Sunday, November 19, 2017

AFU in the 1980s

In several blog entries I have presented the early history of AFU during the first formative years 1973-1979. Compared with the intensive and global activities of today the 1970s was a period of slow but gradual growth of the library, coupled with much discussion of the future development of our small informal working group. In March 1979 we decided to change the acronym AFU from Arbetsgruppen för ufologi (Working group for ufology) to Arkivet för UFO-forskning (Archives for UFO Research) and we also started publishing articles in English in AFU Newsletter.

By 1980, as several ufologists began donating books and magazines to our library, the international contacts increased and because of our new name, we realized that we couldn´t just function as an informal group. So in January 1980 AFU was registred as a formal foundation with a governing board and bylaws. But our greatest problem was lack of space as the entire library was housed in Kjell Jonson´s small one room apartment in Södertälje. Anders Liljegren succeeded in finding a 38 square meters basement facility in Norrköping and on November 15, 1980 the AFU library was transported to our new premises. Norrköping was chosen as our new headquarters for practical reasons. Anders had a steady job and the rent for the facility was reasonable. With our new premises AFU entered an era of continued expansion. From now on Anders Liljegren handled the day to day activities at AFU, after work and at weekends. Ufologist Sven-Olov Svensson, who lived nearby, began taking an active part in handling book loans, which then often were sent by mail.

Anders Liljegren and Kjell Jonsson relaxing in my apartment in Sundbyberg after discussions about the future of AFU, August 18, 1980

GICOFF, Göteborgs informationscenter för UFO (Gothenburg UFO Information Center) was the first research oriented UFO organization in Sweden, founded in 1969, one year before the founding of UFO-Sweden. GICOFF was headed by Sven-Olof Fredriksson and Björn Högman and performed high quality field investigation and documentation in the 1970s. The group ceased activity in 1978 and in 1981 the GICOFF archive was donated to AFU.

Sven-Olof Fredriksson

By 1983 the library consisted of 1163 titles and the need for a specialized cataloguing system became evident. Anders Liljegren created the first version of UfoCode, later updated to the more inclusive PhenCode, the library classification system presently used by AFU.

A happy Anders Liljegren at the new AFU headquarters 1983

In May 1984 I terminated my work as librarian at Stockholm Public Library and moved to Norrköping, beginning a career as freelance journalist. We were now three active ufologists in Norrköping engaged in keeping AFU going. New board member from this year was journalist Clas Svahn, active in ufology since 1974. During the 1980s he lived with his wife in Luleå, in the northern part of Sweden so his visits to AFU was not so frequent. But we had now installed a copy machine and telephone in our facility which made communication easier.

In 1985 Anders bought the first AFU computer at a cost of incredible 50,000 SEK, a very large amount of money at that time, all from his own savings. With this computer Anders built our first database, ScanCat, with Swedish UFO reports. Statistical analysis now became much easier and an important research tool. In the Autumn of 1985 the vast archive of the publishing House Parthenon was donated to AFU, collected by a.o. Carl-Anton Mattson and me at Hälsingborg.

Proudly displaying some of the magazines at AFU 1985

1986 was in several ways a year of sadness. On February 28, 1986 Edith Nicolaisen, founder of Parthenon, died. By a strange coincidence this was the same day that Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme was assassinated in Stockholm. On April 30, 1986 our friend and AFU co-founder Kjell Jonsson died during a heavy attack of asthma. We had noticed his health becoming increasingly frail but his early death was still a chock to us. Kjell was in many respects the man who created AFU as a library and archive institution. On the positive side 1986 was the year when AFU joined UFO-Sweden as an affiliate group and could officially be recognized as the archive unit of our national organization.

Kjell Jonsson at the old AFU library in his home, August 1977

If 1986 was a year of grief, 1987 proved to be quite the opposite. In 1987 Sven-Olov Svensson made the historical decision to quit his ordinary work at a local firm and engage in full time volunteer service at the then rather small AFU office. Truly a gift from heaven for a non-profit but growing foundation. And he is still with us today.

Sven-Olov Svensson, June 1988

In 1987 Anders Liljegren and Clas Svahn had been allowed to copy the entire UFO archive at The Swedish Defence Research Institute (FOI), former name FOA. We could now create a large national UFO report archive, merging reports from FOA, GICOFF, UFO-Sweden, AFU and other Swedish sources.

Interviewing Whitley Strieber at Hotel Diplomat, Stockholm, October 11, 1988

In an earlier blog entry I have detailed the very happy ending in our efforts to save the archive of pioneer Swedish ufologist Gösta Rehn. In August 1989 Anders Liljegren and I succeeded in rescuing his entire correspondence file from being dumped in a container. This was also the year when Clas Svahn and Anders Liljegren published their groundbreaking research and documentation of the famous Domsten abduction case of December 19, 1958. After years of meticulous investigation they could prove that this classic abduction and contact claim was a hoax, inspired by the Tom Trick science fiction series published in a Swedish magazine. Their motive was simply fame and money. The Domsten study is serious research-oriented ufology at its best and a prime example of what can be achieved by having an extensive archive as a research base. 

Anders Liljegren, Åke Franzén and Sven-Olov Svensson at AFU May 30, 1989

For AFU the 1980s was a decade of consolidation and implementation of several research and documentation projects. A further development from being a simple UFO lending library to an international UFO, Fortean and paranormal archive.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

AFU and UFO Research

”Too much of a good thing can be  wonderful”. This classic aphorism from actress May West is actually a very apt description of the present state - and problems - of AFU. The ”too much of a good thing” is the avalanche of archives from all over the world that has been donated to us, especially during the last two or three years. ”Wonderful”, of course, but it has also resulted in several, initially not expected, problems and even in some ways been detrimental to our own private research efforts and AFU´s general promotion of UFO research. I became acutely aware of this dilemma a couple of days ago upon receiving an email from my AFU colleague Anders Liljegren who described his growing frustration at the present mission impossible situation at AFU.

Where to find space for this collection? Anders Liljegren July 1, 2009

Here are a few quotes from Anders´ letter summarizing some of the current problems:

"What is an archive without ordered files?  Without the good order and a long-time plan for how to handle mega-large collections (such as from FSR, CFI, CEI and BSRA), AFU cannot survive as an idea. The daily work at AFU is extremely dependent on my own involvement and knowledge of the materials and its background(s). Every day I have a steady stream of questions from our five employees and another five or ten of our volunteers.

The goal is to have a good and sensible control over how the AFU files develop, to establish routines and maybe new cross-collection files and indexes that helps us and the researcher.
Decisions must be made on how to arrange files and where to keep them (in any of our thirteen facilities). Processes going on must be checked for quality so that we are sure that the end result will be good preserved files in a workable order for the future.

Anders hard working at the Evans library, November 16, 2010

Digitalization is an important point here, but cannot be allowed to control the whole process. First comes a good order to paper and media files, after that we can talk about digitization of small selected parts which are deemed of high interest to a fairly large number of customers world-wide. Digitization of the holdings of the full contents of any archive is considered unrealistic fantasies even by major archive institutions. And such institutions ought to have resources that AFU will never come to have.
Spending time and resources on engaging unemployed people, like we have done during the past seven - eight years is not profitable to the AFU foundation, unless we are, somehow, paid for doing this. Between 2009 and 2016 AFU had good income from putting many unemployed people on projects to order and digitize simple collections. This good income is no longer in place.

There may have been some 50 different persons with us during this period. The energy spent to organize all this has been worth the while mainly because we had more than 6 million SEK coming into the foundation as direct and indirect support from the Swedish government.
This has never happened to any private ufo-related project before, anywhere in the world. Not even with funding from rich private patrons. If I had had the 6 million SEK directly in my hands I would have found much more effective ways of organizing our work than to run-around instructing or trying to motivate people who have been out of the regular job market for 10-20 years.

We have hundreds of large and small “forgotten” heaps of papers in almost every corner. Some of these documents may be of great importance if they are filed in a researchable framework (by subject, by organization, by date). Now they are not. Another example: A good part of 2017 I have spent on going through and checking parts of our magazine store. Week-long projects where I have dived into the mags from country-after-country, checking up shelf contents and comparing with my database. Often re-filing the mags into new and better folders or acid-free boxes to preserve them better. That work will have to continue; there are still many countries to work on.

Together with Anders, reviewing the BSRF archive August 2, 2016

 In the period 2012-2016 I had three different men working with this filing of magazines from all over the world. I could do introductions working with each for about a week and continued routine checks on their work. In hindsight I now discover that many magazines have been misplaced in all corners of the store and much previous work has/had to be re-done. Last week we found a good batch of Norwegian mags in a box of Danish mags while the Danish that should have been there were missing. Mags published from Spain are routinely found on our South American shelves – and vice versa. Magazines in English have routinely been filed as American.

Absolutely no shade should fall on those kind and well-meaning people who worked for us, they were maybe just ignorant or didn’t dare to ask? Anyway, these are but small examples of all the problems that should be corrected before AFU continues to accept new collections at the “avalanche” rate of speed we have had during the past ten years.”

These are but some of the present AFU problems discussed by Anders Liljegren. What we really need now is a large intermediate storage facility where incoming collections can be placed awaiting to be reviewed and catalogued. But as of now we simply do not have the money to hire premise no 14. More sponsors are needed. We do not want to say no to donors of archives. It is better to have archives stored at AFU than dumped or scattered on many hands.

Clas Svahn with a unique sign donated to AFU, October 21, 2012

 March 17, 1973 is the official founding date of AFU. We were three young ufologists, inspired by Jacques Vallee and John Keel, critical of the prevalent ETI information ideology in the Swedish UFO community. Instead we wanted to concentrate on research and documentation. In the information sheet sent out we motivated our point of view partly with a quote from Jacques Vallee´s Passport To Magonia:
”There is a tendency among the believers to gather into large, very formal organizations, whre they waste all there energy and, sometimes, a good deal of money, with practically no visible result. It is clear that such organizations answer a psychological need rather than a genuine desire to discover the answer to an interesting intellectual problem. Maintaining such a group implies a tremendous overhead… and experience shows that research is always tha last activity it can afford. Instead, these groups generate so much internal bitterness and so many interorganizational feuds that they prove to be serious obstacles to independent researchers who are simply trying to get firsthand data and do not care to support one particular personality or theory against another.” (p. 158)

In a certain sense we are today back at square one as in 1973. We have very little time to spend on personal research projects as the avalance of archives donated to AFU takes most of our time. Especially is this the situation for Anders Liljegren who often spend more than eight hours work at the archive, taking care of the day-to-day routines. Sometimes too much of a good thing can be complicated.


Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Meade Layne - Roger P. Graham Correspondence

Readers of my blog are aware of that in the Summer 2016 the very extensive archive of Borderland Sciences Research Foundation (BSRF) was donated to AFU. As my colleague Anders Liljegren is working hard to get the Flying Saucer Review (FSR) archive in order we decided that I concentrate my time and efforts on the BSRF archive. This is a huge undertaking and it will probably take me at least one or two years of concentrated work to get all the files reviewed and organized.

Studying with the BSRF collection

As the work proceeds I plan to regularly present interesting data from the archive on my blog. For an archive aficionado like me it is exceedingly fascinating to delve into the files and folders of this unique collection of material. In one of the folders I found a treasure trove of old letters. Correspondence between Meade Layne and science fiction writer Roger P. Graham (Rog Phillips) covering the period July 1946 – January 1948. So far I have found 60 letters. 12 from Meade Layne and 48 from Roger P. Graham. What is especially unique with this collection is that it gives behind the scenes information and comments during the early days of the UFO era and insights into the founding years of BSRF. The correspondence is of special interest to ufologists, Forteans, esotericists, investigators of paranormal phenomena and of course to fans and historians of science fiction.

Meade Layne

Roger P. Graham (1909-1966) was an American science fiction writer, often using the pseudonym Rog Phillips. During his active years he used more than twenty different pseudonyms. Graham became a full time writer after World War II. In 1946 he moved together with his wife to Evanston, Illinois to work for Ray Palmer´s Amazing Stories. They became close friends and Graham received first hand knowledge of the controversial Maury Island incident. He also developed a close friendship with Meade Layne, whom he visited several times at his home in San Diego, California. There is much information on the internet about ”Rog Phillips” as a science fiction writer but nothing is mentioned of  his deep interest in spiritualism, esotericism and paranormal phenomena. The quotes and comments I present here from his correspondence with Meade Layne gives an deeper insight into Graham´s spiritual quest, his theories and writings.

Roger P. Graham

The first letter found in the Layne-Graham correspondence file is a long (five pages) undated letter with much personal information from Meade Layne, written in June or July 1946. It is a reply to Graham´s introductory letter: 
”Your letter is unusual, and interesting, and very welcome. As you know, I just don´t and can´t write long letters except on very rare occasions. I am writing one to you for the same reason you wrote to me – because I want to.”

Graham´s first letter must have struck a deep chord in the 25 years older Meade Layne. In fact this long, personal letter was so unusual that Riley Crabb printed the entire text with comments in Round Robin. The Journal of Borderland Research, vol. 31, no. 2, March-April 1975. The reason was that in this letter Meade Layne stated much of the purposes and principles of Borderland Sciences Research Associates and he also was unusually open minded regarded his own life:
”A few words about myself, since you have given me considerable insight into your ways of thought. I´m not a scientist or mathematician. I have an earned Doctorate in philosophy, tho the thesis for the degree was actually done in comparative literature. I taught in various colleges and universities, also in high schools for several years. So, I´m only an academician who has strayed into borderland sciences and psychic research… My occult background is in what is called esoteric Qabalism – which is no child´s play, I assure you”

The affinity was obviously mutual as in his reply Graham wrote:
”You know, I think I like you very much. I like your not having a religious organization to rake in the suckers money with. I like your attitude. I am only thirty-six and just starting out in life in many ways.” (Letter to Meade Layne, July 13, 1946).

Graham had because of his move to Evanston been influenced by the ideas of Ray Palmer and studied the complicated channeled ”Bible” Oahspe, a favourite of Palmer. Although Graham kept an open mind he was by this time more of an agnostic and soon entered a kind of student – teacher relation with Meade Layne, who was an erudite esotericist and former member of Dion Fortune´s The Society of the Inner Light:
”Then, if we are really immortal as phenomena strongly indicates, we will at least have gained a start in the right direction by the time we cast off this body. It is much better to die not believing anything, and with a well ingrained system of analysis, than to die believing a mass of phantasies and exalted theories based on meaningless words.” (Letter to Meade Layne, August 28, 1946).

Inspired by his new correspondent Graham began reading classics like The Mystical Qabalah by Dion Fortune and The Secret Doctrine by Helena P. Blavatsky. These studies resulted in a manuscript for an article, Existence, A Discussion, which he sent for publishing in Round Robin:
”The general trend of modern study and research is to bring the supernormal into the fold of the normal and the understood. This trend should be accompanied by a serious attemp to clarify terms, and weed out the obsolete and discredited meanings, either by coining new words and restricting their meanings, as is done in mathematics, or by specific definition and tabulation of terms… Another example, to many people soul and spirit are synonimous terms. To me the soul is the vehicle, the permanent, material vehicle of the spirit.” (Quote from manuscript enclosed with letter to Meade Layne, October 30, 1946).

Coming from a beginner in esoteric studies this was certainly very insightful comments on the problems encountered when trying to understand Theosophy or the Qabalah of Dion Fortune. In his manuscript Graham tried to formulate Hylozoism, that all matter have consciousness, a basic concept in esotericism and also criticize the abstruse terminology used, usually a stumbling block to understand what the author is talking about. Both these problems have, in my view, been brilliantly solved by the Swedish esotericist Henry T. Laurency.

Surprisingly Meade Layne appears to have misunderstood Graham on these points and declined to publish the article. In his reply he wrote:
”Since you are a friend of mine, (and I wish to be yours), I suppose I can criticize your article rather freely… On several points I feel that you are misinformed. I don´t know of any serious study being made, to determine whether astral bodies are material. So far as I know, no one in the whole history of occcultism ever denied that they are material. All informed spiritualists understand that matter. All the five vehicles of the Theosophical teaching are ”material” – finer grades of matter” (Letter to Roger P. Graham, November 22, 1946).

In a letter written in January 1947 Graham gives a rather uncanny ”prediction” regarding future conflicts between nations:
”One of my definite convictions is that we will not ever have a war with Russia. Another is that the next war, which will not come for many years yet… will be between Christianity and Islam, - a federation of Moslem states which is not yet completely crystalized, against Europe, and opened by the moslems.” (Letter to Meade Layne, January 19, 1947).
There is no information about how he arrived at this conclusion, which certainly is something to consider looking at todays political and religious clashes. Churchill gave his famous Iron Curtain speech at Fulton, Missouri in March 1946 so speculation of a war with Russia would have been more logical. And the Middle East conflict resulting from the founding of Israel didn´t begin until 1948.

After the Kenneth Arnold sighting June 24, 1947 Graham made these comment in two of his letters:
”Your card came this morning. Also the morning newspaper which looks like an edition of the Shaver mystery, with people lost in caves, and flying pie plates seen all over the United States. What a world!” (Letter to Meade Layne, July 5, 1947)
”The note just received on the saucers is interesting. Of course you have now read the army interpretation. To accept it means calling a lot of people who are undoubtedly reliable and experienced in observation, with the added advantage of being in a plane at the time, of being outright liars.” (Letter to Meade Layne, July 10, 1947).

Working with Ray Palmer it was only natural that Graham would also become involved in the controversial Maury Island incident of June 21, 1947. He makes several interesting comments on this case in his letters to Meade Layne:
”Am wondering how you got hold of the information? Here´s the dope of it.Working out of Tacoma Washington is a tug boat outfit or some kind of boat outfit (not sure of the type). One of the men on this wrote Ray that about twenty tons of stuff fell from the sky, - not necessarily from a flying saucer, since he didn´t see where it fell from. He sent Ray about five pounds of the stuff. I took a small piece and subjected it to a few tests. It is an oxide of some kind. It has a high electrical resistance indicating that it may be the oxide of some metal. Heat did not affect it in any way, though I did not have facilities for intense heat. It looks like hard coal, but fifteen minutes over a gas flame turned the edges of it white hot without any signs of burning, so it isn´t coal. It is heavy and black coming in pieces with glistening black surfaces and from large sheets, apparently, that are about an inch thick.” (Letter to Meade Layne, July 26, 1947).

”The FBI called on Ray Tuesday and grilled him, trying to get him ”confess” that he started the flying saucer stuff as a hoax to increase circulation. That after the official army announcement that it is a hoax and all investigation of it has been dropped. Oh yeah?... The FBI entertains the idea that Arnold, under the pay of Ray, took the stuff up and dumped it from a plane. (At least twenty tons of it!)… Ray believes the flying saucers are here to prevent another war, and that a war cannot be fought so long as they are in the sky and not accounted for. (Letter to Meade Layne, August 14, 1947).

”Ray plans to send you some of the sworn statements for your files as soon as he gets through with them. In that way they will not all be in one basket. The F.B.I. has their eyes on him, and if they knew of the plans we have they would stop them, because the saucers are squelched now in the news. They exist and the government knows they exist, but doesn´t want that known to the public.” (Letter to Meade Layne, September 6, 1947).

Ray Palmer

Whatever is the reality regarding the Maury Island case, these statements from Graham must be one of the first assertions that the government is covering up the truth about the flying saucers. Interesting is also Ray Palmer´s belief that the saucers are here to prevent war on planet earth. A view very much different from Richard Shaver´s dark visions, also presented by Ray Palmer.

In several blog entries I have written about Millen Cooke, who wrote the remarkably prophetic article Son of the Sun in Ray Palmer´s magazine Fantastic Adventures, November 1947. From the letters of Roger P. Graham I learned that he actually was a good friend of Millen Cooke. This was a fascinating co-incidence as I have tried to find more data on Millen Cooke from various sources, without much success. Graham introduced her to Meade Layne in 1947 and she became a member of BSRA, writing several articles for Round Robin. That she was an intriguing woman is attested by Graham in one of his letters:
”Anent Millen Cooke, I can´t say that I ”know” anything. Everything up to and including the present moment convinces me that she is a genuine adept without very many illusions. The thing that counts is that she is completely honest and reliable in her utterances, and also very cautious about them. She has asked me about you and your policy, and that was the reason I had you send her RR, so she could find out. (Letter to Meade Layne, December 28, 1947).

Roger Graham gave regular and generous economic support to Meade Layne for the printing of Round Robin, The Flying Roll and the Seance Memoranda from the Mark Probert seances. Graham sometimes participated in these sessions and in several letters they discuss the origin and validity of the persons (The Inner Circle) coming through Probert. Graham presented different theories but eventually came to the conclusion ”that the phenomena through Mark are genuine, and that there is no faking, conscious or subconscious, involved”. (Letter to Meade Layne, January 13, 1948). One theory that neither Meade Layne nor Roger Graham seems to have considered is that the names of the Inner Circle members could have been personas, fictional characters used by a secret lodge to hide their real identities.

The sixty letters between Meade Layne and Roger P. Graham 1946-1948 are historically important source documents that give in-depth knowledge of the first years of the UFO era and the personal lives and views of the fascinating writers and researchers of that time.