The first chapter deals with the beginnings of what came to be termed ufology, involving Kenneth Arnold's adventures in Tacoma, Washington, in 1947. The allegedly mysterious deaths involved in this episode were, of course, Brown and Davidson, of Army Intelligence who had been sent to investigate the reports of strange flying objects, and whose aircraft crashed on the return journey when an engine caught fire. There were also two press men who died soon after these incidents, but no evidence is presented that there was anything mysterious about them.
There are many strange details in this story, which will be familiar to most UFO enthusiasts, but many of them are not taken too seriously because of the lack of independent witnesses, which is typical of most of the more sensational UFO incidents.
Much space is devoted to a favourite theme of sensationalist UFO literature which asserts that certain prominent Americans (nearly always Americans) were killed because they knew too much about UFOs.
A classic example of this is the death of US secretary of defense James Forrestal in 1949, who died as a result of falling from a high window of the Bethesda Naval Hospital, Maryland, where he was being treated for a mental breakdown. The official view is that he committed suicide, but the opinion of conspiracy theorists is, as you might expect, that he was murdered because it was feared that his mental state might have led him to reveal what he knew about UFOs.
Redfern introduces various details which seem to support the idea that Forrestal was murdered, including an incident described as "absolutely ripe with Men in Black style overtones". The story is that Forrestal was visited by his friend Ferdinand Ebertstadt, who was concerned about his mental condition. Forrestal told him that his house was bugged and that he was under surveillance by "shadowy forces".
One notable feature of conspiracy theories is that seemingly isolated incidents are not independent but are believed to be connected in various ways. For example, after describing the Cash-Landrum encounter, in December 1980, which allegedly consisted of helicopters escorting a mysterious flying object emitting radiation which injured Betty Cash, Redfern notes that this coincided with the events in Rendlesham Forest, which were said to have involved the landing of a UFO, and that the same mysterious object might have been involved. However, there were apparently no independent witnesses to the Cash-Landrum incident, and the description of the Rendlesham Forest incidents relies heavily on the reports of unreliable witnesses and even more unreliable ufologists.
There are plenty of other unlikely stories to entertain readers, including American presidents Kennedy and Nixon taking friends to view the bodies of dead aliens at US Air Force bases. Of course, all ufologists know that President Kennedy was assassinated because he had decided to reveal to the world what he knew about UFOs, or at least that's what they like to believe.
Some of our readers might be interested in the seemingly unfeasibly large number of ufologists who have died on 24 June, the date of Kenneth Arnold's sighting of a formation of pelicans, sorry, UFOs. I will leave it to the statisticians among you to comment on the possibility of this being due to chance.
There is plenty to discuss and argue about in this book, whether you believe it or not. Read it and have fun. -- John Harney