6.12.10

ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE SKIES

John Hanson and Dawn Holloway. Haunted Skies: The Encyclopaedia of British UFOs: Volume 1, 1940-1959. CFZ Press, 2010

After the age of the UFOs comes to age of the UFO historians, following on from Clarke and Roberts's The Flying Saucerers comes the first volume of this projected set of histories. Haunted Skies is clearly written from a different and a much more 'believing' viewpoint than Flying Saucerers, one more concerned to produced evidence for 'real UFOs'.

Haunted Skies is arranged year by year, with accounts drawn from contemporaneous sources admixed with later investigations and reinvestigations, and the accounts presented cover everything from lights in the sky, though aircraft encounters, to landing and occupant reports, and through to some pretty wild contactee stories. Some of these accounts will be familiar to long time ufologists, others will be quite new. They also put faces to some long half-forgotten names.

There are of course problems with experiences recounted decades after the alleged event - the possibility of memory distortion, compression, contamination etc. This is particularly acute in the case of 'additional witnesses' who come to light through public appeals, as some may be connecting quite disparate events together. Memory contamination may be a particular problem, and some of these additional witnesses may be simply bandwagon jumpers.

One interesting feature of some of these old stories are the witnesses who describe objects which basically are replicas of George Adamski's fake photographs/art work, or encounters with his blonde long haired Venusians. Adamski's tales were all the rage at the time, and it may well be that people faced with ambiguous or incompressible stimuli, replace them with popular images (just as in more recent years people have tended to report giant illuminated objects straight out of Close Encounters), or whether there is a great deal of contamination and suggestion from 'investigators' is a moot point.

One of those whose experiences was clearly influenced by Adamski was the mysterious Cynthia Appleton, whose tale of meeting an alien in the front room, and giving birth to a spiritual son of the space people reaches pretty close to the ultimate weirdness level. This book gives some further background, not just into the Appleton's but the people who became involved with her, including ufologists, spiritualists and a faith-healing vicar.

We might know more about the Appleton affair if we knew more about one of the people who 'investigated' her, the rather more than semi-mysterious John aka Jim Dale. Dale was presented by Jenny Randles as 'Dr John Dale' a psychologist at Manchester University, however I knew of Dale by repute back in the late 1960s when I was a member of the Manchester UFO group DIGAP, and actually have some books formerly in his possession. Back in those days he was known as Jim Dale, and was known as a chiropodist, faith-healer and contactee. He parted company from DIGAP for some obscure reason, and one got the impression he was considered far too far-out for them, (and that was very far out indeed). Some of his interests as revealed in his annotated copy of Space Craft from Beyond Three Dimensions seem to gell with the sort of pseudo-technical stuff that Cynthia came up with. Was she being fed this information?

All in all a fascinating tour of a long forgotten period of British ufology, though some portions need to approached with care. -- Peter Rogerson

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