From a larger cultural perspective the impact of the UFO phenomenon on society after the Second World War has been tremendous. It has engendered a military, scientific, religious and popular culture response. But first and foremost it has generated a world wide movement of private organizations and groups dedicated to investigating and documenting an unknown and intriguing phenomenon. The history of the UFO movement and the ideas and activities of the diverse personalities involved is for me almost as fascinating as the phenomenon itself. I have been a part of this heretic underground movement since a teenager so it has become sort of homebase. This has also made me aware of the importance of documenting the UFO movement for future generations and researchers.
UFO-Sweden in the middle of the 1970s was a young and from an ideological viewpoint rather unsettled organization. But around 1975 this began to change largerly due to one man, Thorvald Bertelsen, who changed his name to Bevan Bertelsen in 1980. Thorvald was the chairman of the local group Köpings UFO-förening and he and his group in many respects, laid the groundwork and changed the direction of ufology in Sweden to a more serious and scientific endeavor. Thorvald was elected chairman of UFO-Sweden in 1976.
Thorvald Berthelsen entered the ufological scene with a fervent commitment and soon became a leading public figure and spokesperson for the Swedish UFO movement. Together with collegues from Köpings UFO-förening he started a massive information campaign ranging from November 10 to December 15, 1975. During these weeks he lectured in 22 different Swedish cities and travelled more than 200 Swedish miles. In many cities there were hundreds on listeners. A second information campaign was conducted between February 3, and March 23, 1976. As a result many local UFO groups were founded all over Sweden and many of the active ufologists today began their ufological career after hearing a lecture by Thorvald Berthelsen in the 1970s.
Thorvald Bertelsen 1977
In order to improve the quality of investigation Thorvald together with the Köping group started the first weekend seminars for field investigators in September 1977. Since then hundreds of field investigators have received their basic UFO education in the annual seminars. This has helped to improve the quality of investigation and documentation of UFO observations and incidents.
Bertelsen realized the need for better and more qualified field investigation. To realize this ambition the Köping group initiated weekend seminars with education on misinterpretations, psychology, photography and basic field investigation proceedures. Participants were accommodated at Lersäter, a rural estate close to the municipality Kolsva, in the center of Sweden. The estate belonged to the Baptist Union of Sweden and consisted of five rooms with 30 beds.
Ufologists gathered at Lersäter for the first seminar September 24, 1977
Participants in todays field investigation seminars are used to quite luxurious accommodations, a sort of all inclusive with private quarters, excellent dinners and general good service. Lersäter was very primitive, with severeal bunk beds in the rooms and only two outside dry toilets. Food was prepared at Lersäter by friends of the local UFO group. During the first three years of the 1970s there were between 70-75 participants. With only 30 beds you were lucky to find a bed and people slept on mattresses everywhere on the floor. Getting a good nights sleep under these circumstances was virtually impossible. I participated at the Lersäter seminars 1984, 1992-1995 and remember always being tired during lectures. But most of the ufologists were young and enthusiastic so sleep was a minor problem.
Practical field investigation training September 24, 1977
The first weekend seminar was arranged on September 24-25, 1977, with 73 participants from all over Sweden. Different types of misidentifications was discussed and exemplified. A climax was the evening demonstration of how star shells and parachute lights appear in darkness, demonstated by military personnel. They also flew a small airplane at low altitude over Lersäter showing how landing lights and navigation lights could be identified. Social activities and entertainment became an important part of the seminar already from the beginning. Åke UFO Gustafsson played on various instruments. Press coverage of this first weekend seminar was very good and generally serious.
Åke UFO Gustafsson entertaining September 24, 1977
Bärgslagsbladet September 26, 1977
The UFO-Sweden field investigation seminars were, with a few exceptions, arranged at Lersäter between 1977-1995. Part of the seminar during these years was a practical demonstation of investigating and documenting a UFO landing site. A type of cases now almost totally unheard of. A delicate problem occurred during the seminar September 8-10 1978. The people responsible for the dinner had prepared a homemade Bulgarian lentil soup. But it had a rather unexpected effect on the stomach on the 75 participants who unfortunately only had two outside dry toilets - say no more, say no more. In spite of this little mishap the seminar was a great success with Anders Gernandt, amateur magician and member of the Swedish Parliament demonstrating lots of magic tricks.
Anders Gernandt showing magic tricks September 9, 1978
Vestmanlands Läns tidning September 9, 1978
What is today called the UFO-Sweden spirit began to develop partly as a consequence of the annual field investigator seminars starting in 1977 at Lersäter. These weekend seminars soon also developed into pleasant social gatherings for UFO-Sweden members and the notion of the Lersäter spirit was formulated. The annual field investigator seminars still have a very important social function when it comes to introducing and getting to know new members.
Carl-Anton Mattsson, Annika och Christer Nordin, seminar August 8-10, 1980
Thorvald Bertelsen, Håkan Ekstrand, Mats Nilsson, seminar late 1970s
The last seminar at Lersäter was arranged Septermber 1-3 1995. It coincided with the UFO-Sweden 25 years anniversary. Many special guests, active during the earlier years, were invited to the dinner, a.o. Thorvald (Bevan) Bertelsen and Christer Nordin (chairman 1980-1988). Clas Svahn, chairman from 1991-2012, proposed a toast for old and new ufologists, hoping for a successful future for UFO-Sweden. Entertainer this evening was as many times before Åke UFO Gustafsson from Tranås. This was the last time the weekend seminar was arranged at Lersäter but many of the UFO-Sweden oldtimers remember this place and seminars with much nostalgia.
Three former UFO-Sweden chairmen at the seminar September 2, 1995, from left Christer Nordin, Clas Svahn, Thorvald Bertelsen
Evening chat at the last Lersäter seminar, from left Jörgen Granlie, Håkan Ekstrand, Tage Bång
Åke UFO Gustafsson entertaining at the last Lersäter seminar
We use to say there is a spirit of place, the special quality associated with a city or rural area. Every group and organization also creates its own, special spirit or Genius loci. The unique and distinctive character of the organization shaped by the ideas, activities and personalities of the members. This also applies to UFO-Sweden. New active members will not only be confronted with magazine articles, Internet discussions and the official ideology but at a more subtle level experience the UFO-Sweden spirit. Much of this spirit was initially formed at Lersäter. I believe this spirit was very well expressed by then newcomer Amanda Fredriksson after having participated in her first annual weekend field investigator seminar in November 2008: "My general impression is that there is so much joy in UFO-Sweden".
Amanda Fredriksson and Clas Svahn at field investigation seminar 2008