Curtis Peebles, the X-15 and Angela’s Ashes.
Frank John Reid

From Magonia 89, August 2005

I’d just dragged myself through Frank McCourt’s depressing Angela’s Ashes when I read Curtis Peebles’s The Case of the Vanishing X-15 Pilot. I grew up Catholic in the 1940s and 50s, in an American Church that rather envied the holiness of Ireland, and so I was able to understand, for example, McCourt’s reminiscence of rushing around Limerick, tearing one page out of an issue of John O’London’s Weekly which his employer had earlier distributed, because that page discussed birth control. And so I was able to understand Peebles’s article.

Here is the paragraph from page 236 of Ann Druffel’s Firestorm that concerns the X-15 story:

“He called Dr. Bob Wood next, who was more than willing to participate but needed to ask his superiors if he could state his affiliation with McDonnell Douglas. If not, he would speak as an independent scientist. Wood thought there was a 50% to 75% chance that the company would okay it. He also told McDonald about an intriguing report he’d heard from a source he considered very reliable. It concerned Gene May, a Douglas test pilot, who had been involved with the X-15 experimental aircraft for several years. According to the story Wood heard, May had taken the experimental craft for a flight five to eight years ago with 15 minutes’ fuel in the X15′s tank. Yet May didn’t land back at the airfield until three hours later.

May allegedly reported he’d been taken aboard a UFO, X-15 and all! As a consequence, he was examined by psychologists at Edwards AFB. Wood’s reliable source was a colleague who worked at Vandenberg AFB who knew Gene May well. McDonald tucked the story in his journal, to be checked out later. [footnote]“

And that is ALL that’s in the entire book about the tale. (The footnote merely references McDonald’s fourth journal notebook.)

I can’t see the wretched ‘uncritical acceptance’ committed by ‘believers’ in this. I’m unable to see how the grand exopolitical claims of Michael Sala and Alf Webre give us insight into the paragraph. I can’t even see any ‘believers’ in it.

Peebles admits (and how easily ‘reluctantly’ can slide into this sentence) that: “Ultimately, the story is a side issue. It did not play a role in the development of the flying saucer myth. The story also does not seem to have been repeated in any later publication.”

So it would seem that Dr. Wood hasn’t much told, avowed, written, broadcast, publicised, disseminated or promulgated the story in all the years after he told it to McDonald in 1968. Could it be he had his doubts? Perhaps it’s shown up in one of the MJ-12 documents so fascinating to him (but which bore me), and he puts faith into it now. But Mr. Peebles wouldn’t think of asking him, would he?

Yes, it would have been virtuous for Dr. Wood to research and deflate the story before passing it to McDonald. It would be virtuous for me to research the Grapefruit Diet before telling you Mr. XYZ says he’s now Mr. X because of it. But do you execrate me for not doing so? Looking-into was McDonald’s forte.

Should Ann Druffel have researched? How the hell is she obliged to, before telling us of one small item in a long, complex biography which the man put aside to look into later on? Can we fault McDonald for jotting the few lines Peebles quotes, on a wild but circumstantial and namespecific story, to later look into? Only if the essence of historical method is reception of the received version.

My mother and stepfather [a staunch union man] both told me that poor workmanship and obstructive union work-rules resulted in “lots of liberty ships falling apart in mid-Atlantic,” during World War II. I knew shipyard unions were harshly criticised (we had a box of WWII Reader’s Digests), but I thought the shipping losses had to be mere war rumours. But it’s come out inn the last decade that, in the first years of America’s war, the U-boats were much too efficient atsinking U.S. shipping for the good of public morale. So the news media [under coerced voluntary censorship] didn’t mention things like body parts washed up on Atlantic beaches. My parents, who for all I know got it all from the Wood family, were right about the ship-losses, wrong about the causes. And I was not skeptical enough.

What Mr. Peebles means by “uncritical acceptance” of the “flying saucer belief system” is not having the instant abhorrence of heresy and/or occasion of sin that moves you to rip out the filthy birth control page yourself before reading it through. (Where are some stones, that we may kneel on them?)

Had Peebles gloved-up to query CUFOS, we impenitents would have sent him a copy of the original: Graham Doar’s “The Outer Limit,” which appeared in the December 24, 1949 issue of The Saturday Evening Post, as reprinted in Groff Conklin’s anthology, Big Book of Science Fiction (Crown Publishers, New York: 1950).

(The SatEvePost was a weekly, massive in size, page numbers, circulation, and influence – Secretary of Defense Forrestal leapt to order Air Force co-operation for their two-part flying saucer article, earlier that year. Doar’s issue was probably still on news stands when Donald Keyhoe’s The Flying Saucers Are Real appeared in the January, 1950 True magazine. Doar’s story may have been adapted for radio, or for one of the early SF television series now forgotten because they were filmed in black & white.

In Doar’s story, a test pilot – he’s given the rank of Captain: but no name but “Bill” – drops the parachute equipped, jet-engine first stage of a new rocket plane, then goes much higher and faster. He sees a “metallic elipsoid” (which never appears on radar) above him and goes all-out to reach it.

Bill makes several passes under it at 200,000 feet and 4,000 mph. “There was a humming sound – a kind of gentle vibration – and I blacked out,” he says. “….I thought – I felt it coming for a split second – I thought …” (Magonia may class this as doorway amnesia, but it’s simply an adaptation of the hero not being able to get out of the bar before the chloral hydrate downs him.)

He awakes inside of a ship filled with machinery and noise, surrounded by ‘presences’ he can’t see. These aliens by telepathy tell him they made an arduous trip in order to A) warn us they absolutely forbid atomic weapons, and have scaled us off until we become more sane; enforcing this by B) seeding our upper atmosphere with something that the daughter-elements of a nuclear explosion will catalyze into a novalike fissioning. (Parenthetically, Doar has his aliens report that an apt human messenger is rare indeed; they killed or brain-scrambled all earlier subjects.)

His Colonel and Major Donaldson, a psychiatrist, debrief Bill (who delivers the threat, and points out it also makes the planned atomic spaceship impossible). They sedate him, send him to bed, and plan the psychotherapy they hope will help him. But the psychiatrist then says, “Oh, Colonel. There is one thing. It’s outside my field, but I’m curious. I low did he keep that plane in the air for ten hours – with only ten minutes’ fuel?”

I suspect this ‘snapper’ ending was a worn cliche. But the story’s a possible influence on the similar threat with which Space Brother Klaatu ends The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951).

Now Doar’s story hands us a little problem:

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 … May made a total of 133 flights in the Skyrocket. His last test flight was made on December I. 1949. in a D-558-IL” May then left (light testing, but Peebles says it’s unclear (ah-ha!) whether he’d had enough risk or he’d failed a physical exam.

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 publicised X-15 pilots. (By the 1960s, why would anyone intelligent go to Giant Rock for UFO information? It would be like reading The Protocols of the Elders of Zion to find out why anyone objected to Communism.)

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? Magonians may conjecture mental portmanteauing schemes. but a more parsimonious explanation is: malice. 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, who may have been wise in forbidding Wood to participate in Congressional hearings. Or it may have been the pale malice of an Intelligence asset supplying disinformation.

Is that last one extravagant? Well, thirty-odd years ago a Polish-born girl and other motives had me attend demonstrations over ‘Captive Nations’ (Soviet satellites). On the fringes, always. was a certain Latvian wearing photogenic sandwich-boards, trying to promote anti-Semitism (yeah. he sold the Protocols. too). Some Baltic types had got friendly with him. and told him confidential news from the Old Country – and soon the Communist authorities there were demonstrated a dismaying knowledge. I don’t know it that cured anyone’s anti-Semitism: but a very decent, Jew-respecting Latvian-American named Tcdis Zierins openly denounced the fringe guy as a Communist agent in everything. So yes. there are low-level Intelligence assets, and it’s just possible Wood ran into one.

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?”


A Saucer Full of Secrets.
Andy Roberts

From Magonia 87, February 2005. This article formed part of Flying Saucerers, a Social History of UFOlogy by Andy Rpberts and David Clarke. (Alternative Albion, 2007)



“UFOs were not just in the air, they’d become a religion and the word a common sacrament to everyone who’d tripped.” – Neil Oram.


The word hippie conjures visions of brightly-clad young people rebelling against society whilst advocating peace, free love and the right to alter their consciousness when and how they chose. It’s an appealing image, but one straight out of the imagination of a Daily Mail reader. For behind-the fashions and fads, the hippie underground movement in the UK was responsible for the greatest expansion of interest and belief in fortean phenomena in the last few centuries.

Social historians invariably associate the hippie movement with eastern beliefs such as Buddhism and Hinduism, from which they freely drew inspiration and imagery. That the hippies’ interest in these philosophies has been well documented is understandable; these beliefs were exotic, vibrant and essentially alien to the blinkered western world view of the 1960s. Flying Saucer culture however was already deeply embedded in the British cultural psyche and, courtesy of daily newspapers throughout the 1950s, present in the lives of those who would form the hippie movement known as the English Underground.

Although the Underground took the flying saucer myth to its heart, there is scant reference to it in histories of the period. The media, too, ignored the hippies’ interest in flying saucers simply because it wasn’t as visually immediate as the ‘love-in’, posters of Hindu deities or the wild spontaneity of music festivals. But the story of the English Underground’s close encounter with ufology, although a little known area of the social history of flying saucers, is one worth telling.

In the mid 1960s, though flying saucers were being discussed among the influential group of post-beatniks and modem mystics who would form the core of the English Underground, the nascent movement lacked a voice. A figurehead was needed, someone who could breathe life into the background hum of belief in flying saucers, articulating it for the burgeoning hippie subculture.

michelThat voice came in the form of John Michel, whose influence on the English Underground cannot be overestimated. Like many of his generation Michel was disillusioned by the acquisitive post war society, “… when I was at Cambridge the whole atmosphere was extremely rationalistic materialistic. Everyone believed the current academic orthodoxies of the time and there seemed no way of questioning them”

UFOs first caught Michel’s imagination in the 1950s when he noticed, “It was quite obvious that people were having experiences that weren’t allowed for within the context of our education. There was a split between the view of the world we’d been taught and accepted unquestioningly and the world of actual experience.” To Michel flying saucers were more than just ‘nuts-and-bolts’ craft, they were one of a number of phenomena which became attached to the `Matter of Britain’. This largely concerned itself with the legends of King Arthur and the Holy Grail and was focused on the Somerset town of Glastonbury.

Glastonbury is firmly embedded in the public consciousness as a centre of all things alternate and strange. But this is not a recent phenomenon. Glastonbury has been the pulse of alternative Britain since the early 20th century and has seen wave after wave of settlers arrive there each seeking their personal Holy Grail. This vortex of the strange was well known to John Michel and, with the mysto-steam of the 60s beginning to rise, he decided to experience the ‘Glastonbury effect’ for himself.

“It was, I think, in 1966 that I first went to Glastonbury, in the company of Harry Fainlight … We had no very definite reason for going there, but it had something to do with strange lights in the, sky, new music, and our conviction that the world was about to flip over on its axis so that heresy would become orthodoxy and an entirely new world-order would shortly be revealed.”

“At that time I was writing the first of my published books, The Flying Saucer Vision. It followed up the idea, first put forward by C.J. Jung in his 1959 book on flying saucers, that the strange lights and other phenomena of the post-War period were portents of a radical change in human consciousness coinciding with the dawn of the Aquarian Age. A theme in my book was the connection between `unidentified flying objects’ and ancient sites, as evidenced both in folklore and in contemporary experience. UFOs were constantly being sighted over St Michael’s tower on Glastonbury Tor.”

And there, in that statement Michel encapsulated an entirely new way of looking at flying saucers and their meaning. But, as the old saying goes, ‘if you can remember the 60s you weren’t there’, and Michel’s version of how he came to be entangled in flying saucers and the Matter of Britain is contested by author and playwright Neil Oram, who remembers things very differently.

“I don’t know if it’s important, but it was I who turned John Michel on to the UFO phenomena in 1964. I was renting a caff off him in Islington and he told me he was thinking of going off to Mongolia. I suggested he read Donald Keyhoe and Al Bender before he went off to Mongolia. I then told him my theory that I thought Stonehenge and such places were TRANSFORMING STATIONS.

“Six months later … begining of 1965 … John came to visit me at 32 Barons Court Road, and told me of his recent adventures inside megalithic sites. I was very impressed by what he’d been doing. He’d definitely picked up the baton. He’d gone a step further on then me by taking acid on his own AT NIGHT inside these ancient centres. He was now as convinced asl was that there was a mysterious connection between moving LIGHTS and ancient gathering places.”

If Michel were the catalyst and helmsman for the hippies’ interests in flying saucers then the motive power was provided by the drug LSD, which had hit London during 1965. LSD, or acid as it soon became known, was quickly taken up by the counter-cultural mystic vanguard and suddenly everything was not only possible, it was likely!

Art gallery owner and Underground luminary Barry Miles summed up the effect of LSD on the hippies as being; ” from the mid-sixties onwards you have what would have to be called a sort of LSD consciousness permeates the whole of the counter-culture side of British society. And you get it in the songs of the Pink Floyd …, all these bands incorporate LSD inspired imagery, and that of course was not the normal imagery of love songs and picking up girls, it was much more to do with a rather sort of specifically British form of psychedelia which involved dancing gnomes and flying saucers”. Neil Oram concurred, qualifying Miles’ viewpoint with, “It wasn’t just a question of taking acid, but of taking acid IN THE RIGHT CONTEXT.. THE RIGHT CONDITIONS.”

The combination of potent psychedelics with the Matter of Britain and a new generation of seekers re-vivified Glastonbury as a spiritual centre. In addition to King Arthur, the terrestrial zodiacs and other landscape legends, flying saucers were now woven into the tapestry of belief. Issue one of the Underground magazine, Albion, edited by Michel gives the visual clues; dragons and UFOs appear in the skies over Glastonbury Tor, whilst swords, serpents and geomantic imagery is visible in the Earth. A new meaning for flying saucers was being forged and to the English Underground this blend of saucers, sacred sites and mythology was a damned sight more interesting than the nuts-and-bolts, sci-fi derived vision of the current UFO orthodoxy.

Barry Miles wasn’t particularly interested in flying saucers but he realised the power that UFO symbolism held for the hippies, “With the Indica Bookshop, which I ran, our headed notepaper in fact had an engraving from a Mayan carving, which if you look at it in one way looks like an alien flying a flying saucer.”

Miles was also aware of the attraction Glastonbury held for those in the counter culture, “The King’s Road led straight to Glastonbury in those days … The people we knew … led double lives, experimenting with acid, spending entire evenings discussing flying saucers, ley lines and the court of King Arthur. Other people waited patiently at Arthur’s Tor for flying saucers to land.” They did, and as word got round that Glastonbury was the new `window area’ for UFO sightings more and more hippies made it a place of pilgrimage.

John Michel again:

“UFOs were constantly being sighted over St Michael’s tower on Glastonbury Tor. Mark Palmer, Maldwyn Thomas and their group were then travelling with horses and carts on pilgrimages across England. They often camped near the Tor, and while I was with them we used to watch the nightly manoeuvrings of lights in the sky. Jung’s prophecy of aerial portents being followed by a change in consciousness was evidently being fulfilled.”

Craig Sams, who set up England’s first macrobiotic restaurant, was also a Glastonbury enthusiast: “I didn’t see a flying saucer till October 1967 when I went to Glastonbury. One day I got a phone call from Mark Palmer saying that it would be a good idea to come down, that there was a lot of UFO activity, that John Michel, who had just written The Flying Saucer Vision, was camping down there, and Michael Rainey. So here we are in the field and up come the UFOs. We weren’t tripping, I’d given up acid. I was completely normal, maybe I’d had a cup of tea about half an hour before … Mark Palmer saw them – they were definitely there. They were in the classic cigar-shaped mother-ship form. Little lights emanating from them. Then at one point you saw these other lights coming up towards them and the smaller lights just shot into the cigar-shaped mother-ship, which then just disappeared at high speed. The other lights had been RAF jets. It was obvious that the RAF had scrambled some jets.”

It would be easy to dismiss the Underground’s fascination with saucers if it weren’t for the fact that 1967 was a huge ‘flap’ year for UFO sightings in the UK. This wasn’t just a ‘hippie thing’, it was even happening to policemen, who chased them for hours in their patrol cars. The M.O.D. were so inundated by UFO reports they radically changed their UFO policy and set up a team of investigators to interview civilian UFO witnesses, the first time this had been done.

ufoposterAs flying saucers became further embedded in popular culture rock musicians were becoming interested in them as a means of expressing the psychedelic experience. The link between drugs, music and flying saucers was consolidated by Barry Miles and Joe Boyd when they named one of the first hippie clubs, on Tottenham Court Road, ‘UFO’. Although ‘Unidentified Flying Object’ was only one of its meanings, advertisements in International Times showed a flying saucer hovering over the head of a dancing hippie, with the phrase ‘night tripper’. Music histories of the psychedelic era use eastern influences, such as sitars and raga-like instrumentals, along with the drug references as the indicator of how ‘far out’ the music was. But there was also an aspect of psychedelia steeped in saucers and space.

Pink Floyd’s first album The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn included the atmospheric paean to deep space, Astronomy Domini, possibly the first song to use outer space as a metaphor for inner space. By their second album Pink Floyd had further absorbed saucer culture, entitling it A Saucerful of Secrets, mixing ideas of flying saucers, the secrets found inside the mind, with perhaps a nod toward a batch of potent LSD called flying saucers. The sleeve artwork left fans in no doubt that space, inner or outer, was the place; swirling universes and spinning discs mixed with signs of the zodiac, and the keynote song, Set The Controls For, The Heart Of The Sun, became the backdrop for many psychedelic journeys toward dawn.

The Rolling Stones, possibly the least spiritual band of the generation, also took an interest in saucers. John Michel accompanied the Stones on a saucer spotting mission to Stonehenge, whilst singer Marianne Faithful recalls the Stones’ ill-starred rhythm guitarist Brian Jones taking a great interest in Michel’s ideas on the subject:

“Like a lot of people at the time, myself included, he was convinced there was a mystic link between druidic monuments and flying saucers. Extraterrestrials were going to read these signs from their spaceship windows and get the message. It was the local credo: Glastonbury, ley lines and intelligent life in outer space…”

Similarly, the Stones’ Keith Richard was more than curious about saucers, “I’ve seen a few, but nothing any of the ministries would believe,” he told a Melody Maker journalist. “I believe they exist – plenty of people have seen them. They are tied up with a lot of things, like the dawn of man, for example. It’s not just a matter of people spotting a flying saucer. I’m not an expert. I’m still trying to understand what’s going on.

Throughout his career David Bowie has flirted with the idea of ‘the alien’, often mentioning extraterresirials in songs such as Starman, and creating the Ziggy Stardust persona. In the late 1960s, before he was catapulted to fame with the single Space Oddity (based on Kubrick’s film 2001-a Space Odyssey) he claimed to have been closely involved with flying saucer research. In 1975 he revealed to Creem magazine, “I used to work for two guys who put out a UFO magazine in England about six years ago. And I made sightings six, seven times a night for about a year, when I was in the observatory. We had regular cruises that came over. We knew the 6.15 was coming in and would meet up with another one. And they would be stationary for about half an hour, and then after verifying what they’d been doing that day, they’d shoot off.”

The fact that the ’6.15′ was so regular over south London should have given Bowie a hint that it may have been an airplane rather than a UFO! Bowie’s active interest in UFO research dwindled as his fame as a performer grew, but it can’t have been helped by this event, recounted in a recent issue of The Word: “An early attempt, while living in Beckenham, to attract extra-terrestrials involved standing on his roof at dusk pointing a coat hanger into the skies. He gave up, dejectedly, when a passer-by enquired, Do you get BBC2?”

The Beatles, too, flirted with saucer lore. John Lennon’s interest is well known and his UFO sighting is recorded in the song Nobody Told Me. But the genesis of this interest lay in the haze of the late 1960s. At that time the Beatles’ Apple entourage included a mysterious character called Magic Alex. He enthralled the fab four with stories of electronic wizardry and he planned to build a Beatles flying saucer. But Paul McCartney drew the line there, saying, “John and George might have agreed to donate the engines from their cars to help build this bloody flying saucer. But I certainly didn’t go that far.”

If music was one way of spreading the Flying Saucer message through the English Underground then poster art was another, equally valid, method. Artists created lavish posters for even the most small scale event, incorporating the myths, signs and symbols of the era with visual images of the music and musicians. Barry Miles recalled:

“The symbol of the flying saucer on the posters of Michael English and Nigel Weymouth and the references in all of the songs wasn’t just used as a graphic symbol or a convenient lyrical device. People did feel that flying saucers were shorthand for a wider, deeper understanding, a sort of god figure I suppose or a sense of an external spiritual deity of some sort. There was one clothes shop called Hung On You that Michael Rainey had and, he very much believed in flying saucers and there was a lot of flying saucer imagery all over the shop.”

As saucers permeated the hippy subculture they began to appear more frequently in the underground press. International Times featured many articles and book reviews concerning saucers, engaging John Michel as their ‘UFO correspondent’. In the June 16th 1967 issue, I.T. reviewed Anatomy of a Phenomenon, the first UFO book by French scientist and influential ufologist Jacques Vallee. The reviewer, Greg Sams used the argot of the period to express what a significant book it was:

“Do you believe in flying saucers? Most people with even a slightly open mind accept their existence, if only because so many reliable people have seen them … The book itself doesn’t turn you on. You must read the book and turn yourself on … If you are just beginning to be interested in saucers then read his book. If you are already convinced and want a beautiful rave with your mind, read other further out authors.” Quite!

FS OzOz was less keen. Editor Richard Neville being more interested in provoking the establishment through explorations of radical politics or sex than through modern myths. But when Neville took his eye off the ball for issue nine, leaving the work to poster artist Martin Sharp and designer John Goodchild, he was shocked at the result, “To my embarrassment it was devoted to flying saucers”. Enraged, he asked Sharp, “How can you indulge your intergalactic delusions, when Asia is a bloodbath?” Sharp’s reply typified the zeitgeist, “There are far more things in heaven and earth, Richard, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”.

The cover of Flying Saucer Oz, as it became known, featured a large flying disc, taken from a collage by the surrealist artist Max Ernst, with six coloured pages featuring a variety of quotes about the saucer phenomenon from ‘hip’ people ranging from Charles Fort to Mick Jagger.

Michel’s influence on the hippie movement coupled with his erudition was such that the ‘establishment’ couldn’t ignore him. Following the screening of UFOs and the People who See Them on BBC 1 on 9th May 1968, The Listener devoted most of that week’s issue to a discussion of flying saucers. John Michel was asked to contribute an essay which, simply entitled ‘Flying Saucers’, clearly laid out the hippie philosophy in relation to aerial phenomena. This was a blend of sightings of inexplicable lights in the sky, mixed with snippets of folklore, Glastonbury ley and dragon lines and other ephemera from the Underground’s dream world.

Listener editor Karl Miller contributed a critical piece, ‘Midsummer Nights’ Dreams’, analysing the ‘UFO cult’ and Michel’s place within it: “He is less a hippy, perhaps, than a hippy’s counsellor, one of their junior Merlins.” Recognising Michel’s influence, but keenly aware of his shortcomings, Miller wrote:

“Michel behaves like a visionary, though his language doesn’t always avoid the current jargon of the pads and barricades. He likes to talk about how the light from the midsummer sunrise shot across the land, travelling a line from holy place to holy place, starting the crops, bathing the feasts and fairs that saluted its passage. I would say that … his book is relatively weak, busying itself with sundry mysteries like that of the Marie Celeste and converting them to extra-terrestrial proofs.”

‘Straight’ society was intrigued by the hippie take on flying saucers but then, as now, saw no real evidence they could take seriously.

Just as straight society disassociated itself from the hippies, mainstream UFO enthusiasts kept their distance too, the nuts-and-bolts saucer buffs considering the hippies to be just a bunch of drug takers with strange views. The irony that straight society viewed the nuts-and-bolts crowd as being equally strange was completely lost on them!

But some influential individuals from the orthodoxy saw the hippies were receptive to new ideas, and that mercurial aristocrat of flying saucer culture, Desmond Leslie, decided to organise the UK’s first flying saucer convention for them. The conference, held during the summer of 1968 on Lusty Beg Island on Lower Lough Erne in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, near the Leslie family seat of Castle Leslie, was jointly organised by Desmond Leslie and Camilla, Countess of Eme. Camilla was a wealthy socialite with an interest in flying saucers who frequented the edges of the English Underground. Johan Quanjar remembers meeting Camilla in 1966 when he was recruiting for the recently formed Contact UK organization and she introduced him to a world where he attended “parties at which such well-known people as Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithful were present.”

It was at these hip society shindigs where the latest trends in music and far out ideas were discussed. Barry Miles remembers many such psychedelic soirees: “The people we knew … led double lives, experimenting with acid, spending entire evenings discussing flying saucers, ley lines and the court of King Arthur.”, with “Michael Rainey in Sherwood green, grinning as always, stoned, talking about UFOs”.

Now in with the incrowd Quanjar was contacted by, “… a would-be song-writer who needed a studio to record a UFO song which should have been ready in time for the UFO Fly In, on an island in Lough Erne. The song-writer and musician introduced me to the Beatles, at their office in Marylebone and I shook hands with them. The song writer was given quite costly studio time, in a Soho establishment, courtesy of Apple, the Beatles’ record company. The record was duly cut and it had a nice tune to it, but the talent was not great enough for the single to be released and it disappeared without trace.”

It’s unclear exactly who wrote this song but it is almost certain to have been one Chas Hodges, a session musician in the 1960s who eventually became half of the ‘mockney’ pop group Chas & Dave!

The Lusty Beg event was small, with attendance estimated at between 60 and 100 people. Small it may have been but many of those who did attend were movers and shakers from the English Underground.

Lusty Beg alumni included Nicholas Saunders, editor of Alternative London and founder of the Neal’s Yard shopping complex in Covent Garden. Saunders’ friend Gini Wade remembers:

“Nick was always up for an adventure, particularly if it involved something unusual. In 1968 we went to a flying saucer conference ..” Saunders himself recalled, “I was fascinated by what John Michel was saying about UFOs and ley-lines and so on, but felt pretty guarded about it too. I did go to a Flying Saucer conference on an island in the middle of a lake in the northwest of Ireland. There were all these people plodding about in the rain and the mud and there were very serious talks by people who either said that flying saucers had visited, that they’d been on flights themselves or that they’d seen them.”

One of the aims of the convention was to attract a flying saucer to display itself to the assembled crowd. Unsurprisingly this failed to take place, but the faithful took heart from the fact that a ‘strange red light’ had been seen coming to rest in a nearby field. Gini Wade again: “… most of us congratulated ourselves on having lured the aliens successfully, even if they had landed in the wrong spot.”

Another key member of the English Underground, Neil Oram, was also there. Oram had morphed from beatnik wanderer to hippy philosopher, later writing his semi-fictional memoirs as The Warp trilogy of books. In Lemmings On the Edge, Oram describes the scene as they arrived at the shores of Lough Eme:

“At the water’s edge we were met by Michael Roner, who took us across the choppy lake in a battered rowing boat which was equipped with a noisy, erratic outboard motor. Apart from the big white house on the lawn, the rest of the island was overgrown, without a trace of permanent habitation. Although now, there were, camp fires and tents scatterea`all over the wooded hills, which rose quite steeply from the beach.”

Desmond Leslie was responsible for organizing the conference lectures, held each evening in a large marquee. Scant information now exists as to exactly who gave spoke, but Neil Oram remarks that they consisted of “rather dull pronouncements of what lay in store for the human race”. According to Oram, “It wasn’t until the fourth night that we were given some real information, by an ex-Australian Air Force radar expert.” This impressed Oram, “It made my hair stand on end when we learnt that he’d picked up unidentified craft, whose estimated diameter was in the region of three hundred miles! MILES! Traveling in excess of one hundred THOUSAND miles an hour!”

On the last night of the ‘fly-in’ Desmond Leslie introeduced a young Irishman called Gerald to the audience. Gerald claimed to have had what would now be termed an abduction experience. He related a story of how, walking home from a dance across an isolated area of moorland, he saw three coloured lights descending on him, after which he awoke on a bed in a circular, red, room which hummed. He was ordered to strip and a female humanoid figure seduced him. Afterwards she told him, “All you earth people are strange”. The next thing he knew he was back on the moorland road with the three coloured lights receding in the sky above him.

This story, with its obvious echoes of the well publicized Villas Boas case, was too much for some of the assembled hippies and vigorous arguments broke out. Even John Michel was dubious, questioning Gerald as to how he could be sure he was in a spaceship. As the arguments raged, Gerald slipped away and Desmond Leslie was left to calm the crowd. Gini Wade recalled the abductee being, “invited back to London where he was feted in Notting Hill, but he turned out to be a fraud and was spat out again.”

Another well known face on the London scene, Dave Tomlin, attended the Lusty Beg conference. Tomlin had been a member of famous underground experimental bands including Sun Trolley and the Third Ear Band. He remembers, “… people camped in the woods who went in the evenings or afternoons for lectures or talks.” Tomlin believed the hippies adopted flying saucers as “one of their credos”, certain the spacemen were going to come because “one way or another this would be the only way to save the planet, because it was quite obvious what was going on.”

But Johan Quanjar’s experience of the event was not as positive. He notes that while, “Dozens of people had descended on the island for fun, jollity and invocation of higher energies. By the end of the week the entire hippy UFO community had gone native. They had formed separate tribes with some not speaking to others.”

Leslie, desmondFor Desmond Leslie [left] however, the Lusty Beg Fly-In had been an enormous success and on his return to Castle Leslie he penned a flowery account of the event which amplified the growing connections between saucers and the mythology of Britain.

“So we are back, drenched with spray and sun from that magical island on Lough Erne where our Fly-In eventually took place, an island which saw the arrival of the Tuatha de Danaan, the space people who came to Ireland thousands of years ago, an island in the far West, hardly changed since their silvery chariots rose in the far western skies and became invisible. But their presence is still there: all around us were fairy rings, stone circles, ceremonial causeways and a lost timelessness, uncontaminated by later civilisations … some of us went to White Island … others went to the stone circles of Boa Island and made mental contact with the Space Brothers. On Friday at six o’clock by the sun we had our ‘think in’ and many managed to make mental contact and exchange feelings of brotherly love with the elder Ones…”

This event was as close as the hippie subculture ever got in organizing its interest in flying saucers, and they were rapidly losing that interest. Too many other fantastic possibilities vied for their attention, and when you’ve explored inner space, outer space could seem positively tedious. Essentially those among the English Underground who took an avid interest in flying saucers did so, not out of certain belief, but from a desire to explore possibilities. When the flying saucer experience didn’t deliver the goods or, as the hippies saw on Lusty Beg, it descended into conflict and argument, they didn’t want to know.

Poet and author Barry Gifford, whose novel Wild at Heart was used by David Lynch as the basis for the film, sojourned as a hippy in late 1960s London. In The Duke of Earls Court Gifford writes of his interest in flying saucers and refers to an incident when a friend, Ace, invited the editor of Flying Saucer Review to dinner. The clash of cultures was inevitable:

“It was obvious upon his entrance that the editor, an ordinary-looking, balding, middle-aged man in a dark gray threepiece suit, was visibly shaken by the den of freaks to which he had unwittingly lent his presence. He had no idea, he said, attempting to smile, that the dinner was to be such an event. After answering a few desultory questions about saucers it was clear that the editor wanted to be anywhere else but with those people. The food was macrobiotic and when he enquired what was in the meal was told, ‘Brown rice, kasha, bulgur, soy, miso. The food of the people. It makes you high’. Mention of the word ‘high’ caused the editor to drop his fork, obviously afraid that the meal had been spiked with drugs of some form. He left soon afterwards, pleading a prior engagement.”

Flying Saucers continued to be courted by the English Underground in the dying embers of the 60s, but by 1970 the hippie movement had become subsumed into the broader spectrum of youth culture and was no longer fresh. You could buy kaftans in Marks and Spencers, and like all youth movements, it had been diluted and re-packaged by commercial interests, being sold rather than invented. Those who had been heavily involved in saucerdom moved swiftly on. For everyone else the subject of UFOs was now just another hip belief to be `into’, the publishing floodgates opened and books on earth mysteries, witchcraft, astrology, occultism and mysticism offered other ways of thinking and being.

Were it not for the hippies’ interest in flying saucers, nurtured by John Michel, the interest in Earth Mysteries, folklore and ancient sacred sites we are experiencing in the 21st century would not have taken place. This brief burst of drug fuelled exploration cross-pollinated many fortean subjects, the results of which we are still seeing now. Where mainstream ufology was mired in the yes/no argument about the physical reality of UFOs, the hippies treated the subject as just one in a long line of possibly useful ideas.

This dichotomy of attitude between the hippie and the straight view of saucers was aptly summed up in an exchange between Barry Gifford and his friend, after the FSR editor had fled their dinner party. Referring to the editor’s ‘stuffy’ attitude Ace pointed out to Gifford: “But it’s ok man, it really is, he’s a dedicated cat. I mean he’s never seen one, but he really believes in them flying saucers.”

“So do you,” Gifford said. Ace nodded. “Sure, man, sure I do. The difference between him and me is that I’m not so bloody serious about it.”


UFO Hoaxing: Stephen Darbishire and Alex Birch
Part Two, Alex Birch.
David Clarke and Andy Roberts

From Magonia 75, July 2001

Part Two: The Alex Birch Photograph

In 1962 Alex Birch was one year older than Stephen Darbishire had been when he took the photographs that changed his life. His single black and white picture has since entered the UFO mythology as one of the best-known photographic hoaxes – or was it? Alex’s family were considerably less financially well-off than the Darbishire’s; the Birch parents lived in a modest house at Mosborough, at that time in Derbyshire but actually on the outskirts of the industrial Yorkshire city of Sheffield. Like Stephen Darbishire, Alex had a Catholic upbringing and it is clear that his parents Margaret and Alex senior had an open mind on subjects such as spiritualism and flying saucers.

Alex also had the backing of additional witnesses who initially pledged to stick by the story through thick and thin. They were Alex’s schoolpal David Brownlow aged 12 and an older friend, Stuart Dixon, then 16 years. of age. The instrument of ufological alchemy was a one-year-old box Brownie 127 camera which Alex continues to treasure, despite a recent bid from the Roswell Museum in New Mexico, who wanted to turn it into one of their exhibits. (27)


"The instrument of ufological alchemy was a one-year-old box Brownie 127"

It was a grey Sunday morning in March and the trio were fooling around in a field near the British Oak pub five miles from Sheffield City Centre. Today the pub is surrounded not by trees but by modern housing developments. In uncannily similar circumstances to those described by Stephen Darbishire, Alex was taking experimental pictures with his new camera – snaps of a dog, of Stuart jumping into the air, of a stone being thrown and then, lo and behold… a formation of flying saucers! Five in all, hanging in the air, with dazzling white blobs emerging from their dark saucershaped fuselages. “I got my camera up and took a shot of them,” Alex told the Derbyshire Times. “A second or so later they disappeared at terrific speed towards Sheffield.” (28)

Alex soon became the centre of a whirlwind of publicity. His photo appeared first in the Yorkshire newspapers, then in the nationals during the summer of 1962, whilst the part played by the other two boys faded into the background. Alex’s father and his English teacher Colin Brook, both sympathetic to ET visitations, played a similar role to Dr Darbishire, promoting the pictures and playing heavily upon the naivety and natural honesty of young Alex. His father in particular played a major part in the promotion of the picture to newspapers and UFO societies. In a letter to Flying Saucer Review published in 1963, Birch senior wrote: “…I myself was a non-believer in these objects … [but now] I am firmly convinced that we are being visited by flying saucers of other planets.” (29)

Within months 14-year-old Alex was retracing the steps of his Cambrian predecessor, visiting London to address the inaugural meeting of the British UFO Research Association in Kensington on September 22, 1962. A contemporary, account of the meeting described how the schoolboy addressed a crowd of more than 200 members of UFO societies from across the country “… he seemed dwarfed by the speaker’s stand as he spoke faultlessly for four minutes.” (30)

BUFORA enthusiastically endorsed his pictures following an analysis conducted by one of their ‘experts’, Alan Watts. He concluded his report with the comment: “If we want the truth I would say we couldn’t do better than take these to be fairly normal Adamski-type saucers and argue it out from there.” (31) The editor of Flying Saucer Review, Waveney Girvan went further suggesting the saucer pilots were interested in Sheffield because “if there is life of any sort inside these flying objects it presumably needs water to sustain it …and Sheffield is surrounded by reservoirs.” (32) Predictably, the publicity that Alex’s photo received sparked a major flap in the Sheffield and Yorkshire region during the autumn of 1962 with dozens of others ‘seeing’ UFOs above the city. (33)

But the real highlight of the year was Alex’s visit to the very seat of power – Whitehall. Official interest was encouraged by Alex’s father who took it upon himself to contact the Air Ministry in July 1962. He informed them of the existence of his son’s photograph and said he was “awaiting instructions.” (34) After declining to make a field investigation, the Air Ministry slowly and reluctantly agreed to take a look at Alex’s photo in the face of mounting publicity. Alex and father subsequently paid a visit to Whitehall in a trip sponsored by the Yorkshire Post newspaper.

When the group arrived at the Ministry building the journalist was carefully separated from the Birch family and taken to visit the Public Relations office. Meanwhile, Alex was questioned by the two senior RAF officers whose job it was in 1962 to monitor UFO reports. These were Flight Lieutenant R.H. White of S6 – a predecessor of Nick Pope’s Secretariat (Air Staff) 2A – and a “technical consultant”, Flight Lieutenant Anthony Bardsley of the more shadowy Air Intelligence department DDI (Tech). An internal MoD account described the atmosphere at the meeting as “cordial (andl both Mr Birch and his son were prepared to talk about it [the photograph] at length.” (35)

Mr Birch senior seemingly had another agenda. In Flying Saucer Review he claimed his son was “sick with fear” when the interview began and said the officials “started what I will call a brainwash… asking him wasn’t it any reflection that he saw and what was the weather like, what were the formations of cloud… the questions they must have repeated at least thirty times…” (36)

In the re-telling the length of the interview at Whitehall increased from two hours to three (in FSR) and then to seven hours when recalled by Alex in 1998. He remembered walking up the steps of Whitehall with his father where the pair “met a man in a tweed jacket, flannels and a dickie-bow. We went down long corridors into a room where there were some men and a doctor. They took the negative and the camera and kept them overnight, taking the camera apart. They asked me all these questions for so long I got muddled, telling me they were not flying saucers but Russians,” (37)

Reading the Air Ministry file on the Birch case, preserved at the Public Record Office, it becomes clear that White and Bardsley did not believe the boy’s story but could not say so publically. In an internal memo dated September 24, 1962, released in 1993 under the ’30 year rule’, Bardsley writes to a colleague in S6: “…it is a relatively simple task to reproduce an identical photograph to the one we were shown… the sequence of exposures on the two strips of negatives we saw do not exactly fit the boy’s story.” Bardslev summed up his exasperation: “…perhaps this brief outline of these doubts will assist you in deciding what on earth you can write to Mr Birch.” (38)

After much deliberation, S6 decided on a classic fudge. In a letter sent to Mr Birch senior, and subsequently released by the family to the Press, the Ministry suggested the objects shown in the photograph were “ice particles in the atmosphere” an explanation that was rejected by just about everyone including the editor of Flying Saucer Review, Charles Bowen, who questioned whether the Air Ministry really believed their own explanation, which of course they didn’t!

To many observers, including Alex Birch senior, the Air Ministry statement simply confirmed their belief in an official cover-up. Birch claimed it was this statement that actually led him to believe flying saucers were extaterrestrial “and what is more, the Air Ministry knows also but won’t admit it.” (39)

Alex Birch had his brief moment of fame, and by 1972 the bubble had burst. By that time he had moved home several times but was still pursued by people he describes as “nutcases” and their endless questions about the saucers. Newly married with his first child on the way, continual ridicule led him to phone the Daily Express and admit the ‘flying saucers’ were simply cut out shapes pasted on a sheet of glass and re-photographed. According to his story, his father only learned the truth the day before the newspapers carried the story and begged him not to go ahead with the plan. The Sheffield Telegraph quickly tracked down another of the trio, David Brownlow, who confirmed the whole thing was a joke which snowballed.(40)

And there it stood until 1998 when, in the midst of short-lived UFO revival that accompanied the popular TV series The X-Files, Alex – now in his mid-50s and a successful antiques dealer – courted publicity once again. This time his story followed a familiar route taken by Stephen Darbishire as a result of his 1959 ‘confession’: it was the hoax that was in itself a hoax – the photograph was genuine after all!

“I did become internationally famous but I also faced a lot of ridicule and pressure,” Birch told Pete Moxon of Sheffield-based White’s Newsagency. “I decided to claim that it was a fake in hope that it would all go away and the pressure would be taken off me. But it didn’t work out like that… the UFO fraternity didn’t believe me, and they even called a conference in London and came to the conclusion that my change of story was due to pressure (from the Government!” (41)

Why had Alex waited until 1998 to tell the whole truth? “The reason I’ve decided to let the real story be known now is because I think it is important that the public should know.” Unfortunately. Alex’s two former schoolpals didn’t see it that way. David Brownlow and Stuart Dixon were still resident in Mosborough and both were contacted by the Sheffield Star before Alex was able to speak directly to them. Both men independently dismissed Alex’s new claim, although Stuart Dixon was later to retract his original statement but only after meeting his old friend for the first time since 1962.

Brownlow, however, was having none of it. “It was a hoax,” he told us. “Alex has always run with it more than we have. It was painted on glass. We were just messing around in Alex’s dad’s greenhouse when we had the idea to do it. We were all into Quatermass and War of the Worlds at the time. It was Alex’s idea to take the photo but then his dad and a teacher at the school got hold of it and we all got swept along with the hoax which just snowballed. Itwas an incredible experience and we had our ten minutes of fame, but I just want to forget about it now.” (42)

The most recent, and amusing, revival of the Alex Birch saga came via the pages of Flying Saucer Review. When, in the closing year of the 20th century, Birch’s latest claims reached the grand old man of British ufology, Gordon Creighton could not conceal his delight. The Birch photograph, Creighton assured the dwindling band of FSR subscribers, long dismissed as a schoolboy prank was genuine after all. It had been examined by none other than Kodak, who had pronounced it genuine and it was known also that the British Air Ministry and the Pentagon had received copies of the print “and conducted their own enquiries.” (43) Not only that, when Birch and his father visited the Air Ministry “the main preoccupation of the officials was to get both of them bundled rapidly out of London and back to Yorkshire before the journalists could discover their presence in the city.” In making this statement, he overlooked the fact that Alex’s visit to London had been made possible by the Birch’s own newspaper, the Yorkshire Post, a fact reported in FSR at that time!

Creighton’s obsession with the British Monarchy and his belief that they hold ‘secret knowledge’ of extraterrestrials denied to the public was woven into this latest twist in the tale. “Although I have no proof of this,” he wrote. “It seems pretty likely that Birch senior and his son were also invited to visit Buckingham Palace to discuss their case either with the Duke of Edinburgh himself or with his equerry.” (44)

Alex’s 1972 confession, Creighton added, had “little if any effect” upon what he called “the serious UFO research fraternity” but it clearly impressed FSR’s then editor, Charles Bowen. The implication was that it was not as easy to pull the wool over the eyes of the current editor. Large amounts of energy and money had been put into campaign to ridicule and denigrate witnesses such as Alex who had produced “dangerous photographs” and as a result were coerced or forced to put out “confessions.”

FSR’s editor could not resist the opportunity to pull out the ace from his sleeve, a case which supported his claims about the Birch photos in every respect. “Much has been done to try to destroy the authenticity of the other famous schoolboy photo, the Darbyshire [sic] one of 1954,” wrote Creighton. “But so far as we know, never without any success, and Stephen Darbyshire [sic] never issued a ‘confession’ and still asserts that his photo was totally authentic.” (45)

Like the saucers themselves the stories never stop spinning. For every person who ‘believes’ that Birch and Darbishire captured `structured objects of unknown origin’ on film you can easily find an equal and opposite sceptical view that both photographs were simple hoaxes.

In between there is every shade of belief and tortuous justification such as this example from the LUFORO Bulletin of July 1962. Using the logic of the believer the writer suggests that:

“on a cloudy day in February 1954, one of these objects sought out Stephen Darbishire who had a camera with him, and that in February 1962, on a cloudy day (giving cover) a group sought out Alex Birch who had a camera with him. This is a relationship or a group of relationships and is evidence for the following possibility: after the disbelief that greeted Adamski, how logical of these space visitors to give evidence of their actuality to boys of an age not to be considered quite knowledgeable enough to have fabricated evidence, yet old enough to be recipients of it. Both Stephen Darbishire, at the time, and Alex Birch had the intelligent presence of mind to point the camera, click the shutter, and move on the film. How many adults would have done so well; were these boys selected’?” (46)

Join the dots time. From Adamski to Darbishire to Birch, the saucer neatly squared in just a few words. ‘Objects’ without objectivity, unexplained photographs as evidence of ‘space visitors’, schoolchildren promoted as unconscious harbingers of the invaders. Neither Birch nor Darbishire are teenagers any longer, but they can’t escape from the monsters they helped create. Birch chose to follow his calling throughout his adult life whilst Darbishire retreated as quickly as possible from his creation. Like many others in the UFO cottage industry Alex Birch launched his own website, www.ufo-images.ndirect-co. uk. Yet in the same mercurial fashion as Birch’s sighting, the web site was there one day gone the next.

However, its existence and content gave further clues as to just how deeply Birch’s ‘UFO’ photograph had affected his life and maybe , some clues towards his original motivation. On his “fantastic site for UFO buffs and everyone else,” the web surfer could read about the Birch sighting, see and order copies of the photograph and purchase copies of the Air Ministry report. The experiences of the father have now been passed down to his son, Adrian, who advertises quality hand-crafted wooden models of classic UFOs, based upon those reported by 1950s contactees George Adamski and Howard Menger. It was an uncritical site, designed to market the case and to inform people about the sightings and how Alex saw mankind in the cosmic scheme of things. Echoing the apocalyptic fears expressed by many UFO witnesses and contactees, Birch wrote: “Perhaps we are in the infancy of our species. We peer into the Dark, fearing it, yet seeking within it a reassurance that we are not alone. Perhaps in the black void are beings not unlike us, but maybe wiser, better, who will tell us secrets that will save Us from Ourselves.”

Perhaps. But whether Birch’s ‘dark’, his `black void’, refers to deep space or the deeper spaces of the human mind is open to conjecture. As Diane Purkiss writes in her history of fairies and fairy stories, “The human mind cannot bear very much blankness… where we do not know, we invent and what we invent reflects our fears of what we do not know.” (47) Birch’s evocations from the dark have remained with him since that day in 1962 and now form a mainstay of his world view. Like his UFOs, over the past 39 years he has flickered in and out of the public eye trying to make sense of nonsense, trying to get us to see it his way.

Stephen Darbishire, child artist extraordinary, is now a sought after artist, living in remote rural seclusion. Our afternoon spent with him was more an exercise in semantics and verbal strategy than a witness interview, as the quotes in this article demonstrate. He said he didn’t really want to talk about his experience, but evidently couldn’t bear not to. Darbishire had, by his own agency, been to the heart of the ufological labyrinth and returned safely, able to relax in his farm house kitchen and play games with the past. He was luckier than most. He knew that we knew that he knew. But none of us could say it outright. Birch, on the other hand, was more evangelical, still trapped, still justifying, pleased to pose with the original camera and prints.

In 2001 the problems surrounding Birch’s photograph are no more resolved that in 1962. Indeed, the case is more complicated not least because of Alex’s claims of a lifetime of paranormal phenomena, experiences shared to some degree by his wife, children and other independent witnesses. (48) If the photo is a fake, then is Alex lying about these experiences too? If so are his family also lying? Why would anyone create such a web of deceit around themselves for no discernable reason? Yet what are the alternatives? Questions tumble over themselves in desperation to be asked, but any answers merely beg further questions. Only blind acceptance or outright accusation seem to offer any relief from the tension they created through the cameras lens.

Maybe it’s all as true as both Birch and Darbishire originally claimed, and five strange light emitting objects and one translucent domed Adamaski craft were really, objectively there in the physical sense, visible to the naked eye, trapped on film.

What then? We are still no nearer to divining what either boys actually caught on film. Or maybe – and this is certainly our belief, borne out by the interviews and evidence available – the photographs were both faked. But does that reduce them to mindless schoolboy pranks which got out of hand, or must we look deeper and acknowledge they were the outward expressions of Alex’s saucer-haunted life and Darbishire’s immense artistic and creative talents? These two photographs have taken on lives of their own, shaping the lives and beliefs of many UFO buffs, leading individuals further into the saucerous labyrinth which is ufology.

The parallels with the Cottingley fairy photographs are almost too obvious to mention. Again children – two cousins – were involved and again their stories were accepted by adults who wanted to believe. The two girls corroborated each other’s story and once it had become an article of faith, they found it impossible to confront the ‘truth’. In the Cottingley case it was only 60 years after the event when one of the girls, by then in her 80s, was confronted with undeniable evidence, finally admitted the they had faked the photographs. Even then, the other cousin swore that although most of the fairy photographs were hoaxes they were produced to prove to others the reality of the beings seen at Cottingley Beck. One of the group of pictures, she maintained, did show real fairies! (49)

The Peter Pan nature of childhood can convince us that our beliefs are as objectively real as the world of grown-ups. Or more importantly that they should be real enough for the adult world to see. So why not a little photographic alchemy to help things along, create a`rcality’ of vicarious experience.

Consider also the role of svengali like figures in at least one of the cases we have considered. Whilst the Cottingley Fairies led Conan Doyle, hard-headed contriver of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, up the garden path, Stephen Darbishire had Desmond Leslie. Leslie comes across as a trickster figure manipulating both witnesses and the subject itself, making random links between imconnected sightings.

Ultimately, no one knows the truth behind the Birch and Darbishire photographs but themselves. And, as we’ve shown they are no longer in charge of their own teenage narratives, having had them taken away by the adult world of the media and ufology, cut up and fed back to them so many times that their experiences are no longer their own. The original negatives are long gone and both Alex and Stephen have, by their own admission, intentionally blurred the line between reality and fantasy, asking, at various times for both, to be accepted as the truth. As investigators in these cases we find ourselves caught up in the dilemma that anything we write will also affect what others choose to believe, but won’t change what happened – and is still happening – to either Birch or Darbishire.

So, be warned. If your children claim to have photographed UFOs or any other mythical phenomena at the bottom of the garden, or if like Moses they return from the mountains bearing emulsion coated saucer scrolls their lives, and possibly yours, will never be the same again.

We prefer leave the last word to one of the three witnesses to the Birch case, Stuart Dixon, who said in 1999: “I find it far better and simpler to let people think what they want to about that photo. I don’t care anymore”



The authors wish to thank Stephen Darbishire, Alex Birch, David Brownlow and Stuart Dixon for granting interviews. Thank you also to Nick Redfern for copies of the PRO file on Alex Birch and Peter Hough for allowing access to the tape recording of his 1993 interview with Darbishire, conducted with Dr Harry Hudson. We wish to make it clear that the views expressed in this article are not shared by Hough or Hudson.



26. “Alex Birch tells his story,” Flying Saucer Review vol 9/1, 22 (Jan/Feb 1963)
27. Sheffield Star, 9 February 1999
28. Derbyshire Times (Chesterfield), 22 June 1962
29. “The Censors at Work,” Flying Saucer Review vol 912, 7 (March/April 1963)
30. FSR vol 911, 22.
31. Report by Alan Watts in BUFORA case file, 620009 dated 21 September 1962.
32. “Flying Saucers: The evidence runs on straight lines,” by Waveney Girvan, Sheffield Telegraph Weekend Magazine, 1 September 1962
33. See Clarke, Randles & Roberts, The UFOs that Never Were. London: London House, 2000, p 129-30
34. PRO Air 2116918, letter from A. Birch (snr.) to Air Ministry, 2 July 1962
36. PRO Air 2116918
36. Interview with Alex Birch, 6 Nov. 1998 37. PRO Air 2116918 38. FSR Vo19/2, 7
39. Sheffield Telegraph, 6 October 1972 40. Yorkshire Post (Leeds), 5 March 1999
41. Interview with David Brownlow, 3 December 1998
42. File 7824 Project Blue Book, National Archives, Washington D.C. contains a b/w print of the Birch photo and brief details of the 1962 sighting. The conclusion reads: “Insufficient data for evaluation. Negatives not with prints. No request made for photo analysis.” The photo was also reproduced in an article by CIA Chief Historian Gerald Haines “A Die Hard Issue: CIA’s role in the study of UFOs, 1947-90″ Studies in Intelligence, summer 1997, p. 70.
43. FSR vol 45/2 (summer 2000), 9-11
44. “Air Ministry Examines Saucer Photograph,” LUFORO Bulletin, Vol , JulyAugust 1962.
46. Purkiss, Diana. Troublesome Things, Alan Lane, 2000, p.11.
46. See David Clarke and Andy Roberts “Flash, Bang, Wallop – Wot a Picture,” in The UFOs that Never Were, p 136-41
47. See Cooper, Joe. The Cottingley Fairies (London: Robert Hale, 1990) and Sunday Telegraph (London), 12 July 1998.
48. Interview with Stuart Dixon, 6 April 1999


Return to Part One: Stephen Darbishire


UFO Hoaxing: Stephen Darbishire and Alex Birch.
Part One Stephen Darbishire.
David Clarke and Andy Roberts

Stephen Darbishire and Adrian Meyer [Illustrated magazine, February 12, 1955]
Stephen Darbishire and Adrian Meyer – from Illustrated magazine, February 12, 1955

From Magonia 75, July 2001


Whenever ufologists turn their attention to the subject of hoaxing within their subject the fundamental gulf between sceptics and believers is brought sharply into focus. Those who choose to invest belief in the ETH and other exotic explanations for the UFO phenomenon tend towards the simplistic party line that, yes, hoaxes exist, but they are few and far between and have little effect on `serious ufology’. Sceptics and more open-minded students of flying saucery are a little more realistic.

It’s perfectly true that as a percentage of investigated UFO cases, known hoaxes represent a tiny fraction. But simple bean counting misses the point entirely. UFO hoaxes may be small in number but those which exist have had a massive impact upon the subject, and have been far reaching in their influence.

Hoaxes are rarely just standard UFO reports. They are invariably photographic or document based. This makes them an easily displayable, marketable media commodity. Whereas a single witness sighting of a brightly lit UFO may only get, at best, a few column inches in a newspaper, a UFO hoax photograph, such as that created by Gordon Faulkner during the 1965 Warminster flap, will receive national media coverage. In turn this sort of exposure can add a stamp of validity (however specious) on to a hitherto disparate collection of UFO reports, turning local a flap into a national phenomenon. And so the cycle continues.

Listing and discussing known hoaxes would be tedious. The information is available in the literature for those who wish to seek it out. Most of you will already be familiar with it, and how hoaxes like Gulf Breeze, MJ-12 etc have affected the subject. One small part of our research in recent years has focussed upon those suspected hoaxes that had a huge impact upon the media and ufology but, more importantly, have continued to influence the witness/perpetrator, We all too often forget that people lie at the centre of the UFO mystery and what happens to individuals who are thrust into the public eye, and how their views about their alleged experience/s change and mutate over the years, is often forgotten or overlooked.

The cases under discussion here exemplify the problem in that they are in the borderlands, being neither 100% proven hoaxes or unequivocally from ‘out there’ but continue to exert a deep influence upon the public perception of UFO mythology. The Alex Birch and Stephen Darbishire photographs are classic UFO photographs, much written about and much speculated upon. Both these cases impacted hard on British ufology. As we will see they impacted even harder on those involved with them. They also give an important insight into the nature of hoaxing and into the heart of early British ufology.

UFO cases come and go, witness names and case details used like happy family cards to justify one theory or to trump another. Classic cases are repeated by rote, the humanity ripped out of them to satisfy UFOlogical obsessions and facts. It’s the frequent cry in Internet rooms such as UFOupdates that sceptics don’t take witness testimony seriously, but how many of these smug internet keyclickers take the trouble to track down witnesses to classic cases and or try to make sense of their stories? We did. Whether there is any sense, whether their stories are true or false only you can decide.

The Stephen Darbishire photograph

Flying saucers arrived in the British Isles in the late summer of 1950, when two popular weekend newspapers, the Sunday Dispatch and the Sunday Express, launched a major media promotion campaign. Both papers competed to serialise the seminal books by Major Donald Keyhoe Plying Saucers are Real, Frank Scully’s Behind the Flying Saucers and Gerald Heard’s Riddle of the Flying Saucers. Behind the scenes, the editor of the Sunday Dispatch, Charles Eade, was quietly encouraged to promote flying saucer stories bv his friend Lord Mountbatten, whom he had served as Press officer during the Second World War (3). Mountbatten, who was at that time a personal believer in the ET origin of the saucers, felt the subject should be taken seriously and wanted to make the public aware of the ‘evidence.’

The Sunday Dispatch played an influential role in creating the first real flying saucer invasion of Britain. The popular newspaper featured saucer sightings prominently on page 1 on a number of occasions throughout the early 1950s much to the chagrin of its rivals, but Eade took great pains to protect the source for his original story that he claimed in October 1950 was “bigger than the Atom Bomb wars.” Partly as a result of this first tabloid-style hype, the Dispatch’s circulation rose from a mere 700,000 copies in the late 40s to 2,400,000 when Eade left the editor’s seat in 1957. (4)

The flying saucers had arrived and the ground was prepared for ever more bizarre and incredible stories. By the autumn of 1953 when George Adamski’s book with Desmond Leslie, Flying Saucers Have Landed was first published the Britain, the public were already primed to accept the incredible (5). It was an era of rapid technological progress and great optimism that mankind would soon be taking steps into outer space. As a result, the British public eagerly lapped up the stories describing military jets outpaced by saucers and puzzled over the photographs taken by a humble American farmer, Paul Trent, allegedly showing a flying disc (again featured on page 1 of the Sunday Dispatch). The next logical step was a story claiming a flying saucer had landed, followed by the first photograph taken in the British Isles. Both events were to follow in the space of little more than 18 months.

“… It had to happen- It has happened. A flying saucer has landed , in the United States!”

This was how science editor Maurice Goldsmith opened the story published in the October 3, 1953 edition of the popular London-bascd magazine Illustrated. Entitled ‘Happy Landings from Outer Space’ the article featured a half-page b/w reproduction of the classic ‘bottle cooler’ photograph taken by US contactee George Adamski at Palomar Gardens, California, on December 13, 1952. The photo it was said, depicted a flying saucer ‘Scout Ship’ 35 feet in diameter, complete with three portholes and three ‘landing spheres’.

Also featured in the magazine were photographs of six flying saucers and a cigar-shaped ‘Mother Ship’ taken on March 5, 1951 and an artist’s impression of the ‘man from Venus’ Adamski claimed to have met near at Desert Centre, Arizona, in November the following year. Goldsmith adopted a tongue-in-cheek stance throughout his extended review of the book and concluded dryly: “…unfortunately, Adamski*s logic is poor and I am prepared to wager that if ever I see life from Venus it will not look anything like me, or Mr Adamski or the being he encountered.” (6)

Many thousands of people read the article in Illustrated, and the follow-ups that appeared in the national newspapers during the winter of 1953-54. Adamski’s photographs and claims were transmitted across the world, and the exciting story of visitors from other planets were the very stuff of schoolboy fantasy. So widespread were the stories that news of the arrival of the flying saucers reached Little Arrow Farm at Torver, in the beautiful surroundings of the English Lake District, during the winter of 1953-54. Little Arrow was the home of Dr S. B. Darbishire, a GP who had retired to run a small farm in the fells below Coniston Old Man (2,575 ft). He had a son, Stephen, then aged 13, an intelligent, creative boy who had displayed a talent for art that he would eventually develop into a career as an adult.

Dr Darbishire had been brought up as a Quaker and his son Stephen says he had “a good sense of humour and a very inquiring mind; he would accept nothing, questioned everything he was told and loved excitement.” More excitement than many people experience in a lifetime was soon to follow. Within six months of the publication of Adamski’s book, Stephen became the first person in England to take photographs of a ‘flying saucer’ hovering near the Old Man.

The story began – as in so many other UFO photo cases – as a result of what Stephen describes as “an accident” of history. On the morning of February 15, 1954, Stephen – then a pupil at Ulverston Grammar School – and his eight-year old cousin Adrian Meyer set off for an expedition on the slopes of the fell below the Old Man armed with an “old fashioned” Kodak box camera recently purchased by his father. To this day, Stephen maintains that at this point he knew “absolutely nothing” about the subject of flying saucers. According to Desmond Leslie’s account the youngster experienced “a nagging persistent restlessness” that fateful morning, as if something was urging him that he must go up the hill behind his home: “…he could not tell why: he merely knew he had to.” (7)

The pair planned to take pictures of birds and other wildlife in a small hill valley on the slopes below the Old Man. Stephen immediately raises doubts about the reality status of the photographs he obtained when, today, he recalls how: “My cousin and I had been fooling around taking pictures… [doing] trick photography and lots of other exciting things with it, double images, ghosts, jumping off rooftops and that sort of thing.”

What happened next is a little ‘out of focus’ – as were the photographs that resulted from this encounter with ‘the unknown.’ According to the story told by the boys in 1954 it was Adrian who first drew Stephen’s attention to something odd in the sky in the direction of the mountain. The older boy was at that moment looking in the opposite direction, towards Lake Coniston when Adrian thumped him on the back and exclaimed: ‘Look what on earth’s that’?” pointing to the sky above Dow Crag. The ‘object’, according to the first published account (in the Lancashire Evening Post, Preston, February 18, 1954) had a silvery. glassy appearance, shining “like aluminium in the sunlight.” It glided towards them from the direction of Coniston. descending until it disappeared behind a piece of high ground, once again coming into view again a few seconds later. It approached within 400 yards of two startled boys, travelling at tremendous speed, and then stopped suddenly and hovered, noiselessly, in the sky.

Stephen told a reporter they could clearly see every detail: “The object was glistening and it was a silvery milky colour. You could tell the outline of it very plainly indeed and see portholes along the upper part, and a thing which looked like a hatch on top. There were three bumps underneath and the centre of the underneath part was of a darker colour. I took the first picture when it was moving very slowly about three or four hundred yards away and then it disappeared from my view as there was some undergrowth in the way. When it came into sight again I took another picture but then it suddenly went up into the sky in a great swish. As it went upwards it tilted and I could see the underneath side more clearly. There was some sort of whistling sound as it went up which I think was the wind.” (8)

Immediately the boys ran down to Little Arrow Farm where they found Dr Darbishire and the family watching TV, oblivious to the events unfolding outside. Stephen recalls how the two excited youngsters rushed into the farmhouse and blurted out how they “had seen something strange … I think I used the words ‘a flying saucer’ and of course evervone fell about laughing and said ‘oh yes. Stephen, you’ve been up to your tricks again.”‘ Stephen’s father, according to Desmond Leslie, “frankly did not believe it” but made his son sit down and write a statement and make a sketch of what he had seen within half an hour of the sighting taking place.

Stephen quickly produced some remarkable and accomplished pencil sketches of a classic Adamski ‘flying saucer’ before his two photographs were reproduced in celluloid. They consisted of two detailed drawings of a ‘Scout Ship’, complete with turret, three portholes and landing gear, almost but not exactly identical to those which had appeared in the magazine Illustrated during October 1953. Other sketches depict the craft at different angles, possibly showing its method of departure. In longhand beneath the drawings appear the words: “Drawing by Stephen Darbishire, aged 13 years, of what he saw, done before the two photographs of the flying saucer had been developed.” (9)

Dr Darbishire delivered the film for development to a lab in Coniston village while Stephen was away, staying with his godmother. When the film was returned the retired GP could not believe his eves. For the final two frames on the film did show a fuzzy, saucer-shaped object apparently suspended above a grassy hillock. Although out of focus, in the best picture it is possible to pick out what appear to be ‘dark portholes’ and three ‘landing domes’ as described by Stephen at the time.

Stephen recalled: “When I came back my father greeted me off the bus at 8 o’clock in the morning and said `right, come on inside.’ He was very agitated and he said I’ve got so and so from the the Daily Mail arriving in half an hour. Before I knew it we had half the world’s press on the doorstep”. What happened next, as they say, is history. Stephen’s story and a reproduction of the clearest photograph, the first in the sequence, was published on page 1 of the Preston-based Lancashire Evening Post. Within days photos of Stephen, Adrian and the ‘flying saucer’ had appeared in the national Press. On February 26, 1954, the Lancashire Evening Post became the first British newspaper to reproduce Darbishire’s sketches and photograph alongside those of the Venusian ‘Scout Ship’ taken by Adamski, having obtained special permission from “the leading British expert on the subject,” Desmond Leslie. Al Griffin of the Post noted how “…we are assured… that Stephen had never seen the Adamski pictures” when he produced the sketch. What the paper described as “space travel enthusiasts, flying saucer fans, scientists, scoffers and sceptics” were all left to draw their own conclusions.

During the media frenzy that followed publication of the photographs, Stephen’s written statement was overlooked. The original, or what is purported to be the original, was reproduced in Leonard Cramp’s book Space, Gravity and the Flying Saucer and poses a number of questions. Most important is the sentence that reads: “…Adrian and I were down in a small hill valley so the rising in foreground of photo is due to the position we were in. Some grass is shown under the saucer.” If these words really were committed to paper within half an hour of the experience as claimed and therefore some days before the photographs were developed, how could Stephen know what, if anything, was depicted on the negatives that were, at that point, still inside his father’s camera? Sadly, no one other than the editor of Flying Saucer News felt it necessary to ask this very relevant question at the time. (10)

Equally of interest are Stephen’s words describing the point immediately after the photo was taken: “…just as I had finished the flying saucer (which I now thought it must be) shot off up into the clouds…” A curious turn of phrase for a boy who claimed he had “no knowledge” of flying saucers! Desmond Leslie, who travelled to Coniston on February 23 and was a guest of the Darbishire family for two days. soon dismissed the possibility that Stephen had faked the photographs. During his stay “Stephen never once contradicted himself [or] made a remark or inadvertent slip suggestive of a hoax,” wrote Leslie who was at that time promoting Flying Saucers Have Landed. He saw young Stephen’s photographs as corroborative evidence of Adamski’s outlandish claims. Leslie notes that Stephen did not make any slip-ups when questioned by four hardened journalists and a crew from BBC TV. The boy’s father maintained that he too had cross-examined both Stephen and Adrian thoroughly before deciding to “go public” with the photographs. He said they stuck by their story even when warned about the trouble they could be in if the story was a hoax. He was convinced thcy were not lying.

But the most suspicious statement of all is hidden within Leslie’s attempt to pursuade readers that Stephen had never read his book Flying Saucers Have Landed or even an abridged version of Adamski’s claims: “..he [Stephen Darbishirel admitted he had seen the photograph of the Adamski saucer as published in Illustrated on 30th September [sic] 1953.” (11)

If Leslie’s account is accurate then Stephen clearly had seen Adamski’s Scout Ship photo, published four months before his own photographs showing a similar craft were taken. Indeed, how else could the youngster have produced such an accurate pencil drawing of a ‘Scout Ship’ complete with three portholes and landing gear? Clearly this left just two stark alternatives: either Stephen had seen an identical Venusian Scout Ship as described by George Adamski, or he had reproduced the photograph he had seen in Illustrated and somehow transferred this to celluloid.

Perhaps realising the problems this admission created for the story Leslie claimed that Stephen maintained “although this saucer picturc [published in Illustrated] had shown a saucer with three portholes in a row, the one had seen had four in a row.” In the drawing he produced immediately after the sighting Stephen drew only three portholes. “but as the saucer went away it turned slightly so that a fourth porthole came into view.” For Leslie that was evidence enough, for he knew that in one of the unpublished Adamski photos four portholes in a row are clearly shown.

“He [Stephen Darbishire] did not know this!” exclaimed Leslie with obvious glee. “This, on top of the other evidence, fully convinced me that Stephen ,vas not only telling the truth but also that he had seen the same saucer (or an identical model) as Adamski.” (12)

In the heady days of 1954, these problems seemed irrelevant. Through accident or design Stephen Darbishire became a national celebrity overnight. His pictures were flashed around the world, and before February was out the inhabitants of Little Arrow Farm had been introduced to what today Stephen calls “the world of sympathetic magic, modern magic” Desmond Leslie was just the first flying saucer believer to visit Coniston to experience the vibes of the ‘Space visitors’. Leslie lost no time in proclaiming Stephen’s photo as “the second of the Adamski type to be photographed in the world” and told the local newspaper: “I am satisfied that Stephen saw what he says he saw… this visit or contact has been expected for some time.” (13)

Before the March was out Stephen had been invited to a saucer-spotters convention in London where delegates scrutinised blurry enlargements of his photograph. He recalls how “it all got rather hysterical and one chap leapt up and said he could see a face in a porthole.”

It was during this visit to London in March 1954, that Stephen and his father were secreted into a car and driven to Buckingham Palace to meet one of the Duke of Edinburgh’s private secretaries. It was claimed the invitation came from the Palace via Desmond Leslie who had contacts at ‘the highest level’. In fact, the Sunday Dispatch got wind of the meeting soon afterwards and reported how Prince Philip had read about Stephen’s sighting in the newspapers “and wanted to know more.” (14)

The Royal Equerry, RAF Squadron Leader Sir Peter Horsley was at that time involved in his own “saucer” study with the blessing of the Duke, and “the Darbishire boys” became the latest in a series of saucer-spotters who were invited to his office to discuss their sightings. In his autobiography, Horsley says he was “impressed by their story and truthfulness” and notes Dr Darbishire “was not relishing the publicitv and notoriety the family were receiving from the newspapers.” Horsley sent a report of the meeting to the Duke, who was in Australia at the time, and asked a professional photographer, Wallace Heaton, to examine the negatives. His conclusion said, in summary: “Yes, they could have been faked but they were so good it would have cost quite a lot of money.” This left the RAF veteran puzzled: how could an ordinary farming family find the money to finance an elaborate hoax and even if they had, what was their motivation? “Was there a wider conspiracy?” he mused. (15)

Stephen Darbishire’s visit to Buckingham Palace was just the beginning of a series of adventures which led him and his family further and deeper into the bizarre world of the flying saucer cult. Visitors called in at the Darbishire family home without invitation, and letters arrived by the sackful including one from none other than Lord Dowding, the Battle of Britain hero – another highly placed saucer believer at that time. In 1959 Stephen was introduced by Desmond Leslie to George Adamski at a meeting held in London during the contactee’s lecture tour of Britain and Europe. Stephen, who was by then attending art school, remained “unimpressed” by the contactee who he dismissed as “mad, mad as a hatter… somewhere else altogether.” It was at this stage, Stephen told us in 2001, that he asked himself: “How can I be involved in this, how can I actually be sitting here with these people?”

The teenager was by now feeling increasingly that he was pawn in other people’s games, that the photo was no longer his property “…all I was being used for was an instrument of verification.” As a result he decided the best way out was to put the word around that his photos were in fact fakes so he could go back to living a normal life.

In a letter sent to UFO author Timothy Good in 1986 Stephen told how “…in desperation I … said it was a fake.” (16) But as Alex Birch and others who followed in Stephen’s footsteps were later to find, the ‘hoax’ declaration did not bring an end to the notoriety – rather the opposite: “I was counter-attacked, accused of working with the `Dark Powers’ … or patronisingly ‘understood’ for following orders from some secret government department.”

While Stephen remained detached from the strange characters and even stranger beliefs that surrounded his experience, he found the biggest impact of all was upon the lives of his parents. Following the experiences of 1954, Dr Darbishire underwent what his son described as “a midlife crisis.” The visitors and attention his family received from the flying saucer movement opened up a whole new world of possibilities and Daibishire senior became drawn into the world of the occult, collecting a huge library of books on a range of esoteric subjects. The workshop at his farm became a laboratory where he constructed strange machines that utilised revolving lights to detect the human aura and effect alternative cures. Similarly, Stephen’s mother was also profoundly affected by the experience and became more interested in the spiritual world.

In 2001 Stephen Darbishire – the artist – prefers to play down the significance of his best known piece of work, growing weary after almost half a century of tiresome questions. Yet the central mystery that eluded Sir Peter Horsley remains: just how could a young boy, who claimed he “knew absolutely nothing about flying saucers” manage to “create” one of most mysterious photographs in the history of the subject’? And if it wasn’t faked, then what exactly did the photograph depict?

“An object,” was the simple but ambiguous answer Stephen Darbishire gave when this question was asked in 2001. What is not in dispute is that Stephen shared his father’s inquisitive nature and creative talents – and clearly his sense of humour too, an attribute also associated with another influential personality entwined within this story, Desmond Leslie. Interviewed in 2001 Darbishire continues to maintain he had never seen Adamski’s photos when he produced his drawings and photographs, contradicting his own statement to Leslie in 1954 that he had indeed seen the pictures that appeared in lllustrated, the year previously.

How likely was it that the 13-year-old living in the early 50s had never heard of ‘flying saucers? Not very likely, it seems. A survey of newspapers published in Cumbria during 1953-54 revealed an earlier saucer sighting, pre-dating Darbishire’s experience, made by three Coniston schoolboys who claimed to have seen a saucer pass over the village as they waited for a bus. Another sighting followed at the village of Askam. (17) Surely a boy with such inquiring mind as Stephen Darbishire had would have heard about these sightings, if not in a newspaper then on the local grapevine, along with the stories about flying saucers widely published in the national media?

Stephen was in fact quoted in the London News Chronicle as claiming a second sighting, just five days after the photograph was taken, of “a cigar-shaped object, again near Old Man” and added “since then I have studied reports of flying saucers and believe in them.” (18) Was it entirely coincidental that the second sighting was of a cigar-shaped craft – of the `Mother Ship’ type photographed by Adamski and published alongside the Scout Ship pictures in that widely-read issue of Illustrated?

Wherever the inspiration for those sketches came from, what can be said about the photographs themselves? Very little, because according to Darbishire both the negatives and all the surviving prints were stolen or borrowed and never returned. Although Stephen remained convinced he had correctly focussed upon ‘Infinity’ before the saucer had appeared,

the “object’ depicted in both photographs is out of focus. The explanation for this curious anomaly suggested at the time was that “the bellows of his small camera were not fully extended.” This theory was disproved when Desmond Leslie experimented with the camera at the place where the photographs were taken, taking a number of exposures using different combinations of shutter speeds and bellow settings. The results suggested the camera was in fact correctly focussed, but Leslie suggested that Stephen had altered the shutter setting by mistake during the excitement of the moment.

The reproduction of the photo featured in most UFO books is in fact the first picture taken as the youngster spun around when alerted to the saucer’s presence by his young cousin. In the second photo, rarely published in the UFO literature, the `craft’ appears partly distorted on its right-hand side, as if the craft’s angles are ‘slewed round.’

It was an effect that a writer in Flying Saucer News explained as being the result of UFOs’ ability to change shape “prior to warping into hyperspace, or another dimension.” (20) This peculiar feature has since been seized upon by Timothy Good as evidence to support the authenticity of the notorious Silver Spring film taken by George Adamski in 1965. In the film the ‘Scout Ship’ displays a similar distortion of its dimensions. (21) On the contrary, there is no good reason why Adamski could have not been aware of Darbishire’s second photo. Darbishire met Adamski in London during 1959 – six years before the Silver Spring film was produced – and would certainly have been shown both photographs taken by the youngster in the presence of his host, Desmond Leslie.

Despite the underlying doubts, believers in the Space People were overjoyed when aeronautical engineer and Saunders-Roe hovercraft designer Leonard Cramp used a method he called ‘orthographic projection’ to demonstrate that the objects depicted in the Darbishire and Adamski photographs were proportionally identical. (22) This should not be so surprising if theobject photographed by Stephen Darbishire was based upon the photograph of the Scout Ship he had seen in Illustrated and so faithfully reproduced in his pencil sketches just half an hour following his ‘sighting’.

So what was the “object? During the writing of his bestselling Above Top Secret author Timothy Good approached Stephen and asked if the experience was genuine. Stephen, then 46 and back living in his native Cumbria, would say only: “It happened a long time ago, and I do not wish to be drawn into the labyrinth again.” (23)

Today he continues to distance himself from the flying saucer buffs who staked so much of their belief system in the authenticity of those two photographs. After almost half a century Stephen’s original account of the Adamski Scout Ship with portholes and turret has been replaced by a description more fitting the preoccupations of the 21st century.”By the time I took the second photo it had gone,” Stephen said. “There was nothing dramatic like people at windows or anything… it looked like a cloud to me and when it first happened I thought ‘that’s a funny shaped cloud’”. The original glistening, translucent metal had become a “preternatural light.” (24)

And what of Adrian Meyer, who despite being the first to see the UFO, faded into the background and never received the attention of his elder cousin? Could he provide the key to what really happened that cold February afternoon in 1954?

“I met him recently for the first time in many years,” Stephen told us candidly. “He wasn’t involved in it really. He just sort of ‘blinked twice.’ He dosen’t remember anything about it and probably thinks we made it all up. He just said ‘that was a load of baloney, wasn’t it’?”

The other major player in the Darbishire photo case, Desmond Leslie, passed away in February 2001. His obituarv described his extraordinary life as rivalling “any fiction by Nancy Mitford or Anthony Powell. with overtones of a Fifties sci-fi movie, and a little Weimar decadance thrown in.” (25) One of his final notes, faxed to Stephen Darbishire, read: “Dear Stephen, how lovely to hear from you again; you know it’s extraordinary that there are still people taking pictures of the old flying saucers… where can they find those 1930s lampshades from, I thought they had all gone out of production.” Stephen said of him: “You never knew with Desmond. He appeared to believe completely, but he also had a great sense of humour.”

Echoing Alex Birch – soon to follow in his footsteps – and many others caught up in the UFO labyrinth through accident or design, Stephen summed up his feelings of that time:

“It was a one-off experience that lasted 30 seconds but the repercussions are still reverberating I don’t have any idea about its significance, except that it was one of these things that happen out of the blue that you are caught up in. It’s just a type of accident.”



  1. Leslie, quoted in Cramp, Leonard. Space, Gravity and the Flying Saucer. London: Werner Laurie, 1957, p. 173.
  2. Interview with Stephen Darbishire, 7 April 2001. All subsequent quotations are drawn from this interview unless otherwise referenced.
  3. Ziegler, Philip. Mountbatten: The official biography. London: 1985, p. 494.
  4. Sunday Dispatch (London), 14 April 1957
  5. Adamski, George and Leslie, Desmond. Flying Saucers Have Landed. London: T. Werner Laurie, 1953.
  6. Illustrated (London), 3 October 1953
  7. Leslie, in Cramp, op. cit., p. 13
  8. Lancashire Evening Post (Preston), 18 February 1954
  9. “Saucers over Britain,” by Waveney Girvan, Illustrated, 12 February 1955.
  10. See “Coniston Puzzle” in Flying Saucer News: Journal of the British Flying Saucer Bureau and Flying Saucer Club, vol 1/9 (summer 1955), 19.
  11. Leslie, in Cramp, p.17
  12. Ibid.
  13. Lancashire Evening Post (Preston), 24 February 1954
  14. Sunday Dispatch (London), 24 March 1954
  15. Horsley, Sir Peter. Sounds from AnotherRoom. London: Leo Cooper, 1997, p. 180.
  16. Good, Timothy. Above Top Secret. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1987, p.37, 373.
  17. Lancashire Evening Post (Preston), 19 February 1954
  18. News Chronicle (London), 22 March 1954
  19. [to be confirmed]
  20. Flying Saucer News, op. cit.
  21. Zinsstag, Lou and Good, Timothy. George Adamski: The Untold Story. Beckenham: CETI Publications, 1983, p. 171-3.
  22. See Cramp, Space, Gravity and the Flying Saucer, Zinsstag & Good, George Adamski: The Untold Story and Flying Saucer Review 10/1  (January-February 1964),13-14.
  23. Good, Above Top Secret, p.373
  24. Interview with Stephen Darbishire by Peter Hough and Dr Harry Hudson, 1993 (?), by courtesy of Peter Hough.
  25. Obituary by Philip Hoare, published in The Independent, 10 March 2001.





The 1952 Saucer Wave
A Story Behind the Story
‘Just Cause’

From Magonia 48, January 1994

This article was reprinted from Just Cause, issue 36,1933. Just Cause was the journal of CAUS, Citizens Against UFO Secrecy. This US organisation, unlike some others claiming to be battling against Government cover-ups, conducted a rational campaign to disclose UFO information which is genuinely being withheld by the authorities. It has uncovered a great deal of fascinating data, and we feel this article will be of particular interest to Magonia readers.

One of the most extraordinary periods in the history of the UFO phenomena occurred during the summer of 1952. Literally thousands of flying saucer reports inundated the Air Force, police departments and newspapers with around-the-clock activity. Central to this wave of reports were sightings over Washington, D.C. Three major radar trackings of ‘unknowns’ and a number of minor ones plagued Air Force and civilian air traffic controllers. Jets had to be scrambled to confront the invasion of radar pips. In some cases pilots did detect strange lights over the city but as quickly as they would appear the objects would disappear, leaving officials scratching their heads over what had happened. During this three-week stretch banner headlines alerted the nation to the return of the saucers (having been in the news at various times since 1947).

The Air Force statistics for this time were extraordinary. 1952 produced 1501 UFO incidents, the highest of any year of the Air Force’s twenty-one year investigation. 303 of these were considered ‘unidentified’ after investigation, also the highest of any year by a very large margin. The next highest was 1954 with a mere 46 unknowns of 487 reports (Project Blue Book Fact Sheet, 1968).

Beginning in April and through May and June 1952, sightings began a steady rise. Part of this could have been due to an article that appeared in the 7 April 1952 issue of Life magazine called ‘Have we visitors from outer space?’ by H.B.Darrach and Robert Ginna. The article was an oddity itself in that it was done with Air Force co-operation and that it came very close to endorsing the notion of UFOs as extraterrestrial devices. Cases were declassified and released to the Life writers. The magazine arranged to forward sightings to the Air Force from Life’s readers (The UFO Controversy in America by David Jacobs, 1975, p. 69). The Air Force’s policy prior to this had been to discourage such thinking, that the phenomena were under control and that there was nothing to the idea of visitations by beings from space. The Life article was a virtual invitation for saucer interest to escalate.

Blue Book cases from 16-30 April totalled 54. May reports totalled 68 incidents. June reports increased again to 125 (Project Blue Book, Case Index, National Archives, 1976). When questioned by the press about the Life article, the Air Force did not issue the usual denial but instead maintained that the article was correct and the conclusions were Life’s (Jacobs, 1975).

Given the degree of encouragement to broadcasting saucer incidents, the Air Force must have expected to receive a rising influx of sightings. There had always been elements in the Air Force interested in promoting an extraterrestrial explanation for flying saucers but they were, prior to this time, under control. One example of this was the ‘Estimate of the Situation’, a Top Secret document which was said to have strongly supported saucers from space but was ultimately rejected as an Air Force policy statement (Just Cause, September 1992).

Captain Edward Ruppelt, who became head of Project Blue Book in 1951, was the most liberal of the Air Force’s UFO investigators to that time. He had promoted an upscale programme, was open-minded in his approach, and while not an alien advocate, had regarded some of the sightings as genuine mysteries.

Question: If Air Force policy had been to discourage a flying saucer/outer space connection publicly, why suddenly open the door to a situation similar to that of the summer of 1947 when the press went absolutely wild with saucer stories and questions on what the government was doing about it? In other words, there wasn’t a compelling reason for a policy shift in April 1952. The consensus of various UFO histories is that Ruppelt’s serious approach to UFOs caused the Air Force’s top brass to lend more support to Blue Book by being less secretive and more open and analytical.

Ruppelt said in his book (The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects, 1956) that Life’s prosaucer statements were ‘unofficially inspired’ by several very high-ranking Air Force officers at the Pentagon, “so high that their personal opinion was almost policy”. Was the reason for these “personal opinions” being made a public issue based on the possibility that an ‘answer’ to the saucer mystery was evident to the Air Force, something which hadn’t been proven to that point, or could there have been a more mundane reason which will lead to the core of a new explanation as to why the 1952 wave evolved as it did?

July reports totalled 401, a massive increase in the monthly intake by Blue Book. Only 81 of these came from 1-14 July, leaving 320 from 15-31 July. This huge output from the 15th on is important as we shall see later.

In the process of doing historical sweeps of the press, CAUS has located a great deal of information on the 1952 wave. A comprehensive search of New England area newspapers has produced one thousand pages of clippings from July-August alone. Our search has taken five months of weekly six-hour sessions looking at microfilm in various libraries. One cannot get a grasp of the time without following news events day by day. Putting the saucer stories in context this way might reveal facts that were previously overlooked. ‘New’ old sightings were found. Commentaries and opinions expressing the mindset of the population at the time were illuminating. And something else was found that was not anticipated.

During July, just prior to the saucer wave becoming prominent, the national media showed a great deal of concern as to the country’s preparedness for national defence. Numerous stories were noted in virtually every newspaper searched regarding the lack of air spotters for the Air Force. ‘Air Spotters Rally to Fill Gaps’, said the Berkshire Eagle (Ma.) for 15 July. ‘Not Enough Skywatchers’, said the Lowell Sun (Ma.) for 14 July. ‘Operation Skywatch Flops: Volunteers Few’, said the Holyoake Telegram-Transcript (Ma.). And on and on this theme went in the New England press between 14 and 16 July. The problem appeared to be so universal that it would be fair to project this nationally. CAUS has compiled forty pages of clips so far and we expect to see much the same elsewhere.

What was all this about in the days before the great saucer wave? A fair amount of explanation is necessary. In the early 1950s the US government had several basic units comprising its air defence system:

  • Early Warning Radar Stations – The purpose being of course to detect enemy aircraft electronically at a distance.
  • Ground Controlled Intercept – Consisted of radar stations designed to follow enemy aircraft and direct US fighter planes towards them for attack.
  • Fighter Interceptor Aircraft Bases – Launched US fighters on missions.
  • Another important element was the Ground Observer Corps, which was in essence groups of thousands of average citizens in volunteer service to the government for the purpose of visually spotting potential enemy aircraft overflying the United States.

The GOC had begun as an experiment in September 1949, called ‘Operation Lookout’. The results had been encouraging to the point that the Air Force felt a Ground Observer Corps could play an important role in plugging holes in the existing radar network. The ultimate goal of the program was to have 24-hour sky coverage by one million volunteer spotters at 24,000 observation posts (The Air Force by A. Brophy, 1956, p. 91). And with volunteers, the cost of the programme would be much less than paying professionals who could not be employed in such large numbers.

The GOC worked under joint control of the US government and civil authorities. The Air Force would handle the tactical end of the programme, such as training the volunteers and designing procedures for reporting. Civil authorities would take care of personnel and record keeping. The chain of command in a given state would begin with the Governor. Under him would be a state civil defence director, then a director for the state Ground Observer Corps. The GOC director then had a GOC co-ordination officer who knew the appropriate locations and personnel in various counties. Within the counties would be area supervisors who would be responsible for the activation and operation of GOC posts in their areas. Finally, there would be a post supervisor who would oversee the individual post and volunteer personnel assigned to it. The GOC post was generally a tower of sufficient height to give an all-sky view. A small shelter on top contained communications equipment, spotting equipment (binoculars, etc.) and other aids to relay the results of visual interception of unknown aircraft (Air Force Manual 50-12).

How does the Air Force motivate the population to become involved with the GOC; to, in effect, stand and stare at the sky without pay for hours in anticipation of an enemy attack that may or may not ever occur?

Part of the GOC as well was the Filter Center, a facility run by both military and civil authorities. This is to where the individual ground spotter would report his/her observation of an unknown. Staffed mainly by civilians, the Filter Center would receive phone calls, record information, plot it on large table maps, and perform other related tasks. Since it was also part of the military chain of command, the Filter Center had an Air Force Officer-in-Charge who made sure things went smoothly.

Until 1952, the GOC posts operated on a man-available basis. Rarely were posts fully staffed to provide complete 24-hour coverage of the sky. Generally the volunteers worked 2-3 hour shifts. The overnight, or graveyard, shifts were the most difficult to staff as they required being awake during most people’s sleep time.

It is important to know all of this because few people now know what the Ground Observer Corps was and how it operated. Nor do they know how a GOC air alert called ‘Operation Skywatch’ raised the curtain on the great saucer wave.

Operation Skywatch was an attempt by the Air Force to put the GOC on a 24-hour schedule for the first time. The alert was earmarked for 14 July 1952. One problem with GOC operations at this point was the lack of enough volunteers to complete the staffing at various posts across the nation. The Air Force was trying to push the programme along and wanted to prove to leaders in Washington that the GOC was prepared to meet the challenge of completing 24-hour sky coverage to supplement the existing radar network. It was a difficult task. One town civil defence director in Rhode Island, Judge James Watts, called the attempt at 24-hour coverage “asinine” (New Bedford Standard-Times (Ma.), 15 July). He maintained that “people have to work for a living and don’t have time”, especially since the US was not in a state of war.

In fact the Air Force rallied the GOC directors to get local newspapers involved in getting the public to volunteer. President Truman made a personal appeal for volunteers in a statement released in Washington on 12 July (Springfield Union (Ma.), 13 July). As mentioned earlier in this report, it was very obvious that the GOC people were having difficulty everywhere.

Operation Skywatch was carried through but the results of the 14 July alert were “spotty” (Providence Journal, (R.L), 18 July), “a deplorable situation and a sad lack of interest..” (Taunton Gazette, (Ma.), 16 July), “a flop in New England” (Holyoake Telegram-Transcript (Ma.), 15 July), “Observation Post Apathy” (Portland Press-Herald (Me.), 18 July). The Worcester Telegram (Ma.) of 18 July called the public “apathetic and fatalistic” about the danger of enemy attack.

The Air Force said that only about thirty per cent of the posts in New England operated (Lowell Sun (Ma.), 16 July). The Eastern Air Defense Force at Stewart Air Force Base, New York reported that only slightly more than 1500 posts in the New York area were manned out of 4000 (New York Herald-Tribune, 15 July). This after a major effort was launched by the Air Force to make GOC work.

A dilemma was now apparent. Question: How does the Air Force motivate the population to become involved with the GOC; to, in effect, stand and stare at the sky without pay for hours in anticipation of an enemy attack that may or may not ever occur?

“Things aren’t very good”, said Major Richard Curtis, the commander of the New Haven, Connecticut Filter Center (New York Herald-Tribune, 15 July). The Air Force was committed to the GOC programme, having decided in May not to reconsider its decision to proceed with Operation Skywatch. The request to reconsider came from a San Francisco meeting of the National Association of State Civil Defense Directors, an influential group which could not sway the Air Force. The final decision had been made by General Hoyt Vandenberg, Air Force Chief of Staff (New York Times, 3 May 1952)

The Wave: On 16 July, barely a day after Operation Skywatch began, the great summer 1952 wave was off and running. An escalation in the number of saucer sightings reported to the Air Force had been in progress since April but the press had paid little attention to them until this time.

Two veteran airline pilots, W.B. Nash and W.H. Fortenberry, had reported seeing eight huge discs zipping along in formation near Norfolk, Virginia on 14 July while piloting their Pan American DC-4. At first six discs manoeuvred in echelon formation below the airliner. Making a sharp turn, the six were then joined by two other discs, all of which soon zoomed upward and disappeared. Wire services transmitted the story nationwide with little comment by the Air Force. The accounts were loaded with superlatives about the credibility of the witnesses and the quality of the report.

A United Press story transmitted on the 17th, and quoting Captain Edward Ruppelt, indicated that sixty saucer reports had been received in two weeks and that 1952 sightings were double the rate for 1951. The Air Force, in effect, nudges the spiralling situation upward with this statement. Lt. Colonel Richard McGee, Director of Civil Defense for the Dayton, Ohio area (the home of Project Blue Book), said that he was alarmed by the increase and added, “There is something flying around in our skies and I wish I knew what it is” (Portland Press-Herald (Me.), 18 July).

Sightings continued to increase. A 19 July story (Boston American) indicated that sightings were received from New York, Vermont, Colorado and Washington. The only mention of Air Force comment was that they ‘take seriously all such reports’.

Some press sources were provided instructions on informing the public on how to spot and report the flying saucers (Brockton Enterprise (Ma.), 19 July). One (Fall River Herald-News (Ma.), 21 July) wondered why none of the sightings in those reported to that time were by members of the Ground Observer Corps.

How would you motivate the public to go outside for two to three hour shifts and watch the skies? Answer. Flying Saucers!

For any of this to mean something, we must explain where all of what we’ve said so far comes together. The Air Force enacted a programme of 24-hour sky coverage. Its major problem was getting volunteers to man the country’s observation posts. A very short time after the Air Force’s programme gets off to a poor start, flying saucers begin to creep into the press with little resistance from the authorities. Think about it. If you were an Air Force intelligence officer and a major, funded programme of skywatching was heading for the hopper, what would you do? How would you motivate the public to go outside for two to three hour shifts and watch the skies? Answer. Flying Saucers! The lure and fascination of potential visitors from space would motivate most rational, thinking people into wanting to skywatch from an equipped observation post with the appropriate training. A chance at seeing one of these things, not to mention fulfilling a patriotic duty as well, would be irresistible to many citizens during the early 1950s.

This is not an idea with easy evidence. To direct this situation, the government would not have to do much of anything. If flying saucers come along at a convenient time, let the stories get out – to a point. Do not react to them. Allow the press to sensationalise, arouse the public interest, thus getting recruitments and volunteers up. Once the situation appeared to be going out of control, the Air Force could step in, hold a press conference with the full weight of authority behind it, and kill the wave with convincing-sounding explanations. Planting mildly misleading stories cannot be ruled out either as a way of keeping the wave, and the interest in it, rolling along.

The press could be fed instructions (i.e. training) to be printed for the public, seemingly for flying saucer spotting, but, on a more practical level for the Air Force in the long term, GOC spotting. The whole business could be called a form of passive manipulation that would be hard to trace to its source, but would be highly effective for the Air Force in its consequences. The GOC would be better staffed, the saucer wave will have served a positive purpose for the Air Force, and when the wave had outlived its usefulness, debunk it.

Is it plausible?

Press coverage of the 1952 wave exploded on 22 July with the information that saucers were seen visually and on radar over Washington, D.C. The attention given to this by the press was unlike anything seen since saucers began to be sighted in 1947. Hardly a newspaper in the country did not say anything about it. Continued bafflement characterised Air Force statements in the first week of the wave. “A thorough investigation is being made by the Air technical Intelligence Center”, the Air Force told the Associated Press (Boston Globe, 23 July).

On the 23rd, the first GOC reports came through. Charles Buck, a Westfield, Maine GOC spotter, saw three silver discs at high altitude. This was followed by another GOC observer’s report from Nahant, Mass. of two discs (Brockton Enterprise (Ma.), 23 July). Rather than keeping the GOC reports ‘within the company’ and away from the press, as one might have expected the Air Force to do normally, they were freely getting out to the media now.  No serious objection was yet apparent from the Air Force, thus more encouragement for volunteers to enrol with the GOC and potentially to report flying saucers and make headlines. More reports followed from Cleveland GOC spotters. And more yet from Chicago. The commander of the GOC Filter Center in Chicago, Captain Everett Turner, said he received a flying saucer report every hour from his volunteer spotters (Springfield News (Ma.), 25 July).

On the 24th, the Air Force, specifically Captain Edward Ruppelt of Project Blue Book, emphatically denied that the saucer wave had anything to do with putting the GOC volunteers on 24-hour duty (Providence Journal (R.I.), 24 July). Yet in an interview with Colonel Richard McGee, the Dayton, Ohio Civil Defense Director in charge of the area incorporating Ruppelt’s headquarters, he was asked whether or not there was a connection between Operation Skywatch and the flying saucers. He responded that to his knowledge no specific reason had been given “but that could be the answer” (emphasis added) (Portland Press-Herald (Me.), 18 July). Evidently some military people were thinking about linkage between the two, as we are now. Without a smoking gun though, it could only have been unuttered speculation for most leaning to this idea.

The build-up of reports and publicity continued on for the next few days. The reluctance of the Air Force to debunk reports continued as well, though civilian scientists began to object to the presentation of the sightings as mysterious. Dr Donald Menzel became prominent during this time as a key saucer critic.

The wave roared on at a fever pitch as press coverage on the 28th revealed a second weekend of strange sightings over Washington. Jet interceptors again were foiled in attempting to identify the intruders. The wave coverage was now taking on an alarmist tendency and serious questions were being asked as to whether or not the military could handle the situation effectively. For example, according to the New York Times (29 July), jets did not respond to the sightings over Washington until nearly two hours after the first radar trackings were reported, a remarkable admission by the military in the midst of the Cold War.

Now something had to be done to douse the fire that the Air Force had allowed to build. A press conference was quickly convened on 29 July, led by Major General John Samford, the Air Force’s Chief of Intelligence.

The saucers, General Samford assured the press, were no threat to our national security. While conceding that some sightings were difficult to explain, the Air Force nevertheless balanced this with a variety of possible explanations for most of the reports. The ‘temperature inversion’, a weather condition known to dupe radar into registering “solid” targets that were not really there in a physical sense, became the explanation of preference for the Washington radar trackings.

Mirages and exaggerations were meted out to the press as further likelihoods. The Air Force was careful to protect the reputations of its personnel by asserting that credible observers were seeing relatively incredible things. The message was clear enough that those ‘incredible thing’” were incredible as a function of subjective impressions, weather conditions and the fallibility of technical equipment.

With the weight of authority behind it, the press conference effectively nullified the alarm raised by the media. Since the saucers had not landed on the White House lawn, nor did decidedly mysterious hard evidence surface, it would have been difficult for pro-saucer advocates to offset the official pronouncements. Some of the press quickly seized on this shift in attitude with headlines like ‘Public Starting to Accept Theory Discs are Illusions’ (Quincy Patriot-Ledger (Ma.), 31 July).

The Blue Book report total for August was 278, a significant drop from July. Many did not accept the Air Force’s explanations but the aftermath of the press conference distinctly reduced: 1) the alarmist nature of the coverage which had begun well into the wave, and: 2) the level of coverage which had sloped downward from the beginning of August onward.

Reports towards the end of July appeared indicating that not only had GOC volunteers increased but that the Air Force enlistments were up. The Springfield Union (Ma.), 30 July, said, “Air Force Tops its July Quota”, with the enlistment allotment “far over” its goal. In the month after the wave, GOC volunteers in Massachusetts increased from 3500 on 14 July (the first day of Operation Skywatch) to 7600 (Springfield Union (Ma.), 25 August). Several hundred new recruits signed up in Rhode Island (Providence Journal (R.I.), 17 August). By no means was the GOC up to its goals but a valiant upward trend had begun.

Another remarkable admission was made by the Air Force’s Vice Commander of the Eastern Air Defense Force, Brigadier General George Smith, that low-flying aircraft could easily avoid radar detection around the United States “and must be observed and plotted by ground observers” (New York Herald-Tribune, 1 August). One would not expect publicly admitted clues by the Air Force, then actively at odds with a powerful Soviet Union, on how to defeat our national defences, unless of course the Air Force regarded a depleted GOC as a more serious national security issue.

Equally remarkable was an admission two days before as to the inability of Air Force radar at Andrews Air Force Base in Washington to detect the unknowns reported on radar by the civilian scopes at Washington National Airport (Attleboro Sun (Ma.), 29 July). Of what possible good would these admissions be unless they were for a higher purpose – to encourage support for a stronger Ground Observer Corps.

It is folly to be absolute about anything relating to UFOs. We can only follow a trail of information left in the wake of the 1952 saucer wave to see if there is a reason for why it happened the way it did. We are suggesting that the problems with the Ground Observer Corps programme were serious enough that using publicity about flying saucers as a tool to enhance the programme seemed not to be such an outrageous idea as it sounds. The wave has been a strange loose-end demanding clarification. There is as yet no smoking gun but many hints are on the record.

The true anomalies, besides the saucer reports themselves, lie in the lack of timely Air Force response to the wave and the seemingly scandalous admissions by the military of gaping holes in national security

It would be difficult to say whether the government had planted false stories with the press to encourage the interest to continue in flying saucers, therefore in skywatching, therefore in volunteering with the Air Force. We can’t point any fingers but we can’t rule it out either. The true anomalies, besides the saucer reports themselves, lie in the lack of timely Air Force response to the wave that was consistent with previous policy; the seemingly scandalous admissions by the military of gaping holes in the technical aspects of US national security, admissions for which the ultimate resolution appeared to be boosting the Air Force’s pet programme by whatever means available; and the amount of immediate, behind-the-scenes information coming from the government during the wave, the result being an enthralled public excited about what was going on in our skies.

Do not underestimate the effect of the 1952 wave on popular culture either. While it can be shown to have had a long-term influence on the military (the wave led directly to the Robertson Panel of the CIA, setting the future debunking policy on flying saucers by the Air Force), the influence on the population may have been more profound.

For example, a Boston Globe report (7 September 1952) indicated that toy manufacturers preparing for the 1952 Christmas season had noted an “unprecedented and furious upsurge of demand for rocket ships, space helmets, flying saucers and other playthings of an interplanetary nature”. American children, it seemed were weary of cowboy and western paraphernalia, and had switched their attention to extraterrestrial travel and visitations. The reason? According to the Globe: “The preoccupation with space toys is of fairly recent origin. It started with the mid-summer revival of news stories about flying saucers. Now it has taken on such terrific proportions that it threatens to upset the industry’s carefully laid plans for the Christmas shopping rush”.

Some television shows had dealt with space themes to this time, the most notable being Captain Video, debuting in 1949. But a rippling effect on the popular culture wasn’t there until the summer of 1952. Premiering in 1953 were three new space shows: Atom Squad, Rocky Jones, Space Ranger and Rod Brown of the Rocket Rangers (Fantastic Television by Gary Gerami and Paul Schulman, Harmony Books, NY, 1977). The aim of this is not difficult to fathom; to satisfy the new craze over space initiated by the great wave. Three more space TV shows, Commando Cody, Captain Z-RO and Captain Midnight premiered in 1955.

The cinema contributed films like Invaders from Mars in 1953, loaded with flying saucer imagery and with allusions to actual saucer reports that had appeared in the press. Earth vs the Flying Saucers was another release in 1955. It can be easily argued that these developments had an impact on young minds to the extent of enticing them in later years to becoming involved in the blossoming space programme in the United States.

Optimism for space travel certainly wasn’t fostered by the scientific community or the clergy during the time of the sightings. ‘Trip from Mars Would Take Three Years’ (Quincy Patriot-Ledger (Ma), 5 August). ‘Only Vegetables Can Live on Mars’ (Boston Globe, 1 August). ‘Trips to the Planets Doomed’ (Boston Post, 6 September). ‘Pope Doubts Man’s Ability to Resolve All Mysteries’ (Hartford Courant (Ct.), 8 September). ‘Space Flights Put Many Years Away’ (New York Times, 5 September).

If the authorities in science and religion were actively discouraging thoughts that space travel was imminent or that visitations by aliens were ongoing, what else could have fuelled the mania for space at this time? Not much except the flying saucer wave. Whatever one thinks of the phenomenon, it is unarguable that it has had a major impact on culture, in books, in the press and just about every other medium of mass communication. Even today, during ratings sweeps by television and radio, two prime topics are used to garner ratings points: sex and UFOs. Observe broadcasting during the months of November, February and May and one will see an increase in UFO programmes on talk shows. Perhaps we could call this the modern version of passive manipulation – this time by corporations seeking profits rather than the government. (See TV Guide, 31 January 1981, “Teen Sex! UFOs! Male Models! Details at 11!”.)

A theory of passive manipulation would by its nature tend to be subtle in its origin and execution, allowing the perpetrator to do nothing but sit back and permit situations to evolve that would have reasonably predictable outcomes. With regard to the saucers of 1952, it was not hard to predict how the press and the public would react. Much like more recent years, it was a reaction of intense interest and substantial publicity that for a time progressed in a useful direction for the government. When it passed the point of being acceptable to accomplishing the goals in mind, i.e. relieving the GOC volunteer problem a quick press conference deflated the ballooning wave.

Whether by sciendipity or design, the saucer reports were there when needed by the military. Once used in this manner, and recognising that such manipulation of the phenomena could create bigger problems than it was worth later, flying saucers were reburied by the Air Force as far as the public was concerned. The debunking policy took over again in 1953 and stood until the end of the Air Force’s official investigations in 1969.

Many will recall the recent film by Oliver Stone, JFK. During one scene the film’s star, playing Attorney Jim Garrison, meets a shadowy figure calling himself ‘X’, a former military officer, who describes a series of strange coincidences which led him to believe that President Kennedy had been killed by an internal government conspiracy. One of the coincidences was that the intelligence service of the Army was told to “stand down” during the president’s visit to Dallas in 1963. “Stand down – meaning not to react, not to place operatives in the normal security locations to protect the president, not to be alert to potential problems, to go on as if nothing were happening. The result was that the president was placed in harm’s way, a form of passive manipulation that, if true, helped to change history in a dramatic way.

We aren’t going to revive the controversy over the JFK assassination here. It is simply to emphasise that there are probably many more examples of such passive manipulation on record, that the new spin on an old story isn’t such a new spin after all. The answer to the intense publicity surrounding the 1952 saucer wave may have been there all the time, it just took us 41 years to wake up.




What’s Up Doc? Shams and Shepherds: The Seventies and So Forth
Martin Kottmeyer

From Magonia 46, June 1993.

Unless Colman von Kevicsky’s characterisation of the 1973 wave as an invasion should be taken seriously, the last significant expression of the invasion fear occurs in Raymond Fowler’s UFOs – Interplanetary Visitors (1974). [92] It is presented as a possibility among a range of intentions that aliens might possess. The idea of friendly contact is raised, but is muted by concerns over loss of national pride as allegiance is transferred to their superior force. In a chapter archly titled “The Impact – Disintegration or Survival?” the existence of unprovoked hostile acts is pondered as either unwarranted aggression or an amoral act comparable to the swatting of a fly. Fowler believed the American military complex had treated UFOs as a threat, but would be helpless if they proved to be enemies. The blackouts, abductions, attacks, and burns associated with UFOs help to demonstrate that superintelligent aliens are becoming an intimate part of our environment which we will have to resign ourselves to adapting to.[93]

Ralph and Judy Blum’s Beyond Earth (1974) asserts UFOs may be “the biggest story ever”, but they aren”t sure if they are extraterrestrial and paraphysical phenomena or “living holograms projected on the sky by the laser beams of man”s unconscious mind”. The tone is decidedly upbeat, with suggestions that UFOs represent “an almost unimaginable energy source for mankind” and have a habit of unorthodox healing. They quote Hynek”s opinion that ufonauts indulge in “seemingly pointless antics” and also include James Harder”s response to a question about whether UFOs pose a threat:

“If you pick up a mouse in a laboratory situation, it’s very frightening to the mouse. But it doesn’t mean that you mean the mouse any harm.” [94]

Robert Emenegger’s UFOs: Past, Present and Future (1974) also took an upbeat view of UFOs. Contacts were friendly and he concurred with the Air Force that they posed no threat. Understanding UFOs could lead to the discovery of a new energy source and a new relationship to life throughout the universe. Fantastic revelations to questions that have puzzled philosophers throughout history were near and he hoped a reputable organisation like the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the National Academy of Sciences would move forward to study the phenomenon. The immediate future looks promising. [95] Regardless of ones reaction to Emenegger’s opinions the book bears notice for a chapter on how the public would react to The Contact that is the most intelligent in the literature.

In the December 1974 editorial for Flying Saucer Review, Charles Bowen warned that people should endeavour to avoid physical contact because UFOs have been shown to cause harm. There is perhaps a struggle for possession of our planet between good and evil forces, but UFOs may not be greatly concerned with the ultimate welfare of the human race. Noting how much of the phenomenon trades in gibberish, Bowern laments “Hoaxing, we feared, was not the prerogative of earth men”. [96]

Hynek and Vallée’s The Edge of Reality (1975) takes as given “there appears to be no desire for involvement with the human race”. While UFOs are documented as causing harm, it is observed that electrical outlets also cause harm but are not innately hostile. The study of UFOs is regarded as an opportunity to move toward a new reality. New departures in methodology will, however, be needed. The Center for UFO Studies will be set up to serve those ends. [97]

The same general sentiment appears in Vallée’s The Invisible College (1975). UFOs are indifferent to the welfare of the individual and pose no threat to national defence. The primary impact of UFOs appears to be to human belief. Could it be someone is playing a fantastic trick on us? [98]

The Lorenzens answer with a big yes. “SOMEBODY IS PUTTING US ON!” UFO encounters are some sense a charade. They also, however, appear involve coldly scientific experiments on some humans and efforts to stock some distant exotic zoo. There is a threat from UFOs after all, despite government assurances, but not apparently invasion. Fortunately they regard this threat as avoidable. Stay away from lovers’ lanes and isolated camping sites. They argue the time has come to “educate the aliens” with radio broadcasts inviting them to visit openly. [99]

John Keel decides in The Mothman Prophecies (1975) that the battle cry of the Phenomenon is “Make him look like a nut!” It also prompts him to muse after Fort, “If there is a universal mind, must it be sane?” The “worldwide spread of the UFO belief and its accompanying disease” fills him with great consternation. In The Eighth Tower (1975) the dangerous character of the Phenomenon is played up with talk of the high rate of death among contactees and UFO hobbyists, and how “any force that can sear your eyeballs, paralyse your limbs, erase your memory, burn your skin and turn you into a coughing, blubbering wreck can also maim and kill you”. It is dispassionate and ruthless. We are puppets to the superspectrum. [100]

In bizarre contrast Hans Holzer rejects ‘monster’ theories of aliens bent on destroying us. They may regard themselves as potential saviours. Their attempts at cross-breeding suggest we are “not totally unworthy”. [101] Brad Steiger believed UFOs would be a transformative symbol that will unite our entire species into one spiritual organism. They would be the spiritual midwife which brings about mankind”s starbirth into the universe. [102] Paris Flammonde takes the view that man will never achieve intercommunication or a symbiotic relationship with extraterrestrials in UFO Exist (1976) [103]

The Hynek UFO Report (1977) reflects the emerging consensus. UFO study could perhaps “be the springboard to a revolution in man”s view of himself and his place in the universe”. But they also appear to be “playing games with us”. [104] D. Scott Rogo similarly felt UFOs demonstrate that our world plays host to a force that seeks to mystify us. [105] Bill Barry”s account of the Travis Walton controversy evaluates the phenomenon as having never expressed hostility towards any of its alleged victims. Abductees are treated merely as guinea pigs. [106]

As in his book in the fifties, Leonard Stringfield’s Situation Red: The UFO Siege (1978) is a portrait in confusion. Commenting on aircraft accidents, disappearances, and persistent spying, he admits to being stumped by the pointless harassment. UFO activity resembles a military strike force, but the randomness and absence of widespread destruction falls short of open hostility. If they wanted to destroy our civilisation, clearly they could. Their effects are sometimes deleterious and sometimes beneficial. The paradox may be sinister or profound, but it is still unresolved. [107]

Art Gatti’s UFO Encounters of the 4th Kind (1978) involves sexual incursions and arguably falls into hypochondria. The sexual manipulation he chronicles proves at minimum the beings involved are questionably motivated. Maybe they are curious. Maybe they are milking our emotions like cattle. Maybe they include two forces; one benevolent, the other wicked. Maybe they are seeding Earth with warriors for a future Armageddon. [108]

Brad Steiger’s Alien Meetings (1978) represents a curious regression into the hypochondriacal mindset. Chapter 9 warns “UFO Encounters May Be Hazardous to Your Health!” and catalogues the usual troubles. Motives for aliens include invasion, domination, territorial acquisition, and commercial exploitation, but he dismisses the war of the worlds idea as “paranoid mutterings”. It would surely have been easier to mash us when we were hurling rocks around instead of nuclear weapons. Whether they are on a spiritual mission or pursuing history lessons, they at least seem to be intensely interested in us. [109]

D. Scott Rogo and Jerome Clark’s Earth’s Secret Inhabitants (1979) sees the Phenomenon as a source both of good things like raised IQs and healings plus bad things like burns and radiation effects. It provides us with visions of things humans want to believe. “In fact, up to a certain point it may be good for us to believe in these things – providing, of course, that we don”t become so superstitious in the process that we lose our grip on common sense”. Maybe they are clues to some larger truth. [110] Vallee in Messengers of Deception (1979) essentially shows that losing one”s grip on common sense is the usual result of UFO belief. As such it could be a useful political tool and agent of social control. On the brighter side, UFO study might clarify exciting theoretical and practical opportunities to understand energy and information.[111]

In 1979 Yurko Bondarchuk saw imminent, before the year 2000, contact with extraterrestrials. “It is inconceivable that their journeys to a peripheral planet are merely haphazard or mindless.” They are surveying our self-destructive capabilities and our resource base. He expects the contact to lead to the emergence of a ‘new world order’ in which existing territorial and ideological conflicts will be gradually eliminated and eventual creation of a restructured world economic order. A universal re-evaluation of spiritual convictions could also be expected. [112] Raymond Fowler similarly speculates that UFOs represent a “much-needed bridge between science and religion”. The events of The Andreasson Affair (1979) strike him as a stage-managed religious experience by interstellar missionaries. Betty Andreasson and others like her have been primed subconsciously with information which might burst into consciousness all over the planet. [113]

D. Scott Rogo in UFO Abductions (1980) confesses the whole UFO abduction syndrome appears to be “slightly ridiculous”. There is too much misinformation which appears designed to make the abductees appear to be “total fools”. His guess is that these experiences are an elaborate facade, a camouflage forcing the individual to confront a secret aspect of himself. [114] Rogo’s book includes an article by Ann Druffel, written a couple of years earlier titled ‘Harrison Bailey and the Flying Saucer Disease’ and which involved the medical misadventures of a man who said he was told his internal organs were three times older than they should have been. Druffel diagnoses his problems as resulting from microwave radiation in a UFO encounter. [115] Druffel doesn’t know if Bailey was harmed accidentally or deliberately, but Bailey thinks it was unintentional. In The Tujunga Canyon Contacts (1980) she opts for a view of UFOs as looking after man”s continuing evolution. They take special interest in our procreative abilities or they are interested in expanding our consciousness. [116]

The Proceedings of the First International UFO Congress (1980) presents a portrait of seventies ufology identical to what we’ve chronicled so far. Leo Sprinkle thinks contact messages are seemingly reliable because of their similarities to each other and thus offer information on the scientific and spiritual development of humankind. [117] Berthold Schwarz thinks the messages are garbage. [118] Frank Salisbury remarks that UFOs seem too irrational and perverse – they verge on the truly diabolical. [119] Stanton Friedman expresses his disagreement with Jim Lorenzen”s characterisation of the phenomenon as an insult to human intelligence. [120]

In their study of several abduction cases, Judith and Alan Gansberg reported there wasn’t one where the extraterrestrials were cruel to humans. Indeed, one abductee felt the aliens are angels. They conclude, in contrast to Vallee, the concept of extraterrestrials is doing man no harm and could potentially be helpful. [121]

Raymond Fowler continues ruminating about the Andreasson affair in Casebook of a UFO Investigator (1981) but in a somewhat larger context. He thinks that superintelligent beings have possibly been nurturing man along his evolutionary way. We are under intense attention, perhaps as potential candidates for the intergalactic community. They love mankind. [122] The Andreasson Affair – Phase Two (1981) basically reaffirms the religionist slant of phase one and includes the millennial expectation that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ will happen during the adult lives of Bob and Betty Luca. [123]

UFO by Milt Machlin with Tim Beckley is an interesting minor work with a hypochondriacal flourish or two. An odd case of a UFO murder is recounted in which people were killed either because they knew too much or they were being experimented upon. It closes with a UFO health warning that is charming in its simple tone: Do not approach UFOs. People get shocks or even end up in the hospital. You could also get hit by a ray gun. [124]

The appearance of Budd Hopkins’s Missing Time (1981) represents a significant, albeit ambivalent, return to the hypochondriacal mindset. Hopkins regards abduction cases as an epidemic, but because people are protected by an induced amnesia it may be almost entirely invisible. He writes: “I do not believe the UFO phenomenon is malign or evilly intentioned. I fear, instead, that it is merely indifferent, though I fervently hope to be proven wrong.” He adds: “For all any of us know the whole UFO phenomenon may be ultimately blissfully benign – there is firm evidence for this position – and so having been abducted may turn out to have been a peculiar privilege.” Even so, he is “thoroughly alarmed” and calls for an official UFO investigatory arm to be established through the United Nations so everyone would recognise UFOs as a serious reality to the governments of the world. [125] The contradiction between his alarm and the consensus of the prior decade he has trouble abandoning is unresolved.

Of Brad Steiger’s The Star People (1981) and The Seed (1983) we will only comment that it is basically contactee literature for the eighties crowd. (126) John Magors Aliens Above, Always (1983) also has the paternalistic quality of contacteeism – they are watching us for our benefit [127] Cynthia Hind offers the speculation in passing that aliens are here to be entertained or to blow our minds a little in African Encounters (1982). [128]

Lawrence Fawcett and Barry Greenwood in Clear Intent (1984) border on the hypochondriacal in saying the human race could be in danger, but the laconic counterpoint that we haven”t yet been conquered seems to be a call for ennui rather than concern. [129]

George Andrews in Extraterrestrials Among Us (1986) offers up my all-time favourite hypochondriacal speculation: “It is an odd fact that among the viruses there are some that look like UFOs, such as the virus T. Bacteriophage. Some UFOs may have the ability to operate in either the macro-dimension of outer space or the microdimension of viruses, switching back and forth between them at will.” [130] Andrews frets that our survival as a species may be at stake. “Have we been transforming our planet into a cancer cell in the body of the galaxy instead of making it the garden of the universe?” he asks. [131]

Terry Hansen, in a 1981 article, offered a more appropriate somatic metaphor for the upbeat ufology of this period. He suggested UFOs may be a sort of “liver medicine” to make us function normally as part of a cosmic organism. [132] Night Siege (1987) drifts along the borders of hypochondria in its chronicling of power blackouts, surges, interferences, and pain associated with a UFO flap. [133]

Intruders (1987) shares the same quality of unresolved contradiction as the prior Hopkins book. Aliens are committing a species of rape in their activities related to an unthinkable systematic breeding experiment to enrich their stock, reduce our differences and acquire the ability to feel human emotions. What they do is “cruel” and each case is “a personal tragedy”. Yet he also avers: “In none of the cases I’ve investigated have I ever encountered the suggestion of deliberate harm or malevolence.” They don’t realise the disasters they are causing because of an ignorance of human psychology. [134]

Richard Hall titled his 1988 book Uninvited Guests. It is one of the more flaccid titles in the literature and more connotative of pushy salesmen than an alien menace. Hall finds little evidence of overt hostility and suggests harm is accidental or self-defensive. Encounters probably represent mutual learning experiences. There is a strong interest in us and he hopes this means we are beginning a new phase and maturity, and perhaps a new relationship to the universe. [135]

When Tujunga Canyon Contacts was reprinted in 1988 Ann Druffel modified her views in the light of new developments on the abduction scene. Aliens were now malevolent and traumatising, wily and harmful. The good news was that humans have the ability to battle them off – prayer, move your toes, or make your own sound. [136]

Vallée’s Confrontations (1990) tallies up 12 cases of fatal injuries attributable to UFOs and announces the phenomenon is more dangerous and technologically complex than we thought. He feels “a renewed sense of urgency” about UFO study. [137]

Raymond Fowler’s third book on the Andreasson affair, The Watchers (1990), seems to represent a falling back to the hypochondriacal state we saw him in at the beginning of this period. He feels “like a medical researcher who has inoculated himself in order to experience and treat a disease under study. To his horror, he finds the UFO phenomenon linked to the extinction of mankind by sterility. It is inconceivable, but he also believes it to be authentic. [138]


Credit first where it is due. The Air Force got it right and told it straight. No material threat to national security existed. The invasion never took place. Mirarchi’s Pearl Harbor, Riordan’s knockout attack, Keyhoe’s final operation, Wilkins’s death ceiling blockade, Michel’s Sword of Damocles, Lorenzen’s mass drugging, Edwards’s imminent “Overt Contact”, Fawcett’s disaster beyond all imagination, Steiger’s annihilation threat, Hynek’s Russian breakthrough, Palmer’s ongoing titanic war, and Fowler’s cultural disintegration were concerns with more basis in fantasy than in reality.

The sense of urgency, the sense that it may be too late, the sense that our existence was dependent upon a correctly performed investigation was irrational fear. The Air Force repeatedly tried to get across the message that ufologists were wrong but they were in no mood to listen. It is dogma among ufologists that the Air Force was incompetent or worse, yet if that is accepted as a proper, measured evaluation, what word is proper to describe the body of thought presented by these ufologists? The Air Force did not perform flawlessly in the details, but they had the big picture in more than sufficient focus to understand it was a nuisance problem and not one of life and death significance.

The same cannot be said of ufologists. The big picture for them keeps changing. In the fifties the aliens were considerate and peace loving. In the sixties they were a source of danger and death. In the seventies they were both perversely irrational and a source of hope and maturity. The eighties saw them as a source of trauma. Are these interpretations progressively getting closer to the truth? Are they changes in fashion? We can dismiss the notion this is scientific progress. The sixties were worse than the fifties. The eighties are clearly headed into a blind alley with the ideas of alien genetic sampling and implants. Fashion connotes enthusiasm, but ufologists profess dread over the implications their studies are leading them towards.

The changes are reminiscent of changes known to happen in paranoia over time. I confess a degree of puzzlement why ufologists first regarded aliens as potential benefactors. Science fiction stories generally portrayed them as malevolent back in the thirties and forties. Possibly there were science popularisers pushing the notion, but I can’t prove it. Irregardless, the interpretive drift toward malevolence is consonant with the darkening world. view as paranoids withdraw from social contact and turn inward. The stage called hypochondria is entered as the ego collapses and the fear of death asserts itself in a variety of forms such as world destruction fantasies and imaginary persecutions. These persecution fantasies have led some workers to term this the `pursuit” stage of paranoia. The sixties of course did have such themes. The Men-in-Black fantasies flourished in this period. [139] Stories of UFO chases and UFOs shadowing people were also a commonplace occurrence. They, however, are a subset of a wider range of fears and less central to the core manifestations of approaching death.

Robert Jay Lifton, who has offered an exploratory investigation of death symbolism based on study of the aftermath of Hiroshima, has made some suggestive comments on the relationship of a genre of outer space invaders films in Japan to radical impairment of life-death balance and helplessness spawned by the threat of nuclear annihilation. [140] This impairment also led to Godzilla and fellow monsters tramping all over Tokyo. Such films are of course mirrored in America’s alien invasion genre and the giant insect fear films of the fifties. The apparent absence of similar genres springing up elsewhere may point to the crucial cultural significance of responsibility over Hiroshima as the nexus of fifties’ paranoia.

That the invasion fears of ufology may be rooted in this emotional nexus is a hard idea to get away from. Donald Keyhoe’s book M-Day and articles like ‘Hitler’s slave spies America’, ‘Spies are laughing’, and ‘Rehearsal for death’, bespeak a paranoia preceding Hiroshima for him. One could also argue Mantell’s crash had more to do with stirring up an emotional resonance to a crash Keyhoe experienced which led to his leaving the Air Force than to nuclear fears. It could contrarily be argued, though, that such articles express a gung-ho identification with the war effort and the nation which would intensify guilt over Hiroshima which inaugurated a new cycle of collapse. All very possible, but clearly hazardous given the scanty details of Keyhoe”s biography. [141]

One can occasionally view the personal dimension of UFO fears with less ambiguity. One of the more fascinating exercises of the hypochondriacal style is Alvin Moore’s Mystery of the Skymen. Though published in 1979 it was conceived in 1953 under the title The Spaceisland Menace and retains the flavour of that early period in ufology. The book tallies at splendid length an immense number of strange injuries, vehicle crashes, murders, and puzzling disasters which he lays to the activities of the skymen. A whole section is devoted to a variety of mysterious diseases around the country and world which he ties to fogs of sky-chemicaLs laid down by the flying saucers. The most amazing part is the pages he devotes to the ill effects he personally experienced from flying saucer gas. Moore concluded that a massive invasion, though possible, was not happening because of our great numbers and their failure to reduce us to a manageable amount. They also had no defence against A-bombs. The situation, he admits, had lightened since the fifties. [142]

Wilhelm Reich similarly believed in an alien menace and saw physical evidence everywhere of a ‘DOR emergency’. Aliens were withdrawing life energy from our planet. It could be seen in the decay of vegetation, the crumbling of rocks, a feverish atmosphere, and the activities of neurotic, ‘dorized’ individuals at the FDA who were against his orgone cures. Reich suffered ill effects directly from the aliens. One instance of nausea it wasn’t flying saucer gas causing the trouble, but Deadly Orgone Energy (DOR), that was sapping the life out of him. [143]

Labels of the UFO problem as a malady and a virus are delightfully apt expressions of the hypochondriacal style. If it is wondered if this is reading too much into what could be termed a mere literary device, the examples of the style provided by believers in the Jewish world conspiracy should allay any doubts. Their writings often referred to their enemies as bacilli, syphilis, the plague, and viruses. They entertained poisoning fantasies such as the belief that mass inoculation programmes were plots to inject Gentiles with syphilis. The concomitant appearance of world destruction fantasies can be seen, for example, in Mein Kampf where Hitler warned that if the Jew gained power “his crown will be the dance of death for mankind, and as once before, millions of years ago, this planet will again sail empty of all human life through the ether. [144]

Hypochondria is not a permanent condition. The ego attempts to reintegrate itself eventually through the building of psychological defences against the masochistic attacks of the conscience. Ideas of reference form to disown the contents of the mind and retrospective falsifications form to rewrite one’s personal history and form a new identity. Conspiracy logic organises the chaotic social reality around the subject with delusions of grandeur arising to overcompensate for the prior self image that caused shame. The case of Howard Hughes provides a well-known example. Hughes was a psychogenic cripple with intense germ phobias. Elaborate Kleenex rituals were just a part of his weird behaviour. He feared poisoning, demanded daily reports on radioactivity in the air, and ordered surveillance on girls he knew. The roots of this psychotic episode are probably twofold; the first a 1946 air crash which friends believe he never emotionally recovered from and the second a breakdown when he lost control of TWA, his prized toy in his collection of companies. Toward the end of his life he emerged from the illness sounding “calm and sober” and no longer whining. He stated a mission to join the fight to outlaw all nuclear testing. [145]

It would have been nice to be able to point to someone even who expressed relief that the invasion had been called off.

Ufology hasn’t quite reached the stage of having a sense of mission yet, but there are numerous indications that it has moved out of the hypochondria stage and into later stages of projection and conspiracy logic. As we pass from the sixties to the seventies the word ‘urgent’ seems to drop out of the literature. Calls for investigation decrease and the mass drugging idea is heard from no more. As the ego reintegrates, the view of outer reality gets more upbeat and aliens are seen as less monstrous and more caring. The bizarre properties of alien nightmares, dreams and fantasies become more evident and efforts are made to discount them on some level. The sense that aliens are behaving irrationally is a hopeful sign of increased reality-testing, but is foremost a defensive strategy to deny inner torment. The recognition of trauma in eighties ufology is a double-edged revelation. The removal of denial opens up ufology to regression or resolution. Time will tell, but the flowering of conspiracy theories in recent years augurs well that reintegration is still proceeding.

It is human nature that people don’t often go around proclaiming their mistakes and I won’t feign surprise in observing I failed to find any ufologist reflecting on the remarkable misjudgements, the spectacle of error that took place in sixties ufology. It would have been nice to be able to point to someone even who expressed relief that the invasion had been called off. It is an open question whether ufology learns from its past mistakes or not given such silence, and perhaps it is one best left unasked for the implications include the likelihood that ufology is systemically an irrational enterprise conforming to stereotyped forms of psychological eccentricity. There have been crueller ways putting that.

Doc Condon may also have been right.



93. VON KEVICSKY Colman, ‘The 1973 UFO Invasion – Conclusions’, Official UFO, Fall 1976, 20-21. FOWLER, Raymond E., UFOs: interplanetary Visitors, Prentice-Hall, 1974, 286-300,327.
94. BLUM, Ralph and Judy, Beyond Earth, Bantam, 1974, 226, 225, 216, 25.
95. EMENEGGER, Robert, UFOs: Past, Present and Future, Ballantine, 1974, 171, 150-55.
96. BOWEN, Charles, Encounter Cases from Flying Saucer Review, Signet, 1977, 215-17.
97. HYNEK, J. Allen and VALLEE, Jacques, The Edge of Reality, H. Regnery, 1975, 5, 9, 159, 249.
98. VALLEE, Jacques, The Invisible College, E. P. Dutton, 1975, 30, 208, 59.
99. LORENZEN, Coral and Jim, Encounters with UFO Occupants, Berkley, 1976, 393, 399.
100. KEEL, John A., The Mothman Prophecies, Signet, 1975, 145, 143. KEEL, John A., The Eighth Tower, Signet, 1975, 145, 157.
101. HOLZER, Hans, The Ufonauts, Fawcett, 1976, 262, 290-91, 304.
102. STEIGER, Brad, Gods of Aquarius: UFOs and the Transformation of Men, Berkley, 1981, v-vi.
103. FLAMMONDE, Paris, UFO Exist, Ballantine, 1976, 419-20.
104. HYNEK, J. Allen, The Hynek UFO Report, Dell, 1977, 27, 181.
105. ROGO, D. Scott, The Haunted Universe, Signet, 1977, 146.
106. BARRY, Bill, Ultimate Encounter, Pocket, 1978, 199.
107. STRINGFIELD, Leonard, Situation Red, Fawcett, 1977,176.
108. GATTI, Art, UFO Encounters of the 4th Kind, Zebra, 1978, 191.
109. STEIGER, Brad, Alien Meetings, Ace, 1978, 209.
110. ROGO, D. Scott and CLARK, Jerome, Earth’s Secret Inhabitants, Tempo, 1979, 39, 201.
111. VALLEE, Jacques, Messengers of Deception, Bantam, 1980, 240-41, 232.
112. BONDARCHUK, Yurko, UFO Sightings, Landings and Abductions, Methuen, 1979, 194-96.
113. FOWLER, Raymond, The Andreasson Affair, Prentice-Hall, 1979, 204,202-203.
114. ROGO, D. Scott, UFO Abductions, Signet, 1980, 226, 240.
115. Ibid., 122-37.
116. DRUFFEL, Ann and ROGO, D. Scott, The Tujunga Canyon Contacts – Updated Edition, Signet, 1989, 225, 227, 229.
117. FULLER, Curtis G., Proceedings of the First International UFO Congress, Warner, 1980, 304.
118. Ibid. 309.
119. Ibid. 117.
120. Ibid., 334.
121. GANSBERG, Judith and Alan, Direct Encounters, Walker, 1980, 52, 142, 176.
122. FOWLER, Raymond, Casebook of a UFO Investigator, Prentice-Hall, 1981, 233.
123. FOWLER, Raymond, The Andraasson Affair – Phase Two, PrenticeHall, 1982, 262.
124. MACHLIN, Milt, UFO, Quick Fox, 1981, 112-15, 131.
125. HOPKINS, Budd, Missing Time, Richard Marek, 1981, 20, 22530, 238, 24, 237.
126. STEIGER, Brad and Francie, The Star People, Berkley, 1981. STEIGER. Brad, The Seed, Berkley, 1983.
127. MAGOR, John, Aliens Above, Always, Hancock House, 1983, 18.
128. HIND, Cynthia, African Encounters, Gemini, 1982, 209.
129. FAWCETT, Lawrence and GREENWOOD, Barry, Clear Intent, PrenticeHall, 1984, 186-87.
130. ANDREWS, George, Extraterrestrials Among Us, LLewellyn, 1986, 208.
131. Ibid., 256.
132. HALL, Richard, Uninvited Guests, Aurora, 7988, 138.
133. HYNEK, J. Allen, IMBRIGNO, Philip J. and PRATT, Bob, Night Siege, Ballantine, 1987.
134. HOPKINS, Budd, Intruders, Random, 1987,163,190,122-23, 792-93.
135. HALL, op. cit., 195, 223-24.
136. DRUFFEL, op. cit., 288-90.
137. VALLEE, Jacques, Confrontations, Ballantine, 1990,15-17.
138. FOWLER, Raymond, The Watchers, Bantam, 1991, 351, 357.
139. ROJCEWICZ, Peter M., ‘The Man in Black Experience and Tradition’, Pursuit, 20, 2,1907, 72-77.
140. LIFTON, Robert Jay, Death in Life, Random House, 1967, 467-64.
141. Current Biography 1956, 338-39.
142. MOORE, Alvin E., Mystery of the Skymen, Saucerian, 1979, 111-16.
143. REICH, Wilhelm, Contact with Space, Core Pilot, 1957, 44-46.
144. COHN, Norman, Warrant for Genocide, Harper & Row, 1967, 186-87.
145. MATHISON, Richard, His Weird and Wanton Ways, Wm Morrow, 1977.






Dr Stephen Black’s UFO Documentary.
John Harney

From Merseyside UFO Bulletin volume 1, number 3, May-June 1968

On May 9th, (1968) BBC Television presented a documentary programme on UFOs narrated by Dr Stephen Black, a researcher in neuro-physiology. For this programme Dr Black chose only UFO witnesses he believed to be sincere.

He soon revealed the peculiar subjective aspects of UFO sightings. First was Captain Howard concerning the famous sighting made by himself, his crew and passengers from a BOAC airliner on June 29th. 1954. When Howard had told his story Dr Black asked him how he felt at the time. Howard said that he felt “kindly disposed towards them.” He said he discussed it with other members of his crew afterwards and they agreed that they felt “some sort of bond of affection between us and ‘them’.” Captain Howard described it as a “very strange and powerful feeling”.

Another fascinating interview was with Lonnie Zamora of Socorro, followed by a conversation between Dr Black and Dr Hynek. Both agreed that Zamora saw what he said he saw, Dr Hyneksaid that it was one of the most interesting cases he had come across. There followed an interview with Joe Simonton (the Eagle River case) who claimed to have received four pancakes from spacemen in a flying saucer in exchange for a jug of water. Simonton was “not lying.”

Then we were shown engineer Brian Winder lecturing to a joint meeting of the British Interplanetary Society and Royal Aeronautical Society, at Bristol on the subject of his flying saucer model based on an atomic power source, The camera, also showed us his audience, some listening attentively, others smirking.

We were shown Dr William Hartman an astronomer who is responsible for the investigation of all photographic evidence for the Condon Committee attempting to duplicate the famous Heflin photographs. Hartman pointed out the difficulty of obtaining acceptable photographic evidence, If any particular photograph could be duplicated by faking, then this weakened the arguments in favour of the genuineness of that photograph. He compared the situation to the assassination of President Kennedy, for which event there were many eyewitnesses, photographs and physical evidence, such as bullets, etc, In spite of all this people still argue as to exactly what happened and who really fired the shots, and many of books have been written expounding contradictory thc:ories. Rex Heflin revealed that he was a keen model maker and Dr Black commented that it was quite possible to fake a photograph and then forget about it.

The most significant part of the programme was the discussion of the Betty and Barney Hill ‘abduction’ story. Dr Benjamin Simon, the Boston psychiatrist who examined the Hills, said that he was at first very puzzled by the story. Both gave the same story under hypnosis and Betty described her alleged abduction in great, detail. Dr Simon was baffled until he recognised. the dreamlike quality of the story. In dreams such things can exist, be acceptable and not require a diagnoses of mental disorder. This led him to recall that Betty’s original problem had been nightmarish dreams. It turned out that these dreams and the dreams which she had written down in 1961 (just after their UFO experience) were all the same. Simon felt pretty convinced that the abduction part of the story, at least, was merely a dream.

Betty denied telling these dreams to Barney and Barney denied being told about them. However, Betty admitted telling the dreams to her supervisor and her sister and it finally emerged that Barney had been at home at the time she was talking about the dreams, so that he could have absorbed some of the details without realising it. A suggestion by Betty’s supervisor that they might not be dreams but reality led to the complete repression of the whole thing, leading to the gap in memory. Dr Simon said, in answer to a question from Dr Black that both of the Hills were deep trance hypnotic subjects.

Summing up, Black said that a lot of apparent movement of lights in the sky might be due to a well-known mechanism in the brain which makes a flickering light in a darkened room appear to move. The eyeballs remain still, the movement is “all in the mind’. Some scientists believe the rate of flicker to be critical and this rate has to be the same as an importantbrain-wave rhythm – about ten times a second. Stars sometimes twinkle at the rate of ten times a second and the hill’s experience with their attention being drawn to what appeared to be a star. However, stars never seem to move as much as UFOs are said to move.

Barney Hill has said that he did not believe in flying saucers, but Betty did, so to some extent suggestion was going on in their home. Both the Hills are deep-trance hypnotic subjects, and such people are only 5% of the general population. Dr Black said that we wished to test as many convincing UFO witnesses as possible for hypnotizability. this was somewhat difficult to arrange, but only six deep-trance UFO witnesses in succession would be necessary to prove statistically a connection between the two phenomena. So far, he had five such subjects and the odds against that being due to chance were three million to one against. Dr Hynek agreed that this discovery was very interesting and required following up.

Dr Black said that deep-trance hypnotic subjects, so far as we know, do not hallucinate spontaneously; they need a hypnotist to suggest at least the beginnings of the delusion. He then asked: “Could flickering light, the way people react in groups and hypnosis all combine to explain UFOs?” He concluded that perhaps some, though certainly not all sightings could be explained in this way. The Captain Howard sighting could not be explained as a delusion as such an explanation in this case would surely involve telepathy!


Search For Physical Evidence:
Part Four: The Charlton Crater
John Harney

From Merseyside UFO Bulletin, volume 4, number 6, Winter 1971

There have been relatively few cases of alleged physical evidence of UFOs in Britain, and of those few the Charlton Crater is by far the most notorious examlple. Serious attempts to provide rational explanations for the occurrence have been consistently ridiculed by the UFO enthusiasts who apparently prefer to believe that the phenomenon was produced by the landing of a flying saucer.

In July, 1963, a crater about 1 ft. [0.3m] deep, 8 ft. [2.4 m.] in diameter, with a hole in the centre about 3 ft. [0.9 m.] deep was found on the boundary between a potato field and a barley field at Manor Farm, Charlton, Wiltshire (near Shaftesbury, Dorset). The crater was discovered by farmer Roy Blanchard, according to Robert Chapman (1), or by a Mr Reg Alexander, according to Leonard Cramp (2). Take your pick.

It is not clear from the various accounts just how the crater came to receive such wide publicity and close scrutiny from military and scientific experts, journalists, ufologists, and assorted cranks and publicity seekers. The incident which seems to have attracted the attention of the national news media and Members of Parliament was the arrival on the scene of an Army Bomb Disposal Squad. These gentlemen found no bomb, but did detect metal, which was in fact magnetite, naturally occurring in the soil of that area.

Unfortunately the sensational publicity accorded to the affair did not provide a suitable atmosphere for rational, scientific investigation. A lump of iron ore recovered from the crater by the Army team was pounced on by Patrick Moore, who hastily pronounced it to be a meteorite.

The issue was further confused by the arrival on the scene of a gentleman calling himself Dr Randall, who purported to be an ‘Australian austrophysicist’. This character assured the gentlemen of the press that the crater was caused by a flying saucer weighing about 600 tons [540 tonne], with a crew of about 50, and originating from the planet Uranus. Still further confusion must have been caused in the minds of interested observers when the newspapers printed these inane drivellings of ‘Dr Randall’ apparently without taking the trouble to consult the appropriate reference books in order to determine his bona fides.

Questions in the House of Commons eventually established that the crater was not caused by a bomb or a meteorite and, so far as the authorities were concerned the matter remained unexplained. Ufologists immediately took this as a licence to indulge in wild speculations about flying saucers and their alleged electromagnetic effects and “G fields”. Much was also made of the fact that the magnetite in the soil in the immediate vicinity of the crater was found to have been magnetised. Much was also made of the alleged complete disappearance of potato plants at the site of the crater. (3)

The Charlton Crater, among other similar occurrences, attracted the attention of Alan W.Sharp who, as our readers well know, does not believe in spaceships from Uranus or in fairies or Father Christmas either, for that matter.

Mr Sharp at first thought that the crater may have been caused by subsidence, but later revised his opinion and suggested that it was probably caused by a lightning strike. This would explain the magnetic effects observed by investigators. In a review of Leonard Cramp’s Piece for a Jigsaw Alan Sharp wrote:

“A great deal of nonsense has been talked about the Charlton occurrence but in point of fact this was a classic example of the type of ‘crater’ ascribable to the strike of lightning on open ground. It displays radiating surface marks, removal of material and a central hole. It was preceded by a violent thunderstorm accompanied by strong winds and was in an area of considerable storm damage to crops. The lightning struck the ground where there was evidence of a local elevation of the water table and produced detectable magnetic effects in the magnetite bearing soil, similar to those recorded at Cockburnspath in Scotland.

“The strike occurred at a point on a previous field boundary where a large iron straining-post had once been embedded in the ground and secured by metal stays. The disappearance of plants was by no means complete, as had been alleged by one person, according to Mr Bealing, the Shaftesbury photographer whose photographs appeared widely in the Press at the time. Captain Rodgers of the Army investigation team, also reported the finding of plant remains at the site.” (4)

The lightning explanation certainly seems the most logical one in the circumstances, but it has been totally ignored by British ufologists, who prefer to indulge in bizarre speculations about flying saucers and their “anti-gravity” propulsion systems. The Charlton Crater affair is a particularly interesting case in that study of the literature on the subject shows up the irrational and unscientific attitudes which prevail among British ufologists, even including those who are intelligent enough to know better.


1. Chapman, Robert. Unidentified Flying Objects. Arthur Barker Ltd., London. 1969.
2. Camp, Leonard G. Piece for a Jigsaw. Somerton Publishing Co. Ltd. Cowes, Isle of Wight, 1966.
3. Ibid., p, 184,
4. Sharp, Alan. Book Review, “Piece for a Jig–Saw” , MUFORG Bulletin, February, 1967.


UFO Glossary.
John Harney

From Merseyside UFO Bulletin, volume 1, number 2, March-April 1968 and number 3, May-June 1968.

Although many of the terms in this glossary are now out of date, or have totally fallen out of use, or are now so self explanatory that they need no definition, this list give an interesting insight into the attitudes and proccupations of ufology at the time. And can anyone now see any logic in Vallée’s categories, except that he wanted to make a special category for an aspect of the phenomenon that appears to be uniquely French?


There are so many special term and abbreviations now in use aming ufologists that those who are not aquainted with the subject frequently find it difficult to fully understand conversations and writings on UFOs.We here begin a list of UFO term and abbreviations. It will be seen that some terms are scientific, some pseudo-scientific, being borrowed from science fiction and various esoteric writings, while others are original inventions

The purpose of this glossary is to provoke discussion of UFO terminology with the hope that this will eventually lead to the publication of lists of acceptable terms, with generally agreed definitions, for use by serious UFO researchers. The following list attempts to indicate some of the terms at present in use, or to be found in UFO literature.

AFSCA: Amalgamated Flying Saucer Clubs of America. A contactee-oriented group, founded by Gabriel Green in 1959.

Agitated cumuulus (or, “turbulent cumulus”): Cumulus-type cloud, sometimes reported as accompanying a hovering or slow-moving UFO.

Alien: Being from another planet,.

Alternate realities (or A R theory). Term applied to ideas which attempt to describe various UFO phenomena as belonging to a “different order of reality” from the physical realities explored by modern science. This concept is extremely difficult to describe in a few words; but some inkling of the ides involved can be gained by reading some of the more esoteric UFO books and also the works of Char:Les Fort and literature concerned with mythology, folklore end fantasy.

Angel hair: Material similar in appearance to cobwebs or gossamer, said to be formed by UFOs. This material disintegrates and dissapears quickly, especially when handled and all attempts to preserve samples have been unsuccessful. Apart from the theory that this substance is merely spiders’ webs – which cannot be taken seriously in view of repeated failures to preserve samples – there are two other hypotheses. The first is that this substance may be composed of metastable
chemical polymers. These could be produced in extreme condition such as occur in a tornado. Secondly, they could be aggregates of electrically charged dust particles, which disintegrate on falling to the ground and becoming earthed. It seems that both of these effects can be produced without the agency of UFOs.

Antigravity: Hypothetical propulsion system by which flight nay be achieved by manipulating the force of gravity, It is often said that UFOs must be propelled by antigravity devices, because the reported manoouvres of UFOs (e.g., right-angled turns at high speed) would be impossible using conventional moans of propulsion and antigravity drive would free the craft from the effects of inertia.

APRO: Aerial Phenomena Research Organization. Address: 3910 E.Kleindale Road ~ Tucson Arizona, U.S.A. Founded 1952. Oldest and one of the best–known anA best informed UFO organisations. [Now defunct]

AR Theory: See “Alternate Realities.”

Associated phenomena: Unusual events or experiences which appear to be connected with UFO activity at a particular place or time. These include such things as odd coincidences, mysterious telephone calls and unexplained noises.

BAVIC: Line joining Bayonne and Vichy, in France. (BAyonnne-VIChy). Aime Michel discovered that six out of ten sightings recorded in France on September 24th, 1954, lay on this line. It has been suggested that this line may be a permanent feature, of global significance so far as UFOs are concerned. This is because, when continued around the world the line runs through areas which have experienced intensive waves of UFO sightings.(See also “0rthoteny”)

Benderism: The abandonment of active interest in UFOs, giving as a reason mysterious threats and unexplained happenings. In 1953 Albert K.Bender closed down the International Flying Saucer Bureau, saying that he had been threatened by “three men in black.” Since then other ufologists have ceased their activities under somewhat simiiar circumstances.

Binding-forces: In ufology, this term refers to the forces which hold matter together, According to the late Wilbert B. Smith, there are small areas of “reduced binding” which occur in various parts of the world. He claimed that such “vortices” of reduced binding force were produced by atomic explosions and this was the cause of some unexplained aircraft disasters. He claimed that this information came from the powers controlling the UFOs. So far, no reliable evidence to support the binding forces idea has been presented.

BUFORA: British Unidentified Flying Object Research Association, The largest and most influential UFO organisation in Britain. Various local UFO groups in Britain are affiliated to BUFORA. [Now existing on-line only]

Cigar: Unidentified flying object shaped like a cigar. See “Mother ship.”

Classic: UFO sighting report or incident which has become wellknown to most people interested in the subject. Such reports are generally referred to in UFO literature simply by the name of the place, or principal witness, e.g. Socorro, Itiapu Fort, Father Gill, Mantell, Captain Howard, etc.

Condon Committee (or Colorado Project): A group of scientists investigating UFOs under the chairmanship of Dr Edward U. Condon, based at the University of Colorado. The University was awarded a contract in October, 1966 by the U.S.Air Force, to carry out a thorough scientific investigation of the UFO problem.

Contactee: Person who claims to have contacted the powers who control the flying saucers, either by physical encounter or by some other means, such as telepathy or mysterious telephone calls. The stories told by contactees are generally implausible, but they sometimes impress because of the apparent good character of the witness and the presence of some circumstantial evidence which appears to at least partly lend credence to the story. Contactees usually claim to have received a “message” to reveal to the world and often claim also to have received information which they must not reveal, The “message” i s usually edifying, if somewhat unenlightening. Some researchers tend to place such reports which do not involve such a message in a different category from ordinary “contact stories,”

Stories similar to the modern contact story have been told through the ages and it is thus clear that they must be taken seriously, if not literally. Although some contactees have admitted to fabricating their stories, many appear to be sincere. The main problem with regard to such reports is, therefore, to attempt to dicover whether they have a purely psychological cause, or whether they are accounts – probably distorted – of genuine experiences.

Crackpot: Term popularly applied to uncritical believers in flying saucers, who entertain confused and bizarre ideas on the subject.

CUGIUFO: Cambridge University Group for the Investigation of Unidentified Flying Objects.

Cultist: Term applied to persons or organisations which appear to mix the UFO phenomena with religious beliefs, or who regard UFOs as having a mainly religiuos or occult significance.

Deltavolant: Triangle-shaped UFO.

EM effects: Electromagnetic effects. These are often associated with reports of close encounters with UFOs. Many reports have bben recorded from motorists of failures of lighting and ignition when approacehd by UFOs. There are also many reports of power failure and interference with radio and television reception associated with UFOs. It has thus been theorised that UFOs are surrounded by intense, alternating magnetic fields, but it seems that such effects are not present in all cases in which one would expect them to be noted. (See ‘UFO detector’)

Explain away: To dispose of a UFO report by fitting it to any conventional explanation that comes to hand, in order to avoid classifying it as unidentified.

Falling leaf: According to reports, UFOs sometimes lose height by moving from side to side in the manner of a falling leaf, hence the expression.

Flap: A number of UFO reports occurring in a particular area, over a fairly short period of time. (See ‘Wave’)

Flying saucer: Unidentified flying object. The term flying saucer was coined by the popular press at the time of Kenneth Arnold’s famous sighting in 1947. Since then the subject of UFOs has generally been referred to by press and the public as flying asucers. Most ufologists, however, nowadays appear to favour the term ‘UFO’.

Fly-over: Term applied to UFO sightings which consist merely of lights crossing the sky. Such reports are usually considered to be of little value, unless associated with other more impressive sightings, because of the number of conventional explanations available.

Foo fighter: Type of UFO reported by aircrews during the Second World War. Foo fighters were generally described as resembling small glowing spheres, without clearly defined outlines, which manouvered around aircraft in flight.

Fortean phenomena: Unexplained or unusual occurrences, such as those recorded in the books of Charles Hoy Fort. Fort (1874-1932) wrote four books: The Book of the Damned (1919), New Lands (1923), Lo! (1931) and Wild Talents (1932). Items recorded by Fort included reports of such things as mysterious substances falling from the sky, spontaneous combustion and unidentified flying objects. most writers on the subject of UFOs have made use of material from his books.

Gee-whiz group: An American term applied to UFO organisations which consist of believers in flying saucers who apparently get together merely to enthuse over sighting reports and contact claims, as opposed to groups which attempt to carry out objective investigations and basic research.

G-field: Gravitational field. Term sometimes applied to effects supposedly produced by a UFO using “antigravity” propulsion, e.g, a tendency to attract particles of earth, etc., when taking off.

Ghost rockets: Mysterious rocket-like objects, reported mainly over Sweden during the Summer of 1946. They were described as being rocket or cigar shaped, with an orange or green flame and/or smoke at the rear. They were said to travel low on a horizontal trajectory, at altitudes estimated at generally between 1,000 and 3,000 feet and speeds estimated at about 400 m.p.h, The number of sighting reports of the ghost rockets was officially given as over 1,000, with unofficial estimates ranging up to 2,000.

Green fireballs: Green, glowing objects, like meteors, reported mainly in New Mexico in 1949„ They were said to move on straight courses, unlike ordinary meteors, and to explode silently, leaving no traces. The U.S.Air Force set up a special project – Pro;ject Twinkle – to investigate them.

Part two appeared in the next issue of Magonia,  May- June 1968:

Hostility theory: Term applied to speculation that the present UFO activity is the final phase of a plan by superior beings from other parts of the galaxy to take over the Earth and either enslave or annihilate its people.

Humanoid: Entity~ similar in appearance to a human being, reported by witnesses to emerge from landed UFOs.

Interplanetary theory: The popular hypothesis that UFOs are spacecraft from other planets.

Invisible College: Informal international association of scientists interested in the UFO problem, led by U.S.Air Force UFO Consultant, Dr J.Allen Hynek. He called it the “Invisible College” because most of its members do not wish their names to be revealed.

Jellyfish: Type of dome-shaped UFO, with brightly coloured streamers or beams of light underneath it, giving the appearance of an illuminated jellyfish,

Landing report: Report of a landing of an unidentified flying object.

Ley: An alignment of prehistoric points such as stone circles, burial mounds etc. Some researchers believe that there may be a connection beween such alignments and the pattern of UFO activity.

Martian: Inhabitant of the planet Mars. A term popularly applied to alleged occupants of UFOs.

Menzelism: A firm belief that all UFO reports are explainable in terms of misinterpretations of natural phenomena or aircraft and that reports not explainable in this manner must be all hoaxes and delusions, together with a firm refusal seriously to consider other possibilities. This term derives from the name of the astrophysicist Dr Menzel who has for many years been noted for his attitude of total scepticism concerning UFOs.

Mother ship: Large UFO usually cigar-shaped from which smaller craft are said to emerge. According to reports the mother ship usually remains at a fairly high altitude while the smaller craft fly about in various directions and eventually return to it.

NICAP: National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena. [Now defunct] This organisation was founded in 1956, and has its headquarters in Washington D.C. Perhaps the world’s best-known UFO organisation, its activities figure prominently in the UFO literature.

Operators (or ‘Occupants’): Strange beings reported to emerge from landed UFOs. Descriptions vary, and attempts have been made to classify and correlate such reports. This aspect of the subject is very complex and opens up interesting lines of research and speculation. For example, many of the descriptions of alien entities given by witnesses appear to coincide with descriptions in folklore and mythology of fabulous beings such as goblins, gnomes, fauns, Cyclops, etc.

Thus there are emerging two divergent attitudes to the problem. To some people such reports suggest that present-day UFO landing reports have a psychological explanation and are merely a modern resurgence of old myths and legends. To others these reports suggest that ancient myths and legends are distorted accounts of genuine encounters with alien beings, hence the similarities with modern UFO landing reports.

The idea that ancient legends concerning beings with superhuman powers may relate to actual visits by beings from other planets has been taken seriously by some scientists such as Agrest and Sagan. However, ssuch people are generally reluctant to admit that  modern reports may have the same explanation.

Orthoteny: When studying UFO reports which occurred during the Great Wave of Autumn 1954, centred on France, Aime Michel noted that when plotted on a map many reports on particular days appeared to lie on straight lines. To describe this phenomenon, he coined the term “orthoteny,” derived from the Greek adjective orthotoneis, meaning “stretched in a straight line.” Michel expounded hzs orthoteny theory in a book, translated into English under the title Flying Saucers and the Straight-Line Mystery.

The original theory was to the effect that alignments of sightings revealed the pattern of UFO activity for a particular day and different sets of alignments appeared on different days. Later, the theory was extended to include the idea of permanent alignments, such as the Famous BAVIC line. (q.v.)

Sceptics argued that the straight lines were purely chance alignments and a number of mathematical studies of the topic were published in UFO magazines, with the result that many now accept, with reservations, that such alignments are generally due to chance.

Plantier’s theory: An hypothesis devised by a Lieutenant Plantier, which assumes an as yet unknown form of energy distributed throughout space in unlimited quantities. He further assumed that there exists a means of liberating this energy by transforming it into a different kind of energy, and that the liberation of this energy could result in a field of force which could be varied and directed at will. He thus envisaged a model interplanetary machine based on this idea and it was pointed out that its characteristic behaviour was similar to the described behaviour of UFOs.

Project Bluebook: On January 15th, 1948, the United States Air Force was established as a separate branch of the U.S. military forces and thus acquired the responsibility for protecting the United States from all threats from the air. Thus the persistent reports of unidentified flying objects plainly became the responsibility of the Air Force. On January 22nd, 1948, Project Sign (sometimes referred to as ‘Project Saucer’) was set up at Wright-Patterson Air Force base, near Dayton, Ohio. It was hoped that this project would soon discover the solutiion to the UFO mystery.

On February llth, 1949, the operation was reorganisedd and renamed Project Grudge and investigations continued more quietly, after the open disagreements which attended the activities of Project Sign. Under Project Grudge attempts were made to persuade the public that flying saucers did not exist, but continuing UFO sightings and the resulting public clamour forced a further reorganisation and Project Bluebook started in March, 1952, and still continues on its eventful career. Details of its activities and public statements abound in the UFO literature.

Project Grudge: See Project Bluebook:.

Project Magnet: UFO investigation set up by the Canadian Government in 1950 and closed down in 1954. The project was headed by the late Wilbert B.Smith.

Project Ozma: This name was given to a project carried out at Green Bank, West Virginia, between April, 1959, and July, 1960, by Frank D. Drake and Otto Struve, The aim of the exercise was to use the observatory’s radio telescope, coupled to equipment designed to filter out radio noise and to detect very weak signals, to listen for possible intelligent radio signals from other planetary systems. The frequency chosen for this search was 21cm. – the hydroogen emission wavelength. It was decided to aim the telescope in turn at two starts during the search. The chosen ones were Epsilon Eridani and Tau Ceti. No extreterrestrial signals were received, and the experiment was abandoned in July 1960, as the expensive equipment was required for other projects.

Project Saucer: An unofficial name for Protect Saucer.

Project Sign: See Project Bluebook

Project Twinkle: Project set up by the U.S. Force to attempt to obtain motion pictures of green fireballs seen over New Mexico, using cine-thedolites, The first sightings of these fireballs were reported in December, 1948. It was reported that this project was unsuccessful.

Psychic Projection theory: (1) The idea that one person who believes he is seeing a UFO can influence others who are present by suggestion so that they also believe that they see it (2) The idea that it is possible to project mental images, in such a way that they are seen as apparently real objects by other persons. It is thus believed by UFO enthusia;ts that saucers and their crews are ‘thought-forms’ projectcd by extraterrestrial beings in order to inform us of their existence.

Saturn-shaped object: UFO shaped somewhat like the planet Saturn. On January 16th 19588, a series of photographs of such an object were taken from the deck of the Brazilian Navy ship Almirante Saldanha, off Trinidade Island in the Atlantic Ocean. These pictures were widely published and this event is regarded as important in the UFO story because of the circunlstances in which the pictures were taken and the fact that there had previously been a number of interesting sightings of such objects reported from South America.

Shaggy saucer story: A report which is, or is considered to be, merely a joke or a hoax.

Sighting form: Printed form containing questions on aspects of UFO sightings for completion by UFO witnesses. Most UFO groups devise their own forms, but many of them are based on the official US Air Force form. (This form is reproduced as an appendix to the book, Flying Saucers From Outer Space by Donald Keyhoe)

Significant report: UFO report considered important by serious UFO researchers, as opposed to a UFO report which has achieved wide publicity merely because of favourable circumstances.

Silence Group: U.S.Air Force officers and officials who are opposed to the release of official information concerning unexplained UFO reports.

Skywatch: An exercise which consists, basically, of watching the sky in the hope of sighting any unidentified flying object.
Skywatches are organised by UFO,organisations- sometimes on a national or even international scale. It is usual to choose a.
time and place considered favourable in the light of past experience and to have available suitable equipment to record anything unusual which may be seen.

Type classification of UFO reports: UFO researcher, Dr Jaques Vallée has devised a system for classifying UFO reports so that any report will fall into one, and only one, of the following five categories:

  • Type I:  They can be seen (or imagined, or perceived) as objects situated on the ground or close to the ground (at tree height)
  • Type II:  They can display the behaviour observed at Vernon (large, cylindrical object from which smaller objects emerge) or, more generally appear as huge cylindrical forms, often vertical. The latter behaviour defines a sub-class II-A; when there are descriptions of actual secondary objects they are called class II-B.
  • Type III:  They can be described as aerial forms hovering in the atmosphere, or following a path interrupted by a stationary point; a precise point will be defined on the ground from this discontinuity.
  • Type IV.  They can be seen as objects crossing the sky without such interruption or discontinuity.
  • Type V.  They can be distant objects seen as lights.

UFO: Unidentified flying object.

Ufocal: A locality which is a source of numerous UFO reports over a long period of time. (This word was coined by Dr J.Cleary-Baker, editor of BUFORA Journal.)

UFO detector: Sensitive device designed to detect sudden changes in the local magnetic field. UFOs are said to be frequently surrounded by powerful magnetic fields. Thus, when such a device operates it suggests that there is possibly a UFO in the vicinity. The simplest form of detector consists of a freely suspended magnet, which will complete an electrical circuit if it moves sufficiently, setting off a warning device, such as a buzzer or light. Such a device tends tu be too sensitive to mechanical vibrations to be of very great value and more sophisticated detectors, which overcome this problem, have been produced.

UFO group: Any organisation whose main purpose is the study of UFO reports.

Ufologist: Person who studies UFO reports.

Ufology: The study of UFO reports and associated topics.

Venusian: Inhabitant of the planet Venus. Term often applied to benevolent spacemen which often feature in “contactee” stories. 

 From the foregoing glossary it will be seen that many of the terms are useful and necessary in order to avoid tedious circimlocutions in writings on the subject of UFOs. Some of the terms, though, are vague or ambiguous and others are obviously frivolous.

A correspondent has suggested that the following terms, listed in our last issue, would not be generally used by serious UFO researchers: Alternate realities, Benderism, Deltavolant, .Fly-over, and Gee-whiz group. If any of our readers have any suggestions for terms to be added to or deleted from the glossary or wish to improve on the definitions given, we would be pleased to hear from them.

Ten Years On…
The Editors Look Back on a Decade of Ufology
Roger Sandell, Peter Rogerson, John Rimmer

From Magonia New Series 10, Spring 1978


MUFOB’s tenth anniversary also roughly coincides with the tenth anniversary of my own interest in the subject, sparked off by the British wave of 1967. At the time I was a member of the “nuts and bolts” school looking for extraterrestrial hardware, and automatically consigning contactees, MIBs and similar reports to the waste paper bin. I first realised the inadequacy of this approach when I began to research the Welsh UFO cases of the year 1905. To my perplexity I discovered reports that the “nuts and bolts” ideas seemed to make little sense of: UFOs in conjunction with ghost stories and religious visions, manifestations apparently visisble to some people but not others, and even (most distressing of all to me) an MIB report. Some rethinking seemed to be in order…

That this rethinking seems to have taken place among quite a large number of ufologists may be the major achievement of the years 1968 to 1978. The complete failure of the space programmes to detect any sign of intelligent activity on our neighbours in space has made theories of Martians or Venusians so unlikely that it is hard to remember how totally such ideas once dominated the UFO scene. The results have been twofold; on one hand some ufologists have retreated into irrationalism and see the UFO as a malignant, supernatural, anti-human force. The UFO has in some quarters been explicitily co-opted in the revival of demonology and apocalyptic fantasies. (Like much in Ufology these ideas are reminiscent of earlier science-fiction.)

Other ufologists have attempted to place the phenomenon in the context of religions visions, ghostly experiences, and similar events which have been very real to many people, even though their intrinsic nature makes them almost totally resistant to scientific investigation. Among the ufologists thinking in this way there seems to be a major cleavage between those who see all these as manifestations of some mysterious intelligence external to humanity which has appeared in different guises at different times; and those who see the phenomenon as a product of the human mind itself.

Even among those who, like the present writer, belong to the second group, there is much scope for disagreement and uncertainty as to how this happens. Are we dealing with a state of mind in which visions can not only be experienced, but paranormally impressed on other minds, and perhaps even affect physical reality? Or are we simply dealing with more mundane products of the human mind, such as dreams, rumours and hoaxes? Certainly it is salutary to reflect on the number of cases which the past decade has shown to be hoaxes after they had received the full backing of eminent ufologists.

What of the next decade? It is often pointless to attempt detailed predictions (who, fifteen years ago, would have predicted the revival in the last decade of astrology, gurus, exorcism and the whole paraphernalia of irrationalism?) but unless there is some striking event which will cause a major rethink (such as the discovery of intelligent signals from the stars, or a fossilised TV set) I see the apocalyptic occultist strains becoming more dominant in ufology. Perhaps as in Arthur C Clarke Rendezvous with Rama we shall actually see a church of Jesus Christ Cosmonaut…


In 1968 UFO research was still conceived of in largely mechanistic terms, and some form of ETH was the order of the day. Ten years on, thanks to changing attitudes towards technology, the demystifying impact of space flights, and the growing realisation of just how complex the UFO syndrome is, has changed the situation drastically.

The changes have not always been to our liking; the swapping of an uncritical belief in space-people for an equally uncritical belief in ‘elementals’ and other alleged supernatural beings is not to be encouraged. While in 1968 UFO research in Britain seemed to be divided between a university-trained elite and a rabble of querulous cranks, there has been a narrowing towards a mediocre centre. Whilst the loss of the small cliques of self-seeking eager believers and ‘occultists’ is to be welcomed, the drifting away of the CUGIUFO generation is still keenly felt.

Fashions change in ufology. In 1968 UFO detectors were all the rage. Now the ‘scientific ufologists’ seem to go in more for chemistry sets, map reading and geiger counters.

A measure of the ‘New Ufology’s progress is that it can be used as a basis for articles in the Royal Anthropological Society Newsletter. Even Scott Rogo’s questionable Haunted Universe can get a rave review in the SPR Journal from such an establishment figure as John Beloff.

By now I think we have accumulated enough ufological data to be able to make the first tentative steps towards defining the UFO experience:

  • We have accumulating evidence that a good proportion of high strangeness UFO experiences occur in various altered states of consciousness.
  • That some encounter experiences, at least, are not objective, in the usual sense of the term
  • That the cases most attractive to ‘classical’ ufologists, which seen to be objective, are the most vulnerable to criticism from Klass, Sharp, et al.
  • That the collectivity of the UFO record forms a modern folklore which constitutes the base for a ‘contemporary mythology’.
  • That analysis of UFO stories in terms of mythological and psychological systems is likely to be fruitful.
  • That there is no persuasive evidence that non-human intelligences are intervening in our lives.

This percipient-oriented approach to ufology has made the subject, in theory, subject to experimental test. We should be discussing the type of criteria which need to be fulfilled for an acceptable experimental duplication of a UFO experience, and the ethical issues involved. The statements made above should be testable. For the ETH to be re-established as a major hypothesis, it will now have to be defined in testable terms, or some really unimpeachable evidence to be produced. (For example, an unambiguous piece of ET hardware, or two or more simultaneous movies of a CE-III taken under public conditions, in circumstances totally ruling out fraud.)

At the same time, those who feel that there is evidence of a genuinely new physical phenomenon generating UFO experiences should be encouraged to define their procedures. They might begin to accept that home-made gadgetry in most unlikely to be of such value in dealing with such a presumably complex phenomenon.

There are other areas where procedures and ethics need to be closely examined. I for one view with more than a little concern the growing use of ‘hypnotic regression’ as an investigative tool when used by non-medical personnel. Reading the UFO literature one gets the impression that many of the people involved view hypnosis as a kind of ‘magic’, and a road to an impersonal, objective truth. This in an attitude not shared by Benjamin Simon and many psychiatrists. It is very difficult to regard many of the hypnotic regression from Bridie Murphy onwards, at face value.

The claims of alleged reincarnation are particularly dubious. In the famous Bloxham Tapes much play is made of the fact that one of the regressees used 18th century maritime phrases, yet none of the other subjects, regressed to the 12th century, or Roman York, spoke anything but 20th century standard English. In any caae, it seems that some of the investigators have used people who have undergone fairly traumatic experiences as some kind of experimental ‘objects’; an attitude which in distasteful, to say the least. Perhaps UFO researchers need training in psychiatric social work.

Other areas of future research include a much more comprehensive study of the historical antecedents. In the past these have tended to be confined to cataloguing unusual incidents. This is clearly insufficient, and a much broader historical study will be needed. Events such as the airship flaps of 1897, 1909 and 1913 cannot be studied in isolation from their general historical and cultural context. Is it coincidence that areas of high airship reportage in 1897 were also areas of populist agitation? What was the exact relationship between the British airship panics and general war hysteria? How did many of the ideas now current in ufology arise; what part did SF of the 20′s and 30′s play in the development of UFO ideology? How did the occultist and spiritualist fantasies of the late 19th century influence science fiction?

By such a study we should aim to discover if there Is any ‘normal’ mechanism by which traditional folkloric and religious images become integrated into the UFO experience. If not, then we may still have clues to ‘extra-normal’ influences, such as Jung’s archtypes. For all this future work a wide variety of specialists will be required, and MUFOB will be only too pleased to provide them with a platform. – For another ten years at least, we hope!


Charles Bowen has a lot to answer for! It was in 1968, during the great British flap that began the year, that I wrote to him asking if he know of any UFO groups in the Liverpool area, Rather than directing me to the Merseyside UFO Research Group, where I would probably have sunk without trace, he gave me the name and address of John Harney. Cautiously I wrote to Mr Harney, and received an equally cagey reply arranging a meeting in a Liverpool city centre bar called ‘La Broche’. This was to be the first of countless regular meetings with John, and Alan Sharp who was billed an ‘Science Editor’ of MUFOB, which at that time stood for ‘Merseyside UFO Bulletin’.

Our editorial meetings were inevitably held in some conveniently situated pub – La Broche (now demolished), the Spiral Staircase [now also demolished], the Grapes (near the Cavern Club, full of rock groups, postmen and Radio City DJ’s), the Court House (excellent Higson’s Ales [now also defunct]) and a wildly out of tune piano). We never actually got around to the Flying Saucer, a pub an a remote suburban estate.

It was the informality of these meetings, and the fact that they led to the publication of a UFO magazine of an extremely high quality that led me to doubt the value of the formalised UFO Group. I became suspicious of those who claimed that a magazine could only be published by a bureaucracy-bound ‘association’. Our occasional visits to the then-surviving MUFORG only served to reinforce this impression. Here they had a chairman, secretary, constitution, minutes – the works. They just never actually did anything!

Expressing views like this in our pages, and also daring to doubt the ETH, which still held the groups in thrall, MUFOB developed its reputation as ‘cynical’ and ‘negative’. Our quite modest comments often produced some amazingly vituperative letters, attacking our alleged excesses in the most immoderate language!

One we treasure, from Arthur Shuttlewood, accused us of “scurrilous attacks on personal character and integrity… out with the scalping hatchets and carving knives to cripple those whose views are more valid, sensible and fair than your own, which are strangled in a onesided web of ignorance.” (A one-sided web?!) He continued: “Why should we suffer the shortsighted, visionless, prejudiced and self inflated pontificating of three stick-in-the-mud scribes… a trio whose pompous and pedantic phraseology is boring and lifeless… Why do they persist in bedevilling instead of aiding the UFO cause in credibility? We know, of course, but are too polite and gentlemanly to speak so bluntly and crudely.”

Further on we are described as an “acid tongued and one-track-minded minority group”, “freaks”, “those people from the North who are blind to reality”, “disbelieving MUFOB MOBsters” and are accused of writing “words crawling over your Bulletin like aimless spiders’ legs”. Perhaps surprisingly, he concludes his letter “mark my words, uttered without malice… Yours not unkindly, Arthur Shuttlewood.”

However, not all our readers we so critical: Charles Bowen called us “Lively… always a pleasure to read”, Gary Lesley described us as “a lot of fun!” John Keel has even threatened to kidnap us with his corps of Oriental-looking aides, as we are “desperately needed on this side of the Big Pond”.

First as a corraspondent, then joining in our meetings, Peter Rogerson became a regular contributor to the Bulletin, bringing a truly creative appreach to the phenomenon. Apart from his articles, which have explored the very limits of ufology, his monumental INTCAT project, now syndicated in a number of overseas magazines, is one of the major reference tools available to the specialist.

A crisis struck MUFOB in 1974. John Harney bad been increasingly involved in local politics, leaving him less time to edit MUFOB. At the end of ’73 I had married and moved to the London area. Two rather desultory issues came out in 1974, then the Great Hiatus. Eventually, by one of those kind strokes of fate, John himself got a job in London. Here we began to meet regularly again, and were joined by Roger Sandell, who had contributed occasional pieces to the old MUFOB.

The re-launching of MUFOB was now a possibility, but it became apparant that it was now necessary, as a result of increased printing and postage costs, to try and operate it on a semi-commercial basis, rather than just sending them out free or on exchange as we had been doing. This gave us the opportunity to have the Bulletin completely litho-printed in its present format.

So you have the story to date. Our ‘organisation’ is still as informal as ever. Our ‘Editorial Meetings’ are still held in pubs (in Richmond upon Thames now), apart from editorial phone-calls with Peter Rogerson in Manchester which help to keep BT in profit. And, I think, we have lasted as long or longer, than many of those who told us that it needed a ‘proper organisation’ to run a magazine.

We think we’ll outlast a few more proper organizations in the years to come!