Transvection and Ufology. Manfred Cassirer

From Magonia 28, January 1988

The archetypal midnight hag on her broomstick has a comic Disney touch about her, a fact which did not always escape earlier students who were not above lampooning it. But at one time she was a grim reality, even if there was the occasional judge who ruled that nocturnal flights were not illegal.

We are talking about the supposed phenomenon of ‘transvection’, which is closely related, if at all distinguishable, to a whole variety of other subjects (no less controversial) for which there is yet reasonably good evidence. They include: traction, levitation, teleportation, bilocation, out-of-the-body experiences, and UFO abductions.


At an early date (10th century) the enlightened Canon Episcopi denied the existence of transvection, as a heretical throwback to heathenism. It explicitly denounced “wicked women … who profess that in the dead of night they ride upon certain beasts with the pagan goddess Diana, and fly over vast tracts of country”.

Such things, to be sure, are “only done in the spirit”, and foolish indeed is he who believes that such fond dreams involve actual bodily activity. However, it was taken quite literally by post-mediaeval demonologists. Guazzo in 1626 voiced the opinion that “Sometimes witches are really conveyed from one place to another by the Devil, in the bodily likeness of a goat or some other fantastic animal, and are indeed physically present at their nefarious Sabbaths”. It was, he added, a view “commonly held by theologians and lawyer among Catholics of Italy, Spain and Germany. It should however be noted that none of these ideas are indigenous to this country”. (Mexican magicians, according to the 16th century write Acosta, were also credited with aerial flights, metamorphosis at will into any shape, and ESP (Lawrence, p.67).

These ideas did not however meet with general acceptance even in the European countries of their origin, but it was argued in some quarters that even if only a illusion or dream, transvection was still to be construed as a crime of intent, deserving of summary punishment – in spite of St Augustine’s expresses relief at not being responsible for his dreams!

Tartoretti in 1749 objected that participants in the sabbath, “if they feasted at their meetings … ought to come back surfeited and happy, instead of hungry and tired” and again, that they should be “able to escape from prison” with the same ease as they apparently left their bedrooms at night (Gurney, p.175, n.6). Tartoretti evidently failed to take into account the well-known fact that the Devil’s food is worse than useless; in the words of one of the Pendle witches “… although they did eat, they were never the fuller nor better for the same.” (Anglo, p.237)

Late mediaeval writers like Ulrich Molitor enforced the idea that the Adversary could, even in one’s waking state, induce vivid hallucinations like nocturnal flights. As in saintly bilocation “at the precise moment that at man is in one place, nevertheless he is able to appear in spirit in another”.It mattered little to this argument, if such it can be called, whether the prospective travellers made their way on the traditional broomstick or some equally improbable implement (cleft stick, distaff or shovel) or even on an animal’s back.

Meanwhile the application of an ointment is frequently mentioned. A fifteenth century prince, as ‘illustrious’ as anonymous, persuaded at witch to apply it experimentally. Predictably “nothing unusual happened (Kitteridge, p.166) in spite of liberal helpings of the supposedly magical substance, although the woman professed great faith in its efficacy. In the case of Elizabeth Style, on the other hand, the flying ointment was said to have been effective in 1665.

Had not Jesus been carried to the top of a high mountain by the tempter, and was not Ezekiel taken up by his hair to be conveyed a long distance, to say nothing of Habbakkuk? Many divines – Luther, Bodin, Melanchton – though that this should not be taken too literally, and that one’s spirit only went to the sabbatha.

In 1560 Giambattista Porta once more demonstrated that the customary preparations for a trance-like state failed to dislodge the resting subject, while Dr Gassendi at least produced the illusion of transvection by administering drugs to a control-group. Among those with first-hand experience was Paulus Grillandus, the author of the influential Tractatus de Hereticis et Sortilegiis (1536), who had actually handled the ointment (Hoyt, p.61).

With regard to the subject of this study, one has to agree with Owen that there is no logical objection to the possibility of traction of the human body granted there is a force capable of moving inanimate static bodies. At its most effective level it may amount to actual levitation. In an extreme case Christina of Stommeln was with difficulty rescued from suffocation when a cloud suddenly descended on her while at prayer indoors and she found herself taken to a disused and muddy reservoir. The cover story was to put the blame on the Devil (who else?) trying to kill her by drowning (Thurston, p.13). Twice she is said to have been dragged from her bed, conveyed out of doors and tied to a tree.In the Bromley Poltergeist Case a certain Mr Elms was twice involuntary propelled forward in this writer’s direction by an intangible force (Cassirer).

In 1647 the Devil in the shape of a Master of Arts carried away a scholar of St John’s Cambridge; his gown was recovered from the river and he was never heard of again (Notestein, p.362).

When a man named Harrison mysteriously vanished in 1664, no one had yet heard of UFO abductions. Three people were hanged for his murder – rather prematurely as it turned out, since two years later the ‘dead’ man returned from Turkey, whence he had been spirited away by witchcraft. About the same time James Barrow of Southwark could not be apprehended by any means as he used to fade from the midst of his would-be captors like some latter day Elijah.

Towards the beginning of the twentieth century a mediumistically gifted boy in Iceland, Indri Indriasson, was thrown from his bed after first being lifted up and pulled down to the floor. In the next stage he was forced “head foremost through the door and along the floor in the outer room”; this in spite of clutching at everything in site and being firmly secured by his legs by two men. This form of violent traction was exceptional, but of short duration. The data are regarded as satisfactory by Owen (Owen, p.207).

The dividing line between traction and levitation is a thin one, and in the Icelandic case actual levitation is indicated when it is stated that the boy was “balancing” in the air with his feet towards the window”.

A mistaken belief in levitation can sometimes be induced by an illusion shared by saints, witches and mediums among others. Still, one feels that Cotton Mather’s subject, Margaret Rule, is too hastily dismissed by Owen on account of alleged ‘vagueness’ in detail of the data. Apparently she was afflicted with veritable bouts of levitation: “One of her tormentors pulled her up to the ceiling of the chamber and held her there before a very numerous company of spectators, who found it as much as they could all do to pull her down again.” (Hansen, p.217)

This seems therefore to have been a bona fide instance of the phenomenon for which Mather had gone to the trouble of collecting signed statements. Since none of her bodily parts were in contact with the bedstead, the raising of her body extending “a great way towards the top of the room”, is precluded from being diagnosed as an arc de cercle in a hysterical fit.

Levitation is also associated with physical mediumship, and one need only mention the names of Stainton Moses, D. D. Home, Mirabelli, and the Schneiders. The evidence in connection with Home is virtually unassailable and testified to by Crookes.Among Catholic saints, St Joseph of Copertino is outstanding, and the data relating to his levitating feats are convincing, and were a source of embarrassment to the Church in his lifetime.
“Alleged flights through the air to and from the witches convention may be set on one side as fictive”, warns Owen in his discussion of teleportation.
His point is well taken. Bozzano, however, quotes an apparently trustworthy report by a missionary about a witchdoctor whose “spirit traversed a very considerable distance at night. While his body remained in a cataleptic state, a mysterious ‘something’ impinged realistically on the consciousness of a far-away native, and a pertinent message was conveyed.Transvection was sometimes dismissed on the grounds that the experient’s physical body was observed to be asleep or entranced concomitant with the reported adventure in time and space.

Once more on the borderline of the various themes, the alleged suspension in space must perhaps be sometimes ascribed to skillful gymnastics. In certain cases of ‘hystero-demonopathic’ epidemics young girls emulated the agility of squirrels.Mary Longdon was hexed in 1661 according to Glanville’s Modern Relations. She was sometimes “removed out of her bed into another room”, apparently paranormally, or even carried to the top of the house”. Typical associated poltergeist phenomena suggest that this may have been a genuine case, though Owen has reservations.

With regard to the subject of this study, one has to agree with Owen that there is no logical objection to the possibility of traction of the human body granted there is a force capable of moving inanimate static bodies. At its most effective level it may amount to actual levitation. In an extreme case Christina of Stommeln was with difficulty rescued from suffocation when a cloud suddenly descended on her while at prayer indoors and she found herself taken to a disused and muddy reservoir. The cover story was to put the blame on the Devil (who else?) trying to kill her by drowning (Thurston, p.13). Twice she is said to have been dragged from her bed, conveyed out of doors and tied to a tree.In the Bromley Poltergeist Case a certain Mr Elms was twice involuntary propelled forward in this writer’s direction by an intangible force (Cassirer).

In 1647 the Devil in the shape of a Master of Arts carried away a scholar of St John’s Cambridge; his gown was recovered from the river and he was never heard of again (Notestein, p.362).

When a man named Harrison mysteriously vanished in 1664, no one had yet heard of UFO abductions. Three people were hanged for his murder – rather prematurely as it turned out, since two years later the ‘dead’ man returned from Turkey, whence he had been spirited away by witchcraft. About the same time James Barrow of Southwark could not be apprehended by any means as he used to fade from the midst of his would-be captors like some latter day Elijah.

Towards the beginning of the twentieth century a mediumistically gifted boy in Iceland, Indri Indriasson, was thrown from his bed after first being lifted up and pulled down to the floor. In the next stage he was forced “head foremost through the door and along the floor in the outer room”; this in spite of clutching at everything in site and being firmly secured by his legs by two men. This form of violent traction was exceptional, but of short duration. The data are regarded as satisfactory by Owen (Owen, p.207).

The dividing line between traction and levitation is a thin one, and in the Icelandic case actual levitation is indicated when it is stated that the boy was “balancing” in the air with his feet towards the window”.

A mistaken belief in levitation
can sometimes be induced by an illusion shared by saints, witches and mediums among others. Still, one feels that Cotton Mather’s subject, Margaret Rule, is too hastily dismissed by Owen on account of alleged ‘vagueness’ in detail of the data. Apparently she was afflicted with veritable bouts of levitation: “One of her tormentors pulled her up to the ceiling of the chamber and held her there before a very numerous company of spectators, who found it as much as they could all do to pull her down again.” (Hansen, p.217)

This seems therefore to have been a bona fide instance of the phenomenon for which Mather had gone to the trouble of collecting signed statements. Since none of her bodily parts were in contact with the bedstead, the raising of her body extending “a great way towards the top of the room”, is precluded from being diagnosed as an arc de cercle in a hysterical fit.

Levitation is also associated with physical mediumship, and one need only mention the names of Stainton Moses, D. D. Home, Mirabelli, and the Schneiders. The evidence in connection with Home is virtually unassailable and testified to by Crookes. Among Catholic saints, St Joseph of Copertino is outstanding, and the data relating to his levitating feats are convincing, and were a source of embarrassment to the Church in his lifetime.

“Alleged flights through the air to and from the witches convention may be set on one side as fictive”, warns Owen in his discussion of teleportation.

His point is well taken. Bozzano, however, quotes an apparently trustworthy report by a missionary about a witchdoctor whose “spirit traversed a very considerable distance at night. While his body remained in a cataleptic state, a mysterious ‘something’ impinged realistically on the consciousness of a far-away native, and a pertinent message was conveyed. Transvection was sometimes dismissed on the grounds that the experient’s physical body was observed to be asleep or entranced concomitant with the reported adventure in time and space.

Once more on the borderline of the various themes, the alleged suspension in space must perhaps be sometimes ascribed to skilful gymnastics. In certain cases of ‘hystero-demonopathic’ epidemics young girls emulated the agility of squirrels. Mary Longdon was hexed in 1661 according to Glanville’s Modern Relations. She was sometimes “removed out of her bed into another room”, apparently paranormally, or even carried to the top of the house”. Typical associated poltergeist phenomena suggest that this may have been a genuine case, though Owen has reservations.

An official report about a hexed girl, Francoise Fontain, asserts that she indulged in repeated flights of up to four feet, and

that it required the joint efforts of several men to bring her down. The circumstantial nature of the account makes a good impression. Summing up the evidence. Fodor says. “Transportation of human bodies through closed doors and over a distance is a comparatively rare but fairly well authenticated occurrence.”

Though most parapsychologists would stop short of wholehearted agreement with Fodor’s confident assessment, he is pointing the right way in describing it as “a composite phenomenon between levitation and apport”, for both of which there is valid evidence.

Modern sceptics may doubt that the Revd. Robert Kirke of Aberfoyle was truly carried off by fairies in revenge for revealing their secrets. It was believed that those abducted sometimes returned as ghosts. Witches, of course, had no difficulty in overcoming the physical barriers of their homes, and Vallée, referring to “the archives of the Roman Catholic Church”, surmises that “many accusations of witchcraft stemmed from the belief in strange beings who could fly through the air and approach humans at dusk or at night.” (Vallee, p.62) Collective sightings even in daylight of weird configurations are neither rare nor necessarily extorted by torture-chamber confessions, nor confined to any one age.

Did not the Prince of Apostles (very much unlike the witches) thwart every effort to keep him in prison? In more modern times miracles of this kind are still alleged in some numbers. The Davenport brothers, for example, were “transported a distance of miles”, while other mediums such as Mrs, Guppy, Williams Hearne, Lottie Fowler and ‘Dr.’ Monk did at least as well several times.Anthropological data lend credence to the seemingly incredible. The above mentioned African witch-doctor successfully contacted a native hundreds of miles away through rough terrain. De W De Windt knew of a medicine-man who disappeared from his tent while being watched, only to be found unconscious half a mile distant (Fodor).

Bilocation must be taken into consideration in spite of its apparent violation of natural law. Fodor defines it as “the simultaneous presence in two different places”, with the proviso “mostly in histories of saints. Under this heading we may include the adventures of the Ven. Domenica del Paradiso who escaped to a cave where she spent two nights (Thurston, p.1014). However, her absence failed to attract attention, as she was impersonated by an angel!

More amazing, yet at the same time better attested, are the feats of Sor Maria de Agreda who bilocated no less than 500 times (!) as far afield as Mexico, where she converted a native tribe and distributed rosaries (which as a matter of fact, had all vanished from her cell). There were moreover other supporting indications that her visits to distant lands were not mere flights of fancy (Thurston, p.127)

Fodor elsewhere relates the phenomenon of the doppelganger, a ‘double’ considered by him the “etheric counterpart of the physical body which, when out of coincidence, may temporarily move about in space in comparative freedom and appear in various degrees of density to others.”

Perhaps this accounts for the fact that Alphonse de Liguori was able in 1774 to attend at the death-bed of Clement XIV according to witnesses while being imprisoned at Arezzo. If one can accept Aksakov’s famous tale of the bilocation of Miss Sagée the school-mistress, this would amount to irrefutable evidence in favour of the syndrome. Closely related to this phenomenon are out-of-the-body experiences which traditionally least involve the concept of an ‘etheric double’ or ‘astral body’ supposedly “an exact replica of the physical body but composed of finer matter” (Fodor).

More objective evidence for such an idea is provided by the data for materialisation. If witches ever did traverse long distances (and one would dearly like to hear concrete evidence for this belief), an alternative incarnation would provide the ideal vehicle. Col. de Rochas conducted some suggestive experiments in this field in which a plastic phantom form was created. Induced projection of the ‘double’ is said to have succeeded in early tests, and more recently the modern output on the subject is extensive and a comprehensive critique may be found in the work of of Dr Blackmore.

The idea was ably championed by Ochorowicz: “The hypothesis of a ‘fluid double’ (astral body) which, under certain conditions detaches itself from the body .. appears necessary (my italics) to explain the greater part of the phenomena. Henri de Siemiraski, artist and scientist, also spoke of the pragmatic necessity arising from his experience of the “hypothesis of the duplication (dédoublement) of the medium” (ibid. p.137).

We have come at last to the aspect of the greatest importance to ufology: abductions by UFOs. This subject has become of increasing interest and significance. Recent monographs by Scott Rogo (1980) and John Rimmer (1984) have been devoted to it. Here the flight is of an involuntary kind, over which the subject has no control apart from possible acquiescence. “With ever-increasing frequency”, says C E Lorenzen (Story, p.2) “UFO researchers are encountering witnesses who claim not only to have sighted a UFO and its occupants, but to have been taken aboard”.

This strange experience, which seems to be subjectively psychogenetic follows a predictably stereotyped pattern, unaccountably anticipated by science fiction. Its innocent victims are subjected to traumatic and at the same time mystic happenings under bizarre circumstances with alleged time-losses, possibly triggered off by geophysical or even quite trivial stimuli. Teleported to a strangely unrealistic environment. Betty Andreasson has encounters with non-human beings in a religiously inspired setting.


  1. For the most recent discussion of this enigma, see the Unexplained, 108, p 1250ff.
  2. De Rochas, p,170, Julian Ochrowicz, a most experienced researcher, was referring to the physical effects observed by him in his investigation of Palladino


  • ANGLO S, The Damned Art, RKP 1977
    BLACKMORE S J. Beyond the Body, Heinemann, 1981
    BOZZANO, E, Vebersinnliche Erscheinung, Francke, Berne, 1948,
    CASSIRER, M, Mechanical Witchcraft, (unpub, ms.).
    CROOKES, W. Researches in the Phenomena of Spiritualism, Burns, 1874,
    FODOR, N, Encyclopaedia of Psychic Science, Citadel, 1974.
    GURNEY, E. and PODMORE F, Fantasms of the Living, Trubner, 1886.
    NANSEN, C, Witchcraft at Salsa, Arrow, 1911.
    HOYT C,A, Witchcraft, South Illinois Univ. Press, 1981.
    KITTREDGE, G.L. Witchcraft in Old and New England, Harvard 1928
    LAWRENCE, E, Spiritualism among Civilised and Savage Races, Black, 1921.
    NOTESTEIN W, History of Witchcraft in England, Crowell, NY, 1968.
    OWEN, A.R.G. Can We Explain the Poltergeist?, Garrett, NY, 1964.
    PODMORE,F. Modern Spiritualism, Methuen, 1962.
    RIMMER, J, The Evidence for Alien Abductions, Aquarian, 1984.
    ROCHAS, A. de. L’Exteriorisation de la Motoricité, Charconac, Paris, 1906.
    ROGO, S. Abductions, Signet, NY, 1980.
    THURSTON, H, Surprising Mystics, Burns & Oates, 1955.
    VALEE, J, Passport to Magonia, Spearman, 1970.

The Nazi’s Occult Mentors. Roger Sandell

Originally published in Magonia 22, May 1986

Jacques Bergier and Louis Pawels’ The Dawn of Magic, first published in 1960, originated many themes that have continued to recur in popular works on occultism and pseudo-science. Not the least influential section of this book was one that reinterpreted the history of Nazi Germany and proclaimed that occult beliefs, ritual magic and contacts with secret societies were central to the thinking of Hitler and his entourage.

Other writers eagerly took up this theme, to produce a body of books that Nicholas Goodrich-Clarke describes in terms that will be familiar to students of ancient astronauts or Bermuda Triangle literature:

“A complete ignorance of the primary literature was common to most authors and wild claims and inaccuracies were repeated by each newcomer to the genre until an abundant literature existed based on wholly spurious `facts’”

Undeterred by this, Mr Goodrich-Clarke has attempted to discover the factual basis behind these claims. In doing so he traces and documents in detail the story of the Ariosophist groups in Germany and Austria from the 1890′s to the early 1930′s. This movement involved three main bases: Guido von List’s Armanenschaft, Lanz von Liebenfels’ New Templars, and Rudolf von Sebottendorf’s Thule Society.

The beliefs of these bodies were similar. The ancient Germanic people had possessed knowledge of occult secrets and ritual magic. The Roman Conquerors and the Church had attempted to suppress this knowledge, but it had never been totally forgotten; during the Christian era its secrets had been hidden in such forms as the symbolism in the coats of arms of the Mediaeval German aristocracy, and the rituals of the Knights Templar. However the nineteenth-century unification of Germany and its emergence as a world power was the beginning of a process of renewal in which the old secrets would be rediscovered.

List, Liebenfels and Sebottendorf all backed up their ideas by eccentric scholarship which possesses quite extraordinary similarities with some more recent fringe beliefs. Von List drew huge patterns on maps to prove that mediaeval churches, and natural features were remains of vast prehistoric sites, in a manner similar to those of present-day earth mysteries researchers. His belief that mediaeval witchcraft concealed pre-Christian mysteries forced underground by a rapacious Church is held today by mystically inclined feminists. Von Liebenfels’ contention that the Old Testament contained cryptic references to a sinister ancient orgiastic cult that promoted sex between superior and inferior races recalls John M. Allegro’s attempts to find evidence in the Bible for another mysterious orgiastic ancient cult, this time based on hallucinogenic drugs.


Van List’s belief that mediaeval witchcraft concealed pre-Christian mysteries forced underground by a rapacious Church is held today by mystically inclined feminists

The similarities between many of the ideas of the Ariosophists and Nazism are clear. As well as believing in German racial superiority, the Ariosophists were also antisemitic and in 1905 von Liebenfels was already advocating genocide. However, there were also many points of difference. The Ariosophists believed that the new era would be ushered in by the work of a small, secret elite, whereas the Nazis advocated mass political action. Nazism made a demagogic appeal to the working class, while many of the Ariosophists had, like other nineteenth century racists, believed that not only non-Europeans but their own working classes were racially inferior. The Nazis surpassed Freemasonry, whereas the Ariosophists believed that its rituals preserved the ancient Germanic mysteries. (In 1935 the remaining Ariosophists, like the Masons, fell victim to the Nazi proscription of secret societies).

Is it possible to trace direct connections between the Ariosophists and the Nazis, as has been claimed? To some extent it is. Himmler took many Ariosophist ideas seriously and maintained a research bureau on such matters, presided over by K. M. Wiligut, a self proclaimed psychic archeologist, whom he promoted to general rank in the SS; but Himmler’s interest in these matters was widely regarded as eccentric even by the rest of the Nazi hierarchy. However it does seem likely that Hitler met von Liebenfels on one occasion in pre-1914 Vienna. He may have been familiar with the writings of von List, and there is no doubt that the swastika was first used as an emblem by Ariosophists. However, all of this does certainly not serve, as is sometime alleged, to establish occultism, still less Satanism, as is sometimes sensationally claimed, as the real force behind the Nazi Party, any more than one might make a similar claim for the British Labour Party, on the basis of the involvement of the Theosophist Annie Besant in the Fabian Society, or the Spiritualist beliefs of Kier Hardie and the Swedenborgian ones of Ramsey Macdonald.

The ideas the Ariosophists shared with the Nazis, such as antisemitism and a belief in racial superiority were common ones in the nineteenth century. The main distinctive strand in Nazi beliefs that may be regarded as having been transmitted by the Ariosophists was its apocalyptic overview. Von List had based part of his ideas on mediaeval German beliefs of the coming Emperor (often identified with a resurrected Frederick Barbarossa) who would slaughter the Jews and other enemies of God, and institute a Messianic kingdom. (These ideas and their influence on peasant revolts in the Middle Ages are described in detail in Norman Cohn’s Pursuit of the Millennium.) It is scarcely fanciful to see ideas of the ‘thousand year Reich’ and the ‘final solution’ as twentieth century apocalyptic ideas; but apocalyptic beliefs are part of a Christian tradition rather than an occult one, and today are being maintained in the US by those who proclaim themselves foes of occultism and Satanism.

Nicholas Goodrich-Clarke’s study concentrates very specifically on occult beliefs, and has little to say about alleged Nazi interest in pseudo-scientific ideas such as eccentric cosmology, another subject in which many undocumented claims have been made and where genuine research might prove interesting. Ellic Howe’s study of astrology in the Third Reich provides a look at part of this territory. Tales of Hitler consulting astrologers seem to be without foundation. There certainly was a strong German astrological movement in the early ‘thirties which saw a battle between traditionalists and those who wanted to create an explicitly Nazi astrological movement, but this situation was no different from what happened in the arts, the churches and universities.

One one occasion Hitler did send a message to a national astrological conference, but this seems to have consisted of the sort of generalities that a totalitarian head of state might send to any national gathering, and did not stop official suppression of much astrological literature.When World War II began, German intelligence did enlist the services of astrologers, but this seems largely to provide technical assistance for the production of bogus almanacs and editions of Nostradamus circulated in occupied Europe purporting to foretell German victory. Individual Nazi chiefs had an interest in astrology, but it is not clear that these were any more significant than the astrological beliefs of Mackenzie King, the Canadian wartime P.M., or the Spiritualist beliefs of RAF chief Lord Dowding.

It does seem to be true that experiments were made to discover if British ships at sea might be located by map dowsing, but ironically this seems to have been provoked by inaccurate reports that British intelligence used such methods – a situation rather similar to what appears to be the reality behind the so-called ‘psychic arms race’ between Russia and America.

In addition to his study of astrology under the Nazis, Howe’s book also gives a very interesting account of the nineteenth century background to contemporary astrology. For reasons that are not really clear, astrology seems to have survived in Britain throughout the nineteenth century in the world of popular publishing, largely aimed at the working class, with some overlap with the fields of working class self-education and popular science. By contrast, on the continent astrology died out entirely in mid-century, to be revived as a preoccupation of wealthy occultist intellectuals with the emergence of theosophy. (Interestingly, Howe also shows that the idea of the tarot pack having occult significance seems, far from being ‘traditional lore’, to have originated in the same circles at the same time.)

Both these books show that the study of occult-type ideas and their influence are interesting and significant parts of contemporary history. (Indeed, the influence of Theosophy on twentieth century ideas seems to be a subject of more importance than is generally realised.) Perhaps with what appears to be a slackening off of worthless paperbacks on this field, this branch of study may attract more serious work.


UMMO: The Planet of the Anonymous Correspondents. Luis R. González

27 years of close encounters of the postal kind

From Magonia 47, October 1993.

In 1958 Donald Franson wrote a short SF story The Time for Delusion (1) about a debunker who, in order to make a fool of every cultist once and for all, decide to publish (under a pen name) his own hoax, a book describing several phone talks with a Venusian. Among all the nonsense he planted many hidden clues, proving its fallacies. The book became an unexpected best-seller, and when he disclosed his authorship to blow-up the affair, pointing out to the buried evidence and self-revealing inconsistencies, nobody believed him !. They all knew he had been ordered to recant.

Surely Bertrand Meheust was not thinking about this kind of influence when he wrote his book Science fiction et soucoupes volantes, but I maintain that this form of counterattack is more frequent in Ufology than usually admitted. A classical example had already been exposed in Magonia (2) concerning the book Flying Saucer from Mars by Cedric Allingham aka Patrick Moore. But there are many more.

Ocasionally, one of them reaches a long-standing fame.The so called “UMMO affair”, the most important contribution of Spain to UFO folklore, has been around for more than 25 years, and it is still quite controversial. In spite of the scores of Ummologists that painstakingly comb the “sacred texts” in search of the definitive proof of their extraterrestrial origins, there is no doubt among the serious Spanish ufologists that UMMO is a HOAX. But that only answers half of the problem. The second half is almost as appealing.

Good hoaxes die hard. Any serious investigator can avoid their direct effects and point to their evident falsehood (not always soon enough to avoid some embarrassing) but it is more difficult to avoid secondary effects. I will quote our admired Peter Rogerson: “It may be conforting, flattering even, to imagine that the hoaxers who fooled you needed the huge resources of a goverment or international agency to pull the wool over your perceptive eyes”.

Or even tertiary ones…. a few sentences later, Peter Rogerson himself wrote: “UMMO had, one suspects, a more serious purpose. It was samizdat literature saying things which could not be said openly in Francoist Spain” (3). More about the explanations at the end.

To appreciate “in toto” this amazing story of the unilateral contacts of a purported expeditionary group of aliens withsome Spaniards under the Franco dictatorship, during the sixties, I must begin by putting it inside the appropiate context.

First, some pertinent antecedents: The contactee era began in 1952 when a self-appointed ‘Professor’, George Adamski, claimed contact with the alien beings aboard a flying saucer. Gradually this subphenomena extended all over the world: Coniston (England) February 15th, 1954; Oeydalen (Norway) August 20th, 1954; Natal (South Africa) December 27th, 1954; Madrid (Spain) November 17th, 1954; etc., etc.

In the Madrid case, a male nurse, Alberto Sanmartin, allegedly received from an ufonaut that did not identify himself, a “Space Stone” covered with strange signs. During the immediately precedent weeks, another self-appointed ‘Professor’ (a civil servant working in the Telegraph Office, with a peculiar liking for cryptography and graphology) Fernando Sesma, had been writing in a local newspaper a long series about UFOs, including Adamski.

Thanks to this publicity Sesma formed his own group Sociedad de Amigos de los Visitantes del Espacio(Friends of Space Visitors Society). During the following years they will discuss at length about the “Space Stone” and its meaning. It was in 1961 when Sesma saw his first UFO and began to receive anonymous letters. They were absolutely symbolic, full of short incoherent sentences. Then, in 1962, arrived the first letters whose author identified himself as an alien, Saliano, from the planet Auco, orbiting Alpha Centauri.

Meanwhile, more UFO folklore was being created everywhere. In April 24, 1964, the famous Socorro case took place in USA , the first one where the UFO showed a symbol on its fuselage. According to Jacques Vallee (4) it was the Arabic sign for Venus. Also in 1964 the French writer Robert Charroux received several letters (through an unnamed correspondant MNY) allegedly from beings of Proxima Centauri that called themselves Baavi. They described their civilization, their grammar, their metric system and even included several concepts of Astronomy, Physics and Chemistry (5).

On April 23, 1965, the world’s most controversial contactee, George Adamski, died. The day after, in Scoriton, Devon, Arthur Bryant met a huge flying saucer and its three occupants, one of them identified himself as “Yamski”. After a second sighting on the night of June 6, 1965 several pieces of machinery were found in the area, including a small glass phial, with a message rolled into the broken end (6).

Also in 1965, Frank Herbert wrote a SF book that was to generate a kind of cult: Dune. Could it be a coincidence that it included the word UMMA, under the following meaning: “one of the brotherhood of prophets (a term of scorn in the Imperium, meaning any ‘wild’ person given to fanatical prediction)”?

All the pieces of the script are now available. Now, let us have a look at the actors. Unfortunately, the most important ones have decided to remain anonymous: the mysterious “gentlemen from Ummo”, the copyists (apparently, two of them) charged withthe duplication and delivery of the amazing documents, many of the alleged recipients – including everybody outsideSpain, and any possible scientist), and even both photographers of the San Jose Valderas case. It seems that several of the precedent roles (if not all) had been played by the same person or persons.

Among the extras, first mention must fall on the original members of the Friends of Space Visitors Society, each one with his own peculiarities: ‘Professor’ Sesma, the charismatic leader; Mr. Villagrasa, a civilian construction engineer who was to receive the most technical papers; Mr. Garrido, a police officer who became a convert when his son’s health (in desperate need of a cardiac operation) was improved enough to allow for it, thanks to the Ummites and their “microscopic UFOs”; Miss Araujo, a young lady employed in the American Embassy (providing the unavoidable CIA-connection, so useful), etc. Around them more and more spectators and jokers, as the events developed.

And so, the story began.

During 1965 Sesma obtained great popularity all over Spain with his disclosures about the utopian Auco society, a real Eden in the heavens. His weekly gatherings in the basement of a bar called La Ballena Alegre(The Joyful Whale) became a fashionable meeting point for all the most peculiar caracters in Madrid. The temptation was unsurmountable.

On January 1966, ‘Professor’ Sesma received several phone calls, followed by an emissary that showed him surprising tridimensional cards (very similar to Japanese ones, then unknown in Spain, as Sesma himself admitted several years later) to convince him of their extraterrestrial origin, carrying them away afterwards. These were followed by tens of pages describing their home planet, their civilization, etc. etc. Each and everyone of them was read aloud by Sesma to his acolytes, along with the messages from Saliano and other personal experiences, as raw material for the continuous brainstorming of the group. But the Ummopapers did not look like just another piece of moonshine. Their principal attraction, a very skilled work, was their non-proselytizing, non-messianic aspects, plus their strongly rational philosophy. Besides, their authors insisted on not to be believed and to keep the situation secret.

Nevertheless, at the same time that they proclaimed “Do not believe us”, a masterful psychological strike came from the skies. On February 6th, 1966 at 20.00 p.m., a UFO flew over an astonished witness who was driving home, Mr. Jordán Peña, and landed for a few seconds in the outskirts of Madrid, leaving some physical traces. Peña’sphotographs became front page in several newspapers. To establish an inescapable link between both sets of events, the UFO displayed upon its belly the same emblem used to “authenticate” the Ummodocuments: it very much resembled the alchemical symbol for Uranus. Besides, the Ummites themselves confirmed the sighting, apparently a few hours before it was made public.

With the passage of time, Mr. Jordán Peña, has reached the unconfortable status of being the only ‘credible’ and identified witness in a close encounter with a Ummo spaceship (there were some journalist’s comments about additional ones, but none have been found since then). No wonder then, the curiosity that his life and adventures has created among the investigators. Thanks to the persistent efforts of many ufologists it has been possible to bring into light several pieces (coincidences?) that surely bear relevance in all the affair:

Around 1955 Mr. Peña was living in Alicante (a town at only 100 miles from Albacete, where in 1954 took place a macabre incident that caused a great stir in the area, and later the Ummiteswill credit to themselves) and studying many esoteric and spiritualist groups. He read at length about cultural antropology, philosophy, and history of religions, among many other subjects. He learned several languages and subscribed to Natureand other international scientific magazines, back in 1965 at least. His investigations introduced him to fraudulent mediums and prompted him to study conjuring and sleight of hand. He describes himself as an agnostic (rejecting his Catholic upbringing) and a sceptic (despite being a declared opponent to all the paranormal, he did believe in telepathy up to the 70′s) but he was one of the founders of the Spanish Parapsychology Society, where he has been Vice-chairman for many years. Mr. Peña obtained a degree as telecommunications technician, but prefer to introduce himself as a psychologist. In fact, at the time of the sighting, he was working at the Personnel Department in one of the biggest Spanish building societies (Agroman).

This short summary offers you just a very limited glance over such an amazing personality. Let me add a final touch. Mr. Peña himself denies the extraterrestrial origin of the craft he saw. He maintains that it was some kind of experimental aircraft developed by the Americans and deployed in Spain thanks to the collaboration of Franco’s regime. And the ‘Ummo affair’ would be a psychosociological experiment masterminded by the CIA. In any case, unexpectedly, he joined Sesma´s group, (at first, without revealing that he was the witness of Aluche), and quite soon reached its leadership.

The flow of documents was continuous. After the first bunch about the daily life in Ummo, there followed all kinds of digressions about philosophy, sociology and religion (in Ummo and Earth), even featuring the most appealing coincidence for a Catholic reader: the life and teachings of UMMOWOA, a religious founder, whose body dissappeared from the table where he had just been vivisected, as ordered by an ancient bloodthristy Empress. In spite of all these proofs, Sesma gradually became dissatisfied with the Ummites; they were too much rational (they do not even know about the so called ‘liberal arts’) for his liking. It was a mutual refusal, because on the other side, the Ummites became obsessed with the minutiae: they were said to be monitoring every meeting, and asked for silence among the audience and a raised voice during readings to allow for a perfect recording. They always complained to Sesma for mixing their messages with those of Saliano and others, up to the point that several times they cut the supply as a punishment.

In what can be seen as a final attempt to convince Sesma, the typist himself wrote to him, confirming everything. All the emotional overtones lacking in the arid paragraphs dictated by the Ummites, can now freely flow. Despite his anonymity (hopefully only a tempory measure), at least there was a human being who actually met and worked with them. So, we got the first description of these alien beings: completely humanoid, tall and fair, with blonde hair. Angelic, but also witha sinister side: as they communicate through telepathy (of course !) their vocal chords become atrophied, so on Earth they must use an artificial larynx, that gives them a very peculiar voice without inflexions. The copyist was oppressed by the whole extraordinary adventure in which he found himself caught up, and his letter released a mixture of fear and ingenuity that appealed to our most basic emotions. To leave no stone unturned, he also included a final surealistic touch: the Ummites were accounting experts !

With the arrival of the summer holidays of 1966, the contact is interrupted during several months, except for the ocasional letter to keep the ashes burning. Maybe the Ummites needed time to evaluate their activities and plan and prepare further developments. At the begining of 1967 they struck again, with renewed strength, in an encircling movement.

On one side, there appeared another anonymous correspondent purporting to be a certain professor, the holder of a chair in the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Madrid. His only letter described how he received (on loan) a little piece of apparatus that convinced him of their extraterrestrial origin, as he saw on a tridimensional screen a histological specimen, greatly enlarged, in colour, and alive. He recorded (and kept) a colour film of all the operation. He ended his letter proposing to all the recipients a gathering, to coordinate their actions and, should it be considered neccessary, inform the Spanish authorities … The plot thickens !

On the other hand, there really was a qualitative leap ahead. Deserting Sesma, the Ummites turned to some of his followers (Villagrasa, Araujo, Garrido, etc.) witha real barrage of pseudo-technical papers, trying to knock them out into definite faith.

It is really too much that the first document preserved for the galactic posterity turned out to be some pages of the French newspaper Le Figaro used as toilet paper by a peasant

First, the exclusive report about his arrival to our planet (written with their characteristic irrelevant minuteness): “At 04 hours 17 minutes 03 seconds GMT on the terrestrial day of March 28, 1950, an OAWOLEA UEWA OEM (lenticular-shaped spaceship) established contact for the first time in history with the lithosphere of EARTH (…) at a place some 8000 metres distant from the town of La Javie, Department des Basses Alpes, (France)”. This long story (49 pages) is a masterful piece of work. The reader is absolutely touched when the expeditionary group made their first transcendental discovery: “some fragments of white-yellowed, flexible and brittle sheets… full of characters… and stained withfeaces” whom they attributed ritual meanings.

It is really too much that the first document preserved for the galactic posterity turned out to be some pages of the French newspaper Le Figaro used as toilet paper by a peasant! After several initial blunders, the Ummites adapted so well to the human culture that in the following months they commited “nineteen acts of transgression against private property”… naturally, to be returned “as soon as they were able to obtain money without robbery”. To keep closely to their role as scientists, transgression means to anaesthetizethe inhabitants of a house, and besides taking an assorted group of objects, “to undress the humans and take samples of hair, nasal and vulvar mucus, etc.”

Second, a very peculiar group of documents about Spiritism and parapsychology, describing, among others things, a supposed Ummite expedition to India in order to investigate, with their advanced technology, the ‘miracles’ of the fakirs. Naturally, they discovered the hoaxes and disclosed to their readers the tricks employed. In short, a strong sceptical commentary on the paranormal, from people who were assured to be born telepaths!

And finally, the long-delayed answers to anybody’s questions: 1) How they make the journey here?, and 2) Why they are so similar to us? These papers form the real core of the myth, what sets up the difference with any other contactee tale. Unfortunately, in spite of all the favourable publicity around them, from Antonio Ribera in 1979 to Jean-Pierre Petit in 1992, they are just pseudocientific jargon at its best. I will give you a very rough and incomplete summary, just to let you know the flavour of them.

1) To explain their easy crossing of the huge interstellar distances, the Ummites employed a multistaged strategy:

a) there are an infinity of paired Universes (matter and antimatter) that interplay between them, creating certain space-warps which, when the isodynamic circumstances are right, became a kind of ‘short-cut’ (for instance, a voyage to the stelar system UYI ABEE, located at 9165 light-years from Ummo, only took 40078427,56 thousansths of UIW (86,06 terrestrial days)) . Unfortunately these disturbances are unpredictable except within a very short time, a useful way out of any inconvenient appointment

b) Usually, these short-cuts are not enough, so they need additional help: luckly, each Cosmos has “at least, ten dimensions”, fully-interchangeable, and with the suitable property that in each new tri-dimensional space, the speed of ligth should adopt any value between zero and infinity

c) now, there only remains the ‘simple’ problem of performing such a dimensional change. At a time (the sixties) when the earth physicists were confused with the endless discovery of subatomic particles, the Ummites introduced (in 68 pages and a few formulas) the IBOZOO UU, defined as an elemental (and inmaterial) entity composed of ortogonal axes. According to the manner in which these axes are orientated, we see the production of matter, energy, space, and even time.

Now everything is clear. You take an spaceship and its crew (just some zintillions of IBOZOO UUs), reverse each and every one of their axes with absolutely accuracy, go into the suitable dimensional frame, and once in the desired destination (through non-disclosed means of propulsion), you undo the reversing without missing a single atom, with the bonus of recovering all the energy wasted before. Voilá !

The real problem, so well hidden by the Ummites behind such an exhibition of pseudoscientific pyrotechnics, and never answered, is that, if they themselves admitted the imposibility of acelerations “above 24500 GAL”, even an interplanetary shortened distance needs too much time to go through.

2) To explain their incredible resemblance with us, the Ummites appeal to their pompous ‘biogenetic bases of the living beings that inhabit the Cosmos’ (29 pages). In a shared trait with their human counterparts, they began by denying random evolution with childish and trite arguments, to be replaced by a previous information about ALL possible living beings in the Cosmos, coded into 86 pairs of krypton atoms (they have a real fixation with the noble gases) “in mysterious resonance” and located in every germinal cell of the Universe (as they confirmed in terrestrial samples) that will express itself according the environment. More precisely, “each change of an electron in a suborbital layer codifies one of the possible animals”. Confronted with an exponential branching, they pulled out of their hat a useful teleological convergence that will bring them together into the Man (ummite or terrestrial), explaining our mutual likeness. Not satisfied, they maintain that the range opens again afterwards, to come together in some future and final Superman.

If all this is already quite difficult to swallow, what can we say about the working procedures. They are absurd and lacking any logic, even wrapped with an accuracy and terminology pretending to be scientific. The long range mutations are connected with a cosmic cycle of 877,533 years, imposed by the electromagnetic emissions from the galaxies in the 21’106 cm. frequency, recorded into the cell’s water and assembled through several generations, due to their short span of life!

On the other hand, the short range mutations acted through a chemical way. For instance, those wonderful camouflage adaptations will simply develop “as the luminous stimulus from the surrounding colouration fall into the nervous system of the animal, they will originate a series of biochemical alterations in the most external layers of the oxigen atoms that form the intracytoplasmatic water molecules, their electrons will vibrate and then disappear after emitting gravitational waves affecting the corresponding kripton atom, which will react as required”. No comments.

These detailed revelations seemed to point at some inmediate confrontation. The dramatic tension was mounting. As well as the real one surrounding the Middle East. Then, another ‘coup de theâtre’. The “gentlemen from UMMO” learned all about the proposed meeting and prohibited it. Therefore, the professor never revealed himself, and over the following months the believers were very busy trying to ascertain his identity, without real success.

What God takes off, God returns. On the last day of May, 1967, about forty people present at the usual gathering of ‘Professor’ Sesma were read the announcement of the forthcoming arrival of three UMMO spaceships next day ! (one in Bolivia, one in Brazil, and the third, in none other place than Madrid). Unfortunately, even though they organized several reconnaissance parties, none was able to met the spaceship as it allegedly performed evolutions in the sky over the Madrid suburban estate of San Jose Valderas and landed briefly nearby, at 20.20 hours of the day in question.

But they were not to be disappointed, one amateur photographer had inmortalized the sighting with his camera, had contacted the same journalist that covered the Aluche case, and had graciously departed with some of his negatives for free, keeping his anonimity. The photos hit the front page and did not leave the slightest doubt.

Surely, this incident was intended to be the final point of the affair. Another summer was approaching, no better time to enjoy well deserved holidays. Few days later there exploded the Six Days’s War between Israel and the Arabs, which provided a timely alibi for their departure and the cesation of the correspondence. Discharging ballast, the followers received a sale package, with papers about law, astronomy, etc. plus a personal letter from the anonymuos typist, confirming their flight without date of return (and so did he, talking about leaving his old address and travelling abroad, to damper any future search). R.I.P.

As in any second rate SF plot, the Ummites did not counted on the human element. Up to then all the UMMO affair had limited itself to a small group of believers that did not showed a high level of scepticism. But now, armed with those definitive proofs, it was decided to engage professional help. They decided to contact an ufologist: Marius Lleget. The situation suddenly opened to a whole new level of interest and challenge. It called for reinforcements and a very careful and close handling.

Out of thin air materialized ‘Antonio Pardo’, a second anonymous photographer of the San Jose Valderas UFO. In a beautiful strike of synchronocity, he wrote Mr. Lleget before the Madrid’s group, enclosing new negatives, a detailed report of his own ‘in situ’ investigation, and to cap it all: an extraterrestrial artifact! It was a semi-destroyed capsule that contained a piece of green plastic engraved with the Ummo symbol.


Mr. Lleget rightly refused to get involved, and passed this greek present to his friend Antonio Ribera, the most prestigious Spanish ufologist of the time. Fortunately, he was some kind of  ‘arm-chair ufologist’, a SF writer and translator who obtained his fame rehashing foreign UFO books but seems to have never been involved in a personal direct investigation. In this case, the field-work was left to his valued friend Rafael Farriols, who over the years, will become the leading specialist in Ummo, up to the point of founding some companies with Ummo trade-names and securing all the documents received since then. As they lived in Barcelona, their man in Madrid was … anybody guess? Mr. Peña. Thanks to his praiseworthy efforts were located several witnesses. Most of them could only give circumstantial evidence after severe prompting, but those who allegedly witnessed the UFO always insisted to remain unnamed. It must be something contagious.

With the Ummites safely far away, the work of keeping alive the myth was an easy and not-demanding one for the typist. Only a letter from time to time, delivered to members of the Madrid group, full of trails to be followed all over Madrid by their eager recipients. Mr. Peña also received a couple of letters, but of a different nature. They are the only ones (allegedly written by members of an equivalent French group) that acknowledged the distribution of Ummo documents outside Spain. As usual, it had been impossible to confirm them, despite the fact that they provided a postal address and a reward for any other capsule they obtained.

In due time, Mr. Ribera and Mr. Farriols published a book with their conclusions, whose title tells it all: A Perfect Case. Inside they included an analysis of the device: the capsule itself was made of nickel of a very high purity and the plastic material was polyvinyl fluoride. At the time of the events, this material was made exclusively by du Pont de Nemours in the USA, under the brand name of TEDLAR. They pointed to “some NASA and military applications”, but its main use was in the building industry. They also invented another acronym (VED) (Extraterrestrial Manned Vehicle) and the typist obliged. In what will be his last appearance on the scene (excluding a much later letter in 1973) he enclosed a long report (60 pages and many drawings) about the UMMO VEDs that nevertheless managed to tell us nothing useful and testable about them. It is surprising that people who claim to use gravitational waves for everything, including cooking, had to resort to spinning their small spaceships in order to obtain an artificial gravity !

It was Summer 1968. The UFOs had already become acceptable in the Spanish media. Films like 2001 and Planet of the Apes attracted crowds. The Invaders appeared weekly on television. All over Spain the first and biggest UFO flap of our history was taking place. So it surprised nobody when the typist added that THEY had returned. But the holidays passed without any notice from them.

Finally, in September the Ummites sent a letter of introduction from Paris to their new friend, Antonio Ribera. The show continues. But as fate would have it, on September 17th, 1968 an indiscretion of Father Enrique Lopez Guerrero, disclosed the affair to the public making, headlines all over the world with statements like “thousands of years ago, Jesus Christ incarnated as a slave in the planet Ummo, suffering prosecution and death”. Shocked, the contact was suddenly interrupted. It was never to be the same again.

It restarted in 1969 but only with very short papers (4 or 5 pages each), exclusively addressed to Mr. Ribera and quite superficial, nothing with the depth that they used to show. They also wrote to another contactee of the time, Sinod (who maintained telepathic contact with an extraterrestrial named Atienza, from the planet Urln, descendant of a Spanish conquistador abducted in Argentina in 1650) in order to arrange a meeting. Small Universe, indeed! Maybe they did not arouse the reactions they wanted because the contacts became less and less frequent and soon stopped.

In January 1970 Mr. Jordán Peña deserted Sesma and created his own group, ERIDANI. The Ummites followed him, in what can be seen as a return to the origins, and involved themselves strongly in the activities of this group; but he, the president, never received their written attentions. Their correspondence became paranoic, advising about the malevolent intervention of secret services like the CIA, tapped calls, infiltrators, etc. etc. On the other hand, they also offered guidance for proselytizing new members and usefuls tips to gain the control of the group. All this culminated in November 1973 with a real thriller, as they predicted a nuclear war because of the situation in the Middle East, announced their definitive departure, and in a final stroke of sentimentalism offered their own nuclear refuge for the salvation of their flock. Our old acquaintance, the typist, was the trustee of the code to the refuge’s coordinates. Unfortunately we will never know them, specially now that the Cold War is finished.

And this is the situation that remains up to date. An age-decimated group of believers meeting periodically, usually under the benevolent leadership of Mr. Peña and Mr. Farriols. At first (in 1971 and 1973) there were quite a happening: limited symposia only for the connosieurs (but, even so infiltrated by the Ummites, as they revealed afterwards) to discuss and analyze the sacred texts. But after Ribera revealed to the world in 1974 (first in the FSR and later with 3 complete books) the contents and peculiarities of the ummite papers, the UMMO affair has become a myth-in-the-making. The Ummo symbol is described in Denmark, USA, Poland and last, but not least, in Voronezh. It is an established alien trademark. Anybody can borrow their cloak, from dangerous child-abusers (Edelweiss sect in Spain) to Fundamentalist Christians looking for additional help defending the Turin Shroud.

Now that you have a bare summary of this complex situation, I should defend my thesis. I maintain that it all began as some kind of joke that later got out of hand. The best evidence is the fact that all the quantitative data included in the very first document was (more or less subtly) wrong. Considering its galactic importance and the typical punctiliousness displayed by the Ummites, this is quite shocking, but true. They began by giving as the correct distance between Earth and Ummo 3.68502 light-years, identifying their star as Wolf 424. This distance was precisely which was calculated by its human discoverer in 1938 but, as it was already known in 1966, the correct distance was about 14.6 light-years.

Afterwards they gave both radius of their planet (equatorial and polar), the second being longer than the first. Next, they estimated Ummo’s mass in 5.4 x 1021 tons, and its gravity acceleration in 11.88 km/sg2. These measures are mutually incompatible.

The first inconsistency spotted was about the mass. The Ummites pleaded guilty of too much familiarity and explained that they should have used DUUOs instead of terrestrial tons (1DUUO = 1.7333 Kg). The problem with distances offered a perfect excuse to attribute the smaller one to those wonderful isodynamic shortcuts. This procedure of claims, errors and counterclaims continued through all the correspondence.

When they wrote about their planetary system they refered to a second planet. Apparently nobody noticed that the meaning of “binary system” (Wolf 424 being one) is quite different! As their sun (IUMA) has a spectral type M, with a low superficial temperature, coherency imposes that UMMO must circle very near it, but then its sydereal period (orbit’s length) did not square. This time they appealed to their ancestors’ “false conceptions”, but even so it still miss Kepler’s Third Law by a ten per cent !

You must understand that it is not easy to point out errors against people who displayed a disgusting superiority, bordering on the most hypocrite paternalism. This submission was reinforced by planting careful traps. For instance, when they insisted that the visual apparent magnitude of IUMA was lower than its absolute magnitude. Or when they wrote: “weigh two masses in a steelyard, one kg. of straw and one kg. of iron … you will see how the pointer leans to the iron”. Or when they explained how to prepare krypton compounds, apparently unknown in Earth. Many sceptics laughed then, but the Ummites laughed last !

In short, so many (false or true) errors and inconsistencies cannot be casual or due to lack of knowledge. They must have been deliberately included.

Let me finally present the UMMO affair, summed up in its appropiate dimensions:

Duration: a little more of a year (from February 1966 to July 1967), plus another outburst at the begining of 1969. From then onwards, never more than occasional contacts. Space: limited to Spain, despite the headings of some documents suggesting translations to languages as non-existent as “slav-czech”.

Volume: Around 1000 known pages corresponding to 150 different shipments, even though they themselves said to have prepared “more than 6700 reports”! Contents: A third of the known material (330 pages) is just pure gossip, 269 pages refered to various philosophical considerations, around 178 pages gave some raw data (usually impossible to verify) and only 144 pages contained valuable information, already commented.

Quality: The papers never offered nothing really novel. For example, the cosmological theories could be derived from the works of Eddington and other material easily obtained in scientific journals of the time (like Nature and Science&Vie). Without a doubt the author was familiar with foreign material (the Ummites made references to the works of Halton Arp (sic), and also extracted from books by Martin Gardner, The Ambidextrous Universe, and Asimov, The Noble Gases). But with the hindsight of the 27 years passed, the contents look very naïve, and the real mystery is why so many people had believed in them for so long.

Special mention is reserved those so called “ummologists”. Nowadays any religion or sect cannot rely only in faith, it needs some middlemen who will analyze its ‘sacred texts’ (the Bible, the Urantia book, etc.) and provide the followers with final proofs of their veracity, from the authority not of God but of its secular counterpart, science. So pseudosciences like ‘scientific creationism’ or ‘TM science’ are born. It is also true that you can always find an expert to support your pet belief. In short, the UMMO papers had been a peculiar kind of Roscharch test, each one had found what he was looking for: Father Guerrero elaborated from them his own ‘Cristocentric Thesis of the Universe’ (in a 618-pages book); Jean-Pierre Petit (a French physicist long interested in Ummo), after studying hard for several months the Theory of Relativity, assures that “nothing demands that the speed of light should remain constant” (7). Many people had been trapped in this vicious circle. They come across some hint, develop their own ideas around it, and in a final feedback, credit them to the Ummites, reinforcing their admiration towards “their high scientific level”.

Even the sceptics (and there were a lot of them since the very begining) had been mystified. In a ironic letter that clearly betrays their terrestrial origin, the Ummites themselves summarized many of the conspirancy theories that proliferated. From the Opus Dei to the Rosacrucians passing through the CIA, the KGB and the Punch! I have already said that Mr. Peña prefers a CIA-connection. In France has just appeared L’affaire Ummo: les extraterrestres qui venaient du frois, by Renaud Marhic, insisting in a KGB-connection.

In Spain, Carles Berché champions a ‘shared-paranoia’. (8). Make your choice.

Mine is a radical use of the Occam’s razor. The Ummoaffair is just an unipersonal endeavour. The author surely enrolled some accomplices to forge traces and photos, and he also got the unexpected help of many others freelance hoaxers, but neither more people nor a secret agenda are needed. Hoaxing is fun, and funnier if you mix with your victims and enjoy their doubts, their emotions, their naïvete, and even become their master, pulling the threads of your puppets at will. Besides there is always the thrill of being uncovered. I will not even deceive myself by appealing to higher rational motivations like a sociological study or similar, as I suspect that the author himself did. But who was he?.

Such a good mystery story cannot end without naming the culprit. As it can never be proved, even with a confession now lacking, I can only offer my firm belief (shared with many other ufologists) that UMMO’s creator was Mr. Jordan Peña. We do not have any smoking gun but the circumstantial evidences are overpowering although controversial. To me, it does not matter, he had offered us a marvelous opportunity to follow the making of a myth.


  1. Compiled in: Flying Saucers, 1982, Isaac Asimov, Martin H. Greenberg & Charles G.
    Waugh Eds.
  2. MAGONIA 23, “Flying Saucers from Moore’s?”, Christopher Allan & Steuart Campbell.
  3. MAGONIA 43, “Book Reviews: Jacques Vallee’s Revelations.” Peter Rogerson.
  4. Jacques Vallee, The Invisible College, p.112 (British paperback edition).
  5. Robert Charroux, Le livre des secrets trahis, 1964.
  6. Eileen Buckle, The Scoriton Mystery, 1967.
  7. Jean-Pierre Petit, Enquete sur des extra-terrestres, 1991.
  8. CUADERNOS DE UFOLOGIA, nº 3, 1988, Carles Berché Cruz, “Ummo, 20 años de paranoia compartida”.


‘Friendship’, the Fantasy Island. Diego Zúñiga

Diego Zúñiga is the editor of the Chilean magazine La Nave de los Locos (The Ship of Fools) where this article was first published. This translation appeared in Magonia 76, November 2001   

chileMany people believe that in southern Chile there is an island inhabited by blond extraterrestrials. This story has been circulating in Chilean ufology since the 1980s, but only in 1998 did it generate wide publicity. The flimsy basis of the story rests on a false UFO case and it has now developed into a pseudo-religion, with its adherents permanently in contact with “angelic entities”. It is a complicated business, involving many hoaxes. Welcome to Friendship, (1) the fantasy island.

The afternoon of Saturday 17 August 1985 in Santiago (capital of Chile) was marked by an unusual event. At about 16:00 hours, thousands of people began to observe the passage of a strange object over the city. The upheaval was so monumental that the news department of Television Nacional de Chile, channel 7, used a special camera to record the object on videotape.

Although we now know that this “UFO” was a French stratospheric balloon, too many people refused to accept the sad reality and today they still insist that it was, in fact, a ship manned by inhabitants of Friendship Island. This incident is one of the fundamental pillars of the story about these supposed blond aliens who, according to the feverish illusions of some eager ones, are living in southern Chile.


The story of Friendship Island had been known for many years, but it had not spread outside the closed circle of Chilean ufology. However, after the publication of some reports in commercial magazines and the broadcast of the last episode of the first season in the TV series OVNI (UFO), its name became widely known, taking it to levels that only irrational belief can generate.

That episode ended with a tarot card reader who asserted that the Armada de Chile (Chilean Navy) – which helped the program’s producers in their vain search for Friendship Island – had deceived them and consequently, the public, by changing the island’s geographical coordinates. In spite of him, the telephones of the producers and the channel “collapsed due to the number of people who called” (2).

This collapse was triggered when the report suggested that the Friendship people had cured Ernesto de la Fuente, an important person in this intricate case, of cancer. We have always considered that it is very dangerous to make such claims on television and in other mass media, because there is always a small part of the audience who believe such stories, with incalculable consequences .

Afterwards, there came several articles in magazines, full of speculations about the several origins attributed to Friendship, from Nazis hiding in the south of Chile to the unlikely “Nordic aliens”. Supposedly, the island’s inhabitants are blond, tall and of angelic aspect, conforming, surprisingly, to the ideal of beauty aspired to in our country.


But the “enigma” really began in 1984, when the radio-ham Octavio Ortiz listened from Santiago to an SOS from a ship sighting a UFO in the south of Chile. The very day after listening to the complete account of the incident, including people whose skin was burnt, etc. (please don’t insist on demanding proof), Ortiz received a call from “Alberto” who claimed to have witnessed, from another ship, the whole phenomenon. Between Ortiz and Alberto a friendship developed. After disappearing for a short period of time, Alberto returned to narrate that he met some “strange” people living on an island, to where he would be sending some equipment and other materials, by ship. Soon after, in May 1985, and through Alberto, Ortiz got in touch with Ariel, one of the Friendship people.

All the Friendship people are said to be experts in different subjects and they have the faculty of knowing the thoughts of people they speak to and events which have happened to them. Because of this ability, without anybody prompting them, they began telling Octavio about his illness. As good aliens, they offered to take him to their island to heal him. Surprisingly, Ortiz didn’t dare, missing a unique opportunity to contact those aliens of angelic aspect and names: Ariel, Michael… I wonder, why is it always the same in ufology? Why does the evidence always vanish at the critical moment?

In August of this same year the UFO sighting described at the beginning of this article took place. Apparently, this UFO is the most solid evidence to support this story, but we have already shown that it was really very weak. Supposedly, the Friendship people, via radio, predicted the movements of the UFO flying over Santiago. Evidence? A recording of a conversation, full of ambiguities, that would generate doubts in any serious investigator with a modicum of common sense.

Finally, this sighting was explained as an MIR French stratospheric balloon launched from Pretoria (South Africa) in July 1985, which was also seen passing over Argentina. Ironically, this balloon deflated part of the Friendship myth, damaging the cause of several of its principal supporters who have won enough money by publishing more and more ridiculous stories about the island in many Spanish and Chilean commercial magazines.

Many believers have even tried to demolish the balloon explanation, with arguments as infantile as “it cannot be a balloon because they are launched at 7:30 in the morning…” (Riffo, a). Like all credulous ufologists, the ETH supporters Cristian Riffo and Jorge Anfruns associate this “UFO” with blackouts, people’s disappearances and combined military operations between Chile and the USA, insinuating that the aliens monitored such operations.

Ortiz’s testimony contains many other commonplaces of the most credulous ufology: the aliens make predictions, NASA is interested in the case – and gave him a booklet and some pencils inscribed “U.S. GOVERNMENT” – the military listen to conversations and, of course, a book is promised describing all his adventures. What a surprise!

All those classic components of “conspiranoia” invite us to reflect about the power the media can have over popular credulity, even feeding people evident lies with an air of enigmatic reality. The inherent incoherence of the Friendship story forces us to think that we are dealing with an invention or an elaborate soap-opera plot rather than an enigma. Shifting boxes, telepathic contact, military surveillance? Ugh!

  There exist more than 1500 tapes recording conversations with the inhabitants of this mythical island , although they have only published a few which are as emotionally moving as a badly acted television serial. 


What is Friendship? In spite of the fact that nobody has been able to give us a precise geographical location, Ernesto de la Fuente does claim to have been to the island, which is said to have advanced technology, lifts to underground bases and many temples (?). Its inhabitants “radiate peace” (OVNI, 1999). All this allegedly happens on one of the thousands of islands along the fragmented coastline of southern Chile.

De la Fuente, a heavy smoker in his old age, suffered from lung cancer that he was cured of, according to him, thanks to the help of Friendship islanders, as we have indicated above. It is no mystery that nowadays cancer can be cured in most cases by appropriate medical treatment. Is it necessary, then, to attribute his happy improvement in health to the Friendship people?

Besides, ufologist Rodrigo Fuenzalida assures us that De la Fuente was sick, but of a lung oedema and not of a terminal cancer, as De la Fuente himself pointed out on TV, where he also added that the Friendshipers healed him “in just four days” (OVNI, 1999).

Others, such as the ETH believer Hugo Pacheco, have given more military touches to the matter, pointing out that Friendship “is a training field to prepare terrestrial men and women for the conditions of outer space” (Guijarro, a).


It is difficult to understand the ufological connection that has been made to this case. Except for the false connection made with the August 1985 UFO and the UFO sighting in southern Chile reported by Ortiz, other connections are pretty vague. Rodrigo Fuenzalida, a ufologist who has devoted much time to this topic, avers that the connection was made in Conozca Más magazine, distorting the case. For him, Friendship is anything but ufological. He adds that the story about NASA’s books is false: “An official at the NASA offices in Santiago gave those books to Ortiz, but personally and not on behalf of NASA.”

The case has gone on degenerating with time, and has acquired undeniable contactee features. Trying to elucidate them leads us to throw light on several “curious things” about the alleged mystery island. The first question that we need to ask ourselves is why they chose Octavio Ortiz and Ernesto de la Fuente. They themselves answered that it was because they have… a special genetic constitution (?), according to the information given to them by the “assistants of the Lord’s angels”, as the alleged Friendship island inhabitants call themselves.

Doubts invade the mind of anybody who goes into this story. Authors who are anything but critical doubt. For instance, a Chilean ufologist living in Spain, Raúl Núñez, remarks that the Friendship people speak as any Chilean would, even using the same idioms (Núñez, 1999). Jorge Anfruns, a strong alien believer and follower, doubts its extraterrestrial origins, thinking that we are dealing with a sociological experiment. About De la Fuente, Anfruns has declared that he “is vastly imaginative” and even added that he “is crazy” (Guijarro, c – b). Fuenzalida differs: “De la Fuente is extremely intelligent and very well educated. I doubt, anyway, that he could be behind everything, because there are aspects of the case that he couldn’t manage”.

Also doubtful is Octavio Ortiz, a manipulable person according to Fuenzalida who, during his investigations of this case, deceived him by imitating the voices of the Friendship people using a radio.

Evidently, the story has acquired much more imaginative elements, being impregnated by the whole flying saucer mythology. For example, the most visible investigators of the case abroad, the Spaniards Josep Guijarro and Raúl Núñez, claim to have received threats to stop their investigations of Friendship.

Guijarro, who has taken advantage of the topic in conferences, radio interviews, and in several magazines, claims that many important Chilean people at high political and social levels are involved in Friendship, something that he has never been able to prove. He adds that the Friendship people have made important scientific discoveries although, regrettably, he doesn’t present the slightest evidence to support such ridiculous assertions.

Continuing Guijarro’s line, Octavio Ortiz also falls into contradictions and doubtful affirmations. In the TV programme OVNI (UFO) he claimed to have travelled to Chiloé Island (Southern Chile) to meet the Friendship islanders in order to be healed of an illness, but in another TV programme, Evidencia OVNI (UFO Evidence), he said exactly the opposite. He also points out that some Friendship people were at Santiago, to hold talks at government level, and that on the island there are human and extraterrestrial scientists working hand in hand to solve the ozone layer problem…

It is really interesting to hear that the Friendship people speak with the characteristic metallic voice tone of the aliens… And it is strange to hear that there exist more than 1500 tapes recording conversations with the inhabitants of this mythical island (3), although they have only published a few which are as emotionally moving as a badly acted television serial.

As predictable, little by little began to arise all kinds of “contacts” with Friendship: telepathic, by dreams, by radio, in person and also by Internet! From simple contactees up to some ufologists, all began to receive the Friendship influence. So, Michel Jordán, a self-proclaimed “scientific ufologist”, entered into regular contact with them, and nowadays he accuses Rodrigo Fuenzalida (much more moderate and critical) of being the head of a sect founded on this story, without presenting – up to now – any proof of his impressive accusations.

As we have seen, the topic has given the opportunity to several Chilean and Spanish journalists to write about their adventures and stories of unexplained events as investigators of mysteries, pretending to be Sherlock Holmes and being super heroes for a cause that – supposedly – will save humankind and at least , as they say, “has changed their lives” (4). It has also generated the appearance of a lot of pages on the Internet about the “Big brothers”, and even email lists that exchange experiences on Friendship.

But the delirium doesn’t stop. In sensationalist magazines like Revelación (Revelation), it has been written that the Chupacabras (Goatsucker) lives in Friendship (Varela, 2000). Josep Guijarro said that the contact would take place in April 2001… Obviously it never happened. Others have opened accounts at the Banco Estado de Chile (Chilean National Bank) so that people deposit enough money so that they, adventurers seeking the Truth (with capital letter), can finance a trip to search for the Island.

Some “apocryphal” Friendshipers even transmitted messages from a house in Santiago, where they were discovered by the team of the same OVNI (UFO) TV programme, who were thus redeemed from their previous season. The “fake Friendship” demonstrated that the topic had soaked deep and that it was easy to deceive those who were familiar with it. They had already prepared the payment of a fee and the publication of a text whose earnings would go to the “elect”, the same persons who had imitated the voices of the “original Friendshipers”.


If a shallow revision of the case leaves it wobbly – bordering death – let us imagine what would happen if the study went deeper. The diffuse connection with ufology seems so forced that it doesn’t withstand the least critical study.

The mythical and heavenly environment of Friendship is full of commonplaces about futuristic dreams, something that should already arouse our suspicions. The fact that De la Fuente has not seen a hierarchical structure on the island, but too many South American-looking people working on the extraction of metals (Guijarro, a), reminds us of the old axiom that the blonds give the orders and the South Americans do the dirty work. Does it sound familiar?

The aim of this article has been to outline several reasonable doubts about what has been narrated about Friendship, a story plagued by incoherences that has given rise to the most delirious speculations. However, none of them has a sustainable basis and everything seems to indicate that we are witnessing a great mess of stories, where myths, legends, hoaxes and, maybe, if we are magnanimous, something of reality, have converged.

Friendship is, today, the Chilean version of the remembered American TV series Fantasy Island. It is recommended not to buy tickets, because of the risk of being swindle



(1) Friendship is the original name of the island, and not its English translation. We wonder what is the reason for giving a name in another language to an island in the south of Chile. Could it be part of the Chilean tradition of worshipping foreign things?
(2) Rodrigo Fuenzalida, personal communication, July 1999.
(3) According to other sources, there are one thousand five hundred minutes of recordings. The difference is substantial.
(4) Josep Guijarro, in “Espacio en Blanco”.


Guijarro, Josep:
a. “Bases extraterrestres en la Tierra (II)”, Internet.
b. “Contacto con los Friendship”, Internet.
c. “Quién se esconde tras Friendship?”, Internet.

Núñez, Raúl,”Conversaciones con Friendship”, sent by e-mail to the author, June 1999.

Riffo, Cristián:
a. “Extraños habitantes en Chiloé”, Conozca Más magazine, 9th year, No. 8, August 1998, pp. 6-12.
b. “Friendship en la mira mundial”, Conozca Más collection, UFO special, October 1998, pp. 16-23.

Varela, Patricio, “Invasión por especie genética bio-extraterrestre”, in Revelación No. 47, 5th year, 2000, p. 34.

Miguel Blanco, “Espacio en Blanco”, Spain, 10 February 2000.

Evidencia OVNI, Chilevisión, 30 January 2001.
OVNI, Televisión Nacional de Chile, 17 June 17 1999.
OVNI, Televisión Nacional de Chile, 27 October 2000.

Intelligent Life in the Universe: The Case for Fence-Sitting, Part 2. Gareth J. Medway

From Magonia 74, April 2002 
Over the past half a century there have been hundreds of books, to say nothing of articles, purporting to solve “The UFO question”. The answers vary (and conflict, of course), but they are usually alike in that they consist of something that could easily be summarised in a few words, whether “They come from Zeta Reticuli”, or “Weather balloons”. The bulk of this writing is polemical, the author wanting to convince the reader of a particular theory, and selecting and arranging the material accordingly. So far as one can tell, it almost never succeeds. Instead, for the most part, it is read by people who already share the author’s opinion, and want to be confirmed in their views; and this is as true of what appears in Magonia as what appears in UFO Magazine.

The primary reason for this is that proving a theory about UFOs usually amounts to having to prove a negative, which is of course impossible. A sceptic cannot prove that there are no ETs. Less obvious, but no less true, is that an ETH proponent is at root trying to demonstrate that “There is no other explanation for these reports”, which is equally impossible.

The history of the psychosocial hypothesis indicates, I think, another reason. The PSH is usually said to derive from two works, Jacques Vallee’s Passport to Magonia , and John Keel’s Operation Trojan Horse , though neither book was itself advocating it. Vallee compared flying saucer reports to the medieval belief in flying ships from the mysterious land of Magonia, Mothman to Springheeled Jack, and Antonio Villas-Boas’s claim to have had sex with an attractive spacewoman to the old theological belief in intercourse with demons. He did not attempt to draw a straight conclusion from all this – “The problem cannot be solved today” (1) – nor has he in subsequent books.

Keel’s book, which unlike Vallee’s was based on a large amount of first-hand research, decided that UFOs “are merely temporary intrusions into our reality or space-time continuum, momentary manipulations of electro-magnetic energy . . . This may seem like a fantastic concept, but . . . all of the evidence supports our fantastic concepts more readily than it supports the notion that we are receiving visitors from Mars or Aenstria.” (2) In this and subsequent books he noted the same kind of similarities to other unexplained phenomena as pointed out by Vallee, and concluded that they all ultimately had the same obscure “ultraterrestrial” cause. His work has sometimes been described as “demonological”, but unlike the old demonologists he left no room for the “good guys”: the same all-encompassing entities were not merely behind UFOs, poltergeists, and spiritual materialisations, but even angels, miracles, and the foundation of the world’s religions, including Christianity. The alternative title “paranormalist” is more appropriate.

The “paranormalist” viewpoint has failed to obtain any wide acceptance, probably due to its pessimistic outlook. Keel viewed the ultraterrestrials as deceptive, and inimical to the human race, yet thought there was little or nothing we could do about them. One could not even take solace in religion, since that is just a part of the deception. It was inevitable that most people would ignore his findings, or, if they noticed them at all, wish to slot his observations into a more positive framework.

There are various ways the latter can be done. Some take the “New Age” view that these entities are quite benign really. Others have adapted them into a Christian framework, putting UFOs and other spirit manifestations down to the work of demons, from whom Christ and the good angels can save us. The materialist outlook is equally comforting, since it assures us that none of these bogeymen really exist.

These various UFO schools of thought are, therefore, linked to religious belief. Accordingly, attempting to convince subscribers to one such theory of the truth of another is effectively asking them to change their faith, and hence about as likely of success as trying to convert a Northern Ireland Protestant to the Catholic Church, or a Muslim fundamentalist to Judaism.

Theories and theorists
The complexities of modern life have affected the sceptic as much as anyone else. The eighteenth century rationalist had merely to disbelieve in miracles, astrology and witchcraft. Today, one might be called upon to deny the reality of near-death experiences, telepathy, clairvoyance, UFO sightings, the Loch Ness monster, pyramid power, alien big cats, the Bermuda triangle, spontaneous human combustion, conspiracy theories, Satanic child abuse, Nostradamus, remote viewing, ancient astronauts, bigfoot, the face on Mars, Spiritualism, chupacabras, channelling, the New Age generally, and of course miracles, astrology, and witchcraft.

It is very useful, therefore, to have a simple theory that covers the lot. This of course the psychosocial hypothesis provides: “human imagination”. Unfortunately, there are other simple viewpoints that are also able to encompass the whole field. Christians say miracles are sent by God, and all the rest is the work of demons. The school of Paul Devereux and Albert Budden explains paranormal phenomena as being the result of electromagnetic pollution. Then again, “UFO technology”, supplemented by “screen memories”, has been used to account for everything from Biblical miracles to Satanic abuse reports.

Thus we have at least five schools of thought: the ETH (whether “New Age” or not), the PSH, the paranormalist, the EM, and the Christian. yet to a great extent the adherents of all these schools cite the same evidence. We observe that sky ships from Magonia resemble UFOs from Zeta Reticuli. So, medieval peasants misinterpreted aliens as fairies; or, they both come from the same place, human imagination; or, they have the same paranormal cause; or, the same electromagnetic cause; or, the same demons are responsible. What is not argued is why we should believe one explanation rather than another.

It is theoretically possible that the truth might be a combination of two or more of these views, for instance, most UFO sightings could be caused by electromagnetic pollution, but a minority could be of actual craft piloted by agents of Satan. Certainly, if one can show that the PSH explains most UFO events, this does not eliminate the possibility that some might be actual ET encounters.

Incidentally, the plethora of views does help to confuse witnesses. On 13 January 2001 a woman told me how ten days earlier she had seen a silent triangular object flying over Earl’s Court, West London, faster than an aeroplane. I told her flying triangles are the ufological fashion, and that pleased her, because, she complained, no one believed her. her downstairs neighbour had said, “You’ve been taking too many vitamin pills”. The dustman told her, “I don’t believe in such rubbish”, no doubt believing only in the kind that comes in bins. Another neighbour, a drug dealer, asked, “Have you been taking what I’m taking?” On the other hand, a Christian friend suggested that it was a sign from God of the End Times; whereas members of her local Evangelical church denounced it as “Satanic”, hence typical of Earl’s Court. An old woman said, “It’s quite possible nowadays, it’s the Russians tampering with the sky”, and a Scotsman told her how he saw an object like an “old threepenny piece” flying through the sky fifty years ago.

There is no need here to point out the defects of pro-ETH writing. It is worth drawing attention, however, to some of the weaknesses commonly found in sceptical works. I have often read pieces on crop circles which boiled down to the argument: “Some crop circles are known fakes; that shows they are all hoaxes.” Considered purely as an exercise in logic, this is on a par with saying: “Some men have red hair; therefore all men have red hair.” Though it is termed rationalism, at root it is an appeal to incredulity, and will only convince those who share the incredulity from the start.

In framing arguments it is therefore worth asking whom, if anyone, you hope to convince. For example, if you are disputing with militiamen who believe that President Kennedy was assassinated by aliens from the Trilateral Commission acting on the orders of Satan, then you would be unlikely to impress them by reasoning based around “plausibility”.

If you are disputing with militiamen who believe that President Kennedy was assassinated by aliens from the Trilateral Commission acting on the orders of Satan, then you would be unlikely to impress them by reasoning based around plausibility

Another problem for sceptics is that often their various arguments cancel each other out. It has been stated that the “Oz Effect”, in which everything is reported to go strangely silent prior to a UFO encounter, was first described in a 1967 SF novel, The Terror Above Us. (3) I take the implication to be that, since it initially featured in a work of admitted fiction, its subsequent repetition in “real” cases must be a result of conscious or unconscious plagiarism, and nothing to do with real events. But others say the Oz Effect proves that close encounters are only hallucinations. (4) You can’t have it both ways.

(Actually, I doubt if the “science fiction said it first” view is correct in this instance, since a while ago I came across a book in my local library which quoted a 1950s book referring to the Oz Effect, though not by that name. I tried to find it again to quote it here, but it was not on the shelf. Possibly some other reader had taken it out, but John Rimmer suggests it was abstracted by Men in Black, who are engaged in an evil plot to remove UFO books from the shelves of public libraries in order to stifle public interest in the subject, a conspiracy to which Gordon Creighton drew attention in Flying Saucer Review back in the 1980s.)

They know the truth
UFO coverup theories go back to the start of ufology: John Keel recalled going to a meeting in New York in 1948 where he found “about 40 people crowded into a small room, yelling and screaming at each other about government suppression and such”. (5) Less well known, but equally pertinent, are the disbelievers’ counterparts, such as that the US Air Force is promoting a belief in UFOs (e.g. with Rendlesham) which it secretly knows to be untrue. Leader in the field seems to be Gregory M. Kanon, who maintains that the military invented the extraterrestrial threat to justify their huge budgets.

It is worth comparing the records of the Robertson committee, which met in 1953. They concluded that, though there was no threat from UFOs, the UnAmerican belief in UFOs could be a threat to national security, since it could be used by foreign powers to create a “morbid national psychology in which skillful hostile propaganda could induce hysterical behavior and harmful distrust of duly constituted authority”. (6) So they proposed various kinds of counter propaganda, such as silly alien cartoon films which would stop the public taking the subject seriously.

This indicates that they considered that they knew the truth about UFOs – that there were no such things – but wanted to suppress interest in them. This does not fit with either of the above paranoias. Nevertheless, Jenny Randles wondered if they had created the contactee movement, since absurd tales about blond, blue-eyed Venusians “were just what Dr Robertson ordered”. (7)

Another version has it that the aliens themselves are responsible for the coverup, having to some extent taken control of the world already, though this line inevitably degenerates into paradox. We would have to ask if the Magonia editorial team are controlled by implants, or are they themselves aliens in (quasi) human form? I am unbeknownst to myself being programmed to write all this as a further piece of disinformation?

Behind all these conflicting views lies, I think, the same fallacy: a refusal, on everyone’s part, to accept that their opponents really disagree with them. No, secretly they know the truth that there are, or are not, UFOs, but are hiding it for their own reasons. It is no accident that 1950s UFO sceptic Donald Menzel was later alleged to be one of the Majestic-12 coverers-up. (Something similar occurs in other fields: Joseph McCabe, a former Catholic priest, and anti-Catholic writer, stated that the view of the Catholic Church was that “the chief Satanic manifestation, the world in its most vicious shape, is the anti-Catholic writer; above all the apostate priest, who, of course, secretly believes in Catholicism, but is moved by some mad and mysterious rage against it”. (8))

Though this attitude may be adopted only unconsciously, sometimes it is quite explicit, as for instance in Martin Gardner’s article on Ray Palmer in the Skeptical Inquirer, which contained statements such as: “If Ray Palmer for one moment believed the crap in this crazy volume [Oahspe] then the man was a moron, which of course he wasn’t.” This produced a letter from Palmer’s former associate Chester S. Geier, who protested that, at least with regard to the Shaver mystery, Palmer appeared sincere: “Privately as well as publicly he was quite serious about it. For my part I recall how the members of Ray’s inner circle often asked one another ‘Do you think Ray really believes that Shaver stuff?’ He certainly seemed to.” In Gardner’s inevitable reply to the reply he refused to accept this, and openly accused Geier of the same deceit: “Geier . . . was Ray Palmer’s top booster of the Shaver hoax . . . It is unthinkable that either he or Palmer saw the hoax as anything but a flimflam to boost the circulation of Amazing Stories .” (9)

What we have here might be termed the Impotent Inquisition. The original Inquisition told people what they were to believe, with the possibility of imprisonment, torture and death for those who refused. Writers on ufology have no such power, so instead they tell people what (supposedly) they already believe, irrespective of what they may say themselves. I am not saying that this is any way comparable to the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, but I would suggest that it is totally valueless except as an exercise in self justification.

Consider the facts
John Keel made a gesture towards the PSH when he wrote: “If you saw a strange light in the sky in 1475 you knew it had to be a witch on a broom because you had heard of others who had seen witches on brooms skirting the treetops. Now in 1975 you might decide it is attached to a spacecraft from some other planet. This conclusion is not a qualified deduction on your part. It is the result of years of propaganda and even brainwashing. If you are under thirty, you grew up on a diet of comic-books, motion pictures, and television programmes which educated you to believe in the extraterrestrial hypothesis . . . ” (10)

Obviously to a great extent this is true, but it doesn’t address the crucial question: What is the strange light in the sky? Is it something currently unknown to science? Even if the study of UFO reports never tells us anything about life on other planets, it may eventually lead to some new finding in natural science, or, if nothing else, teach us things about abnormal psychology. But in order to achieve this, the first requirement is to collect the evidence.

Often, alas, the full facts are not recorded, I suspect because investigators are unconsciously afraid that more data might undermine their theories. There are many examples I could cite, but here are just a few selected at random.

The Sheffield Lake, Ohio, UFO (1958) was one of the few civilian sightings to be investigated by the US Air Force. A woman claimed that at three o’clock one morning she saw an aluminium coloured disc hovering in her back yard, which emitted clouds of smoke then flew off. Two air force sergeants concluded that what she had seen was the beam of the rotating headlight of a train going past about 100 yards away, shining through smoke from a nearby foundry.

This is one of those rare cases where it would be possible to test the hypothetical explanation, by getting the witness to watch when another train went by late at night, and see if it resembled what she saw. This approach does not seem to have occurred to the investigators; nor to the Akron Ohio UFO Research Committee, who later attacked the official report in a pamphlet.

One of the criticisms made in the latter was that the sergeants did not make a house-to-house check among the neighbours to obtain confirmatory evidence. Since the sighting had happened in a small town at three a.m., quite likely there would have been no other witnesses anyway. But Donald Menzel defended the Air Force in this wise: “Such a time-consuming procedure would not have been justified. The neighbors had had two weeks in which to report a visiting spaceship. No such report had been made.” (11)

No one investigating a murder would wait for witnesses to come forward, and, if they did not, conclude that there were no witnesses, or even no murder. In practical terms a UFO sighting is far less important than a murder case, but for precisely that reason witnesses would be far less likely to make a report of their own accord. Moreover, if other witnesses had recognised that the “object” was only a train headlight, thus confirming the Air Force explanation, then they would have seen no reason to report it. (Again, apparently, the Akron UFO Research Committee did not bother to make such enquiries themselves.)




As John Keel put it, the American public has not been telling the Air Force the truth about the UFOs.




Indeed, I can see no reason to think that most UFO witnesses try to report to the authorities, or to anyone at all. As John Keel put it, the American public has not been telling the Air Force the truth about the UFOs. Even if they tried, they would probably get only a brush off. The [London] Metropolitan Police commissioner was complaining a while back about people who telephone emergency services over trivial matters. This is certainly a problem (e.g. a man who merely wished to know the time, a woman who reported a broken fingernail) but the one example the commissioner gave was of people who want to report UFO sightings.

Tony Dodd, in Alien Investigator , quotes the memories of Jim Duesler, which, he says, at last prove that Captain Mantell did indeed encounter an alien craft. Duesler was in the control tower at Godman Field on the fateful day. He described the object as “the shape of an inverted ice-cream cone . . . It was rotating; at least there seemed to be a black stripe from top to bottom which seemed to move across our vision and go around and come back. We didn’t time the length of rotation but it was a matter of a few minutes.” In addition to one or two meaningless statements (“it was about 185-195 degrees above the horizon”) we are told that the plane crashed in one piece, rather than wreckage being scattered over a mile, as is more usually the case, and that Mantell’s body was “oddly intact”. (12) But this hardly proves anything, and otherwise his description is consistent with the object having been a balloon.

Reading this, I wondered if a Skyhook balloon would be picked up by radar (I think not, but am uncertain about this), and whether the object chased by Mantell was seen by the radar. To my amazement, though this is one of the most discussed cases in ufology, no writer I can discover ever recorded whether the UFO was picked up on radar, still less how that would bear on the balloon theory. My guess is that there was nothing on radar, so that nobody thought about or mentioned the matter, but there is no way of knowing for sure.

A recent book, MILABS: Military Mind Control and Alien Abduction, (13) which is not quite so paranoid as you would expect from the title, draws attention to an interesting statistical anomaly: many books by abductees, for instance Debbie Jordan and Kathy Mitchell’s Abducted!, Leah Haley’s Lost Was the Key , Whitley Strieber’s Breakthrough , Beth Collins’s and Anna Jamerson’s Connections , and Katherine Wilson’s The Alien Jigsaw, describe how they were apparently watched by unmarked black helicopters. Yet Thomas E. Bullard’s study of 270 alien abductions mentions in only four cases that the abductees saw dark unmarked helicopters over or near their houses.

Probably this discrepancy occurred because abductionists (the source of Bullard’s data) are not interested in black helicopters and do not normally record them, whereas they seem important to the abductees themselves, and so are reported by those who get to write their own books. Notably, there is no mention of helicopters in Budd Hopkins’s Intruders, which is about the experiences of Debbie Jordan (there called “Kathie Davis”), but Debbie Jordan herself says they were, at one time, “almost daily around out houses”. In the same way, C.D.B. Bryan’s book about the 1992 MIT abduction conference gave more than 150 pages to the stories of Carol Dedham and Alice Bartlett, firstly long interviews, then transcripts of their subsequent hypnosis by Budd Hopkins. Speaking for themselves,they told Bryan how “black helicopters began appearing over Alice’s horse farm”, (14) but nothing was said about these craft in the Hopkins sessions. (Nor did Hopkins deal with their other exotic adventures, such as Carol’s nighttime encounter, on a lonely road in Maryland, with a naked man wearing a four-foot stetson – was he really an alien, or just eccentric?)

This suggests that a widespread phenomenon is going unnoted because it does not fit what researchers want to hear. Moreover, whatever the real explanation for black helicopter sightings, it cannot be due to abductees saying whatever abductionists prompt them to say, the usual blanket explanation offered for abduction experiences. Accordingly sceptics, no less than abductionists, are inclined to pass over this topic, leaving it to be dealt with only by the paranoid.

Though there has been some attempt at proper analyses of the abduction phenomenon, studies tend to speak of an “abductee” as a generic creature, with no attempt to distinguish any different types. For instance, one might want to know how many are “waking encounters”, i.e. the witnesses claimed always to have remembered them, and how many “recover” their memories of abduction? And what percentage of these are recovered under hypnosis, what percentage spontaneously as “flashbacks”?

(Edith Fiore’s Encounters , though not very critical, does at least explain why her abductees came to think that they were abductees: out of thirteen cases, two had had an experience of seeing a bright light and then “missing time”; four had had dreams about aliens; one experienced a sense of fear on reading Communion ; in four cases Fiore herself had a “hunch” about a client, and during hypnosis suddenly asked about UFO experiences; one, visiting her for his drink problem, was told by her about UFO healings, and started recalling them; and one remembered, without hypnosis, having fifteen years earlier floated out of his flat, through the venetian blinds, into a circular building where he conversed with aliens.)

One problem is that it is difficult to know what facts may be important. Anthony R. Brown, commenting on Hufford’s study of the “Old Hag Phenomenon” notes that “he discovered that the hallucinations, the paralysis, the fight for breath, and the terror that characterised the Old Hag Phenomenon fitted perfectly the major components of the Narcoleptic syndrome. At no stage did he consider that the descriptions of the Old Hag sitting on the victim’s chest had any relevance to the clinical picture at all”. (15)

Obviously, if you are trying to understand how television works, then knowing the storyline of EastEnders will not help you. But that does not mean that the content of the programmes is devoid of all interest. In the same way, some aspects of an experience might have medical significance, and others social relevance.

The survey of abductees carried out in the USA by Randle, Estes and Cone found that a high proportion were gay or bisexual – far higher than would be expected by chance. This has given rise to some controversy, but no one apparently has suggested why this should be. There must be a reason, but because it does not easily fit into the usual theories I suspect the fact will end up being ignored.

David Sivier has recently argued that abduction experiences are basically sexual fantasies, and published accounts of them stand in the place of pornography. One point that tends to support this is the way that abduction stories frequently feature alien rectal probes. Now, while we cannot expect to understand alien technology, it is hard to see why, if they are engaged in fertility research and genetic manipulation as maintained by Hopkins and Jacobs, they should want to investigate our anuses. On the other hand, many people have anal erotic tendencies that they will not admit to. What better way to indulge them than in rape fantasy which has been given a seemingly scientific and factual basis?

Sivier also says, however: “For most abductees I would suggest, much could be done by simply reassuring them that their sexual or emotional problems do not stem from abuse by aliens.” (16) I cannot agree with him: on the contrary, it seems to me, people want to believe that their problems are due to suppressed memories of alien abduction, mass rape by gangs of paedophiles, or Satanists forcing them to eat their own babies. If they could be convinced that this was not so, then they might have to face up to the realisation that their emotional and sexual problems were their own fault, which is at best a depressing truth.

I have a particularly sad memory in this connection. On one occasion a man admitted to me that he had not (as he had been claiming for the previous year) been homosexually raped. He had merely had a psychotic episode and imagined it. That was the last time I saw him. A couple of weeks later he committed suicide.

In view of incidents like this I think that having fantasies, even quite unpleasant fantasies, can have therapeutic value. Yet most therapists do not encourage them, so people who have unconsciously prescribed themselves fantasies have to pretend that they are real events.

Whilst there are obvious dangers in taking false memories literally, personally I can foresee potential hazards in a general acceptance of False Memory Syndrome. The next step may be, some doctor will find a “cure”. Then, we will find this treatment being tried out on people who, say, claim to remember Tony Blair’s election pledges.

What the existence of False Memory does not do, in any case, is prove anything about UFO reports, rather, it is another of those matters which makes it harder to reach any conclusion at all. A little while ago Hilary Evans wrote of the Cergy-Pontoise case: “Many years later, Jean-Pierre Prevost, the most prominent of the three young men involved, confessed that it had been – as most researchers had always suspected a hoax; but what is intriguing is that his two companions, Salomon N’Daye and the abductee Fontaine himself, have refused to go along with their companion’s confession, insisting vigorously on the truth of the affair. Easy to say they are lying, but why should they? What if they have come, by who can say what mysterious process, to sincerely believe everything really did take place just as they told police, press and researchers at the time? Believing so profoundly, that the pseudo-story is now implanted in their minds as reality?” (17)

Well, maybe, but if there is no evidence besides the memories of humans, and these do not agree, no firm conclusion is possible. One could just as well argue that Fontaine really was abducted by aliens, but that because most researchers suspected a hoax, eventually Prevost managed to convince himself that it was so.

Abductionists seem to consider themselves a combination of investigator and therapist. Budd Hopkins employs a “buddy system” or mutual support network for abductees, but makes it a rule that: “The abductee whose case has already been investigated is not permitted to give any information as to the content of his or her abduction experience – descriptions of the UFO, its occupants, technical procedures, sequence of events, etc.” (18) He wants to help people who have suffered at the hands and rectal probes of the heartless greys, but therapy must not interfere with his programme of uncovering the secrets of alien technology.

In fact, of course, investigators and therapists usually have incompatible agendas, as is well known in child abuse cases. Moreover, attempting, say, to learn from an abductee what date the greys plan to take over the world is futile or worse from either point of view. I had thought of suggesting that it would be more helpful to approach alleged abductions from a purely therapeutic position, and simply ignoring the question of their “reality”; but there is no point in making recommendations when no one is going to take any notice of them, so I may as well leave it at that.



1. Jacques Vallee, Passport to Magonia , Tandem, 1975 (1st ed. 1970), 154
2. John Keel, Operation Trojan Horse , Abacus, 1973 (1st ed. 1970), 299
3. Magonia 49, 14
4. Magonia ETH Bulletin No. 1
5. Fortean Times 65, October/November 1992, 28
6. David M. Jacobs, The UFO Controversy in America , Signet, New York, 1976, 83
7. Jenny Randles, Investigating the Truth Behind MIB , Piatkus, 1997, 44
8. Joseph McCabe, The Popes and their Church , 1933, 146
9. Reprinted in Martin Gardner, The New Age, Prometheus Books, Buffalo, New York, 1991, 218, 220-221
10. John Keel, Visitors from Space, Panther, 1976 (1st ed. as The Mothman Prophecies, 1975), 48
11. Donald H. Menzel and Lyle G. Boyd, The World of Flying Saucers , Doubleday, New York, 1963, 286
12. Tony Dodd, Alien Investigator, Headline, 1999, 175-178
13. By Dr Helmut and Marion Lammer, IllumiNet Press, Lilburn, GA, 1999, 31-33
14. C.D.B. Bryan, Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind , Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1995, 229
15. Magonia 72, 5
16. Magonia 73, 18
17. Magonia Monthly Supplement No. 24
18. Budd Hopkins, Intruders , Sphere, 1988, 58-59

Off the Tracks with British Rael.
Mark Pilkington

raelIt’s not every day that you’re given the chance to meet an extraterrestrial ambassador, but that’s what the colourful British Raelian Foundation posters were offering early last April. The Rael Foundation was founded in 1973 by French motor-racing journalist Claude Vorlihon (now Rael) and claims to be the largest UFO organisation in the world, with 35,000 members in 85 countries. So it was with a reasonably open mind and a hopeful heart that myself and two friends made our way to the tacky Bayswater hotel lounge where this remarkable opportunity was due to take place. Things got strange as soon as I entered the toilets, where the pop superstar Prince was applying foundation to his cheeks whilst chatting to a female assistant. I soon established that this couldn’t really be Prince because he’s famously always surrounded by bodyguards. So I assumed that there must be a party going on in another part of the hotel; it was, after all, a Saturday afternoon. And I was right, but I didn’t know that I too was going to be there.

The Raelians had picked a bad day for their first British meeting in about twenty years, it being less than a week since the Heaven’s Gate suicides had hit the headlines, giving UFO fanatics everywhere a bad name. But this didn’t stop the crowd packing its way into the small but glitzy function room. Small papier mache planets and flying saucers hung on wires from the low ceiling, bobbing around in the air conditioned breeze like Pleidian beamships surfing on gravity waves. There were no comets. In the end people had to be turned away, and even a contingent from The Nation of Islam had to stand stoically at the back of the room, looking, with their suits, shades and tiny red bow-ties, like a cross between CIA agents and Pee Wee Herman. The rest of the crowd was composed primarily of youthful continentals in bright anoraks and sweatshirts, the elderly and a few grubby, muttering UFO buffs, a couple of whom I recognised from a recent BUFORA meeting. The Raelians, however, stood out from the crowd, easy to spot as they all wore big gold or brass Rael medallions, and most of the men had chosen to look like Rael himself. Think Micheal Bolton crossed with Asterix the Gaul, and you’ll be pretty close. Long, shoulder length hair, big moustaches, exposed hairy chests, cowboy boots and rhinestones seem to be de rigeur for the well dressed Raelian man, presumably thinking that if it works for Rael himself, it’ll work for them.

Suddenly the lights dimmed and there was music, terrible insipid, tinny music. A woman bounced onto the stage, all teeth and dyed orange hair, and began to sing in a warbling French accent; “And IIIII will always lof youuuuu…”. Written by Dolly Parton, a number one hit for Whitney Houston about five years back. What in god’s name was going on? Then I realised – they were chipping away at our defences, forcing us to let down our guard and open our minds to the warm seed of Rael. When it was over, I was applauding with the others.

“That was Sylvie ladies and gentlemen, already very big in Europe and soon to be big over here.” Anthony Grey took to the stage, looking very much the respectable Englishman, dignified, even dashing in a John Pertwee sort of way. Instead of a Rael medallion, he wore spectacles around his neck. “Rael is all about having more fun,” he tells us, “and today we want to tell you the truth in simple terms.” Unfortunately Rael himself wouldn’t be there as he was lecturing in Australia; though the posters had given the impression that he would be. So instead it’s Grey who’s the ambassador for the extraterrestrials, and he explains the situation to us, as detailed in Claude Rael’s “The Message Given to me by Extraterrestrials”, for sale from the beguiling young woman in the foyer.

A UFO is seen every 15 seconds, says Grey; 90% of these can be explained away in conventional terms – so far so good. The other 10% (exemplified by Arnold’s sighting, Fatima and the Belgian Triangles) are flown by the Elohim, “they who came from the skies”, as described in the Old Testament and every other world scripture – all version’s of Rael’s truth. The Elohim are hyper-intelligent human scientists. They created all life on earth, from the whale to the amoeba, 25,000 years ago through the advanced manipulation of genetic code. They now want to land on earth and for an open meeting with world leaders and the media. But we are not ready for them; all they can see of humanity is greed, despair and hatred. However, they will land if they are given a neutral place in which to do so, as close to Jerusalem as possible, for this is where they originally appeared and lived on Earth. It is the Raelians’ mission to build them an embassy, an extraterrestrial leisure complex designed around a doughnut shaped crop circle glyph, complete with flying saucer style swimming pool. This has to be done by 2030, or mankind will destroy itself and we will be beyond the help of the Elohim.

Throughout all this Grey comes across as smart but slightly bumbling, perhaps so as not to intimidate the audience. I keep expecting him to crack a joke, to burst out laughing at what he has just said, but he doesn’t, and neither does the audience. This is the real thing. As the meeting progresses we hear from Dr Brigitte Boisselier (Phd), a French scientist who soon tells us that she doesn’t know what day it is or who the current Prime Minister of France is. What she does know about is cloning and Rael’s predictions for its future inhuman development. Ultimately, in the words of Brigitte; “What could stop us then to create new forms of life, or life with complete memory?”

Strangely, considering that she is his scientific consultant, she doesn’t mention Rael’s recent plan to set up Clonaid, a human cloning facility, where, for as little as $200,000, you can produce cloned offspring of yourself. And for just $50,000, you can take out Insuraclone, a service whereby cells from the living child can be preserved, so, should anything go wrong, your little darling can be recreated from scratch. Presumably the proceeds from Rael books, videos, pendants, medallions, watches, T shirts and sweatshirts don’t provide enough funds already. Then there’s the imminent opening of UFO World in Canada, Rael’s current home, where an exact UFO replica is being built from bales of straw. The press release states “As with everything else, we need to be the first on the market. This is why now is the ideal time to be part of this successful enterprise.” Rael is clearly as much a businessman as he is a prophet.

Meanwhile, the presentation is sinking further and further into absurdity – we learn that Jesus walked on the water with the help of an Elohim reverse gravity beam and that the Elohim parted the Red sea through similar technology. There’s an awkward collision of cultures between the English, ministerial sincerity of Grey and the Eurovision tackiness of the Continental Raelians, who form the bulk of the group. We are subjected to more musical numbers; the Prince impersonator finally gets to strut and mime his stuff, and Claude from Switzerland sings “Don’t Forget your dreams” accompanied by Sylvie and a dance troupe of heavily made up pre-teen girls in “Elohim for Peace” sweat shirts. The more funky of the assembled Raelians can’t restrain themselves and begin to clap and dance in the shadows; some audience members tap their feet and nod in time. We’re promised a Spice Girls impersonation from the young girls later on, a birthday treat for gift a high ranking Raelian, but it is definitely time to leave. We were told that there would be Raelian representatives to talk to in the foyer, but I couldn’t see any and my friends were keen to leave. I was intrigued, but disappointed not to have learnt very much about the group, though further follow up sessions were promised for those who were interested and had read Rael’s book.

Anthony Grey’s incongruity amongst the rest of the group puzzled me. He told us that he was once a Reuters Middle East correspondent and had recently broadcast a BBC radio documentary, “UFOs: Fact, Fiction and Fantasy”(now available on cassette through the UK UFO Magazine). How did a man like Grey get involved with the bizarre Raelians? Did the BBC know of his affiliations when they hired him to make an impartial UFO programme?

Asking around over the next few days, I discovered that Grey had indeed been a well known and highly respected journalist. In July 1967 he was in Peking to cover the Cultural Revolution for Reuters and was captured by the Red Guard, who held him under house arrest until October 1969. On his release he wrote a best selling account of his experiences, Hostage in Peking, published in 1970, and has since written a number of political thrillers. (1) Things were beginning to piece together. Two weeks later I was able to speak to Mr. Grey at the Fortean Times convention. Perhaps, you might think, unadvisedly, the Raelians had set up a stand there, hoping to attract some interest; and, from what I overheard whilst lingering around the stall, they were not unsuccessful.

After some initial suspicion that I knew his name, which was quelled when I mentioned that I was at the Raelian meeting, Grey was friendly and open about his past, and about Rael. Whilst a hostage, he had passed the time writing fiction and philosophy. One of the things he came to realise was that our universe has to exist within something else, as part of another greater body – perhaps an expression of his own situation at the time, trapped inside a cell but fully aware of the larger world outside – then we jump to about five years ago. Grey was reading a lot of UFO material, including Rael’s book, in which he stumbled across similar beliefs to his own. He was immediately fascinated, and eventually got to meet the man himself whilst putting together the BBC documentary. Grey was deeply impressed by Rael’s sincerity and commitment to his beliefs, even in the face of the adversity and ridicule that he has encountered since he began his mission – The pressure was so great in his home land of France that Rael was forced to move to Canada – Grey believes strongly that Rael’s encounters with the Elohim were physically real, and not visionary in nature, and that he is truly a prophet.

I asked Grey how he felt about accusations that Rael’s teachings had a deeply fascistic undercurrent to them. This, he replied, was a result of the misinterpretation of his writings. ” Sure, Rael talks about abolishing democracy. But you must agree that democracy just isn’t working.” I nod cautiously, not wanting to disrupt his train of thought. “What we propose is a geniocracy – rule by intelligence.” He explains that all through their early lives, people would have their intelligence graded somehow. Then, at a certain age, provided they have acquired the designated level of intelligence, they will be given the right to vote. To actually stand for office would require an even higher intelligence level. Sounds like fascism to me, and that’s without mentioning the planned creation of a robot (android? clone? human?) slave workforce and the aspirations to a genetically perfect human race.

Grey continues, telling me about his hopes to reorganise the group and give it some measure of credibility, which he agrees it currently lacks. He expresses concern about the planned cloning venture, fearing that getting involved in such a sensitive issue might work against them. I can’t help wondering whether Grey has political inclinations, whether we might yet see a Raelian party standing at the elections in 2001. Whether he was attracted to the group by UFOs, the desire for power or simply the rumours of free love (“Sensual Meditation”) that have always surrounded the group, Grey is very serious about his new role and Rael’s teachings.

There are still so many questions that remain unanswered, not least amongst them the greater mystery of Rael himself. What happened to him that fateful day in 1973? For clues to this and other mysteries we shall have to wait until October, when Grey is planning to bring him over to promote the new translation of “The Message Given to me by Extraterrestrials”.


(1) Thanks to Martin Adamson for this information.