The most prominent item on the cover of this issue of Magonia is a quotation from the British Air Ministry DDI (Tech) Department. Issued in April 1957.
It says “It is concluded that the incident was due to the presence of five reflecting objects of unidentified type and origin. It is considered unlikely that they were conventional aircraft, meteorological balloons or charged clouds”
Now doesn’t that sound to you remarkably like a statement that ‘UFOs are real’? It certainly did to Roger J. Morgan who, years before the information release programme co-ordinated by David Clarke, was digging around in the Public Record Office (PRO, now National Archives) files to see what he could unearth about the Government’s dealings with the UFO phenomenon.
In 1988 MoD files from 1958 were transferred to the PRO as part of the routine practice of releasing files after thirty years. On of these that Roger Morgan discovered related to the apparent observation of four objects travelling at high speed and making rapid manoeuvres, by two separate radar stations in south-west
. It was this case that led the MoD to come to the remarkable conclusion that I highlighted on the front page. Ending his article Roger Morgan comments, “the report on the Scotland West Freugh incident contains as its conclusion the nearest we have so far got to an official recognition that UFOs exist as artifects”. You can read the full article here: UFO Files at PRO
Media studies guru Nigel Watson discussed the perils involved in ufologists co-operation with producers of TV shows about their subject, using as a dreadful warning the documentary ‘Out of the World’ broadcast by the BBC in May 1977. Ufologist who took part in the programme complained of being ‘stitched up’ by the producers and made to look, in the words of the title of Nigel’s piece: ‘monsters, amiable, intelligent and daft as brushes’. The opening sequence to the programme gave the flavour of what was to follow: two nasal-voiced, anorak-clad ‘ufologists’ (no-one in the field has ever come across them before or since) prowling about the undergrowth somewhere in south-east England with comedy ‘UFO detectors’ seemingly made from bits of old electric heaters. And it went downhill from there.
A piece by Peter Rogerson chronicled the increasing rift between hard-core ‘scientific’ ufology and the folklore of ufology. He notes two recently published books, Timothy Good’s Above Top Secret, and Jenny Randles’ The UFO Conspiracy, noting that with their emphasis on government documents they belong to the same mental climate as Irangate and the Spycatcher book, which dominated the headlines at the time. However the real hidden secrets are those of folklore and secret beliefs, the creatures of the night and the imagination that hide away in the shadows and the liminal places, not in the filing cabinets of government bureaucracies.
Roger’s, Peter’s and Nigel’s pieces were based on presentations they gave at the Magonia Twentieth Anniversary Conference in May 1988. Hilary Evans also spoke at that conference but his piece here was not part of the presentations. In More Pieces for the Jigsaw Hilary took a tour d’horizon of the world of UFOs, folklore and the whole range of paranormal and anomalous phenomena. Somewhere in all this data the beginnings of a picture can be found. One or two of the pieces are beginning to fit together, Hilary notes, but there’s no picture on the box lid, some of the pieces may be from another jigsaw, but he concludes, “for a dedicated puzzle-solver, it’s a game worth playing”. Hilary played it until the day he died; maybe he’s got the bigger picture now, but if so, as a firm atheist, he’s certainly not going to tell us! -- John Rimmer.