“It certainly has taken me by surprise,” said Mr. Gascoigne. … “Probably you think me blamable.”
“Not blamable exactly. I respect a man for trusting another.”
–George Eliot, Daniel Deronda, chapter 64
Do you know the strange story of Cedric Allingham? And–do you care?
If you think of UFOs as a mystery in the skies, there’s no reason you should. A slim, silly book of fraud and falsehood from the “contactee” genre so popular in the 1950s–tricked out with fake photos and published in the name of an Englishman who never existed–what has that to do with the genuine UFO? Hardly anyone nowadays remembers Allingham’s 1955 Flying Saucer from Mars. Surely it’s better, kinder, to let it remain forgotten.
On the other hand, if you’re disposed to agree with me that the true locus of the UFO mystery is the human soul, Cedric Allingham may have his lessons to teach us.
I have to admit: I haven’t yet read Flying Saucer from Mars. I didn’t even know the story until a couple of weeks ago, while I was enjoying the long-deferred pleasure of reading Jerome Clark’s magnificent 2-volume masterpiece The UFO Encyclopedia (2nd edition, 1998) straight through, cover to cover, from A to Z. (“Abduction Phenomenon” to “Zeidman, Jennie.”) “Allingham Contact Claim” comes about half-way through the A’s.
Allingham’s story was simple. He was vacationing in Scotland in February 1954 when he met a Martian.
“As Allingham tells it”–I’m quoting now from Time magazine’s review of the book—“he was out watching for rare birds that afternoon when a 50-ft. saucer skimmed right past his camera to land beside him, and this tall fellow hopped out.” The visitor didn’t speak English. But, using sign language, he was able to convey to Allingham that he came from Mars and that he was concerned over whether Earth people were about to start another war. He wanted to know if we were on our way to the moon. “When Allingham nodded, the Martian’s broad brow clouded up. ‘And who can blame them?’ asks the author. ‘We have not yet proved ourselves fit to rule our own planet, let alone visit others and perhaps influence their affairs.'”
So far so dull. Or so disgusting, if like George Eliot’s Sir Hugo Mallinger you “respect a man for trusting another” and you despise and detest those who wantonly abuse that trust. But the story has an aftermath, and it’s far from simple.
Allingham might have been expected, like his predecessor contactee George Adamski–who, however, met Venusians in California rather than Martians in Scotland–to have gone on to puff himself into an international celebrity, gone on the lecture circuit, followed up his commercially successful Flying Saucer from Mars with a string of best-selling sequels. Instead he vanished.
The author “proved peculiarly difficult to trace,” says Jerry Clark. He “gave only one lecture, at Kent, England, where he arrived, oddly, in the company of astronomer and author Patrick Moore, an outspoken scoffer at even relatively unsensational UFO reports.”
What connection could there be between the astronomer and the contactee? In 1986, two British UFOlogists named Christopher Allan and Steuart Campbell provided the solution: they were one and the same.
Patrick Moore was the real author of Flying Saucer from Mars.
You can read the Allan-Campbell article in the online archive of the British journal Magonia. I think you’ll agree that it’s entirely convincing. The two authors developed their case on the basis of circumstantial evidence and close comparison of Flying Saucer from Mars with Moore’s acknowledged writings. They clinched it with the photo that appears as the frontispiece of “Allingham’s” book, showing the supposed author standing in Moore’s garden with his hand resting on Moore’s reflector telescope.
They managed to track down an old friend of Moore’s named Peter Davies, who admitted he was the mustachioed fellow beside the telescope. He admitted he’d posed as Allingham at the lecture in Kent. He admitted he’d revised the manuscript of Flying Saucer from Mars to disguise the author’s style, and had been rewarded with a cut of the royalties. He wouldn’t name the author. But it’s impossible to doubt Moore was the one.
“If [Moore’s] object was to demonstrate the ease with which contact tales could be invented,” wrote Allan and Campbell, “then the object has been defeated by Moore’s failure to own up. It seems more likely that it was, as Davies has admitted, an attempt to capitalise on the public interest generated by the Adamski book and that Moore’s sense of humour got the better of him. Probably his silence is due to embarrassment; he will neither admit nor deny responsibility, even though it is now an open secret that he was the author. Whatever his motives, his joke has gone on far too long.”
Moore, confronted, denied it all. He abused Allan and Campbell as “nuts.” He threatened to sue. The lawsuit, of course, never materialized.
Sir Patrick Alfred Caldwell-Moore (as Wikipedia gives his full name) died just under two years ago, heavy with years and honors. We’ll never know for sure why he dedicated what must have been a significant chunk of his time to carrying out this ridiculous, repellent fraud. Obviously not for notoriety; money, perhaps? If so, he got what he was looking for. The book sold well, was published in the US as well as Great Britain, and was translated into German and Japanese.
Yet there has to be more. Moore, still in his early 30s, wasn’t yet the celebrity he was later to become. But his career was plainly on the rise. He’d published his first book, A Guide to the Moon, in 1953; he was soon to have his own regular TV program on astronomy. (Significantly, according to Wikipedia, “His first television appearance was in a debate about the existence of flying saucers following a spate of reported sightings in the 1950s; Moore argued against Lord Dowding and other UFO proponents.”) Surely he could have counted on putting food on his table by more respectable means.
Why did he feel impelled to (in Allan and Campbell’s words) “invent a story which reinforces a myth which otherwise he condemns”?
Could the “condemnation” and the “reinforcement” have sprung from the same root?
Is it possible that Moore’s long-running polemic against UFOs bespoke a deep emotional engagement with the UFO and what it stands for? An engagement, which Moore couldn’t consciously accept in himself, that found alternative expression in Flying Saucer from Mars? Can we conceive (to use the Jungian language) that Cedric Allingham was the repressed shadow of Patrick Moore?
It’s long seemed to me that the vociferous UFO debunker–Donald Menzel and Philip Klass are outstanding examples–is no less a part of the UFO phenomenon than the UFO witness or proponent. We have to understand them all, if we’re truly to understand the UFO.
The tangled partnership of Patrick Moore with “Cedric Allingham” is a particularly interesting and instructive case.
Wikipedia, drawing on Moore’s 2003 autobiography, describes him as having been “‘exceptionally close’ to his mother Gertrude, a talented artist who shared his Selsey home, which was decorated with her paintings of ‘bogeys’–little friendly aliens–which she produced and sent out annually as the Moores’ Christmas cards.” I can’t help thinking of “Menzel’s Martians,” the weird doodles that poured by the thousands from the pencil of the arch-skeptic, and that probably deserve a post unto themselves. (In the meantime, check out the links http://www.icshi.net/sevagram/biblio/humans.php, http://www.aip.org/history/newsletter/fall2007/photos.html, and http://www.thecrimson.com/article/1970/12/16/menzels-martians-frolic-pthe-martians-in/.)
Yet whatever Menzel’s Martian “fixation” (James Moseley’s word for it) may have been about, it never drove him to perpetrate a hoax of the “Cedric Allingham” variety. What Moore did puts him in the company of UFOlogy’s merry pranksters Moseley and Gray Barker, who were notorious for this kind of jape.
It’s a sordid pastime, as Barker seems to have realized. You can’t mock people’s natural impulse to trust one another without befouling your soul. In a poem written near the end of his life, “UFO is a Bucket of Shit,” Barker said of himself:
“And I sit here writing
While the shit drips down my face
In great rivulets.”
And Moore didn’t have Barker’s excuse, that he needed to do this kind of thing for a living.
“I respect a man for trusting another,” says Sir Hugo Mallinger to Mr. Gascoigne in Daniel Deronda, when Gascoigne shamefacedly acknowledges how he’s been gulled. You don’t have to be told that the George Eliot novel in which this line appears was published in 1876, to recognize that it isn’t precisely a contemporary sentiment.
Yet trust, which can shade so easily into credulity, is as vital a human instinct today as it was in Eliot’s time. To make fun of it, to publish a book that evokes and encourages credulity so you can have your private har-har-har over it–as Moore appears to have done (and then lied about it)–is a toxic act.
The UFOs drove him to it. My question: how?
by David Halperin
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