Saturday, February 09, 2008

Here's an enticing ad for Frank Scully's classic "Behind the Flying Saucers," an engagingly naive and much-maligned expose of the UFO phenomenon. Written in the 1950s, "Behind the Flying Saucers" launched the "crashed disk" meme decades before the Roswell case was rediscovered and brought to attention by Stanton Friedman and others.

While Scully appears to have been duped, there are suggestions that his book might have served as disinformation -- or possibly as an attempt to acclimate the public to the ideas of downed UFOs and alien occupants in case of an unforeseen need for disclosure (such as the crash of a UFO in or near a major city).

Once one allows for the possibility that the Roswell incident involved a nonhuman craft, the idea isn't nearly as paranoid as it might seem.

Note the reference to saucers constricted of an "extremely light, almost impenetrable metal alloy that we have not been able to duplicate." If that sounds familiar, it should. In a videotaped interview, Brig. Gen. Arthur Exon discussed his limited knowledge of the Roswell debris, which was flown to Wright Field (later Wright-Patterson Air Force Base) for inspection in 1947. Echoing descriptions offered by witnesses in Roswell, Exon emphasized his understanding that the Roswell material was remarkably lightweight and durable, consistent with an extraterrestrial interpretation.

Could Scully (or his sources) have arrived at the same description independently? It's not impossible, although I find the parallels conspicuous. Some skeptics might even suggest that Exon's testimony was colored by exposure to Scully's book or "flying saucer" movies that expound on the characteristics of alien metals. In "Earth vs. the Flying Saucers," for example, scientists examining an alien helmet take pains to note its light weight and unusual strength.

Of course, the pointed description in "Earth vs. the Flying Saucers" could have been part of the same hypothetical "contingency plan" responsible for Scully's book. In "Architects of the Underworld" (a wonderfully offbeat ET/conspiracy romp) Bruce Rux argues that "The Thing," an enduring genre favorite, unfolds in a tellingly Roswell-esque manner, from the sudden acquisition of a crashed saucer to the threat posed by a human-like alien presence.

Have works of fiction been seeded with "insider" knowledge as part of a far-reaching effort to educate a complacent public? Or has our own postwar fiction somehow guided the action and appearance of a nonhuman intelligence quite beyond our perceptual vocabulary?


Anonymous said...

I'm just talking out of my ass here (and out of my depth), but I'm recalling that in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings books, Frodo inherited a light yet powerful 'mithril vest' from his uncle Bilbo. It was a gift from the elves, was very lightweight, yet afforded great protection. One thing I know about Tolkien is that his stories were based on a deep understanding of European mythology.

Basically what I'm suggesting is a Vallee-esque connection between this lightweight UFO material meme and magical materials found in folklore.

Anonymous said...

Woops, the above comment should be attributed to me. I goofed.

Anonymous said...

My favorite "THAT":

THAT these cabins revolved on a gear ratio unknown to us?

THAT one (so to speak) really started thinking....

Anonymous said...

Started ME thinking, that is....

Anonymous said...

I don't know, Mac, I never thought The Thing From Another World was particularly Roswell-esque. It was a cracking good movie though. That closing soliloquy by Ned Scott still makes the hair on my arms stand up.

Department 47

Mac said...

It was a gift from the elves, was very lightweight, yet afforded great protection. One thing I know about Tolkien is that his stories were based on a deep understanding of European mythology.

Basically what I'm suggesting is a Vallee-esque connection between this lightweight UFO material meme and magical materials found in folklore.

Very interesting! Thanks, Justin!

Anonymous said...

No problem Mac.

Any folklorists in the house?

Anonymous said...

Isn't that kind of the whole idea of "cryptoterrestrials," Mac? That the UFOnauts may BE "elves" in some sense? (I seem to recall that Jaques Vallee himself suggests this connecton as well....) Elves traditionally (and in Tolkein) are well-known for practicing a range of occult techniques, including selective visibility/invisibility and shape-shifting....

Here's another thought. Elves in Tolkein are essentially immortal, at least in the sense that once they reach adulthood, they stop aging physically. (They can, of course, be killed by material means, such as Orc arrows, etc.) Would "cryptos" share such biological immortality, do you think? That would put an extremely interesting ingredient into the mix, no?

There are also "good elves" and "bad elves." From Strieber's stories it sounds as though he may have encounered some, shall be say, morally ambiguous ones to say the least....

ahtzib said...

Expectations that materials being lighter and stronger, in the context of the immediate post-WWII and early 1950s makes sense. The period is one of rapid change (biplanes still flew in limited numbers in 1939, by 1947 a rocket plane breaks the sound barrier) in airplane technology. The whole ethos of aviation at that time is that incredible new speeds were being reached, and barriers broken (sound, atmosphere), because of new technologies (namely propulsion and materials).

And I don't think the Thing has any direct roots in actual accounts of crashed saucers, it is nonetheless a crash retrieval tale. The biggest difference is that the military men have no interest in the craft, beyond basic wonder, and no interest in secrecy (interestingly, movies don't feature the coverup aspect until after the Washington flap). The concept of reverse-engineering is instead in the dangerous hands of the civilians (epitomized by the lead scientist who is dressed in a stereotypically Russian fur hat, has a sinister goatee, and isn't exactly depicted as a robust straight man).

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