I'm not sure that many Magonia Review readers wait breathlessly for the next instalment of our 25 Years Ago feature, but if there are any out there, my apologies for neglecting it to the extent that I am now having to cover two issues in one to try to get back onto a 25 year rota.
In 1987 Magonia was being produced using one of the semi-legendary Amstrad PCW apparatuses, with an extremely noisy dot-matrix printer. As the PCW was a fairly primitive machine it was not capable of printing in a multi-column format, so I was obliged to pass the same sheet of paper through the printer three times to produce the three column layout we were using (four times, even, for the book review pages) carefully leaving rows of blank lines so that later pictures or text stand-outs could be inserted. I just hope our readers at the time (are any of you still around?) appreciated the trouble I took!
Magonia 27 (September 1987) was notable for carrying the first of many important articles by the American ufologist Martin Kottmeyer. 'Break a Leg' looked at the UFO experience as a piece of theatre. Martin's first clue that UFO narratives more closely resembled theatrical scripts than real-life events was when he noticed: "The tip-off was all the chases. Chases are staple items in our fantasy lives. It is a favourite element in most action-adventure television ... In ufology it is a simple matter of observation that chases are absurdly commonplace. In a relatively small sample of 80 cases drawn from the Uintah region of Utah by Frank Salisbury, no less than six chases were in evidence". Read his full article HERE.
Although I have never been particularly interesting in ghostly phenomena, Peter Rogerson has studied extensively into the social and historical background of reported hauntings, particularly in the nineteenth century. In his piece 'And the Dogs Began to Howl' he looks at the significance of hauntings to the individuals who experience them. As a local history librarian Peter often received enquiries from people searching the history of their own home, and in many cases he found that this was an attempt to discover the 'explanation' for a supposed haunting.
He notes that it seem that "in some cases the house, 'the home', is an extension of the individuals body or personality ... to the newcomer the house has a 'history' or a 'reputation' in a personal, almost sexual, way". These cases are what Peter calls the 'off-campus' history, which still possesses power over the living and can be experienced directly rather than through the documentation of the formal, 'campus', history. This piece may well be regarded as an introduction to the series of articles by Peter which I have recently added to the Magonia Archive website.
One of the bugbears of UFO research is the need, which some people feel, to provide one singe, overarching explanation, whether it's plasma vortexes, demonic spirits or astronomical mirages. One person who's tried all three of those is Steuart Campbell. In this issue of Magonia he was promoting the third hypothesis suggesting that astronomical mirages were responsible for such accounts as Trindade Island (a mirage of Jupiter), Delphos (Saturn), Valentich (Canopus) Betty and Barney Hill (Antares), the Gill case (Sirius), and many others. Whilst it is undoubtedly true that mirages, astronomical and otherwise, have been the cause of UFO reports, to use it as an explanations to the extent that Campbell did, is clearly unfeasible. [Not curently available online]
Magonia 28 came out in January 1988, and bears on its cover a little logo commemorating 20 years of publication by the MUFOB/Magonia entity, which I will skate rapidly over lest anyone work out that I have been involved in this lark for 45 years!
The main article was by Dennis Stilling, ‘Missing Time, Missing Links‘, which began the demolition of the Hopkinsonian abduction narrative long before such criticism became fashionable, pointing out that the whole abduction phenomenon bore a closer resemblance to mystical experience than to alien kidnapping.
Manfred Cassirer was a prominent member of the Society for Psychical Research for many years, and unlike many members he had a very broad view of what constituted psychical phenomena. Along with Hilary Evans he helped introduce the SPR to some aspects of ufology that might have been of interest to them. An in return he introduced ufologist to some psychic phenomena, in the case of his article 'Transvection and Ufology', that of levitation, linking the experience of individuals like Betty Andreasson with the historic claims of religious mystics.
Dennis Stacy, one time editor of the American MUFON UFO Journal - until he proved too sensible for the readership and he was eased out of the editor's chair - examined Timothy Good's recently published Above Top Secret, and identifies the 'fatal flaw' in the book: "The appearance here of the controversial Majestic Twelve or MJ-12 material relating to a reputed super-secret government UFO agency … is doubly disappointing because it will inevitably detract from what in many regards is an otherwise impressive performance by Mr Good.” In his review of the book, Stacy eschews the 'angels on a pinhead' arguments about comparisons of signatures and typefaces, showing simply that the background to the appearance of the documents themselves gives clear evidence of their fraudulent nature. Read his article http://magonia.haaan.com/2009/top-drawer/.
My own contribution to this issue, in the form of a book review published as an extended editorial 'Who's watching the Ufologists?', contrasts the literalist approach of Budd Hopkins to the abduction phenomenon with that of Whitley Strieber, who looks at his experience from the perspective of the ultimate victim. At the end I offer the suggestion that ufologist should retreat from abduction study and recognise that "we are not trained psychotherapist". This finally seems to have happened, but only after the work of untrained 'psychotherapists' has had some disastrous results. -- John Rimmer.