When did Carl Allen begin to grasp that he was no longer an invisible, insignificant drifter but an exotic mystery man, earnestly sought after by “those who ponder the elusive disks” (Gray Barker’s phrase), himself as elusive as any of them? That Hispanicized Carlos Allende had become a hero of urban legend, in a way plain old Carl Meredith Allen never could be?
And what did it do to Allen, to know this?
And does it matter to any of us, half a century later?
These are some of the questions that went through my mind on the morning of September 11, 2004—yes, the third anniversary of that day—as I sat in the Barker Collection with curator David Houchin, listening on David’s boom box to the tape “Carlos Allende Speaks.” This was a recording of the interview that Barker and his friend Jim Moseley conducted in August 1977 with The Man Himself. David started out listening with me, then got up and left midway through; I can’t say that I blame him. Me, I stuck it out to the end.
“It was actually quite remarkable listening to Allende,” I wrote in my diary that evening. “He not only seems to speak Spanish well—not exactly surprising; he spent a lot of time in Mexico—but he speaks English with a strong Hispanic accent. If I did not know he was born in Pennsylvania, I would not have imagined he was a native English speaker.
“Barker introduces the tape by saying that he and Moseley are conducting the interview of Allende, although in fact Moseley never speaks. Barker’s tone is apologetic; if I recall correctly, he asks the audience to bear with him, even though this is not a prepared interview. I actually don’t recall very well what he is apologizing for; it is very vague. But the apology makes sense in connection with one of Allende’s letters, evidently referring to the same episode, which speaks of Barker and Moseley as being ‘three sheets to the wind.’ The interview does make more sense if you assume that both of the interviewers were drunk.
“Of course Allende says nothing of any interest. He dithers endlessly about how many copies of the Varo edition were made. He bitterly accuses the UFOlogists of ineptness for not have tried to track down other witnesses to the ship’s becoming invisible, which he evidently regards as historical fact. He credits his annotated ‘Case for the UFO’ with the establishment of the International Geophysical Year. He demonstrates the trick he used to fake three different handwritings in those annotations; he does not explain, at least as far as I can recall, what his motive was.”
Yes. Why should Allende have pretended to be a trinity of persons, one of whom he calls “Jemi” in his annotations, and addresses as “my twin”? (“Jemi” = “Gemini”? Barker pronounces the name GEM-eye, and Allende makes no objection.)
The “Allende letter” I referred to in my entry is undated but postmarked Clarksburg, August 21, 1977. It’s four pages long, written on the stationery of the Clarksburg Sheraton Inn, I assume the morning after the interview. “C. Allen,” as he signs himself, thanks Barker for “your kindly & generous hospitality towards myself while here in your charming city of Clarksburgh [sic].” (Barker obviously put him up at the Sheraton.) Yet he’s plainly disappointed. He worries that his interviewers, in their admitted state of inebriation, have failed to realize “that I do and always have specialized—in exotic PRACTICAL propulsion systems & methods.” Like Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, he explains, he is forced to dabble in a wide range of relevant disciplines. “Therefore, if but merely & solely ONE new science arises from my equally exotic specialization, I shall consider all the LONG long years of study, learning, observation and basic research to have been worth it all.”
Of course he knows, or thinks he knows, what Barker is after, and boasts that he’s given it to him—“a wealth of materials” for “a salable article.” That Barker was going to peddle the tape itself does not seem to have crossed his mind.
“Even in the taped description of what the state of invisibility consists I did not bother to needlessly use up valuable tape-time by including the fact earlier mentioned of their [sic] arising, at initiation of the causative force-field, a misty CLOUD of atomic particles. [Illegible] no real information was gleaned from my travel-weary brain because, AGAIN, I was not permitted to tell the ENTIRE sequence of events as they transpired aboard & prior to boarding the merchant Ship S.S. Andrew Furuseth. Had I been permitted to tell all & in the necessarily precise details then ALL the now remaining questions still left unanswered WOULD, by God, BE answered. Ufologists ALWAYS block themselves this way.”
Thus begins a long and mostly one-sided correspondence, exhaustively documented in the Barker Collection, between Barker and Carl Allen. Call it “the Allende letters, phase 2.” The elusive Señor Allende was elusive no more. On the contrary: Barker could not shake him off.
(To be continued)