Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Ideas In The Air: FSR in 1956.

For the year 1956 Brinsley LePoer Trench took over FSR editorship and founder Derek Dempster stepped aside to be a temporary consultant on his way to "retiring" from UFOs. The magazine didn't change that much at first glance. But Dempster was fairly open to contacteeism and Desmond Leslie's Adamski stories, while Trench leaned towards a more conspiratorial and governmental style UFOlogy [until he flipped entirely and decided that the UFOs were coming from inside the Earth.] Still, there was generally speaking an emphasis on the actual case incidents [thankfully]. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Trench was in government himself and so maybe conspiracy theories came naturally to him. He was certainly helped in this by 1956. Keyhoe came out with his new book, The Flying Saucer Conspiracy, which would set the idea in concrete for NICAP [also just getting its act together,] and people like Trench. Maybe it was an inevitable product of the time to believe that the governments were nearly all-knowing in such matters and if you lived in a democracy they should let you in on all they know. The by-product of this approach was: if they'd just "come clean" you wouldn't have to do the investigative work yourself as a part-time hobby. We, of course, still have this approach and this attitude today [despite the likelihood that with the exception of some deep dark insider secrets like Roswell the government doesn't know much more about the rest of the phenomenon than we do]. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
For a not-very-conservative publication like FSR, the Keyhoe conspiracy-of-silence hypothesis was reinforced by the Gray Barker publication about the experience [with government agents] of Albert Bender--seen at the right. Barker's book is probably one of only two things that you can read of his that you might believe most of without filling your head with crap. [the other is his original report on the Flatwoods Monster]. Barker's book set the foundation for the idea that the government sent around intelligence agents to everyday citizens and, perhaps deliberately, intimidated them into shutting up.{Read Jerry Clark's commentary below for a deeper insight as to the exact beginnings of this idea}. Thus arose, and multiplied in Bizarro-land, the theories of the Men-in-Black, transforming into ultrasecret "unknown agency" operatives and on to Aliens of all sorts and agendas. We weren't quite there yet, but in 1956 the idea that governments were actively shutting up civilian witnesses was on the ascent. A frequent early contributor to FSR [John Pitt] and a fellow Brit, David Whiteman [the editor of a rather fine and nearly forgotten early UFO newsletter named Uranus], had an interview with a government official to question him about such tactics and agendas that the UK government might have. Pitt and Whiteman got the same stonewalling that you would have expected from the US government [if anything, my feeling about the UK's Air Ministry is that it was/is even worse than the USAF about UFO uncooperativeness.] --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Fortunately no one was forgetting about phenomenology. And the star of that show was Ed Ruppelt's book. This hit British Ufologists with the same power that it hit the US scene. I need to say this again: it makes no difference whatever what Ruppelt himself believed. His book hit UFO-sympathetic [and as far as I can tell just curious] people like a bolt of light. Ruppelt validated Keyhoe, and especially so in Britain. Keyhoe's books were extremely intriguing, but their very "American Dime Novel" character of the hero-detective [Keyhoe] collecting clues from his inside sources, and its contrived dialogues, made some wonder how much of this was fiction. Ruppelt ended almost all of that concern--at least as far as any doubts about Keyhoe's first two books. FSR was blown away by Ruppelt. The discussion about whether the UFOs were real and not military technology was essentially over. ----------This "conclusion" was reinforced from an unexpected direction-->Brazil. The Brazilian government and its Air Force hierarchy announced in a lengthy presentation by its major UFO players, that UFOs were real and mysterious and had been seen over one of their air bases for hours. [this is quite a story, and FSR didn't know the half of it]. Concurrently, three outstanding UFOlogists organized a civilian UFO research group, which had Brazilian Air Force input. [FSR didn't know that last part of it, either].------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Another famous [at the time] thing that occurred was the release of the movie UFO, which Ruppelt, Chop, and Fournet consulted upon. As far as "Art" was concerned the movie was mostly terrible with wooden acting [Chop, Ruppelt, and Fournet could have probably done better playing themselves], no "plot", and an incoherent story line. But for we UFO fans, the movie delivered a lot of good information and good vibes. And you got to see the Tremonton and Great Falls films at the end. Still, FSR was unimpressed and the lack of "art" held the day for them. Two of America's young UFO hot-shots [Max Miller from the west coast and Ted Bloecher from the east] begged to differ however and wrote a team article praising the film and recommending that everyone go see it. Miller liked the re-enaction of the Mantell crash and the seeing of the two real films but not a lot else. Bloecher liked what Miller liked but was particularly enthused about the re-enaction of the 1952 Washington DC overflights. Ted went on to speak of the solidity of the cases chosen and was upbeat nearly all the way. This is another of those things in UFOlogy where everyone, in their way, is right--rather than the way we usually treat such matters that all the other guys are wrong. I, as you might guess, am with Ted, but I can appreciate the views of Max and FSR. They are correct but, for me, are emphasizing the lesser things.-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A topic of some interest was featured in this year by FSR. An [amateur?] astronomer interested in UFOS, W.K.Oliver, wrote a short article describing his own observation of a "transient lunar phenomenon" [TLP]. Such mysteries have been going on for some time, but this might be the first time that they were featured in a UFO-oriented magazine. TLPs are unexplained light phenomena [usually light flashes or glows] seen on the lunar surface [apparently] which puzzle the establishment because the Moon was supposed to be geologically dead. An example of a TLP from 1953 is on the photo accompanying this part of the post. Oliver took care to record his observation of an amber light which turned out to be parked in the vicinity of the prominent crater Kepler. The light [as usual] never moved, and [as usual] simply winked out after 23 minutes of viewing. Oliver said that he had no idea what could have caused this, but we know better---he wrote this up for a flying saucer publication, didn't he?-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
TLPs and their analogous [rarer] events on Mars have been with us for a long time. Probably the most famous claim of TLP is from Gervase of Canterbury in 1178. He wrote that he and many other monks watched as explosive bursts of light emanated from the upper limb of the crescent Moon [repeatedly one evening]. Some modern scholars [not of UFOs] have reasoned that what the monks saw was a large meteorite impact which formed a major crater in that vicinity. During the forties and fifties the Japanese astronomer [forgot his name--forgive me, things like this will happen regularly without my library] witnessed flashes on the planet Mars that Clyde Tombaugh seriously thought might indicate Martian civilization and the application of atomic power. Most TLPs are considered by debunkers to be false light sources caused by the Sun's reflecting off high lunar mountains just within the "terminator" [the dark/light shadowline which creeps across the Moon's face]. Many TLPs are, however, nowhere near the terminator and Oliver's was one of them.-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Morris K. Jessup wrote a short article about the State of American UFology. It wasn't mainly about that, in my opinion, but rather an introduction to the larger UFO community of his idea that UFOs have been around since ancient times and the best source for such proof of that is the Bible. Stating that he is happy and encouraged by what he sees as a decline in fringe nutty groups [I have no idea why he would think that he saw that in 1956] he goes on to [in my mind] try to create another one. We know that Jessup was well on his way to abandoning his scientific approach and ,essentially, found the "ancient astronaut theory" for UFOs,{ again, see Jerry's commentary below for the real origins of the thought in Charles Fort et al}, but it is still a little shocking to hear him speculating that we may be in the "End Times" and UFOs will play a major role in it. He slips in a vague line about Mexico playing a large role in this, which no one could have possibly understood, but I'll let you in on a little of the "secret". Jessup thought that certain low altitude ancient volcanic craters in northern Mexico were cones formed unnaturally by old UFO landing sites, and that "recent" sightings in the area indicated that they were about to become UFO-active again. Well, take it or leave it. Jessup was convinced that these pseudo-volcanoes were the key to the UFO mystery--tell me what you find when you go down there.--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Far from avoiding the encouragement of fringe concepts, FSR featured an article about the Trance-control dictated alternative [updated?] "Bible", OAHSPE. This huge writing was produced by John Newbrough through trance spirit control direction in the late 1800s. It inspired a religious group called the Faithists, who carry on today. [Newbrough is the man on the left]. Newbrough wrote the massive document after many months of meditations and messages, when one day a "line of light" fell across his hands as he sat at the type writer and off he went for fifty weeks of typing labor. Arthur Constance wrote the FSR piece and frankly wrote a lot of bilge for the early years. Still, maybe you will feel that this is the exception. What impressed Constance was the mention of all manner of aerial "ships" coming here to Earth bearing Angelic Beings for our ultimate, and well-needed, conversion to a spiritual culture having no divisive angry gods. Well, I can get behind some of the jist of that, but Oahspe still doesn't seem much like the solution to the UFO mystery to me. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I'll mention just one other thing, and then leave the "statistics" and "most interesting cases" for a second entry when I get time. This was the year when we got one of those puzzlers that couldn't possibly be true but wasn't immediately apparent that it wasn't. The "case" was the Elisabeth Klarer affair. It broke in FSR as a photographic case [one picture of which is on the left], and to me was not at all an obvious hoaxed set of pictures. In fact, they looked rather "nice". One person who gave them a serious consideration was CSI-NY's Isabel Davis. Then came two conflicting things: Klarer claimed meeting an extraterrestrial in the Natal Drakensberg mountains in a separate incident [later] and achieving a relationship with him [Adamski plus Villas-Boas = Klarer], and information came out that she was a prominent person with no previous weirdnesses. So what-in-the-h___ was going on? Because it was so much easier to just forget her, almost everyone did--and her pictures alongside. A long time later Cynthia Hind re-interviewed Klarer and she stuck to her wild tale to the bitter end. I am unlike almost all other serious UFOlogists in that I haven't quite consigned everything about this stuff to the waste bin. I don't understand this thing well enough so I don't completely discard it. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Therefore, if that liberality on my part hasn't completely horrified you, you might want to tune into the 1956 FSR wrap-up for a couple of handfuls of interesting cases and the revelation that there are two more highly controversial cases that I don't toss out.


  1. Thanks professor - it is indeed fascinating to see the phenomenon emerging. Or should I say the various theories and perceptions of it emerging, the ripples and remnants of which we still have today. In the Bill-Gill-Hill progression (and these were the days before Gill and Hill) the contactee stuff must have seemed like a logical progression to some of those who were watching the phenomenon emerge. If these "ships" are coming here, it makes sense that they might contact some of us on a one-to-one basis, they must have pondered and conjectured. The mind blinks open to many possibilities when one starts to accept the reality of the phenomenon. I think back to how impressive the flap around D.C. in 1952 must have seemed to those who were aware of the true depth of the mystery - and Bloecher was one of those.
    Fascinating - these roots of the mystery, and how is some form, guise, or another, it's all still with us 50 some years later.

  2. Another fascinating thing to me is that despite Dempster and Trench being two fairly fringy characters, their magazine still projected solid evidence about non-fringy "models" [emerging evidence-based hypotheses] of what UFOs might be. The fringy stuff that was there didn't ever seem to grow much in strength, but rather came and went. [ex. the argument for Adamski-like views didn't get stronger due to actual case reports, nor did Jessupism, nor OAHSPE-ism, etc]. What got stronger, sailing above the speculative articles that regularly appeared, was the power of the accumulation of reports of hundreds of witnesses who didn't have "revelations" of any sort, nor viewed their incidents as angels, under-Earthers, nor Venusians, etc. The phenomenon was simply presenting itself and one gets the impression that it was we who were making things up to add to it. That doesn't mean that you cannot have a Betty Hill, or even an Elisabeth Klarer, [or a Don Piccard], having a special on-board experience. But it probably does mean that their interpretations of the meaning of those experiences are to be taken with much salt.

  3. Hey, Mike, great job as usual. Before I read your postings, I have to be sure my brain is clear, at full strength, and able to come to grips with stuff that, against all my natural instincts, forces me to think hard. I never attempt it before at least two cups of coffee.

    Gray Barker certainly had much to do with the notion of silence enforcers clad in black suits, but that idea was there at the beginning of the UFO era. I refer specifically to the Maury Island incident in the summer of 1947. Ken Arnold himself became associated with it after Ray Palmer paid him to investigate. Arnold, through sheer naivete (nothing in his prior life had prepared him for a grifter like Fred Crisman), ended up endorsing what was in fact a hoax. Arnold pushed it both in his 1948 Fate article and in the 1952 book he co-wrote with Palmer. Early saucer chroniclers like Harold T. Wilkins, even prior to Barker, gave it prominence. To this day some people, and not just your more credulous ufologists, insist on its authenticity.

    Though Erich Von Daniken school of ancient astronauts was not a direct product of the ufology subculture, previous UFO/ufology-based AA speculations can be traced to Fort and, post-Arnold, to the Desmond Leslie section of Flying Saucers Have Landed (1953). Perhaps more than for his role in FSR, Brinsley le Poer Trench will be remembered as a pioneering -- if that's the appropriate adjective -- AA theorist within the saucer culture, up there with W. Raymond Drake and (the greatest of them all) the immortal George Hunt Williamson. I have a long entry on all this ("Ancient Astronauts in the UFO Literature"), including a look at Trench's strange beliefs, in the second edition of my UFO Encyclopedia, for those who dare go there.

  4. Good stuff as always Jerry. I actually knew that about Arnold and Fort, but got operating too much within the culture of 1956 and the impact that FSR was making in turning some of these "roots" into headline thoughts in the UFO community. Having read the Encyclopedia, I'll just say to the readers that they should too, as your entries were a lot longer in the intellectual boiling pot than my musings here. This blog will hopefully get everybody "half-smart" and then they can get all-the-way-smart by reading the Encyclopedia.

  5. Prof: "I am unlike almost all other serious UFOlogists in that I haven't quite consigned everything about this stuff to the waste bin. I don't understand this thing [the Elisabeth Klarer Affair] well enough so I don't completely discard it."

    Over the weekend, Prof, I've been reading about a British undercover copper who, as part of his infiltration of left-wing anti-racist groups, not only participated in acts of violence against racist group members but SLEPT with - i.e. SHAGGED - female members of the anti-racist groups by way of obtaining information and influencing them.

    Even if you exclude the mystical love affair dimensions of the Klarer case, the improbability of British bobbies being enjoined to sleep with the enemy surely hints at the distant possibility Klarer could've been made to believe she was party to a trans-spatial love affair as a way not just of influencing her, but of setting off cultural explosions in what was afterall the land of apartheid - i.e., a country where mixed race romances where big no-nos.

  6. No comment on the sexual matters and I'd rather leave such matters out of the blog. The problem with the extraterrestrial liaison in the Klarer case has nothing to do with sociology or cultural speculation in my mind, but merely that her story is "believe it or not" without any good investigative support on matters which could have some "down to Earth" detective work done on them---ex., was she missing for large amounts of time ?; was her pregnancy noticeable by anyone?; could anyone give evidence of a meaningful timeline of claimed events with any independent corroboration at all?; etc. Without that [and this may have been done by someone but I don't know about it] I am left with something which is not impossible but which isn't strengthened by evidence either--thus, gray basket.



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