John Hanson and Dawn Holloway. Haunted Skies, The Encyclopaedia of British UFOs: Volume 3, 1966-1967. CFZ Press, 2011.
Yet another great nostalgia fest for ageing ufologists, now covering the period in which the prehistoric ancestor of Magonia, the Merseyside UFO Group Bulletin operated. I note, in fact, that there are a number of references to MUFORG Bulletin and our archive website. This was perhaps the period of the high water mark of interest in UFOs in Britain, with large numbers of often ephemeral groups and little magazines, the brouhaha over Warminster and the "great waves" of the summer and autumn of 1967. Much of this material might be unfamiliar to today's ufologists, and reading this, they might discover that they have, in some cases, being trying to reinvent the wheel.
What strikes me is just how little of the material here relates to reports of "structured craft of unknown origin", and the wide variety of things which were reported as UFOs in those days. No doubt the vast majority of these reports were simply misidentifications and misperceptions of the usual meteors, fireballs, stars and planets (and I suspect more often than you would think) the moon, aircraft, helicopters and the like, as well as a variety of optical illusions. Some may however relate to a variety of uncatalogued and poorly understood natural phenomena. Some are very strange indeed, the pair of what look like flying boots seen in a car park in Bentilee, Staffordshire for example, or the encounters with "aliens" straight out of the pages of George Adamski (a testimony as to how influential his books were in British popular culture), the guy who invited "aliens" who twittered like birds as they bounced along, into his home and offered them whisky, cheese and biscuits (which they spat out), in return they gave him "diamonds" (rock crystals and seeds).
As an example of how wide a range of experiences were subsumed into the UFO mythos was the tale told by the novelist Dame Rebecca West of encountering a strange man on her land, and an object which "consisted of something like a metal band, grey-blue in colour, flattened at one point, so as to seem almost leaf like, crossed with a herringbone system of metal strips", attached to which was a sort of bag. The whole thing seemed to crumple to the ground. The stranger behaved suspiciously and made her uneasy. Presumably this was a deflated balloon or parachute with something attached, which might account for the case getting a 'restricted' category by the MOD.
This book is well illustrated with photographs, drawings and clippings, and provides faces to names. It is rather sad to see how people you remember from your youth have aged. The authors have done an excellent job in assembling this material, and just two years fills a substantial book. This is likely however to be the tip of the iceberg, as it is not clear as to whether they (or anyone else for that matter) had access to the archives of BUFORA let alone the many dozens of defunct groups and deceased personalities whose records and libraries are scattered to the winds. All of this stuff needs to eventually go to the AFU archives in Sweden to be preserved. -- Peter Rogerson.