Bret Lueder, A UFO Hunter's Guide. Weiser Books, San Francisco, 2012.

On reading Lueder's introduction to this book we learn that there is nothing new about the idea that UFOs are from other worlds, as the ancient descriptions of them have been described by popular writers such as Erich von Daniken and "heavyweights like Zecharia Sitchin". (He's not joking, apparently.) After briefly mentioning some of the fantastic stories about UFOs and abductions, he remarks: "No matter what your preconceived notions are on the subject, when you see the vast array of cases, sightings, alleged contacts, and abductions, it becomes hard to imagine why the subject is not taken more seriously in the mainstream."

In fact, if you read this book you will easily see why it is not taken seriously. The first chapter is about UFO theories, which vary from the plausible to the incoherent. For example, there are the mysterious orbs "which became a subject of interest in the mid-1990s". This was the the period when people were replacing their film cameras with digital cameras, but Lueder seems to agree with those who say that only some of the orbs are artifacts of digital photography.

Chapters 2 and 3 are about UFO researchers and contactees, an apparently randomly chosen list of people varying from the mildly eccentric to those of questionable sanity, including a few notorious, pathological, lecture-circuit liars. Where these people have been interviewed by the author, he obviously takes them at their own valuation instead of checking the known facts about them.

In the chapter dealing with "Top Cases and Hot Spots" he includes such absurdities as Billy Meier and his visitors from the Pleiades. "With the aid of the aliens, Meier captured what have become known as the best UFO Photos ever taken." (I am not making this up.) One of the UFO Hot Spots is Mexico City, thanks to the tall stories told by Jaime Maussan, of whose reputation the author is either unaware or who chooses to ignore. In his discussion of the Montauk Project and the Philadelphia Experiment, in which it was alleged that a US Navy vessel was said to have become invisible, or even to have been teleported, Lueder mentions the findings of sceptics but concludes that "the number of eyewitness accounts, weird coincidences, and conveniently missing data in 'official' records are tough to deny and make a strong case that the experiments did, indeed, occur".

The reader who might well wonder what this case has got to do with UFOs will find even more irrelevant stuff in the chapters on Associated Phenomena, including cryptozoology, time travel, and psychic abilities. There is also a section on exopolitics, a subject which is no doubt reasonable as an academic exercise, but seems to be pursued mainly by people who are obsessed by the belief that governments are concealing the truth of alien contact from the people.

There are several appendixes, which seem to have been inserted to fill up the number of pages suggested by the publisher. These include the list of items required for a field investigator's kit, one of which is a 100-foot tape measure. (Any suggestions?) There is also a long list of URLs for (presumably relevant) web sites, but you have to guess what they are about from the names, as there are no descriptions. One thing which might have usefully filled a few pages is an index, but there is none.

The failure to give direct references to sources and to give any indication to the not-so-critical reader as to reliability of the information, apart from occasionally inserting "alleged" and "controversial" will make it very confusing to those unfamiliar with the subject. -- John Harney


  1. Tyler Kokjohn29.8.12

    Thank you for the review. Viewing the Amazon web page after reading it, I found that although it is possible to search inside the book, most of the content is not available.

    Re the kit for investigators - a 100-foot tape measure is a revealing recommendation in itself given that the scientific world employs the metric system. Still, maybe it could be used to quantify all the tall tales. The absence of primary references sourcing and an index suggests it would be overkill if employed to estimate the contribution to research made by this book.

  2. The 100-ft tape measure would be useful if you came across a soft-landed (i.e. not crashed) UFO and wanted to measure its perimeter. Those workmen's steel rules are hardly flexible enough to get round the circumference of such an object. It is accuracy we want. Enough of these eternal approximations!

    Of course you might need a longer one if the UFO had a larger circumference than this. But 100 ft should be enough for all practical purposes.