Schismatrix:
Reflections on the Cult of Information in Film and Beyond.
David Sivier

From Magonia 82, August 2003

Undoubtedly the biggest cinematic event of the past few months or so has been the Matrix Reloaded. Forming the middle act in a trilogy between the earlier Matrix and the Matrix Revolution, due to be released this autumn, the film has already generated more than its fair share of media hype and academic speculation, including one paper by Mercer Schuchardt, which claimed that it is a new religious parable for the information age. In its wake, philosophers have claimed that the world could, indeed, be a computer simulation run by an alien civilisation, a view taken up by no less than the astronomer and science writer John Barrow in the pages of New Scientist. [1]

matrixreloaded

Other, more sanguine critics, have complained about its great length and the messianism surrounding Keanu Reeve’s character, Neo. It is, of course, not the monumental philosophical tour de force claimed by the more excitable journalists and academics, but a fairly standard Hollywood blockbuster, though one which astutely mixes the balletic martial arts choreography of Hong Kong action movies with cyberpunk. None of it is actually terribly original, as some critics reviewing the academic literature already generated by the movie have pointed out. [2] Neither are the complaints of some of its detractors. The messianic theme may be at the forefront of its plot and action, but it’s hardly greater than that of Dune, and considerably less than many cult SF and Fantasy books now filling the shelves of Waterstones. Where the film is of interest is as an example of the cult of information and Virtual Reality as it has emerged in the last few decades.

The first thing to note is that the notion that the world is a giant virtual construct has been around for a very long time. Apart from Plato’s metaphor of chained prisoners seeing only the shadows of reality on a cave wall in The Republic, it’s a logical extension of the old philosophical problem of distinguishing dream from reality, when the only guide is one’s senses. By the 1980s this had been expressed in the academic philosophical literature as the ‘Brain in a Jar’ problem. This states that it is quite possible that we are all, indeed, nothing more than disembodied brains, convinced of our own corporeality by being fed sensory information artificially. The Polish SF writer Stanislas Lem used this notion in his short story, Doctor Diagoras. [3]

Diagoras, a Greek cyberneticist, has, as one of his experiments, constructed just such a series of disembodied mechanical minds. These minds are being fed pre-programmed recorded experiences, so living out ‘virtual’ lives. Supernatural phenomena, such as deja vue, ghosts and precognition, are the result of glitches in the programme, similar to those John Barrow suggests should be looked for in our consensual reality, where the recording has jumped forward a few moments. Lem was very much aware of the essentially religious nature of such a philosophical construct, and in another short story, Non Serviam, [4] describes a series of computer experiments in which virtual worlds are created, whose digital, ‘personetic’ inhabitants debate the possible purposeful creation of their reality by an outside force, the resulting theogonic arguments being recorded by the presiding scientists.

Lem himself was a fan of Philip K. Dick, whose novels also explore the problems of distinguishing between artificial and genuine reality, often overlaid with overt, if not blatant, religious speculation, as in Valis and the Divine Invasion. [5] While Dick is undoubtedly the best known, he was by no means the only SF author exploring contemporary science’s potential for myth and virtual realities. Jonathan Fast’s 1978 book, Mortal Gods, was set in a future where the human colonists of Sifra-Messa had created, through genetic engineering, the Mortal Gods of the title, transhuman titans, living in hyperspace, who physically personify the motifs and values of their worshippers’ society. [6] Elsewhere in the galaxy, Earth has been devastated by radiation from an erupting Black Hole in a cosmic war. As a result, the survivors had been forced underground, retreating into amniotic jars, to lead virtual lives through robot bodies on the surface controlled through telepresence.

While it isn’t quite the world of the Matrix – the humans are, in this instance, in control of the robots – in its depiction of a devastated world in which humans survive in bottles linked to intelligent machines as a kind of virtual reality, it isn’t far off by any means.

Although this artificial reality was benign, if horrific, far more malign visions of the potential of VR to enslave and dominate appeared later in the 80s. In the ‘Galactic Centre’ novels of Gregory Benford – Great Sky River, Furious Gulf Tides of Light and Sailing Bright Eternity - the remnants of future humanity, reduced to a hunter-gatherer existence by an aggressive machine civilisation, are pursued as vermin across the galaxy by the Mantis. [7]

Charged with eradicating the human pests, this robot electronically steals their minds, sucking them into its own personal virtual reality while at the same time fashioning grotesque sculptures from their bodies as art. Much the same attitude to their human victims is followed by the machine villains in Paul McAuley’s Red Dust. [8] Here, the great cybernetic intelligences ruling Earth and Mars, the Consensus and the Emperor, have rebelled against humanity, and are attempting to eradicate it from a universe in which intelligence has no place. On Earth, the Consensus has exterminated the human race as a way of preserving the terrestrial biosphere, though the artificial intelligences at the heart of the system have preserved humanity’s minds in cyberspace as worshippers, setting themselves up as virtual gods.

Mars’ own ruling machine, the Emperor, has been corrupted by the Earth’s Consensus into following the same gaol, encouraging its citizens to surrender their lives to become ‘half-lifers’, wired zombies dreaming their way into Heaven, the part of Martian Information Space reserved as an eternal environment for the dead. If SF is creating new mythologies for the scientific dispensation, then these machines – the Mantis, the Consensus, the Emperor – are truly its devils, cybernetic Lucifers stealing human souls to drag them down into virtual hells.

Of course, this essentially religious fear – of the soul’s enslavement and torture for all eternity by a malignant, nonhuman intelligence – would not exist if the writers could not present a plausible scenario for the cybernetic survival of the human personality after death. Following Marvin Minsky and the Extropian Downloaders, Benford presents just such a possibility in his books. Here, humans preserve the accumulated wisdom of generations of the deceased in the form of Aspects and Faces, digital recordings of their minds saved at the point of death. Each human carries a number of these cybernetic familiars to advise him, summoning them up from the depths of their circuitry as and when they are required.

McAuley adopts the same concept and terminology in Red Dust, though here the posthumous personalities are preserved and transmitted by nanotechnological viruses, their new incarnations revered as gods. Planned reincarnation through cloning is also foreseen. On Earth, natural reproduction has been abolished altogether, replaced instead by the recreation of past generations by clones, which then have the memories and personalities of their predecessors artificially implanted in a strange parody of the Buddhist cycle of reincarnation.

A similar process, though this time benign, appears in John Barnes’ A Million Open Doors, in which the dead live through clones electronically given the personalities of their deceased parent. [9]

McAuley, the founder of Rhibofunk/Gene Punk, was a biologist before becoming a professional SF writer, and has admitted on Radio 3 that in his novels he was deliberately trying to do for the biological sciences what William Gibson, Bruce Sterling and the Mirror Shades crowd had done for computers. Thus, in Fairyland and Red Dust, he depicted the squalid underside of decaying future worlds where, instead of hacking machine code, people cut and paste their own genomes in grimy back street salons, and nanotech viruses stalk the wetware processors of human brains like those of computers.

In all of this there is a very strong streak of messianism, apotheosis and apocalypticism little different, except in its technological underpinnings, from the more conventionally supernatural treatment of such themes elsewhere in fantasy and horror literature, and which frequently includes motifs and images from Christianity, as well as other religions. Both Gibson’s Neuromancer and McAuley’s Red Dust end in an apotheosis. [10] In the first, the hero’s shadowy A.I. employer. Wintermute, unites with its Brazilian counterpart, Neuromancer, to form a single intelligence which expands into Cyberspace; only, it is hinted in later books, to fragment into separate autonomous intelligences which take on the personae of Voodoo gods.

At the end of Red Dust, it is the hero, Wei Lee, who himself achieves this elevation to divinity, as, despite the murder of his physical body, he defeats the Emperor in Cyberspace to become the new, benevolent virtual ruler of Martian Information Space, effecting democratic reforms in its structure before planning his reincarnation in the body of a boy seeded with his memories by nanotech viruses. If the messianism in the Matrix and its subsequent outing was considered excessive by some, then it’s fairly certain they probably wouldn’t enjoy Red Dust: Wei Lee himself is revealed at the end to be a genetic construct, planned from before his birth to receive the viruses which would destroy the corrupted Emperor and the tyrannous human elite who serve it.

Lee himself is guided in his quest by the Virtual recreation of Elvis Presley, one aspect of a monad of personalities downloaded and adopted by a gestalt community of self-replicating probes in the Jovian atmosphere. This benign machine intelligence instead has incorporated aspects of the lives of Orpheus and Jesus into its persona, and in the end appears to Lee in cyberspace as Elvis driven in a pink Cadillac by Christ himself.

While it’s a slightly blasphemous handling of the person of Christ, it is a good illustration of the way the new scientific religious sensibility at the end of the 20th century was swift to adopt older, traditional religious beliefs and imagery. As such, it is only a stone’s throw from notions of Christ as an ascended Master living on Venus with Aetherius, or hearing the voice of God Himself in a UFO piloted by Quazgaa.

Elsewhere in the fantasy canon authors satisfy themselves with their heroes undergoing a Christlike passion before destroying their enemies and passing on, like Brian Lumley’s Harry Keogh in the last Necroscope book. Deadspawn. [11] Now afflicted by vampirism himself, Keogh is crucified by his vampire enemy Shaitan – who obviously has more than a passing resemblance to the Judaeo-Christian Satan and Muslim Shaytan – before destroying him in an explosion. Keogh’s then disembodied spirit is praised by one of the lower guardian intelligences of the Cosmos, and rewarded with reincarnation throughout the worlds of the multiverse in all of which he will retain the memory of his previous existence.

As with McAuley and, to a lesser extent, Gibson, there is an urge in these books to redeem the dead. Keogh is a hero throughout the sequence of novels as he uses his powers as a necroscope to converse amicably with the dead, offering them companionship and encouraging them to create a posthumous community by talking to each other, instead of spending eternity in lonely isolation, or torturing them for their secrets as the Vampires and their human counterparts do. At the end of Red Dust, Lee tears down the barrier around Heaven, the part of Information Space reserved for the dead, so that its denizens can communicate with the outside world, while granting those cybernetic ghosts forced to serve the Emperor their freedom.

Similarly, at the end of Necromancer Case grants the artificial, posthumous personality of the Texas Flat Line its freedom and transcendence in Cyberspace. It is significant that, despite his own brain death and brief existence as a virtual ghost in the machine environment of Neuromancer, the computers running the simulated reality are unable to intrude into Case’s own mind, even when he is trapped in their reality, a literary attempt to preserve some portion of human freedom and transcendence even in the face of god-like omnipotent machines.

I found myself wishing for the simple, humanistic belief that valued human life as it is, not just for what it may one day become

Of course, all this would be of purely literary interest were not for the fact that such a faith in the transcendent power of Information, a desire to pass beyond the ‘pearly gates of Cyberspace’ in Margaret Wertheimer’s succinct phrase, were not held by an increasing number of people. Paradoxically, given Richard Dawkins’ own vehement hostility to religion, his theory of memes forms a vital part of this new faith, a faith that raised its head several times during the Cheltenham Festival of Science in May this year [2003]. Discussing his latest book, Our Final Century, the Astronomer Royal Dr Martin Rees cautioned the audience against thinking that humanity was some kind of culmination. Our Sun was only halfway through its life, and there was no telling into what it may evolve. Like many, perhaps most professional scientists, he was unimpressed with predictions “from flaky Californian futurologists” that nanotech ‘grey goo’ was going to eat the planet, though there was a real, though remote possibility that humanity would be overthrown by intelligent machines.

It was on this point that the Faithful of the Wired Age arose to challenge him during the question and answer session. One young man wondered if humanity’s obsolescence by its machines would be a bad thing, given that these new, artificial intelligences may care more for the environment. I found that problematic, considering that such machines would probably have even less in common with the organic world than humanity, which is doing so much to destroy it at the moment. One young woman with blazing red highlights in her hair wondered why we should be so concerned about taking all this wetware – the human body and its attendant organic requirements – into space, as it was information, such as that on her computer, which was now more important.

Rees’ answer was that humanity still had a long, evolutionary future ahead of it. In the metaphor for the present situation he used, if you were transported back to the end of the Devonian period to see the first fish walk out of the sea onto land, you may well have considered it an ugly brute and bludgeoned it to death. If you had done so, however, the whole of land-based life would not have evolved.

It’s a good point, but I found myself wishing for the simple, humanistic belief that valued human life as it is, not just for what it may one day become. Bertrand Russell was asked once by the BBC while on a CND march why he was protesting against nuclear weapons. ‘Because,’ said the Great Brain, ‘they threaten to destroy the entire human race. And some of us think that would be a very great pity.’ Not perhaps the most intellectually sophisticated of answers, and recent biographies of the great man have shown that he wasn’t the paragon of moral rectitude you may have expected, but the answer did have the simple virtue of a straightforward concern for humanity, even in its present state.

I suddenly felt nostalgic for the fifties, where, for all the era’s numerous faults, at least such uncomplicated attitudes could be aired in the face of global extinction. The intellectual environment has grown more sophisticated, more cynical, since then, to the point where a return of a little intellectual directness would not go amiss.

Back at the Cheltenham Festival, another member of the audience asked Jim Al-Kalili during his talk on his book Quantum Physics: A Guide for the Perplexed - whose subtitle was surely lifted from Maimonides classic of Jewish philosophy – about the conservation of information without a base in matter. Al-Kalili poured cold water on this, too. He mentioned Edward Fredkin’s belief that information lay at the heart of reality, though at the moment it seemed that information always needed to be encoded in something concrete, like matter.

Following questions from a sceptical neuroscientist, who wanted to know if he really believed that quantum processes in the human brain gave rise to consciousness, Al-Kalili confessed that he thought this theory, from Hameroff and Roger Penrose, was also rather too farfetched. These two, an American neurosurgeon and a respected British mathematics professor, have suggested that tubulin molecules in the brain build up quantum information by adopting, in true quantum physical fashion, two separate states at once until a critical point is reached when the structure collapses and information is spread throughout the system as a whole, creating consciousness. Al-Kalili doubted that this was actually the case, and stated that he believed the theory had only been accepted because of who Penrose was, rather than being otherwise discarded.

Fredkin’s influence on the new virtual faith of transcendent information is strong, and has been remarked upon by Erik Davis, amongst others, but Dawkins’ memes also play an important, though muted role. [12] Meme was the term Dawkins gave to a self-replicating unit of information in his book The Selfish Gene. It was originally intended to be a metaphor for the expression and replication of genetic information. His example was a limerick – a meme, which contained the coded information for its own replication, like biochemical genes. The consequent structures in the human brain which arose to record this information could be seen as its phenotype, in the way the bodies of living creatures are the expressions of their genes.

Although intended merely as a metaphor, Dawkins then went on to use it to explain the evolution and propagation of cultural traits in human societies in his subsequent book The Extended Phenotype, which generated a lot of attention and controversy. There is something to it – recently, information processing techniques taken from DNA analysis have been used to show the similarity between changing tastes in babies’ names and genetic drift, [13] and the evolution of the P and Q Celtic tongues from a single parent language. [14] There are, however, also real drawbacks. The definition of a meme as a ‘self-replicating unit of culture’ is actually very vague, and can be used to cover almost every component of human society, from the insignificant – limericks, or shoe styles, say, – to the immensely powerful, such as religion and political ideologies. This is in sharp contrast to the clear definition of a gene as a tangible, biochemical phenomenon, a section of DNA coding for particular proteins.

Moreover, the initial idea of a meme has cross-pollinated with cybernetic information theory, so that the vehemently anti-religious Professor Dawkins can denounce religions as viruses of the mind. This last comment actually isn’t as original as it appears. The comparison between superstition and disease, specifically cholera, was made as long ago as the mid 19th century by the great popular educator James Augustus St John in his book The Education of the People. [15] Although the analogy has become rather more contemporary with the implication religious belief is specifically like computer viruses, it does seem to be part of the curious Victorianism that seems to inform many of Dawkins’ pronouncements.

The philosopher Keith Ansell Pearson in his book Viroid Life denounced the expectation of many Futurists that organic life would be replaced by mechanical beings as a kind of corrupt Hegelianism. [16] It’s an analysis, which could very easily be extended to cover memes. Instead of history being the process of the gradual enactment on the plastic plane of transcendental ideals, history and the evolution of human society becomes merely the result of the operation of competing memes acting on human consciousness. Indeed, to researchers such as Dr Sue Blackmore, the human mind is nothing more than a vehicle for these memes, just as the bodies of living organisms are no more than the vehicle for their genes. The selfish gene has become the selfish meme.

The idea of memes as autonomous, conscious informational creatures has penetrated SF, adding new dimensions to the scientistic Gnosticism of the 21st century. McAuley mentioned on BBC radio’s own short series investigating the transhurnan condition, Grave New Worlds, some years ago that he was influenced by the concept of memes when inventing the nanotech viruses used by corporations and politicians in Fairyland to alter behaviour and voting allegiance. Going further, in Benford’s last Galactic Centre novel to date, Sailing Bright Eternity, memes have become vast, godlike disembodied entities using gravity waves and other forms of energy as their substrate, evolved from the thoughts of the Clays, mineral intelligences based on crystalline lattices which arose to use the vast energies produced by the massive stars at the beginning of the cosmos. [17]

These memes are benevolent, seeking to end the war between organic life and the robotic Mechs so that both may evolve towards the electron-positron plasma, which will survive the cosmos’s final Heat Death. This drive for transcendence can be seen as a kind of positivist God-building, in which humanity itself advances towards an apotheosis through collective action. In this scheme, such memes become archons, or damons, lesser gods or spirits acting as intermediaries and agents for the higher being into which humanity will one day evolve. It is but a short step from this scientifically informed literary speculation to the far less scientifically respectable theorizing of many Forteans. Indeed, it bears more than a passing resemblance to John Keel’s suggestion that UFOs, fairies and other apparitions are the products of a deranged computer at the end of time, though with the difference that these more recently postulated computational entities lack even the semblance of a physical body.

The problem with such a view of ideas as abstract autonomous beings is that it ultimately leads back to the cry of the Idealist in Goethe’s Faust: “Ideas can be a tyranny/ To give one mental twinges/ If all my thoughts are really me/ My mind is off its hinges.” [18] People naturally rebel against notions of such determinism, as well as the view, articulated by Blackmore in her book The Meme Machine and elsewhere, that consciousness does not exist. It appears to contradict lived, empirical experience, as well as reducing humans to automatons controlled by their ideas and subconscious mechanisms, where the sense of self is only an illusion.

It also seems, curiously, to bear the stamp of Dawkins’ own moral hostility to the very phenomena he investigates. He has asserted that in his personal views he is almost anti-Darwinian, and railed against the ‘tyranny of the selfish gene’. Culture is a way out of that biologistic reduction of organisms to genetic determinism. In positing memes as the controlling evolutionary unit of culture, however, he has replaced genetic with cultural determinism, and so rails against them, or at least their religious expressions, as retrograde, oppressive forces. It’s almost as if there is something in his psychology. which, unable to accept the notion of humans as possessors of free will, compels him to erect prisons about the human condition to denounce and strive against.

Elsewhere at the Science Festival, other aspects of contemporary fringe belief raised their head. In their talk on the possibility of life on Mars, the astronomers Heather Coupar and Nigel Henbest recounted with dismay the argument Ed Malin had over the photographing of the infamous ‘Face on Mars’. Malin was one of the software engineers contracted by NASA to process the images from the Pathfinder probe. He refused to train the probe’s cameras on the Face because he saw it as a publicity stunt, not true science. Faced with people demonstrating outside the gates of JPL against what they saw as a NASA cover-up to hide the existence of intelligent life on the Red Planet after the probe’s imaging equipment went down after briefly capturing the Face, the NASA hierarchy insisted that Malin train the cameras back on the feature. After taking his objections all the way to Dan Goldin himself, who personally insisted on it, Malin eventually complied. The episode did, however, seem to have left him bitter. While Malin’s purist concern for scientific research over hype is perfectly understandable, even praiseworthy, in this instance the NASA top brass were actually quite correct in their actions.

canals

Faced with unfamilar perspectives the mind can play tricks on even the best of us, a classic example of this was Percival Lowell’s notorious Martian Canals

Faced with mass demonstrations at their gates and the growth of yet another irrational conspiracy myth, they were undoubtedly right in trying to forestall any further criticism by training the camera back on the Face. The result has been that the Face stood revealed as an ordinary mesa without any particularly strong resemblance to the human physiognomy, though Coupar jokingly suggested that this was due to the Martians coming out in the meantime to chip away at it to mislead us. As for the photograph apparently showing a sand-whale crawling at the bottom of a transparent plastic tube miles long, which so excited Arthur C. Clarke amongst others, Malin suggested that the image be rotated 90 degrees, at which it becomes an ordinary slumped dune at the bottom of a gully system. Faced with unfamiliar perspectives, the mind can plays tricks even on the best of us, so that it easy for even sceptics to see creatures which aren’t there.

A classic example of this, which Coupar and Henbest mentioned earlier in their lecture, was Percival Lowell’s notorious canals. These haven’t been recorded since they were effectively disproven by Antoniadi, circa 1916, and numerous astronomers and historians have wondered what he, and others like him, was looking at. Coupar recalled a conversation she had at Flagstaff with Clyde Tombaugh, the discoverer of Pluto. Tombaugh told her that he had seen canals on Mars plenty of times using Lowell’s telescope. In fact, the telescope was rather too powerful, so that Mars became too bright to look at through it when it was closest to Earth. Lowell had solved this problem by stopping it down – effectively reducing the instrument’s magnifying power – by placing a plywood board half over its aperture. Tombaugh himself had seen the canals, but always when he too had placed a board across it. This suggests that the canals were an illusion created by this technique, though it must also be added that Lowell and other astronomers like him were keen to see the specific features noted by Schiaparelli on his maps. Schiaparelli himself had failing eyesight, not recognised at the time, and so it’s quite likely that many of the astronomers who saw his canals had persuaded themselves to see features which were tragically optical illusions produced by the fading eyesight of a once brilliant observer.

Lastly. Coupar and Henbest discussed the possibility of human colonisation, both by terraforming and its alternative, the genetic modification of humans to survive on Mars in its present condition. Such a variety of humanity – Homo sapiens martialis - would need a tough, leathery skin to survive the radiation flux, and to get their oxygen by other means than from the atmosphere, possibly using altered livers to extract oxygen from fluids. This new breed of humanity was illustrated by a slide showing what could well have been three Greys emerging from the fog. The talk’s host jocularly declared that he already knew a good many people with leathery skins and dodgy livers, speculating that perhaps they were Martians.

Despite the tentativeness of this speculation, you do wonder how long it will be before this image of Homo sapiens martialis turns up in the fringe literature as fact, perhaps as time travelling colonists from the Red Planet’s future, in the way that the speculative reconstruction by Dr Dale Russell of the intelligent dinosaur which would have evolved if the Chicxulub asteroid impact had not occurred got roped into the UFO myth as the true identity of the alien Greys in David Buxton’s 1995 book, Aliens: The Final Answer.

Finally, Dr Kevin Fong’s talk on Medicine for Mars on the Saturday contained a detail, which should caution anyone against taking anomalous experiences reported by astronauts at face value. Discussing the immense physical and psychological challenges facing voyagers into the Deep Black, Fong, the director of Britain’s Institute of Space Medicine, and who himself had served on shuttle rescue and retrieval crews, stated that astronauts were vulnerable to auditory and visual hallucinations. As were submarine crews, where it is the second most common cause of manoeuvres being abandoned after ordinary accidents.

On one mission, two Russian cosmonauts were caught staring out of a porthole, as one had heard a dog barking and a baby crying. On another mission, two crewmembers had woken up to find a third about to take a spacewalk with his oxygen hose unattached. When questioned, the cosmonaut could give no reason for his potentially fatal actions, apart from the fact that he felt like taking a spacewalk. Given the isolation, incredibly cramped condition aboard spacecraft, and the intense physical disorientation, which occurs in microgravity, it is not surprising that the crews may occasionally suffer such episodes. It does, however, suggest that any UFOs, which may be reported by such crews from time to time could similarly be the result of such episodes, or optical illusions created by the problems of adapting to weightlessness. The immensity of space is deceptive, as well as mysterious.

From all this it may also be concluded that the cult of information, however, deeply felt, is as much a literary construct as a scientific postulate. This is not necessarily a criticism: myth is essentially a creation of the imaginal realm wherein poets of all eras have found their inspiration. Much of the embryonic science of early ages also found expression in poetry, from Empedocles to Lucretius’ long De Re Natura, whose atheism and scepticism made its translation one of the more scandalous literary products of the 17th century. Even now there is a considerable corpus of poetry inspired by science.

The mythographic tendencies of much science fiction are merely the latest expression of the perennial human drive to construct my1hs and cosmogonies from scientific speculation. Those scientists writing such are only following a long line of philosopher-adepts pointing to transcendent worlds available to the human intellect from the renaissance magi to Pythagoras and beyond. It does, however, warn us that other scientific minds, more fixed on the reality of what actually occurs, rather than dreaming of other, more glorious worlds, are much more sceptical of its reality. It’s a pity that some of this scepticism towards the wilder claims of certain futurists and technological visionaries were not rather more widespread.

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REFERENCES

  1. Barrow, J., `Glitch!’, New Scientist 17th June 2003, pp. 44-45.
  2. Grossman, W., ‘SF Overloaded, review of Yeffeth, G., with an introduction by Gerrold, D., Taking the Red Pill., Science, Philosophy and religion in The Matrix, in New Scientist, 21st June 2003, p. 55.
  3. Lem, S., ‘Doctor Diagoras’, in Tales of Pirx the Pilot, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Orlando.
  4. Lems S., ‘Non Serviam’, in A Perfect Vacuum, Harvest/Harcourt Brace Kovanovich, Orland 1978, pp.167-196.
  5. Dick, P.K., Valis. Bantam; The Divine Invasion, Timescape, both 1981.
  6. Fast, J., Mortal Gods, New American Library, New York 1978.
  7. Benford, G., Great Sky River, Victor Gollancz, 1987; Tides of Light, 1989; Furious Gulf, 1994; Sailing Bright Eternity, 1995.
  8. McAuley, P., Red Dust, Vista, London 1993.
  9. Barnes, J., A Million Open Doors, Orion, London 1992.
  10. Gibson, W., Neuromancer, Grafton. 1986.
  11. Lumley, B., Necroscope V: Deadspawn, Grafton, London 1991.
  12. Davis, E., Techgnosis, Serpent’s Tail, London 1988, pp. 125-5, 160, 281, briefly discuss Fredkin’s views of the universe as a ‘cellular automata’ – a Virtual simulation.
  13. ‘From Ashley to Zoe, its name drift at Work’, New Scientist, 21st June 2003, p. 26.
  14. ‘Just once for Celtic’, New Scientist, 5th July 2003, p. 20.
  15. Davies, 0., Witchcraft, Magic and Culture 1736-1951, Manchester University Press, Manchester 1999, p. 53.
  16. Pearson, K.A., Viroid Life: Perspectives on Nietzsche and the Transhuman Condition. Routledge, London 1997, p. 33.
  17. Benford, G., Sailing Bright Eternity, Vista, London 1995.
  18. Goethe, trans. Wayne, P., Faust Part 1, Penguin, London 1949,p.185.

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Abducted in Space.
Playboy, the Saturday Evening Post and the Vanishing X-15 Pilot’s Return.
Curtis Peebles

From Magonia 91, February 2006

In the article ‘The Case Of the Vanishing X-15 Pilot,” I investigated the claim. made by Dr. Robert Wood in a 1968 telephone conversation with Dr. James G. McDonald, that Douglas test pilot Gene May “was abducted during an X-15 flight in the early 1960s. May and the aircraft were released after three hours, according to Dr. Wood, and landed safelv at Edwards AFB. The story was included in Ann Druffel’s book Firestorm Dr. James E. McDonald’s Fight For UFO Science. I also discovered a similar account, heard by an X-15 engineer attending a Giant Rock flying saucer convention in the early 1960s. In fact, the stories were bogus on several levels, including the fact that Gene May never flew the X-15 aircraft. [1]

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Soon after publication of the article in Magonia 88, two very different responses to the article were received. Both involved science fiction stories, but which were published in magazines not normally associated withthis literary form. The stories not only give insights into the X-15 abduction. but also into the birth and development of the abduction myth, as well as the outlook of believers. The first came in an email from Luis Gonzalez. in which he noted a possible “cultural source” for the tale of the in-flight abduction of an X-l5 pilot. He recalled that Jacques Vallee had mentioned the story “Control Somnambule” written by William Sabrot and published in the May 1962 issue of Playboy. In the story, an astronaut is abducted in space, examined for several hours, and then returned after being hypnotized to forget everything. [2] The similarities with the X-15 abduction story were obvious.

The Playboy Abduction

‘Control Somnambule’ is told in the form of a letter from Amos P. Fineman. MD., a psychologist, to General James Kearny of the directorate of Air Force Intelligence. It described the statements made by astronaut ‘Captain Paul Davenport’ under deep hypnosis. Davenport was launched by a Saturn C-I booster with a high energy second stage and a Centaur third stage. He was the sole occupant of a stripped down Apollo capsule making a flight around the Moon. Just before the Apollo capsule goes around the far side of the Moon. he releases a high-intensity flare, which can be seen from Earth, and fires a solid fuel rocket to go into orbit. As the capsule loops back around the Moon, Davenport radios he has the Earth in sight, has released another flare and that the solid fuel rocket has fired to break him out of lunar orbit. Davenport then says. “Hello. You blue beautiful old … ” Then there is only silence; no voice communication, no life support telemetry, no radar tracking of the Apollo capsule. The Sugar Grove radio telescope and the Jodrell Bank receiver attempt to contact the capsule, but with no success. It has vanished completely.

And then, five hours and 54 minutes after he vanished, Davenport radios “…earth, here I come.” completing the sentence he began just before he disappeared. The telemetry and radar tracking of the capsule also resumes as if nothing had happened. Davenport is immediately asked about the nearly six hours without contact. and he is astonished. He says that there had been no interruption at all. He could not explain why contact was lost or what had happened during that period. The flight continues without further problems, and a successful splashdown is made in the Atlantic. The loss of communications was initially blamed on an intense storm of highly-charged subatomic particles. This deflected the radar signals, and caused the electronic equipment to stop and Davenport to black out. Then a technician, ‘Harry Wyckoff’ discovers the timing tracks on the spring-operated cockpit camera film stopped at one set of coordinates, then began again at a much later set. Wyckoff also finds the film has been cut. and then spliced. There are four frames showing an empty cockpit.

Wyckoff reports the discoveries and Fineman is brought in to the case. Fineman takes Davenport, now under hypnosis, back to the moment when the capsule disappeared. Davenport says, “Gravity… I – I’m feeling gravity – and there’s been an interruption from the Sunnyvale monitoring station…. It’s a – a ship. Dead ahead. As though I’m tailing it…. I’m moving up on it …. There’s a hatch opening – and – I’m going into it. The spaceship – I’m inside it.” Davenport describes being in the hangar-like spacecraft. and then saying “…those are people?” Fineman asks him to describe the aliens, but he says. “Can’t see a thing. B1urred.” Davenport is frightened as he is taken out of the capsule and lashes out. He then says “They’re talking to me. Soothingly. Quietly. One of them …. he’s patting me on the head – like I’m a scared dog or something. An infant.”

The spacecraft which captured Davenport’s capsule is itself entering a much larger spaceship. He says. “This thing is bigger by far than the [USS] Forrestal. It’s like a mountain of metal.” Again, Fineman asks him about the aliens, but Davenport replies. “No. I can see everything, else – this wall. Metal. Warm. And this room – low table. Bright lights. Like a lab maybe? Wall with a big chart, or graph on it. But not them. I can’t see them …. Blur. Just a blur.”

Davenport describes being stripped naked. and then undergoing an internal examination with a fluoroscope and detailed external physical examination. A mold is also made of his body. Davenport is then taken into an ‘operating room’ and wires are placed on his temples. As Fineman watches “…on each side of his head the hairs stood straight, out the skin over the temples became completely white. bloodless.” Davenport goes limp, and Fineman concludes he had been put into “a deep. electrically induced coma” aboard the alien ship. His pulse rate is a quarter of normal, and his body temperature is also low. Under hypnosis. Davenport is reliving the physiological reactions to his experience.

Fineman notes “…a spasmodic shudder of his stomach muscles.” and opens Davenport’s shirt. Fineman sees. “A fine red line ran from his breastbone down to his lower abdomen. Even as I watched, the vivid red streak faded until it became a thin white scar line that might have been only a creased imprint from the couch. And, in a moment. even that vanished: nothing remained but matted hair.”

Slowly, Davenport’s pulse and heart rate and breathing return to normal. He then said “They are telling me — When I return to flight, I will not remember. I will not — remember…” Davenport continues that the aliens are trying to dress him in his spacesuit. They have difficulties, and Davenport goes through the motions of adjusting the clips and snaps, then lowers the helmet onto his head. He describes being put back into the capsule, then lies still on the couch. Davenport finally says ‘Hello, you big beautiful old earth.” He is back aboard the capsule, sixty hours from re-entry. Fineman asks him. “How about the big, spaceship … the operating room?’” Davenport replies. “I don’t follow you at all, friend.” The experience was over. Davenport’s memory of the six hours had been obliterated at the conscious level.

Fineman requests that Davenport undergo a gastrointestinal examination. During the interview. Davenport had described signs of appendicitis before the launch, but he had dismissed it as pre-launch excitement. The g-forces of launch made the pain worse, but after orbiting the Moon Davenport said the symptoms had vanished. The fluoroscope shows a long, thin line on his abdomen where the mark had appeared during the hypnotic session. Additionally, the end of the large intestine glowed. Exploratory surgery showed that Davenport’s appendix had been removed. Additionally there was a long row of regular geometric figures – triangles, loops, dots, and dashes outlined in a pale blue ‘tattoo’ on his large intestine.

Eineman’s conclusion was that the experience related by Davenport under hypnosis were real. He and the capsule had been captured by an alien ‘scout’ ship in mid flight. Fineman suggested that the scout had been attracted by the flares released as the capsule went around the Moon. This scout had radar deflecting devices. to conceal it from the tracking stations, as well as the subatomic force field which completely stopped the capsule’s on-board instrumentation. Davenport’s inability to see the aliens was apparently due to “some brilliant emanations” which blurred his vision.

Davenport was then transferred to the huge ‘mother ship’. In the course of an examination, his diseased appendix was discovered. Davenport was taken to an operating room, and it was removed. The aliens used an instantaneous tissue regeneration process to heal the surgery, which caused the area to glow under the fluoroscope. At the same time, the tattoo markings were placed on his large intestine. Once Davenport was revived, the aliens put him into a trance, then gave him a post-hypnotic suggestion to forget everything which had happened. He was then dressed, put back in the Apollo capsule, and released back into space on the return trajectory.

The aliens’ effort to conceal their abduction of Davenport and his capsule failed because the cockpit camera was spring operated, and was not affected by the subatomic force field. They cut and re-spliced the film, but could not alter the markings on the edge of the film. Additionally, leaving the four frames showing an empty cockpit was a serious mistake, as the capsule’s hatch could not be opened from the inside.

Fineman’s letter (and thus the story) concluded by drawing the analogy of zoologists capturing a few animal specimens, attaching tags, and then releasing them back into the wild. The tag includes a request for the finder to send such data as the date the animal was captured, its location, size, weight, and similar information. This would be used to collect data on their growth patterns, life span, migration patterns, and similar questions. He concludes by writing: “Do you follow me? It would appear from Davenport’s queer ‘tattoo’ that he was seized in flight, swiftly and expertly examined – inside and out – tagged, and then released. “By whom – and for what purpose – remains to be seen.” [3]

The story ‘Control Somnambule’ contains many of the elements of later abduction mythology. There is ‘missing time’, a strange scar, use of hypnosis by boththe aliens to conceal the abductees’ experiences, and by a psychologist to recover them. There are also physical examinations and operations by the aliens, the early 1960s predecessors of ‘implants’ or ‘tracking devices,’ while the tattoo could only be described as ‘hieroglyphics.’ Abduction-type stories have been noted in both 1930s science fiction magazines and fairy lore. [4] Peter Rogerson even briefly mentioned the Playboy story in his article, ‘Notes Towards a Revisionist History of Abductions, Part 2, Fairyland’s Hunters.’ He noted, “Missing time, abduction and medical examination all featured together in a piece of fiction, ‘Control Somnambule….”‘ [5]

The timing of ‘Control Somnambule’ in relationship to the origins of abduction stories is interesting. The Betty and Barney Hill abduction occurred during the night of September 19/20, 1961. The Hills could not have been influenced by ‘Control Somnambule’ as it was not printed until the following spring. Sabrot could not have been influenced by the Hill abduction story, either, as it also had not yet been published. The first account was in the January-February 1962 issue of the NICAP newsletter, The UFO Investigator. But this did not include anything about their alleged abduction. The Hills did not go to see Dr. Benjamin Simon until December of 1963, and The Interrupted Journey, describing their experiences, was not published until 1966. [6]

What is occurring are two independent views of what would happen to a human taken aboard a flying saucer. If the aliens were here to study humans, presumably just as human zoologists would examine captured animals, aliens would run a battery of tests on captured humans. There are differences between the Hill abduction and Sabrot’s science fiction story. What Betty Hill described differed little from existing early 1960s medical technology. In contrast, the fictional Davenport abduction had the tissue regeneration device and an electron scalpel for treating his appendicitis.

‘Control Somnambule’ suggests another possible influence on abduction stories – nature documentaries. Sabrot was quite explicit in drawing parallels between human zoological studies of wild animals and what was done to Davenport by the aliens. The scene in which he is reassured by the aliens brings to mind a similar image of a captured gazelle being calmed by a wildlife researcher. This also reflects the status of the human astronaut vs. the aliens. Davenport may be the first human to orbit the Moon, but he is the one playing the role of the gazelle.

It is also worth noting that, as a cultural influence. nature documentaries would likely be more familiar than science fiction stories to mass audiences in the early 1960s. Long before the Animal Planet satellite channel existed, there were televisions shows such as Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. These would have made the procedure of trapping, examining, tagging, and then releasing a wild animal a common cultural image.

The David Howard abductions suggest a possible example. He recalled screaming in terror when he was first abducted in 1983. Then a voice inside his head reassured him, “Don’t be afraid. We’re not here to hurt you.” His legs were then painfully clamped; probes were stuck in his side, then he was turned over and a “tracer” was put in his brain, to allow the aliens to locate him. Howard said, “You’re treating me like an animal.” The alien replied, “Well, you are an animal.”

Davenport’s experiences in ‘Control Somnambule’ have differences from the structure of later abduction stories, such as Howard’s. In these, the abductees frequently describe having conversations with the aliens, being taken on tours of the ship, visiting the aliens’ home world, or receiving celestial wisdom. In ‘Control Somnambule,’ the aliens did none of these things. But, then again, the zoologists don’t explain to the gazelles what they are doing either. [7]

What influence ‘Control Somnambule’ had on the May abduction story is problematic. In both, the X-15 and the Apollo spacecraft disappeared for several hours, then reappear where they should be. Both the X-15 pilot and the Apollo astronaut tell their stories to a psychologist. Both the bare bones account by Dr. Wood, and the more detailed version told by the Giant Rock speaker, took place after the story was published. (1968 in the first case, and probably 1963 or 1964 for the Giant Rock story.) However, the other story elements, such as X-15 vs. Apollo moonshot, or early 1960s vs. near future, are very different. There is a better source of the May abduction story.

“What it is ain’t exactly clear…

I was surprised to open my copy of Magonia 89 and find Frank John Reid’s article ‘Curtis Peebles, The X15 And Angela’s Ashes.’ [8] This soon turned to bemusement as I read the article. Mr. Reid, the history consultant at the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS), took great offense to my article on the May abduction. Mr. Reid’s article could be considered a post-modern academic treatise, a stream of consciousness essay, or as an example of typing at the top of one’s lungs.

Mr. Reid’s assessment of the May abduction is contradictory. On one hand, he dismissed the story as too trivial and unimportant to be worthy of checking, yet it was still important enough for Wood to pass on to McDonald, for Druffel to include in her narrative, for Mr. Reid to write his defense of their actions, and for him to attack me for ever bringing it up.

Mr. Reid engaged in total irrelevancies, such as reminiscences about his Catholic childhood, his reading of the book Angela’s Ashes, an incident in which the book’s author recalls tearing out a page in a magazine as it dealt with birth control, and a long and pointless story about losses of Liberty ships during World War II. These take up much of the first half of the article, and have nothing to do with the May abduction. [9]

Mr. Reid also never actually says the May abduction story is true. He never explicitly says that Gene May really did fly the X-15, that he really was abducted by a flying saucer in mid-air, and that he and his X-15 were released and landed at Edwards AFB after being missing for three hours. But I have observed that believers seem to feel compelled to defend a UFO sighting with “great vengeance and furious anger” whenever doubts about it are raised. [10]

The result is another contradiction by Mr. Reid. He defends the May abduction story without saying it is true. He does so with a science fiction story.

Graham Doar’s ‘The Outer Limit’, was published in the December 24, 1949 issue of the Saturday Evening Post. In the story, a test pilot named Bill with the rank of Captain is making a maximum speed run in the ‘X2JTO’ aircraft. He jettisons the turbojet-powered take off assembly, which parachutes to the ground, then begins firing the plane’s eight rocket engines. The plane has enough fuel for ten minutes withall eight rockets firing. Bill passes through Mach 5 and is still accelerating. As he ignites the eighth rocket, “the sunlight glinted on some object far ahead and above him.” He does not believe in flying saucers, and concludes, “Whatever this object was, this metallic ellipsoid turning slowly above him, it wasn’t a ship. He knew that.” Bill still has six minutes of fuel left, and decided to take a closer look. He points the nose of the plane toward the object. The X2JTO is forty miles high when it disappears from radar.

Ten hours pass with no trace of plane or pilot. Bill’s commanding officer, a Colonel named Hank, has concluded that both have been lost. The F-80 chase planes reported that they had lost sight of the X2JTO about the time the fourth rocket was fired. Everything was going well, they reported. Then the colonel’s telephone rings and an excited sergeant reports that the X2JT0 is about to land. [11]

When the colonel meets with Bill, the first question he asks the pilot is, “I’ve got to know – how you stretched ten minutes’ fuel to keep you in the air over ten hours?” Bill tells him “Well, Hank, I chased me a flying saucer. And I caught it. Or rather it caught me.” Bill says that he was flying at 200,000 feet and about 4,000 miles per hour when he went after the object. He continued, “It must have been going at about half my speed. I caught up fast. It was – oh – eggshapedand perfectly smooth. No visible openings anywhere.” Bill tells the colonel that he made two passes to look the object over, and had started a third, when “There was a humming sound – a kind of gentle vibration – and I blacked out. I was heading straight at the thing, Hank, and I felt this – sort of twang, as though I’d run into a harp string, and the – the black came down over me. I thought – I felt it coming for a spilt second – I thought….”

Bill comes to inside the ship. He describes it as being full of “incredibly intricate-looking machinery,” which was deafeningly loud. As with Davenport in ‘Control Somnambule’ thirteen years later, Bill cannot see the aliens, but says “They were – just presences.” The aliens use telepathy to communicate. Bill says that they sought to impress him with how far they had traveled and how difficult the trip had been, in order to make clear “the importance, the absoluteness of their message.” By this point, the colonel is sure that Bill’s experience was a delusion, brought on by stress, and he calls in Major Malcolm Donaldson, who is a psychiatrist, to treat Bill’s condition.

With both the colonel and Donaldson present, Bill describes the aliens’ threat. The aliens had long ago discovered atomic power, and experienced wars which nearly destroyed their civilization. “Now,” Bill says, “they have outlawed war throughout the sectors of space they patrol, and anywhere else they can reach. Whenever their detector system picks up traces of an atomic explosion, they send a patrol…” Arriving at Earth, he continues, “They found wars and rumours of war. Factories busily turning out atomic weapons. So they quarantined us. This intergalactic board of health decided we were infected with a communicable disease. They sealed us off from the rest of space until we were well.”

Bill explains that the aliens had established a layer of particles about a hundred miles up. Radioactive fallout from an atomic bomb explosion drifting upward will enter this layer, and when their concentration exceeds that of the normal background activity, the particles in the layer will begin to fission, and the Earth will be incinerated. After the aliens were finished with their warning, Bill heard the ‘harp twang’ again, and found himself back in the X2JTO as it glided toward the base. The interview ends, and Bill is taken back to his quarters. The colonel is convinced the pilot has had a mental breakdown. Donaldson is about to leave. Before he does, however, he says, “Oh colonel. There is one thing. It’s outside my field, but I’m curious. How did he keep that plane in the air for ten hours – with only ten minutes’ fuel?” [12]

Mr. Reid summarizes the story, and then describes a chain of events:

“1) In 1950, had anyone – an insider, or just an assiduous reader of public rocketry info – wanted to take Doar’s story as a roman a clef, or just fiction about a real person, a reasonable candidate for `Bill’ would be Gene May. “Of course there are fictionalizing differences (e.g. the near future, Bill’s much younger than May, etc.) But Peebles  tells us May “was also involved in the initial test flights of the Douglas D-558-II Skyrocket. This aircraft used both a jet engine and a rocket engine, and was designed to fly above Mach 4…

“2) In the early 1960s, a speaker at the annual Giant Rock contactee/New Age circus transformed the more-flight than fuel tale into an X-15 incident, claiming to have been in the ground crew. According to Peebles’s source the pilot wasn’t named. But an insider/fan wouldn’t guess Gene May, who was long out of the game – he’d opt for one of the publicized X-15 pilots….

“3) In 1968, an apparently reliable colleague from Vandenberg Air Force Base told Dr. Wood the X-15 version. So how did Gene May – whom the ‘colleague’ claimed to know, having details of his career right – climb back into the cockpit?” [13]

Mr. Reid then answers his own question by ascribing the ‘colleague’s’ actions to ‘malice,’ then to hatred, and finally opts for him to be part of a vast conspiracy against ufology. Mr. Reid continues: “It might be joker’s malice, no more than the urge to twit. It might be that someone hated Wood’s guts, and wanted him to embarrass himself – or hated McDonnell-Douglas, Wood’s employers… Or it may have been the pale malice of an intelligent asset supplying disinformation ….So yes, there are low-level intelligence assets, and it’s just possible Wood ran into one.” [14]

Going step by step through Mr. Reid’s proposed chain of events shows its flaws:

1) Mr. Reid suggests that Doar’s science fiction story could have been interpreted as a true story. In reality, the description of the fictional X2JTO rocket plane has nothing in common with the D-558-II, or any existing or planned aircraft. Mr. Reid notes that, in the story, the X2JTO has a jet-powered first stage, which separates at high altitude and parachutes to a landing. The D558-II originally carried a J34 jet engine within the center fuselage. The two air intakes were in the forward fuselage, and the downward pointing exhaust pipe exited on the underside of the aft fuselage. The LR8 rocket engine was mounted in the extreme end of the fuselage. The jet engine could not be jettisoned, or parachuted to a landing. [15]

The illustration of the X2JTO in the story, done by Melbourne Brindle, does nothing to encourage belief in the story as true. With fat delta wings, oval rocket nozzles, and single fin, it resembles an Oldsmobile hood ornament. Visible on the side of the fuselage is a row of piston engine exhaust pipes, such as on a propeller-powered P-51 Mustang. [16]

Mr. Reid suggests that readers might think that the ‘Bill’ in the story was actually Gene May. He also seems to imply that May’s retirement from test flying in December 1949 would add to this belief. Again, these are unsupported speculations on his part, and there are reasons against them. ‘Bill’ has the military rank of captain, while May was a civilian contractor test pilot, and had not flown in the military. It is also doubtful that May’s retirement was publicized.

Mr. Reid also notes that among the “fictionalizing differences” is that Doar’s story takes place in “the near future.” In reality, a key story element is counter to this, and would be apparent to readers at the time. Bill comments that “We’ve exploded – five, is it? – atomic bombs. Maybe seven?” [17] In December of 1949, a total of nine atomic bombs had been exploded. They were Trinity (July 1945), Hiroshima and Nagasaki (August 1945), Crossroads Able and Crossroads Baker (July 1946), Sandstone X-Ray (April 1948), Sandstone Yoke and Sandstone Zebra (May 1948), and Pervaya Molniya (August 1949). This would date Bill’s fictional abduction to between the end of July 1946 and early May 1948.

2) In his brief account of the Giant Rock story, Mr. Reid proclaims that an ‘insider/fan’ would have picked one of the real X-15 pilots as the one who was abducted. The reason given was that May had long been retired, but no evidence is offered to back his speculation. When Gene May’s name became connected with the X-15 abduction story is not known. It may have been mentioned in the book the speaker was selling, but this has not been tracked down. It may not have occurred until Dr. Wood heard the story several years later. [18]

There is evidence that use of a bogus X-15 pilot’s name would not have caused suspicions among UFO believers. Dr. Wood worked for McDonnell Douglas, and was directly involved with the company’s space activities. Yet May’s name did not trigger any suspicions. CUFOS itself provides another example. J. Allen Hynek and Jacques Vallee’s book The Edge Of Reality has a list of astronaut UFO sightings. This includes a May 30, 1962 sighting of five disk-like objects by X-15 pilot Joe Walton. There was no X-15 pilot named ‘Joe Walton’, and no X-15 flight was made on this date. The actual pilot was Joe Walker, and the flight date was April 30, 1962. Yet again, no suspicions were raised, and the story was used. [19]

3) Mr. Reid then suggests that Dr. Robert Wood was the victim of a government disinformation plot. As proof of this conspiracy, Mr. Reid offers a personal recollection of a suspected Soviet agent attempting to infiltrate an Eastern European emigré group. This is yet another irrelevant story. But by invoking ‘disinformation’, he transforms the false May abduction story into ‘proof’ of government plots and cover-ups. Mr. Reid ends the article by congratulating himself: “The X-15 business is more ambiguous than Mr. Peebles’s ringing sermon would have it. I find real history (like real life) oft annoying that way, and God’s motto seems to be `What’?” [20]

How Gene May Was [Probably] Abducted

 mantell1

The real event that ‘The Outer Limit’ was probably based on had nothing to do with the D-558-II, Gene May, or late 1940s rocketry. Rather, it was the death of Capt. Thomas F. Mantell in January 1948, nearly two years before the story was published.

Reading ‘The Outer Limit’, I was struck by how well it matches the X-15 abduction story told nearly two decades later. In both, the pilot of a high performance research aircraft vanishes without a trace for several hours, then reappears suddenly. The pilot is then interviewed by a psychologist, and describes being taken aboard a flying saucer. The key story element, that the aircraft lands long after its fuel would be exhausted, is central to both tellings. The implication is that ‘The Outer Limit’ was the original inspiration for the May abduction story.

The real event that ‘The Outer Limit’ was probably based on had nothing to do with the D-558-II, Gene May, or late 1940s rocketry. Rather, it was the death of Capt. Thomas F. Mantell in January 1948, nearly two years before the story was published. Mantell went chasing after a bright metallic-looking object in a Mustang fighter, blacked out from lack of oxygen, and crashed. The remark by Bill in ‘The Outer Limit’ that the object was flying at half his speed was similar to one of Mantell’s transmissions. Finally, Mantell, like the fictional ‘Bill’, was a captain. [21]

While The Saturday Evening Post had a massive circulation, ‘The Outer Limit’ reached a much wider audience then just the magazine’s subscribers. Mr. Reid suggested that the story may have been dramatized on one of the early science fiction radio or television shows, but did not check. [22]

An Internet name search showed that Doar’s story “may be the most often used science fiction story in radio.” ‘The Outer Limit’ was dramatized five times on radio and twice on television. This began less than two months after its original publication. The CBS radio anthology program Escape was first, broadcasting its interpretation on February 7, 1950. This was followed on April 8, 1950 by another version, which was the premiere episode of Dimension X. Doar was in good company, as this radio show also used stories by Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and other noted writers of the era. ‘The Outer Limit’ was used yet again by the program Beyond Tomorrow on April 18, 1950, then by Suspense on February 15, 1954 and X Minus One on November 16, 1955. Several of these shows also reran their ‘The Outer Limit’ episodes at later dates. [23]

‘The Outer Limit’ was the pilot episode of one of the earliest adult science fiction television programs, Out There on October 28, 1951. Doar’s story again appeared on Robert Montgomery Presents on January 26, 1953. The cast included Jackie Cooper and Robert H. Harris. This was only six months after the ‘invasion of Washington’ during the Great Flap of 1952. Robert Montgomery Presents was one of the highest rated television programs during this period.

How the aliens were presented in the original story and the radio shows differs. In The Saturday Evening Post story, Doar told the story through the thoughts and comments of the three human characters. The aliens were ‘off stage’, in the form of log entries. In the Escape dramatization, test pilot ‘Bill Westfall’ meets the aliens ‘Xegion’ and ‘Zyll’, who deliver the warning that their force screen will explode once enough atomic particles accumulate. The Dimension X version, in contrast, leaves the audience to wonder if test pilot Steve Weston is delusional, if he was abducted by aliens, and just how he kept the aircraft aloft for ten hours after it ran out of fuel. The Dimension X script also adds a new plot twist. A nuclear weapon is scheduled to be tested at midnight. Weston is assured that the test will be postponed. This was just a ruse to reassure the agitated test pilot. As the show ends, it is thirty seconds to midnight. [24]

Given the number of times the ‘The Outer Limit’ story was dramatized, and the large audience these broadcasts would have reached, it is reasonable to speculate that the Giant Rock speaker heard the story, updated with the real X-15, and told it as an ‘I was there’ first hand account. It can further be speculated that the person who told Dr. Wood the abduction story had learned of the Giant Rock account, either second hand, or from attending the convention. At some point in the process, Gene May replaced the fictional ‘Bill’, ‘Westfall’, and ‘Weston’ as the abducted pilot. Although speculative, this provides a direct connection between Doar’s 1949 story and Dr. McDonald nearly two decades later. This also makes no assumptions about whether or not people thought th story was true, if they thought Gene May was involved, and does not involve the Men in Black.

“The Outer Limit” also gives insights into the development of the flying saucer myth. This is an element of the mythology that Mr. Reid rejects as ‘heresy’. Bill, like the later contactees, is carrying a celestial warning from the heavenly beings to stop nuclear testing. He, like the contactees, was also specially selected to be the messenger. In the Escape script. Zyll warns Westfall that atomic war “would upset the balance of the entire universe, throw all space into chaos.” The later contactees would have the ‘space brothers’ making similar comments. These story elements suggest that the ideas and concepts of a proto-contactee mythology already existed at the dawn of the flying saucer era. What the story lacks, however. is the mysticism of the contactees.

The offense that Mr. Reid took at my article may also trace its roots to a clash of cultures. It was inexplicable to Mr. Reid as to why I jumped on what he saw as a throwaway incident in the McDonald book. What he did not understand was that I was a child of the space age, and the X-15 was part of that childhood. I can recall seeing documentaries on the X-15 in the early 1960s. With such a cultural background, and being familiar with such research aircraft as the X-l5 and D-558-II, it was inexplicable to me that the Gene May X-15 abduction story would ever have been believed.

Other examples of these cultural differences appear in Mr. Reid’s article. Several times, he makes comments which indicate a lack of familiarity with the design and capability of the D-558-II. As part of his argument that ‘The Outer Limit’ was believed by some readers to be a fictionalized true story, he quotes me as saying: “But Peebles tells us May ‘was also involved in the initial test flights of the Douglas D-558II Skyrocket. This aircraft used both a jet engine and a rocket engine, and was designed to fly above Mach 4….” [25]

The fictional X2JTO in ‘The Outer Limit’ was captured by the alien spaceship at a speed of Mach 5, which is close to the performance claim made by Mr. Reid for the D-558-II flown by Gene May. There is, however a problem with this quote. What I actually wrote was:

“He was also involved in the initial test flights of the Douglas D-558-II Skyrocket. This aircraft used both a jet engine and a rocket engine, and was designed to fly above Mach l.” [26]

References:

  1. E-mail, June 15, 2005 from Luis Gonzalez to John Rimmer.
  2. William Sambrot, ‘Control Somnambule’, Playboy (May 1962), p. 63, 66, 128-133. William Sambrot was born in 1920, but no other biographical information was found. Sambrot wrote science fiction short stories between 1953 and 1967. His themes included aliens among us stories, fantasy, and Cold War thrillers, many of which were published in The Saturday Evening Post. The paperback book Island Of Fear and Other Science Fiction Stories (Pocket Books, 1963) was a collection of his work. Sambrot showed a working knowledge of space technology in his stories. The C-1 booster in ‘Control Somnambule,’ for example, was a real Saturn rocket in development at that time.
  3. Martin Kottmeyer “Entirely Unpredisposed: the Cultural Background of UFO Abduction Reports,” and David Sivier, “Indexing The Machine Elves: Fairyland Motifs In UFO Narratives,” Magonia 90 (November 2005) p. 14-17 are just a few of the articles dealing with these similarities.
  4. Peter Rogerson, “Notes Towards a Revisionist History of Abductions: Part 2, Fairyland’s Hunters,”   http://magonia.haaan.com/1994/notes-towards-a-revisionist-history-of-abductions-part-2/ . The source cited is Jacques Vallee’s book Confrontations (Souvenir Press, 1990) p.190.
  5. ‘UFO’s Cause Panic, One Death’. The UFO Investigator (January-February 1962), 2.
  6. Peter Brooksmith, Alien Abductions (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1998), p. 7-9, 13:-17,126, 127). Howard’s “abductions,” which continued for 13 years, were the result of narcolepsy. They occurred only when he was asleep. He observed, “…they were inside my head.”
  7. Frank John Reid, ‘Curtis Peebles, The X15 And Angela’s Ashes’, Magonia 89, (August 2005), p. 16, 17.
  8. ibid, p. 16 columns 1, 2, and the first half of column 3.
  9. ibid, p. 16, last half of column 3, and “Ezekiel 25:17,” spoken by Samuel L. Jackson, Music From The Motion Picture Pulp Fiction, (MCA, 1994), track 16.
  10. Graham Doar, “The Outer Limit,” Saturday Evening Post (December 24, 1949), p. 22, 23, 72. Doar was born in 1912. An author’s profile suggested that the story’s theme was based on him celebrating his 33rd birthday on August 6, 1945; the same day Hiroshima was bombed. “The Outer Limit” was the high point of his time as a writer. An internet name search indicated he had only four more stories published: “They Won’t Believe Me” (Amazing Stories May 1951), “No Price Too Great” (Fantastic Adventures December 1951), “Who Knows His Brother” (Startling Stories February 1952), and “So Wise, So Young” (Amazing Stories June-July 1953).
  11. ibid, p. 67, 68.
  12. Reid, ‘Curtis Peebles, The X15 And Angela’s Ashes’, p. 17, columns 1, 2, and the first half of column 3.
  13. ibid, p. 17, column 3.
  14. Scott Libis, Douglas D-558-Z Skyrocket (Simi Valley: Navy Fighters, 2002), p. 5661. This was the configuration of the D558-I1s flown by Gene May. All of Gene May’s flights were ground take-offs. This greatly reduced the maximum speed which could be reached.
  15. Doar, ‘The Outer Limit’, p. 22, 23. The designation “X21T0″ matched no actual U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, or company designation system.
  16. Doar, “The Outer Limit,” p. 67 column 3, second full paragraph. “The Outer Limit” was also reprinted in Big Book of Science Fiction (New York: Crown Publishers 1950). This is the hardcover edition; the paperback edition of this title does not include it. A more recent reprint is The Classic Book of Science Fiction (New York: Bonanza Books, 1982).
  17. Reid, “Curtis Peebles, The X15 And Angela’s Ashes,” p. 17, column 3.
  18. J. Allen Hynek, Jacques Vallee, The Edge Of Reality (Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1975), p.63.
  19. Reid, “Curtis Peebles, The X15 And Angela’s Ashes,” p. 17, column 3.
  20. The most easily available account of the Mantell incident is the study on UFO UpDates: http://www.virtuallystrange.net/ufo/ufoupdates/listers/mantell.html
  21. Reid, “Curtis Peebles, The X15 And Angela’s Ashes,” p. 16 column 3.
  22. ‘Page 11′, http://www.sperdvac.org/Page%2012.htm and ‘Beyond Tomorrow’  http://www.old-time.com/otrlogs2/bt.log.txt. Beyond Tomorrow was originally titled Beyond This World, and “The Outer Limit” was its audition show. The program debuted on April 5, 1950, and lasted three shows. ‘The Outer Limit’ was the programme’s last show, broadcast only ten days after the Dimension X version.
  23. “Page 11″ and “Robert Montgomery Presents Episode Guide, 1953″ web page.
  24. Reid, “Curtis Peebles, The X15 And Angela’s Ashes,” p. 17, column 2.
  25. Peebles, “The Case Of The Vanishing X-15 Pilot,” p 7 column 3 second full paragraph. As noted in [15] all of Gene May’s D-558-II flights were ground take offs. This meant the fully loaded D-558-II had to roll across the lakebed, lift into the air, and climb to high altitude before beginning the high-speed run. In addition to being very dangerous, this used up much of the onboard fuel, limiting the airplane’s speed to just over Mach 1. It was not until 1950, after May had retired, that the D-558-I1s were modified for air launch from a B-29. The fastest flight ever made in a D-558-II reached Mach 2.005. This was made on November 20, 1953, by NACA pilot A. Scott Crossfield in the D-558-II #2. This was the first Mach 2 flight by a piloted aircraft, and the only Mach 2 flight ever made by any D-558-II. Both D-558-II #1 and #2 had their jet engine and jet fuel tank removed, and replaced by larger rocket fuel tanks. The D-558-II #3 was also modified for air drop, but retained the dual jet/rocket propulsion system. Details of the Mach 2 D-558-II flight are in: Curtis Peebles “Risk Management in the X-Planes Era D558-II vs. X-1A at Mach 2,” Quest Volume 11, Number 4, 2004, p. 40-47.

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Farewell to Monorail Dreaming. Peter Rogerson



The fall of Concorde and the end of the Twentieth Century 


monorail

From Magonia 72, ‘Northern Echoes’, October 2000

Every so often in 2000, the undead but prematurely buried twentieth century has given the odd twitch of life. The fall of Concorde is one such twitch, for it is the end of the last survivor of the forgotten age in which this magazine came into being.

Magonia was born in 1966 as the Merseyside UFO Research Group Bulletin; and in that year the teenagers of Warrington were asked to write essays on the future, including their visions of the year 2000. These unique historical documents, preserved in Warrington Library, have a poignant quality, a sort of lost innocence, in their vision of a largely untroubled future. They mix the immediately practical, better traffic flows and the provision of skating rinks, with visions of the city of the future. You can see this vision in much of the material produced by more professional prophets of the time, the ‘secular city’, of tower blocks, underground shopping centres, personal helicopters, and clean well lit streets, all linked by the great mid 60′s symbol of progress, the monorail.

Concorde was part of this vision, a stepping stone to the hypersonic aircraft, which would give us a day trip to Sydney, or an afternoons shopping in New York. By the end of the 1970′s there would be the first colonies on the moon, Mars by the mid 1980′s (1984 was pencilled in as a year with a particular frisson). 2000 was the distant beacon, the bright, clear, clean, world of shiny clothes, flowing architecture, atomic powered cars. and self sufficient space stations,’ The world of 2001: A Space Odyssey’. This was to be but the surface of the utopian world to come, the Universal Denmark, where war, poverty and the dead irrational past were to be buried.

The White Hot Technological Revolution would scorch away the last remnants of the old world, forgotten like the disappearing bomb sites, and in its place would come the Great Society, the New Frontier, Space, the Final Frontier. This new world had its great emergence myth; ‘by dint of the sacrifice of the war time generation, the old bad world was swept away, not just Hitler and his crew, but the bad old world of poverty and want, of workhouse and child labour’.

This contrast between the dirty, evil, ignorant past, and the bright, glorious present was often drummed into us. What became of those dreams of monorails and planetary exploration, and the white hot technological revolution and the modernist project which lay behind it? Within a few years there would be large scale turning back on the secular city and the monorail dream, and a major cultural rejection of science and technology and a revival of the irrational. In 1966 for example, fundamentalist Christianity was seen by modernists as the preserve of a bunch of ageing, rural Elmrer Gantrys; Islam would perish before modern science and the Socialist Revolution; the nationalisms of the past would be tamed; and if anyone had told you that large numbers of people would believe they had been abducted by aliens, or that there would be literal witch hunts in America and Europe, you would have laughed at them.

What became of those dreams of monorails and planetary exploration, and the white hot technological revolution and the modernist project which lay behind it? 

Monorail dreaming was to fall victim to the antiscientific backlash which developed from the early 1970s onwards; an attitude summarised by Jerome Clark in The Unidentified: “Man is on the brink of a catastrophe because our age has denied him the capacity for the belief in the magical and the wonderful. It has destroyed the mystical, nonrational elements which traditionally tied him to nature and his fellows. It has emphasised rationality to the exclusion of intuition, equations to the exclusion of dreams, male to the exclusion of female, machines to the exclusion of mysteries”.

At that time Jerry could clearly have made a good career move by becoming a speech writer for Prince Charles! Of course, we are led to understand that in unguarded moments Al Gore still comes up with that sort of thing, and though Jerry has later denounced these views at best, romantic, they are still widely influential and have led on to a variety of relativist, post-modernist and related ideologies. It was not, I think, the absence of ‘wonder’ or awe which led to the revolt against science, but perhaps a lack of human centredness and human scale. There is very little awe and wonder in the alternatives proposed, certainly not in paranormalism or forteanism, much of which is profoundly banal. They offer the easy comforts of belief in life after death, a universe filled with people of a different shape, a planned landscape garden universe, created and overseen by a Capability Brown God.

The universe of modern science is not that, it is utterly ‘other’, wild and inhuman, a raw force of creation and destruction of which we are an accidental by-product. Yet Jerry also saw surprisingly clearly what the fruits of untrammelled romanticism would be “the return of the repressed” which would “overwhelm the world and usher in era of madness, superstition ..terror..war, anarchy and fascism”. That, written in the early 1970′s seems hauntingly prophetic, as the failure of modernism to win the hearts and minds of the people has led to the fundamentalist revivals from Iran to Afghanistan, the killing fields of Algeria, the awaking of the old ethnic conflicts in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, to the religious fundamentalism, earth-first environmentalism, new ageism and post modernism of the west, the collapse of the nation state in large regions of Africa. If the candle of modernity fails, we may end up in Carl Sagan’s ‘demon haunted world’ after all.

To paraphrase Winston Churchill, the Universal Denmark is a damned bad idea, whose only redeeming feature is that all the alternatives are so much worse. Perhaps the balance can be restored by realising that human beings, human imagination, culture, art, science and technology and their products are all as much part of the totality of nature, and as worthy as our awe and sense of the sacred as any mountain peak or forest glade.

 

 

Diving to Earth. Martin Kottmeyer

From Magonia Supplement 26, April 2000. 

 One of the older metaphors of astronomy and science fiction regards space as a vast ocean with Earth one of its small islands. Rockets crossing this ocean were inevitably regarded as ships. Groups of ships were fleets or navies. They were guided by captains and maintained by crews. If they didn’t have sails, they were nevertheless guided by magnetic currents and buffeted by ion storms. Artists at times have playfully rendered this analogy literally with sailing ships of earlier centuries cruising the sea of stars. Japanese SF does this quite often with the example of the Star Wars rip-off Message from Space (1978) coming first to my mind. Doctor Who fans will more readily think of enlightenment”. The early pulps toyed with the idea of aliens floating in the stratosphere, sometimes dropping anchor, sometimes trying to catch us bottom-dwellers. (1) 

The most notable of these stories was John Raphael’s “Up Above” (1912) (2). Aliens anchored in the upper atmosphere pick up specimens off the earth in a manner expressly analogous to oceanographers who had been collecting deep-sea flora and fish for the Prince of Monaco’s deep-sea museum. Gigantic vacuum diving bells made of a translucent air substance come down and suction up things from the surface. These include humans who are initially bottled and shelved, appropriately pressurized after some trial and error. After a woman goes mad and tears off her clothes, the Sky Folk remove the clothing, then the skin, of other specimens. These include a gorilla, cattle, birds, and more humans. They cut, peel, and probe their specimens with horrible knives, slowly and methodically. Blood is poured into tubes, “doubtless for examination”. (3) Later, it is evidently poured overboard resulting in rains of blood. In the finale, the ship ends up sinking to the bottom of the air. As rescuers drill into the vessel to rescue a remaining human, inrush of air through a hole in the hull drowns the Sky Folk. 

Charles Fort liked the metaphor enough to borrow it in his early ufological musings. He spoke of a Super-Sargasso Sea stretching above us from which fish and frogs were sporadically shaken out. Super-vessels and superconstructions sailed and trawled for goodies. “I think we’re fished for”, he wrote. He provided evidence involving luminous bodies having sail-like structures. He also found reports of things looking like hooks and even reproduced a drawing of one sky-hook, the only illustration provided in the set of his writings I have. He offered the thought that the relative isolation of Earth from alien visitation might be analogous to the isolation of deep-sea fishes. The density of our region is too different from theirs to provide easy access. I am sure he would have loved to find and include in his writings reports of alien visitors in diving suits had they existed. None were ever mentioned. (4) 

Aliens in diving suits did eventually arrive. They begin to appear in Europe in the 1950s, most prolifically during France’s Great Martian Panic of 1954. Talk of diving suits is explicitly mentioned in 9 of 64 entity encounters collected in one case catalogue. (5) Later in the decade such protective gear is seen on entities in South America. Oddly, folks in the United States reported no space-suited entities until the 1964 Gary Wilcox encounter. (6) They achieve their greatest numbers there in the 1970s. Their range includes Canada, Britain, Australia, Italy, Libya, Poland, Portugal, Brazil, and Argentina. The frequency of protective-suited aliens has markedly declined in recent decades. A tally of reports collected from various sources and sorted by decade runs like this: 

  • 1950s: 22
  • 1960s: 17
  • 1970s: 24
  • 1980s: 5
  • 1990s: 0 

There are ambiguities implicit in certain cases. Should a case from the sixties describing five heads in a globe with no body be included or excluded? It might be atmospheric-related, but it might be thought disembodied heads need some sort of travel enclosure regardless of environmental differences. I included it. Should the Travis Walton case be included even though it involves not aliens wearing the helmets, but an apparently human accomplice? It may only look human and be alien. 

I included it. Should a Gulf Breeze drawing be interpreted as a space-suited alien or an alien sporting a blocky shield analogous to the personal force shields seen in the Dune movie? It’s included. 

Estimates for the 80s and 90s may be low in part due to an absence of entity case catalogues thoroughly covering those decades. Even allowing for such a caveat, the fact of a decline is unlikely to be attributable to sparse research. There is no poverty of accounts of abductions and encounters over the past couple of decades and the rarity of reports of diving-suited entities looks beyond dispute. Linda Howe’s Glimpses of Other Realities volumes showcase several dozen alien drawings but the only example of a helmeted alien goes back to 1975. Are fewer people seeing diving-suited aliens? Are fewer bothering to report them to ufologists? Are ufologists not bothering to write such reports up for publication? Whatever the reason, space suits are evidently passé these days. They are no longer the fashion among aliens. 

Early science fiction writers were cognisant of the fact that scientists had determined that other planets in the solar system had very different atmospheres. Life was thought to be common elsewhere on Copernican assumptions so life evolved to handle those different conditions. Alien visitors should bring along their own air supply, properly pressurised, to survive here. Space-suited aliens are easily found in the early pulps and SF comics. The first generation of cinematic aliens included several space-suited aliens: The Man from Planet X (1951), Phantom from Space (1953), the infamous Robot Monster (1953), and Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956). One memorable prelude to alien invasion was a plot by aliens to change our atmosphere, making Earth habitable for them, but wiping us out as an unfortunate side effect. 

Aliens with technology magical enough to develop interstellar travel may also be magical enough to engineer biological modifications to the alien body that would be less clumsy than diving suits

Though seemingly logical in its day, the argument no longer seems so compelling. We’ve learned that the other worlds of the solar system are barren and now accept that life may only arise and flourish in certain chemical regimes. Life interacts with the environment and atmosphere in ecological feedback loops that transform the atmosphere to an optimal range of temperatures and chemistries. Life-bearing worlds may convergently evolve atmospheres sufficiently alike to make special protection and breathing mixtures unnecessary. Another factor worth considering is that aliens with technology magical enough to develop interstellar travel may also be magical enough to engineer biological modifications to the alien body that would be less clumsy than diving suits. A special organ grafted on the lungs and, voila, instant Earthling. A medium consulted by Hans Holzer at one point actually suggested aliens were trying to develop such a set of new lungs. (7) 

It is probably doubtful these new considerations had any part in the decline of helmeted aliens. In the matter of film aliens at least, helmets probably were an obvious nuisance to lighting people and effects workers. It is also hard to see aliens as much of a danger if all you have to do to kill them is slice a breathing tube or crack the helmet with a rock. 

In the matter of UFO entity reports, some of the distribution over time likely has something to do with the notoriety of certain encounter cases. The peak of space-suited aliens in the seventies in the US seems related to the wide coverage given the controversial Falkville policeman photos during the 1973 wave. The rectangular faceplate apparent in those photos is a detail that recurs in subsequent cases and lasts until the Gulf Breeze case. The Hopkins and Strieber books notably omit any space-suited entities and subsequent aliens tend to echo Greys portrayed in those works. Why Europe favoured the form in the fifties while the US avoided it is more puzzling. The 1952 Monguzzi photo hoax seems the earliest example of the form, but whether it was well known enough to serve as a template isn’t clear. (8)

The 1954 Quarouble affair from France is another early case that might have served as prototype. The principal witness initially thought he was looking at spies or smugglers. The drawing looks consistent with a teen wearing a motorcycle helmet. Some later press accounts distorted the story as involving a large-headed being, but deWilde denied this when asked by investigators. (9) 

The absence of suited aliens from the US may only represent the happenstance of a suitably detailed popular case not arising. Adamski’s Michael Rennie knock-off served as model for the contactees. It is delightful to note that Adamski advanced the extraordinary notion, “Although the air on all planets differs slightly, contrary to the present beliefs of your scientists, Earth man could go anywhere in the universe without discomfort.” (10) Human lungs could even adapt to living on the moon given about a day’s worth of depressurisation. (11) Non-contactees tended to offer little men tales following Dimmick’s retrieval rumours, disseminated by AP in 1950, and advanced in Frank Scully’s Variety columns. (12) The few not following the little men model were a grab bag of random forms so few as to not present a statistical paradox. Even in SF, helmeted aliens were neither universal nor a majority. 

If consistency of form should be regarded as evidence for the ETH, then we would do well to consider the inconsistencies among the population of suited aliens. The helmet styles vary widely. Some are perfectly spherical. Some are cylindrical. Some are entirely transparent. Some appear opaque. Some show a faceplate. Most do not. Hoses to a backpack are sometimes visible. They can connect to the top of the helmet or lower down by the rim. Antennae and headlamps are optional. Doubtless this will be rationalised as proof there are many races visiting Earth or that aliens are no different from humans in liking different fashions in their protective wear.

There are broader inconsistencies. Some like to note that the Villas Boas affair now fits in perfectly with the breeding programme of the Greys. Less noted is that the abductors in that affair wore space suits, something those Greys don’t bother with much these days. Indeed, the number of abductions involving spacesuit-type headgear throughout saucer history is relatively small. Bullard notes there are only 6 cases in his study that include evidence for a breathing apparatus. He comments, “This feature is surprisingly scarce across the board, with neither humanoids nor humans requiring the piped-in air essential to our space travellers.” (13)

Of those that don’t have suits, a few invoke concern about atmospheric incompatibility by having aliens with breathing difficulties. (14) More recently, David Jacobs offers the amazing dodge that Greys simply don’t breathe. They don’t interact with our atmosphere. (15) This is amazing since biology textbooks regard respiration as a defining trait of life making this a virtual confession they are unreal in some sense, either as an artificial creation deceptively looking like a form of life or simply as fantasy. 

Those who regard humans as biological descendants of aliens have an obvious excuse for not having aliens in diving suits. Ditto those who regard aliens as time-travelling descendants of humanity. However, what do they do with those reports of diving suits? Should they be thought individual fashion statements? Maybe some of the entities have environmental sensitivities and others are hardier? Maybe those who are staying awhile are bio-technically adapted while those here for a short sampling tour just wear suits for convenience. Doubtless there are many possibilities.

The absence of diving-suited aliens in Fort’s time, the oddity of the initial proliferation confined to Europe, the delayed proliferation in the US, and their later decline all point to cultural effects existing in this category of ufonautics. I have no particular stance on the issue of whether suited aliens are more probable than unsuited ones. The Gaia argument about life-bearing worlds having similar atmospheres sounds right, but the old argument about the need for suits sounded right, too. We have only the examples in our solar system to work with and there may be different ways for life and atmosphere to co-evolve as yet unrealised simply because we need to see the alternatives in operation to find them thinkable. Maybe we shouldn’t throw those suits away quite yet. The inevitable quip is that this is all airy speculation. 

References:

  1. Moscowitz, Sam. Strange Horizons: The Spectrum of Science Fiction, Scribner’s, 1976, 229-232
  2. Raphael, John N. “Up Above”, Pearson’s Magazine, December 1912, 709-760
  3. Ibid., 750
  4. Fort, Charles. The Book of the Damned, Ace Star, no date, 255, 260, 267
  5. Bowen, Charles. The Humanoids, Henry Regnery, 1969, 27-76. Michel, Aimé. Flying Saucers and the Straight-Line Mystery, Criterion, 1958
  6. Bloecher, Ted. Close Encounter at Kelly and Others of 1955, CUFOS, 1978, x
  7. Holzer, Hans. The Ufonauts, Fawcett Gold Medal, 1976, 280
  8. Pinotti, Roberto. “UFO Research in Italy”, UPIAR, 2, 1, 1977, 199, citing expose in Notiziario UFO, 71, 1976
  9. Bonabot, Jacques. “Dossier Quarouble 1954″, Bulletin du GESAG, 72, June 1983 to 86, December 1986 – a 14-part series
  10. Adamski, George. Inside the Space Ships, Abelard-Schuman, 1955, 204-205
  11. Ibid., 226-227
  12. Johnson, Dewayne B. and Thomas, Kenn. Flying Saucers Over Los Angeles, Adventures Unlimited, 1998, 50-52, 99-100
  13. Bullard, Thomas E. UFO Abductions: The Measure of a Mystery, FFUFOR, 1987, 251-252
  14. Keel, John. The Mothman Prophecies, Signet, 1975, 175
  15. Jacobs, David. Secret Life, Fireside, 1992, 227-228.

    

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05. The Nazi UFO Mythos: Vril, Haunebu and Interplanetray Travel. Kevin McClure

THE NAZI UFO MYTHOS: An Investigation by Kevin McClure

PART FIVE: VRIL, HAUNEBU AND INTERPLANETARY TRAVEL 

Vladimir Terziski

One of the few references that I haven’t managed to find before writing this piece is a book, probably from 1993, called Close Encounters of the Kugelblitz Kind, by Vladimir Terziski. Terziski first appeared in or around that year, claiming to be the “President, American Academy of Dissident Sciences, 10970 Ashton Ave. #310, Los Angeles, CA 90024, USA. When I wrote to the Academy asking for further information, my letter was returned, the Academy not being known at the address. He also claims that he is “a Bulgarian born engineer and physicist, graduated Cum Laude from the Master of Science program of Tokai University in Tokyo in 1980. Served as a solar energy researcher, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, before immigrating to the US in 1984.” [29]

Terziski seems, with a little help from Al Bielek of the completely loopy ‘Montauk Project’, who was co-founder of the Academy, to have introduced a completely new strand of ‘Nazi UFO’ material. It also appears in one of the series of Montauk Project books. It is so outrageously unbelievable, implausible, and devoid of supporting evidence that it has proved to be very popular among those who believe in an Illuminati conspiracy, the New World Order, and the links between our rulers and Reptilian Aliens. The last trace I’ve found of Terziski is at a speaker at a ‘patriot’ meeting in 1998, but his influence lives on, creating an alternative, revised history in which the Nazis won in the end.

Terziski describes Renato Vesco as “the Italian Wernher von Braun, the research scientist in charge of the Italian Air Force and Space Research and Development program during the war”, which says much for the thoroughness of his research. But then, research isn’t really what Terziski is (or was) about. Brad Steiger quotes him as telling of:

“an ‘alien tutor race’ that secretly began cooperating with certain German scientists in the late 1920s in underground bases and began to introduce their concepts of philosophical, cultural, and technological progress” . . “(he) maintains that antigravity research began in the 1920s with the first hybrid antigravity circular craft, the RFZ-1, constructed by the secret Vril society. In 1942-43 a series of antigravity machines culminated in the giant 350-foot-long, cigar-shaped Andromeda space station, which was constructed in old Zeppelin hangars near Berlin by E4, the research and development arm of the SS.” [30]

He is also quoted (by Branton – see below) as making comments about the continued use of slave labour by the ‘pure-bred Aryan S.S.’ who live underground, conducting genetic experiments continuing those of WW2, in pursuance of the “Germans-Nazis-Illuminati pact”, which was established “with the serpent races long years before the American ‘secret/conventional’ hybrid government had done so.” [31]

Nor has Terziski’s account of the trips to the Moon or Mars proved as unbelievable as we might hope. He says

“The Germans landed on the Moon as early as probably 1942, utilizing their larger exoatmospheric rocket saucers of the Miethe and Schriever type. The Miethe rocket craft was built in diameters of 15 and 50 meters, and the Schriever Walter turbine powered craft was designed as an interplanetary exploration vehicle. It had a diameter of 60 meters, had 10 stories of crew compartments, and stood 45 meters high . . .

Ever since their first day of landing on the Moon, the Germans started boring and tunneling under the surface, and by the end of the war there was a small Nazi research base on the Moon. The free energy tachyon drive craft of the Haunibu-1 and 2 type were used after 1944 to haul people,” materiel and the first robots to the construction site on the Moon. When Russians and Americans secretly landed jointly on the Moon in the early fifties with their own saucers, they spent their first night there as guests of the …. Nazi underground base . . .

According to the authors of the underground German documentary movie from the Thule society [presumably 'UFO Secrets of the Third Reich', which Terziski is alleged to have produced himself - KM], the only produced craft of the Haunibu-3 type – the 74 meter diameter naval warfare dreadnought – was chosen for the most courageous mission of this whole century – the trip to Mars. The craft was of saucer shape, had the bigger Andromeda tachyon drives, and was armed with four triple gun turrets of large naval caliber (three inverted upside down and attached to the underside of the craft, and the fourth on top of the crew compartments).

A volunteer suicide crew of Germans and Japanese was chosen, because everybody knew that this journey was a one-way journey with no return. The large intensity of the electro-magnetogravitic fields and the inferior quality of the metal alloys used then for the structural elements of the drive, was causing the metal to fatigue and get very brittle only after a few months of work of the drive. The flight to Mars departed from Germany one month before the war ended – in April 1945 . . The radio message with the mixed news was received by the German underground space control center in Neu Schwabenland and by their research base on the Moon.” [32]

By March 2000, the Vril and Haunebu craft had become real in many minds, not least that of the author of William Bacon’s Home Page/Nordic Saucer Report. In addition to the Feuerball and Kugelblitz, and assorted Schreiver, Belluzzo, Miethe and Habermohl creations, he included in his list, ‘Reported German Disc Aircraft Types January 28, 2000 (updated to March 2000)

Electrogravitic Craft Based on Currently Unknown Physics.
1. Original Vril Society Craft. Said to be a “time machine”, it underwent two years of experiment. Dismantled early in 1924 (!) and shipped to Augsburg. The design was said to have been based on channeled information from a supposed planet orbiting the star Aldebaran (Alpha Tauri). Disposition unknown
2. RFZ-1 (RFZ=runflugzeug=round aircraft). Disc created in mid 1934 by Vril Society. Crashed from low altitude on first test.
3. RFZ-2. Completed at the end of 1934 by the Vril Society. length was 16 feet, and it was the first with “magnetic field impulse steering”. It was operational in 1940 as seen in a photograph taken over an ocean, said to be the South Atlantic.
4. RFZ-4. A test craft driven by propeller to study the aerodynamics of a disc-shaped craft. associated with Schutzstaffel (SS) unit E4.
5. RFZ-5. Also known as Haunebu I (note: nebel=haze or smoke). Flew 08/1939. Diameter 83 feet. Photograph exists, said to have been taken over Prague. With a crew of eight, said to have reached 12,000 mph and upper atmosphere. Claimed to have been equipped with two laser (apparent anachronism) guns.
6. RFZ-6 (Haunebu II). Work began before the end of 1942. Various shapes, 85 feet to 100 feet in diameter and 30 to 36 feet high, were produced. A 3200 knot speed is assigned, making for near-space capability. One plan shows a Donar Ray Gun (!) in a turret on the underside. Some had sleeping quarters. a deep-space variant was said to be 234 feet in diameter. At least one side-view drawing with data survives and it bears an uncanny resemblance to an orthographic projection which has been made from the famous Adamski and Darbishire UFO photographs.
7. Haunebu III. An SS E4-planned deep-space disc craft. Various photographs show design variations. Over 400 feet in diameter. A side view drawing with data survives. Reportedly, U.S. found none. A Haunebu IV also is reported
8. Andromeda Project A large craft planned by SS E4 for interstellar travel, Over 100 ton capacity. 360 feet long

Other Craft. These types may have combined what we now consider known and unknown physics. The Vril craft were of 20 to 40 feet in diameter. .
1. RFZ7T. Work began in 1942 on a discus craft by Miethe, Joined by Bellonzo then Schreiver and Habermohl. A “reliable, functional light craft”.
2. Vril I. A 36 foot single seat craft, which was armed and tested before the end of 1942. Flew 7000 mph from its Brandenburg test site. Could instantly change direction.
3. Vril II. An air-water motor in the center of the craft spun rapidly like a tornado, thus according to Schauberger’s implosion principle, neutralizing gravity, as with the Vril I craft. diameter also similar. Vril VII and Vril IX also reported.
4. V7. Possibly numbered as one of the Vergeltungswaffen(retaliation weapons). Fitted with 12 BMW jet engines. Reached 78,000 feet, later 80,000 feet on first tests over the Baltic sea, 04/17/1945. A spherical glass like-dome surrounded by a rotating wing of turbine blades.” [33]

This presentation of completely fictitious data as historical and technical data makes it that much more credible, but Bacon is by no means the most extreme of believers.

BRANTON

The imaginary history invented or presented (or both) by Terziski has itself been carried forward by others, for reasons that continue to baffle me. Probably the most high-profile, and perhaps the most productive of these is ‘Branton’, whose ‘Omega Files’ material in various areas of conspiracy and that peculiar neo-fascism that exists among ‘patriots’ who also believe in the intervention of alien beings is all too easy to find on the Net. I had been wondering who Branton was, and an answer seems to have come recently from an Alan DeWalton, under the title ‘Branton’s Testimony’

“Branton is a guy who has been involved in abductions since he was a child [generational family stuff], MANY of which involved Alien/CIA agendas in the underground bases. He was “programmed” AS an alternate personality, or a “sleeper agent” by the CIA and has interacted with underground bases and especially Dulce WHILE IN THE altered state of consciousness. Many abductees will tell you that during abductions their “conscious mind” seems to switch off and another “personality” that is programmed by the alien agenda kicks in. These alternate identities are individuals in a sense, but also are linked to the alien collective which is how Branton gets much of his information, literally “hacking the hive”… having spent years being manipulated by the alien group-mind he has now turned it around WITH God’s help and is using it as a weapon against them, although you’ll never know how painful it has been for him… a literal hell… but having taken up the “cross” as his sword and shield he is prevailing against the “beast”, just like “Saint” George the Dragon slayer of old you might say. Branton was “saved” [born again] in 1985 and “Branton the alter ego” is apparently still involved with the underground scenarios on a nocturnal basis, trying to put together a literal “underground resistance” movement, both in the underground bases and above. This resistance movement involves freedom fighter forces within certain military bases, several “hybrids” [many his own 'kids'], Nordics, Telosians, several of “the orange” group, and even some of the Sasquatch type aliens . . ” [34]

These biographical details may make Branton’s willingness to accept Terziski’s claims as true. Branton reports

“Although it may sound rather incredible, Terziski alleges that he possesses confirming information such as the “…first video expose of Nazi UFOs. German/Japanese saucer landings on the moon and Mars in 1944-46, Marconi group’s landing on Mars in 1956… video footage of Nazi interplanetary dreadnoughts and of secret Soviet-American saucer landing on Mars.” Although many of the ‘Greys’ have been described as being of neo-saurioid configuration, other ‘Greys’ pose a different mystery as to their origin and seem
to be more of a bio-synthetic or ‘manufactured’ configuration. Vladimir Terziski suggests that some of these greys may be “…a product of the US government’s biogenetic cyborg R&D program.” [35]

The Omega File titled ‘Nazi History’ is another example of the presentation of the incredible as if it were fact. This is just an excerpt, and I have excised some of the rambling about rich industrialists and the Illuminati

370000 Germans recover crashed disk. Work begins on German disk program based on recovered ‘alien’ technology.
380000 Standard [EXXON] Oil sends I.G. Farben 500 tons of lead additive for gasoline.
390000 Germans working on mini-television for bomb / rocket guidance.
390901 Germany invades Poland.
390901 Soviets invade Poland.
410000 Germans test Schriever-Habermohl Model I prototype flying disk or lenticular aircraft Model II in 1944.
410600 Germany successfully tests Schriever disk design.
410800 I.G. Farben tests Zyklon B gas.
420000 German ‘fireballs’ harass allied pilots and aircraft.
420225 [German?] UFOs appear over Los Angeles. 1,430 rounds fired against them. Some on the ground killed or wounded by unexploded anti-aircraft shells.
430000 CIA’s Allen Dulles [Bavarian Illuminati] cuts a deal with Nazi SS
intelligence. This would eventually lead to a massive infiltration of the
CIA by Nazi S.S. agents, who would in turn begin a global program of
toppling third world governments and replacing them with their own fascist puppet dictatorships. Germans complete research on alloy of magnesium and aluminum.
440000 OSS agent Douglas Bazata receives contract on General George
Patton’s life. Feuerball aircraft constructed at aeronautical factory at
Wiener Neustadt. Germans test Bellonzo-Schriever-Meithe designs based on Coanda disk.
440300 Wilson* replaces German saucer [rotor] propulsion with advanced jet propulsion. *(‘Wilson’ is presumably the fictional character in the ‘Project Saucer’ novels of W A Harbinson, who has somehow crossed over into Branton’s version of reality)
441123 Allied pilots run into ‘fireballs’ over Strasbourg.
450000 Both L.F.A. at Volkenrode and center at Guidonia working on disk craft. Soviets gain some German disk data [and apprehend?] Dr. Guenther Bock. United States captures some German disk technology and scientists. British technical advisor discovers German plans for advanced lenticular aircraft.
450200 Kugelblitz [crew-carrying Fireball] test flown in Thuringia, reached speeds of 1250 mph.
450216 Kugelblitz tested near Kahla, disk-shaped, 1250 mph. Germans begin to transfer saucer projects to South Polar underground bases.
450223 Perfected engines removed from Kugelblitz and sent to polar base. Kugelblitz, minus engines, blown up by SS personnel to prevent the design from falling into the hands of the Allies.
450225 Workers at Kahla complex brought to Buchenwald and gassed so as
not to reveal secret of Nazi disk projects. Kahla closed. Slavian slave-laborers from various underground facilities also taken to Karshagan and other camps and killed.
450400 General Hans Kammler disappears from Germany.
450425 Gen. Kammler joins Wilson and Gen. Nebe on U-977 bound for South Pole.
450507 Germany ‘surrenders’.
460000 America turns 2/3rds of Germany’s aircraft manufacturing over to Soviets. Nazis help form CIA operations division with Rockefeller assistance. Imported SS intelligence officers help form Radio Liberty and Voice of America. Gen. Hoyt Vandenburg becomes director of CIA. U.S. and Canada begin joint disk development programs in underground plants.
460726 Truman signs National Military Establishment Act. Creates NSC, CIA.
470000 CIA Mind-Control drug project begins at Bethesda Naval Hospital. German disks start flyovers over United States. National Security Act. CIA begins to monitor UFOs.
470100 Operation Highjump begins at South Pole to find the German Bases.
Military Commander Admiral Richard E. Byrd leads 4000 troops in
reconnaissance over Antarctica, and encounters resistance from ‘Aryan’ [German/Austrian] saucer fleets. Apparent casualties on both sides. [36]

I’ve begun to be accustomed to dealing with extreme beliefs and outlooks, without ever getting immured to the moral and intellectual desert that inevitably underpins them. Yet there is something almost uniquely twisted about the statement, “Workers at Kahla complex brought to Buchenwald and gassed so as not to reveal secret of Nazi disk projects.” In that there were no construction projects for Nazi discs, there were no slave workers building Nazi discs, and therefore no workers could have been taken to Buchenwald and gassed for the reasons Branton gives. He also asserts that huge numbers of slave workers were taken to build the Nazi bases under the South Pole. What sort of need is fulfilled by simply making up these demented distortions of the miserable truths of the Holocaust is quite beyond my understanding. If we actively resist no other element of the Nazi UFO mythos, perhaps we can at least make our rejection of this one as obvious, and effective, as is possible. Other ‘false histories’ follow. 

 
Link to Part Six:False Histories

Varicose Brains, Part 3: Headhunt. Martin Kottmeyer

Originally published in Magonia 44, March 2007

Seeking the Degenerates among the Primitive  

Flying saucers mostly just flew around when they arrived in 1947. They didn’t land much and we did not see much of who was piloting them. Only 4 or 5 such cases have been found we might fairly term CE3Ks. This contrasts sharply with the Airship Waves of 1896/97 where researchers have found 36 detailed CE3Ks, at least 14 of which are explicitly extraterrestrial. A few more seem to be so implicitly.

The entities of the Airship waves showed a bias toward large humans. The Shaw case has Martians 7 foot tall and slender. [1] Next, we get 7 foot tall Jupiterians with long, white beards. [2] In another, we have 11-12 foot tall Martians with ordinary heads that drink air. [3] Next, a 9½ foot tall being suffering from the heat is nearly naked and has a bellowing, musical speech.[4] There is an unusually large Apollo with dark hair and stunted beard, and swarthy complexion, and described as having negro features. He is able to set fire to water while camping here. [5] Another is a tall and spare pilot who looks like a scientist or inventor. [6] A soldier-like man from Mars is 18 feet tall.[7] A crew of Navy men shares a ship with a large portly man with whiskers. [8] People of Neptune and Saturn are described as fine specimens of muscular and intellectual development. [9] Another encounter involves men 20 feet tall and weighing 1000 pounds. [10] This tallies as ten in number.

Only 5 of the 36 Airship close encounters involve small beings. One set is dressed in furs. [11] Another is covered in down and have light beards. [12] One set involves evil-looking men and women. [13] The most famous case, that of Merkel, Texas, is dressed in a blue navy suit. [14] A figure in a different case says moon men are dwarf-sized. [15] As a matter of lexicological interest, ‘little green men’ were apparently not around during these Airship waves.

Of the others, three are explicitly medium or ordinary-sized. [16] The rest seem normal humans, e.g. Scandinavians, [17] Irishmen, [18] ‘Japs’, [19] a populist, [20] ladies in Easter dress, [21] ladies in bloomers, [22] and men in hunting outfits. [23] Left over, because the size was ambiguous, is the weird being from a better world nearer to the Sun than us that has only one limb like a propeller pointed to the ground.

It should be of interest that at this date there are no good examples of the grays, reptoids, insectoids, space mummies, or robots. In terms of morphology, the figures rarely differ from the human form. Some are idealized humans of some beauty. A more notable generalization is that a good fraction of these extraterrestrials tend to resemble descriptions of primitive peoples.

Reconsider especially H.G. Shaw’s November 27, 1896 Lodi, CA encounter which enthusiasts see as a proto-Gray. “THREE STRANGE VISITORS Who Possibly Come From the Planet Mars” was the headline. They are human in many respects. They are seven feet high and very slender. The hands are small and delicate without nails. The feet are twice as long as a normal man with long, slender toes used much the same as a monkey. The creature was easily lifted with “a specific gravity” (sic) of perhaps an ounce. They wore no clothing but were covered with a natural growth that felt like velvet. The faces and head are without hair. The nose is like polished ivory. The eyes are large and lustrous. They are toothless and have so small a mouth it was inferred that their lives were sustained by some sort of gas. Not hideous, they had a strange and indescribably divine beauty and grace. They held a luminous material. They inspected the horses, buggy and general area. They attempt to lift the human witness, but they are unable to do this to due to lack of muscular power. They also moved to their ship in 15 feet strides. Their ship, uniquely it seems, went through the air rapidly, expanding and contacting in a muscular motion.

This resembles a Gray only in thinness, baldness, and large lustrous eyes. It is hardly certain the eyes are identical to current lore and lustrous is probably a common description of eyes particularly back then. The points against calling them Grays seem compelling. Most importantly, nothing is said about the head being huge. The superior height is surely problematic. Describing a nose like ivory is inconsistent with the vestigial noseholes said to common to modern Greys. The monkey feet and velvety skin growth would be unique. The Shaw Martians’ inability to abduct humans due to weight is contradictory to later lore. Consider, for example, the Moody case in which investigators are surprised how frail beings could abduct a big man of two hundred plus pounds and 6’2″ tall.

The unusual lightness could fairly be regarded as analogous to later levitational traits in modern Grays, but the striding motion sounds wrong and may signal a flawed way of the writer showing he knows Martian gravity is lighter than Earth. The muscular ship is also singular and unlike modern craft. Airship Wave researcher Neeley regards this as a hoax and feels the fact that the writer was a former publisher argues that interpretation. It is also interesting that this exemplary work of imagination comes from California for there was a nascent literature on science fiction themes in that region. Some of this seems patterned on descriptions of savages, i.e. the nakedness, a Hottentottish build, beauty, and manner. The earliest fictions involving extraterrestrials were often modeled on examples of primitive peoples native to places like the Americas, Africa, and Polynesia. [24]

1947 and all that

The first known entity case in the 1947 Wave occurred at Webster, Massachusetts and was reported in the July 7th Worcester Massachusetts Daily Telegram. They reported that an elderly woman saw on June 17th a moon-sized object fly by with a slender figure inside dressed in what appeared to be a Navy uniform. As no landing is mentioned nor the closeness of the encounter, it is unclear if this should be regarded as a CE3K. The presence of a Navy uniform unambiguously reflects the presumption of the craft being a secret device of the U.S. government – then, the dominant presumption among believers in saucers. [25]

Also on the 7th, residents of the Center and J Street neighbourhood in Tacoma Washington, including Gene Gamachi and I.W. Martenson, told of seeing a number of objects, some of which landed on nearby roofs. Witnesses saw several “little people” who disappeared upon the arrival of newsmen. [26]

On July 9th, the Nashville Tennesseean published a long, interesting letter by an apparently sane and sober man telling of his brush with a couple of Men from Mars on a nearby flying field. The strange little men, “all heads and arms and legs, and glowing like fireflies,” landed and alighted from a flying saucer as he drove along a highway, the man wrote. The man from Nashville and the Men from Mars exchanged greetings in sign language and the saucer finally took off. [27] Though the description begs to be written off as the product of a backwoods tale-spinner, the use of sign language is an interesting reflection of the newness of the saucer phenomenon. The lack of a shared knowledge of language presumes a first contact.

The 9th also saw a story appear in the Houston Post which deserves to be reproduced in full: 

Circle-Silly: Sailor Sees A Sociable Saucerite

Here is the disc yarn to end all saucer stories in a disc-dizzy nation.

A merchant seaman who swore he never touched a drop, telephoned The Houston Post and said a big silver disc landed in front of him while he was walking in Acres Home addition.

A little man, two feet tall and with a head the size of a basket ball, climbed out of the disc and shook hands with him, the seaman said, then climbed back in and whirled away into the blue.

“Did he look like a man from Mars?” the reporter asked.

“I dunno,” the seaman replied. “I never saw a man from Mars”

 Clearly the small size of the body fits half the definition of a gray and a basket-ball sized head is disproportionately large relative to a two foot tall frame. It is consistent with the broad definition of a Gray. Yet, we can’t honestly say it absolutely deserves the label. We don’t know if the head is bald. We don’t have corroborative information that there is any degenerative evolutionary implication in the size of the body. Shaking hands seems faintly inconsistent with the generality of Grays being indifferent to humans. Such hand-shaking is not a common feature seen in modern cases.

Yet is it ground enough to reject the label? There is no fundamental historical objection in thinking it is derived from the tradition of bald, big-headed and small-bodied aliens in earlier science fiction, but there is no overt attempt to call attention to the disproportion of head and body. I would not be the least bit amazed if this Martian owes nothing to this tradition and had some other logic behind it like a sports cartoon.

There is a pair of other stories of extraterrestrials during this wave, but no physical description is present and presumably belongs to the tradition of channelling. An individual in San Francisco learns through mental telepathy with the Dhyanis, rulers of creation, that the saucers are spaceships dropping ‘metaboblons,’ mechanisms to counteract atomic radiation. [28] ‘Metaboblons’ is probably a typo or garbled recollection of the word ‘metabolons’ that had been coined by Lord Rutherford and Frederick Soddy to refer to the fragments of atoms expelled by atoms in the process of radioactivity. The term was used briefly during the first decade of the century, but was quickly forgotten as radioactivity became better understood. The rulers of creation evidently had not kept up with the physics of the time. [29]

Probably the most high profile case of the 1947 wave was the warning of Ole J. Sneide. He claimed to be in contact with The Great Master. He indicated the saucers were more properly called navo. Though ultimately from the greater Magellenic cloud, they came by way of the lesser Magellenic cloud, 47 Tucanae, Omega, and the Alpha Centauri cluster. They had been travelling millions and millions of years and used antigravity and hyperspace to approximate the speed the light. Theirs was a much older world and the Great Master had earlier been on Earth before the fall of the Roman empire, but left via fohatic teleportation. He is now back and what is going to be done depends upon mankind. It is advised physical man set up no belligerence, for just a small concentration of these discs just beyond our atmosphere could clean the surface of our planet completely in a matter of less than 24 hours. Their present local headquarters is on the unseen side of the moon. Mankind will just have to learn their physics over again someday, if they live. “Ah, if they live!” [30]

It is certain from the lingo that Sneide knew science fiction and it is tempting to wonder if it was inspired in part by Joseph Schlossel’s 1931 story “Extra-Galactic Invaders” which similarly featured Magellenic beings, lunar bases, matter transmission, and world-destroying military technology. [31] Some will note the alien warning to mankind that it could lay waste to Earth and thus we should not be belligerent has a thematic resemblance to the later classic SF movie Day the Earth Stood Still. It is more relevant to point out that world domination by superior technology was a favourite pastime of mad scientists and, in that year of 1947, one was threatening earth with an orbiting spaceship equipped with a ray gun in the 15 part serial Jack Armstrong. [32] It’s not exactly The Death Star, but the basic idea seems there.

Outside the United States and, technically speaking, a couple weeks after the Wave of 1947 ended – another first contact account appears on August 8, 1947 in the Diario da Tarde of Curitiba, Brazil. It describes an incident dated to July 23rd. Jose C. Higgins in the Brazilian state of São Paulo, allegedly encountered some 7-foot tall entities that emerged from a 150-foot wide flying disc with a distinct Saturn-like rim. It landed nearby on curved metallic legs. Described as having huge round bald heads, huge round eyes, no eyebrows, no beards, and indeterminate gender, this seems reasonably close to Gray definitions. Interestingly, Higgins indicates they shunned bright sunlight, arguably a weakness. The obvious problem is the 7-foot height, involving legs longer in proportion to ours. Additionally Higgins claimed they show extraordinary agility. They leap and gambol, and toss huge stones. None of this suggests a degenerate body. [33]

Linda Howe’s taxonomy allows the existence of “Taller Gray Beings, No Hair.” [34] Seven feet is still larger than her 5-6 feet range definition. She has an even taller category of humanoid, but these have prominent noses and, often, cat-like eyes. These can also have hair. She does not call them Grays. As Higgins apparently does not say anything about big noses or cat-like eyes, we should wonder how ufologists with an urge to categorize their aliens should regard this case.

We also have to add that the Higgins aliens wore transparent suits that covered their head and body that seemed inflated like rubber bags. They had a metal box on their body. Through the transparency could be seen bright coloured clothing. Such space suits fit the assumptions of the era, but obviously not that of current Graylore. [35] Higgins indicated that one of the aliens poked eight holes in the ground. A large one in the centre, called Alamo, was felt to be probably the Sun. The seventh one was called Orque and it apparently represented their home. This would mean they came from Uranus. Needless to say, this interpretation does not seem especially plausible to astronomically literate people. Bipedal people probably are not likely on a gas giant world like Uranus that has no solid surface. It is believed to have an 8,000-kilometer deep ocean. [36] Nor will you find any exobiologists with any optimism for life on any of the moons of Uranus. [37] Still worse, this is neither Zeta Reticuli nor Rigel nor Betelguese nor Bellatrix, as modern Graylore would prefer. [38]

A further detail guaranteed to diminish enthusiasm for this case is that the final paragraph in the initial account translates as, “Was it a dream? Was it real? I sometimes doubt that it really happened; it could have been a strange but beautiful dream.” [39] Some say this telegraphs intent of hoaxing, but even those with a generous spirit will grant this is fine ground not to be confident this is a real encounter.

Some ufologists would include the Italian case of Professor R.L. Johannis case in this discussion of 1947 entity encounters. He does say his meeting with a pair of short, earthy-greenish, big-headed, big-eyed extraterrestrial beings occurred on the morning of August 14, 1947, but no document exists preceding his March 20, 1964 letter to a Turin ufologist. [40] He alleges he did a sketch two months after the encounter and sent his account to the Italian weekly L’Europeo. The editorial office lost it. Nobody has presented evidence it appeared anywhere in print in 1947, thus the demands of historical study puts a big question mark on how to treat this story. Some people like to think of the case as the first ‘little green man’ tale, but does it really deserve such an honour if it was shaped in a period when that phrase was already a commonplace? 

villa-santini

 

Some ufologists would include the Italian case of Professor R.L. Johannis case in this discussion of 1947 entity encounters 

There are large doubts that phrase was in wide use in 1947. Italian ufologist Edoardo Russo has provided circumstantial evidence the tale existed as early as 1955 since Johannis mentions it in an unpublished appendix to a translation of the Leslie/Adamski Flying Saucers Have Landed, but this is unconfirmed. He also indicates that Johannis did speak of his experience to friends in the late 50s. Russo remarks the presence of “a dark brown tight-fitting cap, like an alpinist’s bonnet” seems typical of the 1954 French/Italian wave. [41] A 1955 date of origin seems most plausible, for the ‘little green man’ phrase did become very well-known in that year. [42]

The arguments in favor of regarding the Johannis case as involving Grays are good, but assailable. They are “no more than 90 centimetres in height” and his sketch shows them to be slender. Their heads were bigger than a normal human’s and “they had no signs of hair.” The absence of eyebrows also favours the presumption of hairlessness, but a cap prevents certain knowledge of how bare the skull is. The eyes are enormous, protruding and round; the colour of well-ripened yellow-green plums. They have vertical pupils. The modern taxonomist should probably suggest this is a gray-reptoid hybrid. Johannis however also reports there is green/yellow ring along the circumference of the eyes looking like the frame of a pair of spectacles. This detail seems unknown among other Grays. Johannis describes the presence of a nose, “straight, geometrical, and very long.” This detail runs counter to the modern generality of vestigial noses or nose-holes. Beneath the mouth is a mere slit, “shaped like a circumflex accent.” This is consistent. A hand had eight fingers -two clusters of four opposed like a claw. This is inconsistent with modern Grays. The green skin colour is fully consistent with modern Graylore. Paul Bennewiz in a seminal March 1986 document avers Grays are only gray when they are dead or in need of formula; when healthy they are generally light green. [43]

The behaviour of the extraterrestrials is interesting. Johannis indicates he felt paralyzed as the entities approached, but it seems merely a matter of astonishment at first. After a bit, he is able to wave a geologist’s pick and throw questions at them, but they do not understand him. A ray or puff of smoke comes from the belt of one of the beings. He falls over, briefly paralyzed. One alien picks up the tool. Johannis is soon able to sit up. The curiosities here are the facts that paralysis is not attributed to eyes and that this also seems unlike the ‘switched off’ state used by the Grays in the Hopkins era. Johannis recovers far too quickly. We also note again the absence of understanding and no use of Earth languages. This seems again to imply this is a first contact situation and inconsistent with Grays having been here for decades or centuries.

The aliens climb up into their disc and shoot off with such a rush that a cascade of rock and dirt is drawn up to fall in a nearby riverbed. It stops and briefly Johannis fears a sharp flange surrounding the saucer will cut him in half. Then it tips and vanishes and Johannis is struck by a tremendous wind that rolls him over and over. This speediness of the saucer is consistent with the habit of high velocity seen in Fifties cases. [44] In recent decades, saucers prefer to hover and accounts of people rolling over and over due to shockwaves are now hard to find. [45]

Professor Johannis was well known for creating magnificent paintings and he was known throughout Europe for his science fiction, with over fifteen books to his credit. There seems no reason to doubt he had to have known of the orthogenetic future-man idea, given the traditional nature of the idea and image in science fiction.

Taking these 1947 cases as a group, the first thing to notice how few they are in number. There were many more during the Airship Waves. The existence of aliens during the Airship Waves presumably reflects a robust culture of extraterrestrial speculations centred on writings about Mars as an older world where evolution had taken place longer than on Earth. Beyond serious writings suggesting that canals on Mars indicated an advanced civilization; there was also a genre of fiction dubbed “interplanetaries” which was peaking in the 1890s. [46] From the start, the Airships were regarded as piloted vehicles. The situation in 1947 was complicated by the fact that the flying saucers were initially only thought of as “objects.” Many took the “flying saucer” phrase so literally that a surprisingly large fraction of the reports were estimated to be less than 3 feet in diameter! [47] Now, subtract some for the popular presumption that the saucers might be secret weapons akin to missiles like the Nazi V-2 rocket-bombs. Lastly, divide into this the brevity of the 1947 wave compared to the Airship Waves. For all practical purposes the 1947 Wave ended by July 13th, lasting not even a month. [48] By contrast, the Airship waves are spread over a period from mid-November 1896 to April 1897. [49]

The second thing to notice is that there is a bias to small beings in this group. While we cannot dismiss the possibility this is a random matter akin to rolling snake-eyes in three out four tosses of the dice, the likelihood of these tales being loaded to favour small sizes is worth considering. This could easily have resulted from that assumption that the saucers were small. Observe, for example, that Higgins, who had the tall Grays, put them in a 30-meter (150-foot) saucer. Johannis would put his little men in a more modest 10-meter (30 feet) saucer. One notable wrinkle, though: the Houston clipping has its little man coming from a “big silver disc.”

I’m thus completely open to the possibility that there may be some alternative factor biasing size to small aliens. What is more notable is that the aliens are not conforming to the way alien sizes were skewed in the Airship Waves. We should not be looking at overarching archetypal, deep mind processes to explain the sizes of aliens. Whatever skewed the Airship wave reports to giantism was no longer working in 1947.

We observe that some of the elements of the orthogenetic cliché seen in this Varicose Brains series seem to be in play already in these first entity cases. One may dispute this and haggle over the incoherence of the cases as a group. Certainly the clustering of traits is most properly assessed as weak and merely suggestive. But one can see well enough that these traits are more present here than in the Airship era. Not to be cruel, but we are obliged to observe that from an evidential standpoint, these cases are tenuous – the best match to Graylore suspiciously is by an SF writer, the next best match puts the Grays on Uranus and has a warning admitting it may be a dream, and in the Houston case we don’t even have the name of the alleged witness. 

We will have to snub Roswellians for the moment. Given the evidence that Roswell involved the crash of a Mogul balloon, the testimony of Grays being retrieved out of the Roswell crash are axiomatically and certainly tales constructed apart from the culture of 1947. 

A.k.a. Dimmick

 We will skip three entity cases of the 1948-49 period for various reasons (Magonia catalogue case 64 – too vague; 68 – Peruvian space mummies backdated from 1967 [50]; 69 – headless figures of unstated size) and jump to an International New Service item dated August 20, 1949. Two prospectors – Buck Fitzgerald & Mase Garney – say they witnessed a saucer crash in Death Valley in mid-July. Two small men, heavily clothed, ran from the crash and disappeared over a ridge. The prospectors pursued but lost them amid sand dunes. The saucer is made of calcium, was iridescent and radioactive, and had small green wires running throughout. The Air Force dismissed this as hoax, apparently without investigation. Though this has been termed a snap judgement, it is easy to guess why the Air Force would not be alarmed. If the aliens must run away and are unable to defend themselves, clearly they are not an imminent threat to much of anyone. Nor does the case sound likely.

Loren Gross suggested in his history that this was our old friends Silas Newton and GeBauer (Dr. Gee), from the later and better known Scully hoax, using assumed names in an abortive plot. The Mojave was their home turf and the site of their doodlebug adventures – they claimed that vast oil deposits existed under the Mojave. [51] Karl Pflock has confirmed this. A memoir in Silas Newton’s hand has him stating he indeed contacted the FBI with the story and GeBauer called “the papers to see if they would bite.” He said he wanted to get into the public mind an aura of mystery, excitement, and government cover-up over saucers and their wonderful technology . [52] Take note of this, you will be quizzed later.

The Scully hoax proper starts in the “Scully’s Scrapbook” column for the October 12, 1949 Variety. From a crash is pulled 16 men described as the size of Singer midgets. They add the qualifier, “Neither were they pigmies from the African jungle. Something about their bone structure was different” [53] This initial version caused no excitement according to Loren Gross.[54] In the following November 27th issue of Variety, Scully insists the craft in the crash was taken apart piece by piece and trucked to Dayton to study the method of propulsion of the little humanoids’ craft.

There is no direct evidence of why Newton chose the small form. The slight geographic distance between Texas and the Mojave raises a question on whether the 1947 Houston Post landing could have had legs enough to have reached Newton. As the saucer in the hoax is described as being over 100 feet across, we can discount the presumption that the statistical bias of saucers to be small played a role here. The mention of the Singer midgets also however brings up an alternative possibility. Earlier in the century, midgets were considered freaks and exploited by carnivals. Coney Island used a veritable army of 60 midgets with spiked backs in its Luna Park space ride to represent Selenites. [55] It spawned space rides elsewhere. It has been alleged in Robert Bogdan’s book Freak Show that a pair of black albino brothers, Eko and Iko, were successfully displayed in the 20s and 30s “as ambassadors from Mars discovered near the remains of their spaceships in the Mojave desert.” [56] The mention of the Mojave in the pitch story raises thoughts of possible inspiration for Newton’s tale, however research needs to be done to establish more firmly that the pitch story predates 1949 and is not a folkloric artefact constructed after Newton’s story.

On January 6, 1950 we get the Koehler yarn. The victims of the saucer crash are almost identical to earth-dwelling humans, except for a uniform height of 3ft. They are uniformly blond, beardless and their teeth were completely free of fillings or cavities. They wore blue uniforms with wire threads, six button jackets, and slip-on shoes. They had no undergarments but were taped up. [57] Keyhoe asserts the Associated Press ran an item in which Koehler “admitted the whole thing was a big joke.” But the little men story “ran on and on,” despite this. [58]

Three days later Time magazine gives prominence to other little men stories. In the Rosenwald Foundation crash yarn, two die and one is thrown free. They are three-ft tall and a bit primitive, even monkey-like in appearance. Another yarn says a crash had fifteen survivors. One survivor drew a solar system, pointed to Venus, and they are taken to a pressurized chamber with carbon dioxide to simulate the Venusian atmosphere. The detail of primitiveness at this date is curious. A monkey-type ancestry may indicate thoughts of evolutionary convergence; i.e. monkeys are intelligent and have hands, maybe thus a logical space being. Venus was typically regarded as jungle-like in earlier science fiction, thus offering another possible reason for monkey-like aliens.

The most important tale to emerge in this cluster of crash-retrieval yarns however was told on March 9, 1950 by Ray L. Dimmick: This version appeared in the Los Angeles Mirror:  

‘Flying Saucer’ Crash in Mexico Told by L.A. Man

A Flying Saucer recently crash-landed near Mexico City and was seen by a Los Angeles man, he declared today. The disc was staffed by a pigmy-sized man, about 25 inches tall, who was killed in the crash. The tiny visitor reputedly had a large head and a very small body. News of the saucer was given by Ray L. Dimmick, sales manager of a Los Angeles powder company.

Military Takes Over

nt to tell his story because of “security” reasons. He said Mexican and United States military officials have taken over the project. Mexican officials reportedly have said that similar strange flying spheres have landed in North America. The governments involved were said to have immediately locked such occurrences in secrecy.

Recently some military men have suggested that the strange objects reportedly seen over the Western United States might be interplanetary space ships. Dimmick said he was close enough to the Mexico City saucer to touch it. He said it was 46 feet in diameter, made of a substance resembling aluminum and was powered by two motors. The bottom was wrecked in the landing. Dimmick’s amazing report came a few hours after a saucer was reported spotted over San Fernando Valley. The strange object appeared twice, flying fast at 400 feet altitude, residents said.

Runs for Telescope

Composer Eddie Coffman, 5451 Kester Ave., Van Nuys, said he first spotted the saucer with the naked eye. Then he rushed into the house and got a telescope. Coffman’s mother, Mrs. Gertrude Coffman, said the object was “like the moon only bigger and it was ghastly white.” Two neighbors, Mr. And Mrs. Reed Hadley, verified their statements. To them, the object in the sky seemed about 50 feet in diameter. This observation was strikingly like of Dimmick and like many others made elsewhere on the North American continent.

Dimmick said a heavy guard had been thrown around the saucer at Mexico City. High Mexican and United States officials reportedly have visited the scene of the landing. But all facts gleaned have been wrapped in stiff censorship. Dimmick said Mexican officials are strong in the belief the little pilot of the saucer is a visitor from Mars or some other planet where life exists.

Dimmick said he has been unable to learn what happened to the body of the Tom Thumbs visitor. [59] 

Far more than Scully’s and Koehler’s yarns, Dimmick’s story had legs. Loren Gross avers the Dimmick tale filled the airwaves and triggered scores of requests for more information. The Chicago Tribune complained phone lines were tied in knots over it. The Pentagon came under siege by newsmen seeking details. The American Embassy in Mexico City had a top official meet the press. “I can definitely and officially state that this report is not true.” [60] Time magazine singled it out as the wildest of this group of tales. [61] 

It spread internationally and clearly formed the basis of an April Fool’s prank in the German paper Wiesbadener Tageblatt. Just a couple weeks after Dimmick’s tale surfaced they published a photo of an entity being escorted by a pair of military men. It is short, has a large and bald head and large eyes separated by a Y-shaped nose/brow structure. It is breathing from a tube connected to a hand held unit. It seems single-legged on first look, but details clarify the alien is standing on a floatation disk. The date was no accident. The prank was confessed in the April 3rd issue of the paper and confirmed by its instigator Wilhelm Sprunkel in a taped interview with ufologist Klaus Webner, decades later. [62]

arrested alien

It spread internationally and clearly formed the basis of an April Fool’s prank in the German paper Wiesbadener Tageblatt. Just a couple weeks after Dimmick’s tale surfaced they published a photo of an entity being escorted by a pair of military men.

This photo, or rather a Xerox of it, found its way into Berlitz and Moore’s The Roswell Incident (1980). They wonder if it “may or may not pertain to certain significant aspects of the Roswell incident.” It came to them by way of FBI files from someone who thought it was a picture of a man from Mars in the United States. It is an excellent depiction of a Gray and by 1980 fit right in with the emerging dominance of this form. Ironically this early image of a Gray in UFO culture, the first visual representation of one, was thus a hoax. It should be emphasized the photo seems unknown to American culture until the Roswell book and could not have influenced pre-1980 Gray imagery. But Dimmick’s verbal description is another matter. The pygmy-sized alien with a large head and a very small body was now part of the saucer culture and a high-profile item at that. Dimmick’s tale was also debunked, however, both by officials in Mexico, and to a large extent by Dimmick himself. Time magazine offered this sequel and epitaph,

“Next day, after thinking it over, Dimmick decided he had been ‘misquoted.’ He had not seen the wrecked saucer or its pilot himself; it was two other guys in Mexico City. Nevertheless, distributed deadpan by the wire services and printed in many newspapers, the Dimmick “little man” story, and variations of it, are still making the rounds. Why is the press ready to print, and the public to believe, such fantastic tales?” [63]

Thus, there was reason to resist patterning one’s tale after Dimmick’s version of the saucer crash. Silas Newton’s version would take a little longer to get debunked. Cahn’s famous exposé on his yarn appears in September 1952. [64] The general cluster of tales probably worked to inspire some amorphous belief under the general principle of ‘where there’s smoke there’s fire.’ Though inconsistent in some of the details, the retrieval yarns did seem consistent in that one detail of their being small. They yielded a generality of saucer aliens as being little. ‘Little Men from Mars,’ ‘pygmies,‘ ‘midgets,‘ ‘tiny space folk were some of the recurring terms. One interesting item, dated April 10, 1950, has Kenneth Arnold being asked his opinion. “I don’t scoff at reports that ‘little men’ have fled from alleged crack-ups of flying saucers in Mexico and southern California…Who am I to say that no such men exist? My mind is always open to anything. I haven’t seen any of the tiny men myself. But I have letters from persons who have seen them. And they’re serious, too.” [65]

In the September and October 1950 issues of The Steep Rock Echo, the house organ of a major mining corporation, a little yarn started about a couple who saw a flying saucer floating in a Canadian lake. On the deck they saw “about ten queer looking little figures” working on a hose that was drawing up water, possibly extracting something, and discharging it again. The figures were 3½ to 4 feet tall, faceless, and dressed in outfits that were shiny metallic in the chest area, but darker over the limbs. Most wore dark blue caps, but one had a red skull cap. Oddly, they moved like automatons. The teller said he brought a friend to the same spot and, at a later date, saw it again. They startled the crew and the little figures all rushed through hatches, save one. The saucer abruptly took off with one figure still outside. It fell off about half way across the Bay. This story resurfaced in Fate magazine some years later and eventually in Frank Edwards’ Flying Saucer – Serious Business. Edwards regarded the witnesses as credible and the tale as a seminal benchmark case. In his words, “the strange experience at Steep Rock Lake was to recur many times in the ensuing years.” [66] Subsequently researchers established it was a hoax, fully confessed by its author Gordon Edwards. [67] But not before a funny thing happened.

Late in the spring of 1966, William Kiehl sends the Lorenzens a letter about a 1914 incident in which he saw little men working vigorously on a hose from the deck of a flying saucer resting in the water of a Canadian lake. He observed “the size of the heads was large in comparison to the diminutive bodies. Kiehl described the bodies as ‘skinny’” [68] The Lorenzens note that the incident bore some similarity to the Steep Rock case of July 2, 1950. They observe that case was previously recounted in the February 1952 Fate magazine. Fate was the magazine from which Kiehl learned about the Lorenzens’ interest in UFO phenomena. By this date they also know Steep Rock was a joke. Do they reject Kiehl’s account? They see why skeptics might be tempted to conclude he got his idea from that case, but “The plagiarist generally adheres as closely to the original story as possible in order to give an air of authenticity to his tale.” Big heads and skinny bodies do not figure in the original Steep Rock yarn and the craft is different. The Lorenzens felt such shenanigans are a headache for researchers, but it seems quite straightforward to us. It is a matter of memory gone wrong. Kiehl was 68 at the time of the letter. Details get mixed up from multiple sources with the faceless automatons dropping away in favour of a different case; probably Dimmick, perhaps others we’ll run into later.

Almost as funny, Betty Andreasson, in the 80s, would recount an UFO event involving beings taking water from a lake – “they’re working really quick” – using some hoses that include a green one. [69] Raymond Fowler reprints extracts from The Steep Rock Echo and gushes, “The similarities between Betty’s experience and that of the Canadian man and wife are striking.” The crafts are similar. The sizes of the entities are similar. Their motions are similar. There are similar vibrating sounds and an explosion. The colours are similar. But Fowler is completely oblivious of the confession by Gordon Edwards. [70] The deduction is unavoidable. This abductee is confabulating material acquired in her reading as part of her own experiences.

The ‘little men’ generality would be reaffirmed in rumours throughout the Fifties. Harold T. Wilkins repeated a pair of them from 1952. Joe Roher of Pikes Peak Radio Company, talking at a Pueblo, Colorado Chamber of Commerce luncheon, alleged “A little man from a saucer is being tenderly cared for in the incubator room at San Diego, while cadavers of two saucer pilots are being dissected by surgeons of the Medical Division of the US Army Air Force…. The little saucer men have a smaller bony structure than earth men, but the bones are proportionally heavier and their stomachs smaller.” [71]

On July 24, 1952, he got a letter from a fellow describing a meeting with a nice reliable fellow who has a pal in the Air Force who says the Air Force is keeping alive an alien in a pressure chamber somewhere in California. He a little fellow three feet tall who was the only survivor of a saucer forced down by radar in the Arizona desert in 1950. They are showing him pictures and teaching him to read and write. [72] Dorothy Kilgallen, in a 1954 column, would state a British official of Cabinet rank told her “we believe on the basis of our inquiries thus far, that the saucers are staffed by small men – probably under four feet tall.” [73] Carl Jung, in 1958, would also comment on this being a general bit of accepted lore: “According to the rumour, the occupants are about three feet high and look like human beings or, conversely, are utterly unlike us. Other reports speak of giants 15 feet high.” The giant is obviously The Flatwoods Monster. [74]

Early tales towing the little man line include an Oxford, England account of a bus conductor, perhaps whimsically, “There is flying saucer right over my vehicle with lots of little men with ginger hair inside having tea.” This was apparently offered amid a flurry of reports over a parachute training balloon broken loose from its moorings. [75]

It also seems to have made in-roads into contactee belief. George Hunt Williamson offered an early taxonomy of eight types of aliens that includes “The Intruders” which are described as small in stature with strange oriental eyes. Their faces are thin and they possess weak bodies. They are said to prey on people and project themselves into weak earthly bodies. Their wisdom has merit, but is materialistic.. [76] Nothing is said of big bald heads, but the sense of degenerative nature is reinforced by a plea to “Pity them.” It is very curious to see this in such an early contactee work, given their usually utopian bent.

Ethereal Aluminium Monkeys

The June 1950 Talk of the Times reproduced a pair of photos received from Cologne, Germany, one of which is a retouched picture of Dr. E.W. Kay’s model saucer that appeared in the press on January 11, 1950. The other is of two agents holding up a small humanoid with proportions somewhat like a small monkey. The caption reads, “As one silver capsule broke: the first Mars man was captured! Eyewitness G-man, McKenerich, from Phoenix (Arizona), reports ‘I was astounded by the importance of this great moment. For the first time I was seeing a being from another world. At the same time I was equally amazed by the desperation of this Aluminum Man. His body was covered with a shiny metal foil.’ The observatory in Phoenix, Arizona, presumes that this is for protection from cosmic rays.”

In the October issue, they aver they had scooped the entire magazine world with the picture of “the little man from another world” and their office was being flooded with requests to get prints, requests it was impossible to fill. They also state they do not have the names and addresses of the people in the picture. They counter talk of this being a hoax by emphasizing that “there is no material on this planet which would even approach the type of material that covered the body of the little man, after he had been taped up.” They speak of it as a “little man from Venus” and add material from Scully’s book. [77]

In the August 25, 1950 Point: San Diego Newsweekly, Meade Layne embellishes the Aluminum Man story of June. The picture of the monkey-sized alien, it is alleged, was “suppressed in this country. Smuggled to Germany they appeared in a Cologne newspaper. An associate in that city dispatched reproductions to Layne. They show a 27-inch aluminum man, purportedly captured after crashing near Mexico City last spring. Flak rockets hit a disc and 20 silvery capsules fell to ground. McKenerich is quoted as saying,

“I was astounded by the importance of this great moment. For the first time I was seeing a being from another world. His body was covered with a shiny metal foil – presumably protection from cosmic rays. The 27-inch man was no pushover. It took 5 men to over power him, according to Layne’s data. Then, exhausted, the invader passed out, was put in chains and given a stimulant. (The captors, some think, had taken a stimulant too) The critter put up a fruitless fight after coming to, then died suddenly – two hours from the moment of his landing.”

Layne discusses his cosmological beliefs about Etheria being a larger globe surrounding us and explains, “The Etherians keep archives on dying civilizations, such as ours. They send out so-called flying saucers to reconnoiter and collect information.” Etherians can ‘think’ saucers into existence. He reminds everyone they called Galileo crazy in his time. [78]

A couple weeks later, still more embellishments appear. The cover of Point exclaims in huge letters “More 27 inch Men!” The Aluminum Man photo is accompanied by a second photo attributed to geologist David Shantz in Death Valley. This photo shows a number of figures in the distance but with too little definition to even tell if they are any different in appearance from humans. Shantz tells of seeing a saucer landing on April 17 with “several tiny men frolicking about – less than 30 feet away. They appeared luminous and ghost-like.” One figure moves his hands as if warning him not to take the photo and when he does the leader shouted orders in a guttural, high-pitched voice which caused the figures to race back to the saucer. Checking the area later, he saw no footprints.

Meade Layne says he received over 2000 reports of sky objects after the prior article about Etheria and he is convinced the operators of these ships have made a number of landings. He also talks about Ezekiel, a flying pig over Virginia 50 years back, and, strangely, flying bananas over Fort Worth. I say strangely because the obvious humorous allusion to monkey aliens escapes Layne’s comment and maybe even his notice. The 27-inch men are from Etheria, invisible and untouchable. Etherians are great godlike creatures 9 to 10 feet tall. They live 200 to 300 years. They reproduce like humans. They can think themselves down to 27 inches to facilitate manoeuvrability of the craft, but they can think themselves to the size of mountains. [79]

Donald Keyhoe felt the Aluminum Man was the most outrageous of the Scully cluster of tales. [80] He seems dubious about this guy surviving a crash. The monkey-like character of the entity seems obviously based on the Rosenwald Foundation yarn from earlier in the year. More recently, it has been pointed out by Hans-Werner Peiniger of a West German UFO group that it was certainly another April Fool’s prank since yarn’s author’s names are G. Falcht and R. Logen. This is literally translated as ‘forged’ and ‘make-believe.’ [81] Though the tale was not widely repeated, the photos turned up repeatedly in the ufo literature. [82]

The Edward Watters “shaved monkey” hoax of July 9, 1953 may belong to the Rosenwald Foundation line of influence. [83] More firmly, a line burped up in the Herbert Schirmer hypnotic regression of June 8, 1968 stating, “They looked to be shaped more like a monkey than us” can be tied to the Rosenwald Foundation yarns. The regression brought up other material from this cluster of tales. [84]

Specifically Schirmer spoke of the aliens having bases on Venus and “UFOs have been knocked out of the air by radar” which is repeating material from the George T. Koehler yarn of January 1950. [85] The detail does not seem to fit with the drawing Schirmer offered which seemed fully human.

There are other more ambiguous examples around. A Spanish case dated to June 1955 speaks of “a very strange dwarfish being resembling a gorilla.” It had a Herculean chest and arms, very small legs, and wore plastic coveralls and a hood. [86] An August 4, 1968 case from Montreal, Canada speaks of a 3 ft. tall “monkey man” with long curving arms that made a tremendous leap and disappeared. These seem ambiguous, as there is no mention of a craft in these cases. [87] Also of interest, more tangential than directly related, is Don Worley’s collection of two dozen UFO-related encounters with ape-like, Bigfoot, and Sasquatch entities from the early 1970s. [88] They were large, clearly reflecting the widespread popularity of Bigfoot mythology in this period rather than any historic link to the Rosenwald yarn. Still, this retention of a premise of evolutionarily primitive man-apes within ufo lore has to be a matter of historical notice.

Reign of the Pygmaliens 

In November and December of 1954, a series of reports from South America reached the United States telling of small, hairy humanoids with glowing eyes and prodigious strength. Ufologists were impressed, notably APRO and Keyhoe. Jose Alves of Pontal, Brazil sees three little dark-skinned men in skull caps collecting herbs, grass leaves, and river water. [90] Lorenzo Florers and Jesus Gomez meet four little men who try to drag them into their craft. Flores strikes one of them with his unloaded shotgun and the gun broke apart. They were immensely strong and hairy. [91] Jesus Paz was set upon by small hairy man-like creatures and rendered unconscious. His friends, hearing him scream, ran up and saw one of them. They took him to a hospital where he was treated for shock. Hospital authorities noted he had long deep scratches down his spine as though by a wild beast. [92] José Parra, a jockey, reported seeing six little men pull boulders from the side of the road and put them into hovering saucer. [93] Gustavo Gonzales and Jose Ponce meet small hairy men wearing loincloths. They scuffle and Gonzales’s knife glances off. Similar little men carrying dirt and rocks leap into a sphere in the meantime. Temporarily blinding Gonzales with a light, they climb in as well and rapidly take off. [94] 

One may well wonder if the talk of hairy men wearing loincloths could reflect a delayed recurrence of Dimmick’s description of pygmy-like humanoids. This may merely be accidental similarity, for one can also think of the Yahoos in Dean Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels - described as hairy, dwarfish scrabbling creatures of unbridled appetites and lesser folkloric hairy men that are common in mythology. Regardless of the significance or lack thereof of Dimmick’s precedent, American ufologists read a pygmy ancestry into these stories. Said Keyhoe,

“The existence of these hairy dwarfs was hard for me to accept, even though the Ituri pygmies of Africa came close to fitting the description. This pygmy race, existing in East Africa’s Ituri forest, was almost unknown until it was studied by the Reverend Dr. Martin Guisinde, professor of anthropology at the Catholic University of America. Father Guisande, who for years has studied small-sized beings in many parts of the world, found that the Ituri pygmies had clay-yellow bodies covered with thick, dark brown hair. Small creatures – less than 5 feet high and weighing less than 90 pounds – these pygmies manoeuvre through the forest as expertly as monkeys, swinging from branch to branch.

Since the towering jungle trees hide the sky at all times, the Ituri pygmies live out their lives in a dimly lighted world. So accustomed are they to this semi-darkness that they actually fear the sunlight. Even if they dared venture outside the forest, their strange eyes, conditioned to darkness, would be almost blinded by the sun’s glare.

As I examined the curious evidence, something inside me fought against acceptance of the hairy-dwarf idea. My feeling, I realized, was a subconscious longing – the same thing which John Du Barry and I had discussed that night at Larchmont. I knew now that I hoped the UFO race would not be unlike our own.” [95]

Keyhoe goes on to cite that evolution would not favour duplication of the human form. He notes that a Navy man with impeccable credentials was advancing this hairy dwarf business. “Do you think this hairy dwarf business could be the answer?” asked Stirling. “I suppose it could be, Bob…but I hope to heaven these stories turn out to be hoaxes.” They doubted they would though. [96]

Before the Venezuelan dwarf reports there had been very little similarity between any of the ‘creature’ stories. Most of them were such obvious fakes they were not even worth considering. Some of the Venezuelan reports also had a suspicious sound. Yet APRO’s on-the-scene investigator was convinced that the story by Gomez and Flores, at least, was true. Coral Lorenzen would affirm the Jesus Paz hairy dwarf story was “one of the first believable accounts of contact with occupants of UFOs.” [97]

Morris K. Jessup in The Expanding Case for the UFO expanded on Keyhoe’s notion.

“If we do indeed, have ‘little people’ within the UFO, as reported by observers of varying responsibility, then we may assume that the Pygmies, at some remote epoch, developed a civilization which discovered the principle of gravitation and put it to work.”

This first wave of civilization occurred in the time before the Biblical Flood ruined the earth. Clark reports that “Jessup’s fantastic notions appear to have convinced no one, and his pygmies as humanoids hypothesis died with him two years later.” [98] This appears to forget Otto Binder’s Flying Saucers are Watching Us (1968). Binder briefly recounts Jessup’s theory that the original starmen were pygmy types and were able to interbreed with a flourishing culture of pygmy humans 20,000 to 40,000 years ago. The ancestry of pygmies themselves purportedly was a mystery. This interbreeding produced oversized mutants that resulted in modern man. Binder goes on to talk about other data suggesting “anthro-biological experiments of the spacemen in their ancient brain-breeding program on earth.” [99]

Little men encounters continued in South America. The most important is surely the Villas Boas classic. The male abductors are determined to be 1.55 meters or a little less. The men grab hold of him and drag him to the craft. They talk in a growls and grunts. The aggressive and animal-like nature of the interaction recalls the Venezuelan stories of Flores and Gomez, but there are notable differences such as AVB’s abductors having small, light-coloured eyes instead of glowing ones. AVB’s abductors wear space suits while the Venezuelans speak of hairy dwarfs. The female seductress was even shorter – about 1.35 meters. He describes her as a small figure that reached to the height of his shoulder. He is able to give her a violent push that sends her reeling backwards about six feet in the initial moments of capture.

This point needs emphasis. It is a radical difference from modern Gray methods: “He was asked if he thought that his actions could have been carried out under his captors’ willpower or telepathic suggestion. The answer was negative. He declared to having been the master of his own actions and thoughts throughout his adventure. At no time did he feel he was being mastered by outside power or pressure. “All they got from me was by the fist,” was his only comment. He denied having received the slightest mental influence or telepathic message from any one of them.” [100] This is so unlike the methods of the Hybrid Program it borders on bizarre that certain ufologists think the AVB case has been made more credible by the current ascendance of the theory of The Breeding Program among ufologists like Jacobs and Hopkins. The female has a number of features unlike standard Grays: blonde white hair, big blue eyes, ordinary ears, freckled arms, bright blood-red armpit hair, well-developed hips, large thighs. She also growled, giving him “the disagreeable impression of lying with an animal.” [101] She also had high prominent cheekbones that made the face wide, “wider than that of an Indio native.” [102] The overall effect is, again, more of a primitive race than a futuristically evolved humanoid.

In 1966, Coral Lorenzen notes the little men phenomenon is widespread. They appear in large numbers in 1954, confined first to Europe and South America. The South American little men form three groups: 3 ft. hairy midgets, 4 ft. human-appearing creatures, and 5 ft. average men with or without space-suits. The midgets are animal-like and gather specimens. Lorenzen remarks,

“The hairy little men may be some type of lower form of life such as our anthropoids, which are pressed into service for the purpose of gathering various samples of flora and fauna, and routine jobs such as gathering mineral samples. They certainly do not react to the presence of humans as do their more human-appearing counter-parts, the “little men.” This not a completely unlikely theory – in man’s first attempt to put a living thing into orbit around the earth a dog was utilized, and later chimpanzees. The “dwarves” may even be conscripts from a planet within our own solar system.” [103]

Though examples of big-headedness appear in Lorenzen’s 1966 book, they do not form part of the generalization.

An analysis of occupant cases restricted to America and the period 1947-65 and published in 1969′s The Humanoids had Lorenzen stating ‘little men’ “seem to be one definite category.” They clearly dominate even in America, at one point outnumbering the average-sized and giant cases combined by a ratio of better than three to one. Lorenzen does not provide entries in the analysis for most of the Scully cluster of crash-retrieval yarns. Though it is clearly stated most researchers reject them, Lorenzen makes the amazing remark, “subsequent incidents seem to indicate Scully was either telling the truth or that he was a prophet.” The little men “generally answer the description given by Scully.” This information is given in an entry on the 1949 Death Valley yarn. Lorenzen was seemingly impressed by the fact that this case predating the Scully tales “has not been exposed as a hoax,” thus seemingly leaving open the unsaid possibility that Scully was influenced by this genuine case. [104] Okay, class, why is this a problem? Hands. That’s right, Silas Newton’s memoirs eventually provided proof it was a hoax.

Frank Edwards paralleled the Lorenzens’ perceptions by noting in a chapter “Who’s Driving?” of his best-seller that “most of the reported beings are said to be small, more like pygmies or dwarfs than hissing stinking giants” (ala Flatwoods). [105] He recounts cases like those of the Venezuelan flap favoured by APRO and argues “From all parts of the globe, the descriptions of the alleged operators are remarkably uniform. There is either a world-wide conspiracy to lie about these things or a great many people, including some who have never heard of flying saucers have seen some very strange creatures of unknown origin.” [106] This argument is one we’ll meet again. Edwards nowhere speaks of large bald heads either as a generality or a repeating trait.

Edwards would distort details to preserve this appearance of uniformity. He describes the Father Gill case as involving “small manlike creatures,” but Gill indicated they had “the outline of normal human beings” and nowhere gives a size estimate. [107] Socorro is purported by Edwards to involve “two small man-like beings dressed in white or silvery coverall type garments” or “humanoids,” but Zamora’s statement reads, “These persons appeared normal in shape – but possibly they were small adults or large kids.” He makes no reference to the outfits possibly being silvery, only “two people in white coveralls.” [108] Zamora was said to have publicly downplayed the humanoid aspects of the encounter on the advice of an FBI agent, but privately would emphasize the figures were “quite a bit shorter” than a nearby bush measured as 5′ 2″ tall. But, even privately, he indicated there was no headgear and did nothing to suggest the outfits resembled spacesuits. [109]

Otto Binder, in a 1974 article surveying 400 occupant cases, indicated 280, about 70%, involved beings below average in height. There was no consistency. Of skin and clothing colouring he lists: All black; blue and bearded, green skin and hair, shining yellow eyes, black face, and glowing green torso; Dun, like potato bags; fish-scale skin, legs golden yellow; striped clothing; bright red faces; pure white skin. Anatomical features showed no consistency either. He lists Dwarfs, hairy bodies; glowing orange eyes; misshapen bald head; no arms; slit mouth, nostril holes; 3-fingered hands; shrivelled face, white hair, pumpkin head; 8-fingered hands; large chests; huge heads; furry, clawed hands; thin, hooked nose; heads like potatoes; one-eyed; elephantine ears; fingerless hands; twisted legs. Some walk or run; some float; some can vanish. Some are vicious; some are shy; some are indifferent. [110] Blatantly, Binder’s survey undercuts the argument of Edwards.

Binder’s emphasis on diversity in 1974 is an interesting contrast to thoughts expressed in a 1971 fictional work he penned called Night of the Saucer. While briefly accepting that a wide variety of forms visit do study earth, he notes that since 1950 reports have tended to involve “hairy little brutes” about three and a half feet tall with glowing owl eyes, slit mouths, and flat noses. They wear silvery suits and helmets. He trots out the Venezuelan cases favoured by APRO and Keyhoe and cites other real cases from the UFO literature showing a habit of rock collection.

Out of this, Binder concocts a fast-paced adventure in which the “hairy humanoids” play the villains in a scheme to collect chips of super-nova fragments which will be used to turn the Earth into a flying bomb that will crash into the centre of galactic government and make it possible for them to plunder the galaxy. The primitive nature of this UFO alien form is repeatedly emphasized with talk of them as little hairy brutes, horrid hairy brutes, ugly dwarfs, sawed-off furry dwarfs, and nasty hirsute creatures. They have feral faces, make beast-like sounds, attack like a wild animal, and live in an underground base composed of cliff-dwellings. [111]

In 1975, Albert Lancashire made a bid to being the first British abductee when he told Jenny Randles of having a series of dreams or visions during an October 1967 wave. They involved an entity wearing a surgeon’s mask who examines him while on a bed. He sees a woman of oriental appearance in the strange room and several ‘pygmy men.’ Lancashire backdates the origin of the vision to a UFO sighting in 1942 when a beam of light from a glowing light caused a floating sensation in him. Jenny Randles indicates she was able to establish Lancashire had told his story a decade earlier, in the Sixties. [112] The oriental woman could be inspired by the Villas Boas case which, by 1967, was becoming well known. The detail of ‘pygmy men’ is clearly consistent with the generality discussed in the UFO literature of the Sixties.

In a 1976 survey of occupant cases, James M. McCampbell similarly reports a clear dominance of humanoids being diminutive. 61 of 81 entity cases with quantitative estimates were dwarves. Among those with no quantitative estimates, there are another 58 qualitatively considered dwarves. Add them up and there were 119 dwarf cases. The modal value was 3 feet. He surveys some of the correlative features found in these reports and observes, “Certain aspects of this description strongly suggest that the race of little people on UFOs are pygmies displaying many of the typical characteristics of achondroplastic dwarfism.” [113] This seems to be the last time that anyone would remark on the resemblance of ufonauts to pygmies. The era of the pygmy aliens – when the size of the entities’ body was the sole generality – can, as a matter of convenience, be said to end here.

Have you any Grays poupon?

We have already pointed out that Dimmick’s tale of a tiny visitor with a large head and a very small body achieved photographic expression in a German April Fool’s prank a few days after its inception in 1950. There seems little cause to doubt the Dimmick case was known throughout Europe due to international news services. How the tale was presented in France is a matter we can only hope researchers will take up and fill in some day, but it does not seem an unreasonable assertion to think people in French news agencies were aware of it.

I will confess some reservations about commenting on some early French cases. A case in Vallee’s Magonia catalogue places 1.5 meter men with oversized heads near Tonnere, France as early as September 4, 1953. The 5-meter long craft spread wings that made it look like a butterfly. [114] This would be the earliest gray-like being in France if it is not a backdated tale, a common threat. We also see there an August 23, 1954 case wherein Elise Blanc saw two small beings in silvery dress, grunting like pigs. [115] No comment.

It is when France had its Great Martian Panic in September 1954 that things get really interesting, for that is when the Marius DeWilde encounter pops into the picture. In his notorious analysis of the 1954 French wave, Aimé Michel devotes three and a half pages to the DeWilde case. Some details there of interest include the beings located on what was called the ‘smugglers path.’ He denies this had anything to do with smugglers.

quarouble20dewilde

“The beam of my light caught a reflection from glass or metal where the face should have been. I had the distinct impression that his head was enclosed in a diver’s helmet. In fact, both creatures were dressed in one-piece outfits like the suits that divers wear. They were very short, probably less than three and a half feet tall, but very wide in the shoulders, and the helmets protecting the heads looked enormous. I could see their legs, small in proportion to their height, it seemed to me, but on the other I couldn’t see any arms. I don’t know whether they had any.”

Shortly after, he is blinded by a powerful light like a magnesium flare coming from a dark mass sitting on the railroad tracks. He is paralyzed. He shortly recovers and sees the dark mass rise from the tracks. “A thick dark steam was coming out of the bottom with a low whistling sound.” It gained altitude then turned east towards Aznin. A helicopter seems unlikely due to telegraph wires. This would presumably also argue against a balloon, but that talk of steam is pretty curious.

The story was widely disseminated. One newspaper, speaking of George Pal’s War of the Worlds film then playing nearby wrote, “Marius DeWilde saw a big head protected by some kind of glass helmet.” In the Paris paper Soir, it was rendered, “Both were little beings with enormous heads.” [116] DeWilde would later deny this and was quoted as saying, “on the contrary to what some of your colleagues have written, they did not have a big head.” [117]

Jacques Bonabot’s “”Dossier Quarouble 1954″ includes a drawing by DeWilde and it does not seem much different from a normal teen wearing a motorcycle helmet. [118] It seems probably significant that we don’t find any detail proving the figures were related to the dark mass, i.e they were not seen entering or leaving it. The story seems potentially resolvable down to mundane happenings given oversignificance by the presence of an unusual bright light. There has been talk of physical effects on the nearby railway tracks, but drawings in Bonabot’s research file show a pattern strongly suggestive of them having been created in the manufacture of the wooden ties.

The distortion of the report by the papers seems to prove preconceptions of aliens as big-headed were already in place. The Dimmick case seems one likely source. Some cultural groundwork was also provided by science fiction. It is known there was a sudden influx of English translated SF books, mostly from the U.S., into the French marketplace in the post-war 1950s. [119]

Other cases in the 1954 Wave clearly owe their existence to the media dissemination of the DeWilde case. On October 9, 1954, In Munster, Germany, a movie projectionist named Franz Hoge reported watching a saucer land in a field. Hoge discovered a cigar-shaped machine hovering six feet above the ground, giving off a brilliant blue radiance. Just after this he sighted four small – 3½ foot tall – peculiarly shaped creatures with “thick-set bodies, oversized head, and delicate legs” and wore rubber like clothing.” [120] It is notable that this case got back to the States via The International News Service (INS) and prompted Keyhoe to worry that it allowed people to ridicule more important reports. [121]

Also notable was a case from Borrasole near Toulouse, France on October 13, 1954. M. Olivier (a former pilot), M. Perano and a third witness encounter a ufonaut 1.20 meters tall wearing a diving suit. “His head was large with respect to the rest of his body, and he had enormous eyes. The suit was bright and shiny like glass. The craft was surrounded by a glow. One man paralyzed on approach. The craft took off quickly throwing him to the ground. [122] A photo of a chalk outline of the Toulouse Martian drawn on barn by Francois Panero and Jean Olivier appeared in November 1, 1954 Life magazine with caption reading “Dumpy little space man they saw land in luminous sphere on basketball court near Toulouse.”

Next month, Life also took note of some later cases coming out of Italy .”Out of these conveyances stepped little men of many colours, mostly pleasing pastels.” They also cite the chameleon zebra case and also mention “a little whiskered man in fur coat and orange corset.” Two photos show men with hands set about a yard above the ground. The caption reads “Martian Men’s Height is shown by two bakers. Pierre Lucas of Loctudy was going to a well when, he said, orange ball fell from the sky. Suddenly a small bearded figure with one eye in middle of forehead tapped him on shoulder. Serge Pochet of Marcoing was approached by two small shadows.” [123] It probably helped in reinforcing the image of aliens as smallish in the States.

In 1966, Jacques Vallée’s Challenge to Science hit the scene in the United States. Vallée’s work is clearly skewed by his immersion in material from the 1954 Wave. He gives an important assessment that brings forward important defining traits of the Gray alien:

“(Space brother) accounts should be definitely separated from reports made by psychologically stable and genuinely puzzled citizens. What the witnesses of this latter group describe is very different from the ‘space brother’ image. The typical ‘visitor’ of these reports is a man of small stature, dressed in shiny clothing or in an ordinary one-piece suit. The suit may hide his head; if the face is described, it is generally described as larger than the human head, with large protruding eyes. Some of the reports insist that the dwarfs have hair on their faces, and sometimes all over their bodies, either their own or dark fur clothing.” [124]

This is important in offering an early incentive to believing and bringing forward accounts of bigheaded, big-eyed aliens of small stature. You will be judged more stable than contactees. The following year, the Lorenzens add a sentence to their thoughts about ufonauts that show fresh awareness of Vallee’s viewpoint:

“Features which have been repeatedly described have been large eyes and large craniums and small stature.” [125]

This is a modification from their earlier work in which they recounted one or two cases of bigheaded saucer occupants – Valensole [126] – but did not notice their repetitive character. [127] In what is generally regarded as his magnum opus, The UFO Experience (1974), J. Allen Hynek would follow Vallee and Lorenzen and note the repetitive character of certain traits later ascribed to Grays: “Large heads, spindly feet, and, generally a head that sits squat on the shoulders without much evidence of neck are often described.” [128] This is not yet regarded as the general form. That detail about the absence of a neck will become much more interesting later in this history. Binder noticed the presence of big heads in his survey, but did not comment of their being a generality.

In a 1975 UFO documentary, The Force Beyond, there is a life-size doll alien that is alleged to be a computer composite of entity reports. The face is unusually large. The cranium, though bald, is undistinctive and almost on the small side. The eyes are reddish, tear-drop shaped, glass-like. There is a conspicuous nasal structure above visible nose holes. The ear region is quite oddly done, clearly inhuman, but not elf-like, either. They are like wedges molded upon the side of the head. The mouth is unusually long, though properly line-like. The shape of the face is overly round. It is definitely not yet a Gray. When MacCampbell offered his analysis of ufonauts he would also notice that big heads appeared repeatedly, but he, too, offered no numbers or comments such as to suggest they were the general form.

The 1965 Valensole, France case was presumably an important event in reinforcing Vallee’s generality for European ufologists. On July 1, 1965, M. Maurice Masse, 41-year-old lavender grower sees 4 feet tall humanoids with pumpkin-like heads, high fleshy cheeks, large eyes which slanted away, mouths without lips, and very pointed chins. One points a pencil-like object at him and he stops in his tracks. In a later interview he indicates there is a mental relationship between men and these beings, but it is “a felt relationship,” akin to a religious concept.

In a 1971 article for Horizonte, Aimé Michel indicates Masse’s descriptions have remained consistent across investigations. Of twenty-one details of the head of the Martian given, nineteen appeared in previous cases. Two details had never been seen before. One of the new details was that the head was naked, whereas previous cases had heads encased like a cosmonaut. This leads Michel to remark they must now have adapted to our atmosphere and its pressure in some manner or other. A good dozen American cases subsequently corroborate the new detail. Though he obviously means to impress people by saying he works with more than 18,000 cases including hundreds that have details consistent with Valensole, this casts a shadow in the wrong direction for critics. Given so many cases to work with, matching some details would have to be inevitable, even if imagination was a purely random process, which obviously it isn’t. Worse, it is hard to gauge their significance since Michel laments he cannot provide the details of this analysis. We are given neither the cases that matched nor even the details of what matched! [129] What is the most striking incongruity is the presence of alien feelings in contradiction to both earlier SF and later UFO lore that emphasizes lack of feelings in Grays. Michel would elsewhere team up with Charles Bowen of Flying Saucer Review to offer the opinion, “We consider the Valensole Affair to be one of the most important cases in the history of the subject.” [130]

On February 11, 1967, Vyacheslav Zaitsev reports a tale in Soviet Weekly of granite gramophone discs discovered by Chinese scientists in 1938 in a high mountain cave. Aliens crashed 12,000 years earlier and clashed with the natives. Chinese legends indicate a pair of debased local tribes represents survivors. The Ham and Dropa are described as “frail, stunted men.” They are small, ugly, bigheaded, spindly-legged, yellow-skinned, but defy ethnic classification. Gordon Creighton points out that Ham and Dropa are probably variations on the words Kham and Drok-pa, which refer to Tibetan people. However the Kham are great strapping, barrel-chested experts in martial arts who make impressive soldiers. The Drok-pa are Tibetan highlanders. Creighton dismisses the tale as fantasy. The tale had a measure of popularity among ancient astronaut buffs. Most importantly it appeared in Erich von Daniken’s writings. [131]

There were other cases of relevance emerging in this period, such as the Agentina case of Villegas and Peccinetti. On September 1, 1968, Juan Carlos Peccinetti and Fernando Jose Villegas of Mendoza, Argentina were paralyzed by three beings. They were 1.5 meters tall and seemed to be of human shape but had hairless heads that were “strikingly” larger than normal. Their movements were gentle and quiet. They tell them, “Do not fear. Do not fear.” They’ve made three trips around the sun, studying customs and languages. Mathematics is the universal language. “The sun benignly nurtures the system; were it not so the solar system would not exist. They trace inscriptions onto their vintage car. They show them a circular TV set showing images demonstrating the lesson of nuclear war. The case was quite well known in South America and Spain. A. Agostonelli considers the case a hoax. [132]

By January 1973, Spanish ufologist Antonio Ribera writes in correspondence to a fellow ufologist, “we can already talk about the classic humanoid: the humanoid with big eyes and a big head.” [133] Among American ufologists, this elevation to classic status would take a little longer to emerge. That, however, is another story. He adds that he feels the great diversity of ufonaut descriptions can probably all be reduced to three or fundamental types with the differences being dismissed as due to the personal equation, i.e. differences like those seen among witnesses to an auto accident. [134]

On January 7, 1974 a man known only as Monsieur X drives from Comines to Warneton on the Franco-Belgian border in his Ami 6 and sees two entities in suits with rings around the torso and cube-shaped helmets with a glass window in front. The shape of the head is an inverted pear. It has two perfectly round eyes like marbles. The nose was small. The mouth was a horizontal slit with no evident lips. There was a soft light in the helmet that allowed Mr. X to see details. The colour is a uniform grey. At one point the aliens turn their heads in perfect synchrony, a seeming echo of the Hill case (Barney: “Because everybody moved – everybody was standing there looking at me.”) [135] The height of one was about 4′ 8″ to 5′. The build was somewhat athletic with broad shoulders and narrow hips. He sees them again 5 months later. [136] This case achieved enough minor notoriety for the drawings to reach the United States. The head shape displays some interesting similarities to the later Moody and Walton aliens, but the fact that they are enclosed in helmets is an interesting disparity that reflects a common presumption of this decade that aliens should wear space suits. [137] Needless to add, one wonders why these Grays are wearing helmets given that guess by Michel that Valensole showed they had adapted to our atmosphere almost a decade before Warneton.

In 1979, Eric Zurcher tried to find some order among 142 entity cases catalogued in France, but ended up with a confusing typology consisting of 8 main groups, but 16 sub-groups. The biggest group were ufonauts of small size. Subgroups A and B seem to collect primitives. The A type can’t be communicated with and makes growling sounds or piercing cries. They sometimes run away, but can be aggressive. They paralyze people with a tube. They seem to wear uniforms of various dark colours and berets or similar head covering. The skin has a clear colour. There were 33 cases. The B group has bald heads that are slightly large. The eyes are bigger than normal. However they have pointed noses and chins. A beard was noted on one. The skin is brown and wrinkled. They are also passive-aggressive: running way or using paralyzing tubes. One case demonstrated an able ability to speak something that resembled German. There were five cases.

The C group comes closest to our idea of Grays. The skull is completely hypertrophied in relation to the body. It is bald. It has a flattened nose and an atrophied chin. The shoulders are wide. Zurcher says the skin is very white in this group. There is a hole in the place of the mouth – an unexpected echo of Wells’s Martians in War of the Worlds. While they communicate with inarticulate growls among themselves, one case reported such an entity spoke in French and ordered him to turn back. They otherwise behave like both A and B groups. Depending on how to treat cases in the Valensole region, there are either 6 or 9 of these cases. One notable confusion is that Zurcher treats all aliens with diving helmets covering their heads in a separate group, even when they are small. [138]

One rather striking feature to this taxonomy is the absence of certain generalities of the modern Grays. Beyond the problem of no gray skin, there is no talk of large all-black eyes or long necks. Why does the French version have a mouth hole instead of a slit mouth?

Pro-Choice

Let’s stop here and digest what we’ve found out. One, the aliens of the saucer era are biased to smaller-than-human sizes. The aliens in the airship era were biased to larger-than-human size. There were no good examples of Grays, reptoids, insectoids, or robots in the Airship era. None of the beings wore space suits or diving suits either. After 1947, these dominate and this follows a period in which science fiction dealt with these ideas repeatedly. If this is not a cultural matter, we shall have to ask ourselves if the airship aliens were supplanted by a different mix of aliens. This should trouble those folks who combine the premise that consistency of form validates the ETH with the premise that aliens have been with us throughout history.

Two: we should note that imagery roughly consistent with the idea of the Grays appears early, but in circumstances that are fairly embarrassing. The 1947 material is unpromising if one hopes that it conforms in all ways to current ideas about the Grays. The Dimmick case stimulated a photo that seemed promising to later ufologists unaware it was a confessed April Fool’s prank. One tempting inference is that it shows how widely available the Wellsian future-man SF cliché still was in 1950. Ufologists have been quick to dismiss the elements of Gray mythology in early SF as merely coincidental stuff inevitable in a huge body of SF artistry. Yet this photo presents an interesting challenge. If these ideas of the Grays had no special cultural significance, why did the hoaxers choose this particular form? Isn’t the likely answer, given what we saw in part 2, that the hoaxers felt it was so familiar that most of the potential audience would accept the form as alien? Ponder also that this Gray happens to appear in the earliest occupant photo hoax on record. If bald, bigheaded humanoids were merely one form among dozens, why does it emerge in UFO hoaxing so quickly?

Three: Gray imagery, though it appears early, does not dominate in this period. The first accepted generality was the formula that alien humanoids are little and pygmy-like. Details in these early cases tend to be spare and contradictory. Foreign cases seemed especially likely to follow material in the most widely disseminated case of the period, the Dimmick yarn. The big-headed, small-bodied humanoid takes root first in France and the acceptance of the form by French ufologist Jacques Vallee regains the form a foothold when he comes to America. Actually, it should be confessed that that it had not been totally banished. There was that confusing Salzburg case (Should one treat it as a 1951 case or 1957? Austrian or Canadian? Near-Gray – as in Spacecraft from Beyond Three Dimensions - or slightly Gray as in the initial accounts?); [139] Edmund Rucker’s El Cajun, California encounter with four philanthropic creatures with bulging eyes and domed foreheads mentioned in the July 1958 issue of Flying Saucers; [140] Alfred Horne’s 1962 letter to Walter Webb talking of a 1956 encounter with a wrinkly green dwarf having a high-domed head, nose holes, but also bloodhound ears, and filmy snake-like eyes; [141] and the 1965 sighting by Ellen & Laura Ryerson of a trio of 5′ 2″creatures with white-domed heads and protruding eyes in a bean field near Renton, Washington. [142] These obscurities had little significance, beyond being more evidence that the cliché was not dead. Neither Keyhoe nor the Lorenzens evidently spoke of these cases in their books.

Four: some were seeing the repetitive nature of bald, big-headed ufonauts as early as the mid-Sixties and Jacques Vallee, in a major book, was indicating an analytic preference for people who saw them over against the contactees. The Kham and Drok-pa yarn of 1967 is another sign that elements of future Gray mythology were recognized by hoaxers as a good plausible form for an alien in this period. If the Gray form is ‘just’ one among dozens of possibilities, why did they choose this form – again?

We have ranged virtually all over the world following the twisting trail of the Grays and we seem almost in sight of the Gray’s ascendance. Annoyingly, however, we are going to have to backtrack to pick up some guys that weren’t hiding in the jungle of UFO mythology. 

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References:

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  89. Janet & Colin Bord The Bigfoot Casebook Stackpole, 1982, chapter 7.
  90. Coral Lorenzen Flying Saucers: The Startling Evidence for the Invasion from Outer Space Signet, 1966, pp. 50-1; November 4, 1954.
  91. Bowen, Charles The Humanoids, Henry Regnery, 1969, pp. 95-6; December 10, 1954.
  92. Bowen, Charles The Humanoids, Henry Regnery, 1969, pp. 96-7; December 16, 1954.
  93. Bowen, Charles The Humanoids, Henry Regnery, 1969, p. 97; December 19, 1954.
  94. Coral Lorenzen Flying Saucers: The Startling Evidence for the Invasion from Outer Space Signet, 1966, pp. 57-8; November 28, 1954.
  95. Keyhoe, Donald The Flying Saucer Conspiracy, (published December 1955) pp. 238-46.
  96. Ibid.
  97. Coral Lorenzen Flying Saucers:The Startling Evidence for the Invasion from Outer Space Signet, 1966, p. 55.
  98. Jerome Clark Spacemen, Demons, & Conspiracies: The Evolution of UFO Hypotheses, FFUFOR, 1997, p. 19
  99. Otto Binder, Flying Saucers Are Watching Us, Belmont, 1968, pp. 124-5, 127.
  100. Coral & Jim Lorenzen Flying Saucer Occupants, Signet, 1967, p. 62.
  101. Coral & Jim Lorenzen Flying Saucer Occupants, Signet, 1967, p. 54.
  102. Coral & Jim Lorenzen Flying Saucer Occupants, Signet, 1967, p. 53.
  103. Coral Lorenzen Flying Saucers: The Startling Evidence of the Invasion from Outer Space, Signet, 1966, p. 193, 213.
  104. Coral Lorenzen, “”UFO Occupants in United States Reports” in Bowen, Charles, ed. The Humanoids, Henry Regnery, 1969, p. 144.
  105. Frank Edwards, Flying Saucers – Serious Business, Bantam, 1966, p. 90.
  106. Frank Edwards, Flying Saucers – Serious Business, Bantam, 1966, p. 102.
  107. Stan Seers, UFOs The Case for Scientific Myopia Vantage, 1983, p. 52.
  108. Brad Steiger, Project Blue Book Ballantine, 1976, p. 118
  109. Ray Stanford, Socorro ‘Saucer’ in a Pentagon Pantry Blueapple, 1976, pp. 20, 42, 58-60.
  110. Otto Binder, “The Clues that Prove UFOs Come from Different Galaxies” Saga’s UFO Report, Spring 1974, p. 41.
  111. Otto Binder Night of the Saucers Belmont Towers, 1971
  112. Jenny Randles, The Complete Book of Aliens and Abductions Piatkus, 2000, p. 19.
  113. James M. McCampbell Ufology Celestial Arts, 1976, p. 119.
  114. Case #117
  115. Case #137
  116. Harold T. Wilkins Flying Saucers Uncensored Pyramid, 1967/1955, p. 53-4.
  117. Bonabot, Jacques “Dossier Quarouble 1954″ Bulletin du GESAG, #72, Jun 1983
  118. Bonabot, Jacques “Dossier Quarouble 1954″ Bulletin Du GESAG #72 (June 1983) thru #86 (December 1986) – a 14 part series.
  119. Roger Bozzetto, “Current Trends in Global SF: Science Fiction in France: The Comeback” Science Fiction Studies, 26, (1999) p. 431.
  120. Robert Girard, An Early UFO Scrapbook, Arcturus Book Service, 1989, p. 153
  121. The Humanoids, p. 39, case #77 & Donald Keyhoe The Flying Saucer Conspiracy Fieldcrest, 1955, p. 207.
  122. The Humanoids pp. 44-5 case #111. An accessible reproduction appears in Clark & Truzzi’s UFO Encounters: Sightings, Visitations and Investigations Publications International, 1992.
  123. “Astral Adventurers” Life November 1, 1954.
  124. Vallee, Jacques and Janine Challenge to Science: The UFO Enigma Ace Star, 1966, pp. 176-7, “The Martian in the Twilight” segment of Ch. 9.
  125. Coral and Jim Lorenzen Flying Saucer Occupants Signet, 1967, p. 203.)
  126. Coral Lorenzen Flying Saucers: The Startling Evidence for the Invasion from Outer Space Signet, 1966, p. 232-3
  127. Coral Lorenzen Flying Saucers: The Startling Evidence for the Invasion from Outer Space Signet, 1966, pp. 192-3, 213
  128. J. Allen Hynek’s The UFO Experience Ballantine, 1974, pp. 184-5. The paragraph this appears in, strangely, has an error. He observes that ufonauts “come in two sizes, large and small, with the former predominating.” Obviously he meant to say ‘latter,’ but he did not.
  129. Aimé Michel “A Proposito de los Platillos Volantes” Horizonte 15 March/April 1971, pp. 19-29.
  130. Charles Bowen & Aimé Michel) “A Visit to Valensole” in Bowen, Charles, ed., Encounter Cases from Flying Saucer Review Signet-New American Library, 1977, pp. 57-71.
  131. Creighton, Gordon, “But I Read it in a Book!” in Bowen, Charles Encounter Cases from Flying Saucer Review Signet, 1977, pp. 85-94. A recent repeat of the story sans doubts appears in IUFO Chat Archive: Sept. 25, 1999, Steve Wingate.
  132. Bowen, Charles Encounter Cases from Flying Saucer Review Signet, 1977, pp. 131-8 and letter September 16, 1999 Luis Gonzalez. Original witness drawings in Dr. Roberto Banchs Los Identificados #7 p. 5. Gonzales letter 11-11-99.
  133. Gonzalez letter, March 26, 2000, quoting from a book of Ribera’s correspondence.
  134. Antonio Ribera, Aimé Michel, Jacques Vallee Cartas de Tres Herejes [tran: Letters of 3 Heretics] Madrid: Ediciones Corona Borealis, 1999, p. 115.
  135. John Fuller The Interrupted Journey, Dell, 1966, pp. 119-20.
  136. Coral & Jim Lorenzen, Encounters with UFO Occupants, Berkley Medallion, April 1976, pp. 200-1, 342-7; also Flying Saucer Review, v. 20, #5 1974 and reprinted in Bowen, Charles, ed., Encounter Cases from Flying Saucer Review Signet, 1977, pp. 116-24. The drawing can be briefly seen in the 1975 documentary The Force Beyond.
  137. Kottmeyer, Martin “Diving to Earth” Magonia Monthly Supplement #26, April 2000, pp. 1-3.
  138. Eric Zurcher Les Apparitions d’Humanoïdes Editions Alain Lefeuver, 1979, pp. 32-7.
  139. Peter Rogerson “Notes Toward a Revisionist History of Abductions, Part 1 – Fairyland’s Hunters” Magonia 46, June 1993, p. 6.
  140. Ufolore, p. 191 citing MUFOB n.s. #12 and Flying Saucers magazine July 1958
  141. INTCAT # 661.
  142. August 13, 1965: Brad Steiger The Flying Saucer Menace Universal Publishing, 1967 in 64pp. magazine format, p. 31 archived on Rense.com website. Immediately after this paragraph, Steiger gives a few lines to the Maurice Masse case on p. 32 perhaps thinking their similarity is obvious. 

Varicose Brains, Part 2: Heading Towards the Future. Martin Kottmeyer

 magonia-68

This first appeared in Magonia 68, September 1999

 

Camille Flammarion (1842-1925) is largely remembered as an important French astronomer whose textbooks were standard references for the profession. He is an important figure in the tradition of the plurality of worlds. He believed that intelligent life filled the universe like many intellectuals did, but he was an important advocate of the growing view that those other worlds would not be inhabited by beings identical to man. Astronomy was learning that those other worlds had different properties that would create environments that would force different adaptations by life evolving on them.

He is less well remembered as the author of a few works that are now considered part of the science fiction tradition. Lumen (1873) provides illustration of his view by describing aliens on distant worlds like planets around Gamma Virgo, Delta Andromeda, a minor star in Cygnus, and Theta Orion. On the first the inhabitants are vaguely humanoid, but have different sense organs and reproduce asexually in a manner that is too mysterious to explain to those limited to earthly senses. The next has seal-like intelligences that draw their nutrition from a gas-liquid ocean. The next has peaceful trees that are bisexual and preach an anarchistic political philosophy. The other has beings possessing such weak molecular bonds they collapse to dust but re-assemble again.(1) A later work, Urania (1890) includes aliens with eyes that emit a magnetic influence capable of killing who or whatever receives its glance. The main focus though is on our neighbours, the Martians. They are six-limbed and have a heightened sensitivity, intellectuality, and a superior morality. (2)

The work that demands our attention for the history of the idea of the Grays is Omega: The Last Days of the World (1893). The book is an attempt to sketch out the future history of mankind in a fictional framework and seemingly the first such that presupposes the reality of deep time in the forward direction. Geologists, astronomers, and evolutionary philosophers had proposed the idea in a general way and tried to speculate about it, but novelists had not found a way to wrap their words around it. Flammarion’s effort is weighed down with expositions on the history of predictions about the end of the world and the opinions of scientists. Any contemporary editor would slash the book’s length by two-thirds and end up with a lyrically utopian short story with moments of beautiful melancholy. As is, it is more a work of science popularization and has more than a measure of interest in how the opinions of the era date it. The age of the world has fewer zeros in it with the significance of radioactivity as yet unrecognized. As the world cools, the seas sink into the core and the earth eventually dies from desertification. Without water vapour, weather ceases. The bigger the world, the slower the cooling. Mars and the Moon went first; Earth and Venus are going next; eventually Jupiter will follow. Percival Lowell’s Mars, a decade later would also foretell our eventual desertification though he premises it on the shrinking of the solar nebula, with Mars cooling first because it was farther away.

Women’s heads were smaller than men’s were, because her exquisite sensibility responded to sentimental considerations before reason could act in the lower cells

Omega becomes relevant to us when it describes humanity in the thirtieth century. The nervous system began to grow more sensitive. Women’s heads were smaller than men’s were because “her exquisite sensibility respond(ed) to sentimental considerations before reason could act in the lower cells.” The neck had a greater supple grace. The mouth had a penetrating sweetness and beauty. The hair was luxuriant with light curls. Her head had increased with the exercise of intellectual faculties. Both sexes had cerebral circonvolutions that were more numerous and more pronounced. “In short, the head had grown, the body had diminished in size. Giants were no longer to be seen.” (3) 

He elaborates, “Four permanent causes had modified insensibly the human form; the intellectual faculties and of the brain, the decrease in manual labour and bodily exercise, the transformation of food, and the marriage system. The first had increased the size of the cranium as compared with the rest of the body; the second had decreased the strength of the limbs; the third had diminished the size of the abdomen and made the teeth finer and smaller; the tendency of the fourth had been rather to perpetuate the classic forms of human beauty: masculine beauty, the nobility of an uplifted countenance, and the graceful outlines of womanhood.”

By the 100th century, man had acquired new delicacy in all the senses and had added new ones; an electric sense to attract and repel matter and a psychic one that allowed communication at a distance like a transcendental magnetism. Inter-astral communication with Mars and Venus was discovered. Space travel, so obvious a development to us, never crossed Flammarion’s mind even towards the finale when it is known Jupiter has life and oversees the death of the last couple, Omegar and Eva, amid the remaining cities of glass. By the 200th century, a single race existed. It was small in stature, light-coloured, and suggested Anglo-Saxon and Chinese descent. Differences converged towards one race, one language, one general government, and one religion. Flammarion laments that humanity did not grow wings as poets had prophesied. Electric apparatus, airships, allowed him to soar in the sky instead. (4)

The human body becomes transfigured with still further time. Woman achieve perfect beauty. She has slender, translucent white skin, eyes “illuminated by the light of dreams,” smaller mouth and idealized jaw, and soft rose lips so dazzling one dared not kiss them. The new race was “infinitely superior.” (5) Eventually, it achieves intellectual greatness and well being. Humanity is increasingly released from the empire of matter and gross appetites. A new system of alimentation is formed. The metamorphosis becomes so absolute, fossil specimens of men in geological museums seemed too gross to be true ancestors. (6) This state of affairs lasts at length until desertification at last forces the population to shrink. Decadence and degeneration sets in and barbarism returns. (7)

We see the occasional echo of Flammarion’s prior works in the enhanced nervous sensitivities and new senses. The bigger heads and smaller bodies reflect the evolutionary ideas of Spencer at minimum. It is an open question if Flammarion was exposed to H.G. Wells’ ideas. His ideas were not in wide distribution at the probable time of the writing of Omega, but Flammarion was blatantly fluent in all the science of the era. One feature that argues against it is that Flammarion did not see future humanity as bald. Perfect woman still had “long and silky hair, in whose deep chestnut were blended all the ruddy tints of the setting sun.”(8) He blended the evolutionary pressures differently with sexual dimorphism an important part of the mix and degeneracy less emphasized. He also took his final product more seriously than Wells did his. Whether the similar elements bespeak independent constructions working out a similar logic or exposure to Wells’ argument, the variations show evolutionary logic did not force an immutable conclusion in all elements of form. There was room to play around with the idea.

Louis Boussenard, a French writer of adventures, provides our next example. In Ten Thousand Years in a Block of Ice (1898), a polar adventurer freezes to death in an iceberg and awakens to a group of small men with large globular heads who float about in the air. They flee in pained dismay when he makes a noise. Future men are a racial blend of Chinese and blacks. It is their advanced psychic development that allows them to levitate themselves along with other objects. They are abnormally sensitive to sensory stimuli. The explorer was bearded and that leads to his being thought to be a possible slave until a show of intellect gains him their respect. The future men are involved in a project to communicate with Mars using fields covered in black and white cloth to portray symbols. This echo of the Mars mania of the late 1880s, distinctly reminiscent of similar landscape symbol schemes, strikes the explorer as ridiculously inefficient. They also display ludicrous misunderstandings of artefacts of his era displayed in a museum. Combined with a cultural smugness thought to be of Chinese provenance and their enslavement of the more primitive, the explorer becomes disenchanted. A confusing ending has the explorer fear his life work of a complete theory of evolution might be destroyed in a volcanic eruption. It might all be a dream, but maybe not. (9) The Chinese element recalls Flammarion’s work, but the blend with blacks creatively differentiates the two. Flammarion was basically utopian in his thoughts. Boussenard is not. The element of levitation is a variant on Flammarion’s prediction of psychic and electric powers and nicely presages the occurrence of gliding levitation that recurrently appears in later UFO lore, sometimes in conjunction with Grays, but sometimes other forms. (10)

George Griffith populates his Mars with scientifically advanced macrocephalic humanoids in A Honeymoon in Space (1901) They diverge from the Martians of War of the Worlds in being giants, but they are decadent, warlike, and have few emotions. (11) They are further along the evolutionary path and have given themselves over to a ruthless and extreme rationalism. They try to eliminate all physical differences and emotions. The honeymooners also visit a dead moon, a sinless Venus, a Ganymede of opulent crystal cities, and a Saturn with an ecology adapted to a semi-gaseous ocean. They portray phases of a quasi-Spencerian evolutionary scheme. Though infantile and derivative, the book is said to have an undeniable panache. (12)

A short story by Eden Philpotts, “A Story Without an End,” (1901) concerns various creatures speculating about higher forms of life. Trilobites, dinosaurs, modern man, and a man of the year million take turns in this game. Future man turns out to be cone-heads. The cone-like head extends three-feet above the face. His is pink, pliable, has gills, wings, is telepathic and subsists on odours. (13)

H.G. Wells offers a twist on his own creation in First Men in the Moon (1901). The moon is honeycombed within by a society of large insects. Division of labour has led to a portion of the society specializing in matters of intellect and they form a sort of aristocracy. For a Selenite destined to be a mathematician, the talent is nurtured with perfect psychological skill. 

“His brain grows, or at least the mathematical faculties of his brain grows, and the rest of him only so much as is necessary to sustain this essential part of him…they bulge ever larger and seem to suck all life and vigour from the rest of the frame. His limbs shrivel, his heart and digestive organs diminish, his insect face hidden under its bulging contours…his deepest emotion is the evolution of a novel computation.” 

Ruling all was the Grand Lunar. Resembling a small cloud, it had a brain case measuring many yards in diameter and was tended by a number of body servants who sustained him. It has intense staring eyes. He eventually saw the dwarfed little body, white, with shrivelled limbs and ineffectual tentacles. “It was great. It was pitiful.” (14)

George Raffalowitz”s Planetary Journeys and Earthly Sketches (1908) includes a short story “Trip to a Planet” which opens with a close encounter. A pair of hairless, macrocephalic entities in billowing robes are floating above a field and communicating to each other by telepathy. The narrator learns they had just stopped off before a visit to Mars and he prevails upon them to take him along. We eventually learn their unidentified home world is seven times larger than ours is. Their culture is utterly without emotion and they don’t understand concepts like beauty, rage, good, and evil. There are few females and few children. Most of the population consists of neuters. Death is voluntary and usually chosen when there is a sense of failure. Other stories in the collection describe worlds with entities like windmill people genetically altered to resemble sails and a hyperanthrope planning to take over the universe. Bleiler suggests the book is half-eccentric and devoid of talent. “It is astonishing it was published.” Yet how easy it would be argue the similarities to modern lore are sufficient to argue it was a veiled ‘true’ encounter.(15)

James Alexander’s The Lunarian Professor (1909) has the narrator on a fishing trip when he encounters a lunarian working a handcar down a railroad track. It is humanoid with a large, globular head and huge eyes. It also has six wings of various sizes. He got here by manipulation of gravitation, though he won’t explain further to prevent our invading space. Lunarians live within the moon thanks to their science. They are entrepreneurial and ultimately altruistic. They know the Earth’s future mathematically and unroll a map of our history to come. Alexander gets some of the near term things right like the spread of cities, women’s rights, loosening of marriage, synthetics, and photo-electricity. Some of it is wrong like the end of war. Around the time we develop the ability to choose the sex of children, the Lunarians plan to intervene and enforce the creation of a third sex that is neuter. It will be more intelligent and less passionate. The resemblance to modern ufology’s Hybrid Program is hard to miss. What degree of similarity exists probably reflects a dramatic and definitional sensibility that aliens are smarter and more powerful than we are and should thus engage in grandiose projects like meddling in the fate of our species. (16)

The Lunarian reveals that by the tenth millennium mankind will be short, large-headed, toothless, and nearly bald. By the hundredth millennium, he shrinks even more and will have no digestive system. The umbilical cord stays after birth and machines infuse nutrition into the creature. It has long arms, but no ears, teeth, or toes.

James Beresford’s The Hampdenshire Wonder (1911) describes the childhood of a future man born to normal parents by apparently spontaneous mutation. The child has a large, bald head and seems otherwise physically normal. He forgets nothing and by the age of four has consumed the knowledge of a large private library. “He is too many thousands of years ahead of us.”(17) The child has a disconcerting stare, a powerful glance, and is somewhat taciturn and unburdened by emotions. He also finds faith unnecessary and there is some suggestion a fanatical rector is the child’s murderer. It is among the great early scientific romances. (18)

William Greene, in “The Savage Strain”(1911), envisions North Americans as shorter and weaker in the year 2410, but with a more developed mental ability. They are mild and peace loving. Science has removed all effort and peril with perfect weather control and anti-gravity leading to degeneracy. The Yellow Peril returns and the professor hero invents an elixir of courage which saves the day by making these future men aggressive. There is a side-effect of warring tribalism afterwards, but at least America is free. (19) “John Jones’s Dollar”(1915) by Harry Keeler accepts the notion of larger heads and punier bodies for the year 3221 with apparently little fuss. (20)

The Russian author Aleksandre Romanovich Beliaev worked in the tradition of The Time Machine when making The Struggle in Space: Red Dream, Soviet-American War (1918). Corrupt, capitalistic America has its workers live in Moorlockian tunnels where they have reverted to savagery. In both cultures, future man is bald, myopic, physically weaker and disease-ridden. Americans have degenerated to pot-bellied, spindle-legged, bulb-heads and use genetic engineering to create monstrous man-machine combinations. Eurasian man is altruistic and servile to a telepathic master. A battle for world rule leads to a threat to destroy the world with atomic energy by a degenerate banker who drains blood from victims for his consumption. The narrator sacrifices himself by destroying the headquarters of the American villain. Call this cartoon adventure from the other side of the mirror. (21)

The great adventure writer Edgar Rice Burroughs enters our history in 1922 with the story “The Chessmen of Mars.” A race called the kaldanes exists that is 90% brain by volume with only the simplest of vital organs forming the remainder. They do not even have lungs. This is in ultimate preparation for a time when the atmosphere has thinned to nothing. The eyes were hideously inhuman, set far apart, protruding and lidless. They have enormous hypnotic powers and can control the will of humans. A girl abducted by the kaldanes experienced him fastening “his terrible eyes upon her. He did not speak, but his eyes seemed to be boring straight to the centre of her brain … They seemed but to burn deeper and deeper, gathering up every vestige of control of her entire nervous system.”(22) One can hardly miss how very like this is to David Jacobs in his latest descriptions of how modern Grays are able to stare into eyes, travel down the optic neural pathway, and fire “neurons at whatever sites he wants.”(23) The nose was “scarce more than two small parallel slits set vertically” above a round mouth. Most had a skin that was bluish-gray. They “have no sex, except the king who is bisexual” and lays thousands of eggs. To move about they domesticated a local animal and interbred it with captive red Martians to create a rykor, a muscular but headless humanoid slave into which the chelae can be inserted to manipulate the spinal cord. When kaldanes show emotion, it is atypical and condemned by others of their race.

They explain themselves as a natural development of nature. First, life existed with no brains, then rudimentary nervous systems formed, and then small brains.

“Evolution proceeded. The brains became larger and more powerful. In us you see the highest development, but there are those of us who believe that there is yet another step – that some time in the far future our race shall develop into a super-thing — just brain. The incubus of legs and chelae and vital organs will be removed. The future kaldane will be nothing but a great brain. Deaf, dumb, and blind it will be sealed in its buried vault far beneath the surface of Mars … just a great, wonderful, beautiful brain with nothing to distract it from eternal thoughts.” The kaldane swoons at the thought asking could anything be more wonderful? The abductee disputes this, “Yes, I can think of a number of things that would be infinitely more wonderful.” (24)

There has been a suggestion that Ras Thavas, The Mastermind of Mars (1928), fits our notion of a Gray, physically and unemotionally, but there are ambiguities in the situation. His race, the people of Toonol, has a fetish of science that strikes the narrator as “unintelligent because unbalanced,” and had an atrophied “heart and soul” from generations of inhibition. However suggestive, it is not evident that this is mirrored in their general physical form as was true of the kaldanes. (25)

A movie called Radiomania appears in 1923 that deserves at least passing mention. It is said to contain a dream sequence in which Martians are depicted as having oversize heads. They wear vaguely Egyptian looking cloths. Little more is known and there does not seem to be any video copies of it available. (26)

John Lionel Tayler’s The Last of My Race (1924) is set in 302,930 A.D. where we learn man has been superseded by a new species, Sapiens minimus. It has a huge head with tremendous brainpower, big chest, long thin legs, light weight, and a superior sense of touch. This species is however dying out. A still higher form of life is replacing it, but the visitor to the future must not see it. The psychological impact would kill him. (27)

The Dr. Hackensaw series includes “A Journey to the Year 3000″ where the doc and Pep learns people there have bigger heads and slighter bodies. Teeth are extracted and the gums hardened at an early age. Pep accidentally runs over a future man in a driving accident and is sentenced to become an experimental subject and earning her great pain. The conjunction of the gray form with a painful experimental procedure is another interesting precursor to contemporary abduction horrors. The appearance of the form in such pulp hackwork is a nice indication that it has full rights to being called a stereotype already in 1925. (28)

The June 1926 Amazing Stories features a story by G. Peyton Wertenbaker titled “The Coming of the Ice” and describes the strange men of the hundredth century as “men with huge brains and tiny, shrivelled bodies, atrophied limbs, and slow ponderous movements.” The illustration by Frank R. Paul is an interesting sight. A couple of the diminutive figures could almost pass for Grays but for the fact that they are clothed in pants, shirts, socks, and wear helmets that to the eyes of someone in the Nineties look rather like bicycle headgear. (29)

The short story by Donald Wandrei of “The Red Brain” (1927) involves the last days of the universe when all that remains are some giant brains with god-like powers living beneath a glassy shell on the cooled star of Antares. They had evolved from inhabitants on a nearby planet. Everything is becoming cosmic dust and the brains turn to The Red Brain for hope since his thoughts are so profound they have trouble understanding them. He finds a solution and the brains enter into telepathic bond to hear it. His mental energy kills them all. It turns out he was mad. Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death” inspired this. (30)

In Ray Cummings’ story “Beyond the Stars”(1928) an airship voyages into the macrocosm where our world is but an atom. They come into a world that is being invaded by another. The invaders are a dual life form. Small huge-headed beings sit atop gigantic bodies that are imbecilic. As Bleiler notes, this is an obvious echo of Burroughs’ kaldanes. (31)

“Evolution Island” appears in the March 1928 pulp Weird Tales and features the discovery that evolution can be accelerated or reversed by means of an earthly radiation. A mad doctor enters the evolution ray and is transformed into a big-domed superman with four tentacles with plans to conquer the world. Our heroes try to stop him, but are captured and bound. They helplessly watch as an armada of plants in globular air vessels takes off for an attack. Well, not too helplessly actually, for they burst free and turn the evolution ray on in devolving mode and turn everything, the fleet included, into primordial slime. (32)

The idea that radiation could manipulate evolution is an offshoot of the doctrine of orthogenesis that still had adherents in the Twenties. Chemical processes in the germplasm were thought to force generations along trend lines that led to overdevelopment. Sir Arthur Smith Woodward, a leading palaeontologist of the era, accepted orthogenesis and offered a theory of racial senility that applied the notion to the growth of the human brain and primate evolution generally. You will likely recall the name from his involvement in the Piltdown hoax. (33) The theory of mutation had been introduced by DeVries in 1910 and the notion of “mutation-pressure” driving evolution followed in due course. (34) Herman Muller bombarded flies with increasing doses of X-rays and found a proportional increase in mutations. Thus in 1927, he announced the “Artificial Transmutation of the Gene” and suggested his discovery could guide the evolution of plants, animals, and even humans. (35)

G.O. Olinik’s gimmick of the evolution ray is taken up later by pulp master Edmond Hamilton for his long praised and often reprinted short story “The Man Who Evolved” (1931). In it a mad biologist learns he can speed up evolution by means of concentrated cosmic rays and decides to submit himself to its effects. The first dose makes him taller, more muscular, a veritable physical Adonis. The face conveyed immense intellectual power shining through clear dark eyes. Stopping there would have made him the greatest man of the age, but the experiment must go forward. The next dose reduces the body by half. It is thin and shrivelled. “The head supported by this weak body was an immense, bulging balloon that measured fully 18 inches from brow to back! It was almost entirely hairless, its great mass balanced precariously upon his slender shoulders and neck. And his face too was changed greatly, the eyes larger and the mouth smaller, the ears seeming smaller, also.” The change appeals to him, preferring more brain to the still animal body of the first stage. A witness fears he says this because he is losing all human emotions and sentiment.

He takes another dose and the witness observes the worsening spectacle, “He had become simply a great head! A huge hairless head fully a yard in diameter, supported on tiny legs, the arms having dwindled to mere hands that projected just below the head! The eyes were enormous, saucer-like, but the ears were mere pinholes at either side of the head, the nose and mouth being similar holes below the eyes.” The Brain Monster expresses pride and boasts that with this colossal brain he would be master of the planet free to pursue any experiment he wishes, even the destruction of all life. His mental powers now include telepathy.

Another dose follows. It is now a “gray head-thing,” wrinkled and folded, two eyes, and only two muscular tentacles. The body is entirely atrophied. It boasts of soaring vista of power beyond imagination. One more dose and he will reach the end of the road. That turns out to be gray limp mass four feet across whose only sign of life is twitching. Only a great brain remained, running on pure energy and devoid of all emotion and desire save a burning curiosity and desire for truth. He thinks one more dose will generate a still higher form – the last mutation. The switch is thrown. It turns out evolution is not orthogenetic; it is circular. The being is now a quivering jelly of protoplasm. The implications sink in and an insanely laughing witness destroys the lab. (36)

Hamilton, like Wells, populated deep space with the form just as he did deep time. In “Crashing Suns” (August 1928), an intelligent alien race intends to crash their dying sun into ours to reinvigorate it. They are globes of pink, unhealthy-looking flesh a yard across and upheld by slender, insect-like legs. They have short thin limbs for arms. (37) Similarly, he creates intelligent Martians with bulbous heads and stilt-like legs and arms for “A Conquest of Two Worlds” (1932). It also has a large chest to get oxygen from the thinner air. (38) “Fessenden’s World” (1937) includes a short description of a world ruled by an oligarchy of living brains. Their race of servants is destroyed by a plague of growing rot. Some of the brains survive to create a race of servant machines, but they revolt and destroy the brains. Without the brains to direct them, they come to wreck and that world dies. (39)

E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops”(1928) is another revered scientific romance, a classic morality play warning of the dangers of over-reliance on technology and civilization. People live within the bowels of a great Machine that takes care of the necessities of survival. There is a sensibility among the inhabitants that “there will come a generation that has got beyond facts, beyond impressions, a generation absolutely colourless, a generation seraphically free from the taint of personality.” The limbs of the body were becoming so atrophied it could not pick up a book for its only uses were eating, sleeping, and producing ideas. One woman is described as a swaddled lump of flesh with a face as white as a fungus. A few had lived outside the machine and one such visitor had a moustache. The inhabitants looked on him as reverting to a savage and the Machine would have no mercy on him. The problems start when the master brain perishes, quietly and complacently, and all starts to sink into decadence. They had sinned. “The sin against the body – it was for that they wept in chief; the centuries of wrong against the muscles and the nerves, and those five portals by which we apprehend – glozing it over with talk of evolution, until the body was white pap, the home of ideas as colourless, the last slushy stirrings of a spirit that had grasped the stars.” It is time to start over in the external world. (40)

Olaf Stapledon’s Last and First Men (1931) offered a pair of important variations on the Big Brain concept. Ten million years in the future, the environment acted upon a few human species surviving a disaster to create Second Man. They had a roomier cranium, but this needed a more massive neck, stouter legs, and greater bones. Their eyes were large and jade green. Teeth were smaller and fewer and some organs like the appendix and tonsils had gone away. This is basically sounder architecture and has a good logic about it. Sexual interest was more sublimated. They had an innate cosmopolitanism. They acted less impulsively. They enjoyed a long age of idyllic peace. (41) Initially, that is. Then, “Just as the fangs of the sabre-toothed tiger had finally grown so large it could not eat, so the brain of the second human species threatened to outgrow the rest of the body. In a cranium that was initially roomy enough, this rare product of nature was now increasingly cramped; while a circulatory system that was formerly quite adequate, was becoming more and more liable to fail in pumping blood through so cramped a structure.” Congenital imbecility and various mental diseases took over. Before complete doom a more stable variation appeared and interbred with the remnants. (42)

Third Man superseded Second Man and this race embarked on a project to create the next race, envisioned as a super-brain. We would call it a genetic engineering scheme with elements of embryo growth acceleration. The brain grew to 12 feet across with “a body reduced to a mere vestige upon the under surface of the brain.” It was kept alive mechanically and chemically in a factory of a house called a brain room. It knew no emotions except curiosity and constructiveness. It had an artificial telepathy. Eventually ten thousand such super-brains were constructed and they constituted the Fourth Men. The Great Brains enslaved Third Man then eventually destroyed him save for some held for experimental purposes in cages. Unfortunately the life of the intellect was barren and they realized the necessity for a body and lower brain tissue to form values. They reworked the remnants of Third Man to construct their successors, the Fifth Men. (43) There seems to be little doubt the Stapledon was consciously playing with the ideas of Wells as he did regularly in most of his work. (44) Some also allege the influence of Flammarion due to the fact that both were indulging in deep time histories, but in the issues of Gray history the Wellsian influence is more recognizable, particularly since dimorphism between the sexes is not much in evidence in Stapledon’s descriptions.

The year 1931 gave us a veritable wave of these creatures. Besides Stapledon and Hamilton, there was Clifford Simak’s “The World of the Red Sun” in which a Big Brain named Golan-Kirt comes out of the cosmos and rules the Earth five million years hence. (45) Then there were the bald, big-brained humanoids from Alpha Centaurus who abduct Buck Rogers and his cohorts as part of a sampling expedition designed to take specimens of life for interstellar transport. (46) Stanton Coblentz’s “Into Plutonian Depths” had a Frank Paul illustration that nicely prefigures the Gray form in having a bulbous head, large eyes, no evident nose or ears, a scrawny frame and bony limbs. (47) Jack Williamson’s “The Moon Era” is particularly notable. (48) An alien race started to become dependent on machines. Some saw the dangers associated with machines and split away, but those who became the Eternal Ones continued the path of degeneration.

“Their limbs atrophied, perished from lack of use. Even their brains were injured, for they lived an easy life…facing no new problems…Generation upon generation their bodies wasted away. Until they were no longer natural animals. They became mere brains, with eyes and feeble tentacles. In place of bodies, they use machines. Living brains, with bodies of metal.”

They became too weak to reproduce and turned to their science to give them immortality. But the brains rot and they now seek those who split away to acquire Mothers “to change their offspring with their hideous arts and make of them new brains for the machines.”(49) Seen up close, the Eternal ones are a horror: “A soft helpless gray thing, with huge black staring eyes.” Closer: “And their eyes roughened my skin with dread. Huge black, and cold. There was nothing warm in them, nothing human, nothing kind. They were as emotionless as polished lenses.” In one battle, a Mother is able to paralyze an Eternal One by staring into its eyes.(50) Her mental energy is greater. The foreshadowing of the Hybrid program and the evil eye powers of modern Grays is not perfect, but yet looks hauntingly suggestive.

And their eyes roughened my skin with dread. Huge black, and cold. There was nothing warm in them, nothing human, nothing kind. They were as emotionless as polished lenses

Amelia Reynolds Long, in 1932, offered a twist on Hamilton’s Man-Who-Evolved in a short story called “Omega.” A man is hypnotically future-regressed to the last days of the earth, but his talent is so excellent he experiences an actual physical alteration.

“He had shrunken several inches in stature, while his head had appeared to have grown larger, with the forehead almost bulbous in aspect. His fingers were extremely long and sensitive, but suggestive of great strength. His frame was thin to emaciation…He has become a man of the future physically as well as mentally.”

The hypnotist is unable to bring him back, but they continue to hear him report the course of future deep time. Dinosaurs return, as does tropical life generally. Then they are gone with plant life withering. The Moon grows larger and gravity lightens. Volcanoes erupt and lightning crackles. The Earth dissolves. “Creation is returning to its original atoms!” Nothing of the man remains but a dancing myriad of infinitesimal atoms. Geologic time, not just evolution, turns out to be circular. (51)

John W. Campbell’s “Twilight’ (1934) is a somewhat significant entry in our chronology due to the importance of the author. It was popular enough to have been reprinted at least twice. A modern man accidentally time travels seven million years forward. He finds there a machine city with no life in it. It is a perfect technology constantly repairs itself and is in persistent readiness to serve. He finds an airship and travels around till he discovers there is a remnant of humans.

“They were little men – bewildered – dwarfed, with heads disproportionately large. But not extremely large. Their eyes impressed me most. They were huge, and when they looked at me there was a power in them that seemed sleeping, but too deeply to be roused.”

There were few young among them and they were respected and cared for intently. Humanity was becoming sterile. The machines killed off bacteria and purified all water so well they killed the seas. The food chain was destroyed. The machines did thinking better than man did and afterwards the big heads were merely vestigial artefacts of a wondrous evolution. They did not know how to turn the machines off and so they would run forever even though everyone would eventually be dead. One can imagine this might have been an answer to E.M. Forster. The Machine will not stop.(52)

In Nat Schachner’s “Past, Present, and Future” (1937) men wake ten thousand years in the future after preservation in a cavern filled with an inert gas. The first figure encountered is a little man with a bald bulging forehead. He had a delicate body, spindly limbs, and brain case that could be easily disrupted. The nose was vestigial. He is a member of the Technician class and fear had been bred out of them. Soon, he sees members of the Worker class and they are muscular, husky men who tower over the intellectualized Technicians. The sense is that division of labour is again the cause of the divergent forms. (53)

Henry Kuttner brings men of the future to the present in a unique way in “No Man’s World” (1940). A movie called “Men of Tomorrow” is playing and they portray the stereotype with Hollywood unoriginality. The Titans are bulbous-headed and spindly-limbed. They walk off the screen when radiation from a comet interacts with a new film projection technique to create a rift in the dimensional planes. It opens Earth to a war between the Titans and an alien race of crystal spheres called the Silicates.(54) “Evolution’s End”(1941) by Robert Arthur has future humanity enslaved by The Masters:

“Their great, thin-skulled heads and mighty brains” prove vulnerable to sunlight and they retreat to underground chambers. They are “nothing but brain – Great machines for thought which know nothing of joy or sorrow or hunger for another.”

Actually it is admitted later the head is set upon a small neckless body, the neck being lost so the weight could be handled by shoulder and back muscles. They made selector machines to insure large brained male slaves do not mate with large brained females to maintain their superiority. A lecture about sabre-tooth tigers and dinosaurs tells us the familiar lessons of orthogenetic overdevelopment. The Masters have evolved to only think and all feelings, even enjoyment, now is lost. Some of them are going mad and experiments with a new evolution ray indicate the entire race of Masters is doomed to go mad. One of the Masters decides it is wisest to end it all now. He sets an Adam and Eve free and gives them the means to destroy the caverns of the Masters.(55) It is a nice mood piece fleshing out an episode in Stapledon’s future history with a brief homage to Hamilton.

Robert Heinlein’s “Waldo”(1942) is regarded by the Panshins as an after-whiff of the Big Brain tradition. A man with a cool, unsympathetic intellect is also physically helpless, but due to rotundity instead of emaciation. This may reflect knowledge of the growing evidence that technological civilization resulted in a sedentary life and obesity, rather than a scrawny physique. (56)

Neil Bell’s Life Comes to Seathorpe (1946) seemingly follows in the Stapledon tradition by having present man create his evolutionary successor. The scientist plans on calling him Homo splendicus. The head is large and magnificent. The brain is more complex. The respiratory, digestive, and excretory systems are simpler, but on purpose. He also plans another thing he thinks is an improvement. The “sex life of man as evolved by Nature dooms him forever to remain among the beasts…It tortures him, humiliates him, degrades him, nullifies the possibilities of his brain, saps his vitality, infests him with the grossest superstitions, and compels him to actions from which in recollection he recoils in disgust and revulsion. These things must pass away if man is to fulfil his destiny.” (57) We are getting closer to the Fifties.

This history of the idea behind the Grays deserves a break about here due to a transition in the history of science fiction. In 1939, John Campbell takes over Astounding magazine and inaugurates what has become known as The Golden Age. As the Panshins tell it, Campbell preferred stories about the intermediate range future when we would be exploring the stars. He no longer had interest in deep time and man’s eventual fall before the march of time and nature. “No more Big Brains, domestic or foreign after 1939 in Campbell’s Astounding. It was part of the pre-Atomic Age, the Age of Technology.” (58) He also rejected stories of bug-eyed monsters invading Earth to eat us or breed with Earth’s fair maidens. “And obviously those interstellar harem-agents aren’t interested in offspring anyway; there couldn’t possibly be any.” (59)

It should be apparent enough that ideas associated with the Grays were a recurrent motif in the scientific romances of the early half of the Twentieth century. The Panshins said as much in their history of the development of science fiction. They state the violent rejection of Big Brain was a typical theme around the 1930s. “In one alien exploration story after another, Big Brain alien and Big Brain humans were shot, bludgeoned, or even stomped to death.” (60) Paul Carter could be cited to corroborate this in his observation that Frank R. Paul regularly did cover paintings of spindly, big-domed men of the future for issues of Wonder Stories in the early 1930s. (61)

While one could have saved some effort by just trusting them, there is something to be said for demonstration over mere opinion. No doubts remain that a tradition of big-brained, small-bodied fictional characters did exist subsequent to Wells and prior to the emergence of the flying saucer culture. Many of those stories are lost except to collectors of the pulps. What appears here comes down through reprints, anthologies, and specialty scholars.

There are a few notable items excluded from this history due to matters of ambiguity. The floating disembodied, bald Big Brain who is the Wizard of Oz (1939) is an illusory creation and more symbolic of cleverness than futurity. Aleister Crowley’s portrait of the bald extraterrestrial Lam (1919) seems relevant to some people, but the match is far from exact.(62) Crowlean literature is too dreary to track down the full details needed to understand it, so any role of devolutionary thought would be speculative and, my bet, doubtful. Ming the Merciless is bald and ruthless and in early strips he seems to be a somewhat emaciated figure, but he is oriental in aspect and Chinese rulers for some reason often seem bald. Weird Tales’ Elwyn Backus did a story “Behind the Moon”(1930) where little gray humanoid creatures capture a fair maiden astronaut and plan to use her as breeding material to improve their race. There are not enough details to know if this race of mushroom beings fits a devolutionary profile. (63)

The theme of Big Brain figures being sterile or otherwise unable to procreate has been demonstrated to be a repetitive feature of these stories. It is conceivable this is merely a straightforward corollary of the degeneration of the rest of the body. Yet there is a legitimate doubt here. Parasites as a class are the prime exemplars of general bodily degeneration, but they do not show signs of dying off from sterility. Too, if the ease of technological civilization were modifying the body, wouldn’t the leisure lead to more sex and a selection of characteristics favourable to arousal? To borrow a thought from Dr. Strangelove, there would be much time and little to do — they would breed prodigiously.

The underlying logic may reflect a rather interesting piece of medical folklore. As was noted in part one, Herbert Spencer expressed a concern that greater intelligence was associated with decreased fertility and this seemed supported from anecdotal knowledge of the lives of intellectuals. This was probably a case of confirmation bias. It was in support of a long-standing belief that the brain, spinal cord, and seminal fluid are all interrelated and grows from superstitions believed to date all the way back to the Stone Age. (64) In the 1800s the dominant form of this myth was the idea that expending the seed through masturbation led to insanity. Even mere promiscuity carried the hazard of starving the nerves. The inverse corollary was that abstinence was good for mental functioning.

In the early 1900s, the myth took the form of the theory of seminal economy. It was believed there was a finite amount of seminal matter that could be formed out of the blood. When the brain hoarded the seminal matter, little was left for procreation. “Superior human specimens are nearly always sterile or capable of only mediocre progeny.” Bram Dijkstra notes that by 1915 this article of faith had attained the status of folk wisdom and few questioned its universal truth. (65) It is easy enough to see how such a notion would lead to an orthogenetic logic of future brain overdevelopment forcing infertility. This must be termed speculative for none of the stories actually spell out such a reason for the sterility of Big Brains.

Though the gray idea-complex began to disappear from science fiction in the Forties, it continued on in the general culture in other ways like comics and, quite interestingly, science popularization. Roy Champman Andrews, in 1945, offered a description of “How We Are Going to Look” in what was perhaps the most read magazine of the period, Readers Digest.

“Human beings, half a million years from now would be caricatures in our eyes – something out of a bad dream. Big round heads, almost globular, hairless as a billiard ball; even the women! Very clever these future people will be — much more intelligent than we are — but, alas at the expense of hearing, tasting, seeing, and smelling. Their faces will be smaller. But they will be taller, probably several inches, with longer and only four toes. We might hesitate to invite one of those future humans for dinner, were he to appear now in advance of his time, except for his conversational brilliance. But he would have some have some physical advantages over us: no appendicitis; no sinus trouble; no fallen arches; neither hernia in man nor the falling of the uterus in women.”

Chapman’s reasoning is mainly extrapolation from past trends and a sensibility that nature does not allow defects in architecture to go on indefinitely. It does not sound particularly Darwinian. An especially nice feature of the article is a pair of illustrations showing future man and woman. Thanks to a lack of scale, they happen to evoke the look of the Grays, particularly the one of the Moody abduction, thirty years later.

William Howell, author of an anthropological tome Mankind So Far, provided a similar popularization for the budding scientists of the Forties in Science Digest.

“The horoscopes for mankind are principally purveyed by the funny papers…According to one school of thought, the beast in us will continue to recede and the brain to advance, until we have huge bald heads together with spindly legs and wormy little bodies. We shall all wear glasses, talk algebra, and live on food pills. This apparently is to be the triumph of science, and a prospect at which we well may shudder.”

Luckily we are not really faced with it. He accepts some of Henry Shapiro’s ideas and feels the heads will be rounder to economize bone with the face smaller and chin more pointed. He notes baldness is hereditary and common in Whites, but rare in other races. Whether it will become universal is anybody’s guess. “I doubt whether science will be able to do the slightest thing about it.” If you favour extrapolation of trends, plug in the news that brains today are actually slightly smaller than in the Upper Palaeolithic and the final result makes you look small-minded. (66) Though Howell disputes the funny papers’ horoscope, all those kids whose schools purchased Science Digest were assured an awareness of the stereotypical image of future man.

The ideas and images of the Wellsian devolutionary man of deep time and space had something that made it a survivor. That something might be usefulness, value as a moral signifier of the dangers of civilization, emotional power, an interesting colour of villainy, or mythic horror. Whatever you decide it is, it was something that put it apart from the giant lobsters, lion men, talking trees, bounding ostriches, mechanical beetles, and myriad other creative attempts to envision the alien that had brief or sporadic life in the pages of the pulps. The class of entities that would eventually be called Grays were walking and floating through the nightmares of humanity for the better part of a half-century.

And the flying saucers had not even landed yet.

————————————————————-

Notes

  1. Bleiler, Everett F. Science Fiction: The Early Years Kent State University, 1990, entry #775
  2. p. 248.
  3. Flammarion, Camille. Urania. Estes and Lauriat, 1890, p. 37.
  4. Flammarion, Camille. Omega. University of Nebraska Press, 1999 reprint, pp. 198-9.
  5. Ibid., pp. 199-201.
  6. Ibid., p. 218.
  7. Ibid., p. 231.
  8. Ibid., p. 231, 241.
  9. Ibid., p. 218.
  10. Bleiler, op. cit., entry #246, p. 77.
  11. Fowler, Raymond. The Andreasson Affair. Prentice-Hall, 1979, pp. 174-5.
  12. Locke, George. Voyages in Space: A Bibliography of Interplanetary Fiction. Ferret Fantasy, 1975, entry 92, & Bleiler, op. cit., entry #938, p. 306.
  13. Stabledon, Brian. Scientific Romance in Britain: 1890-1950. St. Martin’s, 1985, pp. 52-3.
  14. Bleiler, op. cit., entry 1776b, p. 596.
  15. Wells, H.G. The First Men in the Moon Donning Company, 1989, pp. 144, 152.
  16. Bleieler, op. cit., entry 1823, p. 610. & Locke, op. cit., entry #168.
  17. Bleiler, op. cit., entry 31, p. 8.
  18. Morgan, Chris Future Man? Irvington, 1980, p. 37.
  19. Stableford, op. cit., pp. 103-4. & Bleiler, entry #182, p. 58.
  20. Bleiler, op. cit., entry 922, p. 299
  21. Bleiler, op. cit., entry 1211, p. 401.
  22. Bleiler, op. cit., entry 156, pp. 47-8
  23. Jacobs, David The Threat Simon & Schuster, 1998, pp. 83-5.
  24. http://www.literature.org/authors/burroughs-edgar-rice/the-chessmen-of-mars/chapter-05.html http://www.literature.org/authors/burroughs-edgar-rice/the-chessmen-of-mars/chapter-05.html.
  25. Burroughs, Edgar Rice The Mastermind of Mars Ace Science Fiction F-181, pp. 8, 93
  26. Hardy, Phil. The Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction Movies. Woodbury, 1984, p. 69.
  27. Bleiler, op. cit., entry 2157, pp.731-2.
  28. Bleiler, op. cit., entry 749, p. 243.
  29. Kyle, David. A Pictorial History of Science Fiction. Hamlyn, 1976, pp. 76-7.
  30. Bleiler, op. cit., entry 2299, p. 788.
  31. Bleiler, op. cit., entry 531, p. 176.
  32. Bleiler, op. cit., entry 1006, pp. 333-4.
  33. Bowler, Peter. Theories of Human Evolution: A Century of Debate, 1844-1944. Johns Hopkins, 1986, pp. 198-209.
  34. Bowler, Peter. The Non-Darwinian Revolution. Johns Hopkins, 1988, p. 122.
  35. Weart, Spencer R. Nuclear Fear:A History. Harvard U., 1988, pp. 48-9.
  36. Brackett, Leigh. The Best of Edmond Hamilton. Del Rey, 1977, pp. 17-36.
  37. Panshin, Alexi and Cori . The World Beyond the Hill. Jeremy Tarcher, 1989, p. 218.
  38. Brackett, op. cit.,, pp. 36-69.
  39. Brackett, op. cit., pp. 207-8
  40. Bova, Ben, ed., Science Fiction Hall of Fame, volume IIB. Avon, 1974, pp. 248-79.
  41. Stapledon, Olaf. Last and First Men and Star-Maker. Dover, 1968, pp. 100-4
  42. Ibid., pp. 104-5.
  43. Ibid., pp. 157-66.
  44. Shelton, Robert “The Mars-Begotten Men of Olaf Stapledon and H.G. Wells”. Science Fiction Studies no. 32 (volume 11, #1) pp. 1-14.
  45. Panshins, op. cit., pp. 228-9.
  46. Williams, Lorraine Dille. Buck Rogers: The First 60 Years in the 25th Century. TSR, 1988, pp. 93-4.
  47. Kyle, op. cit., p. 88.
  48. Asimov, Isaac. Before the Golden Age: Book 1. Fawcett Crest, 1974, pp. 323-80.
  49. Ibid., p.355.
  50. Ibid., pp. 369, 370.
  51. Ackerman, Forest J. Gosh! Wow! (Sense of Wonder) Science Fiction. Bantam, 1981, p. 542.
  52. Del Rey, Lester. The Best of John W. Campbell. Ballantine, 1976, pp. 22-45.
  53. Asimov, Isaac. Before the Golden Age: Book 3. Fawcett Crest, 1975, pp. 333-58.
  54. Rovin, Jeff. Encyclopedia of Monsters. Facts on File, 1989, pp. 314-5.
  55. Crossen, Kendall Foster. Adventures in Tomorrow. Belmont, 1951, pp. 193-207.
  56. Panshins, op. cit., p. 439.
  57. Stableford, op. cit., p. 238.
  58. Panshins, op. cit., p. 346.
  59. Aldiss, Brian. Trillion Year Spree. Avon, 1988, p. 217.
  60. Panshins, op. cit.. p. 218.
  61. Carter, Paul. The Creation of Tomorrow. Columbia U. Press, 1977, p. 162.
  62. Kottmeyer, Martin “Ishtar Descendant” The Skeptic, 9, #3 (1995) p. 13.
  63. Bleiler, op. cit., entry 04, p. 32.
  64. La Barre, Weston. Muelos: A Stone Age Superstition about Sexuality. Columbia University Press, 1984, pp. 122-7.
  65. Dijkstra, Bram. Evil Sisters: The Threat of Female Sexuality and the Cult of Manhood. Alfred Knopf, 1996, p. 76.
  66. Howells, William “The Shape of Men to Come”. Science Digest, 21, 1, January 1947.

 

 

Women’s heads were smaller than men’s were because “her exquisite sensibility responded to sentimental considerations before reason could act in the lower cells

Varicose Brains, Part 1: Entering a Grey Area. Martin Kottmeyer

 

This was first published in Magonia 62, February 1998.  

 

The image of the alien in UFO culture has generally been dominated by an entity with a large, bald head. Usually the being is small compared to humans. Often the limbs are described as thinner or more slender, but the more closely universal rule is that such aliens are never fat or obese. Current convention labels approximations to this stereotypical ufonaut with the term Grays. Ostensibly this is because of grayish skin tones usually being associated with this body type. In practice, absence of this defining trait does not inhibit use of the label so long as a big bald head appears somewhere in the description.

The project of assembling a history of this alien stereotype with a view to understanding its origins and rise to dominance is a daunting one because there are special hazards. There are no maps to guide us. As an undrawn and untested area of history, there will inevitably be missteps, overlooked treasures, and uncertainties. My concern is basically one of getting a good outline sketched. This should be regarded as a pioneering effort, not as the final word. Better funded research would surely net much additional material.

We will start this history by offering the proposition, watch the wording, that the idea underlying the Grays was constructed in the 19th century. The emphasis here is on the word idea. Images that fit loosely the definition of Grays can be found here and there in art and myths long pre-dating the modern era. Finding them is an easy and pleasant diversion. Take the Greco-Egyptian painting of mortuary house 21 at Tuna-Gebel. It has an entity with a large smooth head and very slender build that includes a pencil-neck. Few would quarrel that the look matches that of the Grays. The fact that the being is the shadow of the deceased represented symbolically as a black emaciated corpse makes it questionable that the look carries the modern idea. [1]

Gregory Little has found a description of the watchman at the gates of Sheol in the Hebrew Book of Enoch as gray in colour, short like children, and taking on a somewhat human appearance that he says left him stunned. [2] I’ve described elsewhere items from ancient Denmark and the Congo whose facial features mimic the exotic facets of Strieber’s Visitor. [3] Such images are quite scattered and seem random outcomes of the immense creativity of artists exploring hundreds of permutations. There is no evidence of deeper linkages between them and current UFO beliefs and no hint of historical connections. As a parallel example, ponder how some short bald fairies ended up in Star Trek, Next Generation Starfleet uniforms even though the painting was done 1880 by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s father. [4] One may not be able to rule out some swirly space-time anomaly causing such things, but coincidence has to be the favoured judgement.

The trait of big-headedness can be found associated with aliens inhabiting the sun in Pierre Boitard’s Mussee des familles (1838), but the beings possess hair and otherwise seem completely human. This seems a simple way of representing higher intelligence in such beings. I consider it slightly outside the definition of a Gray. [5]

The idea underlying the Grays did not and could not exist before the idea of evolution. Christian theology held that god created life in the first week of creation. Each species was designed optimally for its niche in the hierarchy of Nature and, presumably, given all the fuss over the Ark, would never be re-created. Transformation of form or future improvement on present design held no place in such a worldview. Evolution was heretical and rarely considered at length prior to the 19th century. It is to one of the proponents of an early version of evolution, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, that we will turn to for an important element of our history.

Lamarck was an early opponent of the ideas of special creation and catastrophism. Nature did everything little by little and successively. Where earlier thinkers spoke of a great chain of being with each species created specifically for its place, Lamarck felt that varying environmental pressures created new needs and increased the use of certain organs to make them more perfect while adding to the organism’s complexity. Conversely the permanent disuse of an organ, arising from a change of habits, causes a gradual shrinkage and ultimately the disappearance and even extinction of that organ.[6]

Lamarck regarded man as a probable product of evolution. The process, he felt, reached the limits of complexity and perfection and, while noting individual instances of the perfecting or degradation of reason, will, and morality, was not compelled to speculate on the future of the human form. Since man’s intelligence and powers protect him from the voracity of any animal, man could potentially multiply indefinitely, but he believed the Sublime author installed a safety feature; “But nature has given him numerous passions which unfortunately develop with his intelligence, and thus set up a great obstacle to the extreme multiplication of individuals of his species. It seems that man is responsible for keeping down the numbers of his kind; for I have hesitation in saying the earth will never be covered by the population that it might support; several of its habitable regions will always be sparsely populated in turns, although the periods of these fluctuations are, so far as we are concerned, immeasurable.” [7] Man “assuredly presents the type of highest perfection that nature will attain to…” [8]

Towards 1866, a Lamarckian named Alpheus Hyatt indicated his studies of fossils were providing a less optimistic understanding of the process of evolution. Just as individuals slip into senility and decrepitude at the end of life, groups like races and species display a senile phase before going extinct. This theory of racial senescence later becomes an indispensable feature of the doctrine of orthogenesis. It held that the organism was not shaped by natural selection, but by processes internal to the germ plasm that caused modification along trend-lines that ran on until they became over-developed and detrimental to survival. Examples of this process could be found in the huge antlers of the Irish elk, the demise of the sabre-toothed tiger, and the massiveness of dinosaurs. Hyatt himself believed man was already showing senile and regressive features. The tendency of females to be increasingly similar to males seemed especially ominous. [9]

The writings of Herbert Spencer, another Lamarckian, provide us with the next step in the development of the idea underlying the Grays. In his work The Principles of Biology (1875), he speculates at length on the human future. He feels there will be “Larger-brained descendents” and the brain will have more convolutions, a more developed structure. Spencer believed the brain would also put a heavier tax upon the organism. Asserting the existence of “an apparent connection between higher cerebral development and prolonged sexual maturity,” evidence that excessive expenditure of mental activity during education causes complete or partial infertility, and conversely that “where exceptional fertility exists there is a sluggishness of mind;” Spencer concluded further evolution may be expected to cause a decline in his power of reproduction. [10]

There most likely would be greater delicacy of manipulation, better co-ordination of complex movements, and a “corresponding development of perceptive and executive faculties.” There would also be greater power of self-regulation and higher emotional development. He would be more moral. Crimes and cruelties would cease. Of strength and agility, Spencer doubted there would be further improvement. He does not explicitly articulate that a general degeneration of the rest of the body would follow, but that is now only a couple of steps away. [11]

We should digress to point out that Darwin does not belong to this line of development. His theory of evolution by natural selection builds in part on Lamarck’s arguments against special creation and catastrophism while stripping animal evolution of its central mechanism of use-inheritance. The issue of Darwin’s views on progress is a notoriously thorny subject and on the future form of man he was silent. He seemed to think some ongoing natural selection existed in the destruction of more primitive peoples. However, he was also concerned that natural selection no longer operated to scythe down the sickly and degenerate. Any slow evolution of mankind, however, paled next to his pet-horror, the eventual and inevitable ice-death of the earth under the aegis of a cooling sun. “To think of the progress of millions of years with every continent swarming with good and enlightened men all ending in this…Sic transit gloria mundi with a vengeance.” [12]

Alfred Russell Wallace, Darwin’s co-discoverer of natural selection, believed the human physique was no longer subject to natural forces. War killed off the strongest and bravest. Skin colour and hair perhaps still evolved, but the body remained an upright ape. The human species was still capable of spectacular advance with women’s rights giving females free choice in marriage and allowing them to reject males who were chronically diseased, intellectually weak, idle, or utterly selfish. These matters, however, belonged to the moral and spiritual realms, not the realm of man’s physical being.

Thomas Henry Huxley, the era’s most prominent Darwinian, also lies outside this line of development, but bears special attention and caution. Scholars have caricatured him alternately as a naïve advocate of progress and a purveyor of cosmic pessimism. These extreme interpretations derive from selective focus on separate facets of a carefully balanced view blending the lessons of natural history and social history.

Early writings indicate he “had no confidence in the doctrine of ultimate happiness,” but it was impossible for him to be blind to the improvements in life that science was making manifest around him in his personal sphere. [14] Huxley often walked with Spencer arguing over the nature of evolutionary and social progress. [15] Huxley soon developed the metaphor of society advancing, insect-like, from grub to butterfly. There are periods of repressive restraint, Dark ages, that are broken in dramatic moults like the French revolution. The old constraints break open and the grub puffs up in the rationalist air. Each moult moves us closer to a butterfly state of man, albeit that may prove to be terribly distant.[16]

In 1894 he offered his mature statement on these matters in Evolution and Ethics and we see the same balancing. He rejects the prospect of utopia, “the prospect of attaining untroubled happiness, or a state which can, even remotely, deserve the title of perfection, appears to me as misleading an illusion as ever dangled before the eyes of poor humanity.” [17] Yet, “that which lies before the human race is a constant struggle to maintain and improve.” [18]

The theory of evolution encourages no millennial expectations, he writes. [19] More, “There is no hope that mere human beings will ever possess enough intelligence to select the fittest.” [20] He sees “no limit to the extent to which intelligence and will, guided by sound principles of investigation and organized in common effort, may modify the conditions for a period than that now covered by history. And much may be done to change the nature of man himself…(we) ought to be able to do something towards curbing the instincts of savagery in civilized men (thus permitting) a larger hope of abatement of the essential evil of the world…” [21]

Evolution, however, permits both progressive and retrogressive development. [22] “The most daring imagination will hardly venture upon the suggestion that the power and the intelligence of man can ever arrest the procession of the great year.” [23] Eventually, “the evolution of our globe shall have entered upon so far upon its downward course that the cosmic process resumes its sway; and, once more, the State of Nature prevails over the surface of our planet.” [24] This is an allusion to the thermodynamic heat death of the Earth.

To point to these latter quotes and label it cosmic pessimism has the perverse air of saying that someone who expects to achieve some measure of happiness and success and die at 120 is being depressing. Huxley dialectically balanced optimism and pessimism in a manner he felt most people did. [25] Huxley nowhere comments on the future biological shape of man as Spencer did, nor does he dwell on the implications of the possibility of his retrogressive modification.

The final steps in the development of the idea underlying the Grays were made by one of Huxley’s students. The student thought Huxley was the greatest man he ever knew and when he published his first book he sent his teacher a note that read:

May 1895 — I am sending you a little book that I fancy may be of interest to you. The central idea – of degeneration following security – was the outcome of a certain amount of biological study. I daresay your position subjects you to a good many such displays of the range of authors but I have this excuse – I was one of your students at the Royal College of Science and finally (?): The book is a very little one.” [26]

It was a work of fiction that describes a traveller’s encounter with a delicate little people of the far future. The first person is described as “a slight creature – perhaps 4 feet high – clad in a purple tunic, girdled at the waist with a leather belt. Sandals or huskins were on his feet; his legs were bare to the knees and his head was bare…He struck me as being a very beautiful and graceful creature, but indescribably frail. His flushed face reminded me of the more beautiful kind of consumptive – that hectic beauty of which you used to hear so much about.” As he observes more of them he notes their Dresden china prettiness had peculiarities. They had some curly hair that did not go past the neck and cheek. There was no trace of beard or other facial hair. The lips were thin. The ears were singularly minute. Chins were small and ran to a point. The eyes were large, but mild and indifferent.

There is nothing said about the size of the head and the intelligence of these people is slight. Their behaviour is child-like and playful and they show a lack of interest in the traveller. There was little to distinguish the sexes. The traveller eventually learns the name of this beautiful race – Eloi. He also learns of a second race – the Morlocks – which are described as a white, ape-like human spider. They tend the underworld of machines that make the utopia of the aristocratic Eloi possible.

The concept of degeneration was not new and the Victorian era’s concerns over the permanent underclass bred in urban areas like London had spawned a theory of urban degeneration.

The title of the story was The Time Machine. [27] The student was H.G. Wells. His boast to Huxley that it was based on an amount of biological study is easily proven. Four years earlier he had written a non-fiction essay titled Zoological Retrogression that displayed his familiarity with the biological literature involving degeneration. In it he describes a popular and poetic formulation of evolution as a steadily rising mountain slope that he terms Excelsior biology. Proclaiming it lacking any satisfactory confirmation in geological biology or embryology, he argues degeneration has entire parity with progressive trends. He points to ascidians, cirripeds, copepods, corals, sea-mats, oysters, mussels and mites as examples. Advance has been fitful and uncertain. There is no guarantee in scientific knowledge of man’s permanence or permanent ascendancy. Huxley’s teachings are apparent except for one point of divergence. Wells concludes, The Coming Beast must certainly be reckoned in any anticipatory calculations in the Coming Man. [28]

Though Wells affects to be swimming against the stream of mass opinion in this essay, some historians would argue he was being swept along by the currents of his time. The concept of degeneration was not new and the Victorian era’s concerns over the permanent underclass bred in urban areas like London had spawned a theory of urban degeneration that held powerful appeal to the British after 1885 no matter what their politics. [29] This degeneration scare, as it has been termed, was part of a yet larger trend of cultural pessimism spreading among western intellectuals. Peter Bowler, an expert on evolutionary theories of the era speculates that E. Ray Lankester’s book Degeneration is a likely source of the ideas behind “The Time Machine.” [30] The unavoidable caveat to this attribution is that the concept of degeneration was present in so many forums from medical journals like The Lancet to much popular fiction. Wells could have been influenced by a variety of sources. [31]

The eleventh chapter of The Time Machine takes the reader beyond the time of the Eloi and Morlocks to a yet farther future where the Earth approaches its end. Life had grown sparse and was in obvious regression. The dominant form was an ungainly monster crab smeared in slime. He goes another thirty million years into the future and only lichen and liverworts remained. That and a black, round, flopping thing with tentacles trailing from it. It seems like Alpheus Hyatt writ large; life as a whole falls into senescence before all Earth goes extinct.

The Eloi come half way to our image of the Gray in short and fragile bodies being indicative of a degenerate evolutionary history. What is missing is the big bald head. Wells began playing with that part of the image maybe as early as 1885 for an address before a student debating society. It was written out for publication in a facetious book review for the Pall Mall Budget, 9 November 1893. “Of a Book Unwritten, The Man of the Year Million” is a short piece with no ambitions of wanting to be taken seriously. Wells imagines a book titled The Necessary Characters of Man of the Remote Future deduced from the Existing Stream of Tendency. Though easily missed, Wells is telegraphing his intent to play upon the ideas of orthogenesis which as its name implies dealt with straight-line trends in the fossil record. Just as a fish is moulded to swimming and a bird is moulded to flight, man’s form will be determined by the trait of intelligence. We already see the decay of much of the animal part of man: the loss of hair, the loss of teeth, the diminution of jaw, slighter mouth and ears. Athleticism yields to a subtle mind in real-world competition. The coming man, then, will clearly have a larger brain and a slighter body than the present. [32]

Behold the dim strange vision of the latter day face suggested by loss of unused features: Eyes large, lustrous, beautiful soulful; above them, no longer separated by rugged brow ridges, is the top of the head, a glistening hairless dome, terete and beautiful; no craggy nose rises to disturb by its unmeaning shadows the symmetry of that calm face, no vestigial ears project; the mouth is a small perfectly round aperture, toothless and gumless, unanimal, no futile emotions disturbing its roundness as it lies, like the harvest moon or the evening star, in the wide firmament of the face. [33]

Potentially, man’s knowledge of organic chemistry will supplant the use of a stomach and alimentary canal and the brain will swim in a nutritive bath – some clear, mobile and amber liquid. In still deeper time the cooling earth will force a retreat to galleries and laboratories deep inside the bowels of the planet following the diminishing supply of heat with boring machinery and glaring artificial lighting. Wells takes pleasure in noting the whole of this imaginary book may vanish in the smoke of a pipe with no great bother – one of the great advantages of unwritten literature.

But of course it did not vanish and did become a great bother. It ended up in a book that would guarantee a very enduring life. The book was War of the Worlds (1898). Mars in an ancient world and evolution has proceeded farther than on Earth, thus is the logical setting for Man of the Year Million. The Martians were 4-foot diameter round heads. They had very large dark-coloured eyes, no nostrils, and no ears per se. They had a fleshy beak for a mouth. The internal anatomy was, in a word, simple. They had no entrails and did not eat. Rather they injected blood from other creatures, most notably a type of biped with flimsy skeletons and feeble musculature, and a round head with large eyes set in flinty sockets.

The Martians were absolutely without sex and allied tumultuous emotions. They budded off the parent. Wells’s fictional narrator explicitly credits the author of the Pall Mall Budget book review with forecasting such a creature, albeit in a foolish, facetious tone. Noting that many a truth is said in jest, the idea seemed likely that Martians had once been like us but with a brain evolved at the expense of the rest of the body. They turn out to also be telepathic. The Martians die off at the end of the war because of their vulnerability to earth’s micro-organisms. There were none on Mars, probably because their science eliminated them ages before. We would say nowadays that their immune systems had degenerated from disuse. [34]

The mental giantism and diminished sexuality clearly echo Spencer. It has a Lamarckian sensibility in the early part of the argument of man’s form being moulded by the trait of intelligence, but Wells does include Darwinian competition in suggesting a subtle mind wins over athleticism in the real world. One can fairly wonder how many people would accept that premise these days. The basic thrust that evolution would trend to a grossly overspecialized super-tick, however, is decisively orthogenetic. Admittedly extinction in a foreign environment rich in micro-organisms is not strictly a proof of maladaptation or orthogenesis, but nobody is meant to think this type of monstrosity is a good thing.

The critical literature on War of the Worlds generally agrees that the Martians are nightmare extensions of ourselves and our machine civilization. It is a warning that an over-reliance on cold intellect and technology need not lead to better and better. Basically it is a moral it shares with The Time Machine. Where the atrophy from over-reliance on technology and the brain is played for comic effect in the Pall Mall Budget, here it is played for horror. That a story with such an anti-intellectual moral should come from the pen of a person as intellectual as Wells is slightly ironic, but not amazing. Science fiction writers are a brainy bunch, but are perennially worried over the social consequences of science and technology. The early pulp writers of sciencee fiction would use and re-use the images and ideas constructed by wells in these two revered stories, until they became a shorthand stereotype of what a future man and advanced alien would look like. [35]

Wells himself never regarded his atrophied aliens as a realistic speculation. Though he granted life on Mars might exist and even speculated on what interesting differences might be expected because of the harsh environment, his non-fiction writings did not advance the probability that big, bald-headed aliens with degenerate bodies existed. [36] The idea that gave us the Grays was born as a jest that never was intended by its author to be taken as a serious scientific speculation.

References: 

  1. Baines, John and Jaromir Malek The Cultural Atlas of the World: Ancient Egypt Andromeda, Oxford, 1990, p. 128.
  2. Little, Gregory. Grand Illusion White Buffalo, 1994, p. 243.
  3. Kottmeyer, Martin “Ishtar Descendant” The Skeptic, 9, #3, 1995, pp. 12-15.
  4. Philpotts, Beatrice The Book of Fairies Ballantine, 1978, illustration 37.
  5. Pinvidic, Thierry OVNI: vers une Anthopologie d’un Mythe Contemporain Editions Heimdal, 1993, p. 475.
  6. Lamarck, Jean-Baptist Zoological Philosophy: An Exposition With Regard to the Natural History of Animals (1809), Hafner Publishing, 1963, p. 115.
  7. Ibid., pp. 54-5
  8. ibid., p. 71
  9. Bowler, Peter The Eclipse of Darwinism: Anti-Darwinian Evolution Theories in the Decades Around 1900 Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983, pp. 128-30, 169-70, 180-1.
  10. Spencer, Herbert The Principles of Biology D. Appleton, 1875, pp. 494-508.
  11. Ibid.
  12. Desmond, Adrian and Moore, James. Darwin – The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist Warner, 1991, p. 529.
  13. Brackman, Arnold C. A Delicate Arrangement: The Strange Case of Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace Times Books, 1980, pp. 273-4.
  14. Desmond, Adrian. Huxley – The Devil’s Disciple Michael Joseph, 1994, p. 210.
  15. Ibid., p. 233.
  16. Ibid., 293.
  17. Paradis, James and Williams, George C. T.H. Huxley’s ‘Evolution and Ethics’ with New essays on its Victorian and Sociobiological Context Princeton University Press, 1989, p. 102.
  18. Ibid.
  19. Ibid., p. 85.
  20. Ibid., p. 92.
  21. Ibid., p. 143.
  22. Ibid., p. 62.
  23. Ibid., p. 143.
  24. Ibid., p. 103.
  25. Ibid., p. 136. & Hillegas, Mark R. The Future as Nightmare: H.G. Wells and the Anti-Utopians Southern Illinois University Press, 1974, pp. 18-19.
  26. Smith, David C. H.G. Wells: Desperately Mortal Yale University Press, 1986, p. 48.
  27. Bova, Ben. The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, volume 2A, Avon, 1974, pp. 542-6.
  28. Gentleman’s Magazine, September 1981, reprinted in Philmus, Robert M. and Hughes, David Y. H.G. Wells: Early Writings in Science and Science Fiction California University Press, 1975, pp. 158-68.,
  29. Nye, Robert A. “Sociology: The Irony of Progress” in in Chamberlin, J. Edwar and Gilman, Sander L. Degeneration: The Dark Side of Progress. Columbia University Press, pp. 64-5
  30. Herman, Arthur. The Idea of Decline in Human History, Free Press, 1997.
  31. Bowler, Peter. The Invention of Progress. Basil Blackwell, 1989, pp. 196-7.
  32. Eisenstein, Alex “The Time Machine and the End of Man” Science Fiction Studies 3, #2 July 1976, pp. 161-5.
  33. Hughes, David Y A Critical Edition of The War of the Worlds, Indiana University Press, 1993, Appendix 3.
  34. Ibid., p. 292.
  35. Ibid., p. 151.
  36. “The Things That Live on Mars” reprinted in Hughes, op. cit.., Appendix 5, pp. 298-305..8 ô9²q

 

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

27 years of close encounters of the postal kind

From Magonia 47, October 1993.

ummo
 
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.

ummo-11

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.
 
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NOTES:

  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”.

 

Bees from a Dying Planet. John Harney

From Magonia Supplement 31, September 2000

In support of the psychosocial hypothesis, a number of writers, notably Martin Kottmeyer, have shown how many of the motifs found in UFO reports, particularly abductions, have been derived from science fiction books and films. Even some of the believers have had to concede that science fiction has coloured the accounts given by many witnesses.

However, this leads to the question of how the science fiction writers got their ideas. In a recent book, Bruce Rux developed the idea that the process is really the other way around; science fiction writers get their ideas from genuine UFO reports. (1) Perhaps it would be more reasonable to consider the possibility of a two-way traffic between ufology and science fiction.

starAn interesting example of this can be found in Star of Ill-Omen, by Dennis Wheatley, a tale of alien abduction first published in 1952. (2) Wheatley (1897-1977), author of 75 books, was a writer of occult thrillers, perhaps the best known being The Devil Rides Out. He was noted for the research he conducted to give his fantastic stories authentic backgrounds, so that they often featured real people and real events. Star of Ill-Omen is rather different from his other works.

In this book, Wheatley not only makes use of his reading on UFOs, but he summarises it at tedious length. The story can briefly be summarised as follows: Our hero, Kem Lincoln (a James Bond sort of character), a scientist Escobar and his wife Carmen – with whom Lincoln is having an affair – are captured by giant humanoid Martians and taken back to Mars in a flying saucer. It turns out that the humanoids are the not-very-bright slaves of a race of intelligent insects, which are referred to as “bee-beetles”. As Mars is drying up, they plan to take over Earth, having blasted its population using atom bombs. Despite their technical sophistication, they have no idea how to manufacture these, so they hope to get nuclear physicist Escobar to show them. Eventually the abductees manage to destroy the Martian civilisation by discovering that the bee-beetles have no sting and conveying this information to the humanoids, who rebel and start killing them off. Our heroes manage to escape in a saucer and return to Earth. This is surely one of Wheatley’s less readable works. There are many pages where nothing much happens, especially on the tedious outward voyage to Mars, which takes about 50 days. One thus sees that the device of Lincoln having an affair with Escobar’s wife is necessary to provide a little dramatic tension, although this only serves to make the voyage seem even more tedious than it would otherwise be.

There was not much UFO literature available when Wheatley wrote this book, so it should be possible to trace most of the details which he has borrowed from it. The bee-beetles obviously derive from the speculations of Gerald Heard, author of one of the first UFO books. (3) Having noted the high speeds and rapid changes of direction described in many UFO reports, he hypothesised that they were piloted by intelligent insects, and that they probably came from Mars.

Another interesting detail is the idea that saucers are destroyed by bursting into flames if anything goes wrong, or in Wheatley’s story, simply as a precaution against biological contamination. When the abductees reach Mars, they are sealed up in bags and ejected, and the saucer burns up. They are then subjected to a decontamination procedure. The idea of things being ejected from saucers comes from the Maury Island story. The burning saucer reminds one of the alleged Ubatuba magnesium incident, but that occurred in 1957, about 5 years after the book was first published.

In common with most modern abduction stories, the interior of the saucer has no ornamentation of any kind and everything in it is strictly functional. Another similarity is the vagueness about the saucer’s propulsion system. Escobar speculates that it makes use of “magnetic lines of force”.

The bee-beetles apparently have no art or culture, and they have great difficulty in communicating with other species. They use telepathy to some extent, particularly to control their humanoid slaves. They show their captives films, which seem to be a potted history of Earth civilisation, and include many scenes of wars and weapons. Our heroes eventually realise that they want to be shown how to make atom bombs. This reminds one of similar presentations given to abductees by the Greys (presumably with different motives), but in the early 1950s the Greys had yet to be invented.

When Wheatley and Heard wrote their books, it was still possible to consider Mars as a possible abode of intelligent life, with a reasonable amount of water and a possibly breathable atmosphere and this had an obvious influence on the speculations of UFO writers of the early 1950s. The following paragraph from Heard’s book shows how wrong theories about Mars could be before the era of space exploration:

“The surface of Mars seems innocent of scars when we think of our own surface and that of the pockmarked moon, our satellite. Mars seems to have cooled before volcanic eruptions took place. Lowell thought that it had only one low range of mountains reaching the very moderate height of 3,000 feet, the Mountains of Mitchell near its southern pole. Had Mars been often hit – as many of the vast craters on the moon are now thought to be “bullet marks” made by meteorites that have struck full force on the moon-surface (unscreened by an atmosphere) – then on the Martian landscape we should have seen these great rampart rings – some on the moon are thirty miles across and throw most striking shadows. But not a trace of such has been detected on Mars.”

The story ends with Lincoln and Carmen returning to Earth in a saucer, where they are ejected in a capsule which falls into the Thames. The saucer explodes in flames. They are recovered and revived, as described in a document marked Top Secret. The Earth is saved but the public never get to hear about all this as it remains secret. Just like the crashed saucers and dead aliens at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base!

                                                                 

References

  • 1. Rux, Bruce. Hollywood Vs. the Aliens: The Motion Picture Industry’s Participation in UFO Disinformation, Frog Ltd, Berkeley, California, 1997
  • 2. Wheatley, Dennis. Star of Ill-Omen, The Lymington Edition, Hutchinson, London, 1966 (first published 1952)
  • 3. Heard, Gerald. The Riddle of the Flying Saucers: Is Another World Watching? Carroll & Nicholson, London, 1950