"Is Another World Watching?" (1951) (1)
"Why Are They Watching Us?" (1967) (2)
"Are We Being Watched?" (1980) (3)
These three titles culled from the UFO literature introduce us to a dominant anxiety fuelling the UFO mythos. Once the existence of UFOs is accepted, their purpose must be addressed. The possibilities number in the neighbourhood of two dozen, but thinking tends to gravitate to the idea of secret, stealthy, or covert observation. (4)
Ufologists have preferred the terms reconnaissance or surveillance to describe these operations. Some, like Keyhoe, are more precise and call it spying. Spies evoke connotations of furtiveness, moral ambiguity, and psychological complexities which the other terms skirt.
It is my feeling that no psychohistory of the UFO mythos will get very far without an understanding of how the aliens-are-watching-us anxiety came to occupy a central place in ufological thought. A review of the concept seems a logical starting place in this exploration. Explaining it all will be deferred to till after we prove there is something here that really does need explaining.
The flying saucer era opened in an atmosphere of deep intrigue. Kenneth Arnold saw nine objects brush by Mount Rainier at speeds far beyond that of anything then being tested by the US Air Force. Arnold believed they were unconventional craft being tested by the government. The public was fascinated. The Pentagon was, however, confused. It wasn't anything of ours, they were fairly sure. Was it something of the Soviets? They got a lot of German scientists from World War II and we knew the Nazis had a lot of wild ideas. But why fly it here? It set a lot of heads scratching in the intelligence community.
One of the cuter ideas to get kicked around was that the Soviets were trying to stir up a hysteria to make us fear the A-bomb was not the ultimate weapon. The FBI was asked to do background checks of saucer reporters to see if they had Communist leanings. By late July of 1947 it was determined that notion at least was wrong. (5)
The linking of flying saucers to extraterrestrials happened very quickly. Within four days of his sighting, Arnold said some woman rushed into a room, took one look at him, then dashed out shrieking: "There's the man who saw men from Mars!" (6) Hal Boyle, an Associated Press columnist, spoofed going on a trip in a flying saucer with a green Martian named Balmy. (7) DeWitt Miller spoke of the objects being not just possibly from outer space, but from other dimensions of time and space. (8)
On 8 July, the Army issued a statement expressing assurances that the devices were neither bacteriological devices of some foreign power nor secret Army rockets, and they were NOT from outer space. (9) On 10 July, Senator Taylor expressed the wish that saucers would turn out to be from outer space so as to unify Earth. (10) This idea was apparently common coin for it had been satirised already two years earlier in a favourite Fritz Leiber story "Wanted-An Enemy". The plot consisted of an earthling trying to convince peace-loving Martians to make a token invasion and looting of the Earth. He explains wistfully that mankind needs an enemy to unify him. The discussion convinces the aliens that they should reconnoitre the Earth and verify that our psychology was as the visitor claims. If true, they would exterminate us. Why take chances? (11)
Amid these extraterrestrial speculations can be found an early expression of the idea that aliens are watching us. Loren Gross has found a little news article dated 8 July bearing the headline "Eyes from Mars". In it R.L. Farnworth, a Fortean and President of the US Rocket Society, noted that spots in the sky were nothing new and opined, "I wouldn't even be surprised if the flying saucers were remote-control eyes from Mars." (12)
Despite the talk of Martians in the air, few took the idea seriously. Of 853 cases collected by Ted Bloecher for his "Report on the Wave of 1947", only two witnesses openly expressed the opinion that the objects they saw were space ships. Kjell Qvale was first and dates to 5 July. (13) The other one was by John H. Jannsen and is of a rather special nature. To begin with, he is one of the few witnesses who took a photograph of the saucers. He states: "I really believe these craft to be operated by an intelligence far beyond that developed by us earth-bound mortals and am inclined to agree with the theory they are space craft from outer space." He theorises about magnetic and antigravity propulsion methods, then continues: "In all probability these are reconnaissance craft and as they have been seen all over the world and not only in this country, are probably making a thorough study of us and our terrain and atmosphere before making any overtures." It is all reminiscent of Keyhoe, but undeniably precedes him by two years. Several weeks after this sighting, Jannsen has another encounter. His plane is stopped in mid-air for a number of minutes while being scrutinised by a pair of discs hovering nearby. Since this makes Jannsen a repeater, Bloecher counsels suspicion. The case is, however, an instructive microcosm of reconnaissance beliefs generating reconnaissance experiences in a period when practically no one had such expectations. (14)
A Gallup poll in August showed 29% of the public thought the saucers were optical illusions or imagination. Ten per cent thought they were hoaxes. A fair percentage, 15%, agreed with Arnold that the saucers were a US secret weapon. Only 1% thought they were Russian secret weapons. If anyone volunteered the opinion that the saucers were extraterrestrial, the pollsters did not bother to tally them. (15)
The intelligence community continued to ponder the mystery in the months following the 1947 wave and was less inclined to dismiss it as imagination. A letter between General N.F. Twining and Brigadier-General George Schulgen in September demonstrates belief by the intelligence community that the phenomenon was real and either a domestic high-security project or a foreign nation had developed a new form of propulsion, possibly nuclear. (16) Sometime in this period a school of thought grew which held that the phenomenon was probably interplanetary. A Top Secret Estimate of the Situation by some of these people allegedly exists which recommended the military be put on an alert footing. The Air Force Chief of Staff General Hoyt Vandenberg, however, vetoed any such drastic official action. (17)
An Air Intelligence Report dated 10 December 1948 concluded that the flying objects were probably Soviet and pondered the reasons for the flights: 1) Negating US confidence that A-bombs were the ultimate defence; 2) Photographic reconnaissance; 3) Testing US defences in advance of a one-way all-out attack by strategic bombers; 4) Familiarising their pilots with our topography. The report expressed doubts about each of these ideas. With regard to the reconnaissance notion the report pointed out that sightings rarely involved areas we considered strategic. Maybe it was an effort to fill in gaps that were left from intelligence the Soviets gathered in liaisons with American industry in World War II. Some sites like Oak Ridge, Las Cruces, and the Hanford works which had sightings would not have been accessible to them. (18)
Almost simultaneously, in a report for Project Sign dated 13 December 1948, James E. Lipp offered the first thoughtful analysis of the notion that extraterrestrials were involved. From the text it is evident that various people had begun taking the possibility seriously. One paragraph dealing with the reconnaissance concept is particularly notable:
One other hypothesis needs to be discussed. It is that the Martians have kept a long-term routine watch on Earth and have been alarmed by the sight of our A-bomb shots as evidence that we are warlike and on the threshold of space travel. (Venus is eliminated here because her cloudy atmosphere would make such a survey impractical.) The first flying objects were sighted in the spring of 1947, after a total of 5 atomic bomb explosions, i.e. Alamagordo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Crossroads A and Crossroads B. Of these, the first two were in positions to be seen from Mars, the third was doubtful (at the edge of the Earth's disc in daylight) and the last two were on the wrong side of Earth. It is likely Martian astronomers with their thin atmosphere, could build telescopes big enough to see A-bomb explosions on Earth, even though we were 165 and 153 million miles away, respectively, on the Alamogordo and Hiroshima dates. The weakest point in the hypothesis is that a continual defensive watch of Earth for long periods of time would be dull sport, and no race that even remotely resembled man would undertake it. We haven't even considered the idea for Venus or Mars, for example.
Lipp didn't foresee the possibility that the watch could be turned over to computers and photoelectric sensors and other monitoring devices like remote satellites which would leave Martians free to consider more exciting pastimes and still be alerted to special developments when they happened. Still, the paragraph was not the sort that could be dashed off in a couple of minutes. Determining the visibility of A-bomb blasts from Mars is no simple matter. Lipp also cited problems which rendered the saucers being space ships inconsistent with known physical principles. He also remarked on the lack of purpose apparent in various cases. (19)
In another appendix to Project Sign, G.E. Valley did a little brainstorming of the various possibilities. He astutely remarked of Soviet secret weapon theory: "It is doubtful a potential enemy would arouse our attention in so idle a fashion." He toyed with the idea of space animals explaining saucer behaviour. He junked notions about ships propelled by rays or magnetic fields on straightforward physical considerations, but held out the possibility of an antigravity shield. The notions that seemed to be left were mass psychology or extraterrestrial visits prompted by A-bomb development. (20)
The public knew little more than the fact that saucer sightings kept popping up from time to time. The Mantell case, in particular, in January 1948 seemed to remove the possibility it was all some kind of joke. The Air Force seemed to be taking it seriously, but it still downplayed the materiality of the phenomena as well as the Soviet or outer space notions about their origin. The editor of True magazine thought their behaviour was "damned queer" and called in Donald Keyhoe to snoop around aviation circles to see if he could turn up anything. (21) Keyhoe thought the Air Force's treatment of the Mantell case looked like a cover-up. he was also unimpressed by their handling of the Gorman and Chiles-Whitted cases. A former intelligence officer provided Keyhoe with a scenario in which saucers were remote-control "observer units with television eyes sent from an orbiting space base". This would be a prudent preliminary step to determine if we were a "fiercely barbarous race" before exploring the world in person.
These contentions formed the basis of Keyhoe's infamous article for True magazine "The Flying Saucers are Real". Its conclusions included:
1. For the past 175 years, the planet earth has been under systematic close-range observation by living, intelligent observers from another planet.
2. The intensity of this observation, and the frequency of the visits to the Earth's atmosphere by which it is being conducted have increased markedly during the past two years.
3. The vehicles used for this observation and for interplanetary transport by the explorers have been identified and categorised as follows: Type I, a small nonpilot-carrying disc-shaped aircraft equipped with some form of television or impulse transmitter; Type II, a very large (up to 250 feet in diameter) metallic disc-shaped aircraft operating on the helicopter principle; Type III, a dirigible-shaped, wingless aircraft which, in the Earth's atmosphere, operates in conformance with the Prandtl theory of lift.
4. The discernible pattern of observation and exploration shown by the so-called "flying disks" varies in no important particular from well-developed American plans for the exploration of space expected to come to fruition within the next fifty years. There is reason to believe, however, that some other race of thinking beings is a matter of two and a quarter centuries ahead of us. (22)
The True article was one of the most widely discussed magazine articles of its time. It was discussed by prominent newsmen like Walter Winchell and Frank Edwards. The article was expanded into a book bearing the same title later that same year. In May 1950 the Gallup poll showed the American public was leaning to Arnold's view. Twenty-three per cent now believed saucers were an American secret weapon. Those who believed they were illusions or hoaxes had dropped to 16% of the sample. The Russian secret weapon idea now garnered 3% of the public. The pollsters had to add a new category called "comets, shooting stars, something from another planet" and placed 5% of the public into it. (23)
Keyhoe's book contained material from documents in the intelligence community which had been released. Keyhoe saw contradictions which he thought indicated a cover-up, but which are more simply explained by the fact that intelligence had not come to any consensus. Keyhoe claimed many scientists had come to believe the saucers contained "spies from another planet". Even Nazi scientists believed we were being observed by space observers, according to Keyhoe, and their conviction had led to their experimentation with aerofoils. (24)
Keyhoe bolstered his observer unit theory by pointing to what he perceived as a pattern of focused interests. In the 19th century, interest was on the most advanced part of the globe - Europe. It shifted to America in the late 19th century as industry and cities sprang up. Then came surveys on both continents as aircraft were developed. Observation increased in response to the V-2s during World War II. Still more increases followed our A-bomb explosions and a second spurt followed Soviet A-bomb testing. Recent interest had focused on our Air Force bases and atomic testing areas. Encounters like the Gorman incident were viewed as a test of our aircraft capabilities. Keyhoe concluded that observation had become intermittent and that the long-range survey would continue indefinitely. Their plans concerning us were incomplete so no contact seemed evident. (25)
Three years later, Keyhoe came out with a sequel, "Flying Saucers from Outer Space". He articulates in greater detail the clustering of saucer sightings over various locales. These are: 1) atomic energy plants at Oak Ridge, Hanford, but most frequently over Los Alamos; 2) Air Force bases; 3) Naval bases; 4) the high-altitude rocket base at White Sands; 5) aircraft plants; 6) major cities. The repetitive nature of some of these saucer visits leads to the speculation "it looks like they're getting ready for an attack". The dominant theme, however, remains that this is a new phase of "surveillance by some planet race" prompted by radio and television signals. Keyhoe unmodestly quotes a friend as saying: "But one thing's absolutely certain. We're being watched by beings from outer space. You've been right from the very start." (26)
The Robertson Panel looked at the same clusterings and was not so sure. Yes, they saw the cluster round Los Alamos. Maybe it had to do with the over alertness of security at such a secret installation. In counterpoint, it was noted that similarly sensitive atomic energy establishments showed no saucer clusters. They also noted that many of the sightings were over areas with no strategic worth whatsoever. They concluded that the evidence of any direct threat from these sightings was wholly lacking. Concern that these sightings might clog emergency channels with false information or be used by the enemy for purposes of psychological warfare led to the recommendation that a programme of education be set up "to reduce the current gullibility of the public". Aime Michel would also speculate that Keyhoe's clusters resulted from the atmosphere and hyperalertness present at secret atomic and military facilities. People end up fearful of many things in such establishments. (27)
Keyhoe's thesis in these early books was impressionistic and airy speculation. He cites no evidence of downed saucers with TV cameras. He cites no alien informants explaining their missions. We don't even see talk of glints of sunlight off telescopic lenses. If Keyhoe heard of the Janssen case, which seems doubtful, he never used it. Janssen was the only person in the 1947 wave who had the impression the saucers were scrutinising him. Everyone else more or less described saucers going along just being amazing. A couple describe them making alarming swooping motions. Loren Gross points to five cases of UFOs making circling motions which he felt could be indicative of spying, but such behaviour is also consistent with birds getting navigational bearings or travelling on thermals. (28) There really wasn't any evidence to build on. Some of the cases even argue against it. Keyhoe expresses the opinion: "The Mantell case alone proves we've been observed from space ships", yet the object was nonsensically huge from a reconnaissance perspective. Why utilise a thousand-foot craft if they possess speedy, manoevrable devices only 6 to 8 inches wide as supposedly proved by the Gorman case? (29)
Whatever their faults in retrospect, Keyhoe's writings were seminal in directing the future course of the UFO mythos. Keyhoe was read by many, heard in the media by many more. Ufologists adopted his thesis sometimes explicitly, often implicitly.
Albert Bender in the first issue of his fannish publication Space Review (1952) spoke of the Earth being "under observation of some greater power in space". (30) Harold T. Wilkins wondered aloud if the saucermen had terrestrial spies and spoke of small observation discs sending information to half-mile wide "brain ships". (31) Morris K. Jessup referred to some UFOs as "small, agile observers" which are sent out on exploratory missions from larger vessels dwelling in the "earth-sun-moon gravitational neutral". (32) Aime Michel, despite his doubts over Keyhoe's clusters, nevertheless believed that aliens have been watching us for some time. (33)
Gavin Gibbons followed Keyhoe in some detail. In "The Coming of the Space Ships" he reported on a pattern of sightings in his vicinity in England which led him to believe there was little doubt saucers represented a "reconnaissance preparatory to a landing in force". He offers a fourfold typology of saucers in place of Keyhoe's threefold typology. His consists of: I) vast metallic discs; II) cigar-shaped craft; III) scout craft; and IV) unmanned scanners, small spheres, remote-controlled, non-metallic and maybe liquid or vaporous. One notable feature of this forgotten book is its bringing into play a report that genuinely supports the aliens-are-watching-us concept. A person named Roestenberg witnessed strange men who gazed down at him and his family from a saucer tilted at an angle for detailed viewing. (34)
The Lorenzens of APRO added new intensity to the reconnaissance concept as the UFO mythos entered the sixties. They asserted saucers adhere to a pattern indicating the Earth is subject of a geographical, ecological and biological survey accompanied by military reconnaissance of the whole world's terrestrial defences. This pattern, they further claimed, could not be mimicked by psychic projections on the part of thousands of people. They theorised saucers represented a flotilla of reconnaissance ships concerned about protecting intelligent beings who as recently as 1877 had migrated to Mars on what are now known as its moons Phobos and Deimos. Comparatively small in number, they would be preoccupied with our future scientific and military developments. Since this pattern showed a progression not only from reconnaissance to surveying, but from surveying to hostility, the Lorenzens believed the saucer problems embodied "an urgency that defies expression". (35)
Frank Edwards, basing his work on the work of Keyhoe and NICAP, also advanced the idea that the UFO phenomenon was progressing through a series of phases. The foo fighters of World War II, for example, now represented the second phase of the alien plan and represented close-range surveillance by instrumented probes. The seventh phase was to be "Overt Landing" and was due, by his reckoning, in 1968 or 1969. (36)
James E. McDonald, another major figure of the sixties, expressed a belief in patterns indicating "something in the nature of extraterrestrials engaged in something in the nature of surveillance lies at the heart of the UFO problem". (37) The popular books of Brad Steiger suggested the existence of a "steady pervasive program of invasion or antagonistic observation". (38) Brinsley le Poer Trench also believed the Earth has been under constant surveillance for a very long time. He added for good measure "...and how could we possibly reject it?" (39) Rank-and-file ufologist Robert Loftin also concurred that the UFOs engaged in surveillance. (40)
Far and away the best argument for the surveillance concept was made by Otto Binder in his 1967 magnum opus "What We Really Know About Flying Saucers". In the finest empirical tradition he cited a series of reports which at least do show aliens engaged in activities suggesting a programme of observation. Saucers are shown manoevring around objects in an inquisitive manner; aliens are shown taking samples of soil, vegetation and animals; aliens are shown to be watching people; and saucers are shown bearing searchlights. With this array of evidence he concluded with a measure of logical force that a Project Earth Reconnaissance exists which could mean either future conquest or peaceful scientific exploration. Against the idea of future conquest Binder noted that 20 years had, by then, already passed with no concerted hostile move and thus he predicted that no secret takeover was in the offing. (41) In a sequel titled "Flying Saucers Are Watching Us" Binder backdates the saucer phenomenon into deep history. The human body's many mysteries speak to our world being a vast biological laboratory and breeding ground. "A vast, never-ending world-wide game of observing humans under all kinds of conditions and situations" seemed apparent. (42)
Sensible as Binder's argument is, it is compromised by the fact that Keyhoe's argument had altered people's expectations. By 1968, 40% of the public believed people had seen space ships that did not come from this planet - a far cry from 1950 when pollsters did not even give the idea a category to itself. (43) The belief was generating experiences which proved it. This is evident in "The Interrupted Journey" when Betty Hill read one of Keyhoe's books "The Flying Saucer Conspiracy" and soon after had a nightmare involving aliens examining her out of neutral curiosity. (44) While Keyhoe could not accept it 100%, he would include an account of it in a later book as possible evidence. (45)
Validation of the concept could be seemingly straightforward, such as when saucers hovered alongside ships or a saucer followed a train "as if inspecting" the crew, or when saucers shadowed people. But it could take on peculiar aspects as in a case reported in Hynek's "The UFO Experience". A 3-foot luminous spheroid "appeared to be examining a tree rather closely" for several minutes. It moved deliberately and purposefully in its inspection of the tree, pausing slightly at apparent points of interest and giving the distinct impression of "intelligent" behaviour. Intelligent it does sound like, albeit no greater than that of a hummingbird and seemingly less meaningful. Granted, there is no a priori reason why aliens can't love trees as much as humans, yet it still seems a problematic point of surveillance interest. (46)
As ufology entered the seventies, doubts about the reconnaissance concept began to grow, even among advocates of the ETH. James McCampbell surveyed cases in Jacques Vallee's catalogue of Type I UFO events for evidence of the reconnaissance and came away puzzled. He did find the cases of aliens gathering flowers, plants, grass, animals, water samples, soil samples, stones and boulders. He also found an alien observing abandoned oil derricks and a contact where an alien revealed their philanthropic and scientific motives. But McCampbell felt a thorough study of the Earth would require an enormous range of activities and these cases weren't even coming close. He concluded: "The idea that the UFO people are conducting any kind of organised and thorough scientific study on Earth is not sustained by the available information. Instead their activities on the ground are strangely haphazard and disorganised...Instead of conducting a comprehensive survey of Earth, the UFO people appear to be snooping around for some natural commodity on Earth, either vegetable or mineral". (47)
In his final book in 1973 Keyhoe still defended the reconnaissance thesis, but had to concede it was a "strange surveillance". A group of Keyhoe's assistants which included anthropologists, educators, psychologists and communication experts almost unanimously concurred that aliens could not get a true picture of our world by distant observation. The implications were serious. Aliens would be seriously misled by the protocol evident in their study of us. Instead of rejecting the ETH, Keyhoe decided we urgently needed to force contact with the aliens to rectify their procedural error. This prompted Keyhoe's advocacy of Operation Lure, a fantastic cargo cult scheme to draw UFOs down to Earth. (48)
Long-time critic of ufology Peter Kor took Keyhoe's book to task as an anachronism. His reconnaissance thesis may have had a certain plausibility in 1950, but the operation had become inconceivably long. The showdown predicted by so many people inspired by Keyhoe's concept had never come. (49) Frank Salisbury echoed that he had problems believing reconnaissance would be extended as long as UFO history suggests. Even granting aliens might survey a planet in a way we would not, Salisbury had a tough time believing aliens would do the things UFOs were reported to do. (50) Ian Ridpath, another critic, reiterated that the purpose of all the scrutiny implied by the volume of reports was unclear. He expressed the surprisingly Fortean scepticism that such belief builds on the basic fallacy that we are important enough for other people to be deeply interested in us. (51)
Leonard Stringfield maintained that we know incontrovertibly that UFOs exist, but agreed it was "disturbing not to know its source, its nature, and the purpose of keeping Earth under constant surveillance". He cited among many cases an incident which suggested a UFO intended either to spy on a missile base or take some type of provocative or offensive action. (52) B. Ann Slate also mentioned that the alien surveillance of key military and research installations, and defence manoeuvres was continuing, based on witnesses she had talked to. (53) Kolman S. VonKeviczky was unabashedly maintaining in 1976 that authorities "must after all seriously assume that the galactic powers operation clearly indicates a centrally conducted "interstellar reconnaissance" with the ultimate objective of a landing operation on earthly soil". (54) Yurko Bondarchuck, in 1979, was surprisingly excited over an intensifying pattern indicative of increased earth occupant surveillance. He can even be seen exclaiming: "UFOs are engaged in data-gathering activities!" He felt their behaviour suggests a preoccupation with monitoring Earth's natural habitat, our technological development and our physiological-behavioural make-up. (55) Raymond Fowler considered among many ideas the notion that the aloofness of aliens might be a strategy of advanced reconnaissance parties awaiting the main force of a classical invasion. (56)
The eighties has seen both reticence and devotion to Keyhoe's concept. The most significant devotee to the Keyhoe tradition has been Budd Hopkins. He writes of UFOs studying cities in the 19th century, progressing to a study of aircraft in the forties, then to military and atomic installations, and ending in abductions. The patterns in the abductions have led to the inescapable inference that the surreptitious behaviour of UFOs relates to a very long-term, in-depth study of a sample of humans involving monitoring implants. They've been observing us for many years. (57)
Hilary Evans, in "The Evidence for UFOs", allowed the possibility that structured artefacts of extraterrestrial origin were engaged in some kind of surveillance operation, but, if so, it was being conducted in a "remarkably sporadic and unworkmanlike manner". (58) The authors of "Clear Intent" were likewise tentative, and felt the purpose of UFOs was unknown but "may be related to an extended surveillance of what may be termed a primitive, embryonic society". (59) Whitley Strieber took a mystical tone and asserted that the visitors' activities go far beyond a mere study of mankind. (60)
In 1987, Timothy Good felt "surveillance has intensified" since we have endangered our planet and expanded into space. The modern wave began with the development of nuclear weapons and rockets. Activity around nuclear missile sites demonstrated their continuing interest. He also felt Earth held spectacular attractions for tourists. (61) This last sentiment is an interesting conceit relative to a fifties notion that Earth was a prison. (62)
A recent tract on abductions by Dr Edith Fiore has flatly affirmed: "ETs are monitoring and watching people throughout the world". (63)
The latest exercise in the Keyhoe tradition was some speculation advanced by Richard Hall about UFO patterns. ETIs, according to him, have been watching our technological progress, especially our propulsion capabilities, our actions in warfare, our nuclear technology, and our reaching out into space. His private studies convinced him that interest has focused on atomic energy facilities and petroleum-related activities. Hall makes explicit the corollary Ridpath felt ufologists were obliged to make: the persistence of ETIs implies a strong interest in us. (64) Aime Michel went further, earlier in the decade, and acclaimed that humans must be something rare and "cosmically precious". (65)
There are no signs that the aliens-are-watching-us idea is going to disappear from the UFO mythos. Despite blows to its credibility in the seventies, it continues to garner adherents. From the standpoint of historical development, it seems indisputable that the idea arose less from scientific necessity or force of evidence than from the habit of the intelligence community to regard deception and furtiveness as the natural order of things. No one questioned the fact that aliens would a priori behave immorally and indulge in questionable tactics to mislead humans about their existence. No one questioned whether or not aliens would be behaviourally and ideologically diverse. All behaved like it is the most natural state of affairs to believe the universe is filled with spies to the exclusion of curious extraterrestrials imbued with a spirit of open enquiry or mutual exchange.
As Keyhoe was told, a programme of scientific enquiry cannot be done from a distance. Face-to-face interaction and participation in affairs of life are the proper ways to conduct anthropological investigation. If covertness is essential to avoid infusion of alien concepts, reconnaissance could be done by bioengineered mimics of humans, dogs, cats, insects or dust motes. Instead of glowing UFOs, an advanced culture would engineer mimics of conventional objects like planes, choppers, balloons, clouds or the moon. They wouldn't invite questions by presenting an identifiably alien construct. (66)
The reconnaissance idea never pulled together into a coherent framework more than a minor fraction of Type I cases. As McCampbell found out, no more than 2% of the cases implicate the existence of alien investigators. A crashed or captured reconnaissance disc has never been tendered for display at MIT or the Smithsonian. Predictions based on the concept have consistently been proven wrong.
Given the persistence of the idea and the irrational nature of the arguments that supported it, a question arises: could it be that ufologists are telling people something they need to believe?
EYE IN THE SKYDo people want to believe aliens are spying on us? Surely it's a trick question. Nobody would want to believe anything like that. The reconnaissance theory was an exasperated effort to make sense of a phenomenon that refused to be made sense of in any other terms. Want had nothing to do with it. What a galling sentiment!
Yes, it is embarrassingly cynical and debunkerish to put forth such a question. I probably wouldn't even have asked it if ufologists were the sole defenders of this belief. The problem is they aren't alone. The aliens believe it themselves.
The closest thing to a contactee in the earliest days of the flying saucer era was a medium named Mark Probert who was in the service of the Borderland Sciences Research Foundation. The group learned through persons on the "other side of life" having access to the etheric worlds that the saucers were appearing in order to demonstrate the possibility that there are ways to travel faster and eliminate friction. The sensation was all meant to compel our attention and wake us up. There is actually something to be said in favour of that view. It was much easier to believe that flying objects passing by Mount Rainier were meant to be seen than to be secret hardware being tested by the government as Arnold believed. (67)
In 1948 the medium got the word that we were being observed so a final record of our civilisation can be made for future history. This is reiterated in a 1950 communication which says notes are being taken on our advancement before our fall. With 1952 there is an apparent intrusion of Keyhoe's ideas into messages received by the BSRF group. There is talk of reconnaissance craft and small remote-control craft used to make visual observations without drawing attention to themselves. Note the inversion - they no longer want to wake us up. (68)
Employing a glass tumbler on a ouija board, George Hunt Williamson eliminated one of the middlemen in extraterrestrial communications. On 2 August 1952 he made direct contact with a being from Mars named Nah-9. He revealed that our world had been observed for 75,000 years and was under a survey. Williamson and his circle eventually contacted dozens of aliens, among them the first known paranoid extraterrestrial. Affa of Uranus expressed fear of the work going on at Lowell University: "The "big eyes" were looking at us", he complained. (69) An acquaintance of Williamson would, three months later, do him one better and meet a human being from another world face to face. The name of that acquaintance was George Adamski. In the initial encounter he communicated with the alien by signs and gestures and telepathy. Among the things he learned was that the little discs which were often reported served as eyes for the larger motherships. If the discs were in trouble a crosscurrent would detonate them in order to prevent capture. (70) This innovation could have been gleaned from Keyhoe's writings. Though Keyhoe personally rejected the rumours, he reported in "The Flying Saucers Are Real" that some individuals believed the discs would disintegrate with an explosive charge if they ever got out of control. (71) The idea began with Dr Lincoln La Paz who thought green fireballs were made of beryllium copper so as to burn up with no debris. Spectra indicated, however, that green fireballs contained magnesium and thus probably were of natural origin.
In a later encounter, the aliens took Adamski on a tour of their ship. Inside he was shown a central magnetic pillar which doubled as both propulsion unit and a power telescope which allowed them to inspect the land below. He is shown a TV set on which is registered everything seen by remote-control discs ranging in size from 10 inches to 12 feet in diameter. These discs registered every vibration taking place in the area under observation. They even allow aliens to know what we are thinking. Adamski saw over a dozen of these registering discs. (72)
Howard Menger, in time, saw one of these registering discs explode. The aliens shortly thereafter affirmed to Menger that it had been out of control. He elaborated on the fact that these discs recorded all emotions, thoughts and possible intents. (73)
The Mitchell sisters added a novel wrinkle to this portrait. An alien named Alna demonstrated for them a spy scope which could see though roofs by subtracting their vibrations from other vibrations of a building. There is no escape. (74)
Orfeo Angelucci's aliens spoke of our planet having been under observation for centuries, but only recently it had been resurveyed. Every point of progress in our society is registered. (75)
Dan Martin corroborated the spy paradigm in titling his account of his contact "The Watcher". Decades later, another alien named Khyla would also be known as the Watcher. (76) Contacts with names like Asmiz, Quamquat, and Mister Zno likewise have affirmed the fact that we are being watched. The seventies contactee Claude Vorlihon "Rael" was told by his alien mentors that they had come to see what men were up to and to watch over them. (77)
Abductee literature also lends support to the picture of aliens spying on humanity. Herb Schirmer, from his 1967 encounter, received testimony his aliens were engaged in surveillance. (78) Like Adamski, Schirmer was shown a baby saucer inside the ship which could be launched to check out an area and send pictures to a vision screen in the mother ship. In the 1975 abduction of Charles L. Moody, aliens refer to the craft they are on as an observation craft. It was distinctly smaller than the main craft and was said to be vulnerable to interference by radar. (79) Raymond Shearer, an abductee of 1978, broke out in a cold sweat fearful he had become a possible agent or spy for the aliens. (80) During a May 1979 encounter, William Herrmann, while aboard a saucer, witnessed rendezvous with what the aliens termed an "observance vehicle". (81)
Virginia Horton's aliens included one wanting to be a bioanthropologist. They collected a blood sample for later examination and research. The aliens' research had led to us being considered a "precious species". (82) One could regard all this face-to-face testimony as corroboration of the validity of Keyhoe's thesis. The pedigrees of these experiences, however, are of mixed value. Mediums and ouija boards are suspect to say the least. Adamski is largely dismissed as a charlatan by ufologists who want to be taken seriously. Menger confessed his experiences more or less were not real. The other contactees also tend to be rejected as promulgators of fantasy. Abductees come late to the game and long after Keyhoe's ideas had suffused the UFO mythos.
If these are fantasies, why do all these people have their aliens say, in essence, "I spy"? The first possibility is camouflage. The contactees try to blend their fantasies with contemporary beliefs to give them credibility. An allied possibility is that they sense this is something people want to believe and, following the ancient credo, Tell them what they want to hear, they tell them. The other basic possibility is that contactees want to believe it themselves.
Ufologists, until the advent of the abductees, never used the testimony of UFO contacts to buttress the reconnaissance thesis. But both groups affirm it explicitly and implicitly. It is harder to discount the need to believe as fuel for the advancement of the idea in the case of the contactees. Untainted rationality can hardly account for the motif's presence there. If need accounts for one, it may unconsciously account for both groups believing aliens are watching us. Yet why would anyone want to believe anything like that?
The sensation of being watched is a common psychological experience. It can be termed an archetypal phenomenon for it is founded on a universal feature of human life. All of us are watched when we are children. Parents must constantly keep an eye on us to keep us out of danger or prevent us from causing trouble. As the child grows up he learns that certain behaviours have undesirable consequences and will become wary of doing things that might provoke an unwanted response from his parents. A glance at the parents for a look of approval or disapproval can cue him on whether he's doing the right or wrong thing. These parental responses are sought and anticipated. Over time they are internalised as a separate agency develops within the mind which oversees and supervises behaviour even when the parent is absent. This agency has been variously termed the conscience or superego. Poets have called it the watchman of the soul. (83)
There is a charming story which illustrates the beginnings of this phenomenon. A little child who formed the habit of stealing pies and secretly eating them in the attic was terrified one day when a ray of light fell on the picture of an eye. Wishing to be free of the intrusion he cut the eye out of the portrait. The next day, however, he still sensed there was a hidden eye ceaselessly watching him from the hole in the portrait. Guilt.
The conscience constantly compares our behaviour to the ideals which are instilled by our parents. The ideals are added to by authority figures such as teachers, religious figures, cops, media pundits, friends, and public opinion as time goes by. When we fall short of the ideals we set for ourselves, become insecure, or find ourselves apart or isolated from the rest of society, the conscience makes itself felt. Sensations imprinted from childhood of being spied upon by distrusting parents or parents giving "that look" can surface to make us stop what we're doing and think over our actions. Though such actions on the part of our conscience may make us anxious and may even cause us to be wracked with guilt, they develop from the need to feel pride about ourselves and warn us there are consequences in our misbehaving.
Parenting and socialisation are unfortunately not always gracefully managed. Ambitious parents can instill ideals impossible to live up to in a child. Cruel parents can assault the child with criticisms and punishments that are impossible to live down. Parents may teach distrust by unfairly spying on the child with insufficient cause. Under these circumstances the superego can take on severe qualities which hang on as fixed aspects of the adult's character. When these superego functions are split off and distort an individual's perception of reality the situation can be termed pathological and the condition acquires the description of paranoia. (84)
Generally speaking, paranoia is defined by the idea one is being persecuted. Among the striking commonalities of this idea is the motif of being watched by others. Such erroneous beliefs have been categorised by psychiatrists under the phrase "delusions of observation". (85) As Freud saw it, there is ultimately a grain of historical truth behind such delusions. The individual had been watched before, but as a child. Pride forces the individual to deny feelings of internal narcissistic mortification, but accepts external control by imaginary others or others in imaginary relationships. It is a compromise solution to a moralistic dilemma. Without it the individual falls into unbearable depression and self-loathing. Distorting one's perceptions of reality exacts costs over time, however. Whether the cost is worth it is a deeply problematic issue. Many paranoids function at superior levels of performance in their work and may bother no one with their quirky ideas. Others may act on their delusions and make false accusations that destroy human relationships and injure the innocent. While paranoia can be treated by analysis, it is a difficult and emotionally painful process for both the individual and the therapist, Therapists, if nobody else, wonder if it is worth it.
It is fairly natural to assume that the beliefs encountered earlier in this paper are collective equivalents of the delusions of observation seen in individual cases of paranoia. We are looking for the eyes of our parents in some sense. Rather than dwell on soul-searching our inadequacies which we know we would find, we anxiously look skyward for signs of attention and supervision. In the case of the contactees nothing could be clearer given the beliefs of aliens being able to read our thoughts, something parents give every appearance of doing at times (as pointed out in Silvano Arieti, "Interpretation of Schizophrenia", Basic, 1974, p. 93). The paternal warnings to not fool around with A-bombs or you'll knock the Earth out of its orbit or upset the balance of the universe have that distinct aroma of exaggerated warnings of parents not to play with that toy or you'll knock somebody's eye out. Oh, sure, Mom. Ufologists are subtler than that, but remember even Keyhoe warned that A-bombs could knock huge chunks out of the Earth or propel the Earth out of orbit. (86)
It is tempting to lay the growth of the UFO mythos to collective shame over Hiroshima and the development of nuclear weapons in the fifties. Outwardly we were proud of the Yankee ingenuity we showed in constructing this superweapon, but the gruesome effects of it were undeniable in the photos brought back and displayed in Life magazine and elsewhere. Oppenheimer, in his oft-quoted lecture before MIT in December 1947, spoke his conscience: "In some crude sense, which no vulgarity, no humour, no overstatement can quite extinguish, the physicists have known sin and this is a knowledge they cannot lose". One could easily deny the physicists had sinned and many did. The knowledge, however, returned in projected form - the delusion of aliens watching us. The concern reflected in Lipp's researching whether or not aliens could have seen our nuclear blasts gives some credence to the notion as does the frequency of talk about A-bombs by both contactees and ufologists in the fifties.
The possibility of narcissistic mortification over Hiroshima is most relevant in the context of the cluster of UFO reports around Los Alamos noted by Keyhoe and the Robertson Panel. Interest in flying saucers appears to have been considerable there. Ruppelt of Blue Book singles out the Atomic Energy Commission's Los Alamos lab as a place where so many people turned up for his briefings that the lecture theatre wouldn't hold all the people who tried to get in. His briefing was recorded and played many times. Some even banded together to form a "mineral club" which was a cover to set up radiation detectors which they hoped might detect UFOs.
(The fact that Roswell was home to the world's only combat-trained atomic bomb group may have some relevance to the rumour complex that has grown up around the balloon crash, but nothing has surfaced to date to build an argument on.)
Whether nuclear shame has a wider, more totalistic role in fuelling the UFO mythos is open to considerable doubt. Why didn't the paranoiac reaction set in immediately in 1945? UFO flaps don't correlate with atomic tests. Blue Book set up a UFO reporting net in the Eniwetok H-bomb test region, but got nothing for the effort. Not only has there been a notable absence of of bomb-project physicists among ufologists, but two are renowned for their disbelief. Enrico Fermi, the mastermind of the first chain reaction in 1942, had the famous Fermi Paradox against the prevalence of ETI civilisations credited to him. Edward Condon was a member of the committee which established the US atomic bomb programme and he served as advisor to later atom-related study groups of the government. A recent tribute to Hermann Oberth reminds us that while here is a figure who believed in saucer reconnaissance, his claim to immortality lies not with the atom, but with the creation of the V-2 rocket.
Clearly nuclear shame has limitations as a source for UFO paranoia. This is more fully rendered inadequate by the larger consideration that paranoid delusions are a constant element in our culture's fantasies. Paranoia may have been rampant in the fifties, but it was by no means new. Collective paranoia existed before there was a Hiroshima.
C.R. Badcock points out that beliefs in shepherding sky-gods begin, historically, with the formation of nomadic pastoral economies and the domestication of animals. Before that period, man's beliefs tended to be animistic and polytheistic because of the nature of cultivation and agriculture. The practices of pastoralism obliged a special psychology formed of independence, an obsessional nature, and the feeling of guilt-shame. The formation of such personalities favours the creation of paranoiac reaction states of mind and the spread of paranoid beliefs. From the inception of these new practices we start to see the spread of myths about all-seeing gods and secret races of watchers of mankind. (87)
There survives from ancient Babylon, for example, a prayer to the first-begotten of Marduk who is addressed as "You watch over all men". (88) Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, besieged Jerusalem in early Biblical times and exiled its people. Among them was the prophet Ezekiel. He believed God had passed judgement that his people were sinful. While in exile he came to see a vision of a wheel in the air with eyes on it and thenceforward prophesied doom and destruction. (89)
Also in the Bible we encounter practices like Joshua's placing seven eyes on every stone of the Temple to convey the special watchfulness of God. It is believed the eyes of the Lord can range through the whole Earth. (90) As he lay in bed, Daniel had a vision of a watcher that came down from heaven. (91) Watchers are also spoken of in 2 Enoch XVIII as a group of angels banished to a dungeon along with Samael, a planetary power and prince in heaven. (92)
Hesiod, among the early Greeks, also speaks of "watchers", thrice ten thousand immortals who, clad in mist, fare everywhere over the Earth and watch over judgements and forward works. (93)
Christianity, with its end-of-the-world fantasies and fears of eternal damnation for trivial infractions, has been termed paranoid by some psychiatrists. (94) It is an interesting question whether or not the decay of the Roman Empire provided the fuel for its diffusion. Irregardless, there is little dispute it lent a distinctly paranoid tone to the Dark Ages. People lived in a double spy cosmology as angels and devils scrutinised the minute day-to-day behaviour of everybody for the slightest blasphemy or offence. (95) Towards the end of the Middle Ages fantasies of flying witches and secret meetings of Devil-worshippers led to the Great Witch Hunt, one of the deadlier paranoid delusions to have gripped masses of people. (96)
Mass paranoia does not confine itself to religious realms. Conspiracy theories constantly interweave with reality-based political thought and often dominate it. The American revolution, some historians now argue, was rooted in a pandemic of persecutory delusions. (97) Paranoid fantasies suffuse American history: the Illuminati conspiracy and anti-Masonry, anti-Catholicism, "the Gallic peril", slaveholders' conspiracies, baby-killing and dismemberment by Indians, the Yellow Peril, the Great Red Scare of 1919-20, reefer madness, the fluoridation poisoning fear, the Red Nightmare and McCarthyism in the fifties, JFK assassination theories, the TriLateralists, the Gemstone File, cattle mutilation, the Satanist conspiracy, etc. (98) Anyone in doubt of the influence and industry of the paranoid is directed to Murray Levin's dissection of the Great Red Scare. It led to lynchings, the crushing of unions, and the abandoning of civil liberties. The belief in a nonexistent Bolshevik conspiracy to foment a revolution that would destroy the American way of life was supported by an "irrefutable" 4465-page document called the Lusk Report. Psychotic ravings are reprinted without evaluation and bits and pieces of reality are force-fitted to prove what amounted to a vague assumption. (99)
The impression I receive is that our culture has a constant reservoir of paranoids ready to adopt and give flight to any fear that finds a coterie of advocates. One doesn't really need to point to any particular instance of collective shame to account for the origin or diffusion of paranoid beliefs in our culture. Thus the spread of Keyhoe's reconnaissance theory probably wasn't dependent on Hiroshima. The paranoid character of the fifties may have some sociological explanation I have missed and I thus won't rule out the possibility there was some psychological undercurrent of the era that favoured the growth of the UFO mythos. For the nonce, I think it was just a fantasy that could have emerged and spread decades earlier or later if the right persons had or hadn't come along to vigorously advocate it.
Elements of the UFO mythos are clearly evident long before the fifties. There was, for example, a significant market for stories about extraterrestrials visiting Earth or being visited by Earthlings as early as the 1890s. Nearly 60 such "interplanetaries" appeared in that decade. (100) Among the latecomers was H.G. Wells's "War of the Worlds" in 1898. It is of small surprise to note that more extraterrestrials were reported during the Airship Waves of 1896 and 1897 than during the Flying Saucer Flap of 1947. (101) Most of the 19 reports involve little more than extraterrestrial picnics and camp-outs or excursions. A pair speak of negotiating trade agreements. One airship is here to pick up ice. Two involve spirits or angels making surveys for future colonisation. Only one case involves Martians scrutinising humans for the apparent purpose of securing an inhabitant. There is also one case of unearthly beings hurling balls of fire, brimstone, and molten lava from an airship at witnesses - the only other one fully suggestive of paranoid fear. Overall, the Airship Waves look like nine-day wonders unrelated to paranoia-fuelled UFO fantasies of our times.
It is actually easier to trace the development of the UFO mythos to the British airship scare of 1912-13. These flaps were clearly paranoid in character, involving as the did the belief that German Zeppelin airships were secretly visiting Britain for spying out the land in preparation for war. (102) There seems to be no compelling reason to doubt it inspired John N. Raphael to pen "Up above: The story of the sky folk" for the British Pearson's Magazine. The plot begins with a rash of disappearances that include the Prime Minister, an elm tree pulled up by the roots, an invalid in bed from a collapsing house, the town pump, a weathercock, a ewe and a ram. One man survives to describe being picked up by some force and later dropped. A professor arrives to investigate and speculates that a race of sky folk may have the same curiosity about us as we have about creatures at the bottom of the sea.
Isn't it plausible that having this curiosity, and having at their disposal scientific methods, of which, for the present, we can know little or nothing, they should endeavour to discover more about us? How would they try to obtain information?
The answer it seems is by using an immense pincer to take up samples by winch to their space ship. Blood subsequently falls from the sky. Then, a decapitated gorilla's head. Finally, the body of a man, partly skinned, is discovered with a diary confirming the worst. The man describes being placed in a transparent cubicle and seeing animals, humans, quantities of dirt, rocks, and seawater on display as though the ship were a combination of museum and zoo. He observes dissection experiments and, realising his fate, straps his diary to his body in expectation of his remains being tossed overboard. The ship subsequently develops power trouble and settles into Trafalgar Square. The aliens are regrettably killed when rescuers cause air to rush inside the craft after making a hole in it. The hope is expressed that the aliens won't be sending down another expedition. (103)
This is probably the first major story to adopt the premise of furtive extraterrestrials flying about our atmosphere engaged in abduction for scientific research. Sam Moscowitz argues it is unlikely Fort could have missed this story in his extensive reading. Pearson's was one of the most widely read magazines in its day and was certainly in the New York Public Library haunted by Fort. The corollary that it played a role in Fort's ruminations about extraterrestrial visitors which found us mysteriously useful and caused various disappearances and sky falls follows naturally.
Though the propriety of calling Fort the first ufologist has been called into question there is plentiful evidence that the first post-Arnold generation was indebted to his work. Keyhoe quotes a memo from DuBarry who cites Fort's opinion on a report from 1762. (105) Gerald Heard and Frank Scully acknowledge Fort's work. (106) Palmer in a 1946 issue of Amazing Stories was already calling attention to the files of Charles Fort as proof that extraterrestrials visited Earth. (107) In 1936 Coral Lorenzen had already read the books of Charles Fort at the tender age of 12. (108) Morris Jessup's interest in disappearances and his suggestions that falls of flesh and blood result from disgorged materials from experiments and captured specimens curiously echo not only Fort, but Raphael's story. (109) Whether Fort also inspired the intelligence community in some direct or indirect fashion to formulate the alien reconnaissance theory is necessarily unknown, but is nether impossible nor implausible.
All the elements seem to be there in 1913: belief in extraterrestrials, belief in furtive airships, the idea of examination, paranoia. The only thing that seems to be missing is a Keyhoe and a Mantell case to lend his idea seriousness. Fort was too much the class clown to phrase his ideas in arguments that tried to convince. It also might be that the public needed the sensation of Arnold's supersonic saucers to redirect their attention to aerial mysteries. Teasing out all the relevant factors and possibilities may keep historians guessing for years.
Though no single episode of collective shame can be pointed to as establishing the UFO mythos, the idea may provide a key to several mass manifestations of the UFO phenomenon. The major UFO flaps subsequent to 1947 appear in concert with major historical episodes of national shame or humiliation. The 1952 wave coincides with an emotionally charged steel strike which caused allegations of treason, that steelworkers were undermining the war in Korea. The 1957 wave emerged in the wake of Russia's launch of Sputnik and the realisation that Yankee technical superiority had been called into question. It was easily the pivotal identity crisis of the fifties generation. The 1965 wave began within days of the first US ground combat operations in Vietnam. It was quickly termed a "futile assault" and in the weeks that followed the situation visibly deteriorated. After the initial pulse of the wave passed, the famous Watts riots kicked up a secondary peak in mid-August. The notorious Swamp-Gas flap of 1966 played against the backdrop of the first anti-US demonstrations in Hue and Danang, then Saigon and elsewhere. Spectacular fiery suicides by religious figures were particularly agonising to behold. Lastly, the 1973 wave blossomed in the heat of Watergate.
Psychohistorian Lloyd deMause has asserted that staring eyes can be found during times of crisis in every country and every age from ancient Egypt's "Eye of Horus" to the "hypnotic eyes" of Adolf Hitler. (110) Though they can be attached to foreign enemies they are often pictured as simply floating above us, strange, unidentified staring eyes. (111) Unidentified flying objects with their connotations of aliens-are-watching-us seem to be a variation of the paranoid delusions of observation prompted by ego crises seen both with individuals and groups.
Darwin was speaking of the problem of explaining how the eye arose through a process of natural selection when he confessed these feelings to Asa Gray, but the power of the eye to elicit this sense of the uncanny is itself a product of evolved instinct. Staring eyes provoke physiological arousal in many species of animal. The eye-shaped patters emblazoned on the bodies of butterflies, birds, snakes, fish, and peacocks evolved because of the instinctive avoidance the eyes provoke. The predator does not want itself to become prey. (113)
Eyes are one of the first things recognised and tracked by infants. Experiments have shown that masks consisting of two eyes, a smooth forehead, and a nose will by themselves cause an infant to react with a smile. The absence of a mouth makes no difference and serves to prove the smile is not imitative. It is only the area of the eyes which innately provokes the response. (114) After six months the response is limited to familiar faces. Strangers will elicit screams, particularly if they have large eyes (as when wearing spectacles) or show large teeth. (115)
The power of the eye is constantly alluded to in love poetry through the ages. Eye make-up highlights and exaggerates the allure of the eye in a manner which ethologists would term supernormal sign stimulation. Many species will react to stimuli that never occur in nature if they are exaggerated forms of stimuli that they normally react to in nature. Thus butterflies that show a preference for darker-hued mates will seek out unnaturally dark models of butterflies over their natural counterparts. (116)
Exaggeration of the size of the eye is a commonplace of art and sculpture. Eye idols and idols with eyes twice as large as normal have been found in places where cultural diffusion is an improbable explanation such as the Olmec culture of Mexico and cultures of the Indus and Euphrates. (117) Divine eyes have been regarded as a universal motif in mythology. (118) Though such images can connote, in their benevolent aspect, the love of parent for the child, they can also connote the authority of parent and society.
One finds eye imagery exaggerated in paranoia and paranoid art because of the focused attention on the eyes looking for any faint cues of disapproval. Film buffs will recall movies of the fifties, the era of the blacklist, as often possessing scenes of montages of disembodied eyes connoting disapproval of an anxious or harried outcast from society. Films of the alien invasion genre often possess exaggerated eye imagery in connection with a varied array of paranoid motifs. Some aliens are little more than giant eyes, such as in the films "It Came from Outer Space" (1953), "War of the Worlds" (1953), "The Crawling Eye" (1958), "The Atomic Submarine" (1959), Moonstone "Outer Limits" (1964) and Robot Spy "Johnny Quest" (1964). Humanoids with oversized eyes are also a commonplace. Less commonly the artist will evoke the fear of the stranger and have aliens present eyes without the iris and pupil. Bill Warren expresses well the reaction he felt when this device turned up in "Not of This Earth" (1957):
You find yourself waiting for Johnson to remove those dark glasses again and yet, because blank eyes are intrinsically disturbing to human beings, who live so much of their lives through their eyes, you still hope he won't remove the glasses again. This please-don't-scare-me-again-oh-please-do reaction is basic to horror fiction in all forms, of course, and the simple sight of blank eyes may be one of the most elemental yet most sophisticated ways of expressing this reaction. (119)
Other examples of blank eyes can be found in collections of pulp horror illustrations. (120)
The alien invasion genre of films provides an accessible body of paranoid fantasy with which to demonstrate certain facets of the psychodynamics of paranoia. The facet to be demonstrated here is the relationship between cataclysmic themes and supernormal eye imagery. Probably the best place to start is "War of the Worlds" (1953). The world of Mars is dying, so the Martians decide to wipe out mankind and take over our planet. Ships crash into the Earth as fiery meteors. The first thing to emerge from the crater is a large mechanical eye which spectacularly destroys everything within its gaze. Here is the old fear of the Evil Eye updated with a vengeance. It later transpires that the Martians aren't much more than eyes with spindly arms and legs. The film is an orgy of fire and explosions and doom. Only the hand of God, the original term for plagues, ends the invasion.
"It Came from Outer Space" (1953) also opens with a fiery meteor crashing to earth. A scientist goes into the crater to investigate and confronts a huge spherical spaceship that resembles a huge eyeball with a hexagonal pupil. A rockslide starts descending around him at the sight of it and he flees with no proof. The rest of the film dabbles in doppelgangers, men in black, mysterious phone noises, and other paranoid paraphernalia.
"Killers from Space" (1954) is an especially fascinating work possessing a nakedly paranoid structure. It opens with an A-bomb going off and the crash of a plane researching the effects of the blast. The project official in the plane stumbles into base after the crash with amnesia and a surgical scar over his chest. While recuperating, he awakens one evening to see a pair of disembodied eyes floating towards him. He encounters the eyeballs again on a later occasion as he is driving down a highway. He complains that people regard him as a mental case. Then he is caught passing along military secrets to an unknown party. Sodium pentathol is injected into him and out pops a story of his being operated on by aliens with eyes like painted ping-pong balls. They learn the aliens had removed his heart and repaired the damage he received from the plane crash. He is shown a screen on which appears the image of the aliens' home world and their dying sun. It looks like an eye. The aliens, one billion strong, intend to invade our world by releasing monster insects and reptiles to wipe us out. Aware of the threat, now that the amnesia is lifted, the official contrives a plan which results in the destruction of the alien base via a surreally tilted nuclear blast which vindicates his sanity.
Skipping ahead to the more familiar territory of "Star Trek", we can point to the award-winning episode The Doomsday Machine as another illustration of the relationship. Starship Captain William Decker is found catatonic after losing his crew. He had beamed them down to a planet, but couldn't rescue them when an immense automated planet-killer reduced it to rubble. Events lead him to command the Enterprise and take it into futile battle. As they approach the machine, the planet-killer looms up with the appearance of a giant eye. Decker eventually commits suicide and Kirk destroys the planet-killer by imploding the engines of Decker's abandoned ship. Speaking of planet-killers, the Death Star of "Star Wars" also presents the appearance of a giant eyeball that shoots lasers from its pupil.
The most recent example to turn up has been the movie "My Step-mother is an Alien" (1989), a minor piece of paranoiac fluff involving a girl whose role as her father's companion is being supplanted by a beautiful alien trying to save her world. At the climax, Earth is visibly about to be destroyed. Before that actually happens, the alien's companion balloons into the visage of a gigantic eyeball accompanied by flashy electrical effects.
The reason for this intertwining of cataclysmic imagery and eyes is psychiatrically elementary. Paranoia is intimately tied to the experience of shame. It is shame which creates delusions of observation. Shame also has the effect of fragmenting the ego and this is accompanied by fantasies of world destruction or other images of cataclysm. (121) Paranoiac reactions, with their enhanced stimulus sensitivities, and loss of discrimination, will stimulate many idiosyncratic concerns, but these two are archetypal and structural.
Ufology, not unexpectedly, provides many examples of this relationship. Donald Keyhoe, our premier advocate of the belief that that we are being watched by other worlds, also expressed numerous apocalyptic fears in his early books: super-atomic bombs he feared would throw Earth out of its orbit or propel large chunks out of the planet with unpredictable results. Aliens might be here to play audience to a replay of Velikovsky's "Worlds in Collision". He also feared that Russians would stage a mass A-bomb attack in 1954 employing rumours of saucer attacks to paralyse communication and transportation networks. (122)
Most of the early believers in the reconnaissance theory held some form of fear that catastrophe was impending. Albert Bender believed the polar ice caps were ready to capsize the Earth in 1953 with an attendant array of natural disturbances. (123) Harold T. Wilkins warned that lithium bombs would turn the Earth into a flaming nova. Morris Jessup feared either a pole-shift, a cosmic storm, or atomic holocaust would befall the Earth before 1980. Aime Michel regarded saucers as a sword of Damocles hanging over us, portending "the greatest catastrophe in human history" if they should contact us and learn of our inferior ethics. The Lorenzens felt saucers embodied an urgency comparable to Pearl Harbor and speculated Earth faced a crisis of the Velikovskian variety. More examples can be found in the list of another article. (124)
This relationship breaks down around 1974 as cataclysmic fantasies decrease in response to the reintegration of the ego taking place around that time in ufology. It is not surprising that ambivalence about the reality of alien reconnaissance takes place about then. A complete rejection however is difficult, since this might be tantamount to denial of the existence of a superego or conscience and thus a threat to the recovering ego. There are numerous independent criteria pointing to the reintegration taking place at that time: the appearance of influencing machine fantasies, the decline in hypochondriacal pleas to diagnose the flying saucer problem as real, decreased death fears about mass poisoning or galactic experiments in creation. The shift in viewing Earth as a fiercely barbarous race and a prison or asylum to viewing Earth as a tourist attraction and an anthropologist's prize similarly signals the increase in self-worth attending the ego reintegration of the paranoid over time. (124)
The UFO literature, as one might guess, does show evidence of this relationship. One example concerns the case of the abductee William J. Herrmann. On 10 November 1981, Herrmann was fired from his position as a Children's Church Teacher because the church believed he had become involved in Satanic things when he spoke on TV about UFOs. On 14 November Herrmann received by "automatic transmission" from his alien contacts a diagram of a power unit which contains images of a pair of eyes. That same day, he wrote an essay titled "Inevitable Destruction" in which he warns that geopolitical events may soon lead to the entire Earth being engulfed in an "Eternal Firestorm". That these things turned up so soon after the humiliation of a public excoriation makes a clear case that a paranoiac reaction was in process. (125)
The Brian Scott case is similar to the Herrmann case in that we again are confronted with a technical drawing that looks like an eye. Scott even called it a drawing of "photonic matter" as though to unconsciously draw attention to its optical associations. Two months earlier, during a hypnotic regression to explore a UFO incident, Scott spoke of images of explosions, a continental attack by high-magnitude bombs, and the complete annihilation of the western hemisphere, in conjunction with his encounter with an alien named Host. Tying the two motifs together is rendered problematic not only by the time interval separating the images and the drawing, but by an incident only three weeks before the photonic matter image. He was found in his underwear in his back yard after having gone missing for 28 hours. Perhaps that is the stimulus of the drawing and the earlier images of cataclysm have a different cause. Alternatively, both the underwear incident and the drawing could involve a paranoiac reaction and the sometimes erratic behaviour associated with it. (126)
In the Liberty, Kentucky triple abduction we find our paired motif, but separated into two individuals. Under hypnotic regression Mona Stafford sees a large "eye" observing her as she lies on a table. Humanoids in surgical garb then examine her and she is transported to a room in a volcano. (127) She then experiences travelling at the speed of lightning while glued to a stool. She later revealed a belief that she had been tested to be a messenger of God's warning that man had to better his ways. "It's going to be a terrible time", as Revelations predict. She believed the effort to be as futile as warnings before Noah's flood. She was personally convinced her life was going to be destroyed and she would never see another birthday. (128) Louise Smith, one of the other abductees, did not experience seeing an eye during her regression. Instead she relived fluid material covering her that made her gasp for breath. She thinks they were making a mould of her body. She subsequently learned the aliens were coming from a dying solar system, but admits that this made no sense to her since she was unaware that a solar system could die. This may be derived from "Earth versus the Flying Saucers" (1956) whose aliens hail from a "disintegrating solar system". Smith's aliens allegedly could control rain. The movie's aliens were able to induce meteorological convulsions on Earth to warn everyone of their power. Smith, subsequent to her ordeal, has felt invisible forces are watching her, the sense that someone is staring at her has been intolerable. (129)
One can also see this pairing of motifs in "Communion". The eyes of the alien are horrifically blank, black and inhumanly large. Subsequent to his nightmare Strieber felt one evening the sky was alive and watching him. he had full awareness this was a paranoid fantasy. (130) In a hypnotic session he experiences an image of the world blowing up. Edith Fiore reports an instance of a friend of hers who felt faint and whose heart beat wildly upon picking up a copy of "Communion". Fiore felt this reaction was peculiar and was able to elicit memories of a CE IV from this individual. This is not too surprising given the large staring eyes on the book's jacket. As mentioned earlier, staring eyes stimulate physiological arousal in many animals besides man. Fiore's ability to elicit a CE IV experience from this individual is deeply suspicious since it proceeded from the false premise that her friend's reaction was unusual, whereas I think most people would find the image unsettling in one way or another. (131)
Barney Hill's experience lacks a cataclysmic motif, but deserves attention here for a curious issue it raises about eyes and the UFO experience. It is safe to say that we would never have heard of "The Interrupted Journey" if Barney Hill had not reacted so dramatically to the image of the UFO he saw in the binoculars. This incident was not an artifact of the hypnotic sessions; it was consciously experienced and remembered. As he looked at the UFO he felt the leader was staring at him. On experiencing this he rips the binoculars from his face, tearing the straps, and runs screaming back to the car. This is very untypical behaviour, for Barney had served three years in the Army and handled himself well in crisis situations. He wasn't the type to avoid danger and panic over something like being looked at. Getting to the car he threw it into gear and told Betty, his wife, to look out for the craft. Later, she admitted she thought his imagination was being overactive for when she looked up, she saw nothing. (132)
These facts alone point to the presence of a paranoid reaction, but we also know that he was in this state before the UFO experience. When they stopped to eat earlier at a restaurant, Barney complained everybody in the street was looking at them. This complaint, "all eyes are on us", is a delusion of observation just like the image of the staring leader in the saucer. Barney himself realised everybody was actually behaving in a pleasant manner and that he had better get a hold of himself.
What is especially interesting about Hill's account is the drawing of the UFO itself. As Lawson has pointed out, it has the general form of an eye in the sky. (133) This is an important point since the context of the eye-like UFO demonstrates its psychological origin beyond reasonable doubt.
Barney Hill's UFO is not alone in the UFO literature in having a resemblance to an eye. Others have preceded me in this observation, but none more delightfully than Arthur Shuttlewood. After recounting the case of Terry Pell who characterised a UFO he encountered with the phrase "like a human eye", Shuttlewood emphasised it was a "recurring description" and remarked it is "so relevant, I feel intuitively". (134)
It will doubtless be argued that coincidence could account for some or all of these instances of eye-like UFOs. Flying saucers oblige at least one circle in their form and aesthetic symmetries would doubtless lead to other circles and radiating lines. I agree, yet plead frustration figuring out how to derive the expected number chance would demand and thus knowing when I could assert psychological processes are a necessary explanation. I do assert such processes are in operation. We can see it at work, for example, in dreams reported in Jung's book on flying saucers. Consider this one:
I was walking, at night, in the streets of a city. Interplanetary machines appeared in the sky, and everyone fled. The machines looked like large steel cigars. I did not flee. One of the machines spotted me and came towards me at an oblique angle. I think: Professor Jung says that one should not run away, so I stand still and look at the machine. From the front seen close to, it looked like a circular eye, half blue, half white.
A room in a hospital: my two chiefs come in, very worried, and ask my sister how it was going. My sister replied that the mere sight of the machine had burned my whole face. Only then did I realise they were talking about me, and that my whole head was bandaged, although I could not see it. (135)
Jung also reports on a woman's dream about a black humming metallic object like a spider with great dark eyes that flies over her. She was not clothed and felt somewhat embarrassed. The spider flew alongside a large administrative building in which international decisions were being made and influenced people inside to go the way of peace which was the way to the inner, secret world. Obviously eyes are intimately associated with UFOs in the unconscious. Eye-like UFOs are to be expected.
There may of course be perfectly plausible ways of explaining away the eye-like nature of UFOs as a function of their observation equipment behaving like the machinery of the human eye. there may be perfectly plausible ways of of explaining the cop-sunglasses eyes of Strieber's aliens as the plausible product of evolution from the environment of the planet they came from. But does it really make sense?
In the final analysis, one has to go back to context. The eyes appear in relationship to a web of paranoid themes in the UFO mythos and a structure of paranoid development occurring in paranoid systems of thought. We also see them in the context of a mythos grown up from Keyhoe in which aliens were assumed to be spying on us. It is a context filled with apocalypses, amnesia, persecutions, chases, influencing machines and conspiracies. And always there is furtiveness to allow evidence but never proof. What ultimately is the more meaningful interpretation - extraterrestrials or superegos?
Do I sense a cold shudder out there?
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