Two UFO stories from David Clarke’s new book How UFOs Conquered the World: The History of a Modern Myth, which I’d planned to include in last week’s book review but couldn’t find room for. One of them is pretty funny. The other is intriguingly serious, and opens questions which neither Clarke nor the man he interviewed could find any answer for.
I’ll start with the funny one.
Pages 165-168: “Was there any evidence of a procedure to deal with the arrival of an alien spacecraft on British soil? The nearest I could find in the MoD [Ministry of Defence] records was a story from the UFO flap of 1967. In the summer of that year a plot was hatched by a group of young apprentices at Farnsborough’s Royal Aircraft Establishment … to see how the authorities would react to the arrival of what appeared to be a fleet of flying saucers.”
And so, at the beginning of September 1967, six landed UFOs made their appearance in a straight line stretching across southern England. They were made of fiberglass, 54 by 30 inches, each equipped with a battery-powered loudspeaker giving off eerie bleeping noises. Also “a foul-smelling concoction of flour and water that was boiled to make it resemble an alien substance.”
The objects were discovered, reported, made a sensation. In Kent, the area where one UFO was found “was cordoned off and a chopper arrived to airlift the object of RAF Manston. Another was sent to the nuclear plant at Aldermaston; while a third, found at Chippenham in Wiltshire, was taken to a police station and blown up. Meanwhile a Scotland Yard bomb disposal squad armed with a portable X-ray machine was dispatched to examine the saucer found at the golf course in Bromley.”
The reaction of the British government?
“Shit! What shall we do?”
Nobody, it seems, had the slightest idea. “The farce that followed sounded like a scene from an Ealing comedy and was crowned by a bureaucratic dispute over which department was responsible for the requisition of a staff car.”
(A request for David Clarke: when the second edition of your book comes out, kindly expand the glossary to include terms like “Ealing comedy.” This Yank, at least, had no idea what that is.)
But Clarke’s point is clear enough, and convincingly made. The British government, far from having some grimly efficient machinery in place to retrieve a Roswell-style crashed UFO and then cover it all up, was humiliatingly unready for any such event. The local law enforcement agencies had solved the mystery before the MoD people could even get their car onto the road.
Not much room here for government conspiracies.
That’s the funny (but nevertheless instructive) story. Here’s the serious one, on pages 100-110–also from the fall of 1967, the time of a British UFO flap that I, provincial American UFOlogist that I am, hadn’t even heard of.
On the morning of October 26, a 54-year-old Dorset man named Angus Brooks “took his two dogs for a walk on the deserted downs during a fierce gale. … The wind was so fierce that he decided to find shelter by lying flat on his back in a hollow. Despite the gale it was a brilliantly clear day with a striking blue sky. …
“Almost immediately he saw a fine vapour trail high in the sky above the Dorset coast. This disappeared and was suddenly replaced by a ‘craft’, descending at lightning speed directly towards him. It ‘decelerated with what appeared to be immensely powerful reverse thrust to level out at approximately a quarter of a mile to the south of my position at two to three-hundred-foot height.’
“In his account Brooks described this peculiar apparition as insect-like, 150 feet in length, with a central disc-shaped chamber from which extended a long ‘fuselage’. Three more long arms protruded from behind and, as he watched apprehensively, these moved to positions equidistant around the centre of the object. The object now adopted the shape of a giant cross in the sky. It appeared to be constructed from some translucent material as it ‘took on the colour of the sky above it and changed with clouds passing over it’. There were dark shadows along the bases of the arms and the saucer-shaped central chamber, ‘but no movement was observed at any time of the operators’.
“‘Brooks was frozen to the spot while this weird object hovered above him. Despite his insistence that the craft was mechanical he felt it was somehow aware of his presence. He feared that he might be ‘captured’ if he moved, but paradoxically sensed it wasn’t hostile. It remained motionless for twenty-two minutes, during which time his Alsatian returned to his side and appeared distraught, clawing at him for attention. At 11:47 a.m. precisely, the two central fuselages folding back to their original position and the object disappeared in the direction of the Winfrith nuclear power station.”
What was it? Alex Cassie, a retired psychologist who’d investigated the case for the MoD and whom Clarke interviewed, admitted himself baffled. “He was obviously scared and I wrote in my report that I was ‘satisfied that Mr Brooks did have a vivid experience that made a considerable impression on him’. I would not alter that conclusion. He said his first thought was that he could be abducted or kidnapped, so he decided to plant his walking stick in the ground so that search parties might find it and ‘know what had happened to me’.”
(John Fuller’s reportage on the Betty and Barney Hill abduction–which also involved a pet dog behaving peculiarly–had appeared the year before, in a book and a two-part Look magazine article.)
The best Cassie could do was suggest that Brooks had seen a “floater” in his eye, which dovetailed with some sort of waking dream or “altered state of consciousness.” The first part of this, at least, seems very strained. My own armchair speculation would focus on the vapor trail with which the experience began, and suggest that it was triggered by the jet which must have created that trail, and which Brooks never mentioned having seen. The jet, after all, would have a cruciform shape.
In the 1952 French film Forbidden Games, two children during World War II develop an obsession with crosses, apparently linked to the cross-shaped aircraft that bring terror and destruction to their skies. The 1967 British flap involved “flying crosses,” which is essentially what Brooks saw, up close and for a duration of time completely impossible for any jet. So I am not, not, NOT saying that his UFO was a jet. The jet was a stimulus for the appearance of the UFO. The UFO came from inside.
It’s important that the UFO didn’t start out as a cross. It began as a disk (“mandala”) with a quaternity of projections in classic Jungian mode: three, and a fourth different from the other three. The quaternity image then redefined itself as distinctively Christian. Like the speaking cross in the apocryphal Gospel of Peter–a text of which Angus Brooks may or may not have had some direct or indirect awareness–it had its own consciousness and moved on its own through the air. It “saw” him no less than he saw it, and though benevolent or at least not hostile, it might easily have carried him off with it.
A bona fide religious experience, in other words. Evidently perceptible to Brooks’ dog, which showed its distress at the strange transformation that had overtaken its master.
And our task now becomes to understand what that is.
by David Halperin
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This will be my last blog post until September. Each year at this time I take a summer break for about a month, to recharge my batteries and work on projects I’ve had to set aside. I’ll have more to say about one of these projects when I start up again, the week after Labor Day.
Have a good rest of the summer–and stay cool!