John Hanson and Dawn Holloway. Haunted Skies: The Encyclopaedia of British UFOs, Volume 4, 1968-1971. Fortean Words, 2011.

This volume of Hanson and Holloway’s epic encyclopaedia takes their history into the period of the earliest years of MUFOB, though we are only occasionally mentioned, and covers a period when I was first getting actively involved in the subject.

There are a good number of nostalgic clippings, and it was interesting to put faces to some of the names from the past. They reproduce several conference reports from the old-time Spacelink magazine, including one on the notorious Manchester conference of November 1968, which was my first UFO conference. It featured Norman Oliver promoting his contactee orientated COS-MOS organisation, and dealing with his favourite topic of Sex and the Saucers, as well as Tony Wedd’s hilarious leyline lecture (“Number 1 - The Larch, THE LARCH”, as from a Monty Python sketch), in which he assured the teenagers such as myself in the audience that when we were ‘grown up’ we would be in a world running on cosmic free energy. Forty odd years later we are still waiting.

Another conference that Spacelink covered was a supposedly select meeting with Dr Hynek in London in August 1970. As was always the case the result was a shambles. As Lionel Beer put it rather politely: “unfortunately [Hynek] was inhibited from letting his ‘hair down’ by the large audience, and some of the quasi-scientific contributions from the floor..” In other words just about every daft ufologist in Britain somehow got an invite to this “select event”. I presume it was around this time that the two Johns met Hynek in company with Charles Bowen, and might help explain the good doctor’s rather acerbic comments on Britain, its restaurants and (then) licensing laws made on that occasion.

There are a number of interesting bits on a variety of odd experiences, including alleged apparitions of a young girl, and a “being 8 ft tall, with broad shoulders, featureless head, glowing red eyes, about 12 inches apart, two small horns on the head, a very deep protruding back, thick arms, with a covering of greyish white hair or fur, and the ability to run through dense undergrowth without making sound and jumping through large obstacles”, which seems like an updated version of our old friend Spring Heeled Jack crossed with a chucacabra.

It comes as no surprise that on several occasions the authors find that all record of cases allegedly investigated by BUFORA have disappeared, presumably into landfill or recycling plants. Warminster gets a good amount of coverage, and the activities of David Simpson and friends are noted on several occasions.

The main problem with this book, even more than its predecessors, is that it is filled with loads of deadly dull vague reports of lights in the sky, which could be anything, taken from newspaper clippings, and what passed for “investigation” in some quarters in those days. Perhaps the authors could be more selective in subsequent volumes. -- Peter Rogerson

1 comment:

  1. British ufology is largely an alien world to those of us here in the States.