The Cigar Ship of 1909!
Nigel Watson

From MUFOB new series 10, Spring 1978

For his contribution to the tenth anniversary issue of MUFOB, Nigel Watson revealed some of the delights of historical ufology!

cigarshipAs a law-abiding citizen, I now and again partake of the duty of looking through musty old newspapers in search of items of Fortean or ufological interest. Recently I have been checking on the 1909 airship sightings which were recorded by Carl Grove in his two-part article entitled “The Airship Wave of 1909″ (Flying Saucer Review, Vol 16, no 6 and vol 17, no 1).

Despite a thorough search, the Lincolnshire Chronicle for May and June 1909 doesn’t bother mentioning the airship scare. The Doncaster Gazette and the Lincoln Leader both published similar items, except that the Leader‘s article was a little more detailed and also contained information on the more spectacular Caerphilly mountain episode and other Welsh sightings, (cases nos 30 and 31 in the Grove articles) which were barely discernible due to some fiend having hacked a piece out of this particular section. Unfortunately both papers only mentioned the sighting by PC Kettle of a powerfal light over Peterborough on 23rd March 1909, which they explained as a sighting of a light with a Chinese lantern attached.

The ‘hoax’ letter written by a Major Hayfield of Pinchbeck Road, Spalding (INTCAT no. 68) was given mention with some derision: We really cannot take any notice of it. It is too ludicrous”, said Canon Bullock. Apparently none of these papers received any sightings themselves, which was disappointing for my bleary eyes.

In 1909 Britain had an Empire with a capital ‘E’, so we took a dim view of any Imperialistic foreigners on the horizon. Since little green men and saucers from Mars were not too well though of in 1909, the phantom airship was regarded as a German Zeppelin spy-craft on a sinister mission… Or… it was regarded as a load of rubbish; as seems to be the view of the above papers, who tended to blame the scare on the London press.

Thoughtfully, the Lincoln Leader of the 5th June decided to reassure its readership with an item entitled “Mr Lupton on Air-Ships and Scare-ships”. Mr Arnold Lupton M.P., an authority on the use of explosives (essential knowledge for a politician, I should imagine) was interviewed by the (London) Evening News, where he claimed that

“If London was to be destroyed by bombs thrown from balloons it would require a fleet of 200,000 Zeppelin balloons, each costing not less than £20,000, or equal to £4,000,000,000. They would also need 600,000 devoted aeronauts to throw them.”

With such a reassuring Member of Parliament the Bulldog Breed could sleep safely, secure in the knowledge that technology had not yet caught up with the problem of the aeriel bombardment of distant targets on as effective scale.

There are probably many more ‘airship’ sightings to be discovered in the local papers from 1909 and 1913 (from preliminary findings there was more coverage of the 1913 scare) and such research is liable to reveal more useful information than that obtained by skywatches and the like.
The Caerphilly Mountain incident which involved Mr Lethbridge seeing a tubuar object with foreign speaking men next to it caused the biggest sensation in the press of the period, and was subjected to scepticism and laughter from the journalistic fraternity. Typically, Punch jumped at the opportunity given by this encounter, and the Lincoln Leader of the 29th May quoted, in its “Wit of the Week” column, the following lampoon:


Harpenden – A suspicious looking foreigner was seen here yesterday on the common. A watch was kept on him, and he was seen after dark in an un-frequented spot to be busy with a cigar-shaped looking object which had a brilliantly coloured band round the middle. Every now and then a light would appear at the end of the object and almost immediately to go out, to the accompaniment of gutteral expletives in a foreign tongue. The object is of a brownish colour, and seems to require constant attention from its owner. Three dozen wooden matches and a box with foreign words on it were found near the spot where the stranger was observed at work on the instrument described above, and it is though that he was engaged in making strenuous efforts to get it going. Intense excitement prevails.

Later – The coloured band referred to (which also has foreign words on it) has just been found and forwarded to the Board of Trade.

A Newspaper Looks at the Airship.
Paul Screeton

Paul Screeton was a journalist with The Mail Hartlepool, the paper which, as the Northern Daily Mail in the period concerned, published a variety of reports which have been assessed for this article. Originally published in MUFOB new series 11, summer 1978


An elusive airship was attracting attention in early 1909; and after a period of arrant scepticism, belief was gaining ground that the rumours had substance.

In addition to a news item listing places in the south-east where the phantom dirigible had been sighted, there was a leading article on May 14th entitled:


“A theory has been advanced to me in explanation of the mysterious airship which has been seen flying in the neighbourhood of Peterborough. It is that the War Office has succeeded in constructing a really efficient airship and is experimenting with it in the dark to keep its existence and capacity secret.”

The next day a Berlin correspondent of the Daily Express reported that German expert opinion held that it was ascending from a German warship in the North Sea, upon which it landed again after each flight. Another report in that issue notes that during movement of troops in Gyppeswky Park, Ipswich, “the other night”, it was seen frequently. It was said to be oblong, making a noise like a motor car, moving at great speed and carrying a searchlight. So far only one farmer had seen it in daylight, but its nocturnal activity was considerable.

On May 17th the Chief Constable of Northamptonshire had investgated a PC’s report and decided it was “a balloon carrying lighted Chinese lanterns”, ie, a hoax.

‘An Irish Vision’ was the headline for the report of an airship seen over Belfast moving towards the Irish Sea – and interestingly a brilliant light was observed in the sky shortly afterwards. Such phenomena never exist in isolation, and an editorial column on May 19th linked two seemingly disparate mysterious activities:


“While some of us have been wasting our time and emotions over phantom airships and elusive airplanes, a method of invasion more sure and deadly is, perhaps, going on under our feet. A letter arrived today stating thus: While crossing from Hamburg on Saturday night, my interest and suspicions were aroused by hearing sounds of what I judged to be subterranean excavation while passing over one of the shallows to the north-west of the Dutch coast. The sounds were quite like running drills and were very audible, as the sea was quiet and calm. This information I volunteer in order the Government may sake inquiries into the matter.”

That same day the paper reported a night sighting of a broad cigar-shape, making a whistling sound and lit by two lights, over Cardiff.

This incident’s developments were reported the next day in the famous Caerphilly Mountain incident, involving Mr Lethbridge and the fur-coated ‘foreigners’. The Northern Daily Mail’s account of the incident concludes, “He was frightened, and so seemingly were the foreigners, for they jabbered loudly, jumped into the scareship (sic) and sailed off.”

A journalist was taken to the encounter site and marks were found on the ground. Slips of newspapers found on the spot show that almost all contained references to airships of the German Army. There was also a red label with instructions written in French, and a military term on it is called a “sinister touch” by the correspondent, noting that it would have been more impressive had it been in German.Yet looking book retrospectively over almost seventy years a number of aspects are month comment here:

  • Another Lethbridge, T C Lethbridge, was to involve himself in authorship of books on unorthodox subjects for an academic: ancient religion, dowsing, ESP, and even the ancient astronaut hypothesis.
  • In 1909 Mr Lethbridge of Wales was a Punch and Judy showman just as today Britain’s most controversial monster-hunter Tony ‘Doc’ Shiels, is a stage magician and puppeteer.
  • More significantly, just as at the Scoriton, Devon, landing involving Arthur Bryant and ‘Yamski’, baffling material appeared (and at other CEIII sites). And note the stronger French, rather than German connection.
  • The ‘foreigners’ were working on their machine and mechanical repairs have been a feature of many UFO incidents, perhaps to suggest a nuts and bolts function.
  • Another part of the account repeats the liklihood of the object being released from a steamer in the Bristol Channel, so paralleling the later notion of flying saucers coming from motherships.
  • In addition to tales of other sightings in that day’s paper there was a note of War Office action and its impounding of an object – an air-ship fender supposedly – found the day after an airship flow over Great Clacton. Here we have the shadow of military intervention with witnesses and removal of an artifact.

After such massive publicity, May 21st was no disappointment to readers either. A football shaped object speedily crossed Dublin Bay despite no wind, and a cyclist reported that near Dublin he saw a cigar-shaped object with two lights in front.

At which point enter Percival Spencer’s theory. He owned a company manufacturing airships. Within the past year he could trace two five-man airships sold to a firm in the eastern counties, and another to a man in Cardiff (where the publicised sightings were made. Conveniently or not, Mr Spencer took the opportunity to broadcast that for £250 he could provide more such machines.

More dampening followed with the announcement by the Admiralty that the ‘airship fender’ was one of their gun targets, used in practice, which had become detached, and credibility took another knock with a piece from the Cowes (IOW) correspondent of the Daily Chronicle:

“I have interviewed today a prominent official of the Isle of slight county asylum who expressed the opinion that the mysterious airship was a myth of supposed eyewitnesses who were bordering on ‘aviation insanity’. It is a nightly occurence that the inmates insist they see airships racing around the asylum and will describe their appearance in graphic terms. They are always accompanied by lights and a whirring mound.”

At which point the ‘sinister’ label takes a knock:

“The red label bearing an instruction in French which might have referred to the use of a motor tyre valve has been recognised by the Michelin company as a label attached to a brass pin which is affixed to the inner tube of their motor car tyres. The word ‘obus’ which is French for shrapnel also means valve plug. This disposes of the supposed significance of the discoveries made on the spot where the airship was seen.”

Nevertheless reports were made that day of a Monmouthshire sighting, and for several nights residents of Small Heath Birmingham had seen an airship, believing a local inventor was making trial trips.

Starting with the words “A sensation was created in the neighbourhood of Dunstable…” a report tells us on may 26th that a bamboo framework, powerful lamps and other wreckage was found plus a document stating that any finder would be paid £5. Upon sending a telegram the airship wreckage was removed, and the airship was said to belong to the British agents of a continental motor company and used for advertising purposes.

But the same issue of the Northern Daily Mail includes a piece entitled “Wearside Resident’s Story”. It seems to echo the phenomenon of wished for occurances happening to meet a psychological need:

“Sunderland people have of late had grievance because of the absence of airships which would insist on hovering over their district.
This feeling of injury has, however, now been removed since that section known as Southwick had yesterday an airship story of its own to gossip about. But in no jocular spirit are those who swear they saw the flying machine.”

This light in the sky had illumination radiating, and it chose to project it on a new Roman Catholic church above which it manouvered for three to four minutes before speeding off at tremendous speed. The stewardess of Southwick Club and others corroborated the account and said the noisy object was an airship with car.On June 5th an account of an airship over Jarrow Slake, on Tyneside, recorded “at times the object would be motionless and aj;. others would dart in different directions” (hardly dirigible behaviour).


By June 14th the paper was disclaiming the mystery of the Tyneside appearance, and said that a company was making experimental flights with the airship. True to form, someone came up with an all-encompassing bid to nix the tale and take personal credit. A Dr M B Boyd claimed that he had spent eight years perfecting his airship, though it had only been built for one year. The report however fails to answer most points, some of the discrepancies being:

  • Average speed 32 mph, so no fast disappearance.
  • Oval, rather than cigar shaped.
  • No car suspended
  • It had wheels so that on the ground it could be driven like a motor car
  • Although the arclight had been invented in the 19th century, searchlights of the type required extremely heavy equipment, and the only lights that could be used on an airship were dim, incandescent ones incapable of creating the extent of illumination claimed.

Dr Boyd’s claims are reminiscent of the self-proclaimed inventor from Worcester, Massachussetts, who became the focus of many press stories on the 1909 US flap, described in John Keel’s Operation Trojan Horse. Tillinghast boasted of taking his invention at least 300 miles non-stop at 120 mph. An early investigative reporter found fourteen men working at a secret shed near Worcester, Mass. but he was unable to confirm or deny the presence of an airship. Keel propounds an ingenious explanation involving an encounter between Tillinghast and ultraterrestsials. I prefer not to comment on this, but merely note the interesting comparison between the parallel mystery inventor tales documented by newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic.

All we know is that something was going on, and being reported as faithfully as the journalists of their day knew how.

Transformation of Ufology, part 2.
A look behind the scenes
Matt Graeber

<<< Continued from Part One

(e-mails from the Ufological upper crust) 

Let’s see what the ‘List’ and the lLeaders’ have to say about this growing internet UFO group phenomenon in their midst. How do they feel about their own organizations dwindling membership, declining journal subscriptions and public appeal in the age of the internet saucer-hucksters? (I have changed the names of the e-mail writer’s on this topic to avoid embarrassing the complacent and/or woefully inattentive). Most e-mail entries cited herein have been capsulized and edited by the author. Additional comments byme in italics.

Matt Graeber to Albert Benson, (a pseudonym) 12/12/2005

Albert, I’m wondering if the list members would be willing to post something on the growing internet presence of the Wisconsin group ( BUFO), that is attempting to” Turn” the Carbondale hoax of 1974 into another Roswell-like incident. There seems to be a rash of crash and non-crash saucer stories that are being promoted as Roswell-like events. If the list would log on to “carbondale,pa. ufo crash”, they can see for themselves how outlandish the yarn has become.

Mr Benson did contact his friends and colleagues on the list concerning the request. Here are several of the replies he received on the matter.

From Rick Yost to Albert Benson & the list: 12/16/2005

Hey Al,

“Particularly the ectoplasm and orbs they found at the portal”….

“The Carbondale crash was first promoted by the late flying saucer evangelist Robert D. Barry. He was PR man for the late right wing preacher Dr Carl McIntire’s 20th Century Reformation Hour ministry. Barry operated its one man press arm. He later had a weekly Saturday midnight TV show, “ET Monitor” on McIntire’s TV station.” They are both passed, now, but looks like other nuts are milking it.”

“By the way, Barry was the first one to report in 1989, about the same time same sort of claims were first made about Roswell, that the Kecksburg PA crash involved the recovery of alien bodies. He later withdrew that claim as an error, which was a surprise to me since I don’t think Bob ever heard a UFO story he didn’t like.” 

I wonder how many young saucer enthusiasts ever heard of the Reverend Carl McIntire or, knew that the Roswell story didn’t include alien bodies until 42 years after the incident was first reported?
Albert Benson to Rick Yost & the list: 12/16/2005

Rick, I’m not talking about Kecksburg, but the Carbondale hoax of 1974. If you are interested to find out more about this blatant nonsense, log on to <carbondale,pa. ufo crash>, and check out the buffoonery at any BUFO site or link. Those pushing this hoax as ” Pennsylvania’s Roswell” are without doubt in need of an urgent reality check”.

To Albert Benson, Rick Yost & the list from Scott Morris a major UFO group leader: 12/16/2005

” My observation of Barry, who used to write regularly for Saga and its UFO magazine, was than nearly everything he said – excluding perhaps banal observations about the weather – could be automatically discarded. Too bad that one of his tall tales is still with us.”

I think the people who log on to the Carbondale UFO crash site should be alerted to this observation by one of Ufology’s major group leaders and long-time researchers.

From Albert Benson to the list 12/17/2005

” It’s bad enough that the bizarre crowd at BUFO ( Burlington UFO & Paranormal Radio) is pushing the Carbondale hoax of 1974 as a genuine occurrence, but they’re not content to confine their idiocy to that alone. Now they’re involved in an internet fantasy asserting that the little town of Olyphant PA. which is located about six miles from Scranton, is situated at the “centre of the universe” and modelled after ancient Egypt by alien race! This would almost be funny if it weren’t for the fact that for the uninformed public and the media, this is what passes for the face of Ufology.”

Albert Benson continues,

“And this type of crap only makes it more difficult to convince the scientific community that the UFO phenomenon is a real mystery that merits the most serious investigation on their part.”

Scott Morris replies on 12/18/2005

Al,” I agree that this is pretty dumb, but it doesn’t amount to anything consequential, much less a problem with scientists. My experience is that scientists who are so willing are perfectly able to separate Ufology’s sensible claims from the absurd ones. Scientists who are hostile simply use the latter as an excuse not to bother with the more substantive issues. Hard as it may be for some to believe, not all Ufologist’s problems are Ufologist’s fault.”

“The Carbondale silliness is perhaps worth noting, but nothing to get worked up about. UFOs and Ufology were long ago relegated to the fringes, and something relegated, even if unjustly, is going to attract fringe types. Surely, we have better things to do with our time than to waste it with ritual denunciations of the many nut jobs and liars who are out there, and have always been out there. They’re certainly an irritation, but they’re also no more than a sideshow.” 

Yet another valuable observation that is limited to the list membership. Scott is correct to point out that the list has far better things to do with it’s time than denounce the internet kooks…However, one wonders ” What might they do that they haven’t already done over the course of the last sixty years?
From Tim Connolly (a list member) to Albert Benson & the list: 12/18/2005

“At least this kind of thing provides fodder for ” Ufology-ology”, which consists of remote-viewing history texts which will be written on distant planets in the future of a parallel universe. 

Egads, more material for BUFO to promote!
Joel Simpson (a list member) chimes in: 12/18/2005

“Watch any established field on investigation ( nutrition, astronomy, genetics, linguistics, etc.) and you’ll always find the same sort of nuts looking for attention, and a great deal of confusion in the media…..” I agree with Tom that the tern “Ufology” as understood by the world at large ( not just by us) covers every conceivable aspect of modern culture, from Bermuda Triangles to flying lights, crystal skulls, dogu statuettes, Uri Geller, exobiology and Nostradamus. I’d rather avoid using it. When asked I certainly never say I research UFOs, and usually mumble something about “A strong interest in cataloguing unidentified phenomena recorded throughout history. 

I fully understand Joel’s embarrassment, and it’s too bad that those visiting BUFO/Carbondale sites and links are not privy to his insightful and candid remarks.

 I would also like to point out that Ufology is not actually an established field of investigation, rather, it is an investigative (and occasionally obsessional) hobby that has produced little if any evidence to verify the physical presence of UFOs in our skies. I certainly wouldn’t put it up there with Astronomy or Genetics, etc. 

 * * * * *

Baseless rumours and distortions that are left unchecked foster beliefs, expectations, fears and suspicions that not only are completely unwarranted, they are dangerous too

So, the question arises, why should the serious UFO researchers feel obligated to point out the absurdities, inconsistencies, contradictions and the fabrications of the many internet saucer zealots, charlatans and hucksters? The answer is quite simple. Not to do so is a failing of character, ethics and moral compass that would serve to protect the unsuspecting and the ill-informed from the distortion of repeatedly reading and hearing about, and finally accepting as true, the suspicions, fabrications and “delusions” that have been bandied about and thrust upon them via the net regarding the true nature of the phenomenon.

For baseless rumours and distortions that are left unchecked foster beliefs, expectations, fears and suspicions that not only are completely unwarranted, they are dangerous too. I’ve read lies about the character and professional efforts of an acting police chief who diligently worked shoulder-to-shoulder with UFO field investigators during the Carbondale PA incident of ’74, while also managing to professionally serve and protect his community, the many volunteers and the policemen under his supervision at the site.

Only to have his name and efforts dragged through the BUFOrian muck and malicious fabrications about him by internet saucer-hucksters like Mary Sutherland, and her investigator Ronald T. Hannivig who not only never met or interviewed the acting police chief, they were not even present at the scene while the incident was being investigated in 1974.

Yet, these same self-appointed experts also alleged that the acting police chief (Francis X. Dottle), wantonly participated in a cover up of the incident by tossing bogus evidence into a pond. They even went so far as to post the malicious remark that this fine public servant was not then (At the time of the incident), nor is he now, a friend of the people in the community he served.

These silly fabrications appeared at the <http://carbondale,pa.ufo crash> site which you may log on to and read for yourself. I ask, is it really inconsequential that a man’s reputation be besmirched by individuals who may be totally deluded and lacking any scruples? Should serious UFOlogists continually turn a blind eye to this sort of behaviour and self-serving promotional propaganda because it might be unpleasant, beneath their dignity and embarrassing to deal with?

Is it not shameful to remain silent and allow this sort of chicanery to infect the minds of young and elderly ill-informed people who search the net for reliable information on the phenomenon? I’ve even received two e-mail forwards from a researcher in which the communiqués sender claims that one internet huckster is involved in fraudulent online business practices and directly involved in the suicide death of a teenage group member.

Naturally, there are two sides (or more) to every story, so I’m currently attempting to learn and verify more about the matter. I’ll report my findings in a future Carbondale Chronicles entry for those who are interested in this rather shocking and sad story.

Is there not a lesson to be learned in the fact, that few European politicians and intellectuals of the day took the national socialist movement in Germany very serious when it first came on the political scene. So, impressionable young people, far too young to remember who Neville Chamberlain and Winston Churchill were, sit at their computer’s keyboard and unwittingly log on to saucer-huckster sites who are like sharks lurking in the internet’s waters for careless surfers to happen their way.

Interestingly, my grandson’s high school French teacher recently told me that 65-70% of his students thought that Germany had attacked Pearl Harbor in 1965 or 67. So, should the serious UFO researchers simply assume that this kind of historical ignorance is limited to today’s high school students? How could serious ufologists be so blind (and passive) as to believe that their not setting the record straight on the chicanery and many lies about the UFO enigma is matter of little or no consequence? If that’s the case, why the hell do they even bother to research the phenomenon at all?

If one thinks it’s silly to compare the absurd online UFO propaganda to that of the Nazi’s, one might do well to recall that well over fifty percent of the adult voting population of this country believe in the ‘reality’ of UFOs and would probably support a candidate who shared in their saucer enthusiasm. Perhaps a candidate who would simply promise to release any and all government papers on UFOs could win a close election, especially if that candidate were also a popular entertainment or sports celebrity.

So, while the studious UFO researcher’s utilize the same internet technology to e-mail pithy and complimentary notes for each others enjoyment, and an occasional pat on the back- many youthful UFO enthusiasts slip into the jaws of the saucer-hucksters deception, delusions, lies and distortions. In fact, in some cases they may even be gobbled up by a hucksters chronic, habitual and/or pathological lying.

But, the rub lies not in exposing the internet huckster(s) as a blemish on the face of Ufology.. it lies in the fact that many serious UFO researchers and organization leaders themselves have participated in their own brand of saucer-huckstering over the years (directly and indirectly- unwittingly and consciously). Moreover, calling attention to the speck in the eye of an internet huckster might provoke a response from the debunkers about the beam in the eye of the UFO organization and/or its leadership.

So, it seems that the boundaries between the proponent UFO camps are not very well defined any longer. There once was a sharp line between the organized groups and the kooky contactee movement. Now it just seems that some of the saucer group leaders and experts are more eloquent spokesman, (a.k.a. Classier salesman) than the internet throng. Yet all seem to be well-versed in the art of putting a particular “Spin” on a UFO incident or the phenomenon in general.

Considering that the organized groups have been doing so for almost 60 years, does point to a habitual behaviour pattern, especially since that pattern of behaviour has produced absolutely no incontrovertible evidence or data concerning the phenomenon’s true nature or origin.

What we have is a great deal of speculative fantasy, which stems not from hard spikes discovered in an objective database but, all-too-human wants, needs and desires concerning the phenomenon’s assumed importance and meaningfulness to mankind, and the equally-assumptive importance of the researcher’s own investigative efforts.

This near-obsessional behaviour pattern was first established by the baby-boomer ” Nuts and Bolts” school of Ufology which is presently on the verge of extinction. The bare bones of their contribution to Ufology will be that they successfully managed to dangle a promised carrot before the noses of the American public, the media and themselves for six decades.

It was they who pampered, endured and invited the hucksters of Ancient Astronaut tales and Bermuda Triangle yarns to their conventions and symposia. They even participated in the proliferation of Saucer-Crash Fantasies and the Abduction Mania. They did all this to promote membership numbers, draw larger crowds to their conventions, make book deals and seek increased journal subscriptions.

One asks, how much ‘objective researching’ is to be found in these business pursuits? ( e.g., what percentage of the monies collected actually went for research, after operating costs and salaries for the group’s top brass were siphoned away?) Moreover, if the internet hucksters are following in the path of the old guard with better and far more dynamic internet UFO presentations to entice the curious and the gullible, is that not but an extension of the sins of UFOlogists past?

The sociologists and folklorists of the future will look back upon the late 20th and early 21st.century’s transformation of Ufology into an “unbridled” entertainment industry (or “UFOOLogy” as it is more accurately described) and realize that the two terms differ only in the addition of one vowel. Ufology is no longer, nor has it ever truly been a purely pseudoscientific pursuit – it has blossomed into a full-blown sub cultural entertainment industry that has profound romantic appeal within our youthful society. Its roots lie in America, which Dr Carl G. Jung once called the land of science fiction and fantasy – but the American UFO malaise is now becoming a pandemic that has spared throughout the entire planet through the world wide web.

The fossil remains of it all will point to a mid-20th century belief in the existence of and pursuit of phantoms of the skies. 21st century UFOOlogy will probably seek out the phantoms through paranormal or spiritually-based investigative avenues, assumptions and beliefs – some of which may be serious, while most will probably be pure humbug. However, the answer will always seem to lie just beyond their grasp, around the next corner, over the next hill. (Much like the nuts and bolts camp’s carrot).

Such is the nature of true phantoms; they antagonise, mesmerize and befuddle the blind man who senses their presence but, can offer no definitive description of them.. except for hearing the curious beating of their wings and catching a faint whiff of their fleeting presence. Could it be that UFOs are modern man’s harpies?

The pantheon of UFO experts will continue to come and go, along with the parade of witnesses and the few remaining organized saucer groups. The UFOs however, will persist and endure the many ups and downs of UFOOlogical fantasy, theorizing, speculation and assumption – and in time, a new generation will take up the quest and start swinging their white canes at the fleeting phantoms. Could it possibly be that the canes will always be far too short, and the answer to the riddle of the UFOs will simply remain beyond our physical and mental grasp?

Example No.5 (UFOs from inner-space?)

Perhaps in some strange way “the UFOs are but a reflection of ourselves”, as James Moseley suggests – aimlessly flitting about like the modern man’s hopes, fears and aspirations on the phenomenon. Perhaps our ancestors were better equipped to assimilate these “signs in the skies”, for in their lifetimes things like these aerial displays were not only anticipated and readily interpreted, they were actually prayed for.

Have we somehow lost touch with the facility of mind that once fostered beliefs in visions, portents, divine warnings and angels yet, search the skies to once again experience? Or is it all just a growing new age mysticism and religiosity appearing in the guise of technological marvels that homotechnos currently beholds in awe, wonder and masked reverence?

Has the emotional and spiritual nature of our inner being been schooled out of us by the customs, demands and the technological advancements of modern-day living? Indeed, does everyone really think that such powerful human emotions would simply dry up and blow away because it was no longer chic or, politically correct to speak of them?

The organized group elites may scoff at such thoughts, in the same manner which they scoff at the internet huckster movement in their midst. They seem to have an overly confident Col. George Armstrong Custer attitude about what they perceive to be nothing more than a small hostile encampment that they “look down upon” from their lofty UFO research headquarters. However, their status in saucerdom, with the press, the entertainment media and the American public’s focus of interest is most assuredly headed for UFOOLogy’s happy hunting grounds.

– Matt Graeber


Transformation of Ufology, part 1
UFO Idols with feet of clay
Matt Graeber

PART ONE: UFO Idols with Feet of Clay

There has been a great deal written about the ’ Transformational Effects’ of the UFO experience upon the observers and the interfacers with alien creatures. Many times these incidents are alleged to have produced an enhanced form of spiritual awakening, heightened awareness, or a realisation of one’s cosmic connection with the universe and its many intelligent life forms. In extreme instances, the UFO experience is even said to have produced “Hybrid” half-human and half-alien beings that are presently walking amongst us.

This folly is further expanded by a form of unbridled one-upmanship, in which stories are routinely topped by more outlandish and embellished yarns, and we even find that not only have some fellows claimed to have discovered and identified more than 86 separate alien species presently visiting our planet but, there is an American abduction expert who proclaims that the “Greys” (small statured bulbous-headed alien creatures), actually absorb life-sustaining nutrients in the air through their skin.

As far as I’ve been able to determine, the expert doesn’t mention the rather delicate matter of how the Greys might un-absorb their body’s waste materials. Perhaps, they don’t, and that’s why they smell so horrid on the numerous military base’s autopsy tables!?

But, rather than rehashing the claims and the counter-claims which these many yarns have provoked from the saucer zealots, UFO enthusiasts, sceptics and debunkers – I will discuss the “Transformation of Facts” that the unobjective UFOlogists quite often bring to fore concerning their misinterpretation and misrepresentation of the significance of their truly poor quality reports.

It was then that I first realized that pointed questions and opposing points of view were not very welcome within the established UFO group community… 

Example No.1  (A blast from the past!)

I attended a UFO conference which was held in a high school auditorium at Pottstown, Pa. back in the early 70′s, and the director of the UFO group speaking at the event presented a number of photographic slides of purported UFOs for the audience to view. Many of the photos were images from rather old cases and were frequently written about by the popular UFO authors of the day. However, several were new to me and I found myself particularly interested in one slide that featured a pair of copper-coloured disks flying in tight formation amidst the backdrop of a brilliant blue sky.

The disks were photographed from an approximate angle of about 40-45 degrees, and showed the pair of identical copper-coloured craft from the bottom with a pronounced leading and side edge. I was taken by the fact that this photo was very clear, well-cantered in the frame, and did not have any distortion which might have been attributed to the craft’s movement, camera movement, or the blurred, fuzzy and slightly out-of-focus character of many other UFO photos also being displayed.

When the speaker’s presentation ended, and the lights were rekindled in the school’s auditorium there was a question and answer period in which inquiries were fielded by the speaker. At one point during this period, I raised my hand and asked the speaker if he might share a bit more information about the photo of the copper-coloured UFOs with us. He readily admitted that he didn’t know very much about the photo’s origin except that it came from a small village in South America.

I asked if he could tell us something about credibility the person who took the photo, when it was taken, where it might have been taken and how it ended up in the assortment of photos he had presented. The speaker seemed to be a little stunned by my questions and replied that the photographer is unknown and presumably died in a mudslide that destroyed his entire village.

The speaker didn’t know the name of the village or, the date of the disaster. He also didn’t know when the photo was taken. So, it would be virtually impossible to link the photo to a mudslide catastrophe that was published in newspapers somewhere in South America without at least knowing the approximate location or year of the incident. Even with knowing that, it would still be an investigative stretch to assume one positively knew anything about the reliability of the photos themselves.

When I mentioned the fact that these photos were probably not the best examples for audience presentation, an obviously annoyed lady seated in the front of the auditorium challenged my statement with a rather vehement remark. It was then that I first realized that pointed questions, and opposing points of view were not very welcome within the established UFO group community. (i.e., it appeared that many of the conference attendees hadn’t come to learn anything. They just wanted their preconceived beliefs on UFOs to be confirmed and/or bolstered by the presenters).

Interestingly, I had collected coins as a youngster, and suspected that these copper discs were actually coin planchets that hadn’t been struck at the mint. (viz, American Revolution period large cents), for both appeared to have well-defined nicks along their outer edges, much like circulated coins viewed under magnification. I never got to mention this to the speaker, who shrugged off my questions by proclaiming that “he thought” the photos were interesting and that’s why he presented them at the conference. In other words, the UFO photos were not investigated for authenticity and photographer credibility before being presented to the audience.

I later reproduced the appearance of the UFO photo, by placing two large cents on a piece of transparent Plexiglas and viewed them from a similar angle with the sky as the background. The result was astonishingly similar to the mysterious South American photo shown at the Pottstown conference. This was the first of many disappointing experiences with the fawning group enthusiasts and their leadership I would have during my eight year stint as the director of UFORIC the Philadelphia-based UFO Report & Information Center, 1972-80. (Although, I’ve been semi-active in the field for the last 33 years). 

EXAMPLE No.2 (Implants anyone?)

I attended a speaking engagement at a gathering of the Society of American Electrical and Mechanical Engineers in 1976 – in which I was to follow an elderly gentleman who had been researching UFO reports for decades. As I entered the dining room of the hall I encountered a young man assisting the primary speaker (we’ll call him Mr.Compton), who was quite visually handicapped and poking about in a upright dining room cabinet which doubled as the speaker’s podium and had a microphone affixed to it’s top. Inside the cabinet small oil and vinegar bottles were stored before being placed on the dining tables with the dinner salads.

Although the young man was repeatedly telling the speaker that only vinegar and oil bottles were stored in the cabinet, the legally blind speaker persisted in rummaging about in the cabinet as if looking for something else to be there. (It was quite strange and an oddly-amusing affair). I do not recall learning what Mr. Compton actually thought might have been nestled within the cabinet.

As the speaker finally settled down behind the podium and the microphone was adjusted to his satisfaction, the lights in the dining room dimmed and the slide presentation and the experts lecture simultaneously began. The first slide was a photo of an unfurled American flag. Mr. Compton said, “I always show this slide first because I believe in truth!” A voice from somewhere the darkness chimed in with something about “leaping tall buildings in a single bound” but, Mr. Compton didn’t seem to be distracted by this comical comment as he continued, “I’ve been investigating UFO reports for many years, and let me make it perfectly clear… I’m no contactee! However, I do know a few, and if you listen to what I have to say you will be endowed by the friendly saucers and able to protect yourself from the hostiles”

Then a barrage of slides was shown in rapid succession with a quick explanation concerning the photographer/witnesses credibility and the date and location of the alleged incident. Many of the photos were quite old and were obviously borrowed from UFO books and group journals. Most were poorly centred in the frame, blurry and of quite distant or small objects.(Were they insects on the wing, birds, Frisbees or alien space ships, stars or planets, it was quite difficult for anyone to tell with any degree of certainty).

Then Mr. Compton warned the audience of the dangers of approaching the Globe, Football-shaped and Bee Hive-like UFOs and how to thwart their attacks with a common hand-held flashlight. Apparently, one could also use the flashlight to perform a ‘UFO Friendship Test’, which was fully explained in Mr. Compton’s 32 page pocket-sized booklet which was on sale in the rear of the hall.

Perhaps the most remarkable part of Mr. Compton’s presentation concerned his revelations concerning a middle-aged woman (Mrs. Brotmann), who was out walking her beagle puppy at sunset on a summer’s eve when she was struck down by fleeting a 2.5 to 3 inch diameter UFO.

According to Compton, Mrs Brotmann had just been bending over while adjusting her puppy’s collar and as she was starting to straighten up she was shocked to see the tiny UFO flying straight towards her face. She tried to take evasive action but, the glowing UFO was travelling so fast that it hit her squarely in the forehead knocking her to the ground, lodging itself in her brain! A bit dazed and bewildered Mrs Brotmann finally regained her composure and was amazed to realize that there wasn’t a mark on her face to show where the UFO had entered her cranium. Amazingly, after this incident Mr Brotmann’s IQ was greatly enhanced and according Mr Compton she is now an engineer (Type not specified).

Would it be a stretch of sceptical speculation to point out that the flag slide and the ‘engineer’ connection in the Mrs. Brotmann story seems to be a bit ‘American’ Society of Mechanical and Electrical ‘Engineers’ directed!?

An obviously concerned lady seated near the podium asked Mr Compton if he had taken Mrs Brotmann to the hospital to have x-rays taken of her head injury. Compton quickly replied that he wanted to do so but, Mrs Brotmann flatly refused treatment because of the voices in her head. Apparently, these were the voices of the UFO operators who did not want their presence publicly revealed. Moreover, the x-rays would be lethal to the tiny Venusians who reportedly have been visiting Earth since the dawning of mankind.

This was the very first of the many so-called implant stories I’ve heard of over the years. Compton dates the alleged incident to the early fifties. Naturally, I was quite shocked by the character of Mr. Compton’s presentation and followed up with a rather capsulized talk on investigative methods employed at UFORIC. After this experience I decide to avoid public speaking engagements on UFOs, press interviews and I rarely participated in radio talk show programming on the phenomenon. However, I did answer questions from the public over the phone at UFORIC because we were in fact, a UFO ‘report and information’ centre.

While the above may sound too bizarre to be a factual account, I can assure you that it is quite factual, and that even stranger/wilder yarns are presented at many UFO conferences and websites. So, is there any wonder why mainstream scientists feel that something is not quite right about these wacky UFO experts and enthusiasts? Is there not a reason to suspect that they avoid and ignore the subject for fear of being associated with the kooks and crack pots who have always populated the largely unchecked and totally unregulated Ufological landscape.

Moreover, why is it that if someone does question the validity of a reported incident, the UFO groups generally do not appreciate and applaud that individual’s objectivity and tenaciousness – rather, they label him or her a sceptic and debunker while leaping to the defence of many less than credible eyewitnesses and fantasy-prone self-proclaimed UFO experts who bandy these yarns about.

All this while the so-called serious ufologists have never proven that UFOs actually exist in the nuts and bolts sense of the word in 60 years of intensive inquiry, by thousands of group members and field investigators- not to mention the combined efforts of hundreds of professional consultants in the disciplines of metallurgy, psychology, optics, astronomy, biology, etc. etc.

Moreover these same groups invite Abduction Experts. Implant Researchers and Reversed Engineering promoters to their conferences to speak about aliens absorbing nutrients through their skin, telepathic communiqués from benevolent alien races, and the mass production of hybrid babies aboard colossal motherships which are reportedly laden with human foetuses in liquid-filled jars. (What utter and nonsensical drivel!)

What are we to think of these deluded folks who inflict themselves and their half-baked theories upon the unsuspecting public, the all-to-eager UFO group members and press with “wild” and completely “bogus” UFO tales? What are we to think of so-called serious research UFO group leaders who stand by and permit these same individuals to thrust themselves upon their membership? I actually came across a fellow (we’ll call him Fred), who had achieved some degree of acclaim in UFO circles with his outrageous crashed saucer investigations, alleged alien and MIB encounters, not to mention his own abduction report. Fred was actually an individual dealing with serious mental heath issues.

Yet, Fred and the small group he is an important member of has a growing internet following consisting of many young people who are Yahoo members, and quite a number of senior citizens who are interested in the group’s specialized senior services, such as prayer groups for those with spiritual, emotional and physical wants and needs.

Additionally, Fred had proudly posted information about his own improving mental health status and active MH volunteer contributions on the internet for all to read yet, other UFO researchers continually posted his UFO stories and reports at their sites, often thanking Fred for his contribution to ‘serious ufology’. Fred was even the focus of an article in a leading European UFO magazine. Obviously, all had taken his reports at face value and never looked into the matter of his health and veracity before listing such hokum as credible UFO sightings and alien encounters reports.

I guess that a schizophrenic could have a reliable sighting experience but, how would one be able to establish such a report as factual vs. hallucinatory in nature?

So, the question immediately arises, who is at fault here? The mental patient or the shoddy UFO researcher’s who post such potentially delusional material for UFO enthusiasts to read and readily accept as reliable data? Even the very best computer virus scans and firewalls cannot protect a serious researcher’s UFO database from that sort of contamination.


The entire alien affair reminded me of a time as a youngster, when I first saw an authentic ‘Jackolope’ at a hunting lodge. From what I later learned a taxidermist was producing the spoof-creature (A jack rabbit with small horns) for hunters who wanted to bamboozle less-experienced sportsmen in their group

EXAMPLE No.3 (The fossil remains of Mythical Creatures and Saucer Pilots).

In a 1996 book on the discovery of many mythical creature fossils, a Texas fellow, said to be a palaeontologist, is suspected of actually sculpting and otherwise fabricating the so-called skeletal remains of mythical creatures, which included mermaids from both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, leprechauns and several other creative works. Although the books titled clearly identified it as being about the discovery of  ‘mythical’ creatures, one of the major UFO group leaders of the day was so may captivated by a photograph of the alleged skeletal remains of a small creature that was imbedded in a concave plaster of Paris cast. (Sort of like a little alien on the half-shell).

The ufologist thought that the skeletal remains closely resembled those of a downed saucer pilot who reportedly crashed his spacecraft just prior to the turn of the 20th century at Aurora, Texas. Indeed, a UFO report involving the landing of two cigar-shaped objects at Ledonia, Texas was reported to have happened on April 16th 1897, and the Aurora crash (about a hundred miles away) was said to have occurred the following day. The fossil find story was cautiously but, favourably promoted in the UFO group’s journal where it received wide attention by the membership. After all, if the group’s leader thinks there’s something to this story. Well, there must be something to it.

As time passed, and the story started to unravel, the group leader decided to retire albeit, without ever fully-acknowledging that he’d been mistaken about the significance of the bogus alien fossil finding at Ledonia. Jim Moseley of the zany UFO newsletter Saucer Smear, had been gently chiding the ‘Czar’ as he called the group leader about the bogus fossil; and I even drew a cartoon concerning the controversy which compared the fossil to that of Warner Brothers cartoon character ‘Marvin the Martian’, who as you may recall is actually Bugs Bunny’s outer-space nemesis.

The entire alien creature fossil affair reminded me of a time as a youngster, when I first saw an authentic ‘Jackolope’ at a hunting lodge. From what I later learned a taxidermist was producing the spoof-creature (A jack rabbit with small horns) for fun-loving hunters who wanted to bamboozle their sons and younger, less-experienced sportsmen in their group. It’s the hunter’s equivalent of “Snipe Hunting” with young boy scouts at camp for the first time.

So if we find such ‘ufoology’ flourishing at the very top of the heap in the sub cultural community of Saucerdom or (Saucerdumb), take your pick. One wonders, how deeply might such a malady infect the group’s internet list membership and the independent serious UFOlogists who look to these groups and lists for database resources? 

EXAMPLE No.4 (On the Demise of 20th Century Style Ufology)

While hearing from a researcher about the recent ‘Mexican Roswell’ report”, nd the sad state of contemporary ufology in general, the subject of the Carbondale, Pa. 1974 UFO crash came up. He was somewhat amazed to learn that a small group from Wisconsin had managed to revive the long-ago hoax, and was currently claiming it to be a genuine saucer crash that was covered up by the military and the government. In fact, they wanted people to think ‘Carbondale/Roswell’, since they believed the case was actually much more significant than Roswell, and had many more reliable eyewitnesses. (Claims which are not only completely incorrect, they’re absolutely ridiculous too!).

This group ( BUFO), is headed by an aggressive internet impresario (Mary Sutherland), who not only dabbles in saucers but, also operates an online match-making service and prayer services for those in need, while also featuring psychic readings for those daring enough to peek into their future, at very reasonable rate of just $2.95 per minute. But, that’s just the tip of the iceberg on her UFO and paranormal internet enterprises which include an abductee support group and an array of items for sale at her online store and Gift Shoppe in scenic Burlington, Wisconsin.

The serious UFO researcher, who had long been studying a particular variety of UFO sighting seemed to be somewhat dismayed that all this was going on while most of the fellows he had been contacting on ’ The List’ probably felt that the Carbondale case was indeed a complete and clumsy hoax. Additionally, the Wisconsin group had established a dominate presence on the net at the <carbondale, pa. UFO crash> site, and was even skilfully promoting their crash and cover up yarns on internet radio (audio) and TV (video) links.

Of course, there is a so-called Mexican Roswell, the Kecksberg, Pa. incident which is often touted a Pennsylvania’s Roswell. The Carbondale, Pa. hoax which the Wisconsin group is actively attempting to turn into a Roswell tourist and entertainment industry – and of course, even the Rendlesham Forest case is being foolishly called the UK’s Roswell.

It seems that if you prefix or suffix the name of any downed or un-downed saucer story with the word ‘Roswell’, the story automatically takes on an added dose of mystery, conspiracy and authenticity which far over-shadows any amount of obviously embarrassing evidence that might dismiss the entire incident as a fabrication or misidentification.

For many in the UFO community, Roswell is the line in the sand over which brutally vehement controversy rages. There is little middle ground on the topic, either you believe or you do not! If you do not, you are labelled a sceptic, a debunker and someone who has simply gone over to the other side.

Even though I never publicly said I do not believe the Roswell incident is very accurately portrayed in the vast saucer literature. I have become something of a piranha in the field simply because I questioned the veracity of two alleged star eyewitnesses concerning the Roswell incident. (Both of whom were later discredited and believed to have been discredited by other proponent UFO researchers).

Continue to Part Two >>>


A Very British Ufology
John Rimmer

Editorial notes, Magonia 95, May 2007

At last, it seems, the Warminster revival is getting underway. With the publication in 2005 of Dewey and Reis’s In Alien Heat (reviewed in Magonia 91) an almost forgotten aspect of British ufological history was brought back into focus. Two recent books also revisit the site of England’s biggest UFO flap. Andy Roberts and David Clarke’s Flying Saucerers: A Social History of Ufology (1) places Warminster into the broader context of UFO development in this country, and Kevin Goodman’s UFO Warminster: Cradle of Contact (2) presents the place and the events associated with it into a more personal context. All three books, I believe, reveal Warminster as an intrinsically English phenomenon, and part of a very distinctive national UFO tradition.

Roberts and Clarke begin their survey with the usual brief account of the 1947 events in the USA, starting with Arnold’s sighting on June 24. Amazingly, it took just six days for the saucers to cross the Atlantic; Britain’s first UFO report came from a vicar’s wife in Kent who saw a `dark ring’ in the sky as she waited at a level-crossing near Sandwich.

Even in this pioneering report some of the classic characteristics of the mass-media UFO report were apparent: the immediate search for, then dismissal of, a prosaic explanation: “I am positive it was not a smoke ring from the passing engine”; the immediate linking with other reports: “Flying saucers were also reported yesterday as having been seen during the last couple of days over Denmark, Johannesburg and Sydney”; then as a clincher of authenticity: “The United States Army Air Force announced at Roswell, New Mexico last night that a ‘flying disc’ was found last week on a ranch near Roswell, and was now in the Army’s possession.”

So within days of Roswell, UFOs were already established in the UK. ‘Ufology’ as an organised pursuit began with the foundation of small clubs, mostly just groups of friends, like that founded in Hove by Richard Hughes, called simply The Flying Saucer Club. It was organised to the extent of issuing membership cards and publishing a magazine, Flying Saucer News.

Clarke and Roberts outline the development of the earliest years of British ufology in some detail, but there is clearly a great deal of material still waiting to be discovered. But what is very clear, even from the limited amount of material available to us, is that ufology in this country, even in the earliest years, developed differently from its American counterpart. Perhaps significantly ufology in Britain attracted a number of ‘establishment’ figures, and in the early years, like much else in Britain in the 1950s, had a distinctive class profile.

Early British saucer enthusiasts (‘ufologists’ is perhaps too strong a word) included a number of high-ranking RAF personalities, most notably Lord Dowding. For some reason the minor Anglo-Irish aristocracy were also to the fore in early British UFO research with Brinsley le Poer Trench (Lord Clancarty) and Desmond Leslie, with a castle in Ireland and family links to Sir Winston Churcill. The aristocratic connection even reached to the Royal Family, with both Lord Mountbatten and Prince Philip expressing keen interest in the subject. (Gordon Creighton claimed that Philip was a subscriber to Flying Saucer Review, but whether this meant more than just that Creighton sent him a copy of every issue is hard to say).

Class divisions characterised much of British ufology on a less rarefied level as well. Throughout its history BUFORA (now defunct but once Britain’s leading UFO organisation) was riddled with factional in-fighting, which often showed a class overtone. Many of the founders and senior figures in BUFORA were primarily occultists, to whom UFOs were a way of challenging scientific values; so that groups and individuals who wanted to bring a scientific approach to the organisation were seen as a hostile force challenging their own occult agenda.

A classic example of this attitude was displayed by BUFORA veteran John Cleary-Baker when involved in a spat with the scientifically-oriented Cambridge University UFO group, dismissing them as “these white-coated godlings of the laboratory”.

British ufology took some strange paths in the 1960s and 1970s, and Andy Roberts’s descriptions of the ufological foundation of the Findhorn Community (an early version of which appeared in Magonia 89) shows how the founder, Peter Caddy, was drawn into the flying saucer world through his involvement with the aristocratic, spiritualist Attingham Park group, with included figures such as Sir Victor Goddard (a former Air Marshall) and Sir George Trevelyan.

Roberts’s description of the ‘hippie’-UFO connection (again outlined in a preliminary article in Magonia 87) shows just how much ufological ideas permeated the underground culture of the era, linking it with ideas about leys, Glastonbury and ‘the Matter of England’: and also how these ideas emerged into a broader culture of mysticism, occultism and anti-rationality, which has continued through to contemporary obsessions with crop-circles.

It is interesting that the development of the crop-circle community has followed the same class-based divisions that marked the early stages of ufology, with an elite of minor aristocracy and the Aga-classes blithely lording it over the lower-middle-class foot soldiers; a situation hilariously described in Jim Schnabel’s Round in Circles and P. G. Rendall’s Cereal Killers.

But the British UFO story is not confined to an aristocratic clique. There are ordinary people in it too, and Clarke and Roberts tell their stories as well. People like Cynthia Appleton, the young housewife who gave birth to a star-child after meeting an Adamski-style alien in her terraced house in Birmingham. Where is the would-be Saviour now? Despite determined investigation the authors were unable to find any trace of him.

Unknown to me until I heard Roberts’s talk at the FT UnConvention last year, is the strange phenomenon of the Flying Saucer Vicars, in the great tradition of eccentric Church of England clergymen (and a few other denominations as well), like characters from an Ealing Comedy. Although some saw saucers as evidence of God’s omnipotence possibly offering, literally, new worlds for evangelising, others found evidence of the devil’s works of entrapment and picketed cinemas showing UFO films.

Britain has only ever produced one UFO cult worthy of the name, the Aetherius Society, and the account given here of its founding by George King is vigorously disputed by the current leadership; but there is something encouragingly English about the idea of it being conceived in a Soho drinking club and ending up at the less fashionable end of Fulham Road like some ‘fifties Chelsea-set demi-mondaine. The Aetherius Society is usually dismissed as a fringe organisation of no account to ‘serious ufologists’, who ignore the fact that it has a much higher profile to the public and the media than most ‘serious ufologists’ are prepared to admit. Clarke,and Roberts are surprisingly sympathetic to it, finding its members genially eccentric.

And now to Warminster, that most English of UFO flaps. Clarke and Roberts devote a chapter to it, outlining the major stages in its growth, and look at some of the curious individuals involved. Greatest of all, of course, was Arthur Shuttlewood. The account of Warminster in Flying Saucerers is a straightforward account of the events in the small town, from the events leading up to the famous town-hall meeting in 1966, to the gradual fading away in the ‘seventies.

One thing that comes across clearly in this account, and which distinguished Warminster from American experience, is the almost total lack of military involvement, despite the enormous army presence in and around the town. The ufologists and the sky watchers were careful to distance the phenomenon from the military, which featured in their accounts merely as the source of a few (very few) UFO misinterpretations, and a minor nuisance to keen skywatchers who wanted to wander across the countryside at night. No crashed saucers in sinister hangers, no secret retrievals, no Men in Black.

The second new book gives us a much more personal, view of the Warminster phenomenon. Kevin Goodman started visiting the Wiltshire town in 1976, a few years after the ‘Great Days’, when establishment ufological interest had moved on and Warminster was being seen as a bit of an embarrassment to many British ufologists. The original stories of ‘The Thing’, strange noises and mysterious objects in the sky had developed into a complex of contactees, hoaxes and the semi-coherent New Age ramblings of Arthur Shuttlewood’s later books. But to the enthusiastic seventeen-dear old and his friends from the Midlands, Warminster still held the magic of the previous decade; it was a place where one could sit on a starlit hillside and be virtually guaranteed to see UFOs.

By the time Kevin arrived, the centre of the Warminster scene had largely moved from Arthur Shuttlewood, who was suffering from increasing ill-health, to Peter and Jane Paget at the Star Foundation in Fountain House. This was a full-on New Age establishment promoting meditation and spiritual healing more than ufology.

* * *

The contact events experienced by the author and his friends, are subtle and ambiguous. No blonde-haired Nordics striding down ramps from shining discs, but more a low-key ‘psychic’ contact, conducted through dream and meditation

* * *

The story of Kevin’s time at Warminster is told in UFO Warminster, Cradle of Contact. This is a fascinating account of the Warminster scene from the mid-seventies through to the late nineties, when most ufologists had given up any interest in England’s major UFO flap.

It is also a very personal story of friendship, enthusiasm, trust and even betrayal, and gives a fascinating insight into the cultism surrounding organisations such as the Star Fellowship. And, as the title implies, it is the story of UFO contact.

Well, not quite. The contact events experienced by the author and his friends, are subtle and ambiguous. No blonde-haired Nordics striding down ramps from shining discs, but more a low-key ‘psychic’ contact, conducted through dream and meditation. Although the ‘contactees’ receive messages and images that suggest an extraterrestrial connection, Goodman and his friends are too intelligent and self-aware to take this all at face-value. They are as puzzled by what is happening to them as we are, reading about it.

I have spoken to a number of English contactees and abductees, and have in every case found that they are aware of the ambiguity of their experiences – there is none of the evangelical zeal, the ‘believe me or else’ attitude that comes across from many American contact accounts.

There has recently been a movement to write the contactee experience out of the ‘real’ UFO narrative, claiming it is not a suitable subject for ‘serious ufologists’. But it is clear from stories such as that of Kevin Goodman that there is no real division between the contact experience, the abduction experience, and the UFO experience in its widest form. The simple ‘abductees good; contactees bad’ dichotomy which is being promoted is hopelessly crude.

Too often now, especially on the Internet, we see ‘ufologists’ who have little or no knowledge of the history of the subject, and who are constantly trying to re-invent the wheel. These two books are an invaluable antidote to that ignorance. Clarke and Roberts give a sound social and historical description of ‘ufology in one country’: Kevin Goodman gives an account of someone who explored one facet of that history, became a part of the experience, but retained the objectivity and self-awareness to give us a fascinating account of a journey to Magonia.

These are important books, please read them.


  1. David Clarke and Andy Roberts. Flying Saucerers: A Social History of UFOlogy Alternative Albion, Heart of Albion Press.
  2. Kevin Goodman. UFO Warminster: Cradle of Contact [2nd edition] Swallowtail Books.














Who Taught God to Drive? The Origins of the Ancient Astronaut Myth.
Gareth Medway

Gareth Medway looks at the writers who developed the Ancient Astronaut concept, and why that belief system proved so popular. (From Magonia 57, September 1996)

R.L.Dione’s God Drives a Flying Saucer (Corgi, 1973; 1st ed. 1969) sneers at traditional metaphysics: “… no system of logic yet devised can resolve the inconsistencies and paradoxes inherent in the belief that man is inhabited by a mystical, supernatural and immortal something called a soul.”

Turning to the Bible, what is to be made of the miracles recorded there? Dione can find no reason to doubt the Bible’s accuracy: “…if it were not for the references to miracles, the Bible would stand unchallenged as a monumental achievement in historical reporting.”

The possibility of supernatural powers he finds absurd, therefore the only explanation is that flying saucer technology was at work. After that, everything becomes simple: Adam and Eve were created by genetic engineers working under the direction of God, who is the “leader of the master technologists”; angels were spacemen; Ezekiel’s vision was of flying saucers; as to the Immaculate Conception, it is “reasonably certain” that Gabriel was a “biological specialist” who artificially inseminated Mary with a hypodermic needle; and “it may well be that the sperm used was God’s making Jesus the Son of God just as the Bible teaches.”

Yet in the end Dione’s super-technological God is hardly different from the supernatural one of the Catholics. We don’t have souls, but technology can make our minds, which are electromagnetic in nature, immortal: “God will choose which of us will survive as angels in heaven … by analysing the references of our guardian angels and by studying the monitoring tapes which are at this moment recording our lives.”

Dione’s original background was evidently in the Roman church, since he gave a whole chapter to Fatima, and quoted the Bible in a revised version of the Douay translation. David F. McConnell, in his Flying Saucers of the Lord (Economy Printing Company, Miami, Horida, 1969) used the King James translation (and so was presumably brought up a Protestant), but his interpretations were very similar to Diane’s:

“Exodus 13:21 And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud, to lead them the way,- and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light, to go by day and night. This was a case of a flying saucer or saucers of the Lord leading the children of Israel through the wilderness of the Red Sea…. Psalm 97:3 A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round about. The flying saucers of the Lord with the angels go before the Lord and burn up his enemies.”

A Question of Faith

Up until about 1950 religion seemed to be everywhere in decline, whilst science and materialism increased, apparently in the direction of universal atheism. One of the standard objections to religion was that the Bible is full of miracles, which the progress of science had indicated to be impossible. The Book of Joshua records that God, at the request of Joshua, stopped the sun in its movement for the space of a whole day. In ancient times this did not seem odd; after Newton, it was difficult to believe.

1950 saw the publication of Immanuel Velikovsky’s Worlds in Collision. Though its author may not have consciously realised it, the intent of this book seems to have been a reconciliation of science and religion.

Velikovsky being Jewish, for him religion meant the Old Testament. He suggested that many of the Biblical wonders could be explained in wholly scientific terms as being catastrophes brought about by the wanderings of the planets Venus and Mars. He considered that Venus only came into existence a few thousand years ago, when it was blown out of Jupiter. About 1500 BC it came close to Earth, causing various dramatic gravitational effects such as the parting of the Red Sea, and the halting of the motion of the sun mentioned above. Eventually it reached its present orbit, which was then occupied by Mars. Venus settled in Mars’ orbit, and Mars was driven away from the sun, passing Earth during the middle of the period covered by the Biblical Book of Kings, causing various further apparent miracles.

Dr Velikovsky was a friend of both Sigmund Freud and Albert Einstein, and evidently expected that his name would one day stand alongside theirs. He was disappointed: though Worlds in Collision was first issued by the respected academic publishers Macmillan of New York, not only did scientific writers denounce it, but universities threatened to boycott Macmillan’s entire book list so long as Velikovsky’s work remained on it. So they transferred the rights to Doubleday, who did not have a textbook business, and despite all the criticism it sold well for decades. Though there were perfectly legitimate objections to Velikovsky’s theories on astronomical grounds, this excessive reaction leads one to suspect that his opponents were unconsciously aware of the book’s hidden religious agenda, and that was what they objected to.

The idea of Ancient Astronauts was toyed with as far back as 1919 by Charles Fort in The Book of the Damned.

* * *

In a sense, Velikovsky was firmly within the Rabbinical tradition, which is that anything and everything can be found in the Torah (Law of God). In the 12th century, when Aristotelian philosophy became popular amongst the Jews, Rabbis claimed to find it all in their scriptures. Aristotle taught that there are three parts to the soul: the animal soul, the rational soul, and the divine soul. Now, the Biblical Hebrew word for ‘soul’ is nephesh, but once or twice ruach and neshamah, both of which mean ‘wind’ or ‘breath’ and are used in the sense ‘breath of life. (Genesis 2:7: “And the Lord God formed Adam of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the neshamah of life; and Adam became a living nephesh.) So it was explained that nephesh was the animal soul, ruach the rational soul, and neshamah the divine soul. Having by such means discovered the whole of Aristotle’s system within their sacred books, they declared that Aristotle must have travelled to Jerusalem and learnt from the Jews.

The idea of Ancient Astronauts was toyed with as far back as 1919 by Charles Fort in The Book of the Damned. It also become a regular theme in science fiction. Notably, in November 1947, Fantastic Stories had a short story ‘Son of the Sun’, in the form of a message from an extra-terrestrial, who tells the human race that the craft now being seen in the skies (this was a few months after the start of the first flying saucer wave) have visited the Earth long ago: their occupants were formerly confused with gods. They left behind “certain landmarks” in Egypt and elsewhere. The author of this piece, ‘Alexander Blade’, was none other than Brinsley le Poer Trench, subsequent author of a series of books on the theme, from The Sky People (Neville Spearman, 1960) onwards.

The first substantial treatment was by Desmond Leslie in Flying Saucers Have Landed, which appeared three years after Worlds in Collision. After some account of modern UFOs, Leslie suddenly jumped back thousands of years to Atlantis, In those days people flew around in machines called vimanas, of which it was written: “… their outside surface was apparently seamless and perfectly smooth, and they shone in the dark as if coated with luminous paint.” (FSHL, p.81, quoting W. Scott Elliott, The Story of Atlantis)

These were not the earliest flying saucers: in fact, human life was first brought to Earth from Venus by the Lords of the Flame, on whom Leslie, quoted from the Stanzas of Dzyan:

The Lords of the Flame arose and prepared themselves … the Great Lord of the Fourth Sphere (the Earth) awaited their oncoming. The lower (Earth) was prepared. The upper (Venus) was resigned …” Their arrival was described thus: “Then with the mighty roar of swift descent from incalculable heights, surrounded by blazing masses of fire which filled the sky with shooting tongues of flame, the vessel of the Lords of the flame flashed through the aerial spaces. It halted over the White Island which lay in the Gobi Sea, Green it was, and radiant with the first blossoms as Earth offered her fairest and best to welcome her King.” (FSHL, p.166, quoting Besant and Leadbeater, Man: How, Whence and Whither) Leslie commented: “In this fragment we have the first account of the landing of a great space ship or flying saucer … Incredible as it seems, there can be no other meaning to this passage,”

He dated this landing to the year 18,617,841 BC…

Helena BlavatskyIn view of the sensational conclusions, one might ask, just how reliable are the sources? This question did not seem to occur to Leslie, His main authorities are given as the Stanzas of Dzyan, along with the writings of Annie Besant, Charles Leadbeater, W. Scott Elliott and Alice Bailey. The Stanzas of Dzyan were first published in Madame Blavatsky’s The Secret Doctrine, introduced with the description: “An archaic Manuscript – a collection of palm leaves made impermeable to water, fire and air, by some specific and unknown process – is before the writer’s eye.” Unfortunately, this book does not seem to have lain before the eye of anyone else, and Madame Blavatsky herself probably only saw it with clairvoyant vision. It can therefore be reasonably objected that it is a matter of faith, rather than historical record, to accept its account of the Lords of the Flame. Furthermore, the information given by Besant, Leadbeater, Scott Elliott and Bailey was also obtained by psychic investigation, (The date 18,617,841 was “according to the Brahmin Tables”.)

“As soon as we abandon our own reason, and are content to rely upon authority, there is no end to our troubles. Whose authority? The Old Testament? The New Testament? The Koran? In practice, people choose the book considered sacred by the community in which they are born, and out of that book they choose the parts they like, ignoring the others .,. No Catholic, for instance, takes seriously the text which says that a Bishop should be the husband of one wife.” (Bertrand Russell, Unpopular Essays, 1950, p. 108)

Now, Leslie’s main authorities were Theosophical writers, and though the Theosophical Society might deny it, Theosophy is in effect a religion, with the writings of Blavatsky, Besant and  Co. as its scriptures. Desmond Leslie was evidently a Theosophist, and he was merely updating his Victorian religion to encompass the new phenomenon of flying saucers.

To be fair, he was also able to cite some unquestionably ancient books, notably the Mahabharata, which mentions flying ships and lethal armaments such as the “Brahma Weapon” described in terms comparable to a nuclear bomb. Yet the Mahabharata is itself a sacred book to the Hindus. Some years ago I met an Indian Guru who was on his way to California. He said his original home was a cave in the Himalayas, which was equipped with its own television set. He explained that they had to get one in order to see the dramatisation of the Mahabharata, as it was a religious duty to watch it.

For most westerners, of course, religion means Christianity and scripture the Bible. The 1956 appearance of Morris K. Jessup’s UFO and the Bible (Citadel Press, New York) was overdue: he began by saying: “Scarcely a week goes by without some alert reader sending me suggestions that I should expound on the Biblical references to UFO and related phenomena of a so-called miraculous type.”

Jessup started from the position: “I believe that it is time for Church and Science to bury their respective tomahawks and let the pipe of intellectual peace glow as both parties mellow around the camp fire of tolerant and objective inquiry.” As an example of the reconciliation of these two sides, take Kings 2:11: “And it come to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder, and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” Jessup quoted a “skilled and thoughtful student of the Bible” a Mr H. Lawrence Crowell, as saying that “the Aramaic words ruach cearah should be translated ‘power blast’ instead of ‘whirlwind’.” He could thus offer a new version:

As they walked and talked there suddenly appeared a bright UFO, emitting electric sparks and blasts, and it parted them: Elijah was snatched up into the sky with a blast of power.”Having once hit on this principle of interpretation, other miracles are easily explained. Considering such passages as: “… and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha” (2 Kings 6:17): “And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind” (Psalm 18:10), Jessup commented: “No longer can we afford to laugh off these references as merely ‘quaint’ and allegoric, for they begin to sound more and more like accurate descriptions of the UFO.” 

Beyond Belief

Pertinent here is the furore, created by Honest to God (SCM Press, 1963), written by the Bishop of Woolwich, John A.T. Robinson, which proposed a mild revolution in theology. He began by asking if it made sense to speak of God “up there” in a Copernican universe. Though his argument was not set out clearly, he went on to propose displacing “supranaturalism” with “naturalistic” religion. This meant getting rid of miracles and such-like, which in the scientific age had become regarded as a bar to faith, though he was unsure with what they should be replaced.

The original print-run of Honest to God was for 6,000 copies, but before the end of the year more than 350,000 had been sold, showing that the questions it raised already bothered many people, Inevitably there was controversy and calls for the Bishop’s resignation, but it is significant that the critics did not agree among themselves. One man wrote to him “I have, and many thousands have, an image of God in the heavens. The parsons have always spoken of a God up there, but now the parsons ore contradicting everything they have said … These new beliefs will smash Christians in believing there is a God and it could be the Church in general will break up. The words of the creed will mean nothing. It is suddenly like telling a youngster who believes whole-heartedly in Father Xmas, ‘there isn’t a Father Xmas, it’s your Dad,’ The whole world would collapse beneath them.” (This quotation, and other comments from The Honest to God Debate, SCM,1963) C.S. Lewis, by contrast, thought that the Bishop was making a noise about nothing: “We have long abandoned belief in a God who sits on a throne in a localised heaven.”

Voices of praise were far more common: a vicar’s wife told the Bishop he had “made the Church seem alive again, when for years it has seemed so unbearably dead!” Letters expressing agreement came from priests, theologians, doctors, headmasters and businessmen, “A well-known politician” wrote: “Reading it, and hearing you speak it, has done more to make the basic validity of the Christian message seem relevant to me than all the sermons and services I have ever heard or attended.”

Until the debate on the ordination of women, this affair was the biggest religious controversy the Church of England had seen this century. It suggests that, generally speaking, the British felt unable to believe in a comforting God the Father ‘up there’, just as they could not believe in Father Christmas. Yet they did not simply turn to atheism (as most materialists expected they would) but felt the need for some new kind of religion or belief, something to replace the old supernatural God.Bishop Robinson remarked that he had never experienced “being born again” (Honest to God, p. 27). Since then, the most notable development within the Church has been the rise of “born-again” Christianity. A former “born-again” tells me that it is perfectly fair to say that born-again Christians are taught not to think. Instead they are meant to rely on the authority of the Bible, and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. For this growing section of the Church, there can be no conflict between science and religion, since they do not think about the question.

But for the rest of the ‘Body of Christ’ the problem has remained, and the conventional, non-born-again churches have continued to decline. And, so, the Space Gods have been able to manifest to help fill the vacuum left by the departure of God the Father from his throne in heaven

Return of the Gods.

A few years later appeared the most successful of the Ancient Astronaut books, Erich Von Daniken’s Chariots of the Gods? 1969 (1st ed. as Erinnerungen an die Zukunst, Econ-Verlog, 1968. The original title meant ‘Memories of the Future’). The first thing that would strike anyone familiar with the literature is this book’s lack of originality. Despite his continual references to ‘my theories’ (etc.), almost everything in his book had already been noticed by Desmond Leslie, Robert Charroux, Pauwels and Bergier, W. Raymond Drake and others. Indeed, van Daniken’s quotations from the Ramayana and Mahabharata are simply lifted from Flying Saucers Have Landed (he translated the 19th century English renditions into German, whence Michael Heron turned them back into English, so that the versions in Chariots of the Gods? have been translated thrice). Likewise, when van Daniken wrote: “Seen from the air, the clear-cut impression that the 37-mile-long Plain of Nazca made on me was that of an airfield!” (Chariots, p. 32), he was most likely influenced in this impression by Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier’s The Morning of the Magicians (Mayflower, 1971, p.117; 1st ed. Paris, Editions Gallimard, 1960): “Photographs taken of the plain of Nazca remind one irresistibly of the ground-lighting of an airfield.” It would be tedious to analyse the whole book in this way, but nearly all of it had been said before.

So why did this book greatly outsell its predecessors? Part of the reason is no doubt that van Daniken wrote in a fluent and popular style (more than one can say of the average UFO author), he appeared (if only superficially) to be scientific, and he had actually bothered to visit many of the sites he wrote about.

Unlike Desmond Leslie and many of the others, his treatment was simple and unmystical. Readers of Brinsley le Poet Trench’s The Sky People, for instance, might have been able to take in the Garden of Eden (a Galactic cross-breed experiment carried out on Mars), Atlantis, Osiris and Isis, Abraham, Red Indian folklore, Sodom (destroyed by nuclear weapons), tektites, Jericho, the 1908 Siberian explosion, and the star of Bethlehem, but maybe it all got too confusing
when he added Madame Blavatsky, Kundalini, Gnosticism, etheric nature, mediumship, the significance of the cross, telepathic powers, and the “‘journey back to godhood’.

Perhaps the main cause was simply that he published at the right time and place to influence those who, like the disaffected readers of Honest to God, wanted a non-supernatural God ‘up there’. For instance, Darwin had made Christians uncomfortable about Genesis, and Bishop Robinson hardly bothered to defend it:

A hundred years ago the Church was forced to clarify whether it accepted the Adam story as history or as myth. Until then there had been many theologians (St Paul probably among them) who, if pressed, would not have thought the truth of the story depended upon Adam being an actual historical individual. But the point is that they were not pressed. There was no compelling need to distinguish between the categories of history and myth. But with the Darwinian controversy on evolution it became a vital necessity. It was imperative for Christian apologetic to be clear that Genesis was not a rival account of primitive anthropology. If the distinction had not been made it would have been virtually impossible to continue commending the Biblical faith to modern scientific man.

The Bishop himself settled for myth, regarding Adam and Eve as metaphors for Everyman and Everywoman, who are always subject to temptation (the Serpent). “Go back as far as you will, human nature has always been like that. That’s why in the myth they are put at the beginning.” (John A.T. Robinson, But that I can’t believe!, Fontana, 1967)

How much happier are those who can take a myth to be absolute truth! The born-agains, as always, adhere to the Bible on this question. Many of them suppose that the world was created in 4000 BC, hence that radioactive dating is all wrong, dinosaurs and Neanderthal man never existed, and Darwin is condemned to hell. Some even suggest that God created fossils, as they were found, with intent to deceive (“God shall send them strong delusion that they should believe a lie”, 2 Thes.2:11) in order to test Christians’ faith in the scriptures.

Return to the Stars offered, again, a reconciliation of scripture and science: it took the Garden of Eden as an accurate record, not of the doings of a supernatural Lord God, but of genetic manipulation by which unknown cosmonauts created homo sapiens from ape-men. Even outlandish verses could thereby be believed in: And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof, and the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. Von Dianiken: “Eve must have been produced in a retort. Now a number of cave drawings showing objects like retorts in the vicinity of primitive man have been preserved. Could foreign intelligences with a highly developed science and knowing about the immune biological reactions of bones have used Adam’s marrow as a cell culture and brought the sperm to development in it?”

It say so in the Bible

Miracles aside, the accuracy of the Bible has been a matter of dispute since the 18th century: until then, it had apparently never occurred to anyone to doubt it. Thomas Paine, author of The Age of Reason, objected to the Bible on the grounds that it often depicts God as a mad tyrant. He backed this up with critical arguments against the Bible’s supposed textual perfection: The Book of Kings (“little more than a history of assassinations, treachery, and wars”) actually contradicts itself: as to the Kings of Judah and Israel who were both called Joram, “one chapter (2 Kings 1:8) says that Joram of Judah began to reign in the second year of Joram of Israel; and the other chapter (8:16) says, that Joram of Israel began to reign in the fifth year of Jorom of Judah”. Such mistakes are enough to disprove the old contention that it is all the word of God, dictated by the Holy Spirit to scribes incapable even of ordinary clerical error. The born-again Christian response is that it is not possible to understand the Bible properly unless you are born again in Jesus; anyone who raises objections like the above is still under the influence of Satan.

UFO writers are divided on the issue. Some, like Dione, regard it as wholly accurat, and merely in need of scientific interpretation. By contrast W. Raymond Drake’s Gods and Spacemen in the Ancient East (Neville Spearman, 1968, Sphere, 1993), though happy with The Secret Doctrine, Sanskrit romances, Oahspe (produced through automatic typewriting by a New York dentist), the Egyptian and Tibetan Books of the Dead, and the revelations of Aetherius through Dr George King, was dubious about the historical value of the Bible: “Egyptologists, Assyriologists, archaeologists of renown, men of science, who should know the facts, find no evidence whatever of the Exodus … no Egyptian text refers to the miraculous deliverance mentioned in the Bible … the Book of Exodus is not a factual, critical record of events, history as we write it today … With all due respect to the learned Moses, this hotch-potch of religious narrative in such turgid style does his great mind ill-justice; it is doubtful whether its literary merit would attract any publisher today.” (Mayflower ed., pp 157-8)

This attitude is understandable: anyone attempting a revolution in thought will tend to challenge the accepted standards they were brought up with, and if that included ‘The Bible is true’, the independent thinker grows up to question that. Ancient Eastern literature and modem inspirational works were not mentioned in childhood, so there is not the same motive to doubt them.
Howsowever, the texts he relied on were mostly religious works of one kind or another. The same is true of Robert Charroux, the cover of the original French edition of whose Le livres des Secrets Trahis (Robert Laffont, 1965) promises it is “from documents older than the Bible”. These are primarily The Book of Enoch and the Popol Vuh, Enoch treats of the “fallen angels”, who descended to earth, married human females, and taught various arts and sciences: this indicates “a colonisation of our world by cosmonauts” (p. 127); conventional scholarship, though, assigns the book to the intertestamental period. The Popol Vuh relates that a woman named Orejona descended to earth from Venus, and gave birth to the human race by mating with a tapir. Charroux apparently accepted this because it was in a book he supposed “older than the Bible”.

Gospel Truth

On the subject of the Virgin Birth, Bishop Robinson summarised the modern sceptics’ position thus: “But you can’t really believe that lot, can you? Stars hopping over cribs, angelic choirs lighting up the skies, God coming to earth as a man – like a visitor from outer space? You couldn’t really believe it today.” (But that I
can’t believe!

The Bishop’s response was vague, suggesting that the star and the angels and the Virgin mother were “poetry”, a way of saying “God is in all this”. Yet he unwittingly suggested the new solution of ‘a visitor from outer space’, that would be so enthusiastically adopted by some. “The only celestial object to appear suddenly close enough to the Earth to be visible within only a small radius, which moves guiding followers, then stands still, is an intelligently controlled Spaceship.” (W. Raymond Drake, Gods and Spacemen throughout History, Sphere, 1977, p. 184) “The arrival of the infant Christ on earth from a spaceship is less fantastic, more credible, logical and acceptable, than the ethereal dogma taught by the Christian Church.” (Robin Collyns, Did Spacemen Colonise the Earth?, Mayflower, 1975, p, 163) By 1976 W. Raymond Drake could declare: “Today the only persons prepared to accept those New Testament wonders as literally true appear to be our believers in Flying Saucers,” (Gods and Spacemen in Ancient Israel, Sphere, p. 11)

The question of the resurrection is a tricky one even for UFO writers, but it did not daunt Paul Thomas (Flying Saucers Through the Ages, Neville Spearman,1965; French ed., 1962, Thomas was actually Paul Misraki, a well-known French popular musician) who was a Catholic (like Dione he gave a chapter to Fatima), as was his English translator Gavin Gibbons. However, his interpretation of Jesus’ return from the dead would not have commended itself to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He suggested that Jesus Christ was a ‘biological mutation’ produced by alien genetic experimentation. In fact, the Astronaut Angels’ interest in the Children of Israel, from the time of Abraham, was as a gene pool from which to breed the first specimen of the next phase of evolution: humans who could die and then naturally come back to life, as was demonstrated after the crucifixion.

If this was true, one would expect that Jesus would have been encouraged to have as many offspring as possible: but, as Thomas/Misraki admits, he left the world childless (The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail to the contrary); so it seems that for some reason the aliens decided on a delay before making the benefits of immortality generally available.

The life to come

The other key feature of a religion is its teaching on the future, in which, nearly always, present wrongs are to be set right in some way. Either there is a life after death in which rewards and punishments will be given out, or future lives assigned on the basis of past behaviour, or else there is to be a Second Coming, in which the Divine Kingdom will be brought to Earth, and (after the wicked have been thrown into the fiery pit which burns forever) universal peace and happiness will reign for eternity. One of the best-known prophecies to this latter effect is Mark 13:26-27: “And then shall they see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.”

Morris K, Jessup produced his own version: 

 ”Shall we paraphrase it a bit?  (such as combining verses 26 and 27)

“The great shining and powerful mothership will appear among the clouds and the Master will dispatch his assistants in smaller craft, and will gather from all parts of the earth those who have survived the brunt of the cataclysm and have reached temporary places of safety, and particularly those whom the Shepherd Race deem suitable for the propagation and resurgence of humanity in a new racial generation, and these will be taken to live for a while in the celestial regions where are the homes of the UFO in space.

There isn t much more to say, is there?”

Some people would conclude from all this that there is no reason to believe in Gods or Astronauts. Actually all it proves is that people a have a very strong need for some kind of religion, and if one is taken away from them they will hasten to locate another. Even the most severe secularists would admit that the creed of the Astronaut Gods is harmless, as religions go: believers are not expected to obey every command of a priesthood, or burn heretics at the stake. Science might one day be able to provide a testable explanation for the religious impulse: until then, the frontier between science and religion must remain uncertain and disputed territory.

From the Pulpit

Barry H. Downing, a Presbyterian pastor in Endwell, New York, was one clergyman (probably speaking for many) who came out in  favour of such interpretations with The Bible and Flying Saucers (Sphere, 1973; 1st US ed., 1968). Downing was able to salvage a more traditional God from the work of Space Angels by means of the following construction: “Suppose that in five hundred years humans on earth should advance technologically in the space age to the point where we are able to travel to another world in a spaceship and discover intelligent beings who were scientifically primitive. Suppose that Christian missionaries were to travel in space to this planet to try to convert these primitive people to Christianity. How would these people talk about our missionaries? The Bible seems to suggest that angels are very much like missionaries from another world.”


 Strange Gods

The starting point of Robert Temple’s The Sirus Mystery was the Dogon, a Sudanese tribe whom French anthropologists learnt to have traditions about being visited by beings from Sirius.

Temple reproduced their findings, then tried to prove that the same information was known to the ancient Egyptian priests as a secret tradition, and later to various Greek philosophers who were initiated into their mysteries. Of course these traditions were never written down, and Temple had to guess at them from scattered clues. His main authorities were Wallis Budge’s The Gods of the Egyptians, the Mesopotamian epics, the Hermetic books, Robert Graves’ The Greek Myths, Plutarch On Isis and Osiris, and the neo-Platonists. These are all either sacred writings of the Pagans, or modern summaries of such. At a guess, one would take Robert Temple to be a Pagan himself, particularly since he ignores the Bible altogether, and his only reference to Christianity is this: “The perversions of Christianity have always seemed to me to incorporate a perversion of the notion of ‘sin’ and the means by which ‘sin’ can be exploited as a means of temporal blackmail over other human beings.”



Drawing of an amphibious creature which, according to Temple, gave the Dogon information about the solar system.












06. The Nazi UFO Mythos: False Histories

An Investigation by Kevin McClure: CORE 6. False Histories

Project Uranus

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

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

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

The ‘Schweinfurt Raid’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roberts and Stacy pursued the source further

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

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

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

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

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

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

The rest of the document is as follows:

Recd. AMCS. 171129a hrs Oct.43


From – OIPNT


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

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

Copies to:-

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

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

He concludes

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

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

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

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

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

The Massey Project

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

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

They quote Edwards

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

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

Crashed saucers and back-engineering

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 7: Unnamed Soldiers >>>


Gill Again, Part Two.
Magonia readers reply, and Martin Kottmeyer responds

These responses to Martin Kottmeyer’s article Gill Again, appeared in Magonia 55, March 1996

Sketch of the Gill UFO by Stephen Gill Moi (left), Ananais Rarata (centre), and Dulcie Guyorobo (right)


Dear Editor,

It was so reassuring to be told by Martin Kottmeyer that although the Gill case is “an impressive anomaly”, it is “of course not impressive enough to make me believe in visiting extraterrestrials”. After all, we would not want the armchair readers of Magonia to be disturbed in their complacent view that everything can be explained by recourse to the social sciences and folklore.

But my confidence in Kottmeyer faltered when I saw that although he mentions Cruttwell twice he does not seem to have consulted the Rev. Norman Cruttwell’s exhaustive investigation of the Papua and New Guinea sightings of 1958 – 59, for if he had he would have realised that the Gill sightings of the 26th and 27th June were but two of over seventy reported UFOs during the wave, which ranged from lights in the sky to seemingly structured solid objects.

It would be disappointing if Magonia were to be no different from all those other UFO magazines busy bolstering up the belief systems of `New Agers’, abductees, etc. all too willing to be economical with the facts when they don’t suit the dogma.I am still convinced that despite our growing sophistication concerning earth-lights, altered mental states, psychosocial forces etc., there is still a signal behind the noise that says that the most convincing explanation for the Gill case is that they all saw exactly what they said they saw up there.

In case anyone is interested the Rev. Cruttwell’s report was printed in full in Flying Saucer Review special issue number 4, published August 1971.

Yours sincerely, Michael Buhler, London E.l.

Dear Sir, 

I read with great interest Martin Kottmeyer’s article about the sightings of Father Gill of Papua New Guinea (Magonia 54). Let me bring forward some comments.

The elevation of the phenomenon is perhaps the major pitfall of the boat hypothesis. Note that Father Gill stated the following: “Venus was in its proper place, and then further up, more or less overhead, was another Venus” (Basterfield, p.21). By the way, another mention can be found in the text omitted in one of Kottmeyer’s quotations (paragraph taken from reference 17 in Magonia, page 13). The missing fragment reads “Well, why not wave to people up there? So we did.”

Concerning the location of Giwa and Boianai, I am not sure that Kottmeyer has it right for I have seen these places located differently in other articles. Is there a Magonia reader with good enough cartography as to settle the matter? [Editor's comment: The map was taken from the Readers' Digest World Atlas]

Finally it would be interesting to take a closer look at the details of the drawings and the circumstances in which they were made. We are told that the witnesses did the sketches independently. But why are the drawings of Rarata and Guyorobo so similar? And what about the way the witnesses choose to represent the upper shaft of light so conventionally with a broken line?

Has it any relevance that the object depicted by Father Gill is literally a `flying saucer’ while the sketches of Rarata and Guyorobo seem to be more akin to the spaceship of Adamski? By the way, is there any clue as to what the three rods on top of Rarata’s and Guyorobo’s drawings mean? Light rays? People? Aerials?

Yours faithfully,

Manuel Borraz Aymerich, L’Hospitalet, Barcelona

 Dear John

Martin Kottmeyer’s articles are usually watertight, but his explanation of the Father Gill sighting as a boat at sea springs too many leaks to float:

1. The UFO of June 27 was an all-terrain vehicle, crossing both land and sea. Though most descriptions are unclear, Rev. Gill said in a talk, four months after the event that the object “wandered over the sky a bit”. passed behind a hill, came back, then “shot right across the bay” (Keith Basterfield, An in depth review of Australasian UFO related entity reports p.27). Allan Hendry’s illustration (UFO Handbook p.274) approved by Rev. Gill, shows the UFO over land during the waving incident.

2. Even assuming gross error and the ‘UFO’ really was a boat, it had to lie close to shore. Gill’s distance estimate of 300-400 feet suits the proportions of the beings in his illustration, if they are of average height, and a location in the northwest or west assures that the boat stayed close to the westward-running shoreline. The sea is not a lake and seldom becomes mirror-smooth. A boat near to shore would have breakers and the unsettled weather of a night with intermittent rain to spoil the illusion of doubling or a false horizon.

3. Why would a squid-fishing boat work the shallow waters of a bay, if the purpose of the bright lights is to lure squid from the depths?

4. The most important point is that the UFOs were clearly seen in the sky. Gill describes the craft appearing above Venus, and Hendry (p.134) cites a 45-degree angle of elevation during the waving episode. Even allowing for a great deal of error in angle estimates, the witnesses would have to be remarkably disoriented to mistake a horizontal for an elevated line of sight. On the 27th it was not even dark, and given a background of shore and mountains two miles away to the west, opportunities for disorientation were minimal. The witnesses knew they were looking up.

Too many irreconcilable facts scuttle the boat theory.

Thomas E. Bullard, Bloomington, Indiana

 Dear Sir

Despite my long-standing admiration for Martin Kottmeyer, I must challenge his inadequate characterisation of my views on the Rev. Gill New Guinea UFO case of 1959 in his article in your November issue. According to Kottmeyer, “Klass suggested it was a hoax”. A more accurate characterization, as detailed in my book UFOs explained is that I believe the incident was a practical joke that went astray.

Gill’s associate, Reverend Norman Cruttwell had become very interested in UFOs and had been named an official UFO observer in New Guinea for Flying Saucer Review. Crutwell asked his other missionary associates in New Guinea to assist by reporting local UFO sightings and many did so promptly. But it was almost six months before Gill reported his first UFO sighting to Crutwell, who gently chided Gill for not being more attentive.
On the night of June 26, 1959, Gill reported sighting a bright light in the sky around 6:45 p.m. and he reported that he and some natives spent more than four hours observing this UFO and what appeared to be human-like creatures atop it. The next night around 6 p.m., the natives alerted Gill that the UFO had returned and he joined them on the beach. As Gill later reported to Cruttwell, they could see human-like figures on the UFO. Gill reported that when he waved at one of the creatures, “the figure did the same”. Soon the UFO appeared to be approaching the shore, as if it were going to land.

What an exciting moment that must have been – perhaps Gill and his native friends would be the first Earthlings to shake hands with extraterrestrials! But then, according to Gill, “at 6:30 p.m., I went to dinner”. ETs could wait, the ‘inner man’ needed to be fed. At 7 p.m. Gill returned to the beach, but now the UFO had moved away and so he departed for church services.

Gill reporting these exciting events to Cruttwell in a letter that began: “Dear Norman: Here is a lot of material – the kind you have been waiting for, no doubt; but I am in some ways sorry that it has to be me who supplies it. Attitudes at Dogura in respect of my sanity vary greatly, and like all mad men, I myself think my grey cells are O.K…:”

It is my view that Gill was pulling Cruttwell’s leg, and never suspected that Cruttwell would take his fantastic (for the 1959 era) tale seriously. Once Cruttwell had publicized Gill’s story, it would be awkward for Gill to admit that he never dreamed that his associate would be so credulous. I do not believe that Gill intentionally created a hoax tale to try to embarrass his good friend and associate.

Sincerely Philip J. Klass, Washington, D.C.

In Magonia 57, September 1996, Kottmeyer replies to his critics:

Looks like I have some objections to deal with. Let’s start with Bullard’s four points.

1.  Bullard asserts that the UFO of June 27 was an all-terrain vehicle, crossing not just sea but land as well, the latter being inconsistent with a ship. In the talk some four months after the encounter the object “wandered over the sky a bit”, passed behind a hill, came back, then “shot right across the bay”In the original report these quoted behaviours are not associated with the events of the 27th, but the 26th. The wandering behaviour was reported in association with all the UFOs, and sounds consistent with autokinesis. In saying the object shot across the bay the original report adds, “It diminished to a pinpoint and vanished” which suggests the motion was not across the field of vision but along the line of sight. This vanishing would have involved speeds of thousands of miles per hour, but “there was no sound”, i.e. no sonic boom. This probably proves the interpretation was wrong. The description seems suggestive of the light just meeting the horizon as the boat was dropping below the curvature of the Earth. The closest thing I can find to something passing behind a hill in the original report refers to events in the 8:35 entry: “Another one over Wadobuna village”. (Seers, p.47) Cruttwell describes it as an object that “swooped up and away over the mountains”, (p.52) As the word ‘another’ indicates, this is not the same object that had the figures walking around on top of it.

The artist’s depiction of the object over land in Hendry’s Handbook was approved by Gill, but this may only indicate that he was satisfied the UFO was drawn correctly, The drawings in the original report are not framed by reference points in the locale of the observations, nor are there any verbal references to the object with the figures ever being seen over land.

2. Seas rarely are mirror-smooth, but I am not asking for miracles. Consider the miracle implicit in the assumption that Americans actually had silent flying platforms on manoeuvres in Papua in 1959. Consider the miracle of an alien vessel crewed by humans gratuitously levitating over the water for hours with no visible propulsion, no disturbance in the water beneath it attracting attention, and no deafening noise.

I suspect the postulated light-to-calm wind conditions necessary for the illusion may be reflected in a curious little detail that caught my attention in re-reading the report. Gill indicated there was a glow about the craft with figures. “The glow did not touch them, but there appeared a little space between their outline and the light”. (Seers, p.50) This is less mysterious than it first reads. What I believe is happening here is that exhaust was forming a cloud of smoke to the side of the boat and the light from the centre of the deck was casting shadows forward onto the cloud. Wind conditions would have to be minimal or the exhaust would have dispersed quickly. For a sharp thin space to be present the cloud had to be close and not enveloping the crew itself, making it unlikely the cloud was meteorological in origin.

3. I confess I know too little about squid to argue about whether or not they avoid shallow waters. Any squidologists out there in our readership?

4. Bullard quotes Hendry as giving an elevation of 45 degrees during the waving episode. Hendry was not quoting Gill in that passage. It is a blatant mistake. He was confusing the angle made by the blue beam of light with the angular elevation, In the IUR report Gill’s estimate was only 30 degrees. Bullard would inevitably reiterate that this is still much too high. I would agree if we could trust its accuracy. There is however no angular elevation in the field notes or Cruttwell’s report. This detail emerges first in the lUR re-interview and this makes it a decades-old memory. Even outside the issues of reliability of such memories, angular elevations are generally very inaccurate. Ask people to point to the mid-point between the zenith and the horizon and they don’t point at 45 degrees but down around 30 or 20 degrees and, rarely, even as low as 12 degrees. (Minnaert, pp.153-4)

One point of clarification: Bullard uses the word disorientation in describing the illusion I propose. In general usage this is thought to be synonymous with vertigo and I just want it understood that I don’t assert the involvement of vertigo.

Aymerich’s point about Gill saying the object was above Venus is a more substantial objection. If one regards the observation as infallible, then there is no ready explanation for it that I would risk offering. The observation is not in Gill’s field notes and is not signed onto by the other witnesses. It thus comes down to one man’s word. As such it is vulnerable to the standard doubts about memory (See Drake’s remark about the rapid decay of accuracy of memory encountered in investigating meteor reports in Sagan & Taves, p.254). It may involve a transpositional error or an unintentionally leading question like what Elizabeth Loftus found in her investigations of memory. There are other possibilities. I concede in advance there are no independent grounds for affirming Gill made such an error. Acceptance of the possibility hinges on how much one wants a solution or how much one wants the case to remain a mystery.

Acknowledging their oddness, I share Aymerich’s interest in wanting to know what those three rods drawn by Guyorobo and Rarata are.

Buhler proclaims his faith that the most convincing explanation for the Gill case is that they saw what they saw. Did he notice that Gill said he saw “a strange new devicee of you Americans”?  This isn’t a problem for you?

If I am guilty of sins of omission, let me reply that my critics are not innocents either. None take up the challenge to offer a better explanation. None acknowledge, let alone answer, the objections raised by the alternatives. Bullard wants a water-tight explanation which satisfies an absolute standard of correct vs. incorrect. None of the solutions advanced to date, even the fuzzy one of it being a part of the UFO phenomenon, squares perfectly in every detail. My failure to offer one is less a reflection of my incompetence than the intractability of the case itself. Frankly, I was simply trying to get an answer that floated better than the competition.

Buhler’s insinuation that I dodge uncomfortable details and ought to have discussed the other seventy plus cases in the Cruttwell report is to me a damn irksome thing to say. Can you show me any believer in the case who ever acknowledged any difficulties in their assumption this case involves an alien visitation or how different it is from all the other cases they hold dear? I am hardly alone in ignoring the rest of the report. Some I suspect fear the implications it was part of a general hysteria, an assumption which would be strengthened if they assessed the very much lower quality of those other cases. For the record, I ignored them because I had my hands full with just the Gill case.


  • M. Minnaert. The Nature of Light and Colour in the Open Air, Dover, 1954.
  • Carl Sagan and Thornton Page. UFOs – A Scientific Debate, Norton Library, 1954.
  • Stan Seers. UFOs: the Case for Scientific Myopia, Vantage, 1983



Gill Again: The Father Gill Case Reconsidered
Martin Kottmeyer

Originally published in Magonia 54, November 1995

In a 1979 survey of ninety leading ufologists, Ron Story found the case of Father Gill of Papua New Guinea was most mentioned when he asked for the strongest UFO evidence. [1]

Jerry Clark had acclaimed it as “History’s Best Case” in an article for Fate magazine the year before. [2] J. Allen Hynek termed it a “classic” and said he was impressed by the quality and number of witnesses and the character and demeanour of Reverend Gill. [3] In The UFO Experience he gave it the highest probability rating among the close encounters of the third kind. [4] Jacques Vallee thought it “one of the great classics in UFO history”. [5] The Lorenzens include an assessment of it by one of their APRO representatives as “one of the most important ever recorded” in their Flying Saucers: The Startling Evidence of the Invasion from Outer Space. [6]

It wasn’t hyperbole. There are 38 witnesses. No other entity case comes close to that number. Twenty-five signed their names to a detailed report. Five of them were teachers and three were medical assistants. There was agreement the object was circular, had a wide base, a narrow upper deck, a type of legs, four human figures, and a shaft of blue light which shone upwards into the sky at an angle of 45°. It was visible for hours. The Australian Air Force, while able to explain away some details of the case as astronomical bodies, confessed they could reach no definite conclusions and granted the seeming presence of “a major light source of unknown origin”. [7] Sceptics, including Donald Menzel, Daniel Cohen and Phil Klass, have not fared well in their criticisms of the case. [8] Gill answered the major charges convincingly when he was interviewed by Hynek. There’s been no confession or revelations pointing to a solution. While we don’t hear it mentioned much these days amid the din of things like Roswell and the Greys, it is not because of any resolution of the puzzle or the discovery of stronger evidence for UFOs. It’s still an impressive anomaly.

Location of the Gill case

It of course isn’t impressive enough to make me believe in visiting extraterrestrials. Indeed the high point of the case highlights one of the core paradoxes of the UFO phenomenon. The figures on the deck waved back at the witnesses on the beach leading them to think it would soon land. Yet it didn’t. Why no contact, given this seeming friendliness? The case invites question after question about it that seem to cast doubts on a veridical extraterrestrial interpretation. Of all the places in the world to reveal themselves to this maximal extent, why Papua New Guinea? Why 1959 and never again? Why did it float about in the air for hours, slowly drifting, especially when most saucers of that era went blazing about at great speeds? Why do the drawings show a UFO much thicker than most of the saucers of that era? Why are the figures walking about on top of it; something we don’t see much of in reports nowadays? Why are the figures so human-looking; so unlike contemporary Greys? Guyorobo’s drawing shows branching legs that seem unlike anything else in the UFO literature, why? What is with that 45° shaft of blue light? Why is it pointed up instead of down as they usually are in cases with light beams? If it is a laser, as some suggest, what is it firing at, illuminating, or connecting? The case is so singular, one wonders if it even belongs with the rest of the UFO phenomenon.

Yet what is the alternative? Klass suggested it was a hoax. [9] This has its difficulties. Gill was an ordained Anglican priest. Even granting religious authority has lost some of its lustre in recent years in the wake of televangelism scandals, this is still a good mark in the case’s behalf. The involvement of five teachers similarly suggests a group of people likely to have a higher moral standard than average. The story told by Gill is oddly banal set next to most of the hoaxes in UFO history. The figures on deck seem only to be working and their interaction with the witnesses is limited to waving. There is no dramatic conflict, no sense of danger, no sense of horror, no indications of cheekiness. Gill’s field notes have an authentically clipped style of someone briefly noting events he is observing. There is a notable lack of narrative quality to the notes. They don’t build up to a climax and lack adjectives, superlatives, or flourishes of an imaginative sort.

Klass proclaims his disbelief over the Gill case mainly on a single point. He cannot accept that Gill would go to dinner with the prospect of a landing at hand. Gill acknowledged this seems odd to him in retrospect in his interview with Hynek. Yet the field notes provide a ready explanation:

Waving by us was repeated, and this was followed by more flashes of the torch, then the UFO began slowly to become bigger, apparently coming in our direction. It ceased after perhaps half a minute and came no further. After a further two or three minutes the figures apparently lost interest in us, for they disappeared below deck.

At 6:25 two figures reappeared to carry on whatever they were doing before the interruption. The blue spotlight came on for a few seconds, twice in succession. The two UFOs remained stationary and high up – higher than last night, or smaller than last night.

6:30 P.M. I went to dinner.

Drawing based on Father gill's description
Drawing based on Father Gill’s description

There was no longer any forward motion to indicate a landing was imminent. There was no more interest by the figures in Gill or the others on the beach. This suggests simple reciprocity. With the figures showing lack of interest in Gill, Gill probably lost interest in them in turn. He had watched them for four hours the previous night with no sign of a landing; why stand around another four hours when he could be eating? Indeed the point can be flipped around; why would a hoaxer include such a banal detail as figures going below deck and then returning to do unspecified work involving “occasionally bending over and raising their arms as though adjusting, or setting up something (not visible)”? Why doesn’t Gill claim they landed, exchanged greetings and moral platitudes, and invited him on board for a ride? That would be more in line with the stories we saw in the fifties.

Then there is the matter of motive. What would possess 25 people, including teachers and medical people, to risk potential scandal? What would possess Gill to drag so many people into a hoax and risk having them giving the game away? Even he could get a consensus to play a joke on Cruttwell, we are told by Cruttwell that the witnesses had told their stories to other Papuans who passed the news on to him. Did Gill ask them to lie to all these other people as well? With these people making up a religious community, one would expect any hoax to more likely involve an effort to supply miracles to buttress the faith. There is no religious detailing to Gill’s story at all. It makes too little sense for the hoax explanation to be credible.

This leaves us with the idea of a misinterpretation. Donald Menzel proposed that Gill had been viewing the planet Venus. It was near maximum brightness and “roughly in the position indicated by Father Gill”.Menzel saw the obvious objections: “Planets don’t appear to have men standing on them. Planets do not send out search lights.” His way round this was by assuming Gill had myopia and astigmatism. The men would be “slightly out of focus images of [his] eyelashes”. The search beam “could easily have been the effect of clouds”. He states we have no way of knowing whether the other people who signed Gill’s report actually saw what Gill saw. [10] Evidently Menzel did not see Cruttwell’s report for there was verbal confirmation of agreement by the witnesses of these details to the investigator and a drawing by Stephen Gill Moi also has four figures visible. Worst of all, Menzel asserts Gill “never even mentions” Venus as a point of reference, when he most certainly did: “I saw Venus, but I also saw this sparkling object…” [11] In a later account for a lecture Gill mentioned that he had seen Venus set on the prior night, but on the night of the sighting he became aware of the UFO because “there wasn’t one Venus, but two”. [12] When Gill met with investigators in the seventies, he provided them with his documented optometric history which effectively refuted Menzel’s scenario. [13]

Allan Hendry toyed with a variant of Menzel’s scenario, suggesting that Gill’s Venus was Mercury and the UFO was still Venus. “On all three nights, the time of disappearance of the main UFO never exceeds the time Venus sets … the coincidence of the disappearance of the main UFO and the time of Venus setting is provocative.” The long duration of the sighting is consistent with other cases involving astronomical misinterpretations. Against this, as Hendry was quick to point out, we have Gill saying the apparent diameter was five times the moon’s width, the bearing of 30° altitude in the WNW, and the basic similarity of the drawings by four of the witnesses. [14] His final assessment was that the case couldn’t be pushed any farther in terms of investigation: “At least we feel confident that the sighting was generated either by an extraordinary UFO as described, or by Venus distorted in size and shape by (amazing) atmospheric distortions (and memory spanning 18 years by Father Gill) … BUT NOTHING ELSE” (emphases and punctuation by IUR).

More recently Steuart Campbell has added a characteristically wild twist by suggesting the “sparkling object” involved a mirage of Mercury at first, and then later, tricked by discontinuities in observations created by clouds, the object was confusedly mistaken with mirages of Mars and Venus. [15] He doesn’t even try to account for the four figures or how dozens of people could be fooled by mirages for hours.

gill-tableThe case is probably even worse than you might guess. None of the sources give the coordinates of Venus that evening. When I finally got someone to provide the data, I learned Venus had an azimuth of roughly 285° when it set that evening – that’s 15° north of west. In the field notes of 26 June, we have an observation at 9:30 p.m. reading “‘Mother’ gone across sea to Giwa – white, red, blue, gone.” That’s the last it is seen that evening. Giwa is located along a line running 70° north of west (340° azimuth) giving a substantial disparity of 55°. This is pretty hard to argue away as normal eyewitness fallibility.I suspect most ufologists might accept that one person alone could hallucinate seeing a group of people inside or on a flying saucer, but not two. Having 25 people sign a report claiming they saw this and having them agree this is what they saw in the follow up is totally without parallel in the literature and without clear precedent in either abnormal psychology or Fortean history. It might be possible; perhaps they all drank from a keg of something spiked with an hallucinogen and Gill became accidental guide, but it hardly seems probable. This approach seemed as clearly counter-indicated as the hoax and ETH ideas. In saying “BUT NOTHING ELSE”, Hendry seemed to close the book on the case and it would be hard to deny that assessment was completely fair. No other alternative was obvious. I can’t say it troubled me much. Unexplained means unexplained. It happens sometimes.

Last year [1994] I read a couple of papers by Paul Rydeen which compared UFO belief to cargo cults. [16] I’d seen the idea before, but they put me in the mood to acquire Lamont Linndstrom’s new treatise Cargo Cult to see if it might be a fruitful subject to explore. It was, but in a way I didn’t count on.

Papua was where cargo cults first sprung up. Cargo cult belief involved the expectation that ships sent by one’s ancestors would some day arrive bearing cargo that would make them as wealthy as European colonisers. The Europeans perpetually spoke of cargo shipments from their distant home that were running late. World War Two escalated and shifted cargo expectations because of the immense sea and air traffic involving American shipments of troop supplies. GIs had spread the wealth around during their stay. Cargo rituals soon involved planes, airstrips, control towers, and radios. Could this milieu have been involved in the Gill case?

Gill said there was initially no thought that the sightings involved extraterrestrials. It was felt to be “a strange new device of you Americans”. Critics tried to paint Gill as a believer because the phrase Mothership was current in UFO lore, but the phrase is older than that and was used as a term denoting the boat in a fishing fleet to which the catches of smaller boats were centrally relayed. The original field notes confirm Gill thought the figures were “human”. Besides their friendly demeanour, indicated by their waving at the witnesses, the activities of the figures resemble the normal work you would see on a ship deck. Drawings and verbal descriptions include the presence of portholes and railings like you’d see on a ship. Was this all some kind of Cargo vision? The emotions seemed suggestive:

We all thought it was going to land. We were hoping it was going to land. We were in a state of what you might call anticipation. They came down and then they seemed to stop… And spontaneously, almost, we started to wave, just as though – we’re used to waving at people, boats are coming in all the time, small craft, and naturally we’re used to waving at people on these craft… To our surprise and we really were surprised, these people waved back. [17]

This is consonant with the sentiments of cargo expectations, but it is rather explicitly normal everyday behaviour as well. It’s hardly proof.There are also blatant difficulties. Why should an Anglican priest get caught up in the enthusiasms of Papuan religiosity? A missionary ought to be immune to some degree to the influence of a competing faith. One could perhaps wave this off with appeals to empathy in Gill. Turn around the charge that the natives would be pliant to his will and say he was pliant to their charms and mass psychology.

Sketch of the Gill UFO by Stephen Gill Moi (left), Ananias Rarata (centre), and Dulcie Guyorobo (right)

More troubling is the objection that Papuan expectations should have yielded an image more consonant with American aircraft. Aircraft don’t have deckhands roaming about topside. They don’t have railings. Where are the wings and tail section? Why is there this confusing mix of sea vessel and hovering aerial platform? form? Aerial platforms, moreover, were pretty much a theoretical fancy back then with a doubtful history in experimental trials. About the only source of the image in mass culture worth mentioning was the old Johnny Quest cartoon series and that came after the Gill case not before.

Then another oddity – Stan Seers reports a discussion he had with Gill about the shaft of light that emanated from the top of the craft. Gill “emphasised it was pencil thin and parallel, that is to say it did not spread, or increase in diameter as does an ordinary beam of light.” [18] Seers, writing in 1983, identifies this as a laser, which in 1959 was terrestrially unknown. Must be extra-terrestrial! He forgets, however, that laser light normally isn’t visible from the side without something to disperse it like particles or fog. It dawned on me then that this could make sense in the context of the other ship motifs. The 45° lines of light in the drawings of Gill, Stephen Gill Moi, and Ananias Rarata would simply be ship’s rigging, brightly illuminated. Yet that’s paradoxical if we are dealing with visionary construction of the image. Gill shouldn’t have been puzzled – it should be self-explanatory. Looking at the drawings again, Guyorobo’s branching legs suddenly made sense to me as also ship-related. They were fishing nets dropped into the water. But, same paradox, why wasn’t it self-explanatory if it was part of a vision? Solution: Forget about visions – this is a real boat!

But, that can’t be right. These drawings don’t look like the Flying Dutchman. Fishing boats don’t fly. Magonians are obliged to grant the idea of ships floating in the air is centuries old. Theorists in the field of meteorological optics have noted that the illusion of ships floating in the air is sometimes created by mirages. They are formed by light being bent and distorted in sea air which has stratified into layers of differing temperatures and thus differing refractive indices. Could that be the case here? I thought so for a while, but I bounced the idea off someone more knowledgeable about meteorological optics and was flatly told it was impossible. The problem is with the figures on the deck. The ship would have to be miles away over the horizon for the illusion to work and at that distance the figures could not be optically resolved. To the suggestion I made that mirages magnify images at times, he countered that mirages only stretch images in the vertical dimension. Looking at various drawings of mirage apparitions in the literature, it was clear this mechanism would not work. [19]

I put in some observing time at a nearby lake to double check the limitations of visibility of humans on ships. For Gill to be able to observe humans waving at him, the ship definitely had to be well under a mile in distance. Forget mirages.One of the days I picked for observing involved very calm conditions. The sailboats crept very slowly across my field of vision. The surface was close to mirror-like. The ship hulls doubled. The sails only partly doubled. This I expected and felt would explain the thickness of the saucers drawn by Guyorobo and Rarata. The sky’s blueness was mirrored in the water and I noticed the horizon was virtually invisible, so well did the colours match and nearly blend. At night, one could imagine the horizon completely lost. I also observed on this occasion discontinuities in the water that ran at a mostly horizontal angle to the real horizon. They were undoubtedly related to a slight wind. Some ran across the field of vision between me and a sailboat. One of these discontinuities was fairly close to the shore and seemed rather stable over the period of observation of roughly an hour. I am unaware of the precise reason for this stability – if it involved a miniature sea-breeze effect, water currents, or whatever. Move this into the night, illuminate it by boat light, and one might get the effect of a false horizon.

We do know that there is a type of night fishing that takes place in Pacific regions. Squid fishermen rig their boats with powerful incandescent lamps of many thousands of watts to lure squid up from great depths. [20] Such a boat could account for the observation “It was sending a bright white halo – throwing it up on the base of the cloud”. That’s hardly typical of Venus! Such a fishing vessel would also account for the slow drifting motion of the object and its long presence in the area. Other types of boats would have traversed such an area in a much briefer period of time.We have here, I think, most of the elements needed for an acceptably unparadoxical resolution to the Gill classic. It is basically a real-world example of one of those double-interpretation perceptual puzzles. Look at a drawing one way, you see a duck; look at it a different way and you see a rabbit. Look at the Gill saucer one way and you see a hovering saucer decked out in lasers, landing legs and windows. Look at it a different way and you see a brilliantly lit squid-boat with rigging, fishing nets draped in the water, portholes, and men too busy to do more than wave at the natives they see onshore. Nobody is hallucinating or lying or behaving stupidly. The situation simply invites two interpretations and Gill’s party locked into the wrong one, tricked by a false horizon which led them to think the image was hanging in the air.

Can we be certain this is what really happened? There are still things we might feel uneasy about. Could dozens of people really be fooled this way for hours without somebody on site tricking out the correct answer? How likely is it that squid-boats visit the region so rarely that Gill and everyone else never were able to put two and two together on a later occasion, like when wind conditions were different? Though I consider these unanswerable, my retort must be. “Well, do you have a better solution?” Hoaxes, Venus-induced hallucinations, and extraterrestrials seem a good deal harder to swallow than this scenario.

That this is a disappointingly unrevolutionary solution, I fully concede. It is also rather boring from a psycho-social perspective. My hope that Cargo belief would provide a key to the case was thoroughly dashed in the end. I almost feel obliged to apologise for what feels more like tying up an old loose end than the offering of useful insights into the nature of the UFO phenomenon. Still, it was history’s best close encounter. Excelsior, I suppose.

In Magonia 55, readers gave their views on this article.


  1. STORY, Ronald D., UFOs and the Limits of Science, Wm. Morrow, 1981, p.23
  2. CLARK, Jerome, “Close Encounters: History’s Best Case”, Fate, February 1978, pp38-46
  3. HYNEK, J. Allen, The UFO Experience, Ballantine, 1972, pp.167-172, 270. HYNEK, J. Allen, Hynek UFO Report, Dell, 1977, pp.216-223
  4. The UFO Experience, op. cit., p.270
  5. VALLEE, Jacques, UFOs in Space, Ballantine, 1977, pp.156-159
  6. LORENZEN, Coral and Jim, Flying Saucers: The Startling Evidence of the Invasion from Outer Space, Signet, 1966, pp.175-178
  7. HYNEK, 1977, op. cit., p. 217
  8. CLARK, ibid. HENDRY, Allan, “Papua/Father Gill Revisited”, IUR, 2, #11, November 1977, pp.4-7 and December 1977, pp.4-7
  9. KLASS, Phil, UFOs Explained, Vintage, 1976, pp. 277-289
  10. SAGAN, Carl and PAGE,Thornton, UFOs: A Scientific Debate, Norton Library, 1974, pp.148-163.
  11. SEERS, Stan, UFOs; The Case for Scientific myopia, Vantage, 1983, pp.48-49
  12. BASTERFIELD, Keith, An In-depth Review of Australian UFO Related Entity Reports, Australian Centre for UFO Studies, June 1980, p.21
  13. HENDRY, December, op. cit., p.5
  14. Ibid., pp.6-7
  15. CAMPBELL, Steuart, The UFO Mystery – Solved, Explicit, 1994, pp.66-67
  16. RYDEEN, Paul, “Cargo of the Gods”. Anomalist, 1 (Summer 1994), pp.83-88. RYDEEN, Paul, “UFOs and the Cult of Cargo”. Strange Magazine, 9, (Spring-Summer 1992), pp.6-9, 52-53
  17. BASTERFIELD, op. cit., p. 26
  18. SEERS, op. cit., p. 36
  19. CORLISS, William, Rare Haloes, Mirages, Anomalous Rainbows and Related Electromagnetic Phenomena, Sourcebook, 1984, and chapters in the Condon report.
  20. SHEAFFER, Robert, The UFO Verdict, Prometheus, 1981, p. 216.


Swinging Through the Sixties
Part Two of ‘What’s Up Doc?’
Martin Kottmeyer

From Magonia 45, March 1993

This article follows on from Fear and Loathing in the Fifties

The sixties were a manic time for UFO belief. Flying saucers were so real only the most bigoted sceptic could deny advance metallic piloted machines were flying around – a potential threat to the security of the world. Everyone felt something had to be done. Most of all the authorities should openly admit the reality of the problem 

Book titles convey some of the mood of the period: Flying Saucers – The Startling Evidence of the Invasion from Outer Space; Flying Saucers are Hostile; Flying Saucer Invasion – Target Earth; Flying Saucers – Serious Business; The Real UFO Invasion; The Terror Above Us. Wilkins’ Flying Saucers on the Attack is reprinted with a teaser asking: ‘Are theyFriendly Visitors from Outer Space or INVADERS Planning Conquest?’ The teaser on Flying Saucers Uncensored asks: ‘Is there a cosmic battle plan – aimed at Earth?’ ‘Exclusive! First News of America’s Most Terrifying UFO Invasion!’ was promised by The Official Guide to UFOs. The actual content was often less dramatic than advertised, but that hardly mattered. The conviction of urgency transcended the material gathered to justify the belief in, to use the 1 April Life article’s title, a ‘Well-Witnessed Invasion by Something’.

Throughout the first half of the decade Keyhoe’s NICAP pressed for Congressional hearings on the UFO problem by such tactics as letter-writing campaigns. The Air Force warned congressmen that such hearings would only dignify the problem and cause more publicity, thus adding to the problem. At one point, NICAP published a book called The UFO Evidence and sent copies to congressmen to demonstrate their case that UFOs were in fact real and posed a danger to the fabric of society. The danger included an unprepared public being caught up in a widespread panic if an external danger was suddenly imposed. A sudden confrontation with extraterrestrials could have disastrous results, they warned. Among them, ‘catastrophic results to morale’. (40) While NICAP found some support for their position in Congress, nothing happened till the infamous swamp gas fiasco caused a loss of credibility in the Air Force’s handling of the UFO problem. On 5 April 1966 Congress held open hearings. This led to the creation of the Condon committee to undertake a new investigation – in essence, to get a second opinion of the Air Force’s diagnosis. Keyhoe rejoiced, calling it ‘the most significant development in the history of UFO investigation’. (41) Condon confirmed the Air Force’s diagnosis:

‘Our general conclusion is that nothing has come from the study of UFOs in the past 21 years that has added to scientific knowledge. Careful consideration of the record as it is available to us leads us to conclude that further extensive study of UFOs probably can not be justified in the expectation that science will be advanced thereby.’ (42)

‘We know of no reason to question the finding of the Air Force that the whole class so far considered does not pose a defense problem.’ (43) ‘The subject of UFOs has been widely misrep-resented to the public by a small number of individuals who have given sensationalized presentations in writings and public lectures. So far as we can judge, not many people have been misled by such irresponsible behaviour, but whatever effect there has been has been bad.’ (44)

Even before the report was published, ufologists were up in arms when they realised Condon was making jokes of the nutty people he was running into. He had to some extent pre-judged the problem and admitted he knew what the final outcome would probably be. One thing he failed to take into account in his prognostic-ation was ‘the extent of the emotional commitment of the UFO believers and the extremes of conduct to which their faith can lead’. Had he known, he confessed, ‘I certainly would neder have undertaken the study’. (45)

Condon admits up front that the study focused its attention on the physical science aspects of the problem and ignored the psychiatric aspects. Condon avers this was partly due to a failure to ford as much psychopathology as might be presumed. Condon was presumably regarding psychopathology in a restricted sense of severely diminished mental competence and was ignorant of broader usages of the term that include pervasive stereotypical irrationalities. Otherwise he could hardly have failed to realise that the extreme emotional commitment and conduct he encountered would be regarded by some as a sign that a psychiatric approach would likely be the best line of enquiry. Ultimately this mattered only slightly since the approach taken did manage to demonstrate the illusory character of the majority of cases.

Ufologists disparaged the Condon report for its failure to find conclusive explanations for a minority of the cases investigated. This is true, but more true than ufologists understand. Extraterrestrial vehicles do not form a convincing explanation of this remainder. The unexplained cases lacked corroborative
integrity, lacked consistency of form and behaviour, and seemed irrational and impervious to an analysis of intelligible motives. Why should a craft that blazes with megawatt brilliance in case 10 be in the same theoretical picture with a craft that presents a trapezoid of dim red lights as in case 31 or a craft overtaking a commercial plane in case 21, which is completely invisible except to radar?

Among those cases that are officially unexplained: case 44 which involves a medical student evidencing emotional disturbance predating his sighting and for which he was considering psychiatric help; case 43 which involved teenagers driving to a cemetery to frighten themselves; case 33 which involved two girls whose testing revealed one was suggestible and the other showed tendencies toward borderline hallucinatory distortion; and the Herb Schirmer case. Of the Schirmer case, it should be noted that though it is perhaps unexplained, investigators had no confidence his experiences were physically real since there was no corroborative physical evidence. I think it is suspicious that the aliens borrowed their attire from Mars Needs Women.

The UFO literature of the sixties is voluminous and so fantastic it is hard to know how best to start chronicling it all. The writings of the Lorenzens make as good a starting place as any, I suppose. They were required reading and perhaps still should be. Flying Saucers: The Startling Evidence of the Invasion from Outer Space adopts as its major premise the Keyhoe thesis that UFOs are engaged in reconnaissance. They are painstakingly mapping the geographical features of our country and testing our defence capabilities. The 1952 D.C. incidents are regarded as accidental, unintended revealings of the aliens because they mistook the Capitol and the White House for military installations. They expect they will be setting up bases since the taking of plants, boulders and soil samples probably means they are testing what sort of agriculture they should establish. The Ubatuba explosion is regarded as self-destruction to prevent superior technology from getting into our hands and revealing its secrets. There is a bare possibility, say the Lorenzens, it was an atomic explosion given other evidence that ‘UFOs are powerful radioactive sources’. The dangers posed by UFOs extend to the possibility that our next war could involve ‘all nations fighting as brothers against a common foe from outer space’.

They showcase the ideas of Dr Olavo Fontes that UFOs possessed weapons such as heat rays and a device which inhibited the function of petrol engines. They claim priority, however, that observations UFOs made of cars and planes in the early years of the flying saucer mystery were done in order to devise these devices to disable propulsion systems. A pattern of reconnaissance is seen which suggests to them that aliens plan to release sleeping drugs into strategic reservoirs and water tanks as a means of bringing the world to its knees in a matter of hours. They are concerned that there are too many blackouts on our power grids. There are also people disappearing. Is this the procuring ofspecimens? Add to this the case of a woman with medical problems they interpret as radiation effects.

No person of conscience can ignore the UFO problem in the light of all this. The UFO problem  has to be taken out of the hands  of the military who are lulling us into a false sense of security and given to an International Commission which will handle this red-hot political problem. ‘We are in urgent need of the acquisition and objective analysis of basic data.’ We are facing potential danger. Maybe they aren’t hostile, but ‘there is no indication of friendliness either… The existence of aspecies of superior beings in the  universe could cause the civilisation of Earth to topple’. This urgency ‘defies expression’. We must be ‘anxious to re-learn the bitter lessons of history: Billy Mitchell – Maginot – Pearl Harbor – and so on.’ (46)

The hypochondriac themes  in this summary are multiform and collective equivalents of motifs  commonly encountered in psychotic fantasy. The call for independent verification of the reality of their beliefs via the international commission is, as we’ll see, almost a universally shared concern in this period. The concern over sleeping drugs being secretly put into the water supply is an obvious variant of the poisoning fantasies found in individual paranoids. The talk about war and the ‘toppling of civilisation’ fits solidly into the category of world destruction fantasies so common in paranoia. Invasion fears have numerous precedents in history; most notably the Great Fear rumour and panic in 1789 France and the 1913 Scareship wave. (47) H.G. Wells’s War of the Worlds had earthbound ancestry in a sizable literature which ruminated about the threat of invasion and war in the near-future tense. (48) The concern over blackouts has its parallel in the loss-of-life-energy fantasies that some-times develop around the depression and fatigue aspects of some cases of schizophrenia. The urgency of approaching death is everywhere apparent.

Flying Saucer Occupants (1967) is less suffused with fear than this earlier book. It is primarily a survey of a collection of non-contactee ufonaut reports. As such it is a mixed bag open to a variety of interpretations from ‘conquerors from space’ and ‘members of a military organisation’ to ‘a breeding experiment’, or simply ‘visitors’. While they prefer to simply assert the reality of these entities, they admit in the final paragraph an alternative theory: The population of the world is falling victim to a particularly insidious and apparently contagious mental disease which generates hallucinations involving specific types of airships and humanoids. This disease seems to be spreading.’  Who will be next to contract the malady?  ’You?’ (49)

The choice of metaphor is  interesting and was itself infectious. It turns up in the writings of Hynek for one. In an article  for Playboy he asserts that if an intensive investigation were carried out for a year and yielded nothing we could then shrug off the UFO problem with, ‘There must have been a virus going
around’. (50) In The UFO Experience, Hynek asks:

‘Are then, all of these reporters of UFOs truly sick? If so, what is the sickness? Are these  people all affected by some strange “virus” that does not attack “sensible” people? What a strange sickness this must be, attacking people in all walks of  life, regardless of training or  vocation, and making them, for a very limited period of time – only minutes sometimes – behave in a strange way and see things that are belied by the reliable and stable manner and actions they exhibit in the rest of their lives… Is there a philosopher in the house?’ (51)

Gordon Creighton offered the longest exposition of this metaphor in The Humanoids (1969):

One thing at least is certain. These stories of alleged meetings with denizens of other worlds or realms or levels of existence constitute a fascinating social, psychological – and possibly also a parapsychological enigma. And surely an enigma of some urgency, for if the growing numbers of people all over our planet who claim these experiences are indeed hallucinated, or, as we are confidently told, suffering from the stresses and strains of the Nuclear Age, then it is as plain as a pikestaff that they are in grave need of psychological study and medical attention. If a brand new psychosis is loose amongst us, then, instead of wasting so much time on why we hate our fathers and love our mothers, our mental experts and psychologists ought to have been in there right from the start, studying and combatting this new plague since its outbreak nearly twenty years ago! Valuable time has been lost. By now, they might have come to important conclusions, or even licked the malady!’ (52)

Even rendered in facetious terms the imperative quality of the UFO problem is retained in the overwrought choice of words like plague and grave need. Aime Michel also utilised the disease metaphor in suggesting the aliens ‘dominate us only to the degree that the microbe dominates us when we are ill’. (53)

UFOs Over the Americas (1968) is more suffused with confusion than fear. They note a new phase of UFO activity involving car chases. A new observation is forwarded that UFOs show a proclivity to be sighted near cemeteries. They speculate this is just their way to get to the bottom of what funeral processions are. They criticise the scientific community for holding the position that UFOs show ‘no intelligent pattern of behaviour; they zip hither and yon but don’t seem to be going anywhere’. Yet elsewhere they observe the extraterrestrials’ motivations and overall purpose are so well-concealed as to suggest a deliberate attempt to confuse’. They call for a UN sponsored agency to look into the matter. Why isn’t clear since they predict elsewhere that UFOs would manifest so constantly that ‘it should be evident before the end of 1968 just what UFOs are’. (54)

Alas, the 1969 volume UFOs – The Whole Story did not proclaim what that evident identity was. The concern about invasion gives way to the assumption of aloofness. The stoppage of vehicles is downgraded from weapons-testing activity to a means of studying humans at a leisurely pace. For the Lorenzens, the hypochondriacal themes begin to vanish in favour of discussions of UFO politics and ufonauts being time-travellers. (55)

The writings of Frank Edwards were probably the best-selling books of the sixties. Edwards is sometimes dismissed as a journalist and not a ufologist, in part because of his obvious errors. The substance of the books, however, is heavily indebted to Keyhoe and NICAP. The flyleaf of Flying Saucers – Serious Business is highly notable for the flying saucer health warning presented on it. For me, it epitomises the hypochondriacal spirit of the times.



Near approaches of Unidentified Flying Objects can be harmful to human beings. Do not stand under a UFO that is hovering at
low altitude. Do not touch or attempt to touch a UFO that has landed.
In either case, the safe thing to do is get away from there
 quickly and let the military take over. There is a possibility of radiation danger, and there are known cases in which persons have been burned
by rays emanating from UFOs. Details on these cases are included in this


It is fascinating to note that nearly a decade later, Allan Hendry encountered a UFO witness who still  had this warning not to stand under UFOs posted in his memory. (56) Edwards does affirm inside the reality of cases involving ‘eye damage, burns, radioactivity, partial or temporary paralysis, and various types of physiological disturbances’. He talks of heat waves and stunrays, and the relationship between UFOs and blackouts is explored at  length. ‘They have shown the  ability – and sometimes the appar ent inclination to interfere with or prevent the functioning of our electrical and electronic systems.’ Despite these hints of malevolence, Edwards proclaims near the end of the book that contact will be ‘the greatest experience of the human race’. (57)

The sequel Flying Saucers – Here and Now was spawned by the  incredible increase of saucer sightings and saucer interest in the middle of the decade. Writings that, in cooler times, would have stimulated half a dozen letters, now filled bags at magazine offices. Besides chronicling the rush of events unfolding, the book includes James McDonald’s call for a full-scale Congressional investigation. Edwards maintains UFOs are not hostile, but warns contact will have tremendous impact theologically, psychologically, and sociologically. And that contact is described as imminent. (58)

George Fawcett, in a February 1965 article, surveyed UFO cases for repetitive features. Among his catalogue of commonalities was the phenomenon of pursuit, cases of increased background radiation, cases of electrical shock, burns, dimming of vision, blackouts, temporary paralysis, and hostile acts. (59) In an April 1968 article, Fawcett cites dozens of UFO chases, a half-dozen deaths attributed to close encounters, and numerous instances of electromagnetic interference with machinery. He laments that it ‘may already be too late’ for our government to act on the UFO problem. Their crossing of international boundaries, at the simplest level of concern, could result in ‘an accidental World War III by mistake’. He adds his voice to the chorus of those calling for verification of UFO reality:
‘The growing UFO problem worldwide must be solved in 1968 or the explosive situation of UFOs may easily get out of our control and reap a “real” disaster beyond all imagination. A worldwide probe of this problem is long overdue and it should be handled by the world nations through the United Nations.’ (60)

The works of Jacques Vallee are a must in every ufologist’s library. His first book Anatomy of a Phenomenon: The Detailed and Unbiased Report on UFOs remains one of the most dispassionate overviews of the UFO mystery attempted and is virtually beyond reproach. The conclusion of his study verges on the poetic:’

Through UFO activity, although no physical evidence has yet been found, some of us believe the contours of an amazingly complex, intelligent life beyond the earth can already be discerned. The wakening spirit of man, and the horrified reaction of his too-scrupulous theories: what do they matter? Our minds now wander on planets our fathers ignored. Our senses, our dreams have reached across the night at last, and touched other universes. The sky will never be the same.’ (61)

Accepted in a non-literal fashion, even a sceptic can enjoy the numinous quality of sentiments of this nature. Challenge to Science: The UFO Enigma represents a drift into the hypochondriacal mindset. There is the call for verification by means of the creation of an international scientific commission to separate out those elements that are the work of the imagination from those that constitute the physical nature of the UFO phenomenon. The challenges they pose are ‘unwelcome’ and ‘disturbing’, but must be addressed because ‘our own existence will be dependent upon the sincerity with which we conduct this research’. It is problematic whether this constitutes a world destruction fantasy in the strictest sense, but the intimation of death approaching is undeniable. (62) This flirtation with fear is abandoned in Passport to Magonia: From Folklore to Flying Saucers (1969). Entity behaviour is dismissed as consistently absurd and their messages are written off as systematically misleading. The search for answers may be futile for they may only constitute a dream that never existed in reality. (63)

Brad Steiger’s books in this period are rich sources of hypochondriacal themes. The call for verification appears in Strangers from the Skies (1966) with a recommendation for ‘an objective and respected panel’ to appraise the situation. (66) UFOs have the ability to create blackouts and that ability to scramble power plants would, in his view, make national defence ‘a bad joke’. (67) The Lorenzen notion that UFOs may beam down hypnotic drugs into our drinking water is repeated. (68) My favourite fear-of-death example involves a suggestion that one incident involves galactic experiments in cremation. (69) It seemed that UFOs were ready to invade the US on a full scale. (70) ‘We must be prepared to establish peaceful communication or be prepared to accept annihilation’. (71) These are just highlights. Much more could be cited.

John Fuller’s writings are equally rich to the point of tedium. The familiar themes of blackouts, physiological reactions, and mechanical interference recur as does the call for verification by means of a ‘scientific investigation on a major scale’. (72) This is ‘urgently’ needed because of the ‘startling, alarming, and dangerous material’ surfacing, not to mention its ‘mounting seriousness’. (73) He devotes a whole book to the Betty Hill case which is notably involved in themes of fear of radiation poisoning, abduction, and nightmarish medical intrusions like inserting a needle into the navel without prior anaesthesia. (74)

One of the more interesting examples of the motif to emerge appeared in an article by J. Allen Hynek not long after his conversion in the wake of the humiliating swamp gas affair. Hynek expressed the fear that the Russians might solve the UFO mystery with results that would ‘shake America so hard that the launching of Sputnik in 1957 would appear in retrospect as important as a Russian announcement of a particularly large wheat crop’.

Hynek felt a Russian colleague slipped up when he revealed Russian scientists were not permitted to discuss UFOs. This suggested that official denials of their reality were cover. They may have been ‘studying with dispassionate thoroughness for years’. (75)

Hynek goes on to discuss the strangeness and credibility problems of UFO reports and admits that ‘psychotic and paranoid signals are many’. He warns that the slightest hint from the UFO reporter that he is the subject of imaginary persecution is enough to mean one might as well drop the case. He tells of occasions when he encountered what seemed to be a straightforward story when the witness confided his phone was being tapped or he was being watched regularly by the government or occupants of the craft. One repeater with a persecution complex frequently wrote to Project Blue Book from a mental institution exhorting them to do something about UFOs which visited him regularly and interfered with his sexual functions. (76) Would present-day ufologists take this guy seriously?

Jerome Clark offered one of the more paradoxical reactions to Hynek’s swamp gas statement. He took issue with his comment that a dismal swamp is a most unlikely place for a visit from outer space. Clark avers, contrarily, it is a most likely place since they could go there without being seen. They go to fantastic lengths to prevent us from knowing what they are doing. This included killing a village full of people in one incident and the erasing of people’s memories in other cases. He berates the idea that UFO injuries were caused by self-defence as inane. Noting that we have never tried to force UFOs down, he remarks that we have been treating them with more respect than they deserve. The change of attitude from the fifties when UFOs possessed savoir-faire is nowhere more evident than here. (77)

The call for verification of UFO reality turns up yet again as the subject of a resolution drafted during a 1967 gathering of UFO buffs and submitted fates and proclaims that unidentified flying objects – UFOs – are identified vehicles from outer space, and that this is a question of a vital problem concerning the whole world.

‘All nations must unite in mutual research and scientific co-operation to investigate and solve thisfor the common cause and mutual advancement of our peaceful relationship in outer space.’ (78)

This theme turns up in several variations during the Roush Congressional hearings on 29 July 1968. James McDonald wanted a pluralistic approach employing NASA, NSA, ONR, and even the Federal Power Commission – the last to take up the subject of blackouts. J. Allen Hynek wanted Congress to establish a UFO Scientific Board of Inquiry. James A. Harder wanted a multiple-faceted approach, preferably at several institutions simultaneously. Robert M. Baker wanted a well-funded programme with the highest possible standards. Donald Menzel, ever the sceptic, thought the time and money would be completely wasted in such studies. (79)

Towards the end of 1968 the Rand Document recommended a central collection agency with analysis given over to specialists. (80) The last significant expression of this motif appears in 1973 in James M. McCampbell’s book Ufology. He recommended setting up a two-phased research effort. Phase 1, price-tagged at $4 million, would ‘confirm absolutely the existence of UFOs in scientific terms and identify any advanced technologies’. Phase 2 would define the new technology and its applications and was price tagged in the $75 million to $100 million range. And to think, some people complained the Condon commission wasted half a million. (80)

The concern over invasion spawned some spectacular notions in Raymond A. Palmer’s The Real UFO Invasion (1967). Palmer offers evidence that the US was preparing for war with weapons so titanic they couldn’t have been intended for a mere international war. That war wasn’t in the future either. Palmer points to nuclear blasts in Project Argus as being against a satellite not made by earthmen. (81)

Gordon Lore’s Strange Effects from UFOs: A Special NICAP Report (1969), Robert Loftin’s Identifled Flying Saucers (1968) and Otto Binder’s What We Really Know About Flying Saucers (1967) deserve brief mention for their treatments of physiological effects from saucers: eye injuries, radiation burns, paralyses, cases of shock, and mysterious blows to the body. A particularly odd and problematic case could be made for including Vincent Gaddis’s Mysterious Lights and Fires (1967) since it makes an effort to link UFOs to spontaneous human combustion. Unforgettable is Gaddis’s question, ‘Are We Walking Atom Bombs?’ (82)

Passing references should perhaps be given to John Keel’s expression of alarm over the 1966 Wave and Robert Loftin’s speaking of the UFO threat as something we better get the truth to ‘before it is too late’. (83) I also can’t resist recalling a number of unusual articles from the period like Otto Binder’s which fretted over the number of deaths that had taken place in the UFO field and Timothy Green Beckley’s article for Beyond which acclaimed ‘UFOs Use High-Tension Lines for Recharging’. (84) Beyond was a haven for weird articles about aliens which probe brains, paralyse observers, and destroy dogs in ghastly manners. One relevant here was James Welling’s ‘Does UFO Radiation cause Phoenix, Arizona Residents to be Afflicted with Strange Malady – Why does Press Not Report Epidemic of Electronic Poisoning’. (85) The significance of these items is probably historically slight, but they add interesting flourishes to the portrait of the times.

It is, of course, true ufologists are a heterogeneous bunch and not everyone displayed hypochondriacal themes or shared the same degree of concern. Charles Bowen in The Humanoids (1969) speaks of the pointlessness of humanoid behaviour and thinks of it all as ‘diversionary play to give people a giggle’. In this same volume Donald Hanlon surveys the range of occupant behaviour and concludes that even with allowance made for their use of immobilisation weapons like knockout vapour, they do comparatively little harm. Gordon Creighton’s ‘vast surreal nightmare’ wasn’t apparent to all. (86) The issue of hostility was complicated by a paradoxically simple observation. Why didn’t they simply wipe us out years ago? Otto Binder, Cleary-Baker, Mervyn Paul, among others rejected it on that account. (87) John Keel’s Operation Trojan Horse contains a call for an independent, objective investigation but indicates it should be unhampered by the petty UFO cultists and laments no suitable psychiatric programme had been instituted to take care of those who are going insane or attempting suicide. The ufonauts don’t care about us and mischievously confuse us with behaviours ranging from complete hostility to the rescuing of lives. (88)

Such differences as these that existed fail to even hint at their being any problems in characterising this period as overwhelmingly dominated by the mindset of hypochondria.By the time of the release of the Condon report in January 1969 the UFO mania of the mid-sixties had cooled already of its own accord. Some felt it represented the end of the saucer era, but it was just a pause. If it satisfied any ufologist enough to drop out, they left no record of their concession. Even before it was finished, Condon was vilified. As texts on hypochondria observe, doctors are trained to deal in uncovering the physical causes of complaints and are ill-equipped to handle cases rooted in emotional difficulties. After the initial enthusiasm gives way to bitter recriminations and scapegoating at the negative findings, the doctor will be left demoralised at the paradoxical reaction. There’s nothing there to worry about, shouldn’t they be relieved? The hypochondriac is often in search of a special relationship with the doctor. (89) It has been claimed that James McDonald first tried to cultivate a relationship with Condon at the beginning of the project, but actively orchestrated the campaign of publicity around the ‘trick’ memorandum penned by Low. (90)

David Saunders was fired over this affair, ostensibly for alleged ‘incompetence’, though nobody believes that was the real reason. He wrote a book about the Condon committee telling his side of things. He presents the results of a factor analysis of some questionnaireswhich yielded a taxonomy of UFO belief. It was his opinion that Condon must belong to the group he termed ‘Prejudiced’ based on remarks he had made subsequent to the writing of the report. Digging up the paper showing how this taxonomy was constructed renders this judgement invalid. If one takes a close look at the numbers one will find the people he termed prejudiced were getting high scores for agreeing with the statements ‘Some flying saucers have tried to communicate with us’ and ‘People have seen spaceships that did not come from this planet’, and disagreeing with the statement ‘There is no government secrecy about UFOs’. These are manifestly not the positions of Condon. The ‘Prejudiced’ unequivocally were believers in extraterrestrial visitations and government secrecy. Saunders termed this group prejudiced because of the high score of agreement with the statement ‘Science has established that Negro people are not as intelligent as white people’. (91) This finding brings Saunders in line with a study of 259 NICAP members by Dr. Leo Sprinkle that uncovered significantly higher levels of dogmatism and closed-mindedness among ufologists than a control group of psychologists and guidance counsellors. This also fits in with other studies linking prejudice to paranoia and superstitious beliefs to closed minds. (92)


 REFERENCES (Numbering continues from previous article)

  • 39. CLARK, Jerome, ‘UFOs: Mystery or Movement’, Flying Saucers, August 1965, 17-20. LORENZEN, Coral, UFOs over the Americas, Signet, 1968, 217.
  • 40. HALL, Richard (ed.), The UFO Evidence, NICAP, 1964, 179.
  • 41. JACOBS, David, The UFO Controversy in America, Signet, 1976, 186.
  • 42. GILLMOR, Daniel S. (ed.), Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects, Bantam, 1969, 186
  • 43. Ibid., 5.44. Ibid.
  • 45. Ibid., 548.
  • 46. LORENZEN, Coral E., Flying Saucers: The Startling Evidence of the Invasion from Outer Space, Signet, 1966, 40, 55, 133, 199, 151, 153, 261, 273, 276, 278.
  • 47. ROTHOVIUS, Andrew, ‘Analogies of the Propagation Waves of the Great Fear in France 1789 and the Airship Flap in Ohio 1897′, Pursuit, Winter 1978. BROOKESMITH, Peter, The Alien World, Black Cat, 1988, 54-60.
  • 48. STABLEFORD, Brian, Scientific Romance in Britain 1890-1950, St. Martin’s, 1985, 30-4. SANDELL, Roger, ‘The Airship and Other Panics’, MUFOB, NS 12, Autumn 1978, 12-13.
  • 49. LORENZEN, Coral and Jim, Flying Saucer Occupants, Signet, 1967, 207.
  • 50. HYNEK, J. Allen, ‘The UFO Gap’, Playboy, December 1967, 144-6, 267-71.
  • 51. HYNEK, J. Allen, The UFO Experience, Ballantine,1974, 159-x1.
    52. BOWEN, Charles, The Humanoids, H. Regnery, 1969, 84-5.
  • 53. Ibid., 250.
  • 54. LORENZEN, Jim and Coral, UFOs Over the Americas, Signet, 1968, 161-2, 199, 86, 200, 216.
  • 55. LORENZEN, Coral, UFOs – The Whole Story, Signet, 1969,164-5.
  • 56. EDWARDS, Frank, Flying Saucers: Serious Business, Bantam, 1967, HENDRY, Allan, The UFO Handbook, Doubleday, 1979, 104-5.
  • 57. EDWARDS, op.cit.
  • 58. EDWARDS, Frank, Flying Saucers: Here and Now, Bantam, 1968, 148, 159.
  • 59. FAWCETT, George, ‘UFO Repetitions’, Flying Saucers, February 1965.
  • 60. FAWCETT, George, ‘Flying Saucers: Explosive Situation for 1968′, Flying Saucers, April 1968, 22-3.
  • 61. VALLEE, Jacques, Anatomy of a Phenomenon, Ace, 1965, 244-5. Compare last line of quote to ‘If it’s true the stars will never again seem the same’ which appears in Keyhoe’s The Flying Saucers are Real (Fawcett, 1950, 66). Such sentiments might be termed ‘trema’, the delusional mood that something strange is going on that appears in what Arthur M. Freman terms the premonition stage of paranoia in ‘Persecutory Delusions: A Cybernetic Model’ (American Journal of Psychiatry, 132, 10 October 1975, 1038-44).
  • 62. VALLEE, Jacques, Challenge to Science, Ballantine, 1974, 210, 220-4.
  • 63. VALLEE, Jacques, Passport to Magonia, Henry Regnery, 1969, 161, 163.
  • 66. STEIGER. Brad, Strangers from the Skies, Award, 1966, 143.
  • 67. Ibid., 132.
  • 68. STEIGER, Brad, Flying Saucers are Hostile, Award, 1967, 10-11.
  • 69. Ibid., 17-19.
  • 70. STEIGER, Strangers, 43.
  • 71. STEIGER, Hostile, 159.
  • 72. FULLER, John G., Incident at Exeter, G. P. Putnam, 1966, 251.
  • 73. FULLER, John G., Aliens in the Skies, Putnam, 1969, 38, 88, 187-8.
  • 74. FULLER,John G., Interrupted Journey, Dell, 1966.75. HYNEK, Playboy. npP cit.76. Ibid.
  • 77. CLARK, Jerome. ‘Why UFOs are Hostile’, Flying Saucer Review, 13, n6, Nov-Gee 1967, 18-20
  • 78. LOFTIN, Robert, Identified Flying Objects, McKay, 1968, 144.
  • 79. FULLER, Skies, op. cit., 84, 88, 56, 167, 205.
  • 80. McCAMPBELL, James M., Ufology, Celestial Arts, 1976, 162-65.
  • 81. PALMER, Raymond A., The Real UFO Invasion, Greenleaf Classics, 1967, 38, 43, 49, 59.
  • 82. GADDIS, Vincent H., Mysterious Lights and Fires, Dell, 1968, 233.
  • 83. LOFTIN, op. cit. vi.
  • 84. BINDER, Otto, ‘Liquidation of the UFO Investigators!’, Saga’s Special UFO Report, Volume II, 1971, 12-15, 69-72. Beyond, 1, #3, November 1968.



  • 85. Beyond, 2, #8, April 1969, 22-34.
  • 86. BOWEN, Humanoids, op. cit., 248, 185, 88.
  • 87. SHUTTLEWOOD, Arthur, The Warminster Mystery, Tandem, 1976, 83, 54.
  • 88. KEEL, John, Why UFOs?, Manor, 1976, 284-6, 205.
  • 89. BAUER, Susan, Hypochondria: Woeful Imaginations, University of California Press 1990.
  • 90. KLASS, Philip J., ‘The Condon UFO Study: A Trick or a Conspiracy?’, Skeptical Inquirer, 10, 04, Summer 1986, 328-41.
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  • 92. ALLPORT, Gordon W.. The Nature of Prejudice, Anchor, 1958. ROKEACH, Milton, The Open and Closed Mind, Basic, 1960.