11 August 2010


H. Michael Simmons article Once Upon a Time in the West examined the reports of the 1897 airship in America's Mid West, with particular reference to how the stories were handled by the local newspapers in the region. Although some writers have suggested that the airship panic was helped on its way by William Randolph Hurst to promote an 'invasion panic'
Simmons points out that individual Hurst papers' responses seemed to be determined by opposing the viewpoints of their local rivals. In San Francisco the Examiner discounted the stories, whilst in New York Hurst's Journal gave sensational coverage.

Most of the article looks at the infamous Aurora 'crash', concluding, as others have, that it was a newspaper hoax, but also giving the social background to the reported events, and how the 'crash' has been exploited by ufologists for reasons of their own.

Nigel Watson's 'Dream of Nuts and Bolts' took a look at eccentric inventors who had claimed to have been able to reproduce the technology of the flying saucers to build their own craft. Most famous of these and, amazingly, still around and active, was John Searl with his 'levity' disc - probably not the best name if you want your invention to be taken seriously. I was fascinated to see that he has a professional-looking website and spoke at a UFO event in Leeds a few days ago. There is a delightful picture on his website of one of his levity discs flying over an idyllic English village green. Unfortunately for the more literally minded this is not a photograph, but a delicate pencil sketch by an artist who just happened to be on the spot, drawing the view. Far more attractive than those banal fuzzy photographs!

'Children of Another God' was Peter Rogerson's analysis of a theme that seemed to be current in the 1980s: children as leaders of a New Age. Although this is probably most widely known as the theme of John Wyndham's The Midwich Cuckoos, it can be traced back to legends of changelings.

Peter traces the idea through a variety of contemporary UFO stories such as that of Cynthia Appleton in the 1950s, who after visits from angelic-like spacemen gave birth to a boy who was destined to be a 'great leader'. Despite the efforts of Andy Roberts, who tried to follow up on the story for the book Flying Saucerers, nothing could be traced of Cynthia or her son since 1973.

Peter notes: "The idea of a race of divine children as harbingers of the transformation of mankind crops up in a number of obscure quarters. For example, the famous SPR 'Cross Correspondents' ... produced scripts relating to the 'Children of the Spirit'...

In one 'revealed' description of the creation of these children we read: "All sorts of glass retorts, tubes, wheels ... Some of the receptacles were full of clear liquid full of shining bubbles ... it ended as far as I am concerned in a most beautiful radiant seraph's head in a large test tube."

Peter suggests this might be regarded as a precognition of 'test-tube' babies, which were a subject of massive speculation at the time, but it seems now much more a precursor of the 'hatcheries' and 'hybrid nurseries' which abductees claimed to have seen on board flying saucers.

Peter Hough's article, 'A Haunted Man' is a short account of a man whose like seemed to be persecuted by a parade of odd and mysterious experiences, many of which seemed to echo the case of 'Miss Z' which Peter and I reported on in 1975, and seem related to hypnopompic and hypnogogic imagery and aware sleep paralysis. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of these strange phenomena is just how common they seem to be!

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