”I don´t think I have ever seen so much UFO material in one place – and so well-organized as well.” Hilary Evans in the AFU Guest Book, October 7, 1996.
Hilary Evans visiting AFU, October 7, 1996
One of the most extensive collections of unique books and magazines ever donated to AFU arrived at our premises in Norrköping, Sweden on December 13, 2010. We were celebrating our annual festivity on Saint Lucy´s Day with coffee, mulled wine and gingerbread when a truckdriver from Schenker called and said he was waiting for us to unload some pallets. The AFU staff put on their Winter clothes and walked up to the lorry and were met with a sight the like we have never encountered before. In the snow stood eleven pallets with 235 large and heavy boxes. Luckily we were ten AFU people who helped carrying these boxes. But it was a tough job in the snow and icy stairs down to our basement premises.
Unloading the Evans collection, December 13, 2010
Håkan Landin working hard in the snow
Sven-Olov Svensson carrying a heavy box filled with books and magazines
The boxes contained more than 9.000 books and thousands of rare magazines from all over the world. This superb collection was donated by Hilary and Mary Evans from London. We are honoured och proud that AFU was chosen as the custodian of this immensely valuable collection, covering subjects like UFO, Forteana, folklore, parapsychology, paranormal phenomena, ancient mysteries, mysticism, Esoterica and a host of other subjects. Mary Evans died in 2010 and Hilary in 2011 but I hope that from their celestial spheres they are satisfied with our work to preserve this important heritage, now housed in the Evans Library at AFU. For a more detailed presentation of our work together with the Evans couple read AFU chairman Clas Svahn´s inspiring obituary written on the day of Hilary Evans´ death July 27, 2011.
The Evans Library at AFU
When Hilary Evans visited AFU on October 7, 1996 my colleague Anders Liljegren and I made an interview that was only published in UFO-Sweden´s magazine UFO-Aktuellt, no 3, 1997, and only in an abbreviated version. But so far this interview has never been published in English. I wish to share a transcription of the complete interview as today it is of historical interest. Hilary Evans was a skeptic regarding UFO phenomena, advocating the Psycho-Social Hypothesis, but he represented skepticism at its best, open-minded and positive towards all kinds of research.
Interviewing Hilary Evans at AFU, October 7, 1996
Håkan Blomqvist (HB): Could you start by telling something about yourself, your background, history?
Hilary Evans (HE): Well, the most important thing about me from the point of view of ufology is that I am not really a ufologist. I come from a background of paranormal phenomena in general. I was a member of the council of the Society for Psychical Research and I resigned because I was to busy. Basically my interest is in all kinds of phenomena and it was only then I discovered that UFOs were a very special kind. The reason why they are special is that everybody are so interested in them and because of that there are many conferences, many publications. The witnesses to UFO phenomena are more accessible than witnesses to other kinds of phenomena such as ghosts, apparitions. It is not easy to find somebody who has seen the Virgin Mary, but I have in fact met a friend of mine who saw the Virgin Mary many times, but that was very unusual. But to find somebody who has been taken aboard an alien spacecraft is not difficult at all. They are only too happy to come and tell you about their experiences.
HB: Ok, let´s go back again. When were you born, what year?
HE: A very long time ago 1929. I see you want basic facts.
HB: Yes, I´m very fact oriented.
HE: Good, ok I was born on the 6th of March 1929. I went to Cambridge University where I studied Literature. I did my military service in the Palestine police and after the university I took a job in advertising, in publicity and others, my occupation for 15 years I suppose. Then we started the Picture Library at the same time as I was working in publicity. Little by little the Picture Library took over my house and now it´s my full time job. I still think of myself as a writer first and a librarian second. But in fact the librarian part of my life takes up 90 percent and that leaves me very little time for writing. I would like to make a change in that but I can´t. I don´t have the time.
HB: What started your interest in the first place?
HE: Oh, I can tell you that very easily. When I was, I suppose, fifteen or sixteen I was sent to take an examination in another town, to Cambridge. I went away from school to Cambridge and I had to stay in the college while I took the scholarship examination. It was the first time I had been on my own, a young boy, and they gave me some money to spend for my expenses. And I was the kind of boys if you had some money you spend it on books. Immediately I was given this money I went to one of the big bookshops in Cambridge and bought a lot of books. I bought books on all kinds of things, the history of education, history of the symphony. One of the books I bought was about the paranormal.
HB: Do you remember what book it was?
HE: Yes, it was the Personality of Man by G.N.M. Tyrrell. It was published by Penguin Books, a paperback. And for the first time I heard about this extraordinary world of anomalous events. My parents hadn´t told me about it, my teachers hadn´t told me about it. Nobody had told me about it, that there exists telepathy and ESP and psychic phenomena and things like that.
HB: Nothing in the background?
HE: You have to remember I am talking about a very long time ago. Today you see we all take these things for granted. I will tell you something that illustrates this very well. In this new book that I am proposing, that you are going to contribute to, Dennis is going to write the introduction and I am going to write the epilogue. He will present some kind of history of the phenomenon and I going to try to make sense of it from a sociological point of view. And I started thinking about this and it suddenly occurred to me that, one thing I will say is, most of the people who read this book will not be able to remember a time when there not was such thing as a flying saucer. You two are young enough. Probably you never remember a time when nobody had heard of flying saucers. But in fact there was such a time and it wasn´t all that long ago. It was fifty years, when these things were created in a sense in the imagination as a phenomenon you could write books about.
HB: You started becoming interested in paranormal phenomena?
HE: Yes I was interested in paranormal phenomena but most of the time I was to busy at work that I could take any active part. Then in the 1960s I suppose I said, now this is ridicolous if I wait until I have enough time I will waite forever because I will never have enough time. That is when I joined the SPR and started playing a more active part. I was very shy about involving myself becasue I thought I know nothing about it. Here are people who are scientists and doctors and psychologists. They know all these things. I don´t know anything. In the beginning I was very diffident. Until after a bit I realized that in fact they don´t know anything either.
Anders Liljegren and Hilary Evans, October 7, 1996
Anders Liljegren (AL): You haven´t experienced anything yourself?
HE: No, but I´m convinced that things like precognition and telepathy occur. Because I´ve had a little examples of that myself. But I´ve never seen an apparition. I´ve seen things in the sky I can´t explain but I don´t think I´ve seen an extraterrestrial spacecraft.
HB: You said you started being active in SPR and psychic research?
HE: I was a member of that and I realized that flying saucers in all their various aspects presented a very special case of paranormal phenomena because they were accessible.
HB: But you still regard them as paranormal phenomena?
HE: Yes, in a sense, but my definition of paranormal is not supernatural. It´s many things we can´t explain. So its beyond normal. It´s something outside the consensus terms. But it doesn´t mean to say that it is a mystical explanation. I´m not a materialist either but I wouldn´t say that any of these things is outside science. I think that science will find a explanation for telepathy and (inaudible). I´m convinced they occur and am convinced scientists are being stupid. Take spontaneous combustion for instance. I am one hundred percent convinced that spontaneous combustion takes place in spite of what the Skeptical Enquirer or whatever is saying. Because I think the evidence is so strong. I think that science is very much at fault to deny such a things becuase it is a phenomenon that actually occurs, like the crop circles takes place, whether they are hoaxes or they are real is another matter. They occur and to deny that they occur is ridiculous.
In the end of the 1970s there was announced a conference in Salzburg, I think it was 1979, organized by some Italian people. It was on the subject of encounters and abductions and I thought this really is interesting. You may laugh, but I very nervously wrote to the Italians who were organizing it saying I would be very interested to attend and hoped I could present some views of my own. At that point all I had been to was one or two congresses but just a member of the audiences listening. I was trying to make up my mind. I felt very flattered, he said yes we would be very glad to hear what you have to say. I went along and it wasn´t a big public thing, all by invitation just in a hotel outside Salzburg and I suppose there were a maximum of thirty people all sitting around a table. It wasn´t a hall with rows. It was more like a big conversation. Alwin Lawson was there and that was the beginning of my friendship with him and one or two people from France. I decided to go by car from England to Salzburg so I drove through France to meet some French ufologists. And that´s when I met with (inaudible), Jacques Scournaux, Claude Maugé and that crowd, all very skeptical. That was the time of the Cergy-Pontoise case and one of the people there was Michelle Piccin. He was investigating this case. It was very interesting what he had to say. So I met all these very interesting, very skeptical people and then I went to Salzburg and met people like Alwin Lawson whose theories are very interesting. He told us about the imagery abductee experiments that he had done. And I realized that there was in ufology a kind of a, not exactly a secret college, Invisible College, but something like that. There were a number of people like myself who were on the whole very skeptical, but at the same time who believed that there were some very genuine questions which needed to be answered. So I identified myself very much with this group of people and as a result it gradually extended to that I have friends and acquaintances, people I´ve never met but who I corresponded with over the years and gradually built up a sort network and I think it is the same for all of us. . We are not ufologists in the classic American sense but we form a kind of Invisible College of people who are not concerned with selling books or making money. We are concerned with establishing the truth. I don´t write books to make money. The amount of money I get is nothing. I like books in order to express myself so that people can read me and they can disagree with me or agree with me.