This issue of Magonia was a response to the previous issue and continued the American theme. It contained two important articles from American contributors. This was at a time when we began to comment on the way in which UFO research in Britain and Europe was taking a very different path to the research being conducted across the Atlantic. While we felt that European ufology was looking beyond the nuts-and-bolts approach to embrace the broader psychological, sociological and cultural aspects of the phenomena, American ufology was turning back from the ‘New Ufology’ approach of writers like John Keel and Jerome Clark (in his earlier incarnation) to a literalist interpretation of the abduction phenomena and an obsessive raking over of once-dead topics like Roswell and so-called ‘crash-retrievals’.
Dennis Stillings was editor of Artifex, a journal which covered a wide range of topics from ufology to alchemy, and which included papers by people such as Hilary Evans, Michael Grosso, and George Hansen. You can access its on-line archive HERE.
In his piece ‘The American Way, a Cock-and-Bullard Story' Stillings criticised the article by Eddie Bullard in the previous Magonia in which Bullard argued that the American concentration of the abduction phenomenon was justified in terms of the perceived physical reality of that phenomenon. Stillings demonstrates that the characteristics which Bullard suggested pointed towards the objective reality of the phenomenon were largely misleadingly reported by the abduction researchers to fit into their already rigid viewpoint. Rather than demonstrating reality they seemed to confirm that the treatment of abduction reports by what Stillings calls ‘WKA’ (Well-Known-Abductionists) was moving into becoming a quasi-religion with the abductionists turning into cult leaders.
Martin Kottmeyer also critiqued contemporary American ufology, especially the claim by David Jacobs that the imagery described in UFO accounts had no precedent before 1947, and Thomas Bullard’s proposition that the Betty and Barney Hill account showed no evidence of being derived from previous cultural sources: that it was “entirely unpredisposed”.
In this piece and in a number of subsequent articles in Magonia and elsewhere Kottmeyer demonstrates beyond argument that this is not so. In his Magonia article he draws upon a wealth of imagery from science fiction, comic strips, and films that demonstrates clearly that much of this visual and literary imagery was well established in popular culture long before it became apparent in UFO and abduction accounts.
Perhaps most importantly, and with specific reference to the Hill case, he shows that a number of the major features of the Hills’ accounts had already appeared in a science fiction film, Invaders from Mars, and from a film in the TV Outer Limits series called 'The Bellero Shield', which had been broadcast just a few days before Barney Hill gave a description of his abductors’ eyes which corresponded exactly with the eyes of the figures in that episode.
The theme of the diverging of US and European ufology is also taken up in Peter Rogerson’s ‘Northern Echoes’ column where he reinforces Stillings’ argument that abduction researchers have tidied-up and homogenised their witness accounts before publishing them; and a letter from Hilary Evans highlights another of the differences between the two ufological trends, that the European sceptics have by and large come up through the grassroots of ufology, getting out and researching individual cases before coming to their sceptical positions, whereas the American ‘skeptics’ have in the main come into ufology from outside, with little or no experience of actual UFO investigation. There are of course exceptions on both side, and I would single out Allan Hendry as an American sceptic who came to his sceptical conclusions through the hard slog of case investigation.
Stillings’ and Kottmeyer’s articles are important, and well worth reading even after twenty-five years, perhaps even more so now, as ufology in general seems to have regressed spectacularly in the interim.