial theories as much a Procrustean Bed as Stillings regards the efforts as American ufologists.

We can thank the psychosocial school for a surfeit of explanations, few of them developed beyond the stage of vague suggestiveness. I found that reports obtained by hypnosis similar to reports remembered spontaneously and concluded that hypnosis played little part in shaping the abduction story. Stillings questions this conclusion on the grounds that hypnotic and other altered states can occur without formal induction. He is right, but sceptics (and Stiilings himself in the same article) usually advocate a facilitative and not a causal role for hypnosis in abduction making. Hypnosis enhances susceptibility to influence so a subject readily follows the lead of the hypnotist. When a hypnotist is a believer he may confabulate and abduction with the subject. Consistencies in the reports then trace to hypnotists who want to hear the same abduction story and pass their expectations along to a receptive subject. This argument suffers if people tell a similar story without benefit of leadership, which happens in the case of spontaneous recall.

If Stillings wishes highway hypnosis or some other altered-consciousness condition to account far abductions, he has an established natural phenomenon on his side, but he must still explain how natural hypnosis produces a story like other abduction stories. If a hypnotist who leads a witness is all important in one explanation, where is the leader in the other? Though one solution goes down in flames, plenty more wait in the wings. Perhaps the witness is a fantasy-prone or boundary-deficit type? If I point out that these people should tell the most varied stories instead of the most stable my opponents have fresh arguments: perhaps an over-zealous, Svengali-like investigator or a well-intentioned but fatal bias in establishing the sample of cases. Perhaps the answer lies not with research errors but with life conditions or mental states that predispose the witnesses, or the blame may lie with TV, movies, SF images; when hard pressed electro-magnetic fields from seismic events may come to the rescue.

This leaves an impression of ad hoc arguments addressed to one or another aspect of the phenomenom rather than to the whole problem. Each explanation may succeed in one area but fail in another. Too many explanations undercut the credibility of any one, and only Kottmeyer states his case in depth. Psychosocial proponents seem to take their answers too much for granted and with few exceptions fail to nurture an embryonic case to full term.

In the end abductions present a sort of orthoteny in reverse. This time we have the straight-line of consistent story given to us, and seek the points on which it rests. The field is crowded with possible alternatives; explanations pile layers deep. Somehow the line stays true. What makes the situation so striking is itself a psychosocial argument. The knowledge that comes from folklore research and demonstrates the likelihood of variation. Whether folklore sprouts from the deep psyche or takes root in cultural influences, the resulting narratives blossom with creativity and individuality within traditional frames. Personal experience accounts bear a richness of personal idiosyncrasies. Abduction reports simply mismatch other folklore in these significant respects.

I sympathise with Evens when he says that an ETH explanation for abductions is riddled with contradictions and simply does not work. Michael Swords makes a thoroughly compelling case against hybridisation, and no-one has yet solved the problem of how aliens in vast numbers can cross light years of space to reach earth then find nothing better to do than repeat the same old lab exercises. (19) If I truly believed that aliens could seize me I would spend my life in the company of a hundred other people, all armed to the teeth and ready to demonstrate to any short grey house-guests that happiness is a warm AK-47. I do not, therefore deep down I do not believe. A literal reading of abductions clashes with commonsense and learned good sense alike, but that reason in itself gives me licence to question but not to close my eyes. The evidence as I see it shows me a puzzle that I cannot solve with reference to conventional phenomena known to me, nor have the alternatives offered by psychosocial advocates proved adequate to the task. On the other hand a literal reading best fits the story line. I may not believe that abductions are real experiences, but we have no better answer for now.

After all, I was under the impression that proper young Victorians discovered ladies’ legs by experience, perhaps for a monetary consideration or otherwise, but without the need for an intermediary. In Europe as in America, experience is the best teacher.



  • 1. Bullard, Thomas E. UFO Abductions: the measure of a mystery. Fund for UFO Research, 1987.
  • 2. Thompson, Sith. Tales of the North American Indians, University Press, 1968: pp.225-231.
  • 3. Dundes, Alan. ‘The hero pattern in the life of Jesus’ in Dundes, Interpreting Folklore. Indiana University Press, 1980; Rosenberg, Bruce A. Custer and the Epic of Defeat, Penna. State Univ. Press, 1974.
  • 4. Dorson, Richard M. ‘Folklore in the Modern World’ in Dorson, ed, Folklore in the Modern World, Mouton, 1978; Hufford, David J. ‘Traditions of Disbelief’, New York Folklore 8 (1982) 47-55.
  • 5. Degh, Linda. Folklore and Society. Indiana University Press, 1969.
  • 6. Degh, Linda. Processes of LegendFormation’, Laographia 22 (1965): 8.
  • 7. Thompson, Stith. The Folktale. Univ. of California Press, 1977.
  • 8. Degh, Linda, and Andrew Vazonyl ‘The Crack on the Red Goblet or Truth and the Modern Legend’, in Dorson, Richard M. (ed.) Folklore in the Modern World.
  • 9. Degh, Linda, and Andrew Yazonyl ‘The Memorate and the proto-Memorate’, Journal of American Folklore (1974) 225-239.
  • 10. For example: Mullen, Patrick B. ‘Modern Legend and Rumor Theory’, Journal of the Folklore lnstitute 9 (1972) pp.95-109  Klintberg, Bengt, ‘Modern Migratory Legends in Oral Tradition and Daily Papers’ Arv, 37 (1981): 153-160; Grider, Sylvia, ‘The Razor Blades in the Apple Syndrome’, in Smith, Paul (ed.) Perspectives on Contemporary Legend, Univ. of Sheffield, 1984.
  • 11. Brunvand, Jan Harold. The Vanishing Hitchhiker, Norton, 1981.
  • 12. Bennett, Gillian, Traditions of Belief, Penguin (NY), 1987.
  • 13. BARNS, Daniel R. ‘Interpreting Urban Legends’, Arv 40 (1984):67-78; Nicolaisen, W F H, ‘The Linguistic Structure of Legends, in Bennett, Gillian, Perspectives on Contemporary Legend, v.2. Sheffield Academic Press, 1987.
  • 14. Honko, Lauri, Mernorates and the Study of Folk Beliefs’, Journal of the Folklore Institute I (1965) pp.5-19.
  • 15. Hufford, David J. The Terror that Comes in the Night, Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1982.
  • 16. Bullard, Thomas E ‘Hypnosis and UFO Abductions: a Troubled Relationship’, Journal of UFO Studies n.s. 1 (1989}.pp.3-40
  • 17. Keul, A. and Ken Philips. ‘Assessing the Witness’ in UFOs 1947-1987, Fortean Tomes, 1987; Final Report of the Psychological Testing of UFO Abductees, Fund for UFO Research, 1984; Parnell, June O. ‘Personality Characteristics on the MMPI, IGPF and ACL of Persons who Claim UFO Experiences’, Laramie, University of Wyoming dissertation, 1986.
  • 18. Laibow, Rima E.’Dual Victims; The Abused and the Abducted’, International UFO Reporter, 14/3 May-June 1989) 4-9.
  • 19. Swords, Michael. ‘Extraterrestrial Hybridization Unlikely’, MUFON UFO Journal, 247, No, 1988, pp6-10.




The Stranger in the City. Nigel Watson

Originally published in MUFOB New Series 14, Spring 1979

Messages from Beyond

“THIS EARTH is now under close surveillance and profound scrutiny by alien intelligences from distant star systems. I am not being silly, I know what I am saying and doing as well as you.”

So wrote Norman Harrison (1) when he first wrote to John Rimmer, editor of MUFOB In a letter dated 6th January 1978.

Norman – at present living in Sheffield and in his early thirties – then went on to outline the different races of beings which inhabit this galaxy. The first race populate the fourth and fifth planets of Epsilon Eridani, and are “4ft. tall on average, spindly and yellowish skinned and totally devoid of any hair. Their heads are disproportionately large due to further evolved brain capacity.”

A second race inhabits three planets orbiting Canopus; a third race derive from Proxima Centauri III and IV. A fourth in-habits the two planets of Capella. Describing these latter races, Norman wrote that they are quite similar to each other and that they are “over 7ft tall on average, powerfully built and extremely agile, [have] fine blonde hair and [are] musically and artistically gifted. These three are of one Root Race type, corresponding to Earth Nordic.”

The stars of Betelguese IV, V and VI in Orion are the location of the fifth race of aliens, and a sixth populates the constellations of Ursa Major and Casseiopeia. In particular this race occupies the solar systems of Merak, Alcor, and Dubhe in Ursa Major. The whole race is linked in a confederation and their colonies are densely populated. Other than being humanoid, Norman does not describe the appearance of these two races.

“All these aliens have spacecraft capable of exceeding light velocity several times over and have the facility to set up impenetrable force fields as well as invisibility shields. They make use of unimaginably advanced energy propulsion technology and have extremely powerful electromagnetic- gravitic devices at their disposal, all capable of effecting vital changes in this world. Force fields and rays are extensivlely utilised at enormous distances: in spite of the long distance these are resolved to fine focus and can be intensified as required to influence the course of events on Earth.

“Many of their Earth contingents are military task-force or scientific field operatives. The remainder engaged in collating or compiling vital information, making regular operational shuttle trips and submitting dataa reports to their base planets.”

Norman received this information about our galactic neighbours by way of telepathic communication from aliens. These communications began in 1975 and occurred with increasing frequency over the next three years. In a letter to me dated 17th March 1978 he wrote that: “these ‘contacts’ can occur virtually at any time… I still hardly know what to think about the whole business – if these are hallucinations, I don’t see how they could contain information about the Universe which I never had before.”

One communication which he received was a kind of poem as follows:

are Keys of Communication
Controllers of forces
Gravitic waves Impulses
Used in Invocation by Initiates
Who desired wisdom
One such Master was Qebsneuf” (2)

Apparently he does not hear or see things when having a “telepathic” communication, “The information comes through direct without any sensory impressions, vision or delusions Whatever.”

With regards to the above poem, he was rather tired and hungry when he wrote it down, “my mind wasn’t preoccupied with anything, I just felt more or less ‘neutral’ or indifferent. The words just flowed without any conscious direction on my part. This is always the case with either writings or drawings set straight down ‘automatically’. Very often the physically weaker or hungrier I feel, the more clearly the contacts are received.”

In fact, this poem appears to be the only example he has shown me of a literal form of ‘automatic’ writing. The majority of his ‘communications’ are nothing more than impressions which he translates into drawings.

In order that we can get a full perspective of Norman’s experiences, I intend quoting extensively from his letter of the 6th January 1978, sent to John Rimmer, as this describes in some detail the fate of humanity, as he interprets it.

He begins by writing about the ‘Observers’, who on the whole think that

“Human Western society is rapidly falling into catastrophic decline and Mankind is now falling into chaos and absolute folly. They believe there is virtually zero survival probability as a result of mental degeneration and moral decay combined with political corruption, greed and militarism. These and other factors, they feel sure now will destroy all human civilization within anothe half-century.”

This isn’t just pessimism or gloom-and-doom alarmism – these people are infinitely more intelligent, more truly civilized and more mature than any race on Forth, and have reached their conclusions via strict mathematical extrapolative calculus based in historical, social, psychological and economic FACTS. Most of these races have had an intimate exhaustive knowledge of Man for tens of thousands of years and the wisdom of their logic is undeniable.

“I have little to add, except that I am notified that a final terrible war will definitely take place (whether atomic or not) between East and West within three decades, and pollution poisoning will soon endanger all vegetation and animal species of the globe. All the most recent incidents positively indicate to me personally that the aliens are correct. We ignore and gloss over such dire warnings at our peril, and we have no-one but ourselves to blame for the destruction of our own world-home by our madness, ignorance and blind folly.” (3)

These ‘communications’, ‘transmissions’ ‘impressions’, whatever we might label them, were preceded by a UFO sighting, some time in 1974. (4)
Norman was then staying with a friend of his in the Beeston area of Leeds for a few days, when he saw his first and only UFO. His friend had just gone outside for a few minutes, the time was between 8 – 9 pm when Norman had a “distinct urge to get up and look out of the door.”


Opening the door, he saw between the doorframe and the rooftops of the houses across the road, a box-like shape silhouetted against the night sky. Upon it were banks of multi-coloured lights. The object was slanted at an angle towards the ground, and was moving from right to left in the direction of its central axis at slow speed. He heard no sound from this phenomenon, which he estimated to be gliding at a height of 1,000 feet. After twenty seconds it drifted out of view, although: “Why I did not step out into the street for a better look I don’t know.”

Norman’s reaction to the sighting was interesting, as he wrote that: “I wasn’t in the least bit frightened of it, but it did disturb me in an eerie way, as if hypnotic”

He went on to speculate as to what it might have been.

“It must have been a huge carrier vessel of tremendous motive power, capable of containing a number of smaller saucer type craft or several hundred passengers. By proportion and distance, I feel sure it was anything up to 300 feet long. A massive vessel like that must be able to traverse the whole galactic radius at speeds far in excess of light velocity who would logically build that big for merely planet to planet journeys. Who would employ that much propulsion and that scale of motive energy?

“My belief is that this ‘ship’ was from a giant planet in the hub of the Milky Way (Bigger than Texas!!!).”

Early Psi Experiences

Having read Norman’s correspondence with John Rimmer and having arranged to meet him, what could I expect on visiting his household? Norman had anticipated this question by explaining his circumstances in one of his letters.

“I must point out that I live in a working-class area and my house is not too beautiful, being a Victorian terrace council house and rather decrepit now. (I was away when my parents died and the old place was left empty for a year and bad weather and neglect have taken their toll. I’d do a lot but I’ve been unemployed for a long time and live only on State benefit)

“So my surroundings are not ideal for social contacts as you can imagine, I’m embarrased about this! I’ll probably sell the house before long and then I’d like to travel around – the Continent perhaps, who knows.”

When I first met Norman on the 26th February 1978, he told me about how he had experienced distinct impressions from 1968 through to 1969. He felt he had been picking up thoughts that were being powerfully projected towards him. However he could not pick up any words or language or such, but it was a “kind of thought expression that doesn’t rely on language. And not a true voice that you could hear… but the sensation of words virtually spontaneously,” he said. Usually he had these experiences when in a state of meditation, when sitting down of before going io sleep. Norman described his condition as in a “diminished state” when he had these experiences, but not a condition like a trance or under the influence of drink or drugs. On most occasions he was on his own when this phenomena happened but once he was walking along a city street when he felt that he could tell what people were thinking.

On another occasion during this period he and a friend visited a Spiritualist Church in Sheffield, when he was “awakened to Christian faith”. The Church was quite full whan they entered and the minister was delivering a sermon. As the minister spoke Norman felt a knot of tension build up in himself. They stood to sing a hymn and half way through it he felt a distinct physical sensation of a twisting knot of tension in the area of the solar plexus.

“I felt this oppressive, almost hostile, precense in the church, I felt a strong hostility, a threat…” he explained. At this juncture, a nearby usher approached Norman and his companion, and said in a quite voice to them: “Would you mind leaving please, I’d like you to go”.

“Just before he approached me this thing was building up to a real climax … as if something was tearing me inside out, literally”, and he added that, “This man sensed that there was something amiss.”

Norman’s friend experienced nothing untoward in the church, and was no doubt puzzled as to why they were asked to leave.

In 1966 Norman knew a girl called Angela who lived in London. He took her out for about four months, and was very serious about her, and “cared an awful lot for her”. However, in due course they went their separate ways. Later in a period when he was feeling emotionally low, very depressed anxious, physically depleted and under-nourished (6) he saw Angela’s face distinctly in front of him, as he was lying down one evening. She seemed to be speaking to him, but he cannot now remember what she was saying, except that the might have been asking him what he was doing, where he was, had he been thinking about her, had he missed her, etc.

Alien Intervention

After relating his experiences of extra-sensory type phenomena he then went on to tell of his UFO sighting of 1973. The details of this are essentially the same as described in his letter of the 4th February 1978. Then he went on to tell me about the extraterrestrial communications he had been receiving.

“I’ve had occasions, not just recently but I should say over the last two or three years, when I’ve been walking outside in the open, in a sort of park or recreation area (8) something like that. The more open air the better. If I was in a large crowd of people… nothing. But on occassion I thought ‘Oh, that’s a daft idea, where did I get it from?’, and then I’d suddenly realise that it’s not an idea, but it’s information. I’d have a sort of powerful influence to get a pen and notepad and jot it down. On some occassions I did this; I didn’t keep the notes, but there have been times… when I’ve drawn pictures, and I’ve had these images which were very clear when I draw them, what I myself perceived was not very clear at all, but in the act of drawing it came through with clarity. And it seemed to me that I’d sort of acted as an unwitting unconscious intermediary and I’ve had this distinct sensation that someone is using me in order to transmit knowledge.”

In particular there are three figures of which he has frequently had recurring impressions.

“None of them sort of stand on the ground, they all seem to be just suspended in space, and there are no buildings or anything recognisable around them at all. As though they were suspended in vacuum. They all have a powerful projection and I’ve not been personally intimidated, it doesn’t seem to me that they are threatening me or in any way warning me, but they have an air of warning or admonition, if you like. Sort of ‘take care’, or ‘watch it’, pay attention.”

The three figures are:


Aroniel. This personage is a “tall figure very straight, dressed in a long yellow robe, a flowing yellow robe with a high collar and he looks oriental. He wears a medallion in the centre of his forehead, and his own colour, his skin colour, is yellowish or shall we say golden and he’s like a sort of gold appearance generally…. He carries a book in one hand and the other is raised as if in greeting. The books looks like some sort of old book”


Mik-Ael. “This is an image of what you might call something like a Crusader or armoured knight figure; chain mail with a tabard or tunic. It’s a white tunic with a broad belt which looks metallic and has buttons on, and the tunic has a … red cross on it. He’s like a crusader, but the helmet is rather strange … it completely conceals the features, you can’t make out the face. It’s not like an ordinary visor but it’s a solid, transparent sort of plate with a division in the middle. At the bottom (of it) there is a little round disc thing with a wire. He has… full sleeves and gauntlets, heavy gauntlets and he’s carrying a sword in one hand.

“He sort of stands very powerfully with his legs apart. He presents either a challenging or shall we say an extremely aggressive, intimidating strength or just an image of strength. Its an intimidating sort of an agressive image. His sword has
 a sort of red radiance… and he himself is surrounded with red, a deep scarlet or crimson. I should say it is crimson actually. It’s like an aura or radiance all around him.”


Uriel. The third figure “has long, flowing robes, blue and green, and has like a blue or greenish-blue sort of radiance around him… this third one has white hair and apparently normal skin colour or slightly blue tinge and a white beard and white hair, and he also looks big, powerful but not in a military or a Crusader knight-in-armour fashion, but he looks as though he’s sort of… tremendously ancient, tremendously, you know, tremendous power at his disposal. He doesn’t seem to carry anything, he’s got like a sash around the waist and he wears something like… one of the old fashioned robes of the middle east.”

Later during the interview he explained that the colours of the figures were directly linked with the type of energy they were emitting. He also claimed that he saw these figures in a kind of sequence, sometimes he would ‘see’ them fleetingly for only two – three seconds, other times they would appear for two or three minutes.

Usually the first figure to appear is the one who has supremacy over the other two. Then maybe a few letters or geometrical symbols will appear.

“They seem to be attempting to express relationships, but as I say, some of it isn’t in any sort of expressed language, but there seems to be a logical sequence or progression. It’s not logical to me, I don’t know it, but it’s logical to them.”

Many of the letters he has seen are from Greek and Hebrew sources: “I’ve seen the trianlge over and over again,” he said about the recurring image he has seen over the past four or five months, and has included in many of his drawings, “I’ve seen a triange with an eye in the centre, and I’ve seen this as a visual image, quite literally as though it was suspended in front of my eyes, in broad daylight when I was fully wide awake and stone cold sober – I hardly ever drink.”

This triangle is seen as red coloured with an eye in the centre, which is not like a real eye, but looks effectively like a bright red line drawing of an eye.

He then went on to describe the population of the galaxy, how at the hub there are regions of incalculable amounts of radiance and electromagnetic energy, where discarnate, disembodied ‘beings’ of ultimate intelligence reside. Radiating outwards from the hub, the state of evolution, culture, civilization and society diminish until we reach the very fringes of the galaxy where Neanderthal type beings populate the planets. These lesser planets, including Earth (as our Solar System is much closer to the fringe than the hub) are watched closely by the more superior races who take a parental interest in their evolution. Apparently at the present time there has been a resurgence of interest in our planet.

This renewed interest might bebecause: “Man is a very disobedient wretch and keeps veering off, and getting side-tracked one way or another. The guiding hand keeps bringing him back to dead centre there’s this guidance all the way. There is one definite path of evolution of the spirit and mind.”

According to him, mankind is being constantly helped by outside, alien forces. It was their influence which partly established some of the most ancient of all the Oriental religions. He claims that many early religious figures such as Buddha and Moses were inspired by the influence of the extraterrestrials. Even today, a small number of adepts, who have a profound understanding of metaphysical philosophy, and live in very remote regions of the world, are in direct telepathic communication with alien people.

Through alien intervention, and there are dozens, hundreds of alien races, some of which are almost immortal, the human mind has been triggered off to experience ESP, telepathy, clairvoyance, prophecy, predictions, etc. However, we have misused the forces and energy sources available, claims Norman, and distort things for our own greedy ends. We have probably, in the past, been punished for it afterwards. He quoted the examples, among others, of Atlantis and Babylon, and stated that global disasters are initiated from the outside and convey the alien moral stand-point. These purges occur because the bahaviour of mankind can become offensive and noisily wrong.

“Man has destroyed himself as a living specimen at least six times in a row, cataclysm after cataclysm. There have been several cycles of biological life, gradually slowly, painstakingly developing, then flourishing, reaching an apex then declining…

“The Golden Age has long passed, none absolutely none of the 20th Century is anything like the Golden Age. It is a period now of the pinnacle of machinery, it’s a pinnacle of mechanical contrivance, ingenuity is totally materialistic, physical things. It’s a period of total stagnation and decadence in what you might call things of the spirit. There is a complete decline in the ability to understand higher matters… in religious doctrine or philosophical things. Where are the people like Plato, Socrates, Aristotle? Where is the architecture, sculpture and art of Leonardo or Michaelangelo?”

He answers himself by explaining that the difference between them and modern contemporaries is “self evident.”


In the February of 1974. Norman had his first premonition. This was of a plane exploding in mid-air with people from the city of Leeds on board – an event which occurred three weeks later over France.

During August 1974 he was living in London when he had a premonition of the Moorgate tube disaster, which happened in April 1975. He also ‘knew’ that the IRA would be posting letter-bombs to people in London in 1975.

“All these premonitions seemed to me personally that they are being transmitted to me from an outside source,” said Norman, who related that he felt no conscious control over these premonitions.

He also felt certain that mankind would have some crucial contact with extraterrestrials in the near future. It will be with somebody like the Archbishop of Canterbury, or other such celebrity, and their reaction to the encounter will have far reaching consequences.
After my visit and Interview with Norman, he wrote to me on the 17th March, and stated: “I feel quite sure now that these telepathic communications are only the beginning – there must be something more to follow in the future; I have a ‘hunch’ about it”.

In the same letter:

“Although there have been no new telepathic transmissions or impressions since you came over, I have received a warning in the form of one pen sketch which showed a big explosion. It involves highly inflammable chemicals and will happen in Britain within another month. I have no more exact location than that, but I do know this much – it will involve loss of life and will be caused by criminal negligence and carelessness. This forboding is very strong and I know it comes from an outside source. The accident must be connected with a big chemical company like ICI or one of the fuel firms like Esso, or North Sea oil.” (9)

“I hope it doesn’t happen because it will be a horrible tragedy – it could be averted if only there were proper preautions taken.”


On the 2nd April 1978, Roger Hebb and myself visited Norman. During this visit he gave me a book of sketches he had drawn and he showed me the book he had been writing. He had started the book several months previously and it was contained in three large exercise books. The contents consist of many different chapters on a wide range of occult, fortean and ufological subjects, all of which have been synthesised from books he has obtained from the public library.

As with the first visit Norman delivered a victual monologue on the glories of past humanity and the doom laden future. In the letter of the 17th March (after my first visit) Norman seemed to be in an optimistic mood; he planned to buy a typewriter in order to type out his book, and wrote: “I’d like to contribute in any way I can towards fresh understanding and knowledge, it’s become very important to me to devote as much of my attention and spare time as possible towards that end.”

After my second visit he went into a more apprehensive frame of mind as can be observed in the following quote (from a letter to me dated 18th April 1978):
“I’m starting to feel a bit scared: Not really frightened but uneasy, apprehensive. I don’t know what’s causing it, but it’s like a premonition or as if I were neurotic or anxious. I’ve felt like this before, years ago, a vague sensation that passed after a week or so: this time it isn’t very strong, but there’s a definite tension in the air.”

Later on in the letter he adds,

“I can’t pinpoint anything, that’s what gets me, but I sense a threat, a menace; it could be directed at so personally or it could be something much more widespread, some terrible trouble brewing somewhere.”

On the 30th April, Shirley McIver and I visited Norman. Hs was in a more pessimistic mood than usual, and besides a reiteration of much he had said before, claimed that he had “become anaesthetised, I mean 30 years of the constant threat of the atomic bomb is enough to anaesthetise anybody against anything.”

In order to reply to that last statement Shirley McIver joined in the interview, and the conversation continued as fo;;ows:

  • SM: I can’t agree with the acceptance of that state of mind, I think that to live on the defensive, to live with a defence
    mechanism, to sit there and…
  • NH: It is only by total acceptance that I find life tolerable at all. If I failed to accept anything of it I would go completely berserk and throw myself in the river.
  • SM: Well at least that would be a positive act?
  • NH: No, no, that’s a gesture of ultimate defeat, that is saying I have given up. Suicide – I would prefer to live rather than commit suicide and say I have failed. That is the ultimate gesture of defeat.

Earlier in the same interview we discussed his views on religion, and that conversation was as follows:

  • NH: If you have imagination you can concoct your own heaven, and if you’re satisfied with tht, well that’s your fantasy world. Everybody needs a little fantasy this sort of thing does go on. Man is a drug addict, he’s addicted to food, and drink, and sex, and everything else.
  • NW: Your views on life in other systems, do you think that perhaps that’s your fantasy?
  • NH: I recognise in myself a desire to believe in such things, because I have a religious personality. I think of my self as a Christian… I’m not much of one at all. In fact I fall very far short of just about everything that Paul and Jesus said in the Gospels.
  • NW: Were your parents religious?
  • NH: Both parents died years ago. Neither of them were Christian believers. No, they didn’t have any… they kept the Bible in the house and never even looked at it. I prefer to believe in a deity and a supreme being rather than not believe. I take the lesser of what I consider two evils… it’s the prong of the fork. Which is better, to believe or not? And I think – I choose to believe I think it’s better than to be atheist for me personally. I think man has some inborn instict to look out and beyond himself and seek some kind of perfection elsewhere, something that’s greater than himself.
  • NW: But you don’t think much of any forms of established religion?
  • NH: How many people do nowadays? There is so much disillusionment, disappointment in the world because people have lost their sense of direction. There doesn’t seem to be much purpose in life any more.


To put this case into any kind of perspective we need to review Norman’s social and psychological background.

At the age of sixteen he had ambitions of becoming an art or English teacher, however his ambitions were thwarted by his father who made him pursue the totally materialist goal of having to earn a living. So he left school and became an apprentice in the printing trade, then followed a succession of dead-end jobs. Currently he is unemployed and has been so for quite some time. Even now he seems to have a resentment for his father who prevented him from gaining any educational qualifications and a satisfying profession. (10)

As recounted in the main text, Normans parents are now dead and he lives in theirold terraced house, which is located in a grim area of Sheffield. Apparently he has no friends whatsoever in the neighbourhood whose he can converse with or relate to, and having been abandoned by Angela in 1966 he has now become emotionally ‘anaesthetised’. So in effect he is now a virtual recluse (11).

With this state of affairs it is not surprising to learn that he has suffered four nervous breakdowns and is obsessed by the fate of humanity. Having met him on three occasions I can vouch for the fact that he is very verbose, and passionately intense about what he believes to be the gloomy and cataclysmic future of mankind. This fear is not generated by any love he might have for mankind; on the contrary, his fear is for himself.

We might with some justification speculate that his forbodings of some apocalyptic disaster are warnings from his own psyche; the cataclysm being his own mental degeneration and breakdown.

When we consider that he hates what modern science has created – a world of atomic bombs and pollution – yet venerates the very Classical and Renaissance scholars who helped create the foundations of modern science, we can only explain this paradox by quoting Clark and Coleman who wrote that our age “has destroyed the mystical, nonrational elements (of mankind) which (has) traditionally tied him to nature and his fellows. It has emphasised rationality to the exclusion of dreams, male to the exclusion of female, machines to the exclusion of mysteries” (12).

Living as someone who regards himself as being isolated and different from the rest of humanity, it is not surprising that he has transposed his ideas and imagination into an “‘extraterrestrial’ framework.

His concept of the galaxy – pure energy and ultimate intelligence at the hub, Neanderthal beings on the edge – corresponds to concepts of heaven and hell, Jekyll and Hyde or unconscious and conscious, with the mortal Human pivoted between the two.

Even worse, we do not have full control over our destiny: the aliens have intervened throughout human history in order that we follow the “one definite path of evolution of the spirit and mind”. Yet mankind cannot come up to this ‘parental’ expectation (13) so we are punishedd for our morally offensive behaviour.

To conclude, we might surmise that the messages of the aliens to Norman are metaphorical and symbolic expressions of Norman’s own feelings of guilt, isolation, alienation and emotional stagnation, which have emanated from his own psyche. It is no wonder that he fears the impending cataclysm.



  1. Real name and address on file.
  2. Norman concluded that this poem might be connected with some form of black magic ritual, and that the three words are analogous to Classical Greek. “Qebsfeuf” he claims must have been an Egyptian high priest or prince.
  3. This theme is repeated in a letter dated 4th February 1978, when he relates that: “I feel that we of the struggling Western world are now approaching the brink of the most crucial and perhaps decisive period in the last ten centuries of human history. It could turn out to be the brink of a terrifying chasm: I fear so, but I hope not. Much will be learned soon that  has previously only been guessed. Some will understand, but many will be blind and foolish and destructive.”
  4. It is interesting to note that people who have had unusual UFO contacts, appear to have had a UFO sighting preceding their later, more bizarre experiences by several years. In the case of Paul Bennett (see MUFON NS 11 & 12) he saw a UFO three years before he had more frequent and stranger sightings. Another case in my files concerns a Mrs Josephine Elissah who observed a UFO in 1964, and then ten years later began to write down ‘messages’ from the space people. Similar time lags can be seen in the UFO literature. Perhaps after the initial observation the witness needs to assimilate the implications of their sighting and put it in some form of context.
  5. This comment in brackets is a rather curious statement.
  6. In a later interview it seems that he was at this time in Pentonville Prison for not paying a fine he incurred when found guilty of being in possession of cannabis. He was given a three-month sentence, which was reduced to eight weeks with remission.
  7. This experience took place when he was confined to a solitary detention cell. Norman had hoped to marry Angela, but because her parents disapproved of him their relationship collapsed. However this telepathic communication did make him feel a lot better and he was able to cope with his imprisonment afterwards.
  8. On one occasion he was walking through a park in Sheffield when he heard a kind of telepathic communication between a mother and son. They seemed to be separated over a long distance and Norman described this experience as akin to tapping in on a telephone conversation.
  9. This tragedy never came about.
  10. When asked why he didn’t do anything constructive in the field of art, he listed all the obstacles and problems involved. The fact that he doesn’t own a typewriter seems to be a major stumbling block for any progress with his book.
  11. The fact that he has spent considerable amount of time writing his book and communicated with John Rimmer and myself were signs that he was attempting to emerge from his seclusion. But after my third visit to him, he felt that any further visits by myself would in effect be a waste of tine. Since then I have not heard anything more from him.
  12. Clark, Jerome and Coleman, Loren. The Unidentified, Warner, 1975. p.240.
  13. Just as Norman was unable to fulfil the expectations of his own father or the expectations of Angela’s parents.

UFOs… By Appointment. Dirk van der Werff

From MUFOB New Series 15, Summer 1979

This report was submitted to MUFOB via the UFO Investigators’ Network. It continues our series of case studies of so-called ‘psychic-contactees’. Although many cases of this kind are ignored as ‘subjective’ by physical-sciences oriented ufologists, it is increasingly being felt that the study of the background and beliefs of the percipients are of greater importance than many of the reported details of the ‘UFO’. The following case indicates clearly how an individual’s belief-systems structure, and indeed provoke, their perception of the UFO phenomena. Mr Van Der Werff is a newspaper reporter working in the north-east of England.


The case of Rodney Stewart is the kind where you find yourself able to testify to the sincerity of the man and his experiences, but his firm beliefs of the subject of UFOs and his seeming contact with them are open to interesting discussion.

Rodney is a young man in his early twenties living with his mother in a terraced house in South Shields, Tyne & Wear, Like many young people, since he was 15 or 16, has sought out different religions, cults and beliefs in a personal search for faith. He is currently involved with those he found most satisfactory: Eastern ethics and philosophies, and the thought that UFOs are ‘nuts and bolts’ craft piloted by benevolent beings. Rodney believes he is totally responsible for the appearance of a craft which he viewed from the bedroom window of his previous house in the summer of 1976. He has been toldd by members of a spiritualist group (which he visited in his quest for belief) that he has the power of healing and strong psychic abilities. He feels he may have inherited this from his mother, who has had precognitive and other psychic experiences.

During the summer of 1976 Rodney was surprised by his success with meditation and the way he could totally relax and direct his thoughts to anything in particular. He decided it would be interesting to try and chanel specific thoughts to any ‘alien craft’ circling the Earth in our atmosphere. He lay out the symbols of the Space Committee as printed in George Hunt Williamson’s Other Tongues Other Flesh, and began to meditate on it. During his fifteen-minute period of intense meditation he felt strangely confident of success.

“I asked if I might be privileged enough to see their sign in the sky some day”. It must be added that dnring the time these meditations took place Rodney was undergoing a very unhappy and emotional period owing to family upheaval, and it has often been noticed that psychic activity sometimes takes place when a person is emotionally upset. He actually found solace in his belief that somewhere out there the Space People were constantly patrolling they sky, watching over us and the Earth.

After his meditation session ended, between twelve and one o’clock Rodney retired to his bed, which at the time was a matress and blankets on the floor of his bedroom facing the south, looking out through a large bay-window. He meditated the same message the following night. On the third night, after repeating the one-way ‘communication’, he stood at the window gazing at the night sky. A small star-like object caught his attention. It moved from left to right in an irregular pattern.

“Hello, I wonder if this is it”. Rodney remembers thinking at the time, as it slowly ambled into the distance after a period of about forty seconds in view. He thought about possible explanations, but ruled out a satellite or a plane from near-by Newcastle airport, with which he was familiar. He commented: “I was sceptical to the last, but I suppose I was quite willing to believe this was a UFO, and that it was in connection with my mental efforts to communicate with them”.

During his meditation over the next two nights, he thanked the Space People for their sign in the sky, but had to admit that “perhaps I have been priveleged, but I’m not quite sure that it was you”, adding “If you don’t mind, how about just a little bit more”. He remembers thinking at the time “The cheek of it”. The third night after his initial experience Rodney went through the same fifteen minute routine, and settled down to bed, facing the bay window.

“I suppose I began to moan to myself, thinking that I had been a witness to something very privileged, and that now I was asking too much. Who do I think I am?”

Just then, high in the sky through the bay window he could clearly see a bright explosion, like a flare. He rushed to the window, standing on a table with his face pressed to the glass.

“I had absolutely no doubt that I was witnessing a display of a craft piloted by intelligent beings. This was it – I must have been near to tears as it put on an amazing display, moving in an exaggerated wave motion, often stopping momentarily, and then continuing its course until it disappeared from sight. It was a roundish, very bright golden orb with a halo around it. It stayed still for a few seconds, then began to move from right to left, straight along then down to start the wave-like motion. I really don’t know how long it was in view, probably thirty or forty seconds”.

The object was very high in the sky and did not light up any of the buildings around, and made no noise that could be heard behind the pane of glass. Rodney went back to bed and meditated, thanking the space people for their display.

“I’ve never asked again, or for that matter sent any further thoughts out into space for evidence in the sky. The two incidents have been totally amazing, and I consider myself very lucky to have had the honour to have witnessed them. What
more can I say? I am by no means a sensationalist or a liar… the account is the truth”.

Rodney’s only other sighting of a UFO since these events was in January 1978 when he spotted a small silver disc trailing behind a jetliner from Newcastle airport as it passed over the house he is presently living in. It followed the aircraft for a distance, then broke away and silently moved off into the distance.

Rodney also has had two interesting paranormal experiences to relate. One, when he was five years old he was just about to throw a dart at a board, when in front of both his mother and his father the dart just disappeared from his hand. Even after several thorough searches of the room, no trace of the dart was ever found.

Whilst in his proper bed at the end of 1975 he found himself unable to sleep. At around twelve thirty he sat up and was very disturbed about a feeling he could sense around him, and he became aware of a buzzing noise all around him in the bedroom, becoming louder, but from no specific point. At this time he was extremely frightened as his body had become torpid, and he found himself unable to move. He now had a feeling something very unpleasant was about to happen. He shouted loudly, but no sound came from his mouth, and he felt his head moving involuntarily to the left, towards a window which he knew could not be opened. But now the curtains started to move as if by the wind. “It must have been like a scene from a Friday night scare film”, he comments. Suddenly there appeared a Victorian looking table with spindly legs. On it was a vase with dead flowers wilting over the side.

“Slowly I saw the flowers come back to life – they changed from a withered bunch to being in full bloom. It disappeared, the sound stopped, and I ran from that room as fast as I could.”

Rodney also mentioned to me that when he was a young boy he remembers having a particular dream more often than any other. He saw himself looking at the sky watching classic ‘flying saucer’ shapes flying around. This was many years before he had heard about UFOs. Rodney believes that we are all capable of such things as astral travel, and has had some interesting OOB experiences. Mostly these have been spontaneous, although he has had some experience of controlled projection. He feels himself being dragged at tremendous speed down a tunnel, more often than not when on the verge of sleep. In these experiences he has touched solid objects and tasted food.

“When I have met people in this state they have just laughed at me when I asked where I was”. In one experience he walked out of a window, down to a churchyard where people were walking and talking, but were apparently oblivious to his presence. He was concious that he was in the middle of a projection at the time. He got on a bus, where the first person to see him was a young boy who claimed that Rodney was a ghost.

Rodney’s feelings are that UFOs are actual craft piloted by benevolent beings. This comes after his many years of reading and study of UFOs. There is evidence, he says, towards there being hostile UFOs, but sees them as part of opposing good and bad forces in rather worlds.

What Rodney Stewart experienced was real enough, but what it was or where it originated is personal opinion, and will, like many other cases of the kind, be open to many hours of discussion.


Fear and Loathing in the Fifties.
Martin Kottmeyer

From Magonia 44, October 1992. Originally published as ’What’s Up, Doc?’ 

General John A. Samford, director of Air Force intelligence, put the official position in crystal clear terms in this tement to the press after the Washington D.C. flap of 1952: 

‘Air Force interest in this problem has been due to our feeling of an obligation to identify and analyse to the best of our abilities anything in the air that may have the possibility of threat or menace to the United States. In pursuit of this obligation, since 1947, we have received and analysed between one and two thousand reports that have come to us from all kinds of sources. Of this great mass of reports we have been able adequately to explain the great bulk of them, explain them to our own satisfaction. We’ve been able to explain them as hoaxes, as erroneously identified friendly aircraft, as meteorological or electronic phenomena, or as light aberration. However, there has been a certain percentage of this volume of reports that have been made by credible observers of relatively incredible things. It is this group of observations that we are now attempting to resolve. We have as of this date come to only one firm conclusion with respect to this remaining percentage and that is that it does not contain any pattern of purpose or of consistency that we can relate to any conceivable threat to the United States.’ (1)

To UFO buffs the important part of Samford’s statement is the concession that credible observers report UFOs. It is important to emphasise that Samford regards that concession as irrelevant to the main point that UFOs pose no threat. Ufologists were fond of poking holes in Air Force explanations of UFO reports and always tried to make something of the fact they had failed to even propose answers to a certain residuum. But it wasn’t really their job to solve the UFO mystery. Their job was to determine whether it posed a menace to the security of our nation. The Constitution demands the government provide protection of the life and liberty of its citizens against the threat of foreign enemies. One doesn’t have to solve all UFO reports to satisfy oneself they do not represent a threat.

Nobody was reporting bomb attacks, gunfire, chemical clouds, or any other type of deadly intrusion. Nobody indicated there were parachute drops of personnel or supplies in preparation of battle. If any compromising information was ever gathered by reconnaissance saucers, it apparently never was used. Given that few reports were at strategically important locations it was hard to read any kind of danger or even annoyance into saucer behaviour. The D.C. flap was an exception to the general innocuousness involving as it did apparent entry into restricted air space near the Capitol and the White House. But in retrospect, it wasn’t proof of overt hostility from any recognisable quarter. The radar blips behaved mindlessly and to no evident goal. UFO buffs may still defend the case as unexplained but, if accepted at face value, what does it say about alien motivation? Not much, from what we can tell.

It is a cliché of ufological rhetoric that if even one UFO report can be substantiated, the implications are staggering. Unless one regards the idea of extraterrestrial life as innately intoxicating, this ain’t necessarily so. What if the one case involves a pair of Ganymedean tourists taking a scenic route to a resort spa on Mercury? The practical consequences to humanity would be virtually nil. The philosophical implications that life exists elsewhere and likes to vacation are total yawns next to the average television soap opera. It would also hardly be in the same league as typical ufological concerns that aliens are casing out the planet for war and colonisation. That would be truly important and worthy of attention and immediate concern, but frankly most UFO data is more consistent with the Ganymedean tourists than War of the Worlds. If we threw aside all critical judgement and accepted as fact every claim ufologists have made for UFOs killing people over the years, the death toll would likely be less than that caused by pig attacks. There are lots more important things to worry about in life than the purported UFO menace.

Ufologists have worried about the dangers of UFOs and have asked both the public and government to share their concern. As we will see, they were particularly intense in the sixties and formed a distinct era in the developing history of ufology. It is axiomatic here that these concerns were fundamentally irrational and are identical in form to fantasies found in a certain phase of paranoid psychosis. Though this phase has been termed the pursuit stage by some recent workers, I prefer to follow Frosch’s lead and use the word hypochondriacal to describe it; this being more widely evocative of the range of symptoms encountered.To fully appreciate the phase nature of these concerns it will be necessary to contrast it against earlier and later periods of UFO history. This history of the idea of the UFO menace will thus be divided into three sections. The points of division are arbitrary to some degree and are chosen to set off the general bunching of themes.

Friend or Foe? The Fifties 

News articles from the first weeks of the UFO mystery do not paint the picture of a nation gripped by panic. Arnold’s saucers were a mystery and a fascination, not a source of imminent danger. The Air Force said it wasn’t anything of ours. The Russians said it wasn’t anything of theirs. So what were they? Take your pick: transmutations of atomic energy, beer bottle caps shot out of a blast furnace, secret experiments, tricks of the eye, mirages of planes, a State Dept. propaganda ploy to lure us into war, helium-filled rings to publicise a ring toss game, electrical flying fish from Venus. One reporter, apparently on a lark, contacted authorities to get a statement about the invasion. The official hadn’t heard of one and directed him to contact Orson Welles. Witnesses who came forward to corroborate the existence of the saucers expressed no fear. One lady spoke of having a creepy feeling at seeing a disc, but even that mild effect is exceptional.

In intelligence circles, rumours surfaced in July that saucers spewed out radioactive clouds that killed animal life and one scientist wrote to the FBI claiming the saucers might be radio-controlled germ bombs or A-bombs, but these apparently never became part of the public discourse. Some intelligence folks recommended in 1948 that the military be put on alert status, but cooler heads prevailed. In 1949, a researcher for Project Sign observed that no damage had yet been attributed to UFOs. One doctor proposed there might have been a link between a polio epidemic he was treating and the saucer problem, but authorities quietly discarded the idea. In 1950 a group of scientists calling themselves the Los Alamos Bird Watchers Association looked into the possibility there was a correlation between radiation and UFO overflights, but nothing conclusive came of it. (2)

The Mantell tragedy was a pivotal event in early UFO history in that it began to press the point that something serious was going on. Some rumours appeared in the papers that radioactivity was found at the crash site. They were denied, but the absence of a clear answer to the mysterious circumstances surrounding Mantell’s UFO sighting and subsequent plane crash was not so easy to dismiss. Interestingly, however, the concern among UF0 buffs was over the governments handling of the case and not about trigger-happy aliens. Keyhoe felt no belligerence was involved. They had merely acted in self defence. ‘Even the stoutest believers in the disks do not think any mass invasion from space is possible at this time.’(3) Gerald Heard noted that, until Mantell, saucers always succeeded in getting out of the way. ‘They have behaved with a deportment that shows not merely savoir-faire but real considerateness.’ He felt it was puzzling that they threw away the advantage of surprise if they truly posed a future threat. (4)

Frank Scully echoed the sentiment that there was no belligerence evident in alien observer actions. His fear was that Earth pilots might attack the saucers and prompt retaliation against not only the aggressors, but our whole planet. (5) Contactees offered contradictory confessions. Orfeo Angelucci’s aliens said Mantell’s death was unavoidable because he tried to overtake and capture a ‘remotely controlled’ disc. (6) George Adamski’s aliens regretted the ‘accident’ was caused by the power field effects of a large manned vessel. (7)

A Dr Anthony Mirarchi, in 1951, was widely quoted as suggesting saucers came from a potential enemy of the United States. ‘If they were launched by a foreign power then they could lead to a worse Pearl Harbor than we have ever experienced.’ He recommended considerable appropriations be allocated to conduct a complete investigation. The historic significance of this plea is open to argument. It may be the first expression of the hypochondriacal theme to be generally known, but Mirarchi is not heard from again in UFO circles and the call to action was likely ignored. The reference to Pearl Harbor, however, will recur a decade later in the writings of the Lorenzens. (8)

Sometime in early 1952 the subject of flying saucers was taken up by a lecturer at a Rotary Club meeting. He expressed the belief they heralded a better life. They represented a non-hostile invasion from which we might acquire an advanced science. (9) An informal survey of the opinions of saucer buffs uniformly got responses that saucers were not a menace. They: ‘come here in peace’, ‘don’t wish to destroy us’, had ‘outgrown war’, had ‘curiosity’, were afraid to contact us, or would eventually contact us and give us secrets. (10) The most telling fact that this was in fact the general attitude occurred in the wake of the Washington D.C. incidents. Al Chop, working at the Pentagon press desk, said people were writing letters and wiring the President urging the military not to shoot at the saucers. He asked newswriters to please emphasise to people that pilots in fact weren’t shooting at the saucers. (11)

Kenneth Arnold resurfaced around this time with his opinions that UFOs were harmless and probably a living, thinking animal of the stratosphere. (12) The Coming of the Saucers, the book he co-authored with Ray Palmer, avoided any final conclusions about flying saucers. They weren’t American or Russian or Spanish or Argentine and they saw no substance to claims of crashed saucers bearing little men from other planets. They presently hoped that the truth could in time be sifted from the fanciful. All they knew was that flying saucers may be the ‘most vitally important fact of our time!’ (13)

In 1953 Desmond Leslie and George Adamski played ventriloquist to the stars with their contact tale Flying Saucers Have Landed. Their message included the sentiment that these people from other planets are our friends and wish to ensure the safety and balance of the other planets in our system. They could take powerful action against us, not with weapons, but by manipulating ‘the natural forces of the universe’. As they are here among us, let’s be wise enough to learn from them. (14) 


Repeated surveillance of certain strategic sites led Keyhoe to believe “it looks as if they are getting ready for an attack … measuring us for a knockout”

Keyhoe’s book Flying Saucers from Outer Space (1953) is a first major step into the hypochondriacal mindset. In it, Keyhoe argues with some friends about the implications of various saucer reports. One of them is a jet pilot named Jim Riordan who presents a very spirited defence of his belief the aliens are hostile. Repeated surveillance of certain strategic sites leads him to believe ‘It looks as if they are getting ready for an attack … measuring us for a knockout.’ He points to an odd case of a red spray bomb which exploded at Albuquerque which he suggests had to be a ranging test for a future attack. Keyhoe offers the self-admittedly thin suggestion it is only a back-up plan in case we don’t listen to reason. Keyhoe, himself, insisted there was no proof of hostility – ‘at least an even chance they mean us no harm’. The long reconnaissance of earth was ‘possibly nearing its climax’ – ‘the final act of the saucer drama’. Instead of an all-out attack, he preferred to believe ‘the final operation may be entirely peaceful; if so it could be of benefit to everyone on earth’. (15)

Herrmann Oberth, the father of the V-2 rocket, offered his opinions about the saucers in a frequently quoted 1954 article. “They obviously have not come as invaders, but I believe their present mission may be one of scientific investigation.’ He optimistically suggested the ‘ultimate result might be the disclosure of secrets otherwise we might not lay bare for a hundred thousand years’. (16)

Harold Wilkins, of Britain, was notably ambivalent about the hazards of saucers in Flying Saucers on the Attack. On one page he deduces they are ‘unmistakably hostile’ because of evidence of ‘arson on quite a large and dangerous scale’. Later he backpedals and thinks it may just be a warning. He speaks of death rays wielded by the aeroforms, but allows it could have been prompted by earth fliers menacing them. He quotes contactees to the effect that the aliens are not hostile, but notes they do not desire close contact. They perhaps see in us, Wilkins suggests, ‘hooligan children’ deserving to be ‘whipped with a rod of scorpions’. Elsewhere he wonders if they are drawn here to profit from mineral deposits on our planet. (17)

His sequel Flying Saucers Uncensored is less ambivalent and solidly in the category of hypochondria. He warns it is folly for any sane man to do more than quietly investigate given that their ethics are unlikely to be ours. Even so, he speculates on the aggressive tactics a hostile cosmic power might employ and he asserts seeing ‘a most disturbing pattern has been slowly built up’. The issue of death rays reasserts itself and he speaks of a ‘death ceiling’, in essence a blockade, having been instituted to prevent us from future flights to the moon and beyond. Mysterious experiments are performed which cause tears in everybody in an area in Singapore. Horses are sterilised by atomic radiation. Humans are abducted for unknown ends, but in pursuing their overlordship of the earth, Wilkins suggests they would not need our bodies. It is probably annihilation of our souls they seek. They might create mutations of humans that are devoid of divine creativity and dissatisfaction. ‘Creative art and pure science, the godlike in man, would die out.’ They might be throwing ‘a cosmic monkey wrench into our terrestrial wheels’ to derail our use of atomic weaponry and supersonic aircraft. Activity along the Martian canals, he worries, might indicate they are contemplating an invasion of earth. Dangerous or not, Wilkins is certain they have conducted a pole-to-pole survey of our world. We can only ‘watch, wait, collate, and synthesise’. (18)


The concern that flying saucers were hostile started to take hold of Keyhoe in his 1955 work The Flying Saucer Conspiracy. He began to collect phenomena that could be interpreted as alien attacks. A Walesville plane crash indicates the use of heat beams. Skyquakes indicate the use of focused sound waves. A hole in a billboard is evidence of a missile from outer space. The Seattle windshield pitting epidemic is regarded as a retaliation for Earth space activities. The disappearance of Flight 19 becomes evidence that aliens are abducting humans. Keyhoe admits the absence of an all-out takeover is a problem he doesn’t have an answer for. His friend Redell gets the last word and proposes the disappearances are to acquire people who can teach them our language before they make contact. (19)

Morris Jessup is equally ambivalent. He sees in them exploratory missions which sometimes engage in experiment and the capture of specimens. Though they catch planes and cause occasional storms and deluges, he still thinks we shouldn’t be astonished if it turns out that space dwellers are preparing to prevent fear-stricken human beings from blowing up another planet. (20)


Waveney Girvan felt more evidence would exist if saucers truly represented hostile invasion. People were fearing the saucers because they forced a new dimension in our thinking. They offend the climate of our age, but he felt they brightened it up a bit as well. The large proportion of reports proved the visitors were peaceful and friendly and far from hostile. (21)

One ufologist around this time offered the revelation that the craft were not only friendly, they were helping clear our environment of radiation released in atomic bomb blasts. (22) It turns out this had been advanced in contactee circles, specifically Mark Probert’s Inner Circle, for some time. (23) There is even a news article dating back to the Flying Saucer Flap of 1947 in which a San Francisco zany claimed astral contact with the Dhyanis, rulers of creation, who were dropping ‘Metaboblons’ into our atmosphere to counteract atomic radiation. (24)

Aimé Michel in The Truth About Flying Saucers advanced contradictory opinions about the nature of the flying saucer problem. In one place he says it is essential we find out if they are real or an illusion. If real, a sword of Damocles hangs over our head – “

the destiny of our planet is assuredly at stake’. Later, he proclaims ‘their inoffensive nature is a certainty. If we are being visited, it is by beings whose courtesy and tact need no further demonstration. We could learn from them, in addition to their knowledge, a lesson in respect for others. With all the power at their disposal, they have never once attempted to interfere in our affairs.” He goes on to suggest that they are fearful of the murderous tendencies evident in all our great enterprises. Michel felt the American investigations had failed and proved nothing. Further investigation, a little more human effort, would make the difference. ‘The mystery tried.’ (25)

His sequel, Flying Saucers and the Straight-Line Mystery, advanced orthoteny as a mortal blow to the idea that saucers were a collective psychopathology. The threads provided by orthoteny now meant there was no question a sword of Damocles had been hanging over our heads. Why it had not fallen yet was unexplained. Their landing would lead to the extinction of mankind because of our inferior ethics. (26)

How very different this is from the conclusion of Bryant and Helen Reeve’s contactee study Flying Saucer Pilgrimage. The aliens are regarded as Guardians who will never offer coercion or assistance, but are servants of the Light, masters of energy, and are ‘balanced’ beings. While ill-intentioned beings exist, the Guardians prevent their passage here. The overall picture is deemed ‘very progressive and inspiring’. (27)

Leonard Stringfield’s Saucer Post 3-0 Blue (1957) is a portrait of uncertainty. In a November 1955 article, he had offered the case for interplanetary war. UFOs seem to behave menacingly in certain cases, yet a superior culture could clearly be capable of planeticide and mass harm. Acts of UFO violence exist, but hostility seems highly debatable. Stringfield’s original title for the book was to be From Saucers to Ulcers. It captures the sense of the book beautifully. (28)

Gray Barker’s They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers added to the growing sense that malevolence is associated with UFO phenomena. These things may mean to do us harm and may or may not be shooting at us with rays from underground. This doesn’t alarm him too greatly since he feels we are bound to find some defence against it. What disturbs him is that some agency is trying to prevent us from learning about their existence and might come knocking at his door. (29) An acquaintance with the name T. James was suggesting to him aliens might be ‘downright evil’. (30)

Two hold-outs against the trend to see aliens as troublesome were Max B. Miller and Gavin Gibbons. Miller was still in the sway of the contactee faction and felt they conveyed ‘fraternal friendship and understanding’. Their effects were ‘positive and constructive’. (31) Gibbons was more influenced by early Keyhoe. ‘They are not hostile’, he affirms. He fully expected them to land en masse in the near future based on patterns of activity he had chronicled. ‘They will certainly bring benefits’, he predicts. ‘We must, all of us, welcome these beings who are taking so much trouble to bring the news of a good life to this planet: (32)

Reviewing the UFO myth in 1958, Jung noted the contradictory strands developing in it. Some held superior wisdom would save humanity, but aliens were carrying people off, such as Flight 19, according to others. Some affirm their inoffensiveness, but that harmlessness was ‘recently doubted’. To Jung, the flights didn’t appear to be based on any recognisable system. If anything, they were like tourists unsystematically viewing the landscape. (33)

I wonder what Jung would have made of Robert Dickhoff’s Homecoming of the Martians. The book is obscure and perhaps deservedly so from the standpoint of serious, so-called, ufology. Its newsclipping file is an interesting cross-section of what people in the fifties would have been exposed to. The commentary, though, makes it a treasure. According to Dickhoff’s conscious mythology, ‘Germ-invaders’ swept down from space in the past and ‘begot life or a parody thereof in a variety of forms that included the Ape-Men mentalities. Aghartan teachers have through the centuries been rendering them a harmless and controlled reality. In the present, a super-brain a.k.a God-Brain-Head, produced by manipulated biological engineering, exists for which robot-crews and scientists with gangster throwback mentalities travel through space. They spacenap earthlings and gather blood for the Brain’s nourishment. It captures almost nakedly the unconscious dynamics of the emerging hypochondriacal strain of UFO paranoia. (34)

By the end of the decade, Keyhoe is operating operating fully in the hypochondriacal mode. The creation of NICAP was directed to the end of proving wrong the Air Force’s diagnosis of UFOs being no threat. Delmar Fahrney, at NICAP’s creation, stated there was ‘an urgent need to know the facts’. (35) To that end they would pester the Air Force for release of all their files and call for Congressional hearings that would acknowledge the reality of the flying saucer problem. Keyhoe wanted an all-out drive to communicate with the aliens to convince them we wouldn’t try to invade other worlds. The Congress would be obliged to force a crash programme for our defence against aliens. (36)

That the Air Force refused to release their files is a fact. Ruppelt said they planned to ignore NICAP because they knew their independent review would nitpick every case. If the bird, balloon or plane hadn’t been caught and a signed confession wrung out, they would call it a spaceship. (37) They knew from earlier experiences what to expect:

“…many of the inquiries came from saucer screw-balls and these people are like a hypochondriac at the doctor’s; nothing will make them believe the diagnosis unless it is what they came to hear. And there are plenty of saucer screwballs. One officer summed it up neatly when he told me, “It isn’t the UFOs; that give us the trouble, it’s the people”‘



  1. From the film ‘Unidentified Flying Objects: The True Story of Flying Saucers’, United Artists, 1956.
  2. GROSS, Loren E., UFOs: A History, Arcturus Book Service, 1982, etc.
  3. KEYHOE, Donald E., ‘Flying Saucers are Real’, True, January 1950. Reprinted in GIRARD, Robert, An Early UFO Scrapbook, Arcturus Book Service, 1989, 4-9.
  4. HEARD, Gerald, The Riddle of the Flying Saucers, Harper, 1951.
  5. SCULLY, Frank, Behind the Flying Saucers, Henry Holt, 1950,149-50.
  6. ANGELUCCI, Orfeo M., The Secret of the Saucers, Amherst, 1955,12.
  7. ADAMSKI, G., Inside the Space Ships, Abelard-Schuman,1955, 176-7.
  8. GROSS, History, 1951,18.
  9. GROSS, History, 1952, Jan-May, 72.
  10. BENDER, Albert K., Space Review – A Complete File, Saucerian Books, 1962, 1, #1, 6; 2, #1, 6; 2, #2, 10.
  11. GROSS, History, 1952, August, 56.
  12. Ibid., 31.
  13. ARNOLD, Kenneth and PALMER, Raymond, The Coming of the Saucers, Amherst, 1952.
  14. LESLIE, Desmond andADAMSKI, George, Flying Saucers Have Landed, British Book Centre, 1953, 221-2.
  15. KEYHOE, Donald, Flying Saucers From Outer Space, Henry Holt, 1953, Chapter XII, ‘Friends or Foes’, 230-1, 250-1.
  16. FLAMMONDE, Paris, The Age of Flying Saucers, Hawthorne, 1971, 73.
  17. WILKINS, Harold T., Flying Saucers on the Attack, Ace, 1967 (1954), 64-5, 70, 83, 45, 38, 107.
  18. WILKINS, Harold T., Flying Saucers Un-censored, Pyramid, 1967 (1955), 169, 140-3, 61, 82, 19, 185, 109, 170.
  19. KEYHOE, Donald, Flying Saucer Conspiracy, Fieldcrest, 1955.
  20. JESSUP, Morris K., The Case for the UFO, Varo Edition Facsimile, Saucerian, 1973, 33-4, 55, 91, 172.
  21. GIRVAN, Waveney, Flying Saucers and Common Sense, Citadel, 1955, 24, 74.
  22. MOSELEY, James W., ‘The Solution to the Flying Saucer Mystery’, Saucer News, 3, 39 4 (18), June-July 1956, 3-7.
  23. STRINGFlEID, Leonard, Inside Saucer Post 3-0 Blue, Moeller, 1957, 57.
  24. BLOECHER, Ted. Report on the UFO Wave of 1947, author, 1967, 1-12.
  25. MICHEL, Aimé. The Truth About Flying Saucers, Pyramid, 1967 (1956), 10, 240-1, 228.
  26. MICHEL, Aimé. Flying Saucers and the Straight-Line Mystery, Criterion, 224-8.
  27. REEVE, Bryant and Helen, Flying Saucer Pilgrimage, Amherst, 1957.
  28. STRINGFlELD, op. cit., 27, 90, 5.
  29. BARKER, Gray, They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers, University, 1956, 246.
  30. BARKER, Gray, Gray Barker at Giant Rock, Saucerian, 1976, 9.
  31. MILLER, Max B. Flying Saucers: Fact or Fiction, Trend,1958.
  32. GIBBONS, Gavin. The Coming of the Space Ships, Citadel, 1958, 93-5.
  33. JUNG, C. G. Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Sky, Princeton, 1978, 15-6.
  34. DICKHOFF, Robert E., The Homecoming of the Martians, Health Research, 1964 (1958), 8, 11, 13.
  35. RUPPELT, Edward J. The Report on UFOs, Doubleday, 1956, 251.
  36. KEYHOE, Donald. Flying Saucers: Top Secret, Putnam, 1960, 281-3. 937.
  37. RUPPELT, op. cit., 252.

On to Part Two, “Swinging Through the Sixties” >>>


Off Limits; Ufology and the Deconstruction of Reality. Peter Rogerson

From Magonia 30, August 1988

When I wrote my column ‘Northern Echoes’ to mark the 20th anniversary of MUFORG two years ago l practically wrote the obituary for ufology. Recent developments show that this, like so many such laments, was premature.

There is, I think, a growing separation between the revived ‘folklore’ of ufology, and the views of ‘serious ufologists’. The folklore is one of secrecy, hidden things and duplicity.

Two recent books, [1,2] have brought home to British ufologists one of the major themes of American saucer ufolklore – the Great Conspiracy/Crashed Saucer Saga. Pages of print are devoted to the minute discussion of governmental ephemera and pseudo-ephemera. Clearly the mental climate of Irangate and Spycatcher holds sway here.

The message is ultimately reassuring – Big Daddy in the White House (or Mummy at No. 10) do know what is going on, even if they do not tell us children – after all, we might panic or loose our innocence. The Freudian symbolism is too obvious to count on: parental figures are not letting us in on the truth about alien intruders like foetuses hidden in secret places.

The tellers of the crashed saucer tales clearly gain kudos: they are an elite, They know where Mummy and Daddy have hidden the Christmas presents, and where babies come from. They are children who have gained a toe-hold in the world of grownups. This is maturity of protected innocence, where the grownups may take over again. Like the children in Lord of the Flies, they still believe grownups to be wise, calm, a all-knowing and protective. There is a fall from innocence still to come.

This fall is perhaps best expressed in the folklore of the abductee, which is just part of the folklore of the secret victim. Budd Hopkins’ book [3] deals with ultimate fears. Children taken from their homes, experimented on, tagged like animals; women made pregnant by aliens; changeling children taken away but returning in dreams. These are the themes of fairylore, before fairylore was domesticated and made safe for the nursery. [4,5]

The Terror comes into a child’s bedroom – visitors from that first Wilderness, the dark place under a child’s bed, or the closet in the corner [6]. Kathie Davis’s son Robbie has a night-terror: “Mummy, a man with a big head came in my wall and went into my closet and kept going back and forth and wouldn’t let me move. And he had lights around his head. The man wanted Tommy, Mummy, he wouldn’t let me move”. [3, p.75]

This for Hopkins is good evidence, the best spectral evidence we can have for alien abductions. Other adults would use the same narrative as good evidence for rings of satanic child abusers:

“He was afraid to go to bed and I asked him why. He said ‘Because of the spiders’. I said ‘C’mon, there are no spiders under there’ and he said ‘Oh yes there are, the man down the street told me there are’. I said ‘What man?’ and he said ‘The man who ties me up and puts me in the closet’” [7]

Similarly we may recall the accounts of those who have had childhood fears of haunted houses and ‘not-quite-right’ rooms, told to Andrew MacKenzie. [8]

For just how easily the categories of abduction and child abuse can run together, take this story from a recent issue of the Observer [9]. A fifteen year old black girl disappears for a few days, and reappears in a small town in New York. She is covered in dog faeces and racist graffiti, and tells a tale of abduction and rape by white men in a black car, like the ones MIB use. But there is no physical evidence, her schoolbooks mysteriously reappear at school; perhaps she has just been hiding in a former flat. And yet… all the old Travis Walton questions come back again. She now refuses to speak, and the case has become a racial and political cause célebre.

Here we have echoes of children taken by the fairies or the gypsies or the spirits of the far forest. In Japan this was known as a kamiga-kushi, or abduction by a kami. A boy or young man would disappear from his home, and was believed carried off by a supernatural being to its own realm. Upon the recital of appropriate spells the abductee would reappear days later in some inaccessible place, such as the eves of a temple or the cramped space between the ceiling and roof of his own home. He would lie for days in a stupor, and afterwards may always remain a halfwit. But he may recover to tell of a tall stranger or strangers with gleaming eyes in the form of a mountain sage, or of a flight in the sky, of visions of the Great Wall of China or visits to the sun, moon, or underground passages and caves. At first he may have enjoyed the flight, but later would ask to go home, whereupon he was deposited where he was found. [10]

The myth of the secret victim then has its premise that the most vulnerable are never safe. That we or our children can be taken from the security of the home: that all the while their parents are watching TV in the lounge, Jimmy and Susan upstairs are victims of nameless outrage, that mummy and daddy, secure in the safety of their electric light complacency, know nothing of. Only the specialist, a Budd Hopkins or a Marietta Higgs, by discerning secret stigmata, can uncover the horror.

The folklore tells us that no-one and nowhere is safe from the exotica, not even our own bodies. Hopkins tells us that aliens can take liberties with us, rape us, make us pregnant, steal our babies, implant strange devices in us, like some animals in a zoo. All in secret. The reduction to ‘thing’ status, the humiliation, even such details as Whitley Strieber’s anal rape, can be paralleled in tribal initiation rituals – note also the recent controversy over initiation rituals in the army.
This is the liminal realm, the place of reversals – the wild woman who rides the captive male [see also 11], or the pattern of opposites encountered by Strieber (individual/collective, human/insect, male/female, etc.)

This is what an Amerindian shaman called ‘the space of death’ – the underworld, the zone of visions and communications between natural and supernatural beings: putrefaction, rebirth, death, genesis. This space of death Michael Taussig [12] compares with the concentration camps of Chile and Argentina: the places where the ‘disappeared’ are, as true abductees, taken at night by overwhelming force, reduced to a ‘thing’ status, subjected to inhuman ordeal, and pounded down to abject helplessness.

What horrifies about Hopkins’ aliens is not that they are alien (interbreeding with a true alien is, of course, a total biological absurdity) but that they are us. They are neither benevolent or malevolent, they are ‘just doing their job’, doing ‘what is best in the long run’. Their alienness lies in their denial of humanity, to themselves, and to, the patients/victims as they reduce them to client/experiment status.

The ‘glacial indifference’ of the alien who takes Kathie’s baby and her screams of rage remind me of nothing so much as the final scene of the famous 1960′s TV drama Cathy Come Home (nice coincidence of names there!), where the social workers, with icy indifference, remove Cathy’s children through her screams, because it is ‘for the best’.

However, there are situations where a howl of pain and rage is the only appropriate and healthy response. Kathie’s howl of rage when the aliens came for her child: “I screamed (don’t take my baby] at them… and the fucker looked surprised”, does not disturb in the same way as the following account from Kenneth Ring:

‘A woman had a NDE during childbirth and encountered a being of light who said he had come for her child. She felt joy that her child had been selected and grief stricken that she had no child to give. She had a vision of doctors weighing the life span of the baby on a machine which read 80 years. But the being said the machine was faulty and the baby would only live for a few days. She forgot this until the baby did die, when she felt no grief, only joy.’ [My synopsis, PR]

The beings from Magonia, the exotics, the forces of wild nature, must be offered something of ourselves, our own future, our own vulnerability, in the hope that they will be a little less wild, a little less indifferent.

Like Lady Gregory’s Visions and Beliefs, reading the works of Budd Hopkins is a searing experience, like standing before a furnace of pain. This is the folklore of humanity in extremis, messages from the spaces of death, the landscape of fear, the realm of total impossibility.

Yet an escape route is offered from this realm; one can see it in these narratives. At the very least they hint at a new race – ‘dark they are and golden eyed’ – waiting in some Magonia offstage. There is more than a hint of the Christ Child in the manger in some of these ‘wise baby’ narratives. Are the abductee women to be the parents of some messiah growing under alien skies; their suffering a mark of supernatural grace? The abductees may be given supernatural powers and gifts which catapult them from the realm of absolute impossibility to that of absolute possibility.

This is the realm of the charismatic urban shaman; the contactee. The image of the contactee has begun to make a comeback. Billy Meier is a typical example [14], on fire with the energy of creation and destruction. Like H P Blavatsky [15], L Ron Hubbard [16] or Tony Wedd [17], he creates not only for self expression, but for power.

The manipulation of fictional characters can never satisfy, only the deconstruction and reconstruction of reality as a gigantic novel, with themselves as grand hero and all the rest as cardboard sidekicks. Meier uses his modelling abilities as Hubbard did his writings, to impose power over others – the more ridiculous the charade and the more self-important the victim the better. The parallel with the ‘Psychic Questing’ episodes are clear. The urban shaman can escape from powerlessness by the radically dissocialising identification with the limitless power and total freedom of wild nature. The shaman seeks to ride this power, to harness it. If he fails the grim fate of Louis Riel beckons. [18]

The abductees may rarely reach such heights, but most have experimented spontaneously, with what many societies seek to recapture by ritual and pharmacology – at least enough to know that fairyland was never a place where ‘gentle folks and graceful fairies dance` [19], but rather a place of dead babies and lost women.

When ‘Valerie of Peckham’ sees a star and reports it as a UFO, it is a kind of revelation, a seeing for the very first time

The average run-of-the-mill UFO experience of course, does not have this power. But when ‘Valerie of Peckham’ sees a star and reports it as a UFO, it is a kind of revelation, a seeing for the very first time. She is seeing the world without our usual mental maps. A logical chain of thought is set up which runs

“I would not feel like this is I were looking at a star, but I might feel like this if I were looking at a spaceship, therefore probably I am looking at a spaceship”

These logical chains are in psychological terms ‘secondary delusions’, attempts to rationalise the primary sense of ‘otherness’ and uncanniness. There is a stripping away or shift of meaning of perception. The percipient is momentarily lost in a wilderness of raw perception, bereft of the normal psycho-social maps. [20]

It is not surprising that percipients resist ‘rational explanations’, for such explanations do not correspond with the percipient’s own experience. Valerie knows that it was not a star she saw. Any map, however defective, is better than no map at all.

The dominant folklore in British ufology at the moment appears to be Earthlights or Spook lights. The powerful appeal of this concept lies in its romantic roots. It is a folklore of open spaces, where tales still survive of the eerie secrets of wild nature, before TV and streetlights robbed them of their wonder. It remains a useful antidote to the rather theory-bound nature of much ufology, which carefully screens itself from raw narrative behind masses of computerese and pseudoscience.

On the other hand the Earth Lights hypothesis seems to combine reductionism and romanticism in equal amounts. There is implicit in some of the arguments of Persinger et al, a view of social phenomena which seeks to explain them in terms of physical, environmental factors. One writer – I forget who – tried to ‘explain’ the 1906 Liberal landslide in terms of sunspot activity. This can lead to arguments of the type ‘If it wasn’t for the lead in petrol our children would be nice and docile’, which can easily develop into more sinister lines.

And is not the Romantic view of the past expressed in this lore, close to the ‘preserve the dark satanic mills’ type of heritageism which blocks out the reality of past pain and suffering? I note particularly how in his treatment of the Pendle witches, David Clark subsumes the reality of social strife and persecution into a landscape romanticism, by projecting terror from the human community onto the wild landscape.

There is within Devereux’s presentation a hidden agenda. Many people have criticised his ideas about mental manipulation of subtle energies as seriously detracting from an otherwise ‘reasonable’ theory. But is not the manipulative claim close to the heart of this ideology? This is what transforms the percipient from being a helpless victim of environmental or social forces, into a manipulator, an artist on a grand scale, sculpting the landscape, exercising his will over wild nature. One up on Billy Meier indeed!

Is there not in psychosocial ufology, too, something of this? A determination to assert the autonomy, self-reliance and creativity of human beings against the bleak, impersonal forces of the cosmos, and much of our society. Does not the idea of the alien encroaching on human affairs imply a gigantic ‘no say’, an arbitrary veto on human possibilities.

We can thus see that ufological folklore oscillates between visions of human helplessness before a limitlessly powerful ‘other’, and visions of limitless power and individual creativity.

Ufologists will have to be very careful how they handle this folklore. Perhaps accepting that they are folklorists, recorders of stories – and not freelance geophysicists, intelligence agents or psychiatric social workers – will be the first step on the road to wisdom.



  1.  GOOD, Timothy, Above Top Secret; the world-wide UFO cover-up. Sidgewick and Jackson, 1987.
  2.  RANDLES, Jenny. The UFO Conspiracy; the first 40 years, Blandford, 1987,
  3.  HOPKINS, Bud. Intruders. Random House, 1987.
  4.  BIGGS, Katherine. The Vanishing People, Batsford 1978.
  5.  GREGORY, Lady. Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland, Colin Smyth, 1976.
  6.  ’Wilderness Under Daddy’s Bed’, quoted in NASH, Roderick, Wilderness and the American Mind, Yale, 1982.
  7.  RAPPLEYE, Charles, ‘Satanism and Child Abuse’, in Fate, April 1987.
  8.  MacKENZIE, Andrew, The Seen and the Unseen, Weidenfeld, 1981.
  9.  PYE, Michael, ‘When the Victim Refuses to Speak’, The Observer, 1 May 1988, p.35.
  10.  BLAKE, Carmen, ‘Other World Journeys in Japan’, in DAVIDSON, Hilda R G, The Journey to the Other World, D S Brewer for the Folklore Society, 1975.
  11.  DAVIS, Natalie Zemon, ‘Women on Top; symbolic sexual inversion and political disorder in early modern Europe’, in BABCOCK Barbara, A Reversible World; symbolic inversion in art and society, Cornell U. P., 1978.
  12.  TAUSSIG, Michael, Shamanism, Colonialism and the Wild Man, University of Chicago Press, 1981.
  13.  RING, Kenneth, Heading Towards Omega; in search of the meaning of the near-death experience, William Morrow, 1984,
  14.  KINDER, Gary, Light Years, Atlantic Monthly Press, 1987.
  15.  MEADE, Martin. Madame Blavatsky, the woman behind the myth. Putnams, 1980.
  16.  MILLER, Russell, Bare-faced Messiah; the true story of L Ron Hubbard. Michael Joseph, 1981,
  17.  HESLETON, Philip, Tony Wedd, New Age Pioneer, Northern Earth Mysteries, 1987.
  18.  FLANAGAN, Thomas. Louis ‘David’ Riel; prophet of the New World, Goodread Biographies, 1983.
  19.  VALLEE, Jacques, Passport to Magonia, Regnery, 1969.
  20.  REED, Graham, The Psychology of Anomalous Experience, Houghton Mifflin, 1974.
  21.  ‘Illusion des soises’, in which friends and relations, though perceived as being physically identical, are not perceived as being ‘really’ that person, but viewed as though they were a double or changeling.