Flying Saucers From Hell – originally published by Fortean Times 211(2006)
“You’d better pray to the Lord when you see those flying saucers/It may be the coming of the judgement day…”
Charles Green & Cy Cohen, “When You See Those Flying Saucers” – Oct 1947
Since the 50s the dominant and certainly the most popular hypothesis in UFOlogical and public discourse has been that flying saucers and their occupants represent highly intelligent visitations from outer space. From an early period, with a few exceptions, the majority of UFOlogists appear to have believed the intentions of the “visitors” is benevolent – either to keep an eye on our progress towards joining the intergalactic federation or to warn us that our nuclear experiments were “upsetting the balance of the universe.”
But even proponents of the ETH have had to contemplate the impact that open contact with an alien race might have upon human societies, particularly the spiritual implications. There has been much speculation concerning the impact on religion, particularly upon fundamentalism. Oddly enough, theologians – who would appear to be the most obvious experts to offer advice on spiritual matters – have had very little to say on the subject. There is, for instance, no rigid Christian dogma on life in outer space or on the nature and origin of UFOs.
This reluctance to commit has infuriated some Christian groups, particularly those who hold extreme views on the UFO phenomenon. On the one hand there is a group of evangelicals – mainly Americans, such as Dr Billy Graham – who have said the UFO occupants may be angels sent by God to watch over us. The best known exponent of this idea is the Presbyterian minister Rev Barry Downing author of Flying Saucers and the Bible. Downing appears to be open minded about aliens as part of God’s creation and looks to the scriptures for evidence of early ET contacts.
At the opposite end of the spectrum are some members of the Christian Orthodox Church  who find it impossible to accept there is any goodness in the elusive and contradictory nature of UFO behaviour. The most extreme expression of this view is there can be no ETs because life on other planets is not mentioned in the Bible. From this standpoint if there are no aliens in the Bible, and the UFO occupants aren’t angels, then UFOs can only be demonic in origin.
What the opposing sides in the UFOs are angels/demons debate have in common is they both accept that if we can have good UFO occupants then we can also have evil ones (and Satan is, after all, according to Christian tradition, a fallen angel). They also share the concept of the Antichrist and the imminence of the Second Coming predicted in the Book of Revelation.
Billy Graham, for instance, has been quoted as saying that the angelic UFO occupants have been sent with us to help us “fight the demons in the prelude to the Second Coming of Christ.” Furthermore, a 2002 Time/CNN poll found that 59 percent of those quizzed accepted the literal truth of the “End Times” predicted in the Book of Revelation . And the poll found that many believe that the final battle with the Anti-Christ will take place in their own lifetime.
Some UFOlogists have attempted to make out a case for hostile aliens in the tradition of H.G. Wells. However, none of these scenarios are as interesting as the ones conjured up in the fundamentalist literature on UFOs, which are founded upon beliefs which date back to medieval demonology. If you were only to read the “serious” UFO literature you might be forgiven for believing the theory that demonic or evil forces are controlling the UFOs belongs to the “lunatic fringe” – just another crazy idea. This would be far from the truth as demonology has played a very influential, and largely overlooked, role in the development of UFOlogy both in the US and Britain.
Probably the best known books promoting the demonic theory for UFOs are John Weldon and Zola Levitt’s UFOs: What on Earth is Happening and Dr Clifford Wilson’s UFOs and their Mission Impossible . These three writers represent a very vocal faction of Christian fundamentalists who written on UFOs. Weldon and Levitt pull no punches in setting out their stall: UFOs are manifestations of demon activity and the increasing numbers of UFOs in our skies are the result of Satan’s evil forces gathering to fight on behalf of the Antichrist. From this point of view, evidence identifying the UFO occupants as fallen angels is plentiful in the Bible, if you know where to look and how to interpret obscure passages in the correct way. Both these books were published in the 1970s. More recently, writers in the same tradition have pointed to the wave of alien abduction claims as proof that Satan’s hordes have been let loose on the world. They are out to steal our souls and deceive us into a false religion by promoting the idea of ancient astronauts and evolution as opposed to creation.
I wanted to discover how far these extreme views were reflected in British UFOlogy. Initially I thought there would be little evidence, until I scratched beneath the surface and found a mountain of literature and even a society dedicated to promoting the demonic theory. The former editor of Britain’s Flying Saucer Review, Gordon Creighton, was until his recent death the best known demonologist in theUK. But what is not as well known is that, as recently as 1996 a group of “concerned UFOlogists” which included Creighton and the founding President of BUFORA, Graham Knewstub, privately circulated a report warning of the demonic nature of UFOs.
The UFO Concern Report was copied to several hundred UFOlogists, MPs and Peers of the Realm and was endorsed by none other than Lord Hill-Norton, a former British Chief of Defence Staff. Hill-Norton, who died shortly after Creighton in 2003, is usually quoted by UFO proponents as someone who, given his military contacts, should know what he was talking about. So it is interesting to find Hill-Norton writing, in the memorandum which launched the report, that UFOs were “essentially a religious matter” rather than a military threat from outer space and furthermore:
“…there is certainly a degree of psychical involvement in almost every case. Quite often, however, such experiences are definitely antithetical to Orthodox Christian belief.”
The UFO Concern Report was a “restricted edition” aimed at alerting “top people” of the dangers posed by UFOs and abductions. While Hill-Norton’s memo was published in FSR it got little publicity in the mainstream UFO press.
Some of the big names who initially supported it later distanced themselves because they did not agree with the emphasis placed by the reports author, Fr Paul Inglesby, on the spiritual dangers posed by UFOs.
Fr Paul Inglesby was, before conversion to the Orthodox faith, an Anglican priest, Rev Eric Inglesby. [Note: Fr Inglesby died age 94 on 26 May 2010 – read the Daily Telegraph obituary here and my own account of his influence on UFOlogy here].
It is largely through his and Gordon Creighton’s influence that the demonic theory of UFOs has been kept alive into the 21st century.
Born in 1915, Inglesby was probably Britain’s longest serving UFO theorist, with contacts at the highest level both in the church and in the establishment. Much of what has been written on this subject in UK emanates from his persistent and meticulous writings, even though most UFOlogists I have questioned have never heard of him.
Inglesby is also unique in that his interest began a whole decade before the flying saucer era. In 1938 whilst serving with the Royal Navy under Lord Mountbatten he contracted a tropical disease and was left dangerously ill for three months. During this time he underwent a “devastating spiritual experience” during which he saw visions of a future atomic war and demonic forces controlling space ships and nuclear weapons. Whilst trapped in this timeless limbo “…not only did I witness future events, in a mental telepathic sort of way, but throughout the whole of this time a battle was raging for possession of my soul.” 
Fortunately, his prayers were answered and he was saved from the clutches of the demonic forces. Following his baptism of fire he naturally remained on the look out for evidence of evil influences. When the first reports of flying saucers appeared in British newspapers in 1947 Inglesby felt his visions were about to become reality. He found the extraterrestrial hypothesis, prevalent in the media and UFOlogy, was not a satisfactory explanation for the whole phenomenon. Gradually he came to believe the contacts and messages passed on by the UFO occupants were at least partly of demonic origin.
Conversion to Christianity followed and in 1964 he was ordained as a priest in the Church of England. His conversion to Christian orthodoxy came in 1980 following a meeting with Fr Seraphim Rose at a monastery inCalifornia. Fr Rose had written a treatise on UFOs as demonic signs which proved to be highly influential in Inglesby’s developing theories. The monk advised him to take refuge in orthodox doctrine so that he would have spiritual protection in the campaign against flyingsaucery that was to occupy much of his life.
Like other fundamentalists Inglesby saw the decline of traditional religion and the arrival of New Age and UFO-based religious cults such as the Moonies as a sign that End Times as imminent. Of course this wasn’t a new idea, or one that is exclusive to Christians. As Forteans are well aware, belief in the approaching apocalypse is a massively important theme throughout the history of UFOlogy. It is particularly associated with UFO cults whose leaders have predicted world cataclysms in messages supposedly passed on by the space people. Fundamentalists, however, interpret these messages as being demonically inspired.
Before the End Times can arrive Satan must implement his evil plan for world domination. In order to succeed large numbers of people, particularly those in high places, will be brainwashed or possessed by evil spirits in order to prepare them for the final battle on the side of the Antichrist. This idea of a creeping take-over alarmed those who believed UFOs were demonic in origin. Not for them the War of the Worlds invasion of aliens with machines and death rays. They feared a more deadly take over of human souls and the horrifying idea of crossbreeding between demons and human beings to create hybrid creatures.
The famous Antonio Villas-Boas UFO abduction case from Brazil provided the demonologists the evidence they were looking for when it was published in FSR. The amazing story of a sexual liaison with a female alien on board a UFO in 1957 did not emerge in the UFO literature until 1965. But ever since that time the sexual theme has continued to turn up in abduction narratives, so much so that Inglesby was able to state, in a letter to FSR published in 1993 that:
“…all the evidence points to quite a simple solution [to the UFO abduction mystery], namely that wicked spiritual powers for some time have… been stealing human sperm and ova…however, these genetic ingredients most probably are NOT crossed with their own genetic stuff (if any!)… but are being used…to create pseudo human beings…probably thousands, if not millions, of these creatures somehow, somewhere, now exist. Inevitably they must be soul-less, and thus can be easily possessed and completely controlled by evil spirits [the ‘aliens’]. Their ultimate purpose can only be the take-over of planet Earth by invasion, Trojan-horse fashion.”
Demonic ideas in British UFOlogy
At the opening of the UFO era in 1947 the ETH was just one of a number of competing theories for the origin of flying saucers. When the very first Gallup poll was carried out in the US the ETH did not even figure in the results. But when asked “What do you think the saucers are?” one woman responded “….citing a Biblical text…[and] said it was a sign of the world’s end.”  However, even at this stage more ancient devil traditions from folklore were becoming entwined within the UFO narratives. Probably the most obvious example is the Men in Black or MIB, a piece of UFOlogical folklore which began with the story of Albert K. Bender, founder of theUS-based International Flying Saucer Bureau. Bender learned the ultimate source of the saucers in 1953 and decided to reveal what he knew. What happened next is legend: three sinister men dressed in black suits visited him having intercepted his letter. The MIB visit affected him so profoundly that he discontinued all further involvement in UFOlogy and shut down his saucer club.
It is interesting that Bender had an obsessive interest in the occult and black magic as well as flying saucers so it is hardly surprising that he was visited by the devil . His experience had far reaching consequences in that it tended to alert some of the more religious members of flying saucer clubs to the spiritual dangers of involvement in flying saucery. As a result, a schism occurred, with some saucer groups actively avoiding any associations with the occult that was rife among the contactee movement. But the spiritual connotations of flying saucers would not go away.
By the late 1960s many mainstream UFOlogists were growing disenchanted with the subject. The long-predicted landings on the White House lawn had failed to materialise and truth about UFOs seemed as elusive as ever. In some cases, UFOlogists turned away from the ETH and looked instead to occult and supernatural explanations. Journalist and author John Keel and, to a lesser extent, the French computer scientist Jacques Vallee, were leaders of the so-called “new UFOlogy.” Keel’s theory of ultra terrestrials – supernatural entities who co-exist with mankind in a parallel universe – proved immensely popular among UFOlogists who were looking for an alternative to the ETH.
Keel claimed he could contact the UFO entities via messages relayed by contactees and even via the telephone (in a similar fashion to spirit mediums). These encounters led him to conclude the intentions of the UFO occupants were sinister. In his Operation Trojan Horse he wrote:
“…the UFOnauts are the liars, not the contactees. And they are lying deliberately as part of the bewildering smokescreen which they have established to cover their real origin, purpose and motivation.”
Although Keel avoided religious conclusions and claimed to be an atheist, his ultra terrestrials were in fact the same as the angels and demons of old. Flying Saucer Review was one of the main conduits for the Keelian/occult views whose influence reached every every UFO group and society inBritain. When Gordon Creighton took over editorship the demonic theories were promoted with renewed energy. By 1976 he wrote in a review of one of Vallee’s books that: “Demons…are here already in immense strength.” They were busily selecting those people whose genetic stock was needed for crossbreeding with demons. Even worse, the demonic entities were programming these slaves to commit violence and controlling puppets in Government to do their evil bidding.
These were way out views even for a UFO publication. Creighton was following Inglesby in forging a demonological interpretation of UFOlogy, a package that contained some disturbing ingredients such as extreme right wing politics and raging paranoia. During his long editorship these bizarre views found a home in the very mouthpiece of ‘serious’ UFOlogy. For a time FSR was read by everyone who was anyone in the subject. And as a result a number of very well known names were drawn into this web – including some big names inBritain’s largest UFO organisation, BUFORA.
Three former chairmen of BUFORA, including the founding President, Graham Knewstub, along with Capt Ivar Mackay and Roger Stanway, became convinced that UFOs were of demonic origin. Both Knewstub and Stanway were originally believers in nuts and bolts spacecraft. But their views changed when their involvement in UFOlogy came into direct conflict with their religious beliefs.
In November 1976 Stanway stunned his friends and colleagues by resigning as chairman and severing all contact with the subject. In his resignation letter of November 1976 he explained that he and his wife had been born-again as part of a massive Christian revival that was sweeping through the world. He added: “…furthermore, I now believe that the UFO phenomenon has Satanic origins.” You could dismiss Stanway as an isolated example of someone who was pre-inclined to religious fundamentalism. But that wouldn’t be correct and he isn’t an isolated example.
Perhaps the most bizarre story of all concerns the BUFORA investigator for South Wales, Randall Jones Pugh who died in 2003. Pugh – a retired veterinary surgeon – was a God-fearing man who investigated the West Wales UFO flap of 1977 that became known as the “Welsh Triangle.” Initially he was another believer in ET visitors but gradually his views changed. During his investigations Pugh looked into a range of weird happenings centred upon a remote part of the Pembrokeshire coast: lights and objects hovering in the sky, mysterious silver-suited figures peering into farmhouse windows, cowering animals, a herd of cattle teleported from one part of a farm to another, and poltergeists plaguing a family of UFO witnesses . By 1980 he had concluded that the UFO occupants were evil supernatural entities and came to believe UFOlogists were placing themselves in both physical and spiritual danger. Soon afterwards, like Roger Stanway before him, Pugh left UFOlogy and burned his collection of books and slides. These actions followed a series of personal experiences that he claimed “were too frightening to talk about.”
Like Pugh, the Rev Anthony Millican’s interest in evil aliens came from personal experience. One night in April 1968 he was out for stroll with his wife near his vicarage on the outskirts ofBristol. Suddenly the couple saw a glowing dome-shaped object hovering close to the ground just a few hundred feet away. It was transparent and appeared to silently rotate on its axis. The object was transparent and silent and both felt “uncanny and chilling” sensations.
Millican said: “I don’t think the thing I saw was mechanical at all. I got the distinct impression that it was alive.” He felt the UFO was evil and made a report of it to the Bishop of Bristol and to the police, who searched the area but drew a blank .
In the article Eric Inglesby invited all those who were concerned by the growing public interest in UFOs and aliens to join a new Christian UFO Research Association. Although membership of CHRUFORA never rose above 40 the society had associates from all denominations of the Christian faith. It included UFOlogists such as Knewstub, Stanway and Pugh and clergy such as Inglesby, Millican and several bishops. The association pledged to fight against what they saw as rising tide of occultism and to do everything in their power to warn others about the evil influence of flyingsaucery which was “fraught with danger for the unwary and riddled with heresy and false belief.”
CHRUFORA saw the imminent release of the Steven Spielberg film Close Encounters of the Third Kind as the most obvious spearhead for their campaign launch. Inglesby described the massive popularity of the film as “slow poison, more deadly even than The Exorcist.” The use by Spielberg of the Devil’s Tower monument inWyoming as the focus of the film’s close encounters and clear evidence to CHRUFORA of its demonic inspiration.
Members also identified a number other evil elements in the plot. For example, those contacted by the aliens are subject to a form of “mind control” (demonic possession) – an overwhelming urge to make their way to the Devil’s Tower. At the climax of the movie, the UFO entities are portrayed as benevolent and angelic, when as all well informed demonologists know, Satan’s demons are able to disguise themselves as “angels of light” to deceive world leaders.
Rev Millican’s reaction to the opening of the film in his native Bristol was to set up a stall in the foyer of the Odeon Film Centre. By June 1978 over 150,000 people had passed through, so there were lots of souls to save! During his campaign he handed out 4,000 leaflets warning cinemagoers that UFOs were not ETs but “the devil’s messengers.”
Millican’s display was in direct opposition to the message of the local UFO club and the Aetherius Society – which had 20 such stalls at cinemas up and down the country. But the demonic message seems to have been the most newsworthy .
While Millican was saving souls in Bristol, Inglesby was more concerned about the spiritual welfare of the Royal Family. Her Majesty the Queen, he felt, was in grave spiritual danger if she allowed herself to be seen to publicly endorse the film. In February 1978 he learned to his horror that both The Queen and Prince Philip had been persuaded to see the film for the benefit of a charity. In desperation he appealed to the Archbishop of Canterbury and to Lord Mountbatten, urging them to intervene and warning that her presence might prove “disastrous” for the Royal Family.
In the event, the Queen, Prince Philip and Lord Mountbatten – both of whom were both long standing flying saucer enthusiasts – attended the star-spangled Royal Premiere on 14 March, seemingly without any intervention by demonic forces.
Having failed in their campaign against the film CHRUFORA had more success in their bid to make their mark on the House of Lords UFO Debate initiated by the UFOlogist Lord Clancarty. It was through the intervention of Inglesby and CHRUFORA that the Archbishop of Canterbury asked Maurice Wood, the Bishop of Norwich, to speak in the debate, held in January 1979. In his contribution he said he was anxious about the dangers posed by UFO cults and pseudo-religions “obscuring basic Christian truth” and added:
“Some Christian researchers suggest that those who become deeply involved in the religious aspects of the UFO situation come under psychic domination which can cause serious distress to them in their personal lives.”
One outcome of this period was that public interest in UFOs and the occult quickly dwindled during the 1980s. Inglesby’s group felt they had achieved success in that the general concensus had moved against “an obsessive, unhealthy interest in UFOs now seen as occult phenomena.”
So why did the demonic theory of UFOs become such a popular explanation from the late 60s/70s? And how many UFOlogists and, indeed members of the public, give credence to this idea today?
I suspect there may be a link between belief in a demonic origin for UFOs and the wider “occult revival” recognised by the sociologist Marcello Truzzi. He categorised the revival into four main areas of popular fascination: Astrology, Satanism and Witchcraft, Parapsychology and Eastern mysticism. “Flying saucers” appeared only in fifth “waste basket” category which he believed had “small scope and influence or are in an actual state of decline.” 
Few detailed studies have been carried out into the relationship between religious and UFO beliefs. As a result it is difficult to assess how many people subscribe to the angelic/demonic origin of UFOs. There have been few opinion polls in the UKbut if we look at the most recent Galluppoll in the USAin 1996, this found that 48 percent believe UFOs are real and not figments of the imagination. Proponents of the ET hypothesis tend to interpret this as nearly half the population believe UFOs are ET visitors, but is that really the case?
Much depends on what is meant by “real”. For many religious people the devil is very much a physical, living reality. Certainly, the evil influence of the devil is as real to them as the Greys are to those who believe in alien abductors. Indeed, it seems that in theUSAat least, belief in the devil has easily overtaken the ETH in the run up to the Millennium. A succession of polls published by the Center for Policy Research have found belief in the devil increased from 37% in 1964 to a 48 percent in 1973 . The latest poll, byGallupin 1995, found this had risen to 65 percent, more than those who believe UFOs are “real”!
We can now appreciate why the demonic theory has retained its popularity for so long and why it appears to be the only answer that makes sense to many otherwise sensible people. Quite simply, as Gareth Medway has recognised , demonic theories have an advantage over all other UFOlogical hypotheses because they are totally inclusive. Many people want an answer to the mystery that leaves no ambiguities, and no residue of unexplained cases. Those who seek to explain UFOs as weather balloons, mirages, ball lightning, earthlights or ET craft can make their case only by distorting or ignoring evidence that does not fit – or by suppressing it.
An American Orthodox priest, Fr Thomas Kulp summarised the superiority of the demonic theory over all others in this way:
“If we are being visited by extraterrestrials, no unified and coherent hypothesis has yet been offered to explain the multifarious worldwide motifs of alien contact…There is not a single UFO incident on record that cannot be explained as a demonic deception or apparition.”
So if you believe the devil and his army of demons are real everything can be explained. As the devil has unlimited powers, no UFO story is too absurd or contradictory, as this is what would be expected if their source was a demonic one. Now we can appreciate why this theory has proved so attractive to UFOlogists like Creighton and Inglesby who have searched in vain for a satisfactory answer. For UFOlogists of a paranoid or apocalyptic mindset – of which UFOlogy seems beset – the idea of an invasion by evil forces (whether alien or Satanic) can explain all the baffling and contradictory aspects of the UFO mystery.
What we are witnessing here is a re-enactment of some very ancient myths and legends common to many of the world’s religious traditions. The most obvious is the ongoing battle for the souls of mankind between the opposing forces of light and dark, good and evil, God and the Devil, played out in a technological setting, with spaceships replacing traditional religious imagery.
Perhaps that is what was meant by the space people who visitedNew Jerseysignwriter and contactee Howard Menger in 1956. As well as telling him they were from Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, introducing him to space music and the delights of space potatoes, they told him there were both good and bad spacepeople, and the bad ones could disguise themselves.
When Menger asked how a mere mortal was able to tell them apart, one of the spacemen turned and looked at him sadly, saying:
“…My friend this earth is the battlefield of Armageddon, and the battle is for men’s minds and souls. Prayer, good thoughts and caution are your best insulation.”
Notes and References:
- The Orthodox Church or Eastern Orthodox Church is defined by the OED as “a Christian Church or federation of Churches acknowledging the authority of the patriarch ofConstantinople, originating in the Church of theByzantine empire.”
- BBC News Online6 April 2003
- John Weldon and Zola Levitt, UFOs: What on Earth is Happening? (California, 1975). According to the introduction, Weldon is a research editor for the Christian Research Institute and Levitt is a Hebrew Christian who “met the Lord in 1971.”
- Eric Inglesby, UFOs and the Christian (London: Regency Press, 1978)
- See Bob Durant “Public Opinion Polls and UFOs” in Evans & Stacy (editors), UFO 1947-97 (London: John Brown publishing, 1997).
- Peter Rojcewicz, ‘The Men in Black Experience and Tradition,’ Journal of American Folklore 100 (April/June 1987).
- See David Clarke, ‘Britain’s X-Files: The Welsh Triangle,’ Fortean Times 200 (2005).
- Flying Saucer Review Vol 14/4 (1968).
- Sunday People (London),23 April 1978.
- Ronald Story, The Space Gods Revealed (London: 1976)
- Marcell Truzzi, ‘The Occult Revival as Popular Culture,’ Sociological Quarterly 13 (1972).
- Gareth Medway, ‘Ancient Astronauts, Gods and Greys,’ Magonia 64 (1998)