A Fatal Illusion.
Matthew J. Graeber

From Magonia 62, February 1998

In recent times the tragic suicide of 38 American UFO cult members has graphically illustrated the extremes that fixation and identification with alien life forms can have upon certain individuals. For not only did these troubled souls believe that by taking their lives they were also going to rendezvous with an extraterrestrial space ship that was skirting a comet’s tail, but several of them had even shaved their heads and castrated themselves (perhaps in an effort to mimic the purely cerebral, highly spiritual and, presumably, asexual appearance of the space creatures that tthey anticipated meeting).

Other UFO-related cases of unusual human behaviour involve the complete abandonment of highly sensitive listening posts by several US military personnel in Germany, so they might meet with a flying saucer that they believed was coming to Earth to pick them up, as well as the planned radioactive assassination of local government officials in New York State by UFO aficionados who thought that the authorities were covering up information about a saucer that had crashed near Long Island.

Of course, these are extreme examples and it would be totally unfair of me to paint the entire UFO subculture with the same brush. For many saucer buffs are intelligent, hard-working and well-meaning folks and it is, in fact, precisely because of their good intentions and belief in the UFO phenomenon that they can be easily manipulated and exploited by charismatic, unscrupulous and deluded individuals who may be operating within the saucer movement itself.Interestingly, in the early days of UFO charlatanism, the schemes (much like the developing UFO phenomenon) lacked the sophistication of today’s technological-sounding scams, which not only include an array of bogus classified documents, photos, video footage and crashed saucer artifacts, but also the sanction of a growing number of credulous professionals who treat abductees and reportedly help them to deal with the post-traumatic stress and lingering anxiety of repeated experiences with alien beings that had kidnapped and abused them.

All this at the insistence (and, in many instances, the direction) of self-proclaimed UFO abduction experts, who often lack anysort of medical training or certifica-tion in clinical or forensic hypnosis.


The reported transformational effect of the abduction experience is believed to involve a spiritual, philosophical and intellectual heightening of the individual’s self awareness through a continuing process of contact and educational interaction with alien intelligences that have selected the abductees for some specific purpose.

Several experts believe that the purpose of abduction is grounded in the immediate wants and needs of the aliens who are, apparently, attempting to bolster their own faltering genetic pool through a clone-splicing technique that they have perfected in order to thwart their impending extinction.Several other UFO experts feel that the benevolent aliens are concerned about our own planet’s ever-mounting ecological, sociological and political woes; and that they have been visiting this world and covertly contacting some of its inhabitants in preparation for a kind of social reorganisation which will supposedly take place after the Earth goes through a period of dramatic changes (e.g. the result of a global catastrophe such as a nuclear holocaust, a complete ecological melt-down, a world-wide plague, or a bewildering series of natural disasters). In fact, it has even been suggested that the planet itself may be knocked off its axis by a rogue asteroid and entire continents might be swept away – beneath the angriest of seas.

Still other reported after-effects of contacts with the alien Greys, as they are commonly called in UFO circles, are said to include a sense of cosmic consciousness (or, the magnified awareness of one’s oneness with the universe), the occasional spontaneous cure or remission of various physical, immunological, emotional and psychological disorders, as well as the abductees experiencing marked changes in their career choices, personal interests and long-term goals.

But, beyond all of the above, human contact with the aliens has also produced marked alterations in the way the abductee perceives him or herself, even to the point of their experiencing sexual identity difficulties and/or gross distortions of self, which includes the questioning of their even belonging to the human race or feeling any sort of allegiance to it. That the abductees would identify, sympathise and voice open affection for their captors is not an unknown psychological phenomenon. But, that the abductees would so readily cast off their humanity and profess partial (i.e., hybrid) or total kinship with their alien captors does seem to open the door to much deeper contemplation.


The problem, of course, is that few abduction experts have the requisite medical training to fully comprehend the dangers of hypnotically probing the unconscious mind of the individuals they matter of factly call the abductees – a term which automatically confirms as physically real the very confusing experiences which these perplexed individuals have sought out the experts for. But, even worse than that, the term sets them up for additional experiences, simply because it is common knowledge throughout the UFO community that the Greys always come back for the abductees, and their children too! Perhaps it was this expectation and fear that led a woman in the UK to kill her young grandchildren before they would be kidnapped by aliens?

Beyond this, the UFO ‘experts’ lack of perception regarding the marked psychical background of the so-called abduction experience (i.e., its mythopoeic make-up and dream-like contradictory content) means that the experts must keep coming up with new (and often ridiculous) explanations of how and why the aliens might do something that is obviously nonsensical in character (e.g., the little Greys can reportedly levitate at will, lift and carry the much larger and heavier humans that they have captured – yet, they often walk their victims to their waiting space craft and climb stairs into its hatchway, even though they reportedly filtered through the locked doors and brick walls of the abductee’s home only moments before).

Yet another obvious contradiction pops up in the reports when the dematerialising aliens use metallic instruments to perform invasive surgical procedures upon their human captives, especially when they are also alleged to be capable of inducing the abductees’ bodies to dematerialise as well.

Moreover, today’s medical practitioners can routinely perform similar gynaecological procedures to those that the aliens reportedly employ, but without producing the marked fear and pain which so frequently characterise the medical aspects of the abduction experience.


In many instances, man’s encounters with the unknown were believed to be real contacts with gods, spirits, or demons of various description, and often involved the experiencer being whisked off to magical realms beneath the Earth or sea, high upon a mountain, deep within the forest, or in the firmament above.

Today’s abduction reports often feature similar mythological settings in their scenarios (albeit with a technological accent) and we even discover reports of UFO interiors which have earthen floors and shag rug wall-to-wall carpeting (Indeed, dirt floors in a supposedly highly advanced and medically sterile space craft.) In fact, the UFO which reportedly kidnapped Linda Cortile (the central figure in Budd Hopkins’s book Witnessed) was said to have plunged into the Hudson River with all hands on board rather than flitting off into the starry sky with its cargo of human captives. So, the question immediately arises – was the craft a sub-UFO from Earth’s inner space or an ill-fated space craft from outer space?

While it seems perfectly normal for modern man to dismiss the idea that wee folks, fairies, leprechauns, and hobgoblins actually existed and occasionally interfaced with our forbears, a great many people living in very sophisticated societies as little as a century ago absolutely did believe that such tales were true. Indeed, some folks even believe it to this very day. The point is that, in a hundred years or so, it may be that our contemporary beliefs in UFOs and the pint-sized creatures that pilot them will also become a curiously amusing fact, especially when one considers that the UFO legend’s tales are so highly characteristic of our society and our times (i.e., an era in which our own space-conquering aspirations have been projected upon an array of alien intelligences that we assume to be flourishing somewhere in the cosmos – a fact that Dr C.G. Jung pointed out over forty years ago in his landmark book Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies).

In short, we may be lifting our eyes, minds, hopes, and hearts to the skies in search of a super-technological deity instead of the supernatural god that our ancestors worshipped. We may be yearning for an answer to our tiny planet’s ever-mounting problems – fantasising and, in so doing, inventing a new-age panacea (or super-advanced technological response) to the dark side of our own sciences and technologies, and the nuclear/ toxic demons that we have unwit-tingly created and unleashed upon ourselves.

That this panacea should take the form of little creatures with swollen heads that are choc-full of intelligence and good will towards mankind (instead of a host of angels with blaring trumpets bursting through the firmament), informs us that a growing faith in advanced sciences and technology has woven its way into our culture’s unconscious, even to the point that UFOs (i.e., the symbol of the panacea) have been invested with the power of bringing salvation to mankind. A power which they do not possess and in no way deserve.

Man has always feared and revered strange and awesome things that he’s seen in the skies – he had recorded his perceptions upon cave walls, clay tablets, and video camcorders. Perhaps knowing what the signs in the skies actually were never was as important as what the observer believed they were, and the tremendous impact that such beliefs have had upon the human psyche.

Perhaps UFOs have always played a part in the living experience of man. Perhaps they have been called soul-sparks by the ancients and space ships by today’s observers. Perhaps, too, their operators have been known as angels, demons, wee-folks, and Greys. Are these creatures from outer space, inner space, or a space and time existing somewhere in between these divisional concepts? Do they seek to contact us consciously, unconsciously, or on a spiritual level?


Like many great artists, Leonardo Da Vinci was fully aware of the inner mind’s ability to well up images, and we find that even his friend and colleague Piero Di Cosimo commented in his writings on how many wonderful creatures could be found hidden in the stains of masonry work. Of course, we’ve all had some personal childhood experience with seeing various animal shapes in cloud formations; and, if one tries hard enough, quite a few other imaginary things can be spotted lurking in the shadows of leafy trees too.

In the early 1900s, Dr Hermann Rorschach (a Swiss psychiatric pioneer) effectively demonstrated that extraordinarily meaningful material buried deep in an individual’s subconscious could be brought to the surface by having that person attentively mull over a series of ink blots in an effort to describe what they saw in them.

In most instances, just about everyone tends to see the same kind of things in fluffy clouds and Dr Rorschach’s ink-blot plates simply because the general shape of the visually perceived external object that they are gazing at does bear some degree of similarity to a mentally stored image of some other object that they are comparing it to. But, it seems that after one’s initial comparative or reductive processes have been exhausted regarding Rorschach’s ambiguous ink blots, some unusual things start to happen to a person’s perceptive abilities. This also appears to be the case in many UFO observations, and may even play an important role in the close-encounter experiences that occasionally follow them.

As any seasoned field investigator can tell you, quite often the play of reflected sunlight or cloud shadowing upon an otherwise easily discernible abject (such as a commercial airliner’s fuselage) may create false optical cues that can cause a person to misidentify the aircraft and call it a UFO. What’s more, because the startled UFO observer does not have the opportunity to replay the incident and, therefore, cannot possibly verify his or her observation, they may not ever realise that they have mistakenly identified a fixed-wing aircraft for an unidentified flying object.

Interestingly, it seems that even though an individual undergoing Rorschach testing has the opportunity to take a good long look at a particular Rorschach plate, nevertheless the general shape and even the coloration of the ink blot tends to play an important role in the mental formulation of the kind of things that he or she will see in it. This may be a very important factor for UFO researchers to consider because the changing size, shape and coloration of a fleeting UFO or its pulsating lighting may produce (or induce) similar effects upon the experi-encer’s perceptive skills.

Considering the adverse effect that shadow, distance, darkness, and poor weather conditions might have upon an individual’s optical acuity at the time of their sighting – it seems reasonable to suspect that UFO watching, much like ink-blot gazing, primarily involves the observation of a strange object or some pattern of ambiguous lights that are usually seen against the backdrop of a night-time sky.

So, it is not surprising that one’s best attempts to positively identify the object (or the distant lights) are going to become embellished with subjective (apperceptive) phenomena that form around the object, or may tend to fill in the empty space that is situated in between the mysterious points of light – investing them with not only a structural configuration, but also volition and, in some cases, even questionable intent. Naturally, these attributes are projected upon the unknown object by the observer as a result of their emotional and intuitive responses to the situational and confrontational character of their UFO encounter; and, once that happens, their UFO experience broadens and deepens, taking on a subjective tone which may also in-clude the active influence of very primitive introjective processes (i.e., assuming that the object is intelligently guided or that the UFO operators have specifically selected the observer for some reason).

All of these factors must be seriously considered by the objective UFO researcher simply because one cannot be certain which percentage of UFO reports are generated by the observation of space craft from another world (or holographic imagery that is transmitted by an alien civilisation), as opposed to those that may have their origin in the depths of man’s inner space – that is, his unconscious mind. And, of course, there is also the distinct possibility that the UFO experience is both objective and subjective in nature, and that separation of the two is simply beyond our investigative skills.

This appears to be the case where a physically real airborne object (be it a misidentification of some sort, or a real UFO) is observed and then the observer projects his or her own psychical contents upon it – very much like what happens during Rorschach testing experiences.

In his landmark psychological exploration of the UFO phenomenon, Dr C.G. Jung identified the basic discoidal (or round) UFO configuration as being similar to that of a meditative mantra and several other symbolic manifestations of the self which, as we know from our studies of depth psychology, is a very important archetype that tends to spontaneously appear to individuals when there is a profound emotional need present in their lives, or when they are caught up in a seemingly hopeless or overwhelming situation. Both of these prerequisites seem to fit the above mentioned UFO experience model which speculatively describes the UFO encounter as being a kind of display or the symbolic equivalent of some internal conflict that is unconsciously troubling but, nevertheless, affecting the observers at the time of their UFO encounter.

I am not alone with this estimate of the UFO situation, for several other researchers have come to similar conclusions regarding a display factor in UFO events and, quite recently, Dr R. Leo Sprinkle (noted psychologist/ufologist of Laramie, Wyoming) has presented a paper on the psychical analysis of UFO experiences which echoes Dr C. G. Jung’s assertion that the UFO may be (at least in part) a symbolic representation of the observer’s self. But these guestimates are based upon present-day UFO reports and the investigative data that today’s researchers are gathering. It would also bee interesting to attempt to determine what impact the presence of such ambiguous aerial objects may have had upon our forebears.



Curiously, UFO-like shapes and forms have been discovered amidst the human and animal forms depicted in Palaeolithic and Neolithic cave art which is generally thought to have been created during the time when man’s consciousness was first developing (i.e., roughly one million years ago). These, too, are believed to have been produced while early man was involved with welling up mentally stored images of the many animals that he hunted and feared. But, unlike the beautiful deer, bison and horses that appear to have been repeatedly drawn in the same area of the caves and were apparently used for some kind of hunting magic ritual, these unusual circles, braces and chevrons were not drawn in layers and are believed by many experts to have had an independent mythology connected to them. Interestingly,squares, chevrons, and a series of circles and dots commonly called recall-benders frequently pop up in Rorschach testing too.

Although there may be a number of possible explanations for the existence of the UFO-like cave drawings, two seem to be the most plausible. Either the cave man recorded his real-world encounter with such objects, or he dreamed of such forms and the dreams had such a profound impact on him in the waking state that he wanted to share his experience with his contemporaries.

In either case, it appears that these UFO-like shapes were considered important enough to merit separate space upon the cave walls, for they are not pitted and marred like the animal depictions which have obviously been subjected to many missile impacts that probably occurred during a hunting magic ritual. In other words, the UFO-like drawings have been afforded a separate space within the caves, and they probably had an entirely separate mythology associated with them.

The experts on cave art seem to be somewhat perplexed by these drawings and, of course, opinions vary quite a bit regarding their possible meaning. The so-called brackets are often thought to be a stylised version of the female form about to receive male sexuality, while some experts feel that the brackets may be related to the sexual aggression of the cave man himself.

One thing seems certain. These forms are totally unlike anything that is thought to have existed in the cave man’s natural environment. They appear to be symmetrical, possibly aerodynamic in design, and they also have a modern-day technological look about them. While they may not actually be depictions of UFOs, one must admit that they certainly do look a great deal like sketches that today’s observers produce regarding their en
counters with alien space vehicles.

Dare we ponder the notion that contact with alien intelligences could be channelled through the vast reaches of man’s inner space (i.e., his unconscious mind) and that such contacts may have been going on since mankind’s conscious dawning? Dare we believe that human inner space is just as vast, wondrous and awesome as outer space and that we have barely touched the surface of the mysteries and wonders that lie within its depths? Indeed, depths from which the UFOs themselves may hail?

No matter how far we reach out amongst the stars, we must always bear in mind that in our outreaching lies a human motive, and that the further we reach the deeper the want, the need, the fear, or the desire is to touch the face of the unknown.

As we are about to enter the 21st century, we might do well to note that despite our new sciences and great technological advance
ments we are still linked to our distant ancestors and carry the essence of their being within us. Have we become so estranged from this primal fabric that signals from it are thought to be attempted communications from an alien world? What is the signal in the noise of UFO reports? And, even more importantly, why is it being picked up by so many people at this particular point in human history?


Although Hermann Rorschach’s work with the phenomenon of human perception (its alteration or distortion) is generally applied to the diagnosis of pathology, some experts feel that it might be an error to assume that it is not also a viable method for studying the workings of perceptual phenomena in normals too. Dynamic UFO Displays may be one of many such phenomena, for the sudden and oft-times riveting perception of a Dynamic Display or close encounter may trigger a projection function that displaces some of the excess psychical energy (libido) assigned to an internal conflict that may be adversely affecting an individual. Thus, the Dynamic Display variety of UFO experience may bethought of as a self-regulating function of the psyche which is induced into activity by intrusive sensory stimulation (i.e., the impact of encountering a UFO) as opposed to the tranquil meditative process of Rorschach plate scrutiny.

Even in cases where the UFO investigator is completely unable to resolve the UFO report as a misidentification of a conventional airborne object (or perhaps an atmospheric anomaly of some kind), he or she is still left with the opportunity to examine the observer’s recollection of what the unidentified flying object looked like, how it appeared to operate and, of course, how it may have interacted with them.

This is most valuable information because, if we are correct about the UFO’s image and its interactive performance being dramatic representations of the observer’s self condition , we can learn something about the UFO experience’s meaningfulness in regard to the observer’s wants, needs, fears and expectations, along with something about the general make up of their defensive shielding. Indeed, we might consider a Dynamic UFO Display as a form of self-perception and communication that is triggered by the UFO’s presence in our skies – and even more importantly – in ouy lives.


In order to interpret the symbolic materials that well up during the subject’s observation and interaction with the UFO, the investigator must attempt to determine what the UFO (as an image) may actually represent on the one hand (e.g., a misi-dentification of some physical and external airborne object/s, or perhaps a totally unknown anomaly) and how that object’s image and behaviour might be symbolically linked to the psychology of the observer/s on the other hand. It is also apparent that what is observed during a UFO experience and how it is emotionally perceived and responded to is not solely determined by the observer’s conscious estimation of his or her UFO encounter, but also by the active influence of a mixed bag of intrapsychical forces that come into play during the event.

Since we suspect that the primary sensory stimulation (which is visual in most UFO cases) and the observer’s logical estimation of the experience concerning the size, shape, colouring and nearness of the object, is also backed up by emotional, intuitive and instinctual inputs that quickly flow across intrapsychic structures during the event, the UFO researcher should be on the look out for any bits and pieces or archetypal and/or instinctual debris that may be clinging to the observer’s account of their encounter with an unidentified flying object or its occupants.

In regard to this process, it seems that the altered or distorted form of perception which is instigated into activity by the ambiguity of the ink-blot plates in the case of Rorschach testing, and the often-times equally ambiguous, though obviously much more shocking, process of UFO watching primarily involves the subject’s complete fixation with the object, and a general falling away (or perhaps the total absorption) of their reality testing during the experience (e.g., Well, it was quite dark that night and at first I thought it was an aeroplane, or maybe a helicopter … but, then, as it hovered just above my head, I slowly realised that it was something unlike I’d ever seen before ).

Dynamic UFO Display case studies graphically illustrate that UFO researchers do have the ability to identify the symbolic contents in UFO reports which relate to both the observer’s personal life conflicts and even those that may be considered to be far more rudimentary (or archetypal) in character.


If certain visually perceived imagery such as that found in Rorschach’s plates and some UFO configurations do have the ability to deeply penetrate the human psyche and induce the displacement of archetypal symbols, subconscious contents, and psychic energy, we are obliged to further examine this remarkable phenomenon in an attempt to determine if there may be some therapeutic application for such a process.

Perhaps the cinematic replication (i.e., animation or computer animation) of UFO-like imagery which may be custom-designed from the information gathered by the therapist during counselling sessions with his or her patients might be as effective a tool as the purely mentally generated images that guided imagery practitioners presently attempt to direct at an array of physical, emotional and immunological disorders. Perhaps the sudden impact on perceiving a Dynamic UFO Display may enhance or surpass the effectiveness of the passive guided imagery techniques because of its highly confrontational character and deeply penetrating impact on the observer(s).

Perhaps, too, this same sort of psychical shock was the driving force that first nudged early man to conceive of things that did not yet exist, but surely would some day, simply because he could create them.


A Haunted Man
Peter Hough

From Magonia 20, August 1983

Most people are now familiar with the term ‘astral projection’, or its more modern version: ‘out of the body experience’ (OOBE). This describes the phenomenon where the mind, or ‘astral double’, is projected from the physical body to wander around our world, enter another time or plane of reality. Here is one such case from here, in England, although I feel that OOBE cannot account for the whole of it.

After hearing of Mr Keith Sefton’s [pseudonym] claims through a friend, I became intrigued, and agreed to investigate them. Mr Sefton, a healthy looking 68-years-old, served in the Lancashire Fusiliers, but now retired, lives in a quiet backstreet in Wigan.

His experiences began suddenly in the summer of 1980. Before then there were no paranormal incidents in his life at all. This in itself is unusual, as most percipients of OOBE phenomena have a history of bizarre events to narrate – what started this great surge of happenings was something very sudden.

It occurred around 12.30, as Mr Sefton was sitting in the front room of his house, having lunch. Opposite, across the narrow road, lived an elderly lady who received a daily visit from the meals-on-wheels service. While he was eating, Mr Sefton glanced across expecting to see her standing in the bay window, waiting for the delivery van to arrive. In her place, and staring across at him, was an apparition of his dead mother.

She stood hands on hips, rigid like a statue, wearing a shawl which in life had been her favourite. Unbelieving, he movedcloser to the window of the sitting roombefore fear overcame him and he turned his head away. Slowly he looked forward again, but his mother’s stony expression stillstared across the intervening yards. The image lasted for about eight minutes. Finally she turned away, and magically resolved into the familiar features of the old lady.

This phenomenon occurred a second time, two weeks later under similar circumstances. Following this, Mr Sefton was to have an altogether different experience. Having been divorced for fifteen years, imagine his surprise early one morning, upon hearing the voice of his wife calling out his name.

It was unlike a voice ‘heard’ in a dream, he explained, but it was a perfectly natural auditory sound. Having received the strong impression it had come from outside, through the letterbox, he pulled on his dressing-gown and went downstairs. The door was unlocked, but there was no-one about. So convinced was he that he had heard his former wife calling out his name he ventured out onto the pavement and looked up and down the road.

This experience was also repeated two weeks later. Unfortunately, because of their poor relationship, he failed to contact his former wife to see if anything was wrong, to provide a possible explanation for this happening. What happened next was the penultimate episode before the main series of OOBE related events.

At eight o’clock one morning he was woken by the alarm clock. Preparing to rise, he suddenly heard footsteps outside the house and children’s voices – voices which had a familiar ring, forcing his mind to drift back to his own childhood, picking up lumps of coal from the surrounding pits, during the 1926 General Strike.

Slowly his attention was brought back to the room. His eyes focussed on a spot two feet above the bed, and the intense feeling that a ‘presence’ hung there, came over him. Then a voice spoke into his mind.

“Yes, and you will hear them again,” It said enigmatically, “You didn’t die you know.” The voice reminded him of his mother’s.

From then on until November 1981, Mr Sefton claims to have had twenty to thirty experiences. Many of these displayed ‘Out of Body’ characteristics. Most occurred upon reaching the point of falling asleep. They usually began with a tiny blue light, no bigger than a pin-head, hovering about nine inches from his head.

After several nights it began to pulsate and expand to the size of a pea, becoming multi-coloured. Eventually the light would suddenly vanish to be replaced by the vivid image of a full moon, dark clouds scudding swiftly across its surface. These clouds thickened until only a halo remained. On these occasions Mr Sefton was drawn towards the bright ring, and through it.

While recounting the bizarre episodes which followed his journeys through the ring, Keith Sefton was at pains to convince me of the lucidity, the realness, of his adventures. On his first and second visit he found himself looking up a long tube, or tunnel. At the other end was an eye, staring down at him. On the second occasion he saw enough of the face to conclude it belonged to a man. He received the intimation that the man was observing him under the lens of a microscope.

Visions of the moon continued to manifest in the darkness of the moon, and when the clouds obscured all but its aura, he felt himself being drawn upwards and through it. Exotic landscapes spread before him – on one occasion a beautiful pastoral scene of trees and flowers set around a lake. In the centre of the lake was a small rowing boat with a figure seated in it. It seemed the man was observing Mr Sefton, who in turn was observing him.

Once he travelled to a barren desert, strewn with rocks. A man inhabited this scene also, seated on a boulder, staring intensely in his direction. These figures were to crop up many times in various guises. They all shared similar physical characteristics and behaviour – always alone, they never spoke or moved, but seemed very aware of his intrusion. They had a ‘foreign’ look, possibly Grecian, with olive complexions, beards and hair of short, tight curls.

There were a few exceptions. The man in the desert, for instance, wore a long robe and was completely bald. He seemed to be travelling at tremendous speed through an intense blackness. He described how one night he was taken on a journey through the galaxies. One moment he was lying in bed, then he seemed to be travelling at tremendous speed through an intense blackness. Bright spheres rushed towards him then quickly away into the distance. He described this as highly invigorating.

Not all these experiences occurred whilst waiting to fall asleep, sometimes he would wake up in the early hours of the morning. On seven or eight occasions at around six o’clock something roused him. A few times he saw a man dressed in glittering trousers and tails rather like a circus ringmaster [1]. The man would silently wave a white stick at him, as if to emphasise a point. Usually he was only clearly visible if one eye was covered. The last vision of that nature was in November 1981.

Then there was a gap of almost a year.  In September 1982 the visitations resumed. He was awoken at 4am, and described seeing a “little white lady in my eye”. The image remained there for two or three minutes. This too reminded him of his mother,

 wearing a long nightdress. Suddenly the image burst from his eye into the form of a vapourous cloud, reforming into a four inch high figure at the bottom of the bed. [2] The ‘white lady’ walked around in a circle holding something resembling a broom handle. As he put out a hand to touch her she told him with a smile that it was forbidden. Then she passed out of sight as if she had slipped behind a black curtain.

I questioned Mr Sefton carefully about the physiological and psychological effects before, during and after these experiences. I also encouraged him, during our two meetings and subsequent correspondence, to air his own views on the matter.

In answer to my question of whether he could be experiencing very vivid dream imagery, he reminded me they had only begun in 1980, and went on:
“I have dreams, but these are not dreams – when I dream there are no colours, things are not clear. During these events I receive the most inexplicable panoramic views, and throughout I sense that something is feeding information into my mind. If only more people could experience it…”

He went on to explain that often he felt that he was in two places at once: the ‘here’ of the bedroom, and also in another ‘reality frame’. Time seemed suspended and inconsequential. This was illustrated one Saturday afternoon in the down-to-earth surroundings of Wigan market. The aisles between the stalls were crowded with shoppers, stocking up with meat and fresh vegetables for the weekend. As Keith Sefton picked his way through the crowd, suddenly all the noise diminished, and he felt his “consciousness was partially lifted from our plane”. Then out of this unnatural silence a lone child began calling. He focussed hard on a stallholder serving a woman with apples, and the noise and bustle of the marketplace returned.

This cross-references nicely with the sensations reported by people witness to close encounter UFO experiences. Many have noted that all sounds, such a birds singing or traffic noise on nearby roads, disappeared.

Why Mr Sefton’s mother should feature so prominently in these events is open to conjecture. He is not particularly religious, and has sought out books and people who would give him a logical scientific explanation for all this. The tunnel through which he passes on his journeys is a common component of out-of-body experiences, and by those relating accounts of an ‘afterlife’ during near-death experiences.

During questioning it transpired that just prior to many of these events he found himself breathing unnaturally deeply. Could Mr Sefton have unwittingly put himself into a trance? The heavy breathing would involve a degree of hyper-ventilation; flooding the body with oxygen and depriving the brain of sugar. Practitioners of yoga are adept at this, believing that it charges up the etheric double.

Also of interest is the phenomenon of hypnogogic and hypnopompic imagery, under study by psychiatrists. This refers to the state of mind when one is about to fall asleep or awaken, respectively. Something very strange can happen when the brain is neither fully asleep or awake, but ‘in neutral’, as it were. Very vivid hallucinations sometimes occur. This condition is known to effect something between half and three-quarter of the population. Although the sensations generally are visual or auditory, they may also involve heat, cold, odour or touch.

But the question remains – do these states of altered consciousness cause exotic imagery to manifest, or is the brain merely put into a mode where it is receptive to contact from an objective, exterior source? I know of one northern gentleman who would be interested in the answer to that one.

Meanwhile, the experiences have begun again. I quote from a recent letter:

“I have had a few visions on waking in the morning, since last I saw you. I suddenly found myself in a monastery. The entrance and surrounding walls were in dark colours, but the centre was beautifully lit. There were about twelve girls in a ring who were dancing holding the hems of their long white frocks, moving into the ring and out of it. I also saw the faces of two men, whom I did not recognise…”



  1. This rather incongruous Image has a almost identical precedent In the case of ‘Miss Z’, Investigated by John Rimmer and Peter Rogerson, and reported In MUFOB. Other members of Miss Z’s family had reported hypnogogic and hypnopomplc experiences, Including her father “On another occasion there were about a dozen figures wearing ‘glittery’ silver suits… [they were] normal looking human figures and the suits of a normal style, resembling ‘glitter’ suits worn by show-business personalitles” (MUFOB, new series 4, p.4).
  2. This also echoes the experience of Miss Z’s father, who on one occasion awoke to find a number of tiny figures lust a few inches high running about the room – some on tiny horses!



Visions of Bowmen and Angels.
Kevin McClure

THIS ARTICLE IS ALSO ON-LINE AT http://moremagonia.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/mufob-new-series-1975-1979.html


In August 1914, Brigadier-General John Charteris was one of the senior officers in the British Expeditionary Force in France. He was a staff officer to General Sir Douglas Haig, working with him at G.H.Q., and also a close personal friend.

During the earliest weeks of the Great War, he was an involved observer within the B.E.F. as the men retreated from Mons in the face of substantially superior German forces. He also sent home detailed and eloquent letters, a chronicle of that demanding and dramatic time. These were published some 17 years later (At G.H.Q., Cassell, 1931), apparently in their original form, certainly with no hint of rewriting or later addition. The entry for September 5th, 1914, includes the following passage: -

” Then there is the story of the ‘Angels of Mons’ going strong through the 2nd Corps, of how the angel of the Lord on the traditional white horse, and clad all in white with flaming sword, faced the advancing Germans at Mons and forbade their further progress. Men’s nerves and imagination play weird pranks in these strenuous times. All the same the angel at Mons interests me. I cannot find out how the legend arose.”

If a perceptive and open-minded Brigadier-General, knowing his men and the experiences they had been through could not get to the bottom of the stories of angels some ten days after the events are said to have happened, what hope do I have nearly 80 years on? I have plenty of written sources – though there are many more, the tales being told again and again – and the perspective of history in my favour. Yet I can make no promises as to what may have occurred, and cannot say with certainty that any particular, named individual, of perhaps 100,000 soldiers in the B.E.F. at that time, saw any one vision or another. But it is clear to me that the debunking that has in recent years been the only published context for the Mons material has been hopelessly inadequate, if not actually dishonest. It is time to present the contemporary sources – as close to the truth as we can come – however confusing they may be. Now we can evaluate this strange and wonderful story in a new and independent way.

In his marvellous study of wartime myths and legends, The Smoke and the Fire – Myths and Anti-Myths of War, 1861-1945 (Sidgwick & Jackson, 1980) historian John Terraine records that Private Frank Richards – later to be author of the Billy Bunter books – wrote of angels in the context of the retreat from Le Cateau, which was on August 26th, 1914. There are few specific references to dates, but it seems that the 26th or 27th are the most likely. Whatever happened, probably happened then.

On September 29th the Evening News published the Arthur Machen story The Bowmen for the first time: just 17 column inches on page 3 of a London evening paper. Unfortunately, copyright prevents me from reproducing this fine story in full, but Light magazine for 10.10.14 – always very literate for a specialist journal in the Spiritualist field – summarises it well: -

” The Evening News of the 29th ult. contains a remarkable piece of imaginative word-painting by Mr Arthur Machen, the novelist, entitled ‘The Bowmen’. Picturing one of the stands made by the allies early in the war against the overwhelming German host that was slowly pressing them back, he makes a British soldier with some knowledge of Latin recall the motto he had seen on the plates in a certain vegetarian restaurant. “Adsit Anglis Sanctus Georgius” – ” May Saint George be a present help to the English”. The man utters the invocation aloud, and at once the roar of battle seems to die down and in its place he hears a tumult of voices calling on St.George: ” Ha! Messire: Ha! sweet saint, grant us good deliverance! St.George for merry England! Harow! Harow! Monseigneur St.George, succour us.”

And as the soldier heard these voices he saw before him, beyond the trench, a long line of shapes, with a shining about them. They were like men who drew the bow, and with another shout their cloud of arrows flew singing and tingling through the air towards the German host. To their astonishment, the other men in the trench see the ranks of the enemy dissolving like mist, the foe falling not in dozens or hundreds, but in thousands. After the engagement the German general staff, finding no wounds on the bodies of the slain, decide that the English must have used Turpinite, but the soldier who knows Latin knows that St.George has brought his Agincourt bowmen to help the English!”

If you are not familiar with ‘The Bowmen’ then I would commend it to you most heartily, along with most of Machen’s other, marvellous fiction: quite possibly the finest writing on supernatural and horror themes of its period. Actually, this was not the first Evening News piece in which Machen had used legendary figures to make an encouraging and patriotic point. On 17.9.14, a piece of Machen’s appeared under the title ‘The Ceaseless Bugle Call’. Starting with observations on the huge training camps at Aldershot, it waxes lyrical about St.George, and concludes: -

Tuba mirum spargens sanum: wondrous sound the trumpet flingeth. It shall resound till it call up the spirits of the heroes to fight in the vanguard of our battle, till it summon King Arthur and all his chivalry forth from their magic sleep in Avalon: that they may strike one final shattering blow for the Isle of Britain against the heathen horde.”

I find The Ceaseless Bugle Call particularly interesting. It is virtually a trial run for The Bowmen, yet we hear nothing more of King Arthur playing any part in the course of the war. It was The Bowmen that caught the public interest, and the more respectable ‘occult’ and Spiritualist journals wrote to Machen after publication, to ask him what truth there was in the story, and how he had come by these marvellous facts. He responded that the story was entirely of his own making, written as his response to the horrors of the war, particularly the reports in the Weekly Dispatch of 30.8.14. Light and the Occult Review reported this response with little comment and there, for a time, the story rested.

Perhaps the greatest mystery of the way the Mons stories unfolded is the ‘missing link’. How the visions ceased to be reported in October 1914, having been given little or no credence, but then suddenly reappeared – in different forms, in different places – the following spring, over 6 months later. There had been many dramatic events during that time: hundreds of thousands of young men had marched willingly to war, and many of them had died or suffered appalling injuries. The British public had become all too familiar with the names of other places, other battles. Yet it was the few days of the retreat from Mons – a fortunate event, marked by great bravery, but hardly a memorable victory – involving smaller numbers of men, and lower casualties, that became the subject of tremendous attention throughout the summer of 1915. The first of the array of reports I have traced comes from Light magazine, 24.4.15., under the title The Invisible Allies: Strange Story from the Front: -

” In Light of October 10th last we referred, under the title of The Invisible Allies to a remarkable story by Mr Arthur Machen, the novelist, which appeared in the Evening News of a few days before, and which depicted our soldiers at the front as being aided by the spirits of the English soldiers of the past. The soldier about whom the story revolves sees a vision of the Agincourt bowmen and hears their voices. A short time ago we were asked by a well-known publisher if we could tell him anything of the origin of the story, as statements were being made that it was founded on fact. We replied that we thought it nothing more than an effort of that imagination of which Mr Machen’s stories are full. However, being curious on the point, and having a personal acquaintance with the author, we wrote to him asking the question, and were not surprised to receive his answer that the tale was merely a fanciful production of his own. He though it rather curious that any legend should have grown up around his story.

A few days ago, however, we received a visit from a military officer, who asked to see the issue of Light containing the article in question. He explained that, whether Mr Machen’s story was pure invention or not, it was certainly stated in some quarters that a curious phenomenon had been witnessed by several officers and men in connection with the retreat from Mons. It took the form of a strange cloud interposed between the Germans and the British. Other wonders were heard or seen in connection with this cloud which, it seems, had the effect of protecting the British against the overwhelming hordes of the enemy. We wonder what truth there is in the report. Legends spring up quickly, but so far as we have observed there is always some core of truth, however small, at the back of each. Even the ‘Russians in England’ rumour, we understand, was not entirely without foundation. But this legend of Mons is fascinating. We should like to hear more of it.”

This was a simple story. The effect – the protection of the British soldiers – is the same as in The Bowmen, but it occurs as the result of the presence of a mysterious cloud. Only six days later, on 30.4.15., the Roman Catholic newspaper, The Universe, published in London, carried a more detailed and rather different account, headed On A White Horse: St.George and Phantom Army: -

” An extraordinary story, which recalls an incident in the Crusades, reaches The Universe from an accredited correspondent who is, however, precluded from imparting the names of those concerned.

The story is told by a Catholic officer in a letter from the front, and is told with a simplicity which shows the narrator’s own conviction of its genuineness . . .

” A party of about thirty men and an officer was cut off in a trench, when the officer said to his men, ‘Look here, we must either stay here and be caught like rats in a trap, or make a sortie against the enemy. We haven’t much of a chance, but personally I don’t want to be caught here.’ The men all agreed with him, and with a yell of ‘St.George for England!’ they dashed out into the open. The officer tells how, as they ran on, he became aware of a large company of men with bows and arrows going along with them, and even leading them on against the enemy’s trenches, and afterwards when he was talking to a German prisoner, the man asked him who was the officer on a great white horse who led them, for although he was such a conspicuous figure, they had none of them been able to hit him. I must also add that the German dead appeared to have no wounds on them. The officer who told the story (adds the writer of the letter) was a friend of ours. He did not see St.George on the white horse, but he saw the Archers with his own eyes.”

I think we can safely regard this as the basic ‘bowmen’ legend, and it has undeniably close parallels to Machen’s story. Why it should suddenly appear in the respectable Roman Catholic press, apparently in a letter from the front in France, I cannot imagine.

It is not easy to work out a precise chronology, but it seems that the next item of importance to be published was a report in the All Saints,Clifton, Parish Magazine for May 1915. This version – which appears elsewhere, and which I assume to be a correct transcription – comes from the Church Family Newspaper, in its July 1915 issue. It was also reprinted in the same Parish Magazine, in its July 1915 issue. It has the title, An Angelic Guard – Strange Experiences.

” The following account is published in the current issue of the All Saints, Clifton, Parish Magazine: -

Last Sunday I met Miss M., daughter of the well-known Canon M., and she told me she knew two officers both of whom had themselves seen the angels who saved our left wing from the Germans when they came right upon them during the retreat from Mons.

They expected annihilation, as they were almost helpless, when to their amazement they stood like dazed men, never so much as touched their guns: nor stirred till we had turned round and escaped by some crossroads. One of Miss M’s friends, who was not a religious man, told her that he saw a troop of angels between us and the enemy. He has been a changed man ever since. The other man she met in London. She asked him if he had heard the wonderful stories of angels. He said he had seen them himself and under the following circumstances: -

While he and his company were retreating, they heard the German cavalry tearing after them. They saw a place where they thought a stand might be made, with sure hope of safety; but before they could reach it, the German cavalry were upon them. They therefore turned round and faced the enemy, expecting nothing but instant death, when to their wonder they saw, between them and the enemy, a whole troop of angels. The German horses turned round terrified and regularly stampeded. The men tugged at their bridles, while the poor beasts tore away in every direction from our men. This officer swore he saw the angels, which the horses saw plainly enough. This gave them time to reach the little fort, or whatever it was, and save themselves.”

Looking at the development of the accounts of the visions, this is a particularly important piece. It seems to represent the basic ‘angels’ legend, and it bears only a minimal resemblance to The Bowmen. In the ‘angels’ legend, there is no decision by the soldiers to take their chance, no invocation of St.George or any other figure, no foreknowledge of the words to use to call for assistance, such as those on the plate in the vegetarian restaurant. The ‘angels’ have neither leader nor weapons. Indeed, this version of intervention has more in common with the ‘strange cloud interposed between the Germans and the British’, than it does with The Bowmen. The claims of many commentators, and of Machen himself, that all the accounts of visions and interventions at Mons were generated by his brief column in the Evening News can, at times, seem very far-fetched.

Yet nothing in this investigation is straightforward or simple. To anticipate a little, the Society for Psychical Research, in its Journal for December 1915, published An Enquiry Concerning the Angels at Mons. This is an excellent piece of work, and I’ll refer to it again. The Society was swiftly off the mark in writing to Miss M. (actually Miss Marrable, daughter of Canon Marrable) on May 26, 1915

” . . the story is told on the authority of Miss M., who is said to have known personally the officers concerned. Accordingly we wrote to Miss M. to ask whether she could corroborate these stories, and received the following reply, dated 28.5.15.

‘I cannot give you the names of the men referred to in your letter of May 26, as the story I heard was quite anonymous, and I do not know who they were.”

I suspect that Miss Marrable had a busy few weeks answering enquiries about her alleged informants: there are reports of other publications also pursuing her.

Early May saw a fascinating mixture of accounts appearing in the ‘occult’ and Spiritualist press. In Light for 8.5.15, a feature appears headed Supernormal Phenomena at the Battle Front: -

” The following letter from ‘Scota’, a correspondent in Ireland, embodies statements some of which had already been received by us from other quarters: -

Sir, I am very glad that in the last issue of Light you had noticed the story about the intervention of spirit helpers at Mons, for the subject is well worth investigation. It has reached me through three different channels having no connection with each other.

A friend who was in London last autumn read in the Evening News the story of the vision and accompanying shout. She was much struck by it, but was inclined to question its credibility. A few days later, however, she met a young soldier, a private who had been wounded. Directly she heard he had been at Mons she asked, “Oh, did you see the vision, and hear the shout?” He answered, “I did not hear the shout, but I did see the vision and, he added very emphatically, the Germans saw it too, they couldn’t get their horses to come on!” He said that on comparing notes with his comrades afterwards they found that some had seen the vision, and some heard the shout, but very many had neither heard nor seen.

Shortly afterwards this same lady met a member of the family of an officer, General N., who also had been at Mons. He stated that in that rearguard action there was one specially critical moment. The German cavalry was rapidly advancing, and very much outnumbered our forces. Suddenly, he saw a sort of luminous cloud, or light interpose itself between the Germans and our forces. In the cloud there seemed to be bright objects moving: he could not say if they were figures or not, but they were moving and bright. The moment this cloud appeared the German onslaught seemed to receive a check; the horses could be seen rearing and plunging, and they ceased to advance. He said it was his opinion that if that check, whatever its cause, had not come, the whole force would have been annihilated in twenty minutes.

Since then another friend of mine has had a visit from a relative, a young officer home on short leave from the front. He, too, had been at Mons, and told her that the story, as she had heard it, was perfectly correct. He had seen the luminous cloud and the sudden check to the enemy’s cavalry, exactly as General N. had described it, and he said, “After what I saw that day, nothing will make me doubt for one moment but that we shall win in this war.”

The following week, Light published further accounts, from different sources: an interesting variation on the ‘vegetarian restaurant’, and a surprisingly Christian report in this Spiritualist context: -

” In a sermon preached by the Rev. Fielding Ould, vicar of St.Stephen’s, St.Alban’s, he is reported to have said -

I heard a story last week from three sources, and which I think may be true. A sergeant in our army had frequented a house of the Young Men’s Christian Association, and had seen there a picture of St.George slaying the dragon. He had been deeply impressed by it, and when, at the front, he found himself in an advanced and rather isolated trench, he told the story of St.George to his men – St.George, the patron saint of England, whose name the warriors have shouted as their war-cry in the carnage of Crecy, Poitiers, and on many another glorious field. When shortly afterwards a sudden charge of the grey-coated Germans in greatly superior numbers threatened the sergeant’s trench, he cried, “Remember St.George for England!” to his men as they advanced to meet the foe. A few moments afterwards the enemy hesitated, stopped, and finally fled, leaving some prisoners in our hands. One of the latter, who seemed dazed and astonished, demanded to be told who were “the horsemen in armour who led the charge. Surely they could not have been Belgians dressed in such a way!” There are many similar stories of supernatural intervention in the old battles of the world and I, for one, would hesitate to say that they had no basis of fact.”

Mrs F.H.Fitzgerald Beale, writing from Mountmellick, Ireland, says -

” You mention in Light of the 24th ult. that a strange cloud came down at Mons and hid the allies from the Germans. I am pleased to be able to tell you it is true. We have among other wounded soldiers home from the war a soldier of the Dublin Fusiliers who was injured at Mons. I told him of the story and asked him whether it was true. He said, “Yes, I saw it myself. A thick black cloud: it quite hid us from the enemy.” Indeed, all the other men have told me of the miraculous way that crucifixes were preserved. One soldier said that in a wood there was a mound with a large crucifix on top to mark the burial place of a number of soldiers killed in a former war. The trees were swept away by shell fire as if they had been cut down with a scythe, but the crucifix stood untouched. This preservation has been so very marked everywhere, he said, that even the Jews in the trenches were asking for crucifixes from Catholic soldiers, and people were embedding them in the walls of their houses. I hear this from every soldier who has returned.”

In Bladud, The Bath Society Paper of Wednesday, 9th June 1915, The Rev.M.P.Gilson, Vicar of All Saints, Clifton, told of his experiences since he published the earlier account of the ‘Angels’ . . .

” You will, I think, be no less surprised than I have been to find that our modest little parish magazine has suddenly sprung into almost world-wide notoriety; every post for the last three weeks has brought letters from all over the country, not asking merely for single copies, but for dozens of copies, enclosing a quite embarrassing number of stamps and postal orders, the more so since there were no more magazines to be had.”

He goes on to express surprise that everyone is so amazed that miracles should still be occurring, and prayers still being answered . . .

” Why should it seem more strange that a regiment of Prussian cavalry should be held up by a company of angels, and their horses stampeded, and our infantry delivered from a hopeless position, than that an angel with flaming sword should have withstood Balaam, or that St.Peter should have been delivered from the hand of Herod by the intervention of an Angel? Do they really relegate all such miracles to ‘Bible Days’, and believe that when the Church made up the Canon of Holy Scriptures she also brought to a close the age of miracles?”

Bladud also quotes some of the accounts sent to the Rev. Gilson, who passes comments on the developing stories – comments that seem quite perceptive to me. The accounts first . . .

” The first is an extract from an officer’s letter: “I myself saw the angels who saved our left wing from the Germans during the retreat from Mons. We heard the German cavalry tearing after us and ran for a place where we thought a stand could be made; we turned and faced the enemy expecting instant death. When to our wonder we saw between us and the enemy a whole troop of Angels; the horses of the Germans turned round frightened out of their senses; they regularly stampeded, the men tugging at their bridles, while the horses tore away in every direction from our men. Evidently the horses saw the Angels as plainly as we did, and the delay gave us time to reach a place of safety.”

” Another contribution comes from a more unexpected source. A captain in charge of German prisoners states that these men say it is no use to fight the English, for at Mons “there were people fighting for them”, that they saw angels above and in front of the lines, also that it is happening at Ypres.”

” From another source I heard that many prisoners were taken that day who surrendered when there was no call for it. At home it was suggested that they were underfed and did not want to fight. Some of these German prisoners were afterwards asked why they surrendered, ‘for there were many more of you than us; we were a mere handful,’ they looked amazed and replied, ‘but there were hosts and hosts of you.’ It was thought that the angels appeared to them as reinforcements of our ranks.

The St.George story is, I believe, a fiction. It has been enquired into, and apparently it is only based on a perversion of the story of the angels, and that I do believe. The only very astonishing part of it is that so many men were allowed to see them. (If other accounts of the visions agree with these, it is surely noteworthy, adds the Editor of the All Saints Magazine, that the angels appear to have taken no part in the killing: they defended our men, and caused the Germans to flee or to surrender).

Included in the same feature is a report of a sermon given in St.Martin’s Church, Worcester: -

” He told”, says the writer describing his sermon, “about this vision of angels, which had been seen by so many of our soldiers, on that Saturday in August, when the situation looked so hopeless that the Times correspondent wired that the British army ‘had been annihilated’, and the Sunday papers all published it, and if it had not been for the angels there would have been no contradiction of it in Monday’s papers.”

” In particular he spoke of twelve men in a quarry, who all saw the angels, and among the mass of the army some saw and some did not. Two colonels, he spoke of, who said they had seen them, one of whom had until then been an unbeliever. But all saw the unlooked for salvation of the remnant of the army.”

An interesting point there – that the vision was in some way selective. This is not the only time this element is mentioned, and it is not an uncommon phenomenon in reports of paranormal experience.

Another sermon, reported in various church and secular newspapers had considerable influence, presumably due to the status of the preacher. It received wide publicity, and introduced some new elements to the apparent role of the supernatural in the course of the war, in addition to the ‘legions of angels’ version of the retreat from Mons: -

” In a recent sermon at Manchester, Dr R.F.Horton, the well known Congregational minister, told how, in the Dardanelles, the airships of the enemy came over a troopship and dropped bombs. The captain, who was a devout man, gave the order to his crew to pray. “They knelt on the deck, and the Lord delivered them. The eighteen bombs which seemed to be falling from overhead fell harmlessly into the sea.

Dr.Horton then mentioned the story of the ‘Comrade in White’, which was dealt with recently in Light, and passed on to a consideration of the ‘company of angels’ which intervened to save our soldiers in the retreat from Mons. He referred to it as ‘a story repeated by so many witnesses that if anything can be established by contemporary evidence it is established.”

I haven’t found any fuller version of the story of the troopship in the Dardanelles, but this seems to be a good point at which to consider the matter of the ‘Comrade in White’ – or ‘White Helper’ – a figure that moves surely through the battlefields and hospitals of the early part of the war, without any real specifics of places or dates. The first account is from Dr Horton again -

” Now and again a wounded man on the field is conscious of a comrade in white coming with help and even delivering him. One of our men who had heard of this story again and again, and has put it down to hysterical excitement, had an experience. His division had advanced and was not adequately protected by the artillery. It was cut to pieces, and he himself fell. He tried to hide in a hollow of the ground, and as he lay helpless, not daring to lift his head under the hail of fire, he saw One in White coming to him. For a moment he though it must be a hospital attendant or a stretcher-bearer, but no, it could not be; the bullets were flying all around. The White-robed came near and bent over him. The man lost consciousness for a moment, and when he came round he seemed to be out of danger.

The White-robed still stood by him, and the man, looking at his hand, said, ‘You are wounded in your hand.’ There was a wound in the palm. He answered, ‘Yes, that is an old wound that has opened again lately.’ The soldier says that in spite of the peril and his wounds he felt a joy he had never experienced in his life before.”

Then there was . . .

” A letter from Miss Stoughton, whose sister was a nurse in the hospital at Tekleton. ‘There is a wonderful story,’ she writes, ‘of the man called by the soldiers, ‘A Comrade In White’, who is going about at the front, helping the wounded. A man told my sister that, though he had not seen Him himself, he knew many soldiers who had. He was supposed to be ‘The Angel of the Covenant’ – our Lord himself. He has been seen at different places.”

This isn’t exactly first-hand testimony – the writer is the sister of a nurse who spoke to a soldier who knew some others who said they had seen the figure! But it’s interesting to note that there are much more modern cases where similar figures have been involved inguiding or rescuing lost travellers in times of severe danger.

Quite moving is the story of the dramatic rescue of a young boy during battle, supposedly told by a nurse who had served in France (this may have been Phyllis Campbell, who we will discuss later): -

” How did you manage to pick up the child under the German guns? I asked. He shifted a little uncomfortably, then looked bravely into my eyes. “It’s a bit of a queer thing I’m going to say – but it’s true,” he said. “It was a kind of golden cloud between us and the Germans, and a man in it on a big horse – and then I saw the child in the dust on the roadside, and I picked it up.” “Yes, Sister,” he added, “Lots of other chaps saw it too.” There was a murmur of confirmation. “The minute I saw it,” he continued, “I knew we were going to win. It fair bucked me up.”

You can see the sort of structure these accounts have. The following – from Life and Work magazine for June 1915 – is a particularly detailed one, from which I have taken extracts. It is, apparently, from a letter from an unnamed soldier: -

” Strange tales reached us in the trenches. Rumours raced up and down that three-hundred mile line from Switzerland to the sea. We knew neither the source of them nor the truth of them. They came quickly, and they went quickly. Yet somehow I remember the very hour when George Casey turned to me with a queer look in his blue eyes and asked if I had seen the Friend of the Wounded.

And then he told me all he knew. After many a hot engagement a man in white had been seen bending over the wounded. Snipers sniped at him. Shells fell all around. Nothing had power to touch him. He was either heroic beyond all heroes, or he was something greater still. This mysterious one, whom the French called the Comrade In White, seemed to be everywhere at once. At Nancy, in the Argonne, at Soissons and Ypres, everywhere men were talking of him with hushed voices.”

The writer continues, explaining that he expected no such help should he be injured in battle. Then, in an advance on the facing trenches, he was shot in both legs, and lay in a sheell-hole till after dark,

” The night fell, and soon I heard a step, but quiet and firm, as if neither darkness nor death could check those untroubled feet. So little did I guess what was coming that, even when I saw the gleam of white in the darkness. I thought it was a peasant in a white smock, or perhaps a woman deranged. Suddenly. with a little shiver of joy or fear, I don’t know which, I guessed that it was the Comrade in White. And at that very moment the German rifles began to shoot. The bullets could scarcely miss such a target, for he flung his arms out as though in entreaty, and then drew them back till he stood like one of those wayside crosses that we saw so often as we marched through France.

And he spoke. The words sounded familiar, but all I remember was the beginning, “If thou hadst known,” and the ending, “but now they are hid from thine eyes.” And then he stopped and ushered me into his arms – me, the biggest man in the regiment – and carried me as if I had been a child.

I must have fainted again, for I woke to consciousness in a little cave by the stream, and the Comrade in White was washing my wounds and binding them up. It seems foolish to say it, for I was in terrible pain, but I was happier at that moment than ever I remember to have been in all my life before. I can’t explain it, but it seemed as if all my days I had been waiting for this without knowing it. As long as that hand touched me and those eyes pitied me, I did not seem to care any more about sickness or health, about life or death. And while he swiftly removed every trace of blood or mire, I felt as if my whole nature were being washed, as if all the grime and soil of sin were going, and as if I were once more a little child.

I suppose I slept, for when I awoke this feeling was gone, I was a man, and I wanted to know what I could do for my friend to help him or to serve him. He was looking towards the stream, and his hands were clasped in prayer: and then I saw that he, too, had been wounded. I could see, as it were, a shot-wound in his hand, and as he prayed a drop of blood gathered and fell to the ground. I cried out. I could not help it, for that wound of his seemed to be a more awful thing than any that bitter war had shown me. “You are wounded, too”, I said faintly. Perhaps he heard me, perhaps it was the look on my face, but he answered gently: “This is an old wound, but it has troubled me of late.” And then I noticed sorrowfully that the same cruel mark was on his feet. You will wonder that I did not know sooner. I wonder myself. But it was only when I saw his feet that I knew him.”

The identification of the figure with Jesus Christ was not an uncommon one, but I am rather intrigued by the ‘transformation’ of personality mentioned above. Whatever we call these accounts – wishful thinking, imagination, hallucination, spirit or divine intervention, or whatever – they are perhaps closer to traditional forms of religious experience than the visions involving interventions by non-human figures in military battles. They made popular reading, and no doubt brought hope and some comfort to those at the front in France, and to those at home

Before we return to the continuing development of the stories of angels and bowmen as they emerged in August and September of 1915, a little time should be spent with Phyllis Campbell, a lady who was, apparently, a nurse at front-line hospitals in France.

Over the past ten years or so, I have managed to find most of the important books and references relating to Mons, but one item has eluded me – Miss Campbell’s booklet Back of the Front, published by George Newnes Ltd in 1915. I gather that even the British Museum Library doesn’t have a copy, and apart from some extracts, all I have seen is a flyer showing the front cover! However, she received a lot of publicity, particularly via Ralph Shirley, editor of the Occult Review, and played her part in the growth of some of the more extreme legends.

In this particular instance, I tend to concur with the opinion of the sceptical writer, Melvin Harris, and I am unwilling to accept her unsupported testimony. Her work had appeared in the Occult Review before the war, and it is clear from her accounts of atrocities supposedly committed by the advancing Germans that she was prone to believing what she wanted to believe. I don’t suppose she was alone in that publicising the horrendous practises of the Bosch did wonders for Army recruitment. Anyway, some excerpts from her writing will convey her approach – bearing in mind that the content was, in 1914 and 1915, quite acceptable to many of her readers. From Light, 7.8.15 -

” The Occult Review for August publishes an article by Miss Phyllis Campbell, a nurse who was in the Mons retreat. She tells of a great outburst of pious enthusiasm on the part of the French wounded, some of whom were in a state of great exaltation of mind. They clamoured for ‘holy pictures’ – the little prints of saints and angels so common in Catholic countries – but were unanimous in selecting St Michael or Joan of Arc. A wounded English soldier – a Lancashire Fusilier – asked for ‘a picture or medal of St.George because he had seen the saint on a white horse leading the

British at Vitry-le-Francois when the allies turned.’ An RFA man, wounded in the leg, claimed to have seen a man with yellow hair, wearing golden armour and riding on a white horse with his sword upraised. He endorsed the account given by the fusilier that the phantom cavalier led the British troops. The French troops maintained that the figure seen was that of St Michael. Many of them professed also to have seen Joan of Arc.

That night (writes Miss Campbell) we heard the tale again, from the lips of a priest this time, two officers, and three men of the Irish Guard. These three men were mortally wounded; they asked for the sacrament before death, and before dying told the same story to the old abbe who confessed them.

In the Occult Review article – The Angelic Leaders – she stresses that she had written to its Editor about the stories of visions before the publication of The Bowmen in the Evening News. There is no confirmation of this; it would have been remarkable had a field nurse been able to stop and send out a letter amidst the havoc of retreat, and even more remarkable had the astute Ralph Shirley not used such a report if it had been offered him. The following piece is apparently taken from Back of the Front, reporting on how she was moving around France with the Army hospital, and recounting what soldiers had supposedly said to her, in her own, gory style . . .

” For forty-eight hours no food, no drink, under a tropical sun, choked with dust, harried by shell, and marching, marching, marching, till even the pursuing Germans gave it up, and at Vitry-le-Francois the Allies fell in their tracks and slept for three hours – horse, foot and guns – while the exhausted pursuers slept behind them.

Then came the trumpet call, and each man sprang to his arms to find himself made anew. One man said, “I felt as if I had just come out of the sea after a swim. Fit, just grand. I never felt so fit in my life, and every man of us the same. The Germans were coming on just the same as ever, when suddenly the advance sounded, and I saw the luminous mist and the great man on the white horse, and I knew the Boches would never get Paris, for God was fighting on our side.

Poor Dix, when he came into hospital with only a bleeding gap where his mouth had been, and a splintered hand and arm, he ought to have been prostrate and unconscious, but he made no moan, his pain had vanished in contemplation of the wonderful things he had seen – saints and angels fighting on this common earth, with common mortal men, against one devilish foe to all humanity. A strange and dreadful thing, that the veil that hangs between us and the world of Immortality should be so rent and shrivelled by suffering and agony that human eyes can look on the angels and not be blinded. The cries of mothers and little children – the suffering of crucified fathers and carbonized sons and brothers, the tortures of nuns and virgins, and violated wives and daughters, have all gone up in torment and dragged at the Ruler of the Universe for aid – and aid has come.”

The Society for Psychical Research was also interested in Miss Campbell’s reports. As part of their enquiry they reported that,

” We wrote some time ago to Miss Campbell asking whether she could give us any further information or put us in touch with the soldiers to whom these experiences had come, but we have not heard from her.” So far as I can establish, she made no further claims, and it was left to others to eagerly back her accounts when they could be used in support of their own contentions. But even so, if anyone comes across a copy of Back of the Front, I’d still be delighted to own one!

Miss Campbell’s contributions aside, by July 1915 the initial impetus of the reports had slowed down. Even the religious press only printed versions of earlier accounts – often set in the context of religious events in history – and many commentators began to wonder at the lack of witness testimony for which a witness could actually be identified. August saw two apparently promising testimonies in the Daily Mail. The first appeared on the 12th, and was a report of an interview with a ‘wounded lance-corporal’.

” I was with my battalion in the retreat from Mons on or about August 28th. The German cavalry were expected to make a charge, and we were waiting to fire and scatter them . .

The weather was very hot and clear, and between eight and nine o’clock in the evening, I was standing with a party of nine other men on duty, and some distance on either side there were parties of ten on guard . . An officer suddenly came up to us in a state of great anxiety and asked us if we had seen anything startling . . He hurried away from my ten to the next party of ten. At the time we thought that the officer must be expecting a surprise attack.

Immediately afterwards the officer came back, and taking me and some others a few yards away showed us the sky. I could see quite plainly in mid-air a strange light which seemed to be quite distinctly outlined and was not a reflection of the moon, nor were there any clouds in the neighbour hood. The light became brighter and I could distinctly see three shapes, one in the centre having what looked like outspread wings; the other two were not so large, but were quite plainly distinct from the centre one. They appeared to have a long, loose-hanging garment of a golden tint, and they were above the German line facing us.

We stood watching them for about three quarters of an hour. All the men with me saw them, and other men came up from other groups who also told us they had seen the same thing.

I remember the day because it was a day of terrible anxiety for us. That morning the Munsters had a bad time on our right, and so had the Scots Guards. We managed to get to the wood . . . Later on, the Uhlans attacked us, and we drove them back with heavy loss. It was after this engagement, when we were dog-tired, that the vision appeared to us.”

The Society for Psychical Research wrote to the Lady Superintendent of the hospital at which the man had been treated, to whom he was said to have told his experience before it was published, and asked her if she could give details of his whereabouts. She replied on 28.10.15:

” The man about whom you enquire has left here and has failed to answer my letter and postcard. I do not therefore know his present whereabouts. When I hear from him again I will write to you.”

There is nothing to suggest that the witness was ever located, but nor was the report disproved; this was a time of high casualties in France. The situation was a happier one than the Mail found itself in later in the month. The SPR enquiry tells the story well: -

” One other piece of alleged evidence in support of the ‘Angels of Mons’ may be briefly dismissed. In the Daily Mail for August 24, 1915, there appeared a communication from G.S.Hazlehurst stating that a certain Private Robert Cleaver, 1st Cheshire Regiment, had signed an affidavit in his presence to the effect that he “personally was at Mons and saw the Vision of Angels with (his) own eyes.” Speaking of his interview with Private Cleaver, Mr Hazlehurst said:

” When I saw Private Cleaver, who struck me as being a very sound, intelligent man, he at once volunteered his statement and had no objection to signing an affidavit before me that he had seen the Angels of Mons. He said that things were at the blackest with our troops, and if it had not been for the supernatural intervention they would have been annihilated. The men were in retreat, and lying down behind small tufts of grass for cover. Suddenly, the vision came between them and the German cavalry. He described it as a ‘flash’ . . The cavalry horses rushed in all directions and were disorganised”.

In the Daily Mail for September 2, 1915, there appeared a further communication from Mr Hazlehurst to the effect that in consequence of a rumour that Private Cleaver was not present at the Battle of Mons, he had written to the headquarters at Salisbury for information as to his movements, and received the following reply:

” From – Records Office, Cheshire Regiment. 10515 R.Cleaver.

With regard to your enquiries concerning the above man, the following are the particulars concerning him. He mobilised at Chester on August 22, 1914. He was posted out to the 1st Battalion, Expeditionary Force, France, with a draft on September 6, 1914. He returned to England on December 14, sick.”

Mr Hazlehurst concludes:

The battle of Mons was in August, 1914, and readers will draw their own conclusions. Information sworn on oath is usually regarded as sufficiently trustworthy for publication, but apparently not in this case.”

Much more intriguing is a letter sent to Arthur Machen by a Lieutenant-Colonel whose identity was apparently known to the Daily Mail, and who was present at the Retreat from Mons. It appeared in the issue dated September 14th, and seems never to have been refuted. It is worth mentioning that some historians have placed the publication of this account a year earlier, which would render it as vital evidence for a pre-Bowmen provenance for the stories. However, it definitely appeared over a year after the events that it reports. Nonetheless, its simplicity, and lack of specific identification of individualssomehow lend it a credibility not possessed by some other reports: -

” On August 26, 1914, was fought the battle of Le Cateau. We came into action at dawn, and fought till dusk. We were heavily shelled by the German artillery during the day, and in common with the rest of our division had a bad time of it.

Our division, however, retired in good order. We were on the march all night of the 26th and on the 27th, with only about two hours’ rest. The brigade to which I belonged was rearguard to the division, and during the 27th we were all absolutely worn out with fatigue – both bodily and mental fatigue.

No doubt we also suffered to a certain extent from shock; but the retirement still continued in excellent order, and I feel sure that our mental faculties were still . . . in good working condition.

On the night of the 27th I was riding along in the column with two other officers. We had been talking and doing our best to keep from falling asleep on our horses. As we rode along I became conscious of the fact that, in the fields on both sides of the road along which we were marching, I could see a very large body of horsemen. These horsemen had the appearance of squadrons of cavalry, and they seemed to be riding across the fields and going in the same direction as we were going, and keeping level with us . . .

I did not say a word about it at first, but I watched them for about twenty minutes. The other two officers had stopped talking. At last one of them asked me if I saw anything in the fields. I then told him what I had seen. The third officer then confessed that he too had been watching these horsemen for the past twenty minutes. So convinced were we that they were real cavalry that, at the next halt, one of the officers took a party of men out to reconnoitre, and found no one there. The night then grew darker, and we saw no more.

The same phenomenon was seen by many men in our column. Of course, we were all dog-tired and overtaxed, but it is an extraordinary thing that the same phenomenon should be witnessed by so many different people. I myself am absolutely convinced that I saw these horsemen, and I feel sure that they did not exist only in my imagination . .”

Quite rightly, the SPR Enquiry juxtaposes the above with this letter from Lance-Corporal A.Johnstone, late of the Royal Engineers, which was published in the Evening News of 11.8.15: -

” We had almost reached the end of the retreat, and after marching a whole day and night with but one half-hour’s rest in between, we found ourselves on the outskirts of Langy, near Paris, just at dawn, and as the day broke we saw in front of us large bodies of cavalry, all formed up into squadrons – fine, big men, on massive chargers. I remember turning to my chums in the ranks and saying: “Thank God! We are not far off Paris now. Look at the French cavalry.” They, too, saw them quite plainly, but on getting closer, to our surprise the horsemen vanished and gave place to banks of white mist, with clumps of trees and bushes dimly showing through them . . .

When I tell you that hardened soldiers who had been through many a campaign were marching quite mechanically along the road and babbling all sorts of nonsense in sheer delirium, you can well believe we were in a fit state to take a row of beanstalks for all the saints in the calendar.”

The summer of 1915 saw the publication of several books and booklets dealing with Bowmen, Angels and related issues. They included a fair amount of debate, and not a little name-calling. As I’m trying to stick to source material here, rather than the minutiae of opinions and attitudes, I won’t detail the comings and goings of the various writers; but I will summarise the best-sellers among them.

The first to appear was a 15-page booklet, gloriously titled The Angel Warriors at Mons, Including Numerous Confirmatory Testimonies, Evidence of the Wounded and Certain Curious Historical Parallels, An Authentic Record by Ralph Shirley, Editor of the Occult Review. It was published by the Newspaper Publicity Co., 61, Fleet Street, London, E.C. It covers the basic ‘Angels’ stories, and includes a number of excerpts from the vivid writings of Phyllis Campbell, as well as some interesting accounts of other battlefield visions: the Virgin Mary at Suwalki, and the Battle of Edge Hill.

The next to be published – on 10.8.15 – was The Bowmen and Other Legends of the War by Arthur Machen himself, published by Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton Kent & Co. This appeared in two separate editions, the second being the better value as in addition to reprinting The Bowmen itself, it also includes five further short stories in a similar vein: The Soldier’s Rest: The Monstrance: The Dazzling Light: The Little Nations and The Men From Troy. Some of these are, in my hopelessly biased opinion, quite beautiful. Why they are described as ‘Other Legends of the War’ I cannot say – so far as I’m aware, they are all completely original.

The controversial part of Machen’s book is the 51-page Introduction, which tells the story of the development of The Bowmen as the author himself saw it: his point of view being that he was its author, not its historian. He fairly quotes evidence from both sides of the ‘event’ hypothesis – vision vs. hallucination – but still stays with his belief that there was no ‘event’ at all. This Introduction is beautifully crafted, and well worth reading in its entirety.

There were, of course, many who believed in the legends, and their views found a popular outlet in On the Side of the Angels – the Story of the Angels at Mons – an Answer to ‘The Bowmen’, by Harold Begbie. I understand that Mr Begbie was quite a notable author at the time, but his writing displays limited critical faculties. His contention is that whether the visions occurred or not, it was not Machen who originated them. Begbie marshalls most of the ‘pro-event’ material, from the fairly reputable down to the worst of the vague and rewritten, but actually adds little to the canon of stories with which the public was already familiar. Nonetheless, it was clearly influential at the time.

Various other publications appeared in 1915 and 1916, while the various stories and opinions held the public imagination to a remarkable degree. Few of them made contributions of any great originality, but an honourable mention must go to a skilful and elaborate parody, Find the Angels – The Showmen – A Legend of the War, by T.W.H.Crosland, published by T.Werner Laurie, 1915. This exquisitely parodies Machen’s Introduction, includes The Showmen itself, and various appendices taking shots at Machen, Begbie and the rest, and ending with some verses parodying Kipling in ‘The White Feather Legion’. I do admire Mr.Crosland’s skill!

One way and another, I think I have presented most – if not all – of the relevant material that appeared in Britain between the retreat from Mons itself, at the end of August 1914, and Christmas 1915. Other than these, there were opinions a-plenty, many quite critical, considered and convincing. Were I playing sceptic – as I often do when commenting on strange events and phenomena – I would weigh those comments heavily in the balance. But that isn’t my aim in compiling this account. To round oof this collection of evidence – and not-quite evidence – there are some other, later reports that deserve a hearing . . .

There is a little-known report in the Grays and Tilbury Gazette for 25.8.17., of angels on the home front: actually, at Grays Thurrock, a place not famed for drama, romance or mystery, situated on the Thames in Essex. Here, at a relatively optimistic stage of the war, were seen the ‘Peace Angels’.

” All Argent Street was out after them”, said one speaker. “They appeared over the Exmouth, two of them sitting on two rainbows with ‘Peace’ in between. Then they faded away, leaving only the rainbow.” Another observer said that the angels had, “roses wreathed in their hair.” It seems that children, in particular, were taken with this attractive story.

Moving on some years, on 17.2.1930 the Daily News published the following strange tale: -

” The British really saw in 1914 what they called the Angels of Mons, if a story by a former member of the Imperial German Intelligence Service is to be believed. This officer, Colonel Friedrich Herzenwirth, whose narrative is published in a newspaper in New York, says:

‘ The Angels of Mons were motion pictures thrown upon ‘screens’ of foggy white cloudbanks in Flanders by cinematographic projecting machines mounted on German aeroplanes which hovered above the British lines.’

The reports of British troops during the retreat from Mons on August 24th, 1914 – that they had seen ‘angels the size of men’, which appeared to be in the rearguard of the retreating army – were attributed by psychologists to mass hypnotism and hallucination. Colonel Herzenwirth says the object of the Germans responsible for these scientific ‘visions’ was to create superstitious terror in the allied ranks, calculated to produce panic and a refusal to fight an enemy which appeared to enjoy special supernatural protection. But the Germans miscalculated.

‘ What we had not figured on’, adds the Colonel, ‘was that the English should turn the vision to their own benefit. This was a magnificent bit of counter-propaganda, for some of the English must have been fully aware of the mechanism of our trick. Their method of interpreting our angels as protectors of their own troops turned the scales completely upon us. Had the British command contented itself with simply issuing an Army order unmasking our trickery it would not have been half as effective.’

The next day, in the same newspaper, the following appeared:

” Following is a message received yesterday from our Berlin correspondent.

‘ A prominent member of the War Intelligence Department in the present German Ministry declares that the story is a hoax, Herzenwirth himself a myth or, if existing, a liar. It is officially stated that there is no such person.’

Mr Arthur Machen, the author, told the Daily News yesterday that the whole story of the apparitions was a legend invented by himself. It arose, Mr Machen said, from a story called The Bowmen, which he wrote and which was published on September 29, 1914.

” The story told how, during the retreat from Mons, some English soldiers in the trenches saw the advancing Germans dropping down by whole regiments. That, they supposed, was due to the fact that one of them said, half in a joke, ‘May St. George be a present help to the English!’

The tale is that St.George came along bringing with him the ghosts of the bowmen of the old days, and the Germans were supposed to be pierced by ghostly arrows. Nothing particular happened for the next few months, but some time in 1915 it was pointed out that people were taking the story as true. Then they began to turn the bowmen into angels. They elaborated the story and changed it about in all sorts of ways.”

The next, very peculiar tale comes from Fate magazine for May 1968. It is taken from a letter from a Rev.Albert H.Baller of Clinton, Mass. who was apparently lecturing on Unidentified Flying Objects to a group of engineers in New Britain, Conn. in 1955 or 1956, when one of the engineers gave him this report: -

” He said that he was in the trenches near Ypres in August, 1915, when the Germans launched the first gas attack. Since it was the very first, neither he nor any of his buddies knew what it meant when they looked out over no-man’s-land and saw a strange grey cloud rolling towards them. When it struck, pandemonium broke out. Men dropped all around him and the trench was in an uproar. Then, he said, a strange thing happened. Out of the mist, walking across no-mam’s land, came a figure. He seemed to be without special protection and he wore the uniform of the Royal Medical Corps. The engineer remembered that the stranger spoke English with what seemed to be a French accent.

On his belt the stranger from the poison cloud had a series of small hooks on which were suspended tin cups. In his hand he carried a bucket of what looked like water. As he slid down into the trench he began removing the cups, dipping them into the bucket and passing them out to the soldiers, telling them to drink quickly. The engineer was among those who received the potion. He said it was extremely salty, almost too salty to swallow. But all of the soldiers who were given the liquid did drink it, and not one of them suffered lasting effects from the gas.

When the gas cloud had blown over and things calmed down the unusual visitor was not to be found. No explanation for his visit could be given by the Royal Medical Corps – but the fact remained that thousands of soldiers died or suffered lasting effects from that grim attack, but not a single soldier who took the cup from the stranger was among the casualties.

It is certainly not to my credit that I have not remembered the engineer’s name. I do recall that on later enquiry that evening I discovered he was a man of some standing in his profession, known for his complete honesty and integrity.”

This story, with its vague provenance, has all the trappings of an ‘urban legend’ or ‘foaftale’, but I have not encountered it elsewhere. I am intrigued by the similarities to the ‘Comrade In White’ accounts, and as there is clearly some awareness of World War 1 legends in the USA, I wonder if any reader may have come across others?

The final original account I think worth presenting is this quiet, unassuming, and at least signed letter to The Spectator, which published it on 19.10.1918, some three weeks before the Armistice. It is not the first report to claim that some particular element of an event was seen only by the Germans: -

” Sir – Much has been said at various times about alleged superhuman interventions in our favour when, in ‘that dire autumn’ of 1914, our heroic ‘Contemptibles’ were in retreat, pressed hard by overwhelming forces. To myself nothing has come in the way of evidence on that subject with such a claim on attention and, I think, on credence as what I heard not many weeks ago from my friend (he allows the mention of his name) the Rev.W.Elliott Bradley, Vicar of Crosthwaite, Keswick, a reporter whose accurate memory and sober sense I entirely trust.

He got a practically identical account of a certain incident of that crisis from each of three soldiers, old Contemptibles, to whom he talked on three separate occasions. The first two men were, at different times, in a V.A.D. hospital near Ulverston, where the Rev.Bradley was rector between three and four years ago. The third man was seen not many months ago working on a farm near Keswick after discharge from the Army. Mr.Bradley asked in each case whether the soldiers recalled ‘anything unusual’ at the crises of the retreat. And each man without hesitation gave this answer. The Germans were coming on in massed formation, and the men of the thin British line were preparing to sell their lives dear: it was the only thing to do; the Teuton host could not help walking over them on the way to Paris. Suddenly the grey masses halted; even the horses of the cavalry jibbed and reared; and the collision did not take place. German prisoners, taken a little later, were asked why they failed to attack on such an advantage.

The answer was straight and simple: they saw strong British reinforcements coming up. Such was the story told, without leading or prompting as to detail, by these three isolated witnesses at first hand. Two, if not three, added quietly the comment, “It was God that did it.”

As my friend pointed out to me, the incident was the more impressive because all the men agreed that our soldiers saw nothing. The vision was not given to them, though their nerves might well be strained to an imaginative exaltation by their tremendous position. It was the Germans, in the full consciousness of their overmastering force and seeming easy certainty of victory, whose “eyes were opened”. I may add that what was seen was of a kind to suggest fact rather than subjective phantasm. The delivering host appeared not as ‘winged squadrons of the sky’ but as British soldiers, neither less nor more. At this hour of mighty victories, let us not forget the Supreme Disposer who, as I for one humbly believe, intervened in mystery and mercy then. (signed) Handley Dunelm, Auckland Castle, Bishop Auckland.”

The best contemporary investigation was – as has so often been the case – that conducted by the Society for Psychical Research. There is much to be said for a comprehensive knowledge of the field, an open mind, and the persistent application of common-sense. Here are some excerpts from the conclusions of the SPR Enquiry: -

” Summing up the evidence at our disposal, the following conclusions may be drawn:

a. Many of the stories which have been current during the past year concerning ‘visions’ on the battlefield prove on investigation to be founded on mere rumour, and cannot be traced to any authoritative source.

b. After we have discounted these rumours, we are left with a small residue of evidence, which seems to indicate that a certain number of men who took part in the retreat from Mons honestly believe themselves to have had at that time supernormal experiences of a remarkable character . .

In the main, the result of our enquiry is negative, at least as regards the question of whether any apparitions were seen on the battlefield, either at Mons or elsewhere. Of first-hand testimony we have received none at all, and of testimony at second-hand we have none that would justify us in assuming the occurrence of any supernormal phenomenon. For we cannot make this assumption until we have established at least a strong probability that the observed effects are such as only a supernormal phenomenon could produce, and in the present instance, as I have tried to show, all our efforts to obtain the detailed evidence upon which an enquiry of this kind must be based have proved unavailing.”

I cannot disagree with those conclusions, but I hope that, still, there may be further evidence still to come to light. Should it do so, I will be happy to rewrite this account accordingly. In the meantime, it is most important of all to remember that the legends we are discussing come from a time and place of tremendous courage, and dreadful suffering: almost impossible for us, now, to imagine. Any quality or worth this account may have is dedicated entirely to those who then fought on our behalf. If there really was some element of divine intervention, they had earned that, and more besides.

I still don’t know what happened during the Retreat from Mons: I doubt that I ever will. Perhaps the most vital point of dispute is whether Arthur Machen’s story The Bowmen was responsible, as Machen himself believed, for all the stories and legends of supernatural intervention that appeared from March 1915 onwards. My personal view is that there was rather more to it than that, and I concur with the opinion of the SPR in effectively suggesting that the men of the B.E.F. – or a number of them, anyway – were aware of reports of a ‘cloud’ or of ‘angels’ before the publication of The Bowmen on 29th September 1914. It would be helpful to know what flow of private correspondence there was between the B.E.F. and home that September: whatever there was seems not to have yielded any relevant reports. On the other hand, I doubt that Machen, among the many writers covering the war, alone received a secret tip-off, unknown to the rest of the press. I am sure that he genuinely believed that all the legends sprang from his own.

He may have been right, but there do seem to be two separate stories of intervention – the ‘Bowmen’ and the ‘Angels’- though there are certainly later accounts in which both appear, the two forms having apparently been amalgamated. Anyone familiar with the development of folklore will be aware of how easily such changes occur. But the initial formats and characteristics of each story are quite different, and it is hard to see how the one could have emanated from the other. There is no written record of any sort of ‘intermediate’ version, bridging the two.

I have, earlier, made the point that if one does not accept Machen’s explanation, and decides instead that there was either an event, or a belief in an event, then there are physical factors to be taken into account. There are strong arguments put involving the hallucinatory effects of extreme fatigue. I must agree with those who suggest that a combination of tiredness, discomfort and fear, prolonged over an excessive period, can effectively trigger an ASC (altered state of consciousness) of one type or another. This effect would be heightened among an interactive group, though oddly enough the ‘angel’ reports refer consistently to the sudden, almost surprise nature of the phenomenon. It is the ‘Bowmen’ reports, presumably of fictional origin, that stress the positive decision to seek supernatural intervention.

In the end, we all have our own thresholds of belief and acceptance, and responses to the Mons material will continue to vary, as they have already done for many years. So long as any conclusions are drawn on the basis of the breadth of the available source material, which I hope I’ve been able to present, I will have no strong reason to disagree with any of them.


I’ve included a good many references to newspapers and periodicals in the text, but I think it may be useful to collate details of books, booklets and pamphlets to which I’ve either referred while writing this account, or which I know exist, and are relevant, even though I’ve never seen them. I am indebted to the Imperial War Museum’s Booklist No. 1256A: The Angels of Mons, for several of these references, though even they have few of them in their library. I’ve marked with an asterisk the titles that I haven’t actually been able to find.

  • Altsheler, J.A. The Hosts of the Air: the story of a quest in the Great War. Appleton, London. 1915. *
  • Begbie, H. On the Side of the Angels. Hodder and Stoughton, London. 1915.
  • Campbell, P. Back of the Front. Newnes, London. 1915. *
  • Charteris, J. At G.H.Q. Cassell. 1931.
  • Churchwoman, A. The Chariots of God. Stockwell, London. 1915.
  • Corbett-Smith, A. The Retreat from Mons – by one who shared in it. Cassell. 1917. (An early personal account, which makes no mention of any strange or supernatural event).
  • Crosland, T.W.H. The Showmen: A Legend of the War. Laurie, London. 1915.
  • Garnier, Col. The Visions of Mons and Ypres: their meaning and purpose. R.Banks, London. 1915. *
  • Machen, A. The Bowmen and other Legends of the war. Simpkin Marshall, London. 1915.
  • Pearson, J.J. The Rationale of the Angel Warriors at Mons during the retreat and the apparitions at the battles of the Marne and the Aisne. Christian Globe, London. 1915. *
  • Phillips, A.F. and Thurston Hopkins, R. War and the Weird. Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co., London. 1916.
  • Shirley, R. Angel Warriors at Mons: an Authentic Record. Newspaper Publishing Co., London. 1915.
  • Stuart, R. Dreams and Visions of the War. Pearson, London. 1917. *
  • Taylor, I.E.  Angels, Saints and Bowmen at Mons. Theosophical Publishing Society. 1916.
  • Terraine, J. Mons. Pan. 1962.
  • Terraine, J. The Smoke and the Fire. Sidgwick & Jackson. 1980.
  • Warr, C.L. The Unseen Host – Stories of the Great War. Alexander Gardner, Paisley. 1916.

Thanks . . . are long overdue to many friends and fellow writers, who have contributed to this account in one way or another: particularly by remembering to send me the cuttings and references that have added so much to the variety of sources I have been able to provide. There are many others, but I must mention Michael Goss, Granville Oldroyd, Hilary Evans, Mark Valentine, Andy Roberts, Bob Skinner, Robert Rickard, and Eleanor O’Keeffe and the SPR. Most of them have probably forgotten just how much help they gave!

Kevin McClure 1994


Click on the cover images to order these books from Amazon

A Panorama of Ufological Visions
Peter Rogerson

From MUFON, new series 3, Summer 1976

When the last article I wrote for MUFOB was being written in the Autumn of 1973 a great wave was about to break in the USA. That wave at a time of great crisis, marked a turning point in our perception of the UFO phenomena. I look back on those days as the last days of innocence when one could believe that some simple, rational, explanation of the phenomena was possible. In the two and a half years since I have corresponded with a former doyen of ‘scientific ufology’ who believes that all intellectual speculation on the subject is pointless; with a ufologist who has faced Magonia, and perhaps seen behind its mask: with members of the ‘Invisible College’, and UFO researchers who feel there is an answer round the corner.

John Rimmer and I have spoken with a young woman who has encountered a UFO and its occupants in her bedroom, I have heard from a man who believes disc jockeys are reading his mind, and entered the boundary of a UFO flap area. I have spoken there with a ‘silent contactee’ to whom has been revealed the secrets of the Cosmos, which he may not reveal; listened to tales of miracles and poltergeists, of a young girl driven almost to suicide by the psychic impressions which overwhelm her.

Look at the films of the two years past: Earthquake, Towering Inferno, Jaws, The Exorcist – visions of a chaos to come. Who, in the days of innocence, would have believed that the whole of Western rationalist tradition could be threatened by a movie; or that a man could kill his wife, inspired by a medieval world view. In no sense can this dark artistic vision be separated from the matrix of folklore in which it is germinated. 1973 was the year of Uri Geller, that strange charismatic figure who set the spoons spinning, bent forks, and read minds. Geller incarnated our secret desires of omnipotence, the power to dominate things to our will, to liberate ourselves from the laws of physics – and other rules too? Uri was the voice of SPECTRA, the idiot computer god of our worst fears. The computer is god, the mad computer god rules our poor alienated lives. The game, the experiwent, the rat in the maze become the symbols of the new humanity “beyond freedom and dignity” in a universe where the ultimate secret is an absurd scientific formula.

As rats in the maze, Hickson and Palmer were imprisoned in the strange inhuman machine, where the all-seeing eye of God or Big Brother surveyed them. ‘Laboratory rats’ is what Dr Harder said, rats in the maze to be examined by the robots of the dark future.

And 1973 was the year of Bigfoot, the archaic force that resides in the recesses of our soul. He comes with the UFOs, too. The law of gravity is shattered, the dream laughs at us. Bigfoot comes with trickster god raven on his shoulder.

A new rumour arises, from Utah to Rhodesia – a young couple driving in some deserted place enter a strange shadow, where all the streets are deserted, strange figures prowl the landscape. The journey is into the badlands, a wasteland of the soul, where the sun never rises. The car behind you has no driver but eyes are on you. Or you find yourself in a strange alien landscape, the sky all wrong. A sort of machine speaks in your mind, telling of wonders untold. But no bird is in the sky, and no human figure to be seen.

The day of judgement is at hand, next year if not this. But we are the prophets, there is a paradise awaiting you in the hollow womb of mother earth, and you are the chosen ones.  The flood is coming, but we are the emissaries of the space brothers, say the two. Like the cosmic twins, they will lead the chosen ones to the new place of emergence, a paradise derived from a syncretistic vision of Kurt Vonnegut and L Ron Hubbard. Kurt Vonnegut – Slaughter House Five – remember Charles Manson. Rumour has it that some who follow The Two will never reach paradise, they lie beneath desert sand.

Helicopters fly the night sky, what do they carry – terrorists who will blow up our cities, foreigners who will take away our way of life; Russian agents who stir up trouble, or Satanists who will drink the blood of our cattle. Whatever, it bodes no good, fear is contagious. Maybe the greenies will come in time? Another rumour, the real reason that the Condon Committee failed: a strange being landed in a New Mexico airfield, and has already established communication with leading scientific and military figures. Yet another rumour: alien forces have already seized control of our centres of power, an outside force directs our history. Rumours, dreams of alienation and loss of control. Time is short, the clock on the wall of AVB’s spaceship has no hands. “What time is it” asks the spaceman. “2.30″, the witness replies. “You lie, it is 4.30″. “I know they’re spacemen”, says Cathie Ropers, “They touch their watches end the memories come back”. The evening is nearer than you think.

The poetry of the absurd: a ufologist hands round a photograph of a cog-wheel in a flower bed. A hoax? or unconscious art? Another ufologist has a photograph of a rock: “Can’t you see the faces on the rock?”. A strange metal sphere lands on a Yorkshire moor, inside is a scroll. By some magical means it is deciphered to reveal a pseudo-scientific cosmic scenario. A contactee is taken from a hilltop, shown around the solar system, then deposited at his back-door. A few years earlier he was a central character in a poltergeist case. He is levitated, a voice speaks through him: “I am monk who has left something undone.” Levitation and ascents to cosmic regions are traditional feats of the shaman; our contactee is a shaman and healer.

Ghosts walk through walls, poltergeists throw chairs. A giant flying saucer lands on a bridge, which spans a river haunted by a phantom ferry, near a road on which a white lady walks, and a phantom rider rides. The building is haunted, a shadow crosses a girls mind, the air goes cold. Like a shadow obscuring consciousness, a shadow across the sunlight.

We come from Kansas – everywhere, says the air-ship captain. Tomorrow Cuba. Cuba is fighting for the new world against the old, the future is coming, liberation is at hand. We are free, we can fly, we can drop bombs, napalm. The airship people are nice people, an old man, a couple and a child… or are they? They are talking about a new gun, 60,000 rounds a minute. They begin to look different: Japs, the Yellow Peril. Then they are very different, angels or devils, butchers. Perhaps that is not the road to freedom after all…

In the quiet of the country the ship of souls lands, Adam and Eve as they were before the fall. They are a celestial couple. Perhaps they are the sky father and the earth mother, a vision of the eternal counterpointing, the fall into chaos. The ship of souls comes from a unknown country – “The Mountains of Montezuma”, there is a hint of another liberation, ancient America is about to throw off its colonial history. “We are the lost tribes of Israel, we live at the South Pole”, a lost part of our humanity returns.

“I am from Venus”, says the visitor, the messenger from the morning and evening star, guardian of the boundary between night and day, the conscious and the unconscious. The watcher at the threshold is a symbol of transcendence. Only by transcending the gulf between the conscious and the unconscious aspects of the psyche can man find a solution, warns Jerome Clark. Otherwise the Dionysian aspects of our spirit will sweep aside our safe, rational world. Humanity is on the brink of a chasm, says Charles Muses… a flying saucer hovers above… our only home. “Do you want a lift?”

The vision of Fatima, the great Earth Mother, Isis, Pachemama the lady of the corn, lady of creation and destruction. The sun spins in the sky, falls to earth – a dance of fertility, the lord of heaven torn from his high place. Phaeton having lost control of the power that is beyond his cope. In the name of Fatima the armies march: Salazar, Franco, the Spanish Civil War, the Legions of the Virgin. In the name of Fatima the lords of misrule burn up Europe. In the name of Fatima the Ustasi of Croatia create to most barbaric regime in all history. As I write this I begin to wonder if the final “blessing” of Fatima will be the race war which may engulf all Africa.

I have a vision, says Idi Amin, I have had a call from Allah; a great mission has been entrusted to me, a UFO has landed on Lake Uganda; this is a confirmation of my mission. I know when I shall die, until that appointed hour I am indestructible.

“A great ball of fire came from the sky, it entered my body, then I saw all things clearly, as if from a great height. Thus I knew that I was to be a shaman”. The durne-fire, bringer of the gifts of tongues and healing, the beam of light which struck Uri Geller, or Edgar Cayce. “I saw a light through the wall – I was afraid ’cause I thought it was burglars, but they said they were from Christ”.

When I was a child of two I had a dream. I dreamt there was a sort of light on the wall and a voice was talking in my head. No memory remains of what was said, but I awoke in terror, and the vision had remained ever since.

When he was a young child the Polish medium, Iduski, retreated into a sort of tent made of household furniture. There a great mole came and initiated him into the mole-kingdom. When his playmates went with him into the tent/womb they heard strange knockings and voices.

Celia Green and Charles MoCreary have proposed a new theory of apparitions – not only is the apparition the hallucination, but so is the whole experience; they argue there is no essential difference between apparitional and ‘out of the body’ experiences.

A couple drive through Yorkshire. They see in the early hours a sort of glow in a field by the road. They stroll out to investigate. Only a few yards away is a huge cylinder, “like a melon”. Suddenly an opening appears, giving off a light “like a sustained photographers flash”. They run away end drive off. During this experience they noticed a strange thing, there was an absolute silence, no night sounds at all. This little-commented feature appears in UFO story after story.


By now many readers must he wondering what on earth all that was about. It was an attempt to define the scope of what the UFO phenomenon has become. I am not saying that the stories and extracts above are ‘true’ in the sense that the scientist in his laboratory uses the word. Rather they are of the truth which is expressed in myth, dream, art and poetry. I further argue that UFO researchers who debate as to whether a certain story is ‘true’ or ‘false’ are posing a false dichotomy. I think that hoax, ‘lies’, fiction, and dreams may contain on ocassion a ‘higher’ truth than historical reality. I will also argue that we should evaluate contact stories, for example, as naive art, rather than evidence for the intervention of space people, and that the failure to recognise this has lead greatly to the sterile acrimony surrounding the subject.

Thus those writers who burn up pages of ink on arguing as to whether the claims of such charismatic figures as Uri Geller or Arthur Shuttlewood are ‘true’ or ‘false’ are asking the wrong questions. The real questions we should be asking are: “What is the appeal of such people” and “What effects do the myth-dreams they weave have on us and our culture?”

For myself, I think that Charles Muses and Jerome Clark are correct, and that the UFO is a bridge across the chasm. Not in the literal sense that nice space people are going to rescue us, but in a symbolic sense. The UFO appears to be a symbol of the ‘transcendence of opposites’, the mediator between the consciousness and the unconscious aspects of our psyche. It offers a way out of the twin nightmares of either a sterile, soulless ‘scientific future’, or a return to barbarism that the success of The Exorcist and its imitators has shown to be possible.

I sympathise with those UFO researchers who argue that we must not dirty our hands with stories such as ‘The Two’, or the schoolboys who claim to have encountered monsters in deserted railway tunnels, (on the grounds that such stories bring ridicule on the subject) but I must reluctantly disagree with them. I am forced to the view that we should consider such subliminal rumours as constituting a core of the phenomenon.

A vision in the night; the playground rumours of schoolchildren; the dream of a seer, the songs of a folk-singer; the ravings of a mad-man; the adventures of Everyman, unbidden and fearsome, what can it all mean? The only guide left to us is the saying of a Bushman to Van der Post: “A dream is dreaming us”. Maybe we are both the Dreamer and the Dream?


Uri Geller

  • Puharich, A. Uri. Future, 1974
  • Ebon, M. The Amazing Mr Geller. Signet, 1975

Computer God

  • Dione, R L. God Drives a Flying Saucer. Corgi, 1975.

Rats in a Maze

  • Michel, A. in FSR, volume 20, no. 3.

Hickson & Parker

  • Blum, R & J. Beyond Earth. Bantam, 1974
  • Eszterjaz, J. in Rolling Stone January 17th 1974


  • Schwarz, B E. “Berserk”, in FSR 20, 1.
  • Gordon, Stan in Skylook 75,77,78.

Badlands Journey

  • Clark, J. “A weird encounter in Utah” in FSR 16, 5.
  • Van Vlierden, C. “Escorted by UFOs” in FSR, 21, 2.


  • MUFOB, 6,4.
  • Hall, Mark, in The News, number 7.


  • Vallée, J. Passport to Magonia. Regnery, 1969.
  • Vallée, J. The Invisible College. Dutton, 1975
  • Gemini, volume 1, number 1.


There are many sources for airship date. John Keel’s Operation Trojan Horse; Jacob’s UFO Controversy in America and Clark and Colman’s The Unidentified summarise most of the data.


  • Thomas, Paul. Flying Saucers through the ages.
  • Vallée, J. The Invisible College.
  • MUFOB, 4,2 has a bibliography.
  • There is a new study by J-M Corbe which I have not seen. Needless to say, none of these document the political repercussions of Fatima.


  • Eliade, M. Shamanism, archaic techniques of Ecstasy
  • De Martino, E. Magic, primitive and modern


  • Green, D and McCreery, C. Apparitions. Hamilton, 1975


  • Sanders, Ed. The Family.

I have not quoted directly from the above sources. The purpose of this piece was not reportage, but to create an impressionistic word-picture of the whole panorama of the UFO vision.


The Stranger in the City. Nigel Watson

Originally published in MUFOB New Series 14, Spring 1979

Messages from Beyond

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Early Psi Experiences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alien Intervention

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

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

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

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

The three figures are:


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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

In the same letter:

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

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


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

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

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

Later on in the letter he adds,

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

The Sun Maiden. Peter Rogerson

An examination of some mythological traditions, with relevance to contemporary ufology

From MUFOB volume 4, number 2, June 1971

Since the publication of Vallée’s Passport to Magonia there has been a growing awareness that the UFO phenomenon belongs to a wider context of events, that possess a deep mythological significance for the human species.

This myth may be summarised as a belief in a fabulous land inhabited by supernatural beings, who can and do intervene in the affairs of men. They may ‘take’ men and women to their land, as either mates or servants or to perform a special tasks. They may live among men for a time, but are eventually called back to their homeland, They can take an interest in the affairs of individuals, families or nations, either to aid or to harm. Above all they are powerful:

We could out off half the human race, but would not… for we are expecting salvation

a member of the gentry tells an Irish seer (1). For this reason they must be held in respect; one should not conduct oneself in an unseemly manner in their presence or in the places sacred to them. A belief which persists to this day:

I favour the idea that the watchers have to be somehow in tune with whatever controls UFOs before they will appear… preferably a small harmonious group should sit quietly and think about UFOs

writes Janet Gregory in Pegasus magazines in a recent discussion on skywatches (2) feeling that the general chit-chat and blaring transistor radios are an affront to the inhabitants of Magonia.

There are many intriguing strands of belief connected with the general myth of Fairyland, as John Rimmer has pointed out. (3) In many respects one of the most important of these myths is that of the divine maid, who can seduce men and take them to the unknown country, or as in the tales we shall explore in this article can impart to them messages of great import. This maiden is simultaneously a mermaid-nereid figure and a sun goddess. The sun is the origin of the archetype of the Mandala, (The radiance of the sun is seen as a symbol of spiritual wholeness) with which the UFO is so identified as is the Grail legend. (4) In this way we can trace a mythological line of profound importance.

In South Uist in the haunted Western Isles, tradition has it that on Easter Day from the peak of Ben More the sun can be seen to dance, to celebrate the Resurrection, according to the Christianised version of the legend, which in fact is far older, and must date from the days of sun worship. One Easter day a widow climbed the mountain to see for herself:

She said the sun came above the horizon a dazzling blaze of gold, and when it reached the crest of the great hills… it began to change colour green it became, then purple and red, a deep blood red and white, clear intense white, and at last white-gold, like the Glory of God Himself. And it was dancing, dancing up and down, stepping it from peak to peak, from hilltop to hilltop.

The price of this mystic vision, as with that extracted from those who see the enchanted secrets of Fairyland, is blindness


From this we are impelled towards the Fatima story (4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11). Here three peasant children [above] encountered in the Cova da Iria, a large creek, a celestial woman. It was the 13th of May, 1917 when, tending sheep, they saw a bright flash of light. then, near an oak tree a woman materialised in a globe of fire. According to the children:

“The wonderful lady looked young, Her dress white as snow and, tied to her neck with a gold band, wholly covered her body. A white cloak with a golden edge covered her head. Near her hands was a rosary of pearly grains. The face was circled by a golden halo.” (8)

The lady delivered a message, then departed in the luminous globe. Again on the 13th of June, 13th July and 13th September the lady reappeared to the children. By the 13th September a good crowd had gathered but only the children saw the lady, Some (but by no means all) saw an ‘aeroplane of light’ coming from and returning to the sun in the east, with strange flakes which dissolved when touched, dropped from the sky. The following month, the cumulation of this fantastic vision came the famous Dance of the Sun. At midday the sun came through the clouds, glowing with a clear brilliance. Suddenly it seemed to spin wildly, and as it did so it changed colour, yellow, green, blue, then deep blood-red, falling towards the earth, the temperature rising. Then suddenly the spell was broken, the sun was back in a cloudless sky. While this spectacle was taking place the lady again appeared to the children, giving them messages they had to deliver to the great ones of the world.

Only the children saw the lady; not all the crowd even saw the dance of the sun. (10) Something Which those who attribute the phenomena to electromagnetic spaceships have failed to account for. About this event Michell writes:

There is a sort of fairy-tale atmosphere about the whole story. The lady appears to have been one of those supernatural figures like the attendant of the Holy Grail who can appear to one person and be invisible to another. She revealed herself above or by a tree like the angels who visited Joan of Arc or like the legendary local goddesses of pre-Christian Portugal. (4)

It is well to bear these views in mind, for such visions occur outside the traditional religious setting. Two centuries before Fatima a strange rumour circulated in the France of Louis XIV. It concerned a wonderful apparition perceived by a Marechal Ferraut (12, 13). Riding home one evening through a dark forest in Provence, he passed a blasted oak. There he saw a strange light.

Between this tree and a sapling, the intervening space consisting of about a dozen yards, stood a tall figure absolutely still and apparently inanimate. It seemed at first to be shaped out of transparent cloud… However, rapidly becoming more and more substantial, It soon developed into a very beautiful woman. She was dressed in white, the most splendid jewels glittered on her arms and breasts and something like a tiara upon her lovely golden hair… (12)

A strange paralysis, such as that which affects UFO percipients, gripped him. The strange figure announced that it was the spirit of the King’s late wife. It commanded him to take a message to the King, This consisted in part of a message about an apparition the King himself had seen in the same forest thirty years before. He promised to deliver the message, under the most terrible threats. Yet Ferrault had greater fear of the King, and he was to encounter the apparition twice again before he carried out the mission. The King, it was said, paid him highly to keep his silence as to the full nature of the message.

The reader will already have seen the parallels with Fatima and other visions of Mary — the tree, the woman of awesome beauty the secret to the leaders. The differences too — the vision of the children is one of quiet beauty, that of the old warrior, awesome and possessing of a terrible power.

Midway in time between these two stories, there occurred in a Maine coastal village near Machiasport a strange vision which seems to create a link between the legends such as Fatima and those of modern psychic research, (14,15). Towards the end of August 1799 a strange voice was heard in the house of a sea captain, Paul Blaisdell, followed a few months later (in January 1800) by an apparition of a beautiful woman clad in brilliant white raiment, who floated’ just above the ground, claiming to be a Mrs George Butler (deceased) and summoned her ‘husband’ and ‘father’ to prove the point. The purpose of the visitations was to force George Butler to marry the captain’s daughter Lydia, a purpose which was eventually accomplished.

The descriptions of what happened during the period are incredible. The apparition herded large numbers of people into the Blaisdell’s cellar (On one occasion there were more than two hundred present,) and delivered sermons, interspersed with prophecies, all of which eventually came to pass. There is a description of one of these lectures. The writer, a young woman guest was awoken by knocks on the door and went to the cellar, where twenty people were already assembled:

“Then I heard a voice speaking… it was shrill, but mild and pleasant.” Then there appeared a shapeless mass of light, growing into the figure of a woman, which then passed between the ranks of the spectators, talking all the time. At last it became shapeless, “expanded everywhere” and then vanished in a moment. The Rev. Abraham Cummings, who published the case, (14) had an even more curious experience. Told of the apparition he was sceptical and went to see for himself:

About twelve rods ahead of him there was a slight knoll or rise in the ground, and he could see a group of white rocks on the slope, showing dimly against the dark turf… Two or three minutes later he looked up… One of those white rocks had risen off the ground, and had now taken the shape of a globe of light with a rosy tinge. As he went towards it ho kept his eye on it for fear it might disappears but he had not gone more than five paces when the glowing mass flashed right to where he was (and) resolved itself into the shape and dress of a woman, but small, the size of a child of seven. He thought, “You are not tall enough for the woman who has been appearing among us.” Immediately the figure expanded to normal size… and now she appeared glorious, with rays of light shining from her head all about, and reaching to the ground. (15)

Struck dumb by joy mingled with terror Cummings stood silent, the figure then faded. The world seemed dull, commonplace, compared to its glory, he later recorded.

The inhabitants of Magonia can change their shape at will: “They are shape changers, they can grow small or grow large; they can take what shape they may choose.” (16) There are parallels to these stories. The Waterdales, Northfleet, Kent, for example, where, in a bedroom, the ghostly figure of a small girl growing to the size of a woman was seen. (17) Again there is Warminster, a maelstrom of embryo mythologies where a member of Shuttlewood’s investigating team was ‘taken’ by tiny beings who grew to normal size, then reduced him, with themselves. (18) (The Sidhe take people body and soul thus transforming them into one of their own.) They returned him but he was never the same again, and began to waste away. In other days it would have been said he was a ‘changeling’, for the Sidhe never give up those they have taken.

Those who are taken go to Magonia itself, the enchanted world, located according to various cultures under the earth, or sea, in the sky, or on strange other worlds, Always it is the Shangri-La, just over the horizon, so near and yet so far Few will go willingly into this paradise, for once entered there is no return. So ‘they’ will take men by force, especially those who have offended against their code, or who have disturbed their secret places. One such tale of attempted kidnapping is told by

Elliot O’Donnell the well-known ghost hunter. (19) A relative of O’Donnell (Mr B.) was driving in his side-car once night along a road from Hospital to Ballynanty in Limerick, a route notorious as a haunt of the Sidhe. He had fallen drowsy when he was suddenly awakened by his driver-servant clutching hold of him:

The horse had come to a dead stop, and was standing still, shivering, whilst the roadside was crowded with a number of tiny shadowy figures that were surging round the car trying to drag the unfortunate drivers who was quite frantic with terror, from his seat. Mr B, however, concluding that what he saw could only be the fairies, of whose existence he had hitherto been very sceptlcal, seized the reins and urged the horse forward. Meanwhile his servant seemed to be still paralysed with fright, and it was not until they were well out of sight that the man found himself once again in possession of his tongue and normal faculties… Then he described what had befallen him… He was driving along quite all right, till the horse suddenly stopped, and when he looked down to see what was the cause of it, he perceived a crowd of fairies, who rushed at him, and tried to drag him off the car. He said their touch was so cold it benumbed him, but by praying hard he held on. The cause of the attack was apparent…

“It was all because we came on them, sir, when they were dancing. They won’t be disturbed when they are at their revels and enjoying themselves. Had they got me down into the road maybe I should have lost my sight or my hearing or the use of my limbs, and in any case my soul.” (19)

Had such a story been told today there would be no doubt that it would be interpreted as a ufonaut kidnapping attempt. It is equally true of course that in earlier times the adventure of Gustafsson and Rydberg for example (20) would have been seen as an attempt by the trolls or watermen to take humans to their underground home.

It is clear that the supposedly simple UFO phenomenon is in fact incalculably complex. Whatever pretty little theory we care to dream up never covers the whole spectrum of events. Pieces of the jigsaw do fall into place; it is evident for example, that the modern UFO legend is an integral part of an immensely old mythological tradition. some facets of which we have presented here. We may in fact regard the UFO as an archetypical symbol derived from the sun at one level of ‘reality’.

However this certainly is not the whole meaning behind the myth or the reality. Can we interpret the phenomenon as subjective? If so, can the human sub-conscious create such a complex hallucination, or would it have to be implanted by some extra-mundane intelligence, and what kind of mind could accomplish that, and for what purpose? If the phenomenon is objective even more questions seem to be raised, among the simplest being: how could any objective phenomenon be visible to only a limited number of people contiguous to one another. Certainly if the phenomenon is a result of the activities of an extra-mundane intelligence it is operating at a far more complex and subtle level than most exponents of the ETH are prepared to concede.



  1.  Evans-Wentz, W.Y. The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries, quoted in Jacques Vallée, Passport to Magonia, 1969.
  2.  Gregory, Janet. Letter to the Editor, Pegasus, vol.2, no.8.
  3.  Rimmer, John. ‘On the conceptual connection between fairies and UFO entities’, MUFOB, vol. 2, no.1.
  4.  Michell, John. Flying Saucer Vision, 1967, especially chapters 4, 5 and 6. The quotations are from chapter 5.
  5.  Swire, Otto F. The Outer Hebrides and Their Legends, 1966. Quotation from chapter 7.
  6.  Vallée, Jacques. Anatomy of a Phenomenon, 1966.
  7.  Thomas, Paul (i.e. Paul Misraki) Flying Saucers Through the Ages, 1965.
  8.  Ribera, Antonio. ‘What happened at Fatima?’, Flying Saucer Review, vol.10, no.2.
  9.  Inglefield, Gilbert. ‘Fatima: the three alternatives’, Flying Saucer Review, vol.10, no.3.
  10.  Paris, S. A. ‘Fatima again’, Flying Saucer Review, vol.12, no.1, letter to the editor,
  11.  Stearn, Jesse. The Door to the Future, 1964
  12.  O’Donnell, Elliot. Family Ghosts, 1965
  13.  O’Donnell, Elliot, Ghosts With a Purpose, 1963.
  14.  Cummins, Abraham, Immortality proved by Testimony of Sense, 1859. Quoted in:
  15.  Stevens, William, Oliver, Unbidden Guests, 1949
  16.  Gregory, Lady Augusta, Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland, 1920; quoted in ‘The UFO is alive and well and living in fairyland’, MUFOB, vol.3, no.6.
  17.  Sims, Victor, and George Owen. ‘the case of the haunted council house’, Sunday Mirror, November 20, 1961.
  18.  Shuttlewood, Arthur. Warnings from Flying Friends, 1968
  19.  O’Donnell, Elliot. Ghostland, 1925
  20.  Steiger, Brad. Strangers from the Skies, 1966

For a review of a more recent discussion of the Fatima phenomenon see: http://magonia.haaan.com/2008/god-and-the-sun-at-fatima-stanley-l-joki/ 

The books listed in bold above may be ordered from Amazon by clicking on the cover image here: