Sunday, August 25, 2019

The Cultural Impact Of The Contactee Movement

One of the failures of the scientifically oriented ufologists of the 1950s and 60s was neglecting to thoroughly investigate and document the first generation contactees and their experiences. By dismissing them all as charlatans and mystics lots of interesting empirical data was lost. But mainstream ufologists also neglected or didn´t recognize another important aspect of the contactee era. The core contactee movement as represented by a.o. George Adamski, Orfeo Angelucci, George Van Tassel, Daniel Fry and Howard Menger actually represented a unique and positive cultural impulse and a philosophy of hope for a whole generation of humanity. They advocated a philosophy in accordance with the Esoteric Tradition, the third intellectual force or pillar i cultural history alongside science and religion.

Open minded contactee research was not regarded as scientifically respectable by the early UFO-organizations like APRO and NICAP. Neither was the message of the core contactee movement regarded as anything of value by these groups. In The Gods Have Landed religious scholar J. Gordon Melton summarize this general view of the contactees: ”That such people began to populate the gatherings of flying saucer buffs became a concern of many who proceeded to condemn them as kooks or dismiss them as the lunatic fringe. There were few who saw any value in what the contactees, as they came to be known, had to say. They were an embarrassment to sober research into the unusual aerial phenomena called unidentified flying objects.” (p. 1).

This very negative assessment of the contactee movement was also reflected in the academic world. In his 1976 doctoral thesis The UFO Controversy in America, historian David Michael Jacobs wrote: ”This group was completely different from the psychologically aberrant individuals who, apparently because of mental problems, had delusions of communicating with extraterrestrial beings. These people often claimed to receive signals from outer space or to have mystical encounters with spacemen. Their experiences did not constitute deviations from their daily lives, and their stories usually were incoherent, inconsistent, or part of a pattern of psychical or occult experiences. Like the first group, these people generally did not seek publicity or fabricate hoaxes intentionally. The contactees represented an entirely different type of UFO witness. They exhibited behavior consistent with the assertion that they fabricated hoaxes… The five major contactees who rose to national stardom in the 1950s were George Adamski, Truman Bethurum, Daniel Fry, Orfeo Angelucci, and Howard Menger.” (p. 96, pocket edition).

The contactee movement of the 1950s was of course of a very mixed quality. It housed a plethora of more or less bizarre cult figures like George King, founder of the Aetherius Society and Ruth and Ernest Norman who in 1954 founded Unarius Academy of Science. And then we had the many mediums who jumped on the bandwagon and instead of channeling orientals and relatives from the spirit world changed to messages from space people. In a letter to George Adamski, written soon after Flying Saucer Have Landed was published in 1954, esotericist Desmond Leslie wrote: ”I don´t know what has happened , George, but all the mediums have suddenly disposed of their Indian guides, etc., and have replaced them with space people traveling in Vimanas.”

As very few mainsteam ufologists cared to investigate the early contactee claims they also failed to notice the positive cultural impact from the core contactee movement. Daniel Fry founder of Understanding, Inc. 1955 expressed the aim of his organization in these words in various leaflets: ”Understanding is a non-profit organization dedicated to the propagation of a better understanding among all the peoples of the earth, and of those who are not of earth.” In a later brochure the purpose was somewhat expanded: ”Understanding, Inc. is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the propagation of a better understanding among all the peoples of the earth so that they may live in harmony and be better prepared psychologically and sociologically for the space age. It is made up of many types of people who have come together to seek  better understanding of each other and of the mysteries of the universe.”

One of the members of Understanding, Merlin Unit no.1, Mrs. Aleta Johnson, wrote a very insightful summary of the purpose and work of the organization. The article was published in Understanding Magazine, September 1972, and is reproduced here in extenso.

A ufologist who also understood the cultural impact of the contactee movement was journalist Cleve Twitchell, author of The UFO Saga (1966), a congenial presentation of some of the 1950s contactees. Twitchell attended a lecture by George Van Tassel in San Francisco, December 1958 and became intensively fascinated by the subject. He spent several years interviewing close encounter witnesses and contactees, attending lectures and conventions. In 1960-1961 Twitchell was director of the El Monte, California Unit No. 1 of Understanding. After these years of inside experiences in the contactee movement Twitchell concluded: ”… it should be remembered that many individuals of the past who today are regarded as pioneers of their time were in their own days considered crackpots. And so perhaps it is not illogical to assume that some of today´s flying saucer ”crackpots” are tomorrow´s great men in the making… Whatever the case, an excusion into the UFO world has benefits. There is much to be be gained in the way of broadening one´s horizons, encountering some worthwhile philosophy and simply opening one´smind. The philosophical aspect, causing men to reflect upon himself and his tiny place in an enormous universe, is perhaps the greatest contribution the saucer field has offered to those who have observed or taken part in its activities.” (p. 93)

Cleve Twitchell

George Adamski did not found a formal organization like Understanding but in 1958 initiated his International Get Acquainted Program (IGAP). The movement conveyed a general message of hope, peace, goodwill and inspired members to contact and friendship with people from all over the globe, regardless of race, creed or color. Lou Zinsstag, who became the Adamski´s Swiss representative in 1957 tried to convey the importance of this decision in her book George Adamski – The Untold Story, written in collaboration with Timothy Good: ”… in the early Fifties, my interest become polarized around UFO literature. This was the turning point in my life. From then on, I led a full intellectual and emotional life. My world was full of penfriends, many of whom I met in later years. Some wonderful friendships and moving human relationships were founded…” (p. 4).

Lou Zinsstag

In the Summer of 1954 Danish citizen Edith Nicolaisen read Flying Saucers Have Landed by Desmond Leslie and George Adamski. It became the prime heureka moment in her life and led to the founding of the publishing house Parthenon in Sweden 1957. Parthenon published several of the classic contactees of the 1950s: George Adamski, Daniel Fry, Ray and Rex Stanford, Elisabeth Klarer. These books had a strong influence on Swedish ufology in the 1950s and 60s. in fact Edith Nicolaisen can be regarded as the mother of the Swedish UFO movement. The aim of Parthenon was presented in a small leaflet: ”Parthenon was founded in 1957 as a link in the global work dedicated to peace and enlightenment, and for the purpose of awakening the Scandinavian people, especially the young generation, to a perception of our time´s epoch-making interplanetary occurences… It is our hope that the Scandinavian youth will join in this educational work. Future generations will thus be given the opportunity of a harmonic development in a new world where universal brotherly love within a fellowship spanning the whole world has swept away all the present barriers between human beings: national, social and political; different creeds and philosophies, racial prejudices etc.”

There are few books written by people who were involved in the contactee movement and also tried to grasp the big picture. An exception is Flying Saucer Pilgrimage (1957), written by Bryant and Helen Reeve. This early work gives a very good overview of the contactee movement of the 1950s. In an interview in the book Helen Reeve is asked whether their pilgrimage has finished?: ”No. We feel it has just begun. Our appetite for knowledge of the space-ships, the space-people and outer-space itself has been whetted by our trip. We want to know more. The quest for knowledge of outer-space has turned into the quest for knowledge of LIFE itself – and that never ends!”

Readers of my blog are aware of that I have advanced the theory that a core group of contactees was involved in a psychological and cultural influence test in the 1950s. An experiment implemented by a group of benevolent aliens, earth based or extraterrestrial, a group with access to “vimana” technology.  Some of the people contacted tried their best to implement the projects and ideas received by the visitors. Others couldn´t stand the psychological strain and social stigma of the experiences or invented fake stories when the real contacts ended. But the cultural impact of this experiment was awesome, inspiring millions of people, some in humanitarian projects, others into UFO research and or a personal spiritual quest. There are few serious ufologists today who have noticed or commented on this positive cultural effect of the contactee movement.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Space People Or Spies?

When investigating physical contactee cases we are faced with one very special and controversial issue. How do we know the visitors are what they claim to be? My favourite heretic among ufologists, John Keel put it this way: ”Suppose a strange metallic disk covered with flashing colored lights settled in your backyard and a tall man in a one-piece silver space suit got out. Suppose he looked unlike any man you had ever seen before, and when you asked him where he was from, he replied, "I am from Venus. " Would you argue with him?” (Operation Trojan Horse, p. 214). From the early 1950s there has been on ongoing discussion whether some ”space people” may actually be foreign spies. This is the theme of the latest book from the pen of prolific author Nick Redfern: Flying Saucers From the Kremlin.

In an article in New York Daily News April 4, 1957 zoologist and Fortean Ivan T. Sanderson said: ”Some of these who tell such stories can´t be dismissed as liars, psychotics or conscious charlatans… So there is a definite possibility that some form a craft have landed here, unknown to the authorities.” It is no surprise that the FBI and various intelligence agencies in the 1950s became concerned about the claims of the early UFO contactees. Daniel Fry helped his alien visitor Alan to find work covertly as an international businessman while engaged in work for peace. Howard Menger and George Van Tassel used secret code words to identify the real space people and their homes sometimes functioned as safe houses for the alien visitors. Obviously communist spies realized very early on that the contactee movement was an ideal community to infiltrate. In his book Nick Redfern give several examples of this hidden work.

In his introduction Redfern writes: ”In the latter part of the 1940s, the Soviet Union embarked on a program designed to use the UFO phenomenon as a dangerous weapon. Not by attacking us with real flying saucers, But, by using the lore, the legend, and the belief-systems that surround the UFO subject. And, in the process, hoping to provoke hysteria and paranoia in the western world.” Rumors that Stalin was the driving force behind some UFO events started already with the Roswell case. According to Alfred O´Donnell, an elite engineer from Edgerton, Germeshausen and Grier, EG&G, the craft and the crew at Roswell originated from the Soviet Union and was a manipulative plot to make the U.S. Government think that an alien invasion was underway leading to a state of fear and terror in the United States.

In the early 1950s FBI informants hinted that some of leading contactees could actually be closet communists used by the Russians in psychological warfare-based operations. FBI began investigating och keeping an eye on George Adamski, George Van Tassel, Orfeo Angelucci a.o. Because of a few statements about Russia and war made by Adamski early in his public appearances Nick Redfern imply communist motives. Citing author Colin Bennett he writes: ”They collectively suggest Adamski may actually have had some genuine alien encounters, but chose to combine the nature of those encounters his personal admiration for communism and the Russians.” But this conclusion must be regarded as definitely wrong. I have never found any later statements by Adamski indicating an ”admiration for communism”. In Messengers of Deception Jacques Vallee suggested that George Adamski and George Hunt Williamson harbored fascist ideas because of Williamsons connection with William Dudley Pelley. George Adamski never met Pelley and certainly never endorsed his prewar fascist ideas. Williamson did work for Pelley´s magazine Valor a few months in 1954 but his interest in Pelley was the channelled material he had presented in books such as Star Guests (1950). There is a tendency among many authors to project political extremist views on the early contactees based on very little evidence. Unfortunately Nick Redfern falls into this trap in his estimation of George Adamski.

Definitely better documented is the chapter on Orfeo Angelucci, A Subversive Element, who actually was contacted by a group of communists. During his lecturing on the east coast in the middle of the 1950s Angelucci was approached by a group of four people who bought him dinner on three occasions in plush New York hotels and bars. He was flattered by their attention but felt very uneasy about their motives until he realised that the group attempted to ”convert me to communism and slant my talks along the Party Line”. When Angelucci refused to go along with their plans the tone became distinctly unpleasant and it was hinted that ”things might become extremely difficult for Angelucci”. He related all the details of the affair and threats to the FBI.

Orfeo Angelucci

How much was and is the international UFO movement used or influenced by communist agents? This is of course a tricky question to answer. According to a man named Charles Samwick, who had a background in counter-intelligence work for the U.S. Army, ”The Communist Party has planted an agent in every civilian saucer club in the United States.” This information was disclosed to ufologist James Moseley in 1955. Nick Redfern documents several instances of possible communist infiltration in UFO groups in countries like Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand, including the controversial Ummo affair. In the final chapter Nick Redfern adress the important question: ”does this strange game of aliens, disinformation and lies still continue in today´s world?” His answer is ”certainly”, providing information even indicating that the Majestic 12 documents could have a Russian origin.

In my extensive investigation and documentation of the Swedish contactee Richard Höglund I advanced as an alternative theory that the story was a cover for Russian espionage. Richard was during a phase in his life a card-carrying member of the Swedish Communist party. He was told by the aliens to start a peace movement and was once asked to provide maps of the Muskö Naval Base, a Swedish underground naval facility south of Stockholm. Richard also translated secret codes on paper for the aliens. He was definitely incontact with a group alien visitors but whether Russian agents interfered in his operations is difficult to determine.

Richard Höglund in Nassau, Bahamas 1968

Flying Saucers From the Kremlin is a fascinating survey of the strange world of UFOs, Cold War secrets and spies. Like a good detective Nick Redfern has a knack for discovering new dimensions to the UFO enigma and unearthing unknown documents. Reading his book makes it obvious that there is still much research needed before all the pieces in this confusing puzzle have been found.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

John A. Keel: The Man,The Myths, and The Ongoing Mysteries

When Anders Liljegren, Kjell Jonsson and I founded, what was later to become, Archives for the Unexplained (AFU) in 1973 much of our ideological inspiration came from the writings of John A. Keel. His iconoclastic and heretical books coupled with a wonderful Fortean humour influenced a whole generation of ufologists. Keel was an intellectual challenge to the UFO community of the 1960s and 70s with his brilliant criticism of the then dominant ET theory. Finally we have an in-depth biography of this legendary pioneer. As longtime researcher, author and editor of Alternate Perceptions Magazine Brent Raynes is eminently qualified for  this task. John A. Keel: The Man, Myths and Mysteries is more than an ordinary biography as the author present a treasure trove of new data, experiences and interviews all relating to Keel and his ideas.

Now and then on this strange planet we are stranded on comes a man or woman whos life and ideas challenge a whole generation. They are true pioneers, making their own waves in the ocean of mainstream authors, researchers and philosophers. Such a man was John A. Keel. He introduced himself as a ”professional cliffhanger” in chapter one of his first book Jadoo, published in 1957. That his life would be radically different than his workmates in the 1950s, at the American Forces Network in Frankfurt, Germany is clearly evident in this quote: "I wanted to see Timbuctu and Baghdad, not Stuttgart and Mannheim. I wanted to walk among the ruins of temples, not factories. I wanted to dig into the dark secrets of Egypt and India and write about jadoo instead of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization."

When Brent Raynes announced he was writing a book about John Keel I was delighted and provided Brent with documents, photos and reminiscenses of Keel´s visit in Sweden 1976. The front cover photo is actually part of a photo from Sweden, taken by former UFO-Sweden board member Karl-Olof Pettersson on October 16, 1976. Brent has also included the interview Anders Liljegren and I made with Swedish Mothman investigator Åke Franzén, May 19, 1973 and further data in chapter Seven, John Keel and Swedish Ufology.

Original photo used as front cover

Just when I started reading the foreword by author and investigator of paranormal phenomena Rosemary Ellen Guiley I was reached by the sad news of her untimely death. It felt like a bizarre form of synchronicity. This 315 page book has eighteen chapters filled with a wealth of data from the life of John Keel coupled with cases documented by Brent Raynes and other UFO and Fortean investigators. Some of them well known to Keel aficionados but also many encounters and stories, to my knowledge, not published before. I was not aware of that John Keel had received two honorary doctorate degrees in herpetology and archeology or that much of his full-time field investigations in the 1960s was financed by his 1966 novel The Fickle Finger of Fate, that sold over 800,000 copies. Fans of John Keel can also find lots of interesting data on Doug Skinner´ s excellent website.

Brent Raynes

Very appropriate Brent Raynes devotes chapter 13 to the enigmatic MIB – Men In Black, presenting many cases involving these not too charming gentlemen from the twilight zone. John Keel was deeply intrigued by this enigma of the threatening and spooky individuals who often appeared to be quite physical and real only to suddenly disappear into thin air in front of bewildered witnesses. Brent Raynes narrates the remarkable MIB encounter Keel disclosed to fellow investigator Brad Steiger in 1967. One night three men suddenly manifested or materialized in Keel´s apartment threatening him to cease all UFO research. After about a half hour of intimidation one of the men asked if Keel wanted a demonstration of their abilities. He then went to the kitchen sink and fetched a bottle of bleach. In turn the trio took several swallows of the deadly liquid from the bottle until it was empty. I learned of this ”confidential encounter” in a email from Brad Steiger 2013 but had hoped that Brent Raynes had made a follow up. Unfortunately there is no more data in his book and I am not aware of anyone who know more about this MIB encounter.

Swedish Mothman investigator Åke Franzén reading The Mothman Prophecies 1978

In the public mind John Keel is usually associated with Mothman, because of the 2002 film The Mothman Prophecies starring Richard Gere. But Mothman or other winged monsters have been observed not only in West Virginia and Brent Raynes documents several cases from around the Unites States. Madeline Teagle, a UFO contactee from Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio witnessed four ”half bird, half human” beings that appeared during a rain dance ceremony performed by a shaman.

As there are very few ufologists and cryptozoologists who are connoisseurs of the Esoteric Tradition they have probably missed a very fascinating account by the clairvoyant theosophist Geoffrey Hodson. In April 1922 he observed several sylphs or air-spirits: ”Watching the approach across the valley of some dense storm-clouds, the presence was observed of a number of bird-like air-spirits travelling swiftly in front of the approaching clouds. Many of them are dark and unpleasant to look upon – slightly reminiscent of bats… Their faces are human and well formed, their expression is unpleasant; the rest of the body is not fully formed, and they rather resemble birds with human faces… They utter a weird shrieking noise, and occasionally shoot almost vertically upwards into and beyond the clouds… It is evident that there are many different species of storm-sylphs, varying in size, power, and evolutionary position.” (Geoffrey Hodson, Fairies at Work and at Play, pp. 84-85).

During his extensive field investigations in some 20 states Keel interviewed more than 200 contactees, cases that most of the ”scientific” ufologists ignored or dismissed without investigation. Open minded contactee research was not regarded as scientifically respectable by organizations like APRO and NICAP. Swedish UFO research pioneer and APRO representative K. Gösta Rehn regarded the theories of John Keel and Jacques Vallee as "a terrible blind alley". This ideological trend began to change in the 1970s with the books and theories of John Keel. Based on years of field investigation he concluded that the contactee enigma was far more complicated and intriguing than a simple black and white issue. In a letter to Brent Raynes 1970 Keel even defended the controversial contactee George Adamski: ”When I got into the business publicly in 1966, I was immediately appalled byt the utter irresponsibility of the UFO groups… I reviewed all the UFO zines of the past twenty years that I could locate. Keyhoe´s attacks on Adamski, for example, were emotional, groundless and slanderous.”

John Keel in Sweden with girl friend, Oct 17, 1976

After a lifetime of travel, field investigation and study of UFO, Fortean and paranormal phenomena Keel reached the conclusion shared today by many researchers into these areas: we live in a multiverse inhabited by a variety of diverse intelligences. He usually referred to these intelligences as ultraterrestrials or elementals and their emergence into our reality as transmogrifications, another word for materializations. Although this was Keel´s favourite theory he was open to other explanations. Brent Raynes mention Keel´s column in Fate Magazine, Beyond the Known, April 2002 where he stated: ”With me, the ultraterrestrials were only one possible explanation of certain weird phenomena. I never actually said that it was the only true solution to anything – just speculation.”

It is only human and natural that error and mistakes are made during a lifetime of research and writing. Keel of course was not perfect or always reliable. In chapter four, Keel´s Ups and Downs, Brent Raynes present the Tom Menteleone case, a 21-year old psychology major who told of having met the same aliens as West Virginia contactee Woodrow Derenberger. The story was a hoax but Keel was taken in by Menteleone´s claims. Two critics that are not mentioned in the book are Lucius Farish and Riley Crabb. In the Nov-Dec. 1973 issue of Caveat Emptor ufologist Lucius Farish wrote an article, On Maintaining an Even Keel, presenting data which indicated the Keel was not always realiable when it came to source studies.

Criticism of a different kind was given by Riley Crabb, director of Borderland Sciences Research Foundation (BSRF) 1959-1985. I corresponded for several years with Riley Crabb and expressed my admiration for John Keel. But here our opinions clashed. In a letter to me March 23, 1980 Crabb writes: "John Keel has been discussed at length in the Journal in the past. He is a wilderness crying for a voice, and I´ve told him so. His writings, like those of Jacques Vallee, leave one hopeless. Their general conclusion is that the Flying Saucer phenomenon is beyond understanding; it´s the creation of malevolent forces here on the earth; there´s nothing we can do about it... There is no inspirational lift from Keel and Vallee, and there can´t be because the two men aren´t even metaphysical kindergartners, they are metaphysical illiterates." This in my opinion was a very onesided view of Keel´s  groundbreaking research and writings and I was surprised that an competent esotericist like Riley Crabb couldn´t see that Keel´s writings expanded our horizon and looked beyond the materialist/reductionist interpretation of the UFO phenomenon?

In the final chapter eighteen, What Next?, Brent Raynes try to come to grips with what Keel actually believed about all the phenomena he investigated, his Theory of Everything. Not an easy task because of the enormous amount of articles and interviews aviable. You can find support for just about any theory in the voluminous writings of Keel as he often speculated in different directions. He was mostly pessimistic and often referred to the phenomena as demonic and destructive to mankind. ”I have no theory. We just don´t know, and we never will” he wrote in the Fate column April 2002. A somewhat more hopeful tone was given in his last book The Eighth Tower (1975): "Today many scientific disciplines are moving in the same direction, not realizing they are mapping a very old country. In a few years, perhaps even in our own lifetime, all sciences will suddenly converge at a single point, and the mysteries of the superspectrum will unravel in our hands."

If John Keel, as Riley Crabb stated, had discovered the Esoteric Tradition he could very well have developed a more optimistic view of paranormal phenomena and their implications. But in spite of his demonology theories he had a wonderful humour and an iconoclastic way of writing that is truly inspiring. When he visited Sweden in 1976 and I had the good fortune of meeting him for a long and interesting chat, he signed my copy of Operation Trojan Horse with the words: "The secret to the UFOs is on page 321." The book ends on page 320. That´s John Keel.

John A. Keel: The Man, The Myths, and The Ongoing Mysteries is an eminent tribute to a pioneer researcher, a fine contribution to the UFO literature. Experienced ufologists and forteans will not be disappointed as they will find a lot of new data and cases. The only thing missing is an index but perhaps that can be added in a new edition. Brent Raynes´ book is definitely must reading for all fans of Keel and the mysteries of our world.