WE HAVE CONTACT!

What more recent, but not more rational, books on UFOs and flying saucers dismiss in a couple of sentences as an embarrassing artifact of the naive 1950s is actually part of a wonderful social history of crackpots, cultists and conmen operating with a nakedness and simplicity that wouldn't get the money in the US today. Maybe in Switzerland....

This crew is usually referred to today as “the Contactees.” They include George Adamski (1891–1965), the pioneer, and his quickly emerging competitors, Truman Bethurum (1898–1969), George Van Tassel (1910–1978), Daniel W. Fry (1908–1992), Orfeo Angelucci (1912–1993), George King (1919–1997), Buck Nelson (1894–1982), and about as many others, more obscure. The era came to an abrupt end in the US with Betty Hill (1920–2004), who introduced a new paradigm to replace Adamski's by now stereotypical Space Brothers.

  • GEORGE ADAMSKI
  • was the first contactee, by far the most successful, and undoubtedly the inspiration for all those that followed, including Swiss cult leader Billy Meier, who has modeled himself and his revelations from space brothers closely on Adamski. In the late 1940s Adamski was the leader of a very small religious cult (about 20 members) strongly influenced by Theosophy. His day job involved dishwashing and cleanup at a hamburger stand run by the commune.  In 1949, he wrote and self-published a science fiction novel, Pioneers of Space, about human-appearing wise men who lived on the moon, Mars and Venus. He also began to circulate close-up photos of flying saucers, which eventually looked exactly like light fixtures, complete with light-bulbs; he said the shots were taken with his 6-inch reflecting astronomical telescope.

    Adamski made headlines in the winter of 1953, when he reported that the year before, he had met and talked with a man from Venus. His followup book, Flying Saucers Have Landed, was mainly a summary of Theosophical teachings about space travellers, written by British Theosophist Desmond Leslie, with a short section in the back supposedly written by Adamski and illustrated with some of his photos. He now claimed all the photos had been taken a few months after his meeting with the Venusian, when the saucer flew over his back yard and dropped an “indecipherable message.” In 1967 it was pointed out that the conversations Adamski reported having with his extraterrestrial friends, as described in Adamski's later book Inside the Space Ships (1955), were copied almost verbatim from his earlier science fiction novel. Adamski might have been a bit miffed when British UFO enthusiast Gavin Gibbons (1922 - 1978) published They Rode in Space Ships in 1957, summarizing in immense detail the alleged extraterrestrial experiences of newer contactees Daniel Fry and Truman Bethurum, but devoting only a couple of sentences to Adamski. At the time of his death in 1965, Adamski had according to some reports become quite wealthy, mainly from lecture fees as he crossed and criscrossed the US and Europe giving first-hand accounts of his amazing experiences— including trips to a giant Mother Ship in earth orbit, and on to other planets— and the exciting cosmic and spiritual revelations given to him by the friendly, profoundly wise Space Brothers from Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn... all of whom were physically indistinguishable from earth humans. There are reports of Adamski on his tours at times being accompanied by two lovely women, forerunners of rock “groupies,” who were introduced by George, with a slight twinkle in his eye, as his “official bodyguards from Venus... meet Kalna, and Illmuth!” The two beauties also appear as characters in his Inside the Space Ships. Colin Bennett's incoherently repetitive but worshipful recent book about Adamski, by contrast, claims that Adamski was a homosexual and that it was the handsome blond men seen entering and leaving his hotel room in the evenings that Adamski referred to as “Venusian bodyguards” when they chanced to be seen by followers. Longtime Adamski follower Laura Mundo says that Adamski sometimes groped her, but “did these things only when others were around. When he and I were alone in a hotel room or elsewhere, he was all business.”

    Venusian bodyguards???

    All the major contactees and some very minor ones currently have or at one time had entries in Wikipedia. Adamski's iconic saucer is the only one from this era available as a plastic model kit. Some of the other books published at various times under Adamski's name include Many Mansions (1955), Telepathy (1958) and Cosmic Philosophy (1961). In recent years Adamski and his teachings seem to have been incorporated into the strange esoteric cult led by 90-year-old British guru Benjamin Creme, who apparently met Adamski in the late 1950s, perhaps on one of Adamski's worldwide lecture tours.

  • TRUMAN BETHURUM
  • in 1954 published a book, Aboard a Flying Saucer, recounting how, in “late July” of 1952, he had met and talked with a human-appearing woman from the hitherto-unknown planet Clarion. Her name was Captain Aura Rhanes. He was allowed inside the space-woman's saucer on his very first visit (Adamski got inside only much later), and made 10 subsequent visits. Bethurum's day-job was mechanic on a road-building crew, but he moonlighted as a fortune-teller, reader, advisor, and “metaphysical consultant.” Clarion is unknown to earth astronomers because it orbits the sun in just such a way as to stay always behind our own moon, a concept that would have baffled Johann Kepler or anyone else who tries to picture that orbit! Bethurum claimed to have been so smitten with the beautiful and sexy Captain Rhanes that  his wife divorced him out of jealousy! Bethurum's first book was ghostwritten by Mary Kay Tennison. A later book supposedly by Bethurum, Messages from the People of the Planet Clarion, is still in print. Bethurum eventually founded a religious commune called the Santuary of Thought.

    The business card Bethurum gave to 1950s talk-show host Long John Nebel, who made a point of interviewing all the 1950s-era contactees, modestly described himself in the following way:

    Construction Engineer; Analytical Research; Author of Books on Extraterrestrial Beings and Travel; Reader, Analyst and Appraiser of Unseen Human Vibrations – Appraisal by Special Appointment Only
  • DANIEL W. FRY
  • in 1954 published his book,The White Sands Incident, explaining how he had met and talked with A-Lan, a human-appearing space alien whose race, now dwelling in giant space ships, once colonized Mars after being driven by catastrophy from the Theosophical Lost Continent of Lemuria on our earth! The meeting occurred on July 4, 1950, so take that, Adamski! [Fry later sometimes revised the meeting further backward to 1949, apparently because he was perhaps concerned that some one would point out that he was neither employed by nor at White Sands in July of 1950!] Fry used the telepathically-supplied wisdom of A-Lan to become the leader of a small, Theosophy-based religious cult, called “Understanding,” which he always proclaimed to be not really a cult sort of cult, but he also emphasized that on his very first encounter with A-Lan, he was taken for a ride in the saucer (all the way to New York City!), so take that, Adamski and Bethurum! Like most of the early contactees, Fry claimed to have various academic degrees and titles which in fact were completely imaginary. Fry also published Atoms, Galaxies and Understanding (1960), Steps to the Stars and The Curve of Development (both 1965). The White Sands Incident is still in print, and still gives "the" date as 1950. One wonders what Fry's early followers made of his To Men of Earth, circa 1953, which is a very conventional science fiction story featuring the character A-Lan!
  • GEORGE VAN TASSEL
  • came to Landers, California in 1947 and bought Giant Rock, a gigantic boulder about 7 stories tall. He opened an airport and cafe near the rock, and tried to promote tourist business. Van Tassel claimed in 1955 that he began to meditate in a cave excavated under the Rock, and managed to call down a flying saucer from Venus. He eventually got the usual tour of the inside of the space ship, and many amazing revelations, including the secret of a wonderful “machine” called the Integratron, actually just a small dome-shaped structure, which he built beside the Rock. While Van Tassel wrote and published such accounts as I Rode in a Flying Saucer, he was probably best known for his annual Spacecraft Conventions, held between his airstrip and the Rock over a 20-year period. You may not be surprised to learn that Van Tassel was also the leader of not one, but two religious cults, the best known being the Universal College of Wisdom. Van Tassel's teachings are promoted today by a chaotic organization calling itself the Ashtar Command. Van Tassel's other books include Into this World and Out Again (1956), The Council of Seven Lights (1958) and Science and Religion Merged (1968). One regular feature of Van Tassel's Spacecraft Conventions was a bizarre performance in which he "channeled" via a "tensor-ray beam" various space-men he had contacted telepathically, speaking in a wide range of voices and accents.  Several of the more traditional contactees are reported to have felt that Van Tassel was thereby making fun of them!

    At its peak, the Convention (according to Van Tassel) drew an attendance of 10,000 or more. A cynic might speculate that almost all Van Tassel's activities and claims were dedicated to increasing the number of customers at his cafe. Almost every famous 1950s contactee appeared several times at these Conventions, with one notable exception: the pioneer, George Adamski, pointedly boycotted the yearly convocation, after attending just one, in 1955.  In February 2000, long after Adamski and Van Tassel  departed for a higher plane of existence, a large piece split off the rock, somewhat ruining its appearance. Despite all this, the Rock remains today almost unknown, even to Californians.

  • ORFEO ANGELUCCI
  • seems to be one of the more obscure of the 1950s contactees. Angelucci, an aircraft-plant assembly-line worker, claimed in 1955 that he had met and talked with superhuman beings from other planets, who placed him in a shuttle and took him to earth orbit, where he saw a gigantic Mother Ship drift past. Coincidentally, Angelucci had self-published a crank book outlining his bizarre speculations on biology, physics and astronomy, and, would you believe it, the Space People told him he was right, whoever might scoff. I find relatively little about Angelucci on the Internet today. Angelucci's 1955 book, Secret of the Saucers, was written with the help of, and published and advertised by, veteran science fiction editor Ray Palmer. Before his saucer riding claims Angelucci published Nature of Infinite Entities (1952), and later Son of the Sun (1959) and Million Year Prophecy (1968). Angelucci's story is somewhat ahead of its time; his Space Brothers exist in higher dimensions, so that on “our plane” they are insubstantial and transparent, and they and their vehicles can appear and disappear at will... a feature that did not become standard until the dreamlike UFO abduction tales of the 1990s. Also, he swaps minds with a Space Brother and lives for a week in the asteroid city the Space Brother inhabits. Angelucci reports not only routine visits with Space Brothers such as Neptune, Orion and Lyra, but also with Jesus Christ himself, whose pep talks as reported are indistinguishable from those of the godlike space-people. Angelucci is also the first 1950s contactee to use the term “New Age” repeatedly. He was also the only 1950s contactee to make an overall good impression on interviewers such as Long John Nebel.
  • GEORGE KING
  • jumped on the bandwagon in 1956. A taxi-driver interested in yoga and oriental religions, he said then that back in the summer of 1954 he had suddenly received telepathic messages from the “Cosmic Masters of the Solar System,” who directed him to found the Aetherius Society, with himself as Exalted Leader and “Primary Terrestrial Mental Channel.” For the remainder of his life he “channelled” regular bulletins from the “Cosmic Authority”— of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto— about 600 vital messages in total. He also assumed a variety of titles, such as Archbishop (complete with scarlet robes) and Prince (complete with royal purple robes).
  • BUCK NELSON
  • is my favorite among all the 1950s contactees. His claims date from 1957, when he was a ripe 63 years of age. This  farmer in the Missouri Ozarks led no religious cult. The slightly cross-eyed, overall-attired Buck told reporters that in July of 1956 a spacecraft landed on his farm, and he was eventually taken to Mars, where he was given a 385-pound Venusian black dog named Bo. On the trip back to earth, Bo lost all his hair due to cosmic rays. As proof of his adventures, Buck sold small envelopes full of stiff black hair at the yearly flying saucer conventions he organized in Missouri in the late 1950s.  Eventually he seems to have wound up in California, but there is no record of him attending George Van Tassel's convocations at Giant Rock.
  • BETTY HILL
  • spoiled it all in the mid 1960s when she began to have nightmares about being kidnapped by inhuman, enigmatic, diminutive space aliens. They took her to their saucer and performed a disgusting physical exam. Every contactee since Betty has become an abductee, and tells only a slight variation of Betty's original account. Betty's disjointed nightmares, as told to psychiatrist Dr. Benjamin Simon, who later pointed out that they were precisely nightmares, not memories, were fictionally expanded and shaped into a book, Interrupted Journey, by a professional writer of pseudoscientific tomes, and became a modest best-seller in 1966. Betty was somewhat handicapped by having no metaphysical revelations to impart— her abductors didn't speak english.

    She tried in later years to shape herself into an Adamski-style cult leader, complete with flying saucer photos, and “amazing information” gleaned from somewhat more sociable alien visitors, but nobody wanted to hear old-hat stuff like that from Betty, of all people. Since Betty, the number of UFO abduction claims stretches into the tens of thousands. All, like Betty's, are just vaguely remembered dreams redressed as “repressed memories.” Only Swiss cult leader Billy Meier still follows in the giant footsteps of George Adamski.

  • EDUARD (Billy) MEIER,
  • according to his own autobiography, dropped out of school in the 6th grade, was confined to mental hospitals for 5 years until he escaped, and became fascinated with Theosophy, somewhat in that order. After reading a translation of Adamski's first two books, Meier started making similar claims and showing similar photos. His saucer-riding claims date from about 1965 and are closely based on Adamski's, including trips to the mother ship in earth orbit, on to Venus, etc. His main innovation was to have the Space Brothers come from another solar system. About 10 years later Meier shot some color photos and super-8 movies of several different hubcap-like flying saucers. In his office in the headquarters building of the cult community he founded in Switzerland in the 1960s, Meier boldly still has all these saucers on display on a shelf. After a divorce, Meier's ex-wife revealed how she had helped him make the models and take the photos. Meier's standing among members of his cult, and among “contactee” buffs, has not been affected by such revelations.

    A Space Brother (or Sister) as described by Billy Meier.

  • OTHER CULT LEADERS—
  • During the 1950s and 1960s there were dozens of individuals who claimed to be in telepathic communication with friendly space aliens, and founded religious cults based on their revelations. Many of these cults still exist in 2005. Even a short list of such space-prophets and the cults they founded is beyond the scope of this document. Consult references below for further details. Classic but usually more obscure contactees of the 1950s, most often in the Adamski pattern, include the fictitious Samuel Eaton Thompson, as well as William Dudley Pelley, Calvin Girvin, Robert Short, George Hunt Williamson, Wayne Sulo Aho, Harold Burney, William A. Ferguson, Dana Howard, Charles Boyd Gentzel, Peter Caddy, Gabriel Green, Benjamin Creme, Reinhold Schmidt, Frances Swan, Howard Menger, Frank Buckshot Standing Horse(!), Dan Martin, and “Marion Keech,” aka Dorothy Martin, no relation to Dan. Most of the contactees with California roots, like Adamski, seemed to owe many of their Theosophical underpinnings to the I AM cult, founded in 1932 by Guy and Edna Ballard. Perhaps one of the most unusual cult leaders whose claims and visions are allegedly based on a UFO abduction is Louis Farrakhan, leader of the militant Black separatist organization, Nation of Islam.

    There were also British contactees, the best known being Cynthia Appleton, who claimed that one of Adamski's Venusians had gotten her pregnant. A long-standing British contactee mystery involves a 1954 book, Flying Saucer From Mars, a deadpan parody of Adamski's first book, published as by “Cedric Allingham.” Rumors have circulated for many decades that the book was actually written by famed British astronomer Patrick Moore, as a disgusted reaction to the popularity of the early contactee books in England, but Moore has repeatedly denied the rumor. However, “Allingham's” only known appearance, public or otherwise, was at a press conference promoting the book, where he was accompanied by Moore, and appeared to be Moore's friend Peter Davies wearing a fake beard. [Details of this hoax have finally been published in Ch. 5 of It Came from Outer Space Wearing an RAF Jacket, by Martin Mobberley (Springer, 2013).] Australia and South Africa also produced fairly rich 1950s contactee literature, particularly at the hands of Elizabeth Klarer and Franklin Thomas.

    The motives of the “classic contactees” of 1953 - 58, as judged from their writings, differed in various ways. Individuals who were already leaders of religious cults, like George Adamski, or individuals who wanted to create religious cults, like Truman Bethurum or George Van Tassel or George King, used their communicating-space-brother claims to gather new followers and new converts. However, an examination of the later writings of contactees like Daniel Fry and Orfeo Angelucci suggests that their claims of space-brotherly benediction were intended to give a stamp of approval to various completely crackpot notions of physics (Fry) and biology (Angelucci) that they had already put forward, but which had so far received minimal publicity or attention.

    Also worthy of note is the way the 1950s contactees handled the supernatural and occult claims that were never far from the surface of their tales. Adamski, Fry, Van Tassel, King and many others made their contacts “telepathically,” while Bethurum, Angelucci, eventually Adamski, and a few others, emphasized that they were able to converse normally with their Space Brother contacts in good, if sometimes stilted, English. As the 1950s wore on, however, the means of extraterrestrial communication became almost entirely supernatural: automatic writing, the Ouija board, “trance channeling” in a classical Edgar Cayce style, spirit seance materializations, and even  spirit possession!

    And here's a Contactee Album!

    A website devoted to links to webpages for many of the classic 1950s contactees can be found here. Long John Nebel's personal memories of interviews with the 1950s contactees can be found here. Another page on the contactees. An amazing gallery of Space Brothers. Here's a witty summary of 1950s contactees and their “experiences.” Flying saucers and contactees fit perfectly into the New Age. And finally a personal impression of Adamski, Van Tassel and Angelucci during an early convention appearance.


    References—

  • The Gods Have Landed, ed. by James R. Lewis, SUNY, NY, 1995.
  • The Encyclopedic Sourcebook of UFO Religions, ed. by James R. Lewis, Prometheus, NY, 2003.
  • Captured by Aliens, by Joel Achenbach, Simon & Schuster, NY, 1999.
  • UFOs and Alien Contact, by Robert E. Bartholomew and George S. Howard, Promethus, NY, 1998.
  • The Way-Out World, by Long John Nebel, Prentice-Hall, NY, 1961, chapters 2, 3 and 4 only.
  • Shockingly Close to the Truth, by James W. Moseley and Karl T. Pflock, Prometheus, NY, 2002.
  • The Flying Saucer Contacee Movement, 1950 – 1990, ed. by J. Gordon Melton and George M. Eberhart, Santa Barbara Center for Humanistic Studies, 1990.
  • Adamski's space brother Orthon, a male by the way, and a look at the soles of his space-tennis shoes.
    Astrology!
    Avoiding Facing Death!
    Blavatsky, Queen of Pseudoscience!
    Cities on the Moon and Mars!
    Creationism and Intelligent Design!
    Distinguishing Science from Pseudoscience!
    ESP!
    Flying Saucers (1947–1985)
    Fortean Phenomena
    Ghosts
    Gods from Outer Space!
    Higher Dimensions!
    Hollow Earth!
    Kirlian Photography and the Aura!
    Martian Canals!
    Medical Quackery!
    Monsters! and Ape Suits!
    Mystery Spots?
    Mystical and Bogus Physics!
    Pareidolia!
    Postmodernism vs. Science!
    Prophecy and Prophets!
    Psychic Detectives!
    Pyramid and Crystal Powers!
    Science Fiction and Pseudoscience!
    Space Brothers!
    Spiritualism!
    UFOs 1985-2005!

    MORE ON ADAMSKI:


    Adamski's biographer Marc Hallet has uncovered a great deal of interesting information on this great pioneer of pseudoscience. For one thing, Adamski was no writer. His novel Pioneers of Space (1949) was ghostwritten by Adamski follower Lucy McGinnis, his short contribution to Flying Saucers Have Landed (1953) was ghostwritten by McGinnis, and when this version proved unacceptable to the publisher, completely rewritten by Clara L. John; and, the contents of Inside the Space Ships (1955) were adapted from Pioneers of Space by another Adamski follower, Charlotte Blodget. Hallet also points out that toward the end of his life, Adamski made a little-known 8-mm color movie of a Venusian Scout Ship saucer, the so-called “Rodeffer” film, which was so unimpressive that Adamski allegedly later told a follower he might have accidentally filmed the saucer's shadow instead of the saucer itself! [Actually there are three different, very unimpressive films attributed to Adamski  posted on the internet. Two are so inept as to be almost comical; the one in which the saucer appears much larger in the frame is not too bad as UFO films go, although still quite amateurish.] Hallet goes on to  point out that Adamski suppressed or destroyed a number of still photos, with one of the surviving suppressed photos showing the Scout Ship with a dented rim; and, that Oscar J. Friend's novel-length story “Kid from Mars,” in the September 1940 issue of Science Fiction Stories describes a humanoid alien looking and dressed exactly like the Venusian supposedly met by Adamski in 1952, and sketched by “witness” Alice K. Wells, an Adamski follower who became the leader of Adamski's cult after his death. The version Adamski probably saw was the hardcover novel with the same title published by Frederick Fell in 1949. It has also been pointed out that the name “Orthon,” for the first Venusian Adamski spoke with, is probably a pun on “Orson,” in other words, a nod to Orson Welles and his famous “Martian Invasion” scare of 1938. A factual biography of Adamski has yet to appear in English. For a very brief biography, click here.