M. K. Jessup. The Expanding Case for the UFO. Arco, 1957.
Morris Ketchum Jessup was perhaps the first person to use the term ‘UFO’ in a commercial publication, which is something of an irony as very little of these books was devoted to stories of unidentified flying objects, rather they were devoted to a great variety of Fortean topics, such as Fortean falls, unusual archaeological ruins, mystery meteors, disappearing ships and crews and the like. Much of the second volume was devoted to strange things seen on the moon, and to peculiar speculation about pygmies. All of these oddities were ascribed to the UFOs: they had taken the crew off the Mary Celeste for example, and beams from them were responsible for the Devil’s hoof prints in Devon in 1855. They were also responsible, he hinted, for poltergeists.
At this point you begin to suspect that Jessup was, er well, rather strange. In fact his sad life and death should be a warning to parents not to name your kid after a famous relative. Morris had been named after a relative, Morris Ketchum Jesup (with just the one p), who was a philanthropist and businessman, and the younger Morris seems to have lived in his shadow. He trained to be an astronomer, but dropped out of university and seems to have wandered around in a sort of semi-permanent gap year, (geographical exploration is how he put it), and ended up a divorced used-car salesman in Miami. Depression took hold and like James McDonald killed himself by a hose fitted to his car exhaust..
Of course conspiracy theorists have had a field day with the notorious annotated edition of Case for the UFO - the co-called ‘Varo' edition which led to the ‘Allende File' and the story of the ‘Philadelphia Experiment'. The annotations are the ravings of the sort of person who writes in green ink in library books, and that Jessup took this seriously for even a fraction of a second suggests that he was already having mental health issues. Indeed I suspect that these were probably the reason for his dropping out of his studies back in the 1930s. His even odder book UFO and the Bible suggests someone trying to square the circle between his fundamentalist Christian upbringing and the science he had learnt at college. -- Peter Rogerson