25 January 2012


Mack Maloney. UFOs in Wartime: What They Didn’t Want You to Know. Berkley Books, 2011.

Noe Torres and Ruben Uriarte. Aliens in the Forest: The Cisco Grove UFO Encounter Roswell Books, 2011.

Mack Maloney’s book is another of those time warp affairs, a bog standard 1960s UFO book appearing some 45 years late. By that I don't mean that it was written in the 1960s, it looks as though it was written some time in the 1990s, as the latest war mentioned is the first Gulf War of 1991, but its style both physical (an 18cm paperback) and content styles are redolent of that period.
It is essentially just a collection of UFO anecdotes put together usually without any reference to source or the kind of investigation involved, so that stories which reflect actual events, however interpreted, are interspersed with what look like classic “my amazing adventures in the forces” tales told decades after the events. It is probably best applying the test, the more dramatic the story, the less likely it is to be true. In some cases sources are given, which doesn’t exactly add to the confidence. There is the amazing tale of the ‘Red Baron’ von Richthofen, the German WWI ace, and the flying saucer, referenced to that well know scientific publication Weekly World News (he gets the name wrong, calling it ‘World Weekly News’ and wrongly calls it a British tabloid). The WWW does not follow the usual tabloid approach of mingling fact and fiction, in the WWW its all fiction.

Though Maloney briefly deals with the Scareships of the 1900s and First World War, he clearly has never examined any of the studies by Nigel Watson, David Clarke, etc. Much of the work is devoted to the Second World War, and I rather get the impression that it is mostly taken up with material from Keith Chester’s Strange Company, (Reviewed in Magonia 96) only without the notes which allow you to work out what were genuine contemporaneously reported stories and which are the decades later “strange tales from the forces” tales.

Maloney has found that he had a bigger problem, there just weren’t enough UFO stories from war zones to go round, so by arguing the whole of the 1950s and 1960s were the cold war, he was able to add in some of the classic UFO stories from the 1950s, as well as Robert Hasting’s tales of UFOs over the missile sites. Is there even the slightest independent evidence for any of his tales?. We get the usual Jim Penniston version of Rendlesham, but at least Maloney is sceptical of Roswell and does not regale us with tales of abductions and hybrids

Unlike many of today’s UFO books, Aliens in the Forest features a case which was actually investigated, and not too badly by the lights of the times. It refers to a classic CEIII report of the 1960s. The INTCAT summary, though not entirely accurate gives a good idea of what it involved.
September 4 1964 2200 CISCO GROVE (CALIFORNIA:USA)

While hunting in the Cisco Grove mountains, factory worker Donald Shrum (28), became separated from his two companions, and found his expected route back to camp ended in a sheer drop. He was forced to retreat to a canyon with a granite outcropping, sparse bush and few trees. He briefly took refuge in one of these trees, when he heard what sounded like a bear crashing about. When the creature had gone, he got down and made three signal fires. Shortly after he saw a light, which he thought was a lantern, below the horizon. When the light darted up and over a tree he changed his mind and assumed it was a rescue helicopter. However it came closer and hovered without sound or motion, he realized it was something extraordinary and climbed about 3.5m up the 8m tall tree.

The light was white, 20-25cm diameter, and was accompanied by 2 or 4 other objects a regular distance away. The light circled the tree, there was a flash and a dark object fell to the ground, and he noticed a dome shaped object about 400m away. His attention was attracted by noises, as two figures emerged from the bush from slightly different directions. The figures seemed to be curious about the hoot of an owl. A third figure, moving in a noisier and clumsier fashion than the first 2, then arrived. Shrum climbed further up the tree. He now saw that the first two beings were about 1.6m tall, dressed in silvery grey hooded suits. The 3rd was a of darker grey, had no neck, two red flickering eyes, and a rectangular opening for a mouth, these features suggesting it was a robot of some kind.

The two humanoids then tried to climb the tree, one boosting the other up, but without success. The robot then proceeded to attack him with some kind of gas, which made him pass out for a few moments, then awake retching, He fired three arrows at the robot, which struck with a spark, then some of his clothing, which he set alight, his bow, canteen (which the two men examined with interest), and some silver coins, The attacks continued through the night, the men trying to climb the tree all the while. As dawn broke a second robot joined the first, they stood face to face and sparks flew between them, and the area became filled with the gas which rendered Shrum unconscious again, for some time.

When he awoke again, nauseated and suffering from exposure, the beings had all gone. He then made his way back to the camp, being found by one of his companions en route. Back at camp, he found the 3rd man had also nearly got lost, and had seen a large bright glowing light descend. Back at the scene he retrieved two of the arrows, the metal heads of which appeared to have been ground by a file.
The story was reported by Shrum’s family to a local astronomy professor shortly after the incident, and was subject to a perfunctory air force investigation. In early 1965, after reading an article by Donald Keyhoe in True Magazine, Mrs. Shrum wrote to him, which launched a NICAP investigation by Paul Cerney and others.

The authors have acquired Cerney’s archive on the case and conducted their own investigation. Various stages of these investigations are reported here and seem to be fairly consistent as far as memory allows. Fearing publicity Shrum refused to allow his name to be used. though it seems to have circulated through the UFO community for some time, Shrum blames the Air Force for this, but I doubt they were to blame. His full name was first revealed, obviously without his permission, by Ronald Story in his 1980 UFO Encyclopedia (the story is not republished in the in the 2001 2nd edition, so I assume that Cerney, whose notes appear to have been used by Story without attribution, complained). By 2004 it was already across the Internet.

Though Cerney’s investigation was not bad for the time, the transcripts show a fair degree of prompting and uses of terms like “the ship” by the investigators, revealing their belief in the ETH. They attempted to have the little remaining physical evidence, the arrow heads, analyzed, without success. What does, crucially, seem to be lacking is a detailed on site investigation, which should have involved staying the night at the site at the same time of year, to assess visibility, animal and human activity etc.

Like many such cases, this story is essentially intractable, unless you believe that extraterrestrial not only look almost exactly human beings (their description short beings in white uniforms is curiously reminiscent of those in several accounts of the April 1964 Socorro case) are accompanied by robots with more than a passing resemblance to Gort out of The Day the Earth Stood Still, and who are afraid of fire, then the ETH does not look like a plausible explanation. Like Barney Hill, Shrum seems especially afraid of strange eyes (like welders goggles, behind which some kind of fire lurked) on the creatures.

The story is almost certainly not a simple hoax. Shrum seems to have been genuinely traumatized by his ordeal. There is a chance he could have been the victim of some horrible prank, but I am not sure that is a good runner. Explanations must be dependent on the exact viewing conditions, just how much could he see by the light of a low fire on a dark night in the middle of nowhere.

Could the beings with strange luminous eyes and flat faces have been owls? - in the original reports they seem to communicate with hoots like owls. This is likely to be more than a straightforward misinterpretation, perhaps external events are acting as a template for dreams and hypnogogic imagery that continue to intrude, as the affects of fatigue, drowsiness, sensory restriction and anxiety mount. Without site investigation it is impossible to say whether such an area of explanation has any validity.  -- Reviewed by Peter Rogerson

1 comment:

  1. Owls? OWLS? And I thought Phil Klass was dead.

    By the way, have you ever seen an owl land on the White House lawn? Neither have I.