Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide
From an anthropological point of view the UFO phenomena began in 1947 with Kenneth Arnold’s Mount Reiner sighting and the supposed crash at Roswell. I know that Giorgio A. Tsoukalos (the weird haired “it was aliens”-meme guy) points out that there have been alien encounters since their has been mankind, and some day I will talk about ‘air ship’, ‘ghost rockets’ and ‘foo fighters” but for today and for this post we are going to start in 1947 and work our way through the contactee movement that pretty much died in late 60’s and go on to the ‘abductee stories of the late sixties that lasted pretty much until the end of the first decade of the twentieth century. (Abductee’s will covered be in the next post.)
The contactee movement was predominately but not exclusively an American phenomenon. A person would have a nearly divine encounter with space aliens, who looked like tall beautiful Scandinavians, who in most cases came form a planet in our solar system. They gave the ‘contactee’ wise advice that usually can be summed up as ‘don’t hate, don’t be mean, and don’t blow up the planet with your brand-new nuclear weapons” The aliens then instructed the contactee to create a cult of personality and share their new-found wisdom. In many ways these movement mirrored the Theosophy movements between the Civil War and the Second World War. The difference was that the source of lost wisdom was not spirits or ancient exulted masters but Martians or Venusians.
Most Contactees were middle age American men, but not all of them. Gloria Lee was a 36-year-old American stewardess (That’s what they called female flight attendants back in 1962). She felt that she was contacted by Aliens who revealed a plan for world peace and how to build a space station. She was genuinely shocked when the American government rejected her ideas and went on a hunger strike believing she would be restored a renewed being after her fast. Unfortunately, after a 66-day hunger strike she died of starvation. Despite the tragic death of Miss Lee the contactee movement was seen mostly as a positive upbeat movement.
Most of the aliens were tall Aryan looking men (at least at first contact, later the contacee might meet space women) an exception to this was Aura Rhanes who was reportedly seen by Truman Berhrum. He described her a flying saucer pilot, as looking like a beautiful Hispanic woman, not only did she break the gender barrier, she was not the typical white Aryan fantasy. Truman became so enamored of her, it led to his eventual divorce.
In most cases these human-like aliens came from planets in our solar system. This would cause the contacee movement much ridicule after the 1960’s when NASA could prove that the large and lush jungles and metropolitan cities the contactees claimed to have visited didn’t exist. Although Howard Menger, a famous contactee claims it was all a missunderstanding. He says that when the aliens told him they were coming form Mars, or Venus they meant that they had just come from a base there and they were really extra solar systems beings. Famed UFOlogist Jacque Vallee, said that there was never a real scholarly investigation into the Contactee movement because of their claims of aliens coming form this solar system.
In general, the contactees described their space brothers’ message a s a mix of Christianity and Buddhism, with a large dose of don’t blow you planet up, thrown in for good measure. They tended to reinforce traditional 1950’s American mores with an occasional hint of being a little less strict on sexual taboos. Some observers point out they seem to follow the movie The Day the earth Stood Still or a less comedic version of the TV show My favorite Martian.
The archetypical contactee was George Adamski. He was born in Germany in 1891 of parents of Polish descent. His family moved to America when he was two and he served in the Army and fought in Mexico against Poncho Villa under General Pershing. In the thirties he began traveling the US touting the benefits of Tibetan Buddhism mixed in with a dash of traditional Christianity. By 1954 he was a childless widower. He moved to Mount Palomar in California and set up a telescope under the larger more famous observatory.
His introduction to the world of UFOlogy started out gradually. He began by claiming to see UFOs, one time nearly 200 in one night. Eventually he claimed he was able to meet with aliens. They were the traditional blonde Nordic aliens. His original contact was a saucer pilot from Venus going by the name of Orthon. No surprise that these space brothers’ beliefs ran parallel to Adamski’s.
He spread through out the world a series of pictures of the spaceships the Venusian and other solar system residents traveled in. This became the primary represetation of 50’s UFO’s. A lampshade looking object with three protruding bulges underneath it. Many skeptics have claimed this was part of a chicken brooder and one has even claimed to discover the GE logo on the protrusions, proving that they were actually light bulbs. Despite this the ‘Adamski saucer” was considered the iconic UFO of the time.
He developed what could only be considered a cult following. This included a dogma that he had supposedly received from his space brothers. This doctrine included an attack on much of the occult aspects of Theosophist’s beliefs, such as astral projection, and automatic writing as well as an attack on witchcraft.
As Adamski’s followers grew he began to claim more and more popular acceptance and had a meeting with Queen Julianna of the Netherlands. He had a letter from the US State Department saying that the US government knew all about UFO’s and that he was right. This however was proven to be a hoax, but not a hoax by Adamski, rather one on him. Two debunkers stole a page of State Department letterhead and wrote the letter. Later in life he claimed to have a meeting with the pope. There is no official Vatican documentation of this, but George had a coin he claimed he received from the Pope to commemorate the time he gave the Holy Father a message from the space brothers.
What is not in question is the fact that from book sales, lecture tours, and selling copies of the picture of the UFO he had taken, Adamski made quite a bit of money form the venture. There was even evidence that he also offers to sell people the aliens secret knowledge under a pseudonym
Eventually his movement began to fall apart. His believers were willing to accept that he met a man form Venus, but as he grew older he began to embrace teaching he once strongly rebuked. He now claimed he had traveled to Saturn via astral projection, something he had once said was the tool of hucksters. He began to embrace witchcraft, something he had once warned against. He had changed too, he had become proud and haughty and selfish, so much that some of his followers felt that he might be possessed by evil aliens.
By the time he died in1965 he was pretty much considered a fraud and a conman. However, the publishing of his three books defiantly locked into the mind of American’s in 1950’s and early 60’s of what aliens where and spread the contactee paradigm of the Nordic alien space brother.