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So Is There Really Something Out There?

From: UFO UpDates - Toronto <ufoupdates.nul>
Date: Wed, 01 Aug 2007 08:22:45 -0400
Archived: Wed, 01 Aug 2007 08:22:45 -0400
Subject: So Is There Really Something Out There?

Source: The Yorkshire Post, Leeds, UK


31 July 2007

So, Is There Really Something Out There?
By Chris Benfield

Until 60 years ago, nobody had heard of flying saucers. Now, one
in three of us believes they have already brought aliens to

The growth of what might be called humanity's most recent
religion is traced in Flying Saucerers, by David Clarke, a
former Yorkshire Post reporter, now lecturing on journalism at
Sheffield Hallam, and Andy Roberts, an ex-Brighouse veteran of
investigations into the odd, now living in North Wales.

Their book was inspired partly by Yorkshire's part in the story
of saucery. But they are pretty clear that it all started in the
US, in June 1947, when a businessman called Kenneth Arnold
radioed his home airfield, in Utah, after an unsettling
experience as he flew over Washington State.

He said he had seen nine strange craft moving in formation,
faster than anything he had ever seen, "like a saucer skipping
on water". When he landed, the reporters were waiting.

During the war, airmen commonly reported mysterious craft they
called "foo fighters" =96 for reasons which have been lost,
although the French (and Cajun) for fire (feu) or madness (fou)
or fake (faux) might have been involved.

When the war finished and nobody owned up to the foo fighters,
there was a vacancy for an explanation. And pulp fiction had
been developing the theme of space travel since the 20th century

"Flying saucers were an idea whose time had come," summed up one
historian of the phenomenon.

The first sighting was followed by many, all over the world. And
before the year was out, the US Airforce had added to the frenzy
by trying to avoid telling the truth about an experimental
surveillance balloon which fell out of the sky in New Mexico =96
the mundane explanation, according to this book, of the famous
Roswell Incident.

Around that time, the USAF also contributed the term UFOs, for
Unidentified Flying Objects.

This was an age when an aeroplane eight miles up was at the
frontier of human exploration. It is hard, now, to appreciate
fully the mix of fascination and terror created by the idea of
space travellers.

The authors have a nice quote from a Sheffield woman, Edie
Rutherford, writing her diary for July 1947 for the Mass
Observation Archive..."Husband much keyed up about the flying
saucers. Papers can't report enough to satisfy him."

The authors describe themselves as "sceptics about any form of
supernatural event, and agnostics about there being an extra-
terrestrial element in any UFO sighting".

Their book is not about the sightings but about the people who
have believed in them =96 passionately enough to change the world,
in some ways.

They have included some remarkably senior military men and
royalty (Mountbatten and, allegedly, Prince Philip) and, later,
quite a lot of rock stars, including Brian Jones of the Stones,
David Bowie and John Lennon. At first, the interest was in the
"nuts and bolts" of alien craft, as the authors put it =96 where
they might have come from and how they might be powered.
Gradually, the interest and the explanations became more

Carl Jung, a great believer in the power of the human spirit,
seemed to propose =96 in a notoriously obscure book in 1959 =96 that
the saucers were either created by a worldwide yearning for
change or were called in by it, from elsewhere in the universe
or some other dimension.

This half-thing, half-ether theory appealed to all sorts of
people, and the "nuts and bolts" men, with their cardigans and
pipes, found themselves mixing with occultists and ley-line
followers and rollers of reefers =96 not to mention the
opportunists, the con-artists, the self-publicists and the

The authors do not say which category they think George King
belonged to, but they drop some hints.

King was a taxi driver and a student of Eastern philosophies who
was washing up in his Maida Vale flat in 1954, as he later told
the story, when a voice announced: "Prepare yourself. You are to
become the voice of Interplanetary Parliament."

King founded the Aetherius Society, which still has a following
among people who do not see why a taxi driver should be any less
likely to get messages from God than your own chosen prophet.
But as with L Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, there are
reasons to believe that King saw the business opportunity before
he saw the light.

King passed on a number of messages from Venus, proposing
nuclear disarmament and peace with the Soviet Union, and was
eventually investigated by Special Branch, as a possible
Communist agent. This helped to give Saucery a pacifist, anti-
establishment kind of image, attractive to the "beatniks", who
paved the way for the hippies, who bequeathed us the New Age

It was way back in 1962, Clarke and Roberts remind us, that the
first settlers came together at the Findhorn Community, in
Scotland, "The Vatican Of The New Age".

Central to Findhorn's origins, they say, was a belief "that
flying saucers existed and their occupants were in psychic

There were still quite a lot of claims of physical contact, too
=96 including a barmy Birmingham woman's explanation to the Sunday
papers of a son who was clearly not her husband's.

Life on other planets might be a problem for people who take
this world's religious teachings very literally, and some
decided that the alleged spacemen were actually agents of the
Devil, bringing his message in disguise.

When Stephen Spielberg released Close Encounters Of The Third
Kind, in 1978 =96 having used a weird Wyoming rock formation,
known as The Devil's Tower, for the climactic scenes =96 there was
serious unease in the Christian churches about it being shown,
the book reminds us.

For some years now, for whatever reasons, UFO "sightings" have
been declining. The era of the flying saucer has even been
declared over.

But Clarke said yesterday: "Although Close Encounters was a high
point, the interest has never gone away. It keeps coming back in
different forms. Crop circles is the latest thing and a lot of
people still believe they have an extra-terrestrial origin,
despite all the evidence about how humans can make them and have
done. When crop circles are over, there will be something else."

Although he calls himself "open-minded" about unexplained
phenomena, he says researching for the book convinced him that
it is the Saucerers =96 the human believers =96 who drive the cycles
of interest. Wiltshire was UFO central in the '60s and '70s
because of an interested reporter on the Warminster Journal. And
in the '80s and '90s, Yorkshire, and particularly the Skipton
area, became a hotspot because of the Birdsall brothers, who
published UFO magazine from Leeds =96 until Graham Birdsall died,
in 2003, and it faded away.

In Flying Saucerers, the authors sum up: "Each generation finds
its own unique way to express supernatural beliefs, and faith in
flying saucers and aliens is ultimately a product of our time,
as belief in witchcraft was a characteristic of the Middle Ages.

"For the 20th century, UFOlogy was just one manifestation of
humanity's quest to find an answer to the question: Are we
alone? It remains to be seen if that question will be answered
in the millennium which lies ahead."

Flying Saucerers: A Social History of UFOlogy, is published by
Heart of Albion Press (www. hoap.co.uk) at =A314.95. To order from
the Yorkshire Post Bookshop, call free on 0800 0153232 or go to
yorkshirepostbookshop.co.uk. Postage and packing is =A31.95.

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