Nick Redfern: Feb. 2010
Contactees and the Absurdities of Ufology
“You can write about anything you like, just as long as it has some kind of western US angle,” said Skylaire Alfvegren recently, when she invited me to pen a guest editorial for the League of Western Fortean Intermediatists. Well, given the nature of Skylaire’s invitation, it wasn’t difficult to come up with a subject-matter.
After all, as some of you may know, just a couple of months ago New Page Books published my most recent title: Contactees – A History of Alien-Human Interaction. And as just about anyone and everyone who has ever dared immerse themselves in the strange and twilight realm of all things of a long, blond-haired and space-brotherly nature will know, the West-Coast – and specifically California – is where most of the other-worldly action occurred.
After all, there were the “Four Georges”: Adamski, the transplanted Pole, and surely the definitive Contactee, whose purported CA-based encounters with Orthon the E.T. in the early years of the 1950s helped make his Flying Saucers Have Landed book (co-written with Irishman Desmond Leslie) a mammoth-seller; Van Tassel, of both Giant Rock and Integratron fame; Hunt Williamson, who memorably contacted the Space Brothers via the medium of the Ouija board; and King, founder of the Aetherius Society, who ultimately wound up in California, after leaving behind his homeland of England.
And, of course, there was Orfeo Angelucci – a weak character whose life was dominated by ill health and anxiety. That is, until the early 1950s, when his Los Angeles-based encounters with the space-hippies elevated his mind and body to whole new levels and uncharted realms.
And who can forget Truman Bethurum? Certainly not me! Although Bethurum’s infamous 1952 encounters with the hot and flirty Captain Aura Rhanes occurred on Mormon Mesa, Nevada, it was L.A. where Bethurum and his wife made their home – that is, at least, until the marriage collapsed after the gorgeous Aura succeeded in getting her cosmic claws into lucky old Truman.
In other words, it’s pretty much impossible to have a discussion about the Contactees without bringing the West Coast firmly into the equation. Okay, moving on…
I’m often asked why – as someone who primarily digs into the issue of UFOs and governmental secrecy – I’m so interested in the stories of the West Coast Contactees. The answer is actually very simple: despite what the naysayers may loudly proclaim, that strange and surreal band of largely long-gone characters provides us with a deep insight into what really lies at the heart of the UFO puzzle that has for so long dazzled and dumbfounded us.
And here’s what I mean by that:
One of the biggest problems that has long beset the Contactee movement is that the believers and the doubters rigidly insist (for the most part, at least) on looking at the phenomenon from purely black-and-white perspectives. For them, the claims of the Contactees are overwhelmingly bogus, or must be accepted literally in the fashion the Contactees described them. Both groups, in my view, however, are totally missing the point.
Even the most cursory study of the Space Brother controversy makes it abundantly clear that far from being a mystery of just the last 60 years or so, in reality it’s a very, very old phenomenon indeed, and one that has probably been with us ever since the first spark of intelligence popped into the brain of the most primitive of all proto-humans.
Vallee’s Passport to Magonia and Messengers of Deception, Keel’s Operation Trojan Horse, and the writings of Greg Bishop make that fact abundantly clear – providing one is willing to look beyond, and appreciate and understand, the carefully-created Matrix-style environment in which many of the encounters of the West Coast Contactees occurred.
George Adamski never met an alien named Orthon – and he never took wild flights around the solar system. Likewise, George Hunt Williamson’s fascination with both the board and the planchette did not put him in contact with long-haired Venusians. And, as much as it saddens me to say so, there never was a Captain Aura Rhanes of the equally non-existent planet of Clarion.
But…those same Contactees did experience something…
And, it is that something which has utilized certain, key archetypes throughout history as a means to interact with those elements of the Human Race that it chooses (probably at random) to do its bidding, to spread the word, and to elevate both our consciousness and our worldview.
Centuries ago it appeared in the form of gods, angels, demons, fairies and goblins. 60 years ago, the phenomenon reawakened from its slumber, headed for the heart of California, and mind-fucked dozens of souls with its messages of peace, love and cosmic harmony.
Today, it appears in the form of ugly, black-eyed dwarfs who have an apparent fascination with human reproduction, the ecological collapse of the planet, and anal probes.
One hundred years from now, that same something will most assuredly still be playing its games on the West Coast and just about everywhere else, too. But, by then, the Grays and the long-haired ones will be nothing but distant memories, and in their place will be time-travelers, inter-dimensional pixies, or something else of an equally spaced-out nature. The message, however – as well as the profound change that the experience causes in those who are exposed to it – will remain.
And, there’s one other matter, too: the Contactees of the West-Coast were fun. They were characters. They were the sort of people with whom you could hang out, drink a few cold beers, and have a good time. But, today’s Ufology has lost much of that fun and innocence.
I speak at a lot of conferences, and over the last couple of years or so, I have seen a trend that began a decade or more ago now increasing on a significant scale. It’s the move to make the UFO movement a very serious one – A VERY SERIOUS ONE.
I occasionally get criticized because I like to speak to audiences in a relaxed fashion – and, for me, that usually means in a black t-shirt and black jeans. So what? As the Contactees noted, it’s the message that matters, right? Not whether “Researcher A” wears a suit, or I wear a Rammstein t-shirt. Well, to some, it does matter – and increasingly so.
But, frankly, I am tired of seeing nicely ironed black suits, crisp, white shirts and bright red ties on-stage. I’m tired of the carefully-delivered phrases that are punctuated by perfectly-timed pauses – to allow the audience to clap wildly, as if the lecturer in question is running for a place in the fucking Oval Office. And, I’m tired of the grim, overly-serious faces that so many of these humorless souls wear. You know the faces I mean: they’re the ones usually reserved for Taser-wielding cops and airport security officials.
Like it or not, the UFO mystery is full of absurdities – whether it’s the aforementioned anal probes; ET’s obsession with collecting soil samples, seemingly ad infinitum; Joe Simonton’s cosmic pancakes; the aliens’ love of Strawberry ice cream (frankly, I’d like to know what’s wrong with chocolate ice cream?) and crappy Tibetan music; and… well, the list goes on and on.
The West-Coast Contactees recognized – as have many of us that have delved deep into their stories – that absurdity and Ufology go together hand-in-glove. We should not try and force the UFO issue into some sort of dour, political movement. Nor should we ignore the stories – such as those of the Contactees – that some researchers deem unworthy of study, or that are viewed as embarrassments to the VERY SERIOUS NATURE of the phenomenon that they are trying to force on us.
Of course, there is a serious nature to the UFO issue – but politicizing Ufology, and making it (yep, it’s time for capital letters again) VERY SERIOUS doesn’t help solve the riddle of what’s afoot. All it does is make those same VERY SERIOUS ufologists feel good at a personal level. Indeed, it’s a feel-good factor that, in their minds, brings them closer to Woodward and Bernstein than it does to the tinfoil hat brigade, or to the little old ladies who donate their life-savings to help fund some non-existent Martian mission on Earth.
But, regardless of what you, me or anyone else thinks about the stories and the claims of the West Coast Contactees, their refreshing attitude of not really giving a shit about what the rest of the UFO field – or the general public and the media – thought about them, is something from which many people in today’s Ufology can learn a great deal.
The stories of the Contactees were interesting and absurd. Ufology is interesting and absurd. Those of us within Ufology are interesting and absurd (albeit in varying degrees!).
The Contactees knew this and they embraced it – and, as a result and in the process, they attracted audiences of 12,000 out at Giant Rock, California. Today’s VERY SERIOUS suit-and-tie brigade generally achieves audiences of a couple of hundred at most – despite their political style, and their on-stage rallying – at even the most widely publicized UFO gigs; many of which actually result in the organizer(s) losing money as a result of the lack of public interest and support.
Methinks everyone in Ufology can learn something from that.
Nick Redfern looks at the UFO controversy – through slightly jaded eyes – from his home on the fringes of Dallas, Texas. He is the author of many books, including A Covert Agenda; The FBI Files; Cosmic Crashes; Strange Secrets (co-written with Andy Roberts); Three Men Seeking Monsters; Body Snatchers in the Desert; On the Trail of the Saucer Spies; Man-Monkey; Celebrity Secrets; Memoirs of a Monster Hunter; There’s Something in the Woods; Science Fiction Secrets; Contactees; and Monsters of Texas (co-written with Ken Gerhard). He can be contacted at nickredfern.com. And here is Mr. Redfern’s Amazon Author Page.