Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Some Further Notes On "We Are Here"

George Hunt Williamson (1926-1986) is one of the most well known contactees of the 1950s. Often mentioned as a witnesses to George Adamski´s contact with a spaceman on November 20, 1952. But during several decades, after he left the UFO scene in 1962, he became a rather illusive figure. Not much was known or published of his activities. Williamson does not even have a personal entry in the first two UFO encyclopedias published in 1980: The Encyclopedia of UFOs, edited by Ronald D. Story and The UFO Encyclopedia by Margaret Sachs. Since then much new information on Williamson has surfaced. Of special interest are the biographies written by Michel Zirger, the latest called ”We Are Here” Visitors Without a Passport, which I reviewed recently.

Michel Zirger

The authors second Williamson biography present a wealth of fascinating data never before published and also touches on so many side issues that I find it appropriate to add some further notes and comments. That George Hunt Williamson was an expert ritual dancer is probably not so well known. Michel Zirger narrates that he even won several competitions of dances, ”once even outclassing the best Sioux dancers” (p. 350). Between May 1951 and March 1952 Williamson lived with an Indian family of the Chippewa tribe in Minnesota. When reading Keyhoe´s book Flying Saucers Are Real during this period he noticed the links between modern flying saucer sightings and the legends he had collected from the Indians. During his stay with the Chippewa tribe Williamson had at least one mystical, visionary experience. In Zirger´s possession today is Williamson´s diary for this period, entitled Chippewa Diary.  Hopefully this diary will soon be published.

Michel Zirger (left) with French ufologist Franck Boitte

The older generation film aficionados will certainly remember American actress Jane Russell, a leading sex symbol of the 1940s och 50s. Starring in classic movies with Bob Hope such as Son of Paleface and Road to Bali. It may come as a surprise that George Hunt Williamson during his later years as Michel d´Obrenovic was a friend of several Hollywood film stars, among them Jane Russell. In 1973 he married actress Jennifer Holt and in 1974 officiated as priest at the wedding of Jane Russell to her third husband, in Santa Barbara. Always a mystic and religious man Williamson was ordained as priest in the Orthodox Christian Church 1971.

There has for many years been frequent rumors that George Adamski´s meeting with a spaceman in the California desert on November 20, 1952 had been filmed by a pilot from U.S. Air Force who had over-flown Desert Center during the contact. Michel Zirger mention an interesting incident revealed by George Adamski during a lecture at Caxton Hall, London on April 28, 1959 (p. 250). About one month after the desert contact a captain in the U.S. Air Force visited Palomar Gardens asking for pictures of the footprints and the plate with the famous writing from another planet, received by Adamski on December 13, 1952. When the Air Force captain returned he had made 10 x 12 enlargements for Adamski. But he also left his business card with the message ”Did you focus your telescope on me?”, implying that he was one of the pilots who had watched the contact from his plane. Adamski always kept this business card i his wallet.

There is a confirmation of this claim made by contactee George Van Tassel, though not mentioned by Zirger. In his publication Proceedings 1956 Van Tassel writes: ”I was personally informed by an officer in Air Force Intelligence that George Adamski´s contact was filmed by Air Force personnel aboard one of the airplanes orbiting over the craft Adamski made contact with”. (Proceedings, vol. 5, no. 1, October 1956, p. 13). If this film exist it is probably hidden in the archive of some of the military intelligence organizations. Disclosure of this film would of course change UFO history.

While discussing some of the other contactees of the 1950s Zirger makes a short summary of the experiences of ”a mysterious Paul M.Vest”. He was a Santa Monica-based journalist who was a frequent contributor to Fate magazine in the 1950s and 60s. In June 1953 Vest was contacted by the ”Venusian” Bill and asked to promote the story of Orfeo Angelucci, which he did. Vest related what happened and his discussions with Bill in an article for Mystic Magazine, August 1954: Venusians Walk Our Streets. From an esoteric viewpoint this is one of the most informative and fascinating articles ever written on the contactee enigma. I find it almost inconceivable that, as far as I know, no research has been done on Paul M Vest, neither by ufologists, esotericists or academic scholars in Western Esotericism.

The article Venusians Walk Our Streets had a seminal influence on my research when formulating a version of Jacques Vallee´s Esoteric Intervention Theory. It supported my thesis that some of the UFO contactees of the 1950s were involved in a psychological-cultural influence test implemented by a group of benevolent aliens with access to Vimana technology. In Messengers of Deception (pp. 204-209) Jacques Vallee gave the essentially dark side of this theory while I have tried to formulate a more benevolent conspiracy theory from an esoteric viewpoint. Whether this theory can be validated depends upon further research and perhaps a new revelation from the boys upstairs or the Higher Intelligence Agency (HIA) of this planet.

In both Williamson biographies Michel Zirger has tried to understand and make an assessment of the channeled messages by George Hunt Williamson and other contactees. This unfortunately becomes the weak parts of the books as Zirger is obviously not well acquainted with the core Esoteric Tradition: Helena Blavatsky, Alice Bailey, Henry T. Laurency a.o.. Consequently he relates quotes from Guy Ballard of the I Am movement ( pp. 58-59) and British contactee George King (p. 322) as equal of interest with Blavatsky or Charles Leadbeater. But this is a very common mistake also made by academic scholars, often making no comment on the vast difference in intellectual and philosophical quality between various exponents of esotericism.

The psychologically unhealthy and dangerous philosophy of the I Am movement, founded by Guy and Edna Ballard in the 1930s, was exposed already in Psychic Dictatorship in America by Gerald B. Bryan (1940). Membership overlapped heavily with the fascist organization the Silver Shirts, founded by William Dudley Pelley. For students of esotericism this quote from the Inner Circle of Borderland Sciences Research Foundation is of interest: ”Do you remember two people who had a following even of millions, whose claims were false? (The Ballards). They gathered up the knowledge of many occult schools, they cast this knowledge forth upon the people with malice – and for gain. Yet well they knew what they were doing. It will take them thousands of years to repair this Karmic dept. Both Ballard and his wife knew what they were doing. They had occult knowledge, of course, but their claims and purposes were false and selfish. Money! All was sacrificed for money, for gain.”
(Memoranda From the Mark P. Seances, no. 1, November 17, 1946.)

About this group, The I Am movement, created by Guy and Edna Ballard, The Tibetan D.K. made some harsh comments: ”It is this truth, misinterpreted and shockingly travestied, which lie behind the teaching anent the so-called Ascended Masters, put out by the leaders of the I Am movement”. (Alice Bailey, The Rays and the Initiations, p. 16).

George Adamski warned George Hunt Williamson to be careful regarding what channeled messages he accepted and followed. Their difference in this respect was the reason these two contactees went separate ways after a few months of co-operation. But Williamson did not heed the wise warning of Adamski but completely trusted his own channelings, the messages received by William Dudley Pelley and Dorothy Martin (later Sister Thedra). This resulted in a curious mix of esoteric concepts, mysticism and messages from space people. Williamson was from the beginning obviously involved in the contact test by the benevolent alien group but strayed far away because of his lack of discrimination in judging channeled messages.

In chapter two, The First Extraterrestrial Contact In Modern Times, Michel Zirger makes some controversial statements about George Adamski and Theosophy: ”In none of his known writings, or aviable lectures, did Adamski refer to any specific esoteric movement. He never mentioned any names of occultists, not event that of Helena Blavatsky… In fact, in some ways George Adamski´s teachings are the exact opposite of those of theosophy or any other Rosicrucian-type philosophy… He was definitely not a neo-Gnostic as was Williamson.” (63).

George Adamski

These statements by Zirger are somewhat misleading. It is correct that in his personal philosophy, especially as presented before his meeting with the space people, George Adamski can be described as a Christian mystic, including reincarnation in his teachings. But the philosophy Adamski received from the space people, and presented in Inside the Space Ships, is definitely esoteric or neo-gnostic. It is the esoteric worldview in a somewhat simplified form as also given to contactees like Orfeo Angelucci, Daniel Fry, Howard Menger a.o.

George Adamski did in fact mention Theosophy in his Private Group Lecture For Advanced Thinkers, in Detroit, Michigan, May 4, 1955: ”As I stated before, I am not a Theosophist, a Rosicrucian, nor anything…I took up Occult Catholicism because my father hoped I would become a priest which I decided against. I have since studied many philosophies and religions, but I didn´t become associated with any one particular religion.” (p.3) Adamski corresponded with several esotericists. In a letter to Riley Crabb, October 21, 1955, he wrote: ”Dear Mr. Crabb, Thank you sincerely for sending me a copy of your lecture review at the Honolulu Lodge of the Theosophical Society on August 30th. Your review was excellent and I am wondering what the results have been.”

These critical comments should not be considered as derogatory of Zirger´s biographies. The two books are of great value with much new and interesting information om George Hunt Williamson. And I do agree with the authors final conclusion: ”What I wanted to reaffirm in this volume is that the alien contact case of November 20, 1952, the very first encounter with a human-looking extraterrestrial entity to hit the headlines, deserved to be at least reexamined dispassionately through the fistful of factual elements we have at our disposal, and not through the bias, slanders, rumors and hearsay that almost all of the books dealing with the subject rely on.” (p. 317).

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

"We Are Here"

In 1972 French ufologist Michel Zirger read the classic Flying Saucers Have Landed by Desmond Leslie and George Adamski. Like many others he became intensively fascinated by its content and this ”magic cauldron of ufology” became his ”bedside book” – and still is. But it also, in 1993, initiated a systematic investigation into the life of contactee George Hunt Williamson, resulting in the biography The Incredible Life of George Hunt Williamson (English edition 2016), co-authored with Maurizio Martinelli. I reviewed this work in an earlier blog entry.

What makes the research and documentation of Michel Zirger especially valuable is his access to parts of the personal archive of George Hunt Williamson, which he acquired in 1995: unpublished manuscripts, notebooks, personal diary and correspondence. Based on this unique material Zirger has now published a 365 page sequel to the first biography, ”We Are Here!” Visitors Without a Passport., edited by Australien ufologist Warren P. Aston.  And let me make it clear already at the outset of this review – this book has the potential of becoming dynamite in the UFO research community.

Serious and open minded research on early contactee cases and especially George Adamski has been and is to this day very much taboo among mainstream scientific ufologists. Instead of detailed investigation ufologists like Donald Keyhoe, Coral and Jim Lorenzen, Allen Hynek and Jacques Vallee appeared as skeptical debunkers when commenting on the 1950s contactees. In my view, and also clearly emphasized by Zirger, a great mistake made by the otherwise best minds in UFO research history. ”For the last 50 years we have been led by the nose by a small clique of astronomer-statistician-ufologists, allegedly rigorous, who have led ufology down a blind alley to where it is a present”, is the harsh comment by Michel Zirger in his introduction (p. xviii). And he continues with referring to ”Jacques Vallee´s passion for reducing all UFO reports and entities to a single socio-religious explanation”. The last comment is a strange misunderstanding. Vallee has never been a proponent of the skeptical psychosocial school in ufology, although some reviewers of Passport to Magonia have interpreted him as a skeptic.

Michel Zirger was born in France but moved to Tokyo in 1994, where he has worked together with several Japanese ufologists. And it is in Tokyo that Zirger has had three intriguing encounters with ”human-type aliens”. The first two encounters, in 1994, happened at a restaurant near the train station of Senzokuike. Zirger, his future wife and her cousin Yoshimi notice a strange woman at a table: ”Her gaze was metallic, hard, intense, as if full of reproach… At those very moments I definitely felt that she was sending me what is commonly called ”telepathic messages”.”  Two months later Zirger and his future wife encounter the same woman again in the restaurant. And once again there is a telepathic interplay. When the mysterious woman is leaving the restaurant Zirger follows her: ”… although I went out one or two seconds after her, I could not see her…she had disappeared; she had vanished into thin air.”

The third encounter occurred 2010 in a Tokyo café. Zirger share a drink with his friend Yann Aucante when they notice a Swedish or Scandinavian-looking man at a table nearby. Zirger immediately get the impression that this is Orthon, the extraterrestrial who contacted Adamski and he repeat a telepathic message: ”Are you an extraterrestrial?”. Suddenly the man writes something in a notebook and leave it open for all to see. The man had written in French ”On est la” (We are here) and then leave the café. Zirger doesn´t say that this really WAS Orthon but affirm that he ”bore an extraordinary resemblance to the alien known to us as Orthon, as depicted in the drawing made by Alice K. Wells in 1952 and in the oil painting done by the artist Gay Betts in 1954…” This encounter so impressed Michel Zirger that he made the writing in the notebook the title of his second Williamson biography.

Oil painting by Gay Betts

What is somewhat surprising is that Zirger is not aware of that George Adamski did not favor the almost feminine Orthon in the oil painting. In 1959 Adamski told his co-worker Lou Zinsstag: ”Orthon did not look like that at all. He had a very manly, intellectual face, but as his features were so distinct and characteristic it would have been dangerous for him to have had them published.” Adamski then opened his wallet and showed Lou Zinsstag a photo of Orthon. She noticed that ”It was indeed very different from the painted version.” (Lou Zinsstag and Timothy Good, George Adamski - The Untold Story, p.7).

Section II of ”We Are Here”, A Case of Italian Friendship, is a 60 page summary of the controversial Amicizia case. I guess editor Warren Aston is behind the idea to include this section in the book as he is an exponent of the case and has devoted two chapters to Amicizia in his book A Mormon Looks at Aliens and UFOs, co-authored with Nadine Lalich (2012). Warren Aston has also edited 50 years of Amicizia, written by Stefano Breccia (2013). Although open minded I am very dubious of this complicated case and I don´t think it should have been included as the link to George Hunt Williamson and George Adamski is very thin. Michel Zirger writes that Amicizia ”validates the Adamski case”. I find the story to be quite the opposite from what I have read regarding Amicizia. If the aliens described by Breccia and others really exist they are not the kind of people I would buy a used car from.

For those who have not read Williamson´s book Other Tongues – Other Flesh, chapter six in Zirger´s biography, A New Concept: The Wanderers is a very informative overview of  the spiritual worldview of Williamson in relation to visitors from other planets. He introduced today well known concepts such as The Migrants, The Wanderers, The Agents, The Intruders etc. This chapter is followed by a very useful chronology of events in the life of Georg Hunt Williamson. Here we can follow the development of both his personal life, philosophy and involvement with various ufologists, contactees and channellers. Much of this information has not been published before.

There has been several attempts to associate George Adamski and George Hunt Williamson with far-right extremism. In Messengers of Deception Jacques Vallee writes: ”According to some of my informants, contactee George Adamski had prewar connections with American fascist leader William Dudley Pelley, who was interned during the war. Another seminal contactee, George Hunt Williamson… was associated with Pelley´s organization ”Soulcraft”, in the early fifties.” (p. 192). In a very important chapter, The Two Georges and the Far Right, Michel Zirger, presents clear evidence that these accusations by Vallee are unfounded and a misunderstanding. George Adamski never met Pelley and certainly never endorsed his prewar fascist ideas. Williamson did work for Pelley´s magazine Valor a few months in 1954 but his interest in Pelley was the channelled material he had presented in books such as Star Guests (1950). Vallee´s statement that Valor was a ”racist magazine” has no foundation. It was an outlet for Pelley´s spiritual messages and channelings. Michel Zirger has made a great service to UFO research by unraveling these mistakes.

George Hunt Williamson 1953

A chapter that will certainly raise a few eyebrows is titled A Response To An All-Round Debunker (of UFOs, Aliens, Apparitions, Turid Shroud, Jesus, Religion, Bible etc.). Here Michel Zirger presents some very harsh criticism of an unnamed skeptic, called Mr. X, who heavily criticized his first book on Williamson. Mr. X had written ”a long diatribe of such unprecedented  virulence, impoliteness and self-conceit that an answer from me is the only desirable, necessary and legally authorized reaction.” (p. 299). We are further told that ”… he did not hesitate to archive in Sweden, with a Ufological organization, the whole correspondence I had with him, about twenty e-mails, so that any third party can consult them, and this during my lifetime and without my consent… Is it legal to archive my letters in Sweden? I don´t know…” (pp. 299-300). I was somewhat surprised by these statements as anyone with basic information retrieval skills can easily find out that it is AFU, the archive of which I am co-founder and working with, that is inferred. By reading the AFU website or my blog, or the blog of my AFU colleague Clas Svahn, it i also easy to find the name of the skeptic who donated his archive to AFU. Why Michel Zirger prefer anonymity for Mr. X I don´t know but I will not here divulge his real name. As for the legal aspect, collections donated to privately financed NGO foundations is open to anyone, unless the donor has stipulated restrictions regarding some part of the material. The AFU board naturally have an moral responsibility when dealing with correspondence of a controversial och private nature but generally the archive is open to anyone with a serious research interest.

The most sensational part of this book, which could prove to be real dynamite in UFO history is presented in Update. Photographic Validation of the Landing of Orthon on November 20, 1952. On the very day when the final editing of ”We Are Here” was completed Michel Zirger discovered that the George Adamski photographs had been digitally enhanced by the Danish photographer and painter Rene Erik Olsen. These photos are reproduced in the book and on the website of Rene Erik Olsen and clearly show new details never before seen or expected. There is even one photo showing what could be Orthon. If these enhancements prove correct and can be validated the Adamski contact case will have to be re-evaluated even by mainstream, scientific ufologists.

Adamski photo Dec. 13, 1952 from Rene Erik Olsen´s website. Not digitally enhanced 

To receive further details I contacted Rene Erik Olsen. This is a summary of his information: Rene contacted Glenn Steckling of the Adamski Foundation in 2001 as he wanted to do a computer animation of George Adamski´s contact experience November 20, 1952. From Steckling he received copies from the original negatives. But it was not until 2017 when Rene, on his own initiative, made digital enhancements of the photos that he discovered the new details. Rene regard the photos from November 20, 1952 as definitely genuine and revolutionary and the photos of December 13, 1952 as ”probably genuine”. Up until 1995 Rene made some drawings for Danish ufologist H.C. Petersen and the organization SUFOI but wish to be neutral in regard to various claims of contact. Michel Zirger affirms that ”Mr. Olsen is a good, honest, and very generous man, who tries to deal with the evidence at hand without his own bias and ideas about the subject… Of course we have to be careful, and further analysis will be needed.”

”We Are Here” is an important book with a treasure trove on new research data, much better organized than the first volume. Michel Zirger ends by announcing there will be a third book with a follow up on the Adamski photographs enhanced by Olsen. Is this the beginning of a revolution in UFO history?

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Meade Layne - Desmond Leslie Correspondence

Next to my bed are at present seven boxes with hundreds of folders from the archive of Borderland Sciences Research Foundation (BSRF). A small portion of this unique collection which takes up a large part of my working day, reviewing and organizing. Recently I found two folders with the Meade Layne – Desmond Leslie correspondence 1952-1955, giving the personal, behind the scenes events and discussions before and after the publishing of all time classic Flying Saucers Have Landed.

The Swedish edition of this book, with its beautiful and imaginative front page, affected me profoundly when, as a young teenager, I found it in my parents bookshelf. Never in my wildest dreams could I envision that 50 years later I would find myself as one of the custodians (at AFU) of the personal correspondence of Desmond Leslie. The Gods of Fate sometimes work in strange ways.

A young enthusiast with the Swedish edition of Flying Saucer Have Landed

To comprehend this correspondence it is important to realize that Desmond Leslie was an esotericist, very well acquainted with the basic works of The Esoteric Tradition: H.P. Blavatsky, C.W. Leadbeater, Annie Besant, Geoffrey Hodson, Alice Bailey a.o. During a visit to a friend in 1951 he found a copy of The Story of Atlantis (1896) by W. Scott Elliott. In a sort of heureka moment he realised that the description of vimanas in Atlantis tallied almost identically with the modern reports of flying saucers.

Desmond Leslie

This discovery entered a period of intense research to find stories of aircraft in ancient manuscripts. Leslie spent many hours at the British Museum studying the hindu epics Ramayana and Mahaharata where he found many references to aerial vehicles. The idea of a book on vimanas soon became a reality and because of his knowledge of the The Esoteric Tradition, Leslie discovered BSRF and contacted Meade Layne.

So far I have found 25 letters, mainly from Desmond Leslie and only two from Meade Layne. The first letter from Leslie was written November 13, 1952 where he mention his interest in esotericism and also wide experience of mediums. He was rather critical of most channeled messages but obviously felt himself guided in writing the book about vimanas:
”… been helped to write (by) certain entities in the other world who have told me they are doing the best to guide my pen”… How dull is modern science compared to Cosmic Science. How one sighs for the ancient schools and the sacred philosophia that disappeared from view when the Earth entered the Kali Yug… I am avid, thinking and hungry for knowledge of a subject that has occupied my whole consciousness for over two years ever since I first read a flying saucer report and realised it was synonymous with accounts of the VIMANAS  as the disks were called in the Sanskrit.”

First page of letter to Meade Layne, November 13, 1952

From Meade Layne, Desmond Leslie received information about George Adamski´s contact experience in the desert on November 20, 1952 and he soon began corresponding with Adamski and George Hunt Williamson:
”This is important. Adamski has sent me a detailed account of his desert contact… His report of mother-ship, smaller saucer and magnetic hovering device entirely confirms the Telano transcript. As you know I am giving about 20 pages of my book to publicising your activities and I want to make out the strongest case possible for you.”
(Letter from Desmond Leslie to Meade Layne, March 24, 1953.)

The manuscript for the Vimana book had earlier been sent to Sidgwick and Jackson but they were reluctant at publishing which resulted in some very witty and ironic comments from Leslie:
”Alas, Sidgwick Jackson cold footed. Unlikely that they now publish but good to have your support and interest. S.J. gave it to a reader – an old maid with a B.Sc. after her name and her report had to be kept in asbestos. Having run out of vituperation she called me illiterate. I may be everything else but I pride myself on being able to write passable prose. They´ve now sent it to an astronomer. It only remains for it to be reviewed by a subway attendant, an underarm ball furnaceman… a resevoir attendant… a cosmetician… a sanitary engineer…”
(Letter from Desmond Leslie to Meade Layne, March 31, 1953.)

In March 1953 George Adamski sent a detailed account of his desert contact. A few weeks later he would also send the by now classic saucer photos to Leslie:
”I had no doubt about Adamski´s sighting. I was just hoping to get as much outside evidence as possible to make it look stronger in my book. He has sent me some amazing photos. Funny – but he seems to have some objection to BSRA on the accuracy of their teachings from what I can gather. But so far with me has been most cooperative and has written me several excellent letters. So has Williamson who has given me the proceedure in making radio contact.” 
(Letter from Desmond Leslie to Meade Layne, April 6, 1953.)

Photo taken by George Adamski, December 13, 1952

The reason for George Adamski´s ”objection to BSRA” was in the interpretation of his meeting with the Venusian. Adamski always maintained that his space people were organic physical like earth people. BSRA advanced the opinion that venusians lived at a different level in the multiverse (etheric) which was also confirmed by the Inner Circle, the individuals speaking through trance medium Mark Probert. This information was given clairaudiently to Mark Probert commenting, on the contact November 20th 1952: "The story is in the main true. The Disc did land and Mr. Adamski did carry on a conversation with the operator of said ship. But brother Adamski was so excited he does not remember clearly all that was said. This particular ship was from the planet Venus. We would like to remind you however, that the intense heat on that body, due to its proximity to the sun and an atmosphere heavy with carbon dioxide, make it highly unlikely or impossible that beings with the same organic structure as earth-man could abide on its surface. The Venus beings live in the ether of this planet." 
(Journal of Borderland Research, Jan-Feb. 1972, p. 20)

Leslie gave up on Sidgwick and Jackson and sent his manuscript to a new publisher, T. Werner Laurie. This proved to be a hit in many ways as the man who read the manuscript was Waveney Girvan, who came up with the brilliant idea of combining Leslie´s and Adamski´s manuscripts into one book:
”The book is now called ”THE FLYING SAUCERS HAVE LANDED” and is being published by T. WERNER LAURIE of 1 DOUGHTY STREET. LONDON. W.C. .. This publisher is an ardent saucerite; he first published Heard´s book in England, and I have changed certain things on his advice, such as relegating some of the more complicated occult matters to a sequel volume. .. I have however been able to say quite a good deal about you and BSRA as an avante garde school of saucerology who should be watched and studied by all really interested… A new innovation is that about ninety pages of it will be a detailed eye witness accounts of the Desert Landing along with all the amazing pictures of George Adamski who have been most cooperative and is acting as a co-author in this section… I don´t know if you have read Adamski´s full manuscript account of the contact but it is very well written and strangely moving… My new publisher is a good change from stuffy old S.J. He is madly keen and has already gone around trying to arrange radio and TV tie ups, as well as serialisation  and US publication… I have just seen the picture proofs 14 full pages of large photos – and a lovely coloured dust jacket done by a well known artist depicting the Desert Landing in detail. ”
(Letter from Desmond Leslie to Meade Layne, June 12, 1953.)

Waveney Girvan

With the manuscript in safe hands at T. Werner Laurie, a large publicity campaign was initiated:
”We are trying to get every saucer group to use the sticky labels, like the one on the envelope, on all their correspondence. Would you like to have several hundred or several thousand right away? Any Associate wishing to havet them for his own use (they are free) should write direct to T. WERNER LAURIE AND CO LTD. 1 DOUGHTY STREET LONDON. W.C. stating how many he would like to have.”
(Letter from Desmond Leslie to Meade Layne, Aug. 5, 1953.)

As Leslie´s father was a first cousin of Winston Churchill contact with the British royal family was no problem which this interesting letter proves:
”I took the book and pictures to Buckingham Palace and had a long session with the Duke´s A.D.C.´s who are most sympathetic towards saucers… Watch for our new opus written conjointly with Prof Donald Duck Menzell in which we prove conclusively that those bid red London busses people keep seing are only the refracted, reflected, polarised and ionized images of the neon signs of Piccadilly Circus.”
(Letter from Desmond Leslie to Meade Layne, Aug. 29, 1953.)

Flying Saucers Have Landed was published in September 1953. A revised and very much enlarged edition was published by Neville Spearman in 1970. It was translated into several languages and global sales reached around one million copies. Flying Saucer Review editor Charles Bowen very aptly named it The Book That Was Dynamite. What becomes obvious to me after reading the Meade Layne – Desmond Leslie correspondence is the extensive influence BSRF had on the development of the UFO movement. This letter and the following are quite revealing in this respect:
”Thanks again a million times for your splendid support and help in this whole project. Without you F.S.H.L. wouldn´t be the book it (I think) is. Press here divided. But plenty of it. Most of them derisory or terrified. A few proclaim it as greatest discovery of the age. I have been called ”The sorcerer´s apprentice”. Apparently G.A. is la grande sorciere!
(Letter from Desmond Leslie to Meade Layne, Oct. 14, 1953.)

Sunday, November 19, 2017

AFU in the 1980s

In several blog entries I have presented the early history of AFU during the first formative years 1973-1979. Compared with the intensive and global activities of today the 1970s was a period of slow but gradual growth of the library, coupled with much discussion of the future development of our small informal working group. In March 1979 we decided to change the acronym AFU from Arbetsgruppen för ufologi (Working group for ufology) to Arkivet för UFO-forskning (Archives for UFO Research) and we also started publishing articles in English in AFU Newsletter.

By 1980, as several ufologists began donating books and magazines to our library, the international contacts increased and because of our new name, we realized that we couldn´t just function as an informal group. So in January 1980 AFU was registred as a formal foundation with a governing board and bylaws. But our greatest problem was lack of space as the entire library was housed in Kjell Jonson´s small one room apartment in Södertälje. Anders Liljegren succeeded in finding a 38 square meters basement facility in Norrköping and on November 15, 1980 the AFU library was transported to our new premises. Norrköping was chosen as our new headquarters for practical reasons. Anders had a steady job and the rent for the facility was reasonable. With our new premises AFU entered an era of continued expansion. From now on Anders Liljegren handled the day to day activities at AFU, after work and at weekends. Ufologist Sven-Olov Svensson, who lived nearby, began taking an active part in handling book loans, which then often were sent by mail.

Anders Liljegren and Kjell Jonsson relaxing in my apartment in Sundbyberg after discussions about the future of AFU, August 18, 1980

GICOFF, Göteborgs informationscenter för UFO (Gothenburg UFO Information Center) was the first research oriented UFO organization in Sweden, founded in 1969, one year before the founding of UFO-Sweden. GICOFF was headed by Sven-Olof Fredriksson and Björn Högman and performed high quality field investigation and documentation in the 1970s. The group ceased activity in 1978 and in 1981 the GICOFF archive was donated to AFU.

Sven-Olof Fredriksson

By 1983 the library consisted of 1163 titles and the need for a specialized cataloguing system became evident. Anders Liljegren created the first version of UfoCode, later updated to the more inclusive PhenCode, the library classification system presently used by AFU.

A happy Anders Liljegren at the new AFU headquarters 1983

In May 1984 I terminated my work as librarian at Stockholm Public Library and moved to Norrköping, beginning a career as freelance journalist. We were now three active ufologists in Norrköping engaged in keeping AFU going. New board member from this year was journalist Clas Svahn, active in ufology since 1974. During the 1980s he lived with his wife in Luleå, in the northern part of Sweden so his visits to AFU was not so frequent. But we had now installed a copy machine and telephone in our facility which made communication easier.

In 1985 Anders bought the first AFU computer at a cost of incredible 50,000 SEK, a very large amount of money at that time, all from his own savings. With this computer Anders built our first database, ScanCat, with Swedish UFO reports. Statistical analysis now became much easier and an important research tool. In the Autumn of 1985 the vast archive of the publishing House Parthenon was donated to AFU, collected by a.o. Carl-Anton Mattson and me at Hälsingborg.

Proudly displaying some of the magazines at AFU 1985

1986 was in several ways a year of sadness. On February 28, 1986 Edith Nicolaisen, founder of Parthenon, died. By a strange coincidence this was the same day that Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme was assassinated in Stockholm. On April 30, 1986 our friend and AFU co-founder Kjell Jonsson died during a heavy attack of asthma. We had noticed his health becoming increasingly frail but his early death was still a chock to us. Kjell was in many respects the man who created AFU as a library and archive institution. On the positive side 1986 was the year when AFU joined UFO-Sweden as an affiliate group and could officially be recognized as the archive unit of our national organization.

Kjell Jonsson at the old AFU library in his home, August 1977

If 1986 was a year of grief, 1987 proved to be quite the opposite. In 1987 Sven-Olov Svensson made the historical decision to quit his ordinary work at a local firm and engage in full time volunteer service at the then rather small AFU office. Truly a gift from heaven for a non-profit but growing foundation. And he is still with us today.

Sven-Olov Svensson, June 1988

In 1987 Anders Liljegren and Clas Svahn had been allowed to copy the entire UFO archive at The Swedish Defence Research Institute (FOI), former name FOA. We could now create a large national UFO report archive, merging reports from FOA, GICOFF, UFO-Sweden, AFU and other Swedish sources.

Interviewing Whitley Strieber at Hotel Diplomat, Stockholm, October 11, 1988

In an earlier blog entry I have detailed the very happy ending in our efforts to save the archive of pioneer Swedish ufologist Gösta Rehn. In August 1989 Anders Liljegren and I succeeded in rescuing his entire correspondence file from being dumped in a container. This was also the year when Clas Svahn and Anders Liljegren published their groundbreaking research and documentation of the famous Domsten abduction case of December 19, 1958. After years of meticulous investigation they could prove that this classic abduction and contact claim was a hoax, inspired by the Tom Trick science fiction series published in a Swedish magazine. Their motive was simply fame and money. The Domsten study is serious research-oriented ufology at its best and a prime example of what can be achieved by having an extensive archive as a research base. 

Anders Liljegren, Åke Franzén and Sven-Olov Svensson at AFU May 30, 1989

For AFU the 1980s was a decade of consolidation and implementation of several research and documentation projects. A further development from being a simple UFO lending library to an international UFO, Fortean and paranormal archive.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

AFU and UFO Research

”Too much of a good thing can be  wonderful”. This classic aphorism from actress May West is actually a very apt description of the present state - and problems - of AFU. The ”too much of a good thing” is the avalanche of archives from all over the world that has been donated to us, especially during the last two or three years. ”Wonderful”, of course, but it has also resulted in several, initially not expected, problems and even in some ways been detrimental to our own private research efforts and AFU´s general promotion of UFO research. I became acutely aware of this dilemma a couple of days ago upon receiving an email from my AFU colleague Anders Liljegren who described his growing frustration at the present mission impossible situation at AFU.

Where to find space for this collection? Anders Liljegren July 1, 2009

Here are a few quotes from Anders´ letter summarizing some of the current problems:

"What is an archive without ordered files?  Without the good order and a long-time plan for how to handle mega-large collections (such as from FSR, CFI, CEI and BSRA), AFU cannot survive as an idea. The daily work at AFU is extremely dependent on my own involvement and knowledge of the materials and its background(s). Every day I have a steady stream of questions from our five employees and another five or ten of our volunteers.

The goal is to have a good and sensible control over how the AFU files develop, to establish routines and maybe new cross-collection files and indexes that helps us and the researcher.
Decisions must be made on how to arrange files and where to keep them (in any of our thirteen facilities). Processes going on must be checked for quality so that we are sure that the end result will be good preserved files in a workable order for the future.

Anders hard working at the Evans library, November 16, 2010

Digitalization is an important point here, but cannot be allowed to control the whole process. First comes a good order to paper and media files, after that we can talk about digitization of small selected parts which are deemed of high interest to a fairly large number of customers world-wide. Digitization of the holdings of the full contents of any archive is considered unrealistic fantasies even by major archive institutions. And such institutions ought to have resources that AFU will never come to have.
Spending time and resources on engaging unemployed people, like we have done during the past seven - eight years is not profitable to the AFU foundation, unless we are, somehow, paid for doing this. Between 2009 and 2016 AFU had good income from putting many unemployed people on projects to order and digitize simple collections. This good income is no longer in place.

There may have been some 50 different persons with us during this period. The energy spent to organize all this has been worth the while mainly because we had more than 6 million SEK coming into the foundation as direct and indirect support from the Swedish government.
This has never happened to any private ufo-related project before, anywhere in the world. Not even with funding from rich private patrons. If I had had the 6 million SEK directly in my hands I would have found much more effective ways of organizing our work than to run-around instructing or trying to motivate people who have been out of the regular job market for 10-20 years.

We have hundreds of large and small “forgotten” heaps of papers in almost every corner. Some of these documents may be of great importance if they are filed in a researchable framework (by subject, by organization, by date). Now they are not. Another example: A good part of 2017 I have spent on going through and checking parts of our magazine store. Week-long projects where I have dived into the mags from country-after-country, checking up shelf contents and comparing with my database. Often re-filing the mags into new and better folders or acid-free boxes to preserve them better. That work will have to continue; there are still many countries to work on.

Together with Anders, reviewing the BSRF archive August 2, 2016

 In the period 2012-2016 I had three different men working with this filing of magazines from all over the world. I could do introductions working with each for about a week and continued routine checks on their work. In hindsight I now discover that many magazines have been misplaced in all corners of the store and much previous work has/had to be re-done. Last week we found a good batch of Norwegian mags in a box of Danish mags while the Danish that should have been there were missing. Mags published from Spain are routinely found on our South American shelves – and vice versa. Magazines in English have routinely been filed as American.

Absolutely no shade should fall on those kind and well-meaning people who worked for us, they were maybe just ignorant or didn’t dare to ask? Anyway, these are but small examples of all the problems that should be corrected before AFU continues to accept new collections at the “avalanche” rate of speed we have had during the past ten years.”

These are but some of the present AFU problems discussed by Anders Liljegren. What we really need now is a large intermediate storage facility where incoming collections can be placed awaiting to be reviewed and catalogued. But as of now we simply do not have the money to hire premise no 14. More sponsors are needed. We do not want to say no to donors of archives. It is better to have archives stored at AFU than dumped or scattered on many hands.

Clas Svahn with a unique sign donated to AFU, October 21, 2012

 March 17, 1973 is the official founding date of AFU. We were three young ufologists, inspired by Jacques Vallee and John Keel, critical of the prevalent ETI information ideology in the Swedish UFO community. Instead we wanted to concentrate on research and documentation. In the information sheet sent out we motivated our point of view partly with a quote from Jacques Vallee´s Passport To Magonia:
”There is a tendency among the believers to gather into large, very formal organizations, whre they waste all there energy and, sometimes, a good deal of money, with practically no visible result. It is clear that such organizations answer a psychological need rather than a genuine desire to discover the answer to an interesting intellectual problem. Maintaining such a group implies a tremendous overhead… and experience shows that research is always tha last activity it can afford. Instead, these groups generate so much internal bitterness and so many interorganizational feuds that they prove to be serious obstacles to independent researchers who are simply trying to get firsthand data and do not care to support one particular personality or theory against another.” (p. 158)

In a certain sense we are today back at square one as in 1973. We have very little time to spend on personal research projects as the avalance of archives donated to AFU takes most of our time. Especially is this the situation for Anders Liljegren who often spend more than eight hours work at the archive, taking care of the day-to-day routines. Sometimes too much of a good thing can be complicated.