Special Branch and Mars Sector 6

Special branch operatives tailed a UFO cult leader who said he was in telepathic contact with aliens, it emerged today’, announced London’s Daily Express on 28 July.

‘The bizarre high-level decision saw Scotland Yard’s finest infiltrating rallies and meetings of George King’s secretive ‘space society’ amid fears it was a front for Russian spies. ‘

George King interviewed by a 'consultant psychiatrist' on the BBC programme Lifeline, 1959 (credit: BBC)

George King interviewed by a ‘consultant psychiatrist’ on the BBC programme Lifeline, 1959 (credit: BBC)

The source of this story is a dossier released by the Metropolitan Police in 2005 in response to a Freedom of Information request ‘for information on George King and the Aetherius Society‘.

A summary of the contents was published in my book with Andy Roberts, Flying Saucerers: a Social History of British UFOlogy, published by Heart of Albion Press in the following year.

Here is an abridged version of the section dealing with the Special Branch papers:

…members of the Aetherius Society distrusted existing political and scientific establishments. They wanted to see the end of all wars and believed that by challenging the status quo a utopia could be realised. This wasn’t what middle England, now in the post-war economic boom really wanted to hear. In a decade as politically and socially paranoid as the 1950s, it was only a matter of time before George King’s activities would come to the attention of the intelligence services.

Sure enough, that time came on 26 May 1957, heralded by a headline in one of the major newspapers of the day, The Empire News.  The paper’s headline read ‘Flying Saucer Clubs Probe: Peace Messages “from outer space”. The article was uncompromising, opening with:

KingFOI1 001

One of the Special Branch memos that refers to King’s activities and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (copyright David Clarke)

‘‘Warnings’ from space against Britain’s H-bomb tests published in a flying saucer magazine take a similar line to Moscow-inspired propaganda. The ‘warning’ – in a special issue of the magazine – is being scrutinised by Scotland Yard’s Special Branch. It is suspected that a number of flying saucer clubs – and some spiritualists as well – are unwittingly being used by the Communists.’

The idea that anyone involved in a group which held marginalised beliefs, whether political or occult, could be manipulated by communists was widely held.

Flying Saucers and unusual health kicks were bad enough but any suggestion of appeasement or agreement with the Soviets was beyond the pale. The Empire News reporter went on to quote from Cosmic Voice:

‘Have not the latest peace moves come from Russia. You in the West blame Russia and say it is necessary to make these weapons to protect yourselves from them. YOU IN BRITAIN ARE IN A FAVOURABLE POSITION TO SHOW THE LARGER COUNTRIES THE WAY.’ 

It’s easy to see why this message – ostensibly from ‘Mars Sector 6’, and voiced by King in a trance – was seen as barely-concealed communist propaganda.

King was incensed when he read what he saw as an attack on his personal freedom and immediately dashed off a letter of complaint to New Scotland Yard, demanding to know what sort of scrutiny the Aetherians were under, and why. His letter was brief but indignant. In it King states that he is unaware of any scrutiny by Special Branch and states the Aetherius Society is not a club but a ‘religious and occult society, which has contact with Intelligences on certain of the other Planets. We are non-political and non-sectarian’ (letter dated 26 May 1957, Special Branch files).

King requested a prompt reply, following this up four days later when his secretary, Grace Abercrombie telephoned Scotland Yard asking when they would hear from the police. It would be tempting to believe, in view of the prevailing Cold War tensions, that Special Branch had been monitoring King and his disciples since he went public with his beliefs, but this doesn’t appear to be the case.

A Metropolitan Police telegram dated 27 May 1957, recording Ms Abercrombie’s phone call notes, ‘No trace Aetherius Society’ and ‘Unable to identify George King in S. B. Records’. Special Branch documents indicate that the Aetherius Society first came to their attention two days prior to the Empire News article, on 24 May, when a member of the newspaper’s editorial team brought a copy of Cosmic Voice to Scotland Yard and complained it showed a ‘bias to communism’.

This was a classic example of a tabloid newspaper inventing a story as they proceeded to use this visit to claim Special Branch was conducting an investigation of the society!  Of course, the Empire News had a stake in trying to ‘expose’ the Aetherius Society, as it was a notorious right wing paper. In keeping with other media in the fifties, it may also have had staff on its payroll that had contacts with police or intelligence community.

Following King’s complaint an inspector from Special Branch, under instructions from the Chief Superintendent, was sent to interview King at his Fulham home on 31 May. In what must have been a surreal meeting for both parties the Special Branch officer firstly took King to task for complaining the Aetherians were being studied by Special Branch when in fact the Empire News had merely stated the ‘warning’ in Cosmic Voice was being scrutinised by them. King apologised, but requested written assurance from the Commissioner of Police to the effect that they were not being scrutinised by Special Branch.

The Special Branch officer put King at ease telling him that he had ‘…been instructed to inform him that the Aetherius Society was not being investigated by this department.’ The interview then proceeded amicably, although King didn’t seem to grasp that by even being interviewed he, and the Aetherius Society, were under investigation.

During the lengthy interview King claimed the Aetherius Society had about one hundred members worldwide and that issues of Cosmic Voice were sent to the Prime Minister, Buckingham Palace, President Eisenhower and many other politicians and religious authorities.(Metropolitan Police Memo, June 1, 1957)

The officer’s report opined that King was, ‘…obsessed with his work on behalf of the society and is the guiding force behind it. He appears to be sincere in his beliefs but a brief perusal of his writings can leave no doubt that he is a crank, albeit a harmless one.’

Special Branch may have been initially satisfied that King and his acolytes posed no threat in 1957 but the Aetherius Society now had a profile and Special Branch officers began to collect newspaper clippings referring to the society, highlighting any references to their anti nuclear warfare stance.

In May 1958, they once again came to the attention of Special Branch, ‘during recent activities into communist activities in the Fulham area’. This brief report noted that the Aetherius Society was still, ‘…active in its campaign against nuclear weapon tests, and in this respect its policy is closely allied with that of the Communist Party.’. Yet another investigation took place but again police could find ‘….no evidence of open Communist association with the Society’ (Metropolitan Police Memo, 7 May, 1958).

But Special Branch now had the Aetherius Society firmly in its sights and when George King announced a demonstration in London’s Trafalgar Square on 23 August 1958 they immediately decided to monitor the event. The demonstration was intended to explain the reason why the British government were, according to the Aetherians, ‘suppressing’ information about flying saucers’.

A copy of the Aetherius Society pamphlet used to advertise the 'disclosure' rally in Trafalgar Square in 1958 (Special Branch file)

A copy of the Aetherius Society pamphlet used to advertise the ‘disclosure’ rally in Trafalgar Square in 1958 (Special Branch file)

Aetherius Society members started out from Speakers Corner (Marble Arch), parading through the West End of London before congregating in Trafalgar Square at 3 p.m. Although Special Branch claimed that only twenty Aetherius Society members were present, several hundred passers-by took an interest in the event. Several speakers addressed the crowd, regaling them with tales of saucer sightings and the afternoon concluded with a tape recording from Interplanetary Intelligence, Mars Sector Six. Unfortunately, the ponderous tones of the ‘intelligence’, allied with a collection for donations drove most of the crowd away.

George King however was disheartened, saying: ‘I am satisfied with this as a start. Most great movements begin gradually’ (Reynolds News, 24 August 1958).  The Special Branch report concluded that ‘the general atmosphere was of quiet, amused tolerance’ and gave a detailed if cynical, outline of the major beliefs of the Aetherians noting:

‘A point of some significance was that all speakers were careful to point out that Christ, Buddha, Mahomet (sic), and other ‘great men’ were all Venusians. Elijah did not ascend to Heaven in a chariot – he was taken to Venus in a ‘Flying Saucer’.’

The Special Branch operatives also noted that:

…it can thus be seen that the Aetherius society is moulding its preposterous claims to conform with the popular concepts of religion…There is a possibility that all this high-sounding talk of ‘Karma’ and ‘Cosmic Parliaments’ is simply a system of financial gain for certain individuals and George King in particular’. (Metropolitan Police Report, 23 August 1958)

King may have enjoyed being the centre of what was as much a cult of personality as it was a flying saucer religion but whilst King did effectively make a living from the Aetherius Society, he lived a relatively modest lifestyle until his death in 1997.

Another Aetherius Society demonstration took place in London during August 1959, which Special Branch also attended. This time the demands for world governments to reveal their knowledge of flying saucers and to work together to prevent the coming nuclear conflagration were made to about two hundred people.

Belief in a government cover-up expressed by King and his followers were in essence no different to those held by the members of today’s Disclosure Movement. The only point of divergence is that King’s society described itself as a religion. At the 1959 demo amplified tape recordings of one of King’s extraterrestrial contacts, Mars Sector 6, were played and a petition calling for the British government to make an official statement about flying saucers was circulated.

Another pamphlet from the Special Branch file. The beliefs express by this UFO religion in 1958-59 are similar to those promoted by members of the 'Disclosure Movement' founded by Steven Greer in the 1990s (Special Branch files)

Another pamphlet from the Special Branch file. (Special Branch files)

As the 1950s faded into the 1960s, Special Branch began to lose interest in the Aetherius Society. Their investigations had showed that whilst they shared many fundamental ideas, neither the organisation nor any individuals within it were overtly communist.

The FOI papers reveal an underlying disdain for King and the Aetherians, one of the final memos stating: ‘The Aetherius Society is a crank, pseudo-religious, pacifist society…founded by George King who claims to be a spiritualist medium…’.

For his part, George King remained aloof and didn’t let the Special Branch investigations hinder the development of the Aetherius Society. King and his members, however naïve their beliefs, were sincere and greater things were afoot.

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Sky at Night reviews ‘How UFOs Conquered the World’

Writing in the August 2015 issue of BBC Sky at Night Mark Bowyer, an expert in the US manned space programme, says:Sky@Nightcover 001

‘…As the introduction makes clear, this book is not about UFOs themselves, but the people who see and believe in them. It examines the rise in the modern UFO myth, distilling decades of detailed research and interviews into a fascinating account.

How UFOs Conquered the World re-examines some of the most famous alleged encounters with extraterrestrials – for example, the sighting made by Kenneth Arnold that led to the term “flying saucer” being coined in 1947.

‘Noting that Arnold was describing the movement rather than the shape of whatever he had seen, the book shows how this simple mistake in the original press report influenced many future sightings. It goes on to explore how UFO reports reflected the concerns of the times, the imagery of science fiction and the expectations of the viewer.

‘The reportage style is both entertaining and informative. Those who believe in the “extraterrestrial hypothesis” – that some UFOs are indeed spacecraft helmed by aliens – are never ridiculed, even when the sighting turns out to be a hoax.

‘This is rounded off with full references as well as bibliography and index, making it easy for readers to delve further, should they wish. 

‘Indeed, this is a refreshing perspective on a wide range of UFO-related experiences. Don’t be put off by the word “UFO” in the title – there is much to recommend within.’

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Apocalypse then…The Met’s X-Files

In May the tabloids revealed that detectives from Scotland Yard ‘kept dossiers on The X-Files and Star Trek, fearing the television series could cause riots and mass suicide’.

Special Branch HQ: Scotland Yard (credit: express.co.uk)

Special Branch HQ: Scotland Yard (credit: express.co.uk)

The story emerged from two briefing documents I obtained from the Metropolitan Police using a series of Freedom of Information requests in 2005.

Their contents are summarised in my book How UFOs Conquered the World: The History of a Modern Myth (Aurum Press).

One deals in detail with the events surrounding the mass suicide in San Diego, California, by thirty-nine members of the Heaven’s Gate movement on 26 March 1997. The second – the sixth enclosure in a series of papers contained in the file – links Heaven’s Gate with a range of pre-millennial popular beliefs and obsessions including conspiracy theories, alien abductions and the UFO myth.

Although the documents are undated the context suggests they were produced in 1997-98 in the aftermath of the mass suicide and the impending 50th anniversary of the birth of flying saucers and the Roswell incident.

My FOI request asked for ‘information on police investigations into people…with an interest in flying saucers and UFOs’. The Metropolitan Police responded on 28 February 2005 saying ‘there are only two reports that may be relevant’. The first report is transcribed in full here:

Briefing Note          

New Religious Movements (NRM’s)

(UFO NRM’s and the Millennium)

1. The purpose of this note is to draw attention the risk posed by UFO NRM’s, in relation to the millennium. It should be remembered that UFO NRM’s are new, and draw inspiration from sources one would not normally associate with religious devotion, particularly rock music, television drama and feature films.

2. Over the past decade, there has been an increase of interest in alleged government conspiracy theories. The spectrum of topics is wide ranging, particular interest is shown in UFO sightings, alien abductions, political assassinations (particularly John F. Kennedy), the Vietnam war, aeronautical and computer technology.

3. Most groups are based in the United States, and, not surprisingly, their concerns relate to events there. What should be appreciated, is the area of interest ranges from idle curiosity, to absolute, unquestioning belief. Furthermore, although some are in distinct groups, many are in isolation, but appear to embrace a general orthodoxy as to what events have taken place, and that the governments of the leading nations are conspiring to keep the truth from the general public.

4. What is of interest, is the cross fertilisation of ideas between the UFO movement, and elements of the Pentecostalists, with their interpretation of the Book of Revelation. This has particular relevance at this time, with the approach of the millennium. Certain factions attempt to give the areas of interest expressed by the UFO movement credibility, as having been predicted in Revelation.

5. Fuel is added to the fire, by television dramas and feature films, mostly produced in America. These draw together the various strands of religion, UFOs, conspiracies and mystic events, and put them into an entertaining story-line. It is not being suggested, that the production companies are intentionally attempting to foment trouble. However, the producers of the programmes, including…

Pg2

The X-Files, Millennium, Dark Skies and Stark Trek know what psychological buttons to push, in order to excite interest in their product. Obviously, this is not sinister in its self, what is of concern, is the devotion certain groups and individuals ascribe to the contents of these programmes.

6. With the millennium in mind, various groups are showing an unhealthy interest in microchip technology and bar codes. It is being seriously propounded that microchips will, in the future, be implanted into hands to provide immediate screening identification, and bar codes all contain the number 666. The relevance of 666 is an obvious reference to the mark of the beast as mentioned in Revelation. Surgically implanted microchips, are being interpreted as references in Revelation to a mark being placed in the right hand or forehead, of followers of the Anti-Christ, again predicted in Revelation 13:15-18 (See Appendix A).

7. There is justifiable concern, that the millennium could precipitate an act of extreme violence, by one of the many religious apocalyptic groups. However, given their antipathy and suspicion towards areas of modern technology, it may be prudent to broaden our view of what such an attack might constitute. An obvious area of interest to UFO/Pentecostalist factions is, as previously stated, microchip and bar code technology. This could have implications for various industries, most notably international banking, as some groups appear to be interpreting their computer systems as tools of the Anti-Christ.

8. It is easy to dismiss those who adhere to these beliefs as being mentally deranged, and therefore of no consequence. Recent events, most notably the mass suicides in California by members of the Heaven’s Gate group, (who were ardent followers of the X-Files and Star Trek), and David Koresh, founder of the Branch Davidians, (who believed the feature film Lawnmower Man, was an interpretation of the Book of Revelation), indicates that their views can, and do influence others. In essence it does not matter that we do not believe, what really matters is, they do.

In the second document the anonymous Special Branch author says members of Heaven’s Gate, like many other UFO-related NRMs, drew inspiration from science fiction.

‘Much of the genre is concerned with governmental conspiracy theories. Indeed, programmes and magazines such as The X-Files, Dark Skies, Roswell and UFO Reality cite large-scale conspiracies and cover-ups as being “factual”. The problem is that growing numbers, are not treating this as entertainment, and finding it impossible to divorce fantasy from reality.

‘It is virtually impossible to disprove a negative, and the more attempts to do so simply adds fuel to the fire. The worrying aspect is that as some elements, as in the case of Heaven’s Gate, take extreme measures. On that occasion the group imploded, we cannot be certain that other groups in the future will take such ‘limited’ action. Although an American phenomenon, it is being imported into the UK’.

The Metropolitan Police have, more recently, denied access to additional files requested under FOI on groups and specific individuals linked to UFO and conspiracy-related beliefs.

‘To confirm or deny that any information is held [on individuals] would harm law enforcement functions of the MPS by disclosing operational techniques used over a significant number of years,’ a denial response dated 19 January 2015 stated. ‘This would compromise the future law enforcement capabilities of the police’.

In their response the Met cited a series of absolute exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act including  section 23 (information supplied, or relating to, the security services MI5, MI6 & GCHQ), section 24 (national security), section 31 (law enforcement) and section 40 (personal information).

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The Visit: an alien encounter

My personal highlight from the 2015 Sheffield’s International Documentary Film Festival is an experimental film that poses a fundamental human question – if aliens were to land on Earth, what would happen?

Sir David Attenborough might be used by the UK government to break the news of an alien visitation to Earth (credit: Rex Features/Daily Telegraph)

Sir David Attenborough might be used by the UK government to break the news of an alien visitation to Earth (credit: Rex Features/Daily Telegraph)

What plans do governments and other agencies have in place to deal with such an epoch-changing event?

The surprising answer is none, according to a group of experts from the United Nations HQ in Vienna who appear in the European-made film.

Among those interviewed are Vickie Sheriff, a former spokeswoman for Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, and Lord Boyce, Admiral of the Fleet.

The former British Chief of Defence Staff confirms the ‘there is no contingency plan’ at the Ministry of Defence to deal with alien visitations.

But he says in the event of an alien spacecraft landing on Earth the CDS would advise the Prime Minister to consult with other the members of the P5 United Nations Security Council.

Sheriff says the question ‘what do we tell the public?’ would loom high on her list of priorities if information was in short supply.

What are the dangers?: ‘Our greatest fear would be of losing control’ and mass anxiety, in that ‘they will panic and think we are hiding something…people have fantastic imaginations and rightly so because this is an unprecedented situation,’ she says.

Admiral Lord Boyce, former UK Chief of Defence Staff (credit: leadersweserve.wordpress.com)

Admiral Lord Boyce, former UK Chief of Defence Staff (credit: leadersweserve.wordpress.com)

Sheriff and defence analyst Paul Beaver says they would advise the Prime Minister to ‘keep it political…no military uniforms’.

But with no established rules or procedures and no obvious spokesman for humanity, they might be forced ask a trusted broadcaster like Sir David Attenborough to break the story to the public ‘because he knows about wildlife’.

For his part, Admiral Lord Boyce says that despite the UN’s leading role, the default position of some countries might be to launch a pre-emptive attack.

‘When confronted with the unknown we want to bring it into the known and conquer it. My view is this would constitute a threat to world stability and peace.’

Danish filmmaker Michael Madsen‘s The Visit: an alien encounter is both thought-provoking and unsettling in the way it grapples with the theoretical possibility of an ET visit as a philosophical question.

It includes contributions by experts from the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), the French Space Agency CNES and from social scientist Doug Vakoch who is employed by SETI to compose interstellar messages ‘of the kind that one day may be sent in reply to a signal from ET.’

The Visit is a refreshing change from the tired approach adopted by documentary makers who insist on trying to examine the issue in the context of beliefs about UFOs and alien abductions.

Unusually for a documentary on alien encounters it begins with a direct statement of fact: that, as far as we know aliens have never landed on Earth.

The Visit subverts the rules by turning the spotlight back upon humanity, asking the viewer to consider not whether aliens exist, but ‘who are we, as an Other might see us?’ and, ‘if you are truly alien, will we ever understand you?’

DocFest

 

 

 

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UFOs Conquer The World

My new book How UFOs Conquered the World was published on 14 May and is reviewed by The Sunday Times here.

Alien encounters as depicted in Thrilling Wonder Stories 1948 (credit: MEPL)

Alien encounters as depicted in Thrilling Wonder Stories 1948 (credit: MEPL)

In his review James McConnachie says UFO believers will not like this book, ‘it is not a classic debunking. David Clarke is too subtle and warm for that’ but it is ‘a good book…it pulls off being sceptical, respectful and dry…’

‘Clarke, who has a PhD in folklore, insists that everything is “perceived through the distorting prism of popular culture”. Before flying saucers there were phantom rockets, winged airships and fiery celestial chariots, as seen by the biblical prophet Ezekiel. Postwar UFO sightings aped prewar science fiction. In the 1950s and 1960s, everyone saw saucer-like shapes. (The “saucer” image derives from a misreporting in a newspaper: ‘”Why would aliens redesign the appearance of their craft,” Clarke demands, “to conform to a mistake by a journalist?”) From the late 1970s, people saw huge, hovering black triangles with pulsing corner lights, “strikingly similar” to the opened image of the 1977 film Star Wars.’

Meanwhile Marcus Berkmann, reviewing the book for the Daily Mail, said the great question ‘is, as it always has been, are little green men from distant planets visiting Earth or is it all a load of hooey?’ He goes on to say:

‘Dr David Clarke, academic and folklorist, has been asking himself this since he was a child. What he is interested in though, is the way in which the idea of the UFO has seeped into our lives and culture…the word he specifically uses is ‘myth‘ – not to mean that it’s untrue, but that it’s a story, unverified and possibly unverifiable, that millions of people have come to believe.’

Elsewhere Peter Rogerson in the Magonia Review of Books says, he ‘found this a really refreshing change after reading one naïve UFO book after another, and happy at last to read one which Magonia can wholeheartedly recommend.’

‘In this book…Britain’s leading ufologist, through his personal reminiscences and interviews provides a portrait of the rise of the UFO mythology. He recounts how seeing a (particularly dire) UFO documentary sparked his interest in the subject…In the end David Clarke comes down firmly in the psycho-social camp.. It’s important not to confuse this psycho-social approach with simple debunking. It does not take the view that because UFO reports are essentially human documents and are in some sense or another products of the human imagination they are of no interest and can be just thrown away. Rather it argues that their roots in the human imagination is exactly why they are interesting and important.’UFOs_HB_B

Blogger Andrew May makes a similar point in his review for Brian Clegg’s Popular Science. In How UFOs Conquered the World  May says ‘Dr Clarke focuses on what he calls the UFO syndrome: ‘the entire human phenomenon of seeing UFOs, believing in them and communicating ideas about what they might be’:

‘…This isn’t a book for UFO believers, who will see it as a systematic attempt to kick over all their carefully constructed sandcastles. The fact is, however, that Clarke doesn’t kick over any sandcastles at all – he simply looks at them with closer scrutiny than their builders would like. To continue the metaphor, it’s a book for people who are prepared to admire sandcastles without needing to make-believe they’re real castles. If you’re the sort of person who would never dream of buying a book with ‘UFO’ in the title – this is the one that ought to change your mind.’

Author Jenny Randles – a former director of investigations for the British UFO Research Association (BUFORA) – says of it:

‘….This book is primarily about the effect that the widespread belief in UFOs has had on our society – because whatever else is, or is not, true then that effect is profound. Since famed psychologist Carl Jung penned a book on the subject in the late 1950s we have been in need of a modern appraisal from someone who knows both the facts and how to read the signs. Now we have just that.
The world is awash with UFO books and the net an unregulated morass of web sites and chat forums dedicated to believing in six million impossible things before breakfast. This book is not one of these. It is free of jargon and is a highly intelligent look at a mysterious phenomenon that has insidiously invaded the consciousness of our world. It is one of the most illuminating and interesting books on the subject in years.
After you have read it then you may not find the UFO phenomenon to be quite so mysterious but you could very possibly consider it to be even more fascinating.’

In his reader review from Amazon, Andy Owens says:

‘A triumph of investigative journalism and logical reasoning. David Clarke is the John Pilger of ufology. Like Jon Ronson and Louis Theroux, the author reveals human nature to be far more fascinating than anything extra-terrestrial. Read any book about UFOs – but read this first. Should be on every ufologist’s bookshelf. One of the few books to have changed my way of thinking.’

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UFO New Religious Movements and the Millennium

‘It might sound more like a plot for The X-Files than a case for the real-life detectives of Scotland Yard but secret Special Branch files have revealed the Met regarded Mulder and Scully, not to mention Captain Kirk and his Star Trek crew, as threats to national security…’

Mark Branagan’s story published by the Sunday Express and followed up by the Daily Telegraph is based upon papers I obtained from the Metropolitan Police via a Freedom of Information (FOI) request in 2005.

Two undated dossiers, one titled ‘New Religious Movements (UFO NRM’s and the Millennium)‘ were compiled by an unknown author to brief anti-terrorism officers.

A page from the Met Police Special Branch briefing on UFOs and the Millennium (copyright Met Police)

A page from the Met Police Special Branch briefing on UFOs and the Millennium (copyright Met Police)

The context suggests they were prepared in the aftermath of the Heaven’s Gate suicides and the fiftieth anniversary of UFOlogy in 1997-98.

The two-page memo on UFO NRMs opens by saying ‘the purpose of this note is to draw attention to the risk posed by UFO NRMs in relation to the Millennium…it should be remembered that UFO NRMs are new and draw inspiration from sources one would not normally associate with religious devotion, particularly rock music, television drama and feature films.’

Popular programmes such as The X-Files, Millennium, Dark Skies and Star Trek are listed as drawing together:

‘…the various strands of religion, UFOs, conspiracies and mystic events and put them in an entertaining story line…it is not being suggested that the production companies are intentionally attempting to ferment trouble. However [they] know what psychological buttons to press to excite interest in their products. Obviously this is not sinister in itself. What is of concern is the devotion certain groups and individuals ascribe to the contents of these programmes..’

The author said it was easy ‘to dismiss those who adhere to these beliefs as being mentally deranged, and therefore of no consequence.’

But the mass suicide by followers of both Heaven’s Gate ‘…indicates that their views can, and do influence others [and] in essence, it does not matter that we do not believe, what really matters is they do.

The briefing pointed out that members of the Heaven’s Gate group drew much of their inspiration from science fiction films and movies. Its followers spent their time watching TV programmes such as Star Trek and The X-Files, or reading UFO-related material online.

‘The problem is that growing numbers are not treating this as entertainment, and finding it impossible to divorce fantasy from reality,’ the Special Branch report continued.  Police were concerned that although the extreme type of outcome seen in San Diego was an American phenomenon, ‘it is being imported into the UK.’

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Roswell slides ‘mystery’ debunked

The so-called ‘Roswell slideshave been exposed as having nothing to do with aliens and everything to do with the will to believe that underpins the UFO syndrome.

What the caption on the exhibit actually says (credit: Nippa Downey)

What the caption on the exhibit actually says (credit: Nippa Downey)

What Nick Redfern calls ‘the biggest soap opera since Dallas‘ came crashing down less than a week after the slides were first exhibited at a ticket-only, pay-per-view event in Mexico City on 5 May.

Research by a crack team of skeptics has established beyond reasonable doubt that the ‘alien’ inside the glass case is in fact the mummy of a child who was born and died on this planet.

As I pointed out at the time 5 May 2015 is exactly twenty years since the fake alien autopsy film was unveiled in London. That was also supposed to show images of aliens recovered from a flying saucer that crashed near Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947.

But the links between the slides exhibited in Mexico City and Roswell were even more tenuous than those claimed for the alien autopsy footage.

Even before access to high resolution images of the slides was obtained, skeptics had drawn comparisons between the body shown and a child’s mummy.

On his Mysterious World blog Redfern drew attention to the hair-covered head of an animal, accompanied by a label, that was visible behind the remains of the child mummy. Nick suspected this pointed to both being exhibits in a freak-show or museum of curiosities,

But the coup de grace was delivered by the Roswell Slides Research Group that was formed to critically evaluate claims that were being made about the significance of the images on the slides.

One of the group used a piece of commercially-available software to clean up the blurry text that was visible on the museum label visible beside the glass case in which the mummy was exhibited.

A press release issued by the group on 11 May explains what happened next:

“Following a bit of work by various members of the team over a period of a few hours…the words ‘MUMMIFIED BODY OF TWO YEAR OLD BOY‘ were clear. with 3 further lines of text seeming to say something like ‘at the time of burial the body was clothed in a …. cotton shirt. Burial wrappings consisted of these small cotton blankets. Loaned by Mr …. San Francisco, California’…

“…various other researchers have now duplicated and accepted those results. Most members of the UFO community have now moved on to ask how the text was not clear to the promoters of the slides before a big show was held in Mexico and whether the actions of those few individuals will do lasting damage to the wider field of UFO research’.

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Sliding towards Roswell

The Roswell incident is UFOlogy’s Holy Grail and the industry that has grown up around it never sleeps.

Alien Autopsy mark 2: coming to your internet browser soon!  (credit: UFOevidence.org)

Alien Autopsy mark 2: coming to your internet browser soon! (credit: UFOevidence.org)

On Tuesday, 5 May the world may, or may not, be rocked to its foundations when the showmen behind the latest chapter in the Roswell saga unveil two colour slides that supposedly show “an unusual body in a glass case”.

The creature has a small thin body with a large head so, hey presto, it must be an extraterrestrial. And as experts have concluded the Kodachrome film was definitely exposed in 1947 it may – or may not – show one of the aliens whose flying saucer crashed in New Mexico and was recovered by the US government.

Up to present only tantalising glimpses of the images have been released, via a YouTube ‘teaser’, to fuel the bandwagon as it rolls towards Mexico City, where the images will be revealed in the presence of UFO pundit Jaime Maussan.

Internet flame wars are raging between those promoting the images as the fabled ‘smoking gun’ and skeptics who have annoyingly poked wide gaping holes in the story.

In his teaser sports writer Adam Dew, who appears to be the custodian of these images, says they were found inside a box containing 400 old slides that turned up in Sedona, Arizona during 1998.

The box may (or may not) have belonged to geologist Bernard Ray and his wife Hilda Blair Ray, who was an attorney and amateur pilot. The couple travelled widely and their photographs include images of celebrities such as Bing Crosby, Clark Gable and General Eisenhower at public events in the late 1940s.

But even if this is true there is absolutely no evidence that the Rays had any political or intelligence connections that would have allowed them access to Top Secret material. The one flimsy connection with Roswell is that Bernard was a president of the West Texas Archaeological Society and may have visited New Mexico in 1947-8.

Dew says that he is ‘not making any claims’ but then goes on to state the creature appears to be between 36-40 inches in length, its head is larger than its torso and it has ‘some unusual features’.

Mummy

The child mummy discovered at Thebes, Egypt, in 1856 (credit: http://www.blueblurrylines.com/)

Sceptics have pointed out these features do not prove the creature is an extraterrestrial. It could equally show the body of a child with hydrocephalus or indeed the remains of an ancient mummy of the type stored in assorted museums across North America and Europe. Jose Antonio Caravaca, for example, says the ‘alien corpse’ has remarkable similarities to a child’s mummy discovered in Egypt in 1856 that is now at the Smithsonian in Washington.

But why let such awkward problems stand in the way of such a good story? Dew says that logic tells him ‘…it’s probably nothing but I just can’t shake the thought that maybe…just maybe…it’s something’.

Even so, some of the UFO industry’s biggest proponents have dismissed the slides as having nothing to do with Roswell.  Stanton Friedman has said he’s going to observe the dog and pony show from a safe distance because he doesn’t “want to appear to add legitimacy by my presence in Mexico City”.

Robert Hastings has gone further, saying the slides are ‘….likely to become one of the most embarrassing missteps in a seven-decade-long effort by ufologists to gather and publicize data pointing to the reality of the UFO phenomenon and its probable extraterrestrial nature’.

5 May 2015, the day that some claim will change the world forever, is exactly 20 years since the hoaxed footage of the ‘Alien Autopsy’ was first shown to a hushed gathering of UFOlogists, journalists and others at the Museum of London.

The UFO myth just goes on repeating itself. I suspect the Roswell slides will be the Alien Autopsy II. As such the warning given to those fooled by Ray Santilli’s original autopsy footage in 1995 applies here: caveat emptor

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The Scottish Roswell

The Sunday Express and Metro have today published a preview of a chapter from How UFOs Conquered the World that exposes the truth behind ‘the Scottish Roswell’.

Sunday Express 3 May 2015

Sunday Express 3 May 2015

Journalist Mark Branagan says the Ardgay mystery has ‘intrigued UFO hunters since it was discovered in the 1960s.’

Yet the weird wreckage found on a remote hillside in Scotland has been revealed as a top secret CIA spy balloon destined for Russia.

It was found in 1962 by shepherd Donald MacKenzie. Three months went by before the RAF reluctantly dispatched a mountain resuce team to check it out.

…the four man RAF team found a strange box-like object lying in the heather at Ardgay, in the Highlands. It had a camera port but the camera had been removed. The team spotted other signs someone else had beaten them to the crash site.

When Squadron Leader John Sims called the Air Ministry he was told by London he had ‘no need to know’ what had happened. The mystery deepened when the team was ordered to alter their records to delete all reference to the incident.

Now Britain’s X-Files expert Dr David Clarke claims to have solved the mystery in his book, How UFOs Conquered the World, out on May 14. During a trawl of Air Ministry documents in Kew’s public records office, he came across a file marked Top secret – USAF meteorological experiments. It revealed details of a spy programme codenamed Moby Dick bankrolled by the CIA from 1955-56. It involved a Scots-based US weather team using balloons to lift fibreglass gondolas into the stratosphere to be carried by the jet stream across Russia.

Soviet MIG fighters found it hard to intercept the balloons but the Scottish weather did the job for them. This one had blown off course after its launch six years earlier.

Dr Clarke said: ‘The Pentagon had spent $68 million on this and was determined to keep it secret’.

More details about the Ardgay incident and the CIA spy balloon programme can be found in my blogpost from July 2012 here.

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How UFOs Conquered the World

How UFOs Conquered the World: The History of a Modern Myth, will be published in hardback by Aurum Press on 14 May 2015.

It is the story of the long, strange trip that I began almost forty years ago when I was first gripped by the UFO bug as a child. Partly a personal pilgrimage and mostly a social history it is a nostalgic top-down deconstruction of a subject that never ceases to baffle, infuriate and amuse in equal measure.

UFOs_HB_B

The young lad on the cover is meant to be my ten-year-old self about to set off on a series of strange adventures in the wacky world of ufology.

The hardback edition can be pre-ordered on Amazon here and here is a potted introduction:

The UFO was born in America during the summer of 1947. A lone pilot saw nine mysterious objects that flew ‘like a saucer would if you skipped it across water’ and the media did the rest. Today, almost half the population of the Western world believe we are not alone.  Millions of people claim to have seen a UFO. An alarming number reported being ‘abducted’ by aliens.  And some are convinced there is a conspiracy by governments to hide ‘the truth’.

As a child during the 1970s, David Clarke wanted to believe. He joined a UFO society, went ‘skywatching’, and later, as a journalist, spent decades investigating sighting reports, unearthing Top Secret government files, and interviewing those who claim they have seen interplanetary craft and had met their occupants. He never found a crashed flying saucer, or received a visit from the sinister Men In Black. Instead he discovered something no less astonishing.

This book describes David’s strange journey to the heart of the UFO phenomenon. He has close encounters with abductees, hoaxers and conspiracy theorists. He meets people who think aliens are angels (or demons). And he tracks down the boffins who ran the British government’s now defunct ‘UFO desk’ to find out what their investigations really uncovered. Along the way he reveals how the human will to believe turned the stuff of science fiction into the most enduring myth of modern times.

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