Sunday, April 18, 2010

FSR 1960: Humans At Work.

Under Waveney Girvan's leadership, the pages of FSR were reasonably sane. Given the still-mysterious status of nearly everything associated with UFOs, and Girvan's own unflagging support of George Adamski, this was rather remarkable and a testament to Girvan's honesty [and good quality intellect] as an explorer. Still, we inevitably had some "human elements" to deal with which were not always pointed in the best direction.---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The fellow pictured above is Trevor James Constable [going at that time by just "Trevor James"]. Ignoring a huge percentage of the phenomenon as reported, James decided that UFOs were Space Animals. The picture at the left is one of many really bad pieces of film that he used in support of this hypothesis. Many were printed in FSR. [I have reproduced perhaps the "best" of his photos here]. The idea has a certain "romance" about it, and could be entertained [mildly] for cases like the "Attack Glob from Magonia" described in an earlier post, but hardly addresses the core of the UFO mystery without a great dose of further imagination-without-evidence. But for me, and I hope all serious students of actual UFOs, James' speculations are more a science-fiction sideline to the research than something with much substance. ------------------------------------------------------------------------But we can give him one bit of comfort from the journal in 1960. [A doubtlessly quite young] Colin Wilson reported to FSR that a "few months ago" [therefore late 1959] a Scottish forestry worker named Moreland was walking in the foothills of Ben Nevis near Fort William, when, low on the slopes, he "came upon patches of an unusual jelly-like substance". The patches, of which there were apparently many, lay about on both ground and rock to a thickness of four inches. They appeared to be greyish-white, but had a "rather beautiful blue tinge". When Moreland kicked at it, bits would break away, and it acted "quite like table jelly". Once the Sun hit it, it dissolved away rapidly. Moreland subsequently asked fellow workers about the stuff, and one old man told him "It comes down i' the night frae the sky". Well, maybe. Whatever, it is at a minimum interesting, though without anything to link it to UFOs. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Trevor James went on to [basically] abandon his flirtation with Space Animals, and to take up Reichian Cloud-Busting, weather modification, and "free-energy harvesting" from the sky. All of that sounds like a great trajectory of a life consistently pursuing nonsense [and perhaps even scams-for-cash; the last of these things was a business]. Plus, I really think that his Space Animals wouldn't have liked any of his later schemes for meddling with their environment.------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
There was something of historical [human] importance which happened this year which FSR reported: the "recantation" of Edward Ruppelt. In the great scheme of things, this is of little importance, but in the petty scheme of things, it has engendered a lot of print and an equal amount of "Sturm und Drang" which has created a lot of error in some peoples' minds. I shouldn't waste your time with this, but, as it fogs up our understanding of history, I am driven to comment. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------I have for many years been privileged to be the amateur archivist for the Edward Ruppelt papers. Having read them all, and much more in other file sources, I am going to claim, immodestly, to be about as much of an "expert" on Ruppelt as you can get. [that doesn't mean that I really know everything which went on, of course, just that my guess is as good as any]. So, what went on with Sir Edward? --------------------------------------------------------------------------Ed Ruppelt was a fighter pilot ace and an engineering graduate of Iowa State University. After the war he wanted to stay in for a while and shortly move on to a job in the aeronautical industry. And this is what he did. He was a smart guy, a personable guy, and a guy with high standards of personal work and loyalty to the USAF. He got assigned to intelligence at Wright-Patterson, analyzing intel on Soviet jets. He was fascinated with the UFO desk's job, and when Jerry Cummings left for Cal Tech, Ruppelt stepped in. Though not Cummings' fault [that belongs to the guys of the Grudge era], the desk and files were a complete mess. Ed went about trying to make things orderly and workable, and, within the limits of the support that he had, he did a good job. In fact, he did so well, and so personably, that he was respected by his superiors and trusted with giving briefings, even on his own, to anyone right up to the chief of intelligence. The bottom line here is: although just a lieutenant, Ruppelt managed to do a good honest job at Blue Book. That did not mean that he understood everything that had gone on with the USAF UFO project [he tried to talk with old-timers to find out what he could] nor everything that had ever been reported in files [some of which he couldn't even find as they had been discarded]. But all indications are that he did the best he could, and that was pretty good until the wave of the summer of 1952 swamped him. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------A key thing happened very early in Ed's career at Wright-Pat. He heard a critical tape recording by then chief-of-intelligence Charles Cabell, in which an irate Cabell screamed at his colonels about how betrayed he felt that they had trashed the project and regarded the subject itself as trash. The key phrase for the soon-to-be Blue Book chief Ruppelt was: "I want an open mind!! In fact I order an open mind!!" Absurd as that concept may be, in a long-distance way, Cabell was talking to the right guy. Ed Ruppelt was the master of the open mind. That is why when he talked to a skeptic, he challenged the skepticism. When he talked to a believer, he challenged their evidence. And that is why you can read Ed's book till you drop, and never can be sure whether he "believed" in UFOs or not. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------This is why all the smoke has been created around him. Did he "believe" or didn't he? My answer is: it's not important. But others insist that it is and use their speculations on the point as launchpads for conspiratorial theories and/or character assassinations. What can we say with honesty? When people actually read Ruppelt's book, they became more certain that the UFOs were real flying technology anomalies. The reasons are both concrete and subtle. The concrete ones are the statistics of unknowns [which are staggering] and the fact that Ed clearly believed that many of the most puzzling things that he wrote about were real observations. The reason that we know the latter is that Ed was willing to take his cases of high strangeness to the CIA panel in front of both them and his boss [General Garland] and defend them as things to be considered by the scientists. These include things such as the "microwaved" soil of the Desverges case and the shoot-a-saucer incident of the Holloman report. I have independent confirmation that Ed used the Desverges case when he gave orientation talks to new intel officers about the kinds of things that they might see on the job. The subtler things are the "atmosphere" about how he talks in the book and in his file notes. When he is arguing with a UFO enthusiast, he writes humbly, and often humorously, with the joke being on him. when he writes about a debunker, he will be very deprecatory and even angry. Ed Ruppelt was sympathetic to the UFO mystery even in his "body language" in print. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------And so, the honest man wrote an honest book--true to his character as the ultimate open-mind, and true to his sympathy for the mystery. And then....the book revision. When the second edition came out, it had three new chapters. One chapter was just like the previous seventeen, open-minded and sympathetic. One chapter was a sarcastic look at the contactees, and who could blame him? The last chapter was a thoroughly unsympathetic laying waste of the subject. [The "Recantation"]. What had happened? ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Conspiracy theorists want to believe that Ruppelt now finally showed his true colors, and had been an intelligence community stalking horse for manipulating everyone from the CIA to ourselves all along. Ed Ruppelt, the Iowa farmboy and lowly lieutenant, was really the original Man-in-Black with the blackest of hearts. [That theory is the equivalent of the amount of pig manure spilt on Iowa farms in a full year in my opinion]. Other people just don't like Ruppelt [for reasons which escape me] and are happy to use his betrayal to sling mud [or worse] all over him. But I believe that what happened to Ed was exceedingly understandable and perfectly in tune with his character. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------He had begun his post-USAF career very admirably as far as we UFOlogists are concerned, happily giving more and more positive commentary about UFOs to the press, joyfully giving talks and TV appearances [like "What's My Line?"] and corresponding with people like Don Keyhoe [to say nothing of helping get the UFO movie into the theatres]. I believe that if Ruppelt had lived, and if Keyhoe hadn't been so successful at getting the USAF into hot water in congress, Ed would have ultimately joined NICAP. As it was, the main thing that was stopping him was worry about what his air technology employer might say. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Ruppelt wrote his recantation at a precisely understandable time. He had been called to Washington by the Air Force to sit in closed meetings with congressmen and explain to them that the USAF was doing its job and that these hassles that Keyhoe was putting them through were a waste of both the congressmen's time and the USAF. Ed probably didn't think that it was a waste of the Air Force's time, but he stated explicitly to Keyhoe that it should not be on the agenda of congressmen when so many things of greater national importance existed. And he felt that it was wrong that Keyhoe and others were using his book as a weapon in this fight. When you add to that Ed's long feelings of loyalty to his service, what would you think you'd see next out of him? He did the most effective thing that he could--he changed the tone of his book. That's intellectually dishonest, yes; but it's understandable, and it's probably the only intellectually dishonest thing that he did in his short life in UFOlogy. Ed died young. What a shame. At the end of the twentieth century he might still have been with us and clear-headed --- and my what an oral history interview that would have been. Ed is a hero of UFOlogy in my heart. To those who viciously detract from him I have many words, none appropriate for the blog. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A few other things on the "human" side were in FSR [though surprisingly bare this year]. Leon Davidson unloaded his theory that this was all a CIA plot, using clever air technology which was our own, as well as "useful dupes" such as Adamski and the other contactees, for whatever their ultimate nefarious purposes were. ---------------------------------------------------The other major features were the march of articles by W.R.Drake presenting every possible reason why intelligent life forms, looking perhaps like us, and like "gods" or the contactee personages, could exist on each of the planets of the solar system. As esoteric as his writings were, they, in the end, have a batting average of zero. One wonders what it is like to be a theorist who is wrong 100% of the time--one cannot own a mental rearview mirror, I suppose. My own tastes go in these matters to old science fiction, and particularly, as to intelligent life on Mercury, to Ray Cummings' novels of the winged princess, Tama, who lives in the twilight zone between the hot and cold sides, and is completely charming---smart and tom-boy spunky too. Now if the universe was mine to order, I'd have Tama and her kind happily on a more hospitable Mercury, and Drake and I would have something to agree upon. Alas, neither one of us will get our wishes.


  1. Interesting image of Princess Tama. She appears a mite thin to be sporting such a fantastic pair of wings. Sure looks like a Bowie knife she's wielding against R2D2. Great stuff, I really enjoy it. Regards.

  2. Dear Professor,

    I've got both versions of Ruppelt's book in my library and the difference in tone is quite clear; it's amazing what one final chapter can do to a book.

  3. Always glad to hear about Ruppelt and the shift he makes in tone in a book that is one of the seminal works on the subject - thanks for the summation of your understanding of the great recantation. I love his book dearly - and part of it's magic is the moxie and gentle '50's machismo of his style... I always recall his definition of a flap as "a condition, or situation, or state of being of a group of people characterized by an advanced degree of confusion that has not quite yet reached panic proportions. It can be brought on by any number of things, including the unexpected visit of an inspecting general, a major administrative reorganization, the arrival of a hot piece of intelligence
    information, or the dramatic entrance of a well-stacked female into
    an officers' club bar."
    Pure poetry!! I love that book!
    (If anybody doesn't have it, it can be downloaded for free (it's oublic domain now) at the Project Gutenberg website. You can turn it into a PDF and search it by word or name, etc.)
    Hope things are going well, Professor! Smiles from Michigan!

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  6. To the group: I'm going to begin deleting comments which are not anywhere near on topic. There will be no "memory" on this, so whenever someone decides to actually contribute something of possible interest and relevance for the rest of us, they are welcome.

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