Friday, February 19, 2010

Entities and Sacred Texts in 1959

I was reading Sacred Texts the other day [letter exchanges between Dick Hall and Isabel Davis in 1959]. Much of interest continually fell off the pages. Several of these bits of "news" involved Dick, Isabel, Ted Bloecher, and Lex Mebane's grappling with the problems of the great menagerie of creatures which might or might not be involved with unidentified flying objects. Isabel and Ted had gotten well inside the Kelly-Hopkinsville stories; Dick and NICAP had not. Lex had examined much of the French 1954 wave [for his translation and publication of Michel's book], NICAP was still pretty uncomfortable. To give NICAP a break on this, their current goal was to impress congressmen with the validity of the UFO phenomenon [to get open hearings] and adding in a healthy dose of mischievous hairy dwarves was probably not "politic". Nevertheless, here is Dick, well out of the earshot of Keyhoe, wondering where all this weirdness is heading. By the way, Dick was just "transferring" his life from Tulane University to DC [he'd gotten there in the summer of 1958] and was probably a bit unsettled on "borders" being set by NICAP [but being a quick study, I'll bet that he had it figured out what to say to friends and what to say to the press]. Well, lets see what they did say. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
What they said was quite a lot of course; so much that I could never get it all across to you on this blog. I've picked three things which were going on regarding entity cases; each of which you may find interesting. The first regards "Hairy Dwarves", probably no one's favorite UFOnaut. Dick had a friend and investigations buddy named Don Neill. Neill and Hall were apparently already wondering about the true nature of certain "UFO" encounters. Neill was reading Bernard Heuvelmans' On The Track Of Unknown Animals [what might be regarded as Cryptozoology's foundational text], and focussed on the chapter entitled, "The Little Hairy Men". Dick says to Isabel: "One incident describes an attack from behind on human beings reminiscent of the Venezuela affair." Dick, surprisingly, seems here to be willing to entertain the hypothesis that some UFO cases may be more in the line of productions by long-term "folkloric" entities known by other names for ages. We don't have Isabel's return letter on this [believe me, I'm sorrier about that than you are]. But right at that moment, she was shaking her head about a set of cases which were coming to CSI that seemed to multiply the variety of entities beyond all sense. [And her big work on the Kelly "hobgoblins" was certainly in this mode]. We'll look into a couple of these other cases later in this post.-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dick's flirtation with the idea that the Hairy Dwarves may have owed something to folklore entities would have been easy to circumstantially defend. We have today turned the folkloric entity "Brownie" into a cute little fairy handful-sized and basically friendly. That concept owes to writers like Palmer Cox, who constantly wrote charming fiction about such lovable creatures. The folklore about these critters is somewhat different. They are described as smaller-than-humans but not much [perhaps four foot high] and of definite brown skin, and covered with thick hair--hairy dwarves, in fact. Their behavior might be tolerable, but it depends on which one you encounter and what mood it's in. Brownies might ignore you or even do you some service; but it's just as likely that you're in for mischief. Because they are not of the "handsome" variety of folklore entities, they fall under the general class of the "Bogles", sometimes said to be led by Puck, with all that entails about behavior. They might be nasty [like bogeymen or bugaboos] or just neutral but dangerous [like The Fenoderee]. It is at least a mind-stretcher to contemplate the [to me] extremely odd Venezuelan part of the 1954 wave in such terms. One wonders how much Dick and Isabel kept things like this in mind.----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Other cases were stretching them in other directions. One was the Old Saybrook, CT case. This encounter occurred on December 16,1957 .the witness, a Yale graduate with two degrees, Mrs. Mary Starr, did not report the sighting immediately [she was living in a cottage on the Connecticut side of Long Island sound, the other cottages were unoccupied at that time of year, and she was concerned that there would be no other witnesses to back up her story]. Nevertheless, in September of 1958, she decided to report to NICAP. Dick Hall fielded the letter and talked to CSI about the event. Dick and Isabel arranged to meet Mrs. Starr at the cottage and take her story. This is what she said: "I was alone that night so I went to bed early, about ten o'clock. Sometime between two and three in the morning, I was awakened by a bright light in my room. I looked out the window and there was what I first thought was a crippled airplane in my back garden. But when I got my eyes really open, I saw it was a cigar-shaped object, brightly lit and with square portholes, hovering above my clothesline. I could see three men inside. An antenna poked up from what seemed to be the tail of this object. There was no sound. After about five minutes, it turned at a right angle and I could see that it was so shallow that the men could not have been more than three and a half or four feet tall. It glided out of my garden, rose almost vertically, and then disappeared." [These were the quotes in the news story that the Air Force included in the Blue Book file, though it did not bother to investigate]. The rest of the story was published by Isabel in the CSI Newsletter of July 15, 1959. In it Mrs. Starr describes the occupants as having squarish head-gear [possibly robotic] colored orange-red and having an attached bright red bulb. There were no "hands". When Mrs. Starr leaned forward to get as good a glimpse of the things as she could, the portholes "coincidentally" faded out, and the object began a sparkling brilliance. This led to the retraction of an antenna, and its sharp turn and departure. Dick and Isabel were VERY impressed with the quality of the witness, and CSI published the case with no apologies. NICAP didn't. Dick wanted to mention it in his famous UFO Evidence, but as it was headed to Congress, only the craft was mentioned without the occupants. Later, NICAP got over some of its hang-ups and published the details in Lore/Keyhoe's UFOs: A New Look. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------A second case disappeared even more profoundly. This was the March 7, 1959 case of Silver Springs, MD. Once again, NICAP got the case report, and Hall fielded it. He and Don Neill and a third person went to the scene. The case had seven witnesses and two had seen pieces of the encounter close up. The first primary witness saw a person with a "white helmet" on, standing on the opposite side of some bushes on their property. Moving around a hedge to see who this was, she was startled to encounter a small person in an all-white body-suit, covering even his feet. The only variation to this was trunks of bright blue coloring. The "helmet" was attached to the bodysuit as well. [by the way, folks, I have never seen any of the original field report on this; hopefully it has not been lost. But the descriptions of the letters allowed me to make a general guesstimate as to what they were talking about. Unfortunately, I didn't read one key phrase clearly when I made the drawing that you see above--the "helmet" should cover everything but the eyes, which were described as dead black "holes" as if nothing but empty {outer} space were there. Sorry for the screw-up, but the blog technology doesn't allow me to correct this with a new drawing without messing everything else up. So just imagine the "eyes-only" blackly staring out at you]. The first witness screamed, and the entity "ran off", seeming to "skim" rather than meet the ground. As it passed, the second main witness got a good look at its face, noting the "empty" eyeholes. Whereas the Old Saybrook case boggled NICAP, the Silver Springs case boggled everybody. It was never published anywhere, maybe because Dick became really busy and dropped the ball. We would know nothing of it had not Ted Bloecher published a note about it in HUMCAT twenty years later.----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
So this is what they were facing in those early days: Hobgoblins from Kelly-Hobgoblinsville [my nowadays nickname for the case], Bogles from Venezuela, Robots from Connecticut, and what Dick called the "blue-tailed flyer" from Maryland. NICAP was schizophrenically trying to cope while still "selling" UFOs to Congress, and CSI was thinking "how weird is this going to get?" Isabel was wondering whether the Air Force might occasionally put something really goofy out there to make things maximumly confusing and incredible. I think that maybe she was on to something, but with the wrong perpetrators. I think that it just might have been, occasionally, the folkloric characters that were deliberately messing with us and having their time-honored fun. Who knows, maybe Ted would have agreed with me, even if Lex and Isabel thought I was nuts? It would have been great fun to have been back there with them to find out.


  1. Thanks Professor! More great stuff from the great behind the scenes history of ufology. People don't realize how deep the rivers run. NICAP's "schizophrenia" makes me think of how each of us has our own limits of believability or acceptability - like your Bill-Gill-Hill-Hopkins progression you shared with me once. Then there's the really high strangeness stuff....
    Great blog!

  2. To all: it's hard to try to "illuminate" "willy's" inside references for those who don't know what he's talking about, but I'll let you in on the "Bill--> Gill--> Hill-->" thing. That's just my way of referring to the relatively tight progression of the phenomenological set of UFO experiences from NICAP-style [Bill Nash] to CSI/APRO-style [Father Gill] to on-board experiences {Betty and Barney Hill]. This progression is hard to deny since the cases seem so strong, and force the expansion of one's thinking about UFOs to possible on-board experiences whether one is comfortable with that or not. His allusion to Budd Hopkins' work is not what I do when I'm making that Bill/Gill/Hill point. Budd's work can be viewed either as part of the "Hill" element of this, or as going far beyond it to mass numbers of alien-induced pregnancies and a Dave Jacobs' like world takeover by hybrids. In other words there is a whole other world of "scope" or sequential expansion of hypotheses in there that I refuse to include in my simpler historical assessment. One is welcome to go into modern "abductology" as far along that path as one wishes, but, in my mind, it is a second evaluatory trip that one may choose to reject, according to ones' reading of the information, at any point. It does not have, for me the ineluctable power of "Bill to Gill to Hill". "Willy", as he always does, is trying to confuse everybody, but we shall stand firm at the bridge and confusion shall not pass!

  3. You'll find a lot of answers to the identities of these beings in this book:

  4. Dear Professor,

    Another fascinating entry.

    NICAP's reluctance to publicize occupant reports is understandable in light of the varying descriptions of the occupants. If all of the reports described one 'type' of occupant (say, hairy dwarfs) NICAP could have pointed them out and said "That's what the pilots of these things look like!"

    But there was this incredible mishmash of physical types reported that appeared to make NICAP queasy.

  5. Interesting blog with the type of high strangeness I like. Brownies-bogles-bogyman-bugaboos...hmmm. What is it with the letter 'b' here? Great stuff.

  6. To anonymous: maybe, but nothing came up--maybe that was the point. ----------------------------------To Steve: correct, but one probably bigger thing--NICAP was sensing the tremendous damage to credibility by Adamski et al and that everything would be smeared into that same basket and all chance would be lost. One thing that we forget is how completely effective the yearly Giant Rock conventions were at obliterating any gains that serious UFOlogy made during the rest of the year. In many ways George Van Tassel is one of the most important people in UFOlogical history since he consistently destroyed it.--------------------------------------------------------------------To Richard: well, maybe, but we did "P" not too long ago with an even longer string.

  7. PART ONE (part two follows immediately after)

    Prof, there's an Idries Shah Sufi story - paralleled in other 'spiritual' systems - which goes:

    One day a certain acclaimed imam was leading the public recital of the Koran when all of a sudden there came a tremendous mooing sound from somewhere at the back of the mosque.

    Everyone turned to behold a certain scruffy figure, (variously held to be a divinely inspired madman or troublesome village idiot), inanely cavorting about with his index fingers curled atop his head as if they were horns.

    Outraged by his seemingly blasphemous behaviour the crowd converged as if to lynch him - until the imam admitted, "No, no, the fault's mine - here's me supposedly rhapsodizing the unearthly beauties of The Koran, exhorting you to live by its precious tenets, and all the time my thoughts were elsewhere wond'ring whether or not to buy a certain marvellous cow..."

    Now, like all such stories, that story's so many levels it's almost beyond belief, but the one I wan'o draw your attention to's the one which explains that, according to Sufi doctrine, there're certain stages on the Way, before the stability of full Sufihood, (or Christhood, or Buddhahood, for that matter), is attained, when individuals begin to develop magical, djinn-like 'psychic' capacities but also become extremely suggestible to the unwitting influence of ordinary people’s often obsessive thoughts, (types Gurdjieff referred to as 5s, and 6s).

    In fact some individuals can become so vulnerable to these unwitting influences they're forced to go into quarantine in places like deserts or caves for periods lasting anything from 40 days to 40 years.



    In the story I just related, what was supposedly happening was the 'madman' at the back of the mosque was being unwillingly manipulated by the quite unwitting intensity the imam was devoting to daydreaming about acquiring his precious cow. In fact, I suggest one of the meanings of the universal spiritual symbol of the mirror alludes to precisely this condition of reflecting the states of others.

    Now if you take the approach the miraculous abilities attributed to Sufis, Buddhas, Christs are because they've evolved into a sort of human equivalent of angels/djinns, then it's not inconceivable these type 5s, type 6s're unstable precisely they're oscillating between being one moment human, the next djinn.

    And if it really WAS the case humans who’re only half-djinn are extremely susceptible to the unwitting influence of ordinary human mentation, then isn’t it possible that ACTUAL djinn are JUST as, or even MORE susceptible to such influences?

    The point I’m getting at is such a scenario would explain the variability of the mood your brownies exhibit – it may be that all they’re doing is reflecting the momentary emotional state of light heartedness or aggressive turmoil the human they’re dealing with is currently in. It’s happened to all of us, at one time or another, that someone’s pointed out to us we’re in a bad mood, and yet until that moment we hadn’t even realised it – ditto some of the people encountering brownies.

    The same scenario, of course, might explain why, over the ages, one set of gods and daemons were replaced by another set, why they, in turn, were succeeded by angels and devils, finally bringing us to the advent of, say, the tall Scandinavian type ufonauts and the men in black.

    It might explain why a Northern European might encounter strange, dark, sinister Hispanic, Arabian, Oriental types: while they’re accessing his nervous system to interact with him as if they’re human, his nervous system’s telling him, “These folk ain’t from ‘round here,” and maybe even doing its own equivalent of “Danger, danger, Will Robinson!”

    It might also explain why some people encounter Flash Gordon style spacemen, others Heath Robinson style rickety contraptions, others slick intergalactic motherships – they reflect in some way the historical lexicon of imagery they’ve acquired throughout their lives.

    It might even be if SOME humans, by following various ‘spiritual’ paths, CAN become unstable wielders of marvellous powers, it’s precisely because it’s something we’re ALL capable of, and every so often some poor sap suddenly proves it by spontaneously becoming a half-djinn for a brief period, in the process unwittingly drawing REAL djinn to him like moths to a fire.

    Just a thought.


  9. Can't comment. This level of speculation is obviously well within your comfort zone, but it's pretty far outside mine. I am not qualified to say yeah or nay. The only way that I could get any purchase on such a thing at all would be something that had empirical data to it, even if such data were soft--ex. is there any evidence that the witness' state-of-mind/emotion influences the positive or negative reaction of the UFO or Entity to them? I don't see such a correlation in the files that I have---the average witness seems all over the map emotionally and the UFOs do not regularly seem to imitate that. [ and it seems that it is the witness who mainly responds to what the UFO does and not vice versa]. But if you think something is there, go for it---but don't just cleverly imagine stuff---we need some digging; deep data correlations. My answer is a [mild] response to your specific theory, not to the possible relevance of entities like Djinn generally.

  10. Y'know, I never even thought of Van Tassel as a destructive influence until now (Adamski is another story). Reading about him always gave me the feeling he was just another huckster who got a little extra press. Most if not all of the material and speakers he promoted were utter bilge and obviously so...although that's perhaps because I'm viewing it from a vantage point in the future.

    (And that's why I find this stuff so fascinating...I was born in 1964, so these events really ARE history in that I did not have the chance to see them first hand.)

    As to the variety of shapes, sizes and forms of the occupants: these days there are serious researchers in biology who suggest that the human race will be molding itself into a variety of different shapes, sizes and forms in the not-so-distant future.

  11. Van Tassel was a low-life and probably even a criminal, as he set up his whatever-he-called-it-a-thon to claim that he could regenerate your health--obviously in aid of bilking people out of money. If that was all he was, he would just be a scumbag and play little role in our history. But he had an "accomplice" in destroying UFOs. That accomplice was the New York Times which just loved to show all the crap that was going on there in long column articles. When Giant Rock got a little "old", Buck Nelson stepped right in for maximum mockability. Keyhoe was driven half nuts by this and for good reason. It is a tribute to him--almost alone to him--that the field kept a fairly large sensible contingent of followers through the ufological desert that was the late 1950s-early 1960s. We owe that fierce old man a lot, even when he wasn't perfect.



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